Sunday, July 1, 2012

April, 2012 Nepal, Bhutan
After a wonderful dinner my last night in New Delhi at Bukhara, I flew the next morning to Kathmandu, Nepal, arriving at 1:30p.m.  Tourist visas can be obtained at the airport but you need a photo which I had left in my checked in bag!!!  Fortunately, there was a little booth where you can have pictures taken.  Taxi to Ambassador Garden Home ( in the center of Thamel and a delightful hotel.  I was so hungry that I walked to the Third Eye Restaurant for a tandoori stuffed naan before meeting the guide from Earthbound Expeditions ( who walked with me to their office nearby.  I had booked a three day Kathmandu valley rim trek with them so we confirmed everything including my pickup in the morning.

I had made a reservation to dine that evening at the Nepali restaurant Krishnarpan in Dwarika’s Hotel (  Years ago I stayed at Dwarika’s and it was enchanting but has become very expensive so I opted to just dine there this time.  I was met by Jyoti, one of the managers, who joined me for dinner.  Our twelve course experience was made so much richer with Jyoti explaining the history of Dwarika’s, the different courses and their origin and about Nepal – a magical evening to be sure!  She invited me back for a massage after my trek which I thoroughly enjoyed!!!

The guide came by in the morning and after a 30 minute drive we started our trek to Chiopani which took about 5 hours.  We had picked up some quiches and fruit so we stopped along the way for “lunch” and “apple” breaks.  The trek was uphill with a lot of steps but it felt good as we went along with so many lovely things to see.  The accommodations were very basic, just a little room with a cot and it was pretty cold so I was happy that I had borrowed a warm jacket from Earthbound.  I met some very interesting people in the “restaurant” where they served chow mein noodles, stuffed dumplings and crisp Tibetan bread.  Some of the trekkers had done Everest base camp, some the Annapurna trail, etc.  It rained during the night and in the early morning we were awakened to watch the sunrise.  It was gorgeous!!!  After breakfast we continued on to Nagarkot which took about 7 hours.  We stopped for a typical dal baht (rice/lentils/vegetables) lunch and rested our feet!!!  The accommodations were quite nice this time, i.e. a hot shower, bed with sheets and blankets and a buffet dinner.  It rained again during the night which made for a lovely day of walking through villages and fields to the bus stop where we had another dal baht lunch before returning to Kathmandu.  I stayed at the Ambassador Garden Home again and this time was given an enormous room.  After showering and organizing myself I had a delicious dinner upstairs at Third Eye Restaurant, i.e. cheese and nut stuffed potatoes in Kashmir sauce and garlic naan.  On my way back I picked up a fresh macaroon from the nearby bakery – heaven….

After a leisurely breakfast on the patio I took a taxi to Dwarika for my complimentary massage which lasted more than an hour and felt so good after all those hours of trekking.  I was driven to the airport nearby and flew back to New Delhi where I stayed again at the Red Maple B&B and later took a tuk tuk to Gunpowder Restaurant ( in the Hauz Klaz village.  It was rather hard to find and a long climb up some very narrow stairs but the food was good.  I sat at a table overlooking the lake and had vegetable korma with cashew nut gravy, pumpkin curry (which was a bit too sweet) and layered bread which went well with what I had chosen.

Early morning flight to Paro, Bhutan.  I flew with Druk Airlines and they served a delicious Indian breakfast of chickpeas, spinach/potato cake/chapatti bread and fruit.  We flew so close to the Himalyans that I could almost touch mount everest!!!  I was met by the driver and waited for a bit until the second traveler arrived.  We had some time to wander the open-air market and cute little Tibetan-like town of Paro before eating our first Bhutanese meal in a local restaurant in town.  The food was surprisingly delicious, i.e. fiddlehead ferns, pumpkin slices, red rice, chicken, lentils, fried bread and fresh watermelon for dessert.  We checked into our the Namsay Resort.  I was very lucky to be the “odd man out” and got a room of my own during the whole trip!!!  Took a nice walk around the countryside and passed through lovely hills, temples with prayer wheels which was most enjoyable.  Buffet dinner was fine.

In the morning we drove to the Chorten National Memorial in Thimphu.  It was erected in 1974 in memory of the 3rd king, Jigme Dorji Wangchuck and is designed in the Tibetan Style.  A large white stupa crowned with a golden spire, the Chorten is circumambulated only in a clockwise direction (reciting prayers and whirling the large red prayer wheels) as is the rule in any religion structure in Bhutan.  Visited the Trashi Chhoe Dzong and then into the town for lunch and a walk around.
Bhutan has a “high value, low volume” philosophy and charge a minimum of $250 per day (which includes, guide, food, hotel) to visitors.  There are no backpackers and no accommodations suitable for them.  For more information visit .

Our guide was very traditional and wore the Bhutanese gho, a heavy knee-length robe tied with a belt, folded in such a way to form a pocket in the front of the stomach, every day.  The women wear colorful blouses over which they fold and clasp a large rectangular cloth called a kira, thereby creating an ankle length dress.  Everyday gho and kira are patterned in simple checks and stripes in earth tones.

We walked up to the Buddha statue overlooking the Thimphu valley before returning to the hotel for dinner.  Dinner is generally a buffet in the hotel, sometimes good and sometimes bland.  We asked for the local chile/cheese condiment used to spice up the food which made a big difference.  I particularly liked the way they cooked their potatoes and the delicious fiddlehead ferns!!!

In the morning we visited the Folk Heritage Museum, a restored three-story timber building furnished as it would have been a century ago with old wheat grinders, animal bells, etc.  Drove through the Punakha valley, stopping in Dochula Pass marked by a large array of prayer flags and an impressive collection of 108 chortens built in 2005.  The pass provides a truly picturesque view of the Himalayas.

We took a lovely walk to the Chimi Lhakhang Monastery dedicated to Lama Drukpa Kuenley through agricultural fields of rice and prayer flags lining the road.  He was known as the “divine madman” for his unorthodox ways of teaching Buddhism and used the phallus as a symbol of creative power.  The Lhakhang has a golden yellow roof, rows of prayer wheels and statues of Kuenley and his dog Sachi.  The prayer hall inside contains interesting old thangkas, bells and other tantric paraphernalia. 

In the morning after breakfast we set off to visit the Khamsum Yueling Temple, north of Punakha.  We walked through fields for about an hour finally reaching the 30 foot tall temple perched on the hillside.  It has three stories of temples, one of which houses a lovely Buddha statue.  On to the Punakha Dzong constructed in 1657 and considered to be the country’s most beautiful dzong.  It is very impressive with its whitewashed walls and elaborately painted gold, red and black carved wood.  We walked across the long suspension bridge nearby which was fun.  Dinner at our hotel was pretty bleak….

A beautiful drive to the Gangte Goemba, a lovely Tibetan style monastery built on top of a hill.   On through the lovely Phabjikha valley filled with pine trees, streams and green valleys, stopping in the meadow for a delicious picnic lunch of fiddlehead ferns, roast potatoes, cheese momas, red rice, vegetables and watermelon before taking a nature walk to explore the area.  We stayed in some VERY basic accommodations with wood fired stoves and cold water but dinner in the tiny restaurant was one of the best yet, i.e. very flavorful lentil soup, vegetable curry, chickpea meatballs, roast potatoes and tea.
We enjoyed a delicious breakfast before heading back along the same route to Paro.  We had a little time to shop in town before checking in at the best hotel we have stayed in yet  Dinner was outstanding with an Asian flair, i.e. spicy pad thai noodles, curried chicken, naan bread and mango custard.  In the evening, our guide brought us to a typical “bar” where Bhutan gals dressed in their kiras danced and sang non traditional songs – rather disappointing actually….

Our last day turned out to be the best of all.  After a delicious hearty breakfast we drove to the starting trail up to Taktshang Goemba (Tiger’s Nest), a sacred Himalayan Buddhist temple complex. The monastery was built around the Taktsang Senge Samdup cave, where custom holds that the Indian guru Padmasambahva meditated in the 8th century.  He flew to this place from Tibet on the back of Yeshe Tsogyal, whom he transformed into a flying tigress for the purpose and landed at the cliff, which he “anointed” as the place for building a monastery which they did in 1692.  It is located on a precipitious cliff built into the rock face about 3,000 feet above the Paro valley.  The trek takes about 3 hours and is very scenic passing blue pine trees, prayer flags, waterfalls, etc.

