Holi – Festival of Colour

I was very happy to hear that my stay in Nepal coincided with Holi, or better known as the Festival of Colour. I geared up and headed out..

Certainly the festival brings smiles to everyone. After all there is nothing like acting as a child again, drenching whosoever dares to pass near enough to you. Being on the back of a motorbike, racing through the alleys of Bhaktapur receiving water from all directions was something which I won’t forget soon. Women pouring buckets from windows, gangs of kids on rooftops squirting down on you with water guns, not to mention the ground-assault of water balloons.

I think it’s fair to say being one of the only Westerners there, our motorbike was targeted more than others, but this was something I relished. The colour as well was great. It was the norm to see people walking past you with faces that looked like they had face-planted into a pool of colour. Reds, blues, yellows and purples were everywhere you looked.

I was told a little about the reasons of the festival. Firstly it is seen as the coming of spring (hence the colours) and better weather. Secondly it represents good overcoming evil and this was most definitely indicated in the smiles, laughs and joy of everyone involved. Ages from toddlers to the elderly all joined the fun.

The only down-side, and something which I was stupid to do, was that in the midst of it all my phone and camera broke. Quite simply, do not take your electronics with you and if you must ensure they are safely sealed in a Ziploc bag. Luckily this did not detract from the fun I had in the day!

First Impressions of Nepal

Having been in Nepal for just over a week now there are two things that jump out when one first arrives in this wonderful country: the scenery and the people.

Firstly, the people of Nepal are amongst the happiest, friendliest and warmest I have ever come across. Just walking down the street don’t be surprised to be greeted by strangers with a wide grin and a loud “Namaste!” And they will be more than welcoming to offer you some tea (I don’t think I’ve ever drunk as much tea as I have this past week, however sweet it has been). Such happiness obviously wears off onto yourself and you soon walk around with an uplifting sense of euphoria. It’s a feeling that is rare to experience within such a short amount of time.

As for the scenery… Well, I always knew the Himalayas would be spectacular, but you only really get a sense for them when you see them in reality. They quite simply are the highest mountain range in the world and therefore nothing can match them for their pure presence. You may find yourself losing track of time whilst staring at them.

And so I can honestly say that there is something special about this country and I cannot wait to further explore it through trekking, rafting and whatever other adventures it has in store.

Kathmandu or Bhaktapur?

Since I arrived in Nepal, when I am not out adventuring or on treks, I have lived in Bhaktapur, which is located right outside Kathmandu. I have loved living here because of the access to great hiking paths, hidden valleys, temples, and it is away from most of the noise and pollution. But after visiting the main tourist area in Kathmandu (Thamel) a few times, I can see the advantages and disadvantages to staying in both places.  If I were only in the Kathmandu Valley for a couple days before and after going on a trek I would probably decide to stay in Thamel because it is the most happening spot, an easy place to meet other travelers, and if you were to look in a guide book it would probably be the recommended place to stay. It is a difficult decision though because, in my experience, it is not a very authentic picture of what Nepal is like and the people who live here.

Before going to Thamel, other than on my way to Everest Base Camp, I had seen very few white people. I had just assumed that Kathmandu did not have that many tourists until I walked around Thamel and realized that all the tourists just congregated in one area.

The streets of Thamel are crowded with stores, people trying to sell you things, and white tourists with dread locks; at night there are a lot of bars and tourists out having a good time. Whether this is your scene or not is up to you. I am happy living outside of the city, and being able to go visit with reasonable ease.

My one major recommendation is that if you do decide to stay in Thamel remember that there is a world outside of those busy streets, and go and explore other parts of the Kathmandu Valley. Definitely take the time to see the beautiful city of Bhaktapur, the temples in the valley, and check out Gundu Valley or the other mountain and valley villages outside of Kathmandu. An easy way to do this is to rent scooters, if you feel comfortable, or just take the public buses and walk. It is definitely worth it because these villages are truly something magical. The people living in them are genuine and happy to see tourists because it is uncommon. They will invite you into there homes, let you pet there animals, practice their English with you, walk with you for a while, offer you food, tell you their names, yell and wave to you from windows, and give you the biggest smile you’ve ever seen. This kind of exchange is not possible in Thamel. So, no matter where you stay, see if you can catch a glimpse of both parts of the Kathmandu Valley.