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Minerals of the Himalayas

Minerals of the Himalayan Mountains

Geological map of Nepal
Geological map of Nepal

The Himalayan mountains are not rich in economically valuable precious minerals. However, trapped within the earthly confines of pegmatites, marbles, and gneisses are minerals of low economic value.  These minerals include: Garnets, kupfferite, tourmaline, spinels, chrysolite, euclase, kyanite, corundum, ruby, beryl, muscovite, jade, jasper and many others.

There are 2 minerals found in the Himalayan Mountains, specifically in Kashmir, of economic importance. They are Sapphires, and Aquamarines. These precious minerals, however, have not been found in Nepal.

The minerals found in Nepal’s Himalayan boundary are garnet, biotite, kyanite, chlorite, hematite, augen, mica, actinolite, hematite, tourmaline, ruby, and many others. These minerals are primarily found at the top of Lower Himalayan boundary and the bottom of High Himalaya boundary.

Pegmatites

Pegmatites are igneous rocks similar to granite; however, they also occasionally have rare and unusual minerals.  Pegmatites are characterized by the inclusion of large crystals (greater than 2 inches long) inside their matrix.

Marbles

Marble is a metamorphic rock that was once limestone (a sedimentary rock). Limestone is changed into marble through the metamorphic processes using extreme pressure and temperature. The primary mineral in marble is calcite; it may also contain muscovite and hematite.

Gneiss

Gneiss forms at the boundaries of convergent plates. It is a high grade metamorphic rock that normally begins as shale. Under high temperature and intense pressure, the shale is transformed into slate, then phyllite, then schist, and finally gneiss. This is the most common process of how Gneiss is formed, but other pathways exist. Some common minerals that gneisses contain are biotite, kyanite, and garnet.

Minerals of the Himalayas

The following is an incomplete list of known minerals found in Nepal’s Himalayan mountains. These minerals are on display at the International Mountain Museum in Pokhara.

  • Hematite

    Hematite
    Hematite
  • Galena

    Minerals of the Himalayas
    Galena
  • Azurite

    Minerals of the Himalayas
    Azurite
  • Talc

    Minerals of the Himalayas
    Talc
  • Magnesite

    Minerals of the Himalayas
    Magnesite
  • Orthoclase

    Minerals of the Himalayas
    Orthoclase
  • Ruby

    Minerals of the Himalayas
    Ruby
  • Sphalerite

    Minerals of the Himalayas
    Sphalerite
  • Sillimanite

    Minerals of the Himalayas
    Sillimanite
  • Arsenopyrite

    Minerals of the Himalayas
    Arsenopyrite
  • Chalcopyrite

    Minerals of the Himalayas
    Chalcopyrite
  • Chlorite

    Minerals of the Himalayas
    Chlorite
  • Quartz

    Minerals of the Himalayas
    Quartz
  • Limonite
Minerals of the Himalayas
Limonite
  • Tourmaline

    Minerals of the Himalayas
    Tourmaline

 

If you are interested in going on a geologic field trip to see these minerals, please contact Upper Himalayan Treks and Adventure.

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A Complete Guide to Rocks in the Himalayan Mountains

Rocks of the Himalayan Mountains in Nepal

Geological map of Nepal
Geological map of Nepal

All three classes of rocks (igneous, metamorphic, sedimentary) are found in the Himalayan mountains. Although the Himalayas are only 50-60 million years old, most of the rocks in it are much older. The oldest known rock in Nepal is about 2 billion years old, while a great many of them are over 570 million years old. This post identifies the 3 different classes of rocks in 5 different geologic units of Nepal and Tibet.

Rock classification

Igneous rocks

Igneous rocks are formed when magma cools. Their classification is dependent on the how they formed, their texture, mineral composition, chemical composition, and their shape. It’s a bit much even for geology majors. The point I am trying to make is that there are different classes/types of igneous rocks, but only a few are found in the Himalayas.

Metamorphic rocks

Metamorphic rocks are formed when intense temperature and pressure alter a pre-existing rock physical and or chemical structure. This alteration occurs deep within the earth, by tectonic process like continental drift, and by its proximity to magma.

Sedimentary rocks

Sedimentary rocks are formed from the collection of mineral and or organic particles and or weathered and eroded rocks. The sedimentary rocks form when an abundant pressure (lithostatic) squeezes the sediments together. Under the right amount of pressure, chemical, and physical changes occur in the sediment causing the sediments to bind together.

Geologic units in Nepal

Nepal is separated into units by fault lines. The fault lines run east and west. Their names are Main Frontal Thrust Fault (MFT), Main Boundary Thrust Fault (MBT), and Main Central Thrust Fault (MCT), and South Tibetan Detachment Fault (STDF). These faults separate geologic divisions, which are Indo-Gangetic Plain, Siwaliks, Lesser Himalaya, Higher Himalaya, and Tethys Himalaya.

Indo-Gangetic Plain

There isn’t too much going on in the Indo-Gangetic Plain. It is primarily alluvial deposits, weathered and eroded rocks from the Himalayan mountains. Only a small portion of Nepal is in the Indo-Gangetic plain. I couldn’t find any specimens that were collected in this area.

From the Indo-Gangetic Plain, heading north, we cross the Main Frontal Thrust Fault into Siwaliks.

Siwaliks

The Siwalik region occupies a space in southern Nepal just north of the Terai and south of the middle hill mountains. This area is one of the most geologically active areas of Nepal. It is increasing in altitude of 3 to 4 mm per year. The area is known for its calcium carbonate and mineral deposits, and its sandstone. The rocks found in this area tend to be 2 to 18 million years old.

Sedimentary rocks

The sedimentary rocks found in Siwaliks are:

  • Marl

    Merl
    Merl
  • Silt stone

    Siltstone
    Siltstone
  • Mudstone

    Mudstone
    Mudstone
  • Calcium carbonate
  • Sandstone

    Sandstone
    Sandstone
  • Shale

    Shale
    Shale

On the northern edge of Siwaliks is the MBT, which separates the Siwaliks from Lesser Himalaya.