After visiting the monastery and enjoying the incredible view we made it down in about 1-1/2 hours where the bus was waiting to take us to a fabulous local restaurant for lunch.  Dishes were placed on the table instead of the boring buffet we were used to and everything was absolutely delicious, especially the fried eggplant slices, cauliflower, rice and cabbage dish and the chicken with potatoes and red onions – a very nice treat.

Visited the National Museum nearby which used to be housed in a lockout tower but due to an earthquake was relocated.  It had a wonderful exhibit of ancient masks used in traditional dances and ceremonies and beautiful thangkas from Tibet.  Back to the hotel to change into swim suits for our hot stone bath.  Drove to a farmhouse which had 6 trough-like cement tubs lined up in a hot room.  Stones were heated in a bonfire before being placed at the end of these wooden troughs which are filled with water that heats up.  It felt really good for about 20 minutes but was veryyy hot. 

Showered and then had our last dinner together.  The hotel is very luxurious and the food was even better than last night ending with tea cake with mango custard.  Afterwards outside on the patio a lively dance program of traditional masked dances took place using many of the same type of masks we had seen in the museum.  The costumes, music, instruments and dancing were excellent and a perfect ending to a wonderful week in Bhutan.

I took a long walk in the morning to enjoy the last smells, sights and sounds of Paro before flying back to New Delhi to continue my trip to Dubai….

1 comment:

  1. Everest Base Camp
    Everest has always been the desirable name among all the people around the world,mostly the adventure lovers. To reach at an altitude of 8,848m isnot an easy task, it requires a lot of hard effort and dedication. It can be the greatest achievement in one’s life, overcoming the fear of the harshness of the nature. Mount Everest is also known as Chomolongma which resembles the meaning as a mother earth. Everest was successfully conquered byEdmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay Sherpa in the year 1953 for the first time. Following the same route discovered by them thousands of travelers each make an attempt to conquer the highest peak of the world anually. Though some of them became successful wherease some lost their life. Though,who cant make it to the peak fulfill the desire of the having glimpse of Mount Everst from its base,from the base camp (5,320m).
    Everest lies in the Khumbu region in Solukhumbu district, the northern region of Nepal. It is the southern face of the Everest that lies in Nepal wherease the northern face lies in the Tibet. The southern face is easily accessible in comparison to the northern part.The trekking to the Everest base camp starts after the flight to Lukla from Kathmandu. After you land to the Himalayan region, its time to step your foot to your destination through the Khumbu region, passing the bank of Dudhkoshi river. Acclimatization is very important in terms of the high altitude climbing. So, one can make a basic preparation of acclimatization reaching the Namche Bazaar. This is the land of the Sherpas, so you can get warm welcome in your travel to this place. Sherpas are the legendary heroes of the mountainous region. Without their help it’s very hard to accomplish your journey.Every trekkermakes their destination at Namche Bazaarwith the view of Mount Everest on its background. Namche Bazaar is the largest town of the Khumbu region. This trekking is also an opportunity to know the inhabitant of this region, the Sheerpa communities, their lifestyle, traditions, farming styles and many more. They are the followers of the Buddhism so you can know more about it visiting the traditional gompas, monasteries. You will have an opportunity to visit the Tengboche, the largest monastery in Khumbu region. After the full preparation in the Namche, the trail will ascend to the Tengboche, Dingboche, Lobuche, Gorak shep and finally to the base camp. The base camp uprises above the dramatic Khumbu icefall. From here you can have a 360degree view of the high peaks like Mt Pumori, Lhotse peak, South Col, Mt Amadambla, Lhotse, Nuptse including the Mount Everest.

    Day 01: Fly Kathmandu to Lukla (2849m) & trek to Phakding (2745m)
    Day 02: Trek to Namche (3445m)
    Day 03: Rest Day at Namche Bazaar (Hiking to Everest View Hotel)
    Day 04: Trek to Tengboche (4245m)
    Day 05: Trek to Pheriche (4362m)
    Day 06: Pheriche Rest Day.
    Day 07: Trek to Lobuche (4575m)
    Day 08: Trek to Gorakshape (5165m)
    Day 09: Rest Day at Kalapathar (5545m).
    Day 10: Trek to Dingboche (4260m).
    Day 11: Trek to Tengboche (4245m)
    Day 12: Trek to Namche Bazaar.
    Day 13: Trek to Lukla
    Day 14: Fly back Lukla to Kathmandu