Lesser Himalaya

Lesser Himalaya is known for its metamorphic and sedimentary rocks, however there are also some igneous rocks in this region. The rocks in this area generally date to over 570 million years old.

Sedimentary rocks

The sedimentary rocks found in Lesser Himalaya are:

  • Chert

    Chert
    Chert
  • Dolomite

    Dolomite
    Dolomite
  • Conglomerate
  • Limestone

    Limestone
    Limestone
  • Diamictite

Metamorphic rocks

The Metamorphic rocks found in Lesser Himalaya are:

  • Metasandstone

    Metasandstone
    Metasandstone
  • Phyllite

    Phyllite
    Phyllite
  • Banded gneiss
  • Schist
  • Slate

    Slate
    Slate
  • Marble

    Marble
    Marble
  • Banded Gneiss
  • White quartzite

    White Quartzite
    White Quartzite

Igneous rocks

The igneous rocks found in Lesser Himalaya are:

  • Trachyte

    Trachyte
    Trachyte
  • Pegmatite

    pegmatite
    pegmatite

On the northern edge of Lesser Himalaya is the MCT, which separates Lesser Himalaya from High Himalaya.

High Himalaya

High Himalaya is the area between Lesser Himalaya and Tethys Himalaya. Some rocks in High Himalaya are dated to 500-2,000 million years ago. However, there are other rocks much younger, 60 million years old, due to metamorphic processes. Metamorphic rocks are found at the base and sedimentary rocks are found at the top.

Sedimentary rocks

The sedimentary rocks found in High Himalaya are:

  • Merl

    Merl
    Merl
  • Dolomite

    Dolomite
    Dolomite
  • Greywacke
  • Siltstone

    Siltstone
    Siltstone
  • Shale

    Shale
    Shale
  • limestone

    Limestone
    Limestone

Metamorphic

The Metamorphic rocks found in High Himalaya are:

  • Granite gneiss
  • Schists
  • Gneiss
  • Black schist

    Black Schist
    Black Schist
  • Augen gneiss

    Augen Gneiss
    Augen Gneiss
  • Mica schist

    Mica Schist
    Mica Schist
  • Kyanite schist

    Kyanite Schist
    Kyanite Schist
  • Actinolite in calcareous gneiss

    Actinolite in Calcareous Gneiss
    Actinolite in Calcareous Gneiss
  • Kyanite gneiss

    Kyanite Gneiss
    Kyanite Gneiss
  • Biotite schist

    Biotite Schist
    Biotite Schist
  • Chlorite schist

    Chlorite Schist
    Chlorite Schist

Igneous

The igneous rocks found in High Himalaya are:

  • leucogranites

    Leucogranite
    Leucogranite
  • granite

    Granite
    Granite
  • diorite
  • gabbro
  • tonalite

the last tectonic zone is the Tethys Himalaya. It is north of the South Tibetan detachment Fault, which separates it from Higher Himalaya zone.

Tethys Himalaya

This area of the Himalayas is generally considered the Tibetan plateau. it is approximately 500 million years old and is comprised of sedimentary and metamorphic rocks.

Sedimentary

The sedimentary rocks found in Tethys Himalaya are:

  • dolomite

    Dolomite
    Dolomite
  • sandstones

    Sandstone
    Sandstone
  • conglomerates
  • greywackes

Metamorphic

The Metamorphic rocks found in Tethys Himalaya are:

  • biotite quartzite
  • marble

    Marble
    Marble
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Himalayan Mountain Range Formation

Himalayan Mountain Range Formation

Geological map of Nepal
Geological map of Nepal

To kick off international rock day (July 13th) I will be posting a series of articles about rocks, minerals, and fossils of the Himalayan mountains. I will also be discussing how the Himalayan mountain range formed. If you enjoy geology and the Himalayas, these articles are a must read! If you are planning a trek in Nepal, these articles will make great conversation starters… “did you know Everest used to be at the bottom of the Tethys Sea?

Plate tectonics and Earth

To describe how the Himalayan mountain range formed, I need to first describe the structure of the earth and plate tectonics. The earth has 4 layers, which are the inner core, outer core, mantle, and crust. This may not seem like a lot, but when consider that these layers are 3,958.75 miles thick, it gets heavy.

Scientists used seismic waves to discover the outer core is a fluid while the mantle behaves like a fluid but is a solid. the inner core and crust are solid. This is important because the way the layers interact with each other determines what happens on the crust. All the volcanoes, earthquakes, and mountains are the results of these interactions.

In short, the earth’s crust “floats” on the mantle, which is also divided into layers. These layers are composed of solid and semisolid (partially molten) rocks. The composition of the earth is like trying to stack confetti on Jell-O on a piece of tile on a hamster ball, with the hamster inside, on the top of a needle. Good thing gravity is holding it all together!

You can see how unstable the top layer might be. When you couple this with molten magma seeping up through the crust along weak/ thin points, it only magnifies the instability. This instability is known as plate tectonics.

The destruction of Pangea

Plate tectonics and Pangaea
Plate tectonics and Pangaea

All the continents on earth were once connected creating a super continent. Over the course of 4.5 billion years the super continent has broken up and reformed 7 times. I’m including Gondwana and Laurasia as one super continent.

Due to plate tectonics and the instability of earthly processes, these continents drifted apart, collided into each other, then drifted apart again.

The last super continent was Pangea. During the breakup of Pangea, the landmass known as India broke apart from Antarctica, Africa, and Australia, and moved north. This move pushed the Tethys Sea’ floor up, on top of the Eurasian subcontinent. Eventually overtime, Tethys Sea’ floor became the highest peak in the world, Everest.

India initially moved at a rate of 7.9 inches per year. It is still moving north, but at a much slower rate (almost 1 inch per year).

Rocks in the Himalayan mountain range

Semi-precious mineral garnet
Semi-precious mineral garnet

You can expect a collection of different types of rocks, minerals, and fossils in the Himalayas. What you may not expect is that most of the rocks are much older than the Himalayas. The mountains are about 50 million years old, while the rocks that are on the mountains are over 570 million years old! Pretty cool huh.

You can find all three rock types/ classes, igneous, metamorphic, and sedimentary, in the Himalayas. Within these classes there are multiple different kinds ranging from biotite to trachyte.

Plant leaf fossil
Plant leaf fossil

You can also find some low quality precious and semi-precious stones in the Himalayas. These include garnet, tourmaline, ruby, and others.

Some of the coolest things you can find while hiking on the Himalayan mountains are fossils. It is against the law to take them with you though. The most common type of fossils are ammonites. They are extinct mollusks, related to squids, octopi, and nautiluses. You can also find brachiopod, belemnites, and plant fossils.

Ammonite Fossil
Ammonite Fossil
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A Complete Guide to Caves in Pokhara, Nepal

A Complete Guide to Caves in Pokhara, Nepal

Mahendra Cave entrance
Mahendra Cave entrance

Caves in Nepal are normally connected to some spiritual component of Hinduism.  Many caves have a temple inside with an associated sadhu or a guard to prevent people form stealing the speleothems or cave formations.  These cave formations are generally believed to be relics or representations of Hindu gods such as Lord Shiva or his son Ganesh.  The Caves in Pokhara, with the exception of the bat cave, are modest and have religious connections.

Gupteshwor Mahadev Cave

This is one of the larger caves on this list in terms of maneuverability.  It is a Corrasional cave formed by the water coming from the outlet of Lake Phewa.  This water also forms Davi’s Falls, which is visible from within the cave.  The original Nepali name for Davi’s Falls is Patale Chango, which translates as “underworld waterfall.”  Gupteshowr Mahadev Cave translates to “Cave Beneath the Ground.”  It is located in Pokhara-17, Chhorepatan.

The entrance fee to for the cave is $1 for non-Asian foreigners.  For people belonging to SAARC, the entrance fee is about $0.85, and for Nepali citizens it is $0.5.  The entrance to the cave requires descending down a spiral staircase excavated into the edge of the cave.  The walls are decorated with sculptures of people performing various acts such as breast feeding, and in kama sutra positions.

Gupteshwor Mahadev Cave has two features that may interest the board traveler.  The first is the relatively large stalagmite in the center of the cave.  This stalagmite has a fence surrounding it with a guard protecting it from people taking pictures.  The stalagmite is believed to represent Loard Shiva and is worshipped as such.  I couldn’t get close to it, but it looked like it had a diameter of about 2 feet and a height of 3 feet.  The stalagmite is a dark brown in color.

The second noteworthy part of the cave is the Davi’s Falls at the bottom and end of the cave.  After descending about 100 ft into the cave and walking probably an equal distance south east, the cave opens up to see Devi’s Falls.  It is quite beautiful.  Ferns and lush plants surround the cave opening, and the air is a soft mixture of sale cave air and fresh waterfall dew.  The reviews about this cave on trip advisor are accurate.

The cave itself is not attractive and in many parts has been plastered or cobbled over.  The reason for the recent construction is due to the 2015 April earthquake.  The earthquake made some of the cave parts unstable.  Retaining walls were built around most of the cave as well as scaffolding erected to hold it together.  The walk way can be a bit obstructed at times and there were plenty of obstacles to dodge walking along the path.  Except for the one stalagmite there were no other cave formations.

You can read more about it here.

Mahendra Cave

Mahendra Cave ticket booth
Mahendra Cave ticket booth

Mahendra Cave is described as a limestone Karst Cave.  The cave has about 320 feet of maneuverable area with another 320 feet of un-maneuverable area.  The limestone in the cave was formed in the Pleistocene era, but the age of the cave is unknown.  The cave was discovered in 1953 by Phokhara residents.  The cave is named after Nepal’s late King Mahendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev, who was king at the time of the discovery.

Mahendra Cave is located about 30 minutes outside Pokhara city by bus.  Bus fair to the entrance to Mahendra Cave is about $0.45.  The entrance to the park is a vibrant pink, white, and aquamarine archway with a ticket booth directly next to it.  The entrance fee for Nepali people is $0.5, and SAARC members is $0.8.  The entrance fee for all other people is $1.5.  To get to the cave you have to walk through a plain grass garden, which is nice if you like open spaces.

mahendra cave tunnel
Mahendra Cave tunnel

The entrance to the cave looks like the arm openings of a tortoise shell.  I like tortoises, so I immediately felt good about my visit.  After entering the cave, I realized it is almost the same as Gupteshwor Mahadev Cave.  There are very few cave formations to admire.  What I did like about the cave though was its internal architecture.  It looked heavy on the supporting walls.  I also like that nobody tried plastering the walls, although somebody did spray paint the ceiling.

mahendra cave tunnel
Mahendra cave tunnel

The cave ended a little anticlimactically with a small shrine to the Hindu god Ganesha as represented by a stalagmite.  The person looking over the temple was very friendly, and was extremely eager to talk about Ganesha.  After a 3-minute lesson on Hindu gods, other cave goers came and the man started all over again.  I walked a little slowly coming out of the cave as I wanted to explore the unexplored branches of the cave.

Stalactite
the largest stalactite in the cave

Coming out of the cave I found an area marked “exit.”  It must have been a former exit, because it was covered by boulders.  I’m guessing the blockade was caused by the same earthquake that rocked the Gupteshwor Mahadev Cave but it could have been from anything.  After exploring the “exit” I exited out the entrance and walked around the grounds for a little while.  The reviews on trip advisor sum up the cave nicely.

You can read more about the cave here.

Bat Cave

This way to the Bat Cave
This way to the Bat Cave

Can you believe it? Bruce Wayne though he had us all fooled.  The Bat Cave isn’t in Gotham, it’s in Pokhara!  The Bat Cave is no longer one of the secret caves in Nepal.  All joking aside, this is my favorite cave of all the caves in Pokhara.  It is also the one I know the least about.  There is not much information about this cave.  It is in Batulechcour, which is about 30-minutes from Pokhara City by bus, and 15 minutes from Mahendra Cave by foot.

Bat Cave ticket booth
Bat Cave ticket booth

The Bat Cave is Karst limestone cave, and I don’t know how it was formed or its age.  If I had to guess, I would also date it to the same age as the Gupteshwor cave.  This cave also has a sunken, in the ground entrance.  Though it is completely dark inside the cave, the light from the flashlight proved the cave is vast.  The explorable area is about 720 feet long, and the ceilings are high.  The ceilings have hundreds if not thousands of bats from mid-September to mid-May.

Bat Cave enterance
Bat Cave entrance

The bats that primarily occupy this cave are identified as round leaf, and horseshoe bats.  In some sections of the cave, you can get within a foot of them.  Be careful though.  Those same areas are slippery and without protective hand rails.  A lot of people have hurt themselves on the rocks of this cave.  My mandatory guide was too eager to tell me about all the horror stories of people falling on the rocks of the cave.

Warning:

If you are claustrophobic, acrophobic / afraid of heights, or do not have any climbing skills do not try to exit out of the exit.  Exit out of the entrance.

The second chamber of the cave has a side chamber on the right-hand side.  Your guide (you have to have one) will hurriedly try to get you to go in it.  From here you can climb up to about the same level with the ceiling and can be within feet of the bats.  Then you will be asked to transvers a narrow walk way (5 inches wide), swing around an obstruction and back onto the path.  If by the grace of god, you do not fall, you will have to climb up a very slipper rock face and crawl out a tiny hole in the ceiling.

Horseshoe and Roundleaf Bats
Horseshoe and Roundleaf Bats

The “exit” is more of a death defying catastrophe than it is an exit.  I admit though I had fun doing it.  I also got very dirty doing it, so if you don’t want to die or get dirty exit out the entrance.  I read on the Pokhara Information Center’s website that it is believed that anyone who exits out the “exit” is purified of all their sins, and is reborn in Nepal.  It is definitely a triumph I do not recommend.

Bat Cave exit
Bat Cave exit

The cost of this adventure is $0.5 for Nepali people, $0.8 for SARRC members, and $1.5 for all other people.  There is no guide fee.  My guide insisted on receiving a guide fee and when I called it a tip he became very upset and said he didn’t work for tips.  I told him I can only give him a tip because there is no guide fee associated with the cave.  He accepted the tip after I put the money back in my pocket and called me an insulting name.  The Bat cave reviews on trip advisor are fairly accurate.

You can read more about the bat cave here.

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Bat Cave Review

Bat Cave Review

Horseshoe and Roundleaf Bats
Horseshoe and Roundleaf Bats

I know, it came as a shock to me too. Bruce Wayne doesn’t live in Gotham! Yes, the Bat Cave is in Pokhara. Who would’ve known? The Bat Cave is by far my favorite and the sketchiest cave I’ve been to in Pokhara. It is fun, exhilarating, dangerous, and there are bats! Hang from the ceiling with me as I explore this cave and give you a detailed review.

This way to the Bat Cave
This way to the Bat Cave

About Bat Cave

Bat Cave cavern
Bat Cave cavern

The Bat Cate is a karst limestone cave formed in the Pleistocene era about 2.5 million years ago.  The inside of the cave does not have any lighting, so bring your flash light.  You will receive a mandatory guide when you buy your entrance ticket. He comes with a light, but its nice to have your own. The cave is about 720 feet long and incredibly vast.

There are 2 main caverns in the cave. The second cavern has bats in it and has a secret passage to the outside. I do not recommend taking this passage tough. It is dangerous and risky. The bats can be found in the cave from mid-September to mid-May. The bats that are found in the cave are round leaf, and horseshoe bats.

How to get to the Bat Cave

The Bat Cave is located about 40 minutes away and 6 miles north east of Lakeside, Pokhara.  It is in Batulechcour, which is a 15-minute walk from Mahendra Cave. You can take a bus or taxi to Mahendra Cave then walk for 15 minutes up the road to Bat Cave.

Entrance fee

Bat Cave ticket booth
Bat Cave ticket booth

Nepali citizens: $0.5
SARRC nationals: $0.8
All other foreginers: $1.5

Exploring the Cave

Bat Cave enterance
Bat Cave enterance

My guide and I descended a long walk way and stairs into the cave. I was surprised about how dark it was just a few feet inside the cave. I was glad he had a flashlight but was a little upset about his constant talking.  When I’m someplace new, I like to experience it in its fullness without distractions.

The first cavern we came to was just a dark room with very little going on. We were joined by a few Nepali women who were exploring by the light of their phones. We walked further ahead, and the bats were in full chorus. The chirps reminded me of dolphins. It was cool.

Next, we ascended a very slippery rock face. This part was extremely dangerous. There was a guard rail, but it wasn’t secured to the rocks, it was only resting on the rocks. We then started climbing. Now we are 30 feet above the ground, no ropes, no safe guards, and on a slippery rock face.

One last push and I was squeezing my way through the narrowest of openings. I was happy to be back on solid ground.

I found out later that most people normally exit the cave from the entrance.

Bat Cave exit
Bat Cave exit

Warning:

If you are claustrophobic, acrophobic / afraid of heights, or do not have any climbing skills do not try to exit out of the exit.  Exit out of the entrance.

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Mahendra Cave Review

Mahendra Cave review

Mahendra Cave ticket booth
Ticket booth at Mahendra Cave

Mahendra Cave is a unique cave 5.8 miles north east of Lakeside, Pokhara.  It is surrounded by a quite lovely botanical garden, which was, in my opinion, as interesting as a saltine cracker (it’s nice but it’s not the Kew). The cave is classified as a limestone karst cave and was formed in the Pleistocene era. Stick with me as I explore this cave in this detailed review. I hope you enjoy it.

History of the cave

Mahendra Cave entrance
Mahendra Cave entrance

Mahendra Cave was discovered in 1953 by two brothers while they were herding their goats. Legend has it that one of their goats lead them to a crack in the earth. After finding the crack, the brothers raced home to tell their family about the discovery.  This was fascinating to the villagers and word quickly spread to other villagers.  The brothers decided to name it after the king of Nepal, King Mahendra Bir Bikram Sha Dev. The king heard about this honor and visited the cave.

The cave has since become a major attraction for Indian and Nepali tourists as well as a and minor attraction for non-SAARC foreigners.

How to get to the cave

mahendra cave tunnel
mahendra cave tunnel

You can reach the cave by bus or taxi.  I do not recommend walking as it would take a long time. The bus drivers are pretty good as to pointing you into the direction or bus you need to be on (just ask). To get from Lakeside, Pokhara to Mahendra Cave will take about 30 minutes by bus and cost $0.45. A taxi will take about 15 minutes and cost $15.

Entrance fee

Stalactite
the largest stalactite in the cave

Nepali nationals: $0.5
SAARC nationals: $0.8
All others: $1.5

Mahendra Cave

mahendra cave tunnel
Mahendra Cave tunnel

The entrance of the cave reminded me of a giant tortoise shell. This immediately comforted me for some reason. I like tortoises. After entering the cave, I realized how similar this cave was to Gupteshwor Mahadev Cave. The Mahendra Cave has more geometric symmetry in its architecture and it feels more natural than the Gupteshowr Mahadev Cave.

There are very few speleothems in the cave, but there is a large stalagmite that is believed to represent Ganesh. This stalagmite is at the end of the cave, which is almost 656 feet long. When I got to the end, I was greeted by a sadhu, who was very friendly and eager to talk about Ganesh. I left after a short lesson in Hinduism.

I found a sign marked “exit” while leaving the depths of the cave. Then, I followed the arrow indicated on the sign and found myself at a dead-end. I found the real exit, which is also the entrance, and left Mahendra Cave.

Old exit
Old exit
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Changu Narayan Temple

Changu Narayan Temple

Ok, I admit I have never been to Changu Narayan temple. Because of said disclosure it may be unethical for me to write a review of it.  Instead of a review this blog post combines the information from all known sources, mainly Wikipedia, in an easy to read article. I humbly present to you everything you want to know about Changu Narayan Temple.

Where is it located?

The temple is in the Changu village of Changunarayan village development community of Bhaktapur district. Try saying that 3 times fast. It is located 13.6 miles north east of Thamel Kathmandu, which takes about an hour to drive.

Two myths of Changu Narayan Temple

Once upon a time a man bought a cow that produced a lot of milk.  Everyday the man would let his cow graze in the Changunarayan forest. One day the cow stopped producing milk so he decided to spy on her to see what was happening. After a long day of grazing the cow went to a tree, where a young boy lived.  The boy came out of the tree and began drinking the cow’s milk.

The man became angry with the boy and ran home to fetch his axe so that he could chop down the boy’s tree. The man returned and took one swing at the tree.  Blood immediately started pouring from the tree’s wound. The boy again came out of the tree and told the man he was Lord Vishnu.

Then the man committed himself to worshiping Vishnu where he cut the tree. He built Changu Narayan Temple near the tree he cut.

The second myth

Changu, a talented young man that was known for his fighting skills, challenged an immortal warrior to a fight. Changu defeated the immortal man and Changu Narayan Temple was built to honor him.

What really happened

The King of Kashmir made his daughter marry the prince of Bhaktapur. The prince was so pleased with her that he had the Changu Narayan Temple built in her honor. He named the temple after her.

I can see some similarities between the truth of why the temple was built and the second myth. If you let the princess be the warrior Changu and the Bhaktapur king be the immortal warrior, the story kind of falls into place.

About the Temple

Changu Narayan Temple is one of the oldest temples in Nepal. It was built in a traditional Nepali style, with a high plinth of stone to rest on. The temple was built with 2 stories tall with ornate art and sculptures carved into the wood. Most of the art and decorations are dedicated to Vishnu, some are dedicated to Shiva too.

There are 4 entrances to the temple. Each entrance is guarded by a pair of life size stone guardians. They include lions, sharabhas, griffins, and elephants. This confused me at first because sarabhas and griffins are the same.  If you know the difference, please let me know in the comments.

There are also many smaller temples and monuments in the temple’s court yard. They include various sculptures of Vishnu, Krishna and, Laxmi, former kings and queens, a flying man, and the temples Chhinnamast, and Kileshwor.

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Gupteshwor Mahadev Cave

Gupteshwor Mahadev Cave review

The Gupteshwor Mahadev Cave is a corrasional cave excavated by water flowing from Lake Phewa and Devi’s Falls. The cave is not incredible or even extraordinary. I would compare it to a hole in the ground with 1 stalagmite. The stalagmite is as equally amusing as the cave, but with a little more interest, because it is believed to be the earthly form of of lord Shiva. The best part of the cave is Devi’s Falls, which tumbles into the bottom of the cave.

About Gupteshwor Mahadev Cave

Gupteshwor Mahadev Cave translates to cave beneath the ground. I know its redundant, of course a cave is beneath the ground. The air in the cave is humid and muggy so make sure you have breathable cloths. Also, you must be prepared for stairs.

The cave was damaged in the 2015 earthquake, and since then the government started building support walls. Their idea of support walls is just to plaster everything with cement. The cave feels like an artificial worm hole.  The only good part is Devi’s Falls at the bottom of the cave.

I admit, the last cavern with Devi’s Falls is quite beautiful.  The waterfall’s original name was Patale Chango, which translates as underworld waterfall.  The name changed when a young woman fell down the waterfall. Her name was Devi.

You can read more reviews about the cave on trip advisor, which are accurate.

How to get there

Gupteshwor Mahadev Cave is in Pokhara-17, Chhorepatan. You can take the bus or a taxi.  It is a very common destination for locals and foreigners alike. However, the cave is hidden by a small outdoor bazaar, which takes a little bit of time to navigate though. You will come to a ticket counter before descending into the cave. make sure you pay first because tickets are checked at the bottom of the stairs.

Cost of entrance

Nepali citizens: $0.5
SAARC members: $0.85
Non-SAARC foreigners: $1.00

YouTube Video

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Pokhara Natural History Museum

Pokhara Natural History Museum

Annapurna Natural History Museum sign
Annapurna Natural History Museum sign

Dorothy Mierow built the Pokhara Natural History Museum in 1965 as part of her Peace Corps service project. It was originally developed to provide entertainment to people in the area. Although it has kept its original purpose, it has developed into an educational facility. The Pokhara Natural History Museum identifies the different animals, and rock types found throughout Nepal. It also has a small section on Himalayan culture.

In this blog post I review the Pokhara Natural History Museum and provide a brief history.

History

Annapurna Natural History Museum
Annapurna Natural History Museum building

The Pokhara Natural History Museum was built on unused Prithvi Narayan Campus’ land.  As part of the agreement for the construction of the building, the museum had to be freely available to all people. The original purpose of the building was to provide entertainment and be educational. The dolls and simple exhibits were for children while the advanced exhibits were there to educate people about areas of Nepal outside Pokhara.

Exhibits

When you enter the main entrance, you arrive in an educational area for kids.  There are paintings on the walls and cement statues of animals on the ground. Next to each animal is a plaque identifying the animal and providing information about it.

My favorite animal was the squirrel.

flying squirrel
Surprise M.F.

In the room directly south of the main entrance is the Annapurna Conservation Area Project room. This room contains several displays including mounted animals, and geological collections.  Among the mounted animals are the Himalayan Monal and a leopard. The geologic displays have fossils and types of metamorphic, sedimentary, and igneous rock found in Nepal.

Himalayan Monal mount
Himalayan Monal mount

East of the ACAP room is the cultural display. This room has toy dolls, pictures, masks, and other historic artifacts that represent the many different cultures in Nepal.

glary picture of a mask in a glass display case
Glary picture of a mask in a glass display case

The southernmost room is the butterfly museum. This room has almost all of Nepal’s 660 species of butterflies and moths. The biodiversity of the butterflies on display is amazing. The collection is so impressive that the Pokhara Natural History Museum is also known as the Butterfly Museum.

Butterfly Museum

Tropical butterflies of southern Nepal
Tropical butterflies of southern Nepal

Colin Smith collected and preserved most of the butterflies in this collection. The collection grew over the course of 30 years and is Nepal’s largest collection of butterflies, moths, and dragonflies. The displays are organized to show mimicry, camouflage, endangered and threatened butterfly’s. There are also comparisons of the same species of butterflies from different parts of Asia.

Tssoria issaea male and female butterflies from Manang
Tssoria issaea male and female butterflies from Manang

 

Stilbochiona nicea butterfly
Stilbochiona nicea butterfly

 

Ypthima confusa and Dallacha hyagrive butterflies
Ypthima confusa and Dallacha hyagrive butterflies

 

Precis orithya recycle butterfly

 

Common Meadow Blue male and female butterflies.
Common Meadow Blue, male and female butterflies.

Museum Hours

Sunday through Thursday: 10:00 am to 5:00 pm (4:00 pm in winter)
Friday: 10:00 am to 3:00 pm
Closed for lunch: 1:00 pm to 1:30 pm in winter, 1:30 to 2:00 pm in summer

Closed for public holidays

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Himalayan Cannabis Tour

Himalayan Cannabis Tour

Cannabis plants
Cannabis plants

Do you like marijuana? Do you enjoy amazing mountain views, and ancient cultures? Why not put them together in a Himalayan Cannabis Tour? That is exactly what Upper Himalayan Treks and Adventure did.  Now, for the first time, you can have a guided Himalayan Cannabis Tour. This tour combines the natural beauty of the Himalayan mountains, the rich cultural heritage of Nepal, and all the cannabis you set your eyes on.

History of Cannabis in Nepal

annapurna 2, pisang peak, manaslu
Annapurna 2, Pisang Peak, and Manaslu from Upper Khangsar

Cannabis is native and indigenous to central Asia and the Indian subcontinent. This means that Nepal and its people have grown and developed next to each other for 1,000’s of years.  As proof of such a relationship, cannabis is mentioned in the Bhagavad Gita, which was written 500 to 200 BCE.

Amazing right?

More recently, (date unknown) up to the 1970’s, the king of Nepal sold cannabis products to people in government-run hashish shops.  These shops were shut down in the late 1970’s, because of political pressure from foreign governments.

The king then outlawed cannabis, but Nepali citizens protested the new law. The protest resulted in neutralizing the law. Although still a law, it is now not enforced.

During Shivaratri, the law is removed and everyone can partake in nation wide cannabis celebration, more on this later.

Cannabis production and celebration in Nepal

Cannabis in someones front yard garden in Kathmandu
Cannabis in someones front yard garden in Kathmandu

Cannabis grows wild throughout Nepal. It is also grown in gardens for its seeds, hash, and foliage for goats. By the way, goats love it! I would say each household that grows it, grows enough for 12 people or 2 goats. These plants get massive, upward of 12 feet tall and 15 feet wide. They can be extremely fragrant too.

Since most of the gardeners want seeds in their cannabis, they freely allow pollination. The seeds are used to make a food condiment used as a dipping sauce for vegetables. Its pretty good.

The hash produced from their plants is used during Shivaratri, which is a national holiday celebrating the Hindu god Shiva. Shivaratri is a Nepali version of St. Patty’s day, except with marijuana and not alcohol. In the words of Bob Dylan, “Everybody must get stoned.”

Shivaratri is based on the lunar calendar, so the date is different each year. It occurs in March or April, which correspond with the Nepali month Magha.

The tour

Swambhunath shrines and stupa
Swambhunath shrines and stupa

The Himalayan cannabis tour takes you on a high-flying adventure through Nepal.  We visit Pashupatinath temple, which is known for its ganja smoking sadhus, Boudhanath stupa, andSwayambhunath Stupa as part of our introduction into Nepali culture and history.

You will also get to visit the historic “freak street”, where the king’s government sold hash to “alternative travelers” in the 60’s and 70’s.

We spend the remaining time traveling to different villages to respectfully “inspect” their horticultural practices. It is from these villages we gain phenomenal views of the Himalayas in bliss.

Book your trip now!

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Hiking etiquette in Nepal

A guide to hiking etiquette in Nepal

Hiking etiquette is a controversial issue, believe it or not, because the mountains and trails are shared by all nationalities and all types of people.  What is acceptable behavior in one person’s country may be unaccepted in another.  I am addressing some of the common etiquette issues I’ve found while trekking in Nepal. This article is by no means a comprehensive list, but that of common shared opinions. I hope you enjoy the article and can take away some of the information presented in it.

Hiking Cloths

Nepal is an extremely conservative country. Men generally wear pants and collard shirts.  The women wear kurta suruwals with parachute pants or leggings. However, there is an exception to this. Since the 70’s a lot of people have been trekking in short running shorts and t-shirts.  Though traditionally unaccepted, this has become the norm and is tolerated by most and even preferred by some of the Nepali men.

I saw one women trekking to Poon Hill in a bra, which is not recommended, but nobody seemed to mind.  To me, this is evidence of the impact of the tourism industry.

Greetings between hikers

When you pass people on the trail, either coming or going, please smile and say hello in your native language or the language you are most comfortable with.  I’ve crossed paths with 1,000s of people in Nepal. Most of them will say hello or Namaste, which is fine, but a small percentage of people are unfriendly or hostile.

Some of the excuses if received when I asked about people’s rudeness are headache, altitude sickness, hungry, didn’t hear me, swear words and vow of silence.  The people who had taken a vow of silence either give hand signals that they can’t talk or just nod their head and smile.

Greetings from hikers to Nepali people

I’ve seen some weird things happen between foreigners and Nepali people.  One such occasion happened while I was hiking to Everest Base Camp. My guide and I were going up and another trekker was coming down.  I said hello and smiled, the person completely ignored me then dove at the bottom of my guides feet and kept saying Namaste. My guide walked around and didn’t say a word, except to complain later about how weird foreigners are.

I asked my guide how he preferred to be greeted and he said “Hello! Everyone understands hello.”

Letting people pass

If there is a faster hiker coming up behind you, please step aside and let them pass.  The same goes if you are going downhill and you are about to cross paths with someone coming uphill. Nobody likes being stuck behind someone or pushed aside on a difficult part of the trail.

Tea house etiquette between hikers and owners

In my experience, the owners of the tea houses on the Annapurna Circuit Trek tended to be unfriendly.   A lot of them also over charge. Please bargain with them if you are an independent trekker. If you have a guide, he or she will do it for you.  It is customary and expected for hikers to bargain. Bargaining has huge impacts on future trekkers and the cost of their hikes.

Tea house owners on the EBC trail tended to be more friendly, open, welcoming, and fair. You can bargain with them too, but their prices for food are about what you would expect to pay in Kathmandu.

Langtang teahouse owners were very open and welcoming, but extremely expensive.  You must bargain with them to get good prices on food and a room.

Teahouse etiquette between hikers

This is an interesting situation because the rudest people become friendly in tea houses. Of course, there are exceptions, but in general tea houses have a wholesome campfire setting. Most people stick to conversations related to traveling and hiking, health, and board or card games.

Tipping etiquette

Guides and porters are paid very well for their services, but most of them do expect a tip at the end of the trek. $2 to $5 per day is a fair amount to tip.

You do not need to tip for food, transport, or lodging.

Hiking etiquette miscellaneous

This isn’t specific to Nepal, but if you hike with animals, please do not let them jump on or lick other people.  Also, please don’t let them chase the wildlife.

Did I miss anything? Let me know in the comments.

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5 simple ways to prevent jet lag naturally without medicine

5 simple ways to prevent jet lag naturally without medicine so you can have a longer groggy free vacation

Pink rhododendron flowers
Wake up and smell the rhododendron flowers

You’ve booked your trip to Nepal and you announce the news on social media. “I’m going to Nepal!!!” Then all your friends post comments like “that’s great!”, “Have fun!”, “Bring me back a souvenir!”. Your drunk cousin Tamara then comments “Petri dish, centrifuge, jet lag.” (it’s code for have a good time, use a condom and jet lag). You reply to Tamara “centrifuge, centrifuge, petri dish, jet lag”, which translates as lots of love, thank you for the best wishes, and I already know about jet lag.

You already know about jet lag, great! But do you know how to prevent it? In this article I provide details for how you can prevent jet lag naturally, so you can have a longer more enjoyable vacation. Sounds pretty good huh? It is, and its easy too.

Acclimate to the time zone

Flying from the pacific coast of the united states (time zone UTC-8) to Nepal (UTC-5:45), you will cross 14-time zones.  UTC stands for Universal Time, Co-ordinated, which is a fancy way of saying time starts in Greenwich London.  To make it simple Nepal is 12 hours and 45 minutes ahead of pacific standard time.

A general rule of thumb is, your body will naturally adjust to the new time zone at a rate of 1 hour per day.  That means, it will take 13 days to adjust to Nepal’s time zone if you are in the PST zone.

Fortunately, there are ways to get around this, like flashing light therapy, acclimating before your trip, change your eating time, abstain from alcohol, and arrive in Nepal in the morning or afternoon.

Flashing light therapy

Light therapy is a relatively new idea.  It is designed to adjust your body’s biological clock to the time zone you want while you sleep. The therapy is straight forward; one flash of light, 2-milliseconds long, is emitted every 10 seconds for 1 hour while you sleep.  The result of the therapy is a 2-hour delay in sleepiness.  This therapy can reduce your acclimation time by 6 days!

Acclimate before your trip

This is my favorite method of preventing jet lag.  For a week before my departure date, I go to bed an hour later each night.  Its easy and super simple!  I will stop going to bed later if it reduces my sleeping schedule to less than 6 hours. This can process can completely prevent jet lag if given enough time.

Chang your eating schedule

This biology hack has 2 components.  The first component is fasting for 16 hours before arriving at your destination.  This works best if you arrive at your destination in the morning around 8 or 9 am.  Your first meal, after 16 hours of not eating, will in a since reboot your circadian rhythm.

When the first part is paired with the second part, it is extremely effective at preventing jet lag.  It entails waking up during the middle of your sleep schedule and eating. This will program your body to “wake up” in the middle of your time zone, but in the mid-day of Nepal’s time zone.

No alcohol

I’m not aware of the science behind it but drinking alcohol in large quantities severely impacts the quality and duration of your sleep. If you know anything about it, let me know in the comments below.

Schedule arrival for the morning or afternoon not at night

When you book your flight, try to book one that arrives in the morning or before noon.  This will give you full day of being active and potentially in the sunlight, which helps reduce jet lag.

Now that you know how to naturally prevent jet lag, you can message you cousin Tamara “petri dish, Nepal, jet lag jet shmag P.S. nah na nah na booz!” (I’m going to have a great time in Nepal without jet lag P.S. stop day drinking.)

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Kathmandu Sightseeing Tour Overview

Kathmandu Sightseeing Tour Overview

Boudhanath stupa
Boudhanath stupa

Upper Himalayan Treks and Adventures created their Kathmandu Sightseeing Tour to allow visitors the opportunity to explore the temples, stupas, and shrines in the Kathmandu valley.  These areas are world heritage sites, with each offering a unique glimpse into Nepal’s past, and its culture.  The world heritage sites include: Bhaktapur Durbar Square, Boudhanath Stupa, Changu Narayan Temple, Kathmandu Durbar Square, Pashupatinath Temple, Patan Durbar Square, and finally Swayambhunath Stupa.

Unfortunately, all the Kathmandu world heritage sites can’t all be seen in 1 day; there are too many sights too far apart. Fortunately, you have this guide to help you choose which places to visit.  In this blog post I provide a description of each of the world heritage sites, a few photographs and links to detailed articles further explaining the sites. I hope you enjoy!

Bhaktapur Durbar Square

Nyatapola Temple
Nyatapola Temple Bhaktapur

Bhaktapur is an amazing old-world town with a long history and rich culture.  Its most famous temple is the Nyatapola Temple, which has 5 stories.  It has a pottery area, where people can see craftsmen create earthenwear.  Bhaktapur Durbar Square is known as the way back to culture. You can find out more about it here.

Boudhanath Stupa

Boudhanath Stupa
Boudhanath Stupa

The history of Boudhanath Stupa is a shrouded mystery and covered in folk tales and lore. You can receive 3 different backgrounds from 3 different people and they will all have some aspects of truth.  Without giving away too much detail, one history involves a human sacrifice, a chicken, and water.  Another involves an old woman and the king of Nepal. Hint: the old woman isn’t his grandmother! You can read about these interesting stories here.

Changu Narayan Temple

Full disclosure: I’ve never been here, but I hear its nice! From what I understand its an old Hindu temple that is beautifully carved and constructed. Most tours do not go here because it is very far away from the other heritage sites in Kathmandu.  If you do visit, let me know how it went and I will rewrite this blog post with your description. Really, you can write whatever you want, and I’ll post it here! “tempting offer” you say. You can read more about it here before you make up your mind.

Kathmandu Durbar Square

Kathmandu Durbar Square
Kathmandu Durbar Square

Kathmandu Durbar Square has a similar history as Patan Durbar Square.  It was ruled by both the Mallas (from noth east Indians) and the Shahs (from Gorkha).  It has a beautiful pallace and many supporting temples.  The main attraction of Kathmandu Durbar Square is the Kumari (living goddess), who you can see, if she is there.  You can read more about it here.

Patan Durbar Square

Krishna temple Patan
Krishna temple and ticket counter

Patan Durbar Square is an amazing old-world town with a long history and rich culture.  Its most famous temple is the Shiva Temple, which was carved from imported stone from India.  It has a phenomenal 3 story museum, which houses relics and cultural artifacts from the past.  Patan Durbar Square is known for its Newari architecture, museum, and palace. You can find out more about it here.

Pashupatinath Temple

Pashupatinath by the Bagmati River
Pashupatinath by the Bagmati River

You are only allowed entrance into the Pashupatinath Temple if you are Hindu.  You can say you’re Hindu and try to enter, but you should not be wearing any leather products.  Upper Himalayan Treks and Adventures’ guides will help you, if you have any issues. In addition, I’ve even met people who have been turned away for being white.  The racial bigotry aside, the temple complex is very cool.  It is located on the Bagmati River and there is a mini-zoo too.  You can read about the significance of the river and zoo here.

Swayambhunath Stupa

Swayambhunath stupa and shrines
Swayambhunath stupa and shrines

The Swayambhunath Stupa has a very beautiful myth about its creation. The myth involves a giant lake, a god with lice, and a single lotus flower. It is a miniaturized version of Boudhanath Stupa, but with statues, and a small brick stupa.  Do not come here if you are allergic to monkeys stealing your lunch. Swayambhunath is also known as the monkey temple. To find out why, follow this link.

I hope this article was helpful. Please feel free to save any of these pins to your Pinterest account.

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Chitwan National Park Overview

Chitwan National Park Overview

 

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Chitwan National Park is one of the premier sites to visit in Nepal. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is 359.8 square miles. It has forests, marshlands, grasslands, and abundant wild animals. Chitwan National Park is one of the best parks in Asia for seeing endangered animals. It has single-horned rhinoceroses, Asian elephants, gharial crocodiles, monkeys, deer, leopards, sloth bears, Bengal tigers, 544 species of birds, and many others.

In this blog post you will learn about Chitwan’s location and climate, the history of Chitwan, animals in Chitwan, cost to visit Chitwan, and the best time to visit.   I hope this article provides the information you are looking for as well as enjoyment from reading the content. If you have any questions, please contact me or post your question(s) in the comment section.

You can also read my captains log eteries of day 1 and day 2 of my Chitwan Jungle Safari.

Chitwan’s location and climate

peacock and fence
peacock and fence

Chitwan National Park is in the inner Terai lowland in the southern central region of Nepal.  It is 65.8 miles south west of Kathmandu, and 119.3 miles south east of Pokhara.

The Terai is classified as a humid, subtropical climate with an average yearly rainfall of 87.2 inches.  Over 80% of the rainfall occurs within the monsoon season from June through September.  The average high temperature of the area is 87.44o F, while the average low is 61.39o F. You can find a weather graph here.

History of Chitwan

Royal Chitwan National Park was established in 1973. Before that, in the 18th century, the Terai was segregated into small kingdoms in harmony with the jungle.  After the unification of Nepal in 1800 A.D. In the 1920’s jungle areas were cleared for agricultural production and the forest products were sold to India.

By 1955, malaria was removed from the Terai using DDT and other insecticides.  This paved the way for tourism and the development of the park.  The King of Nepal had an advisor that told him he could make more money in tourism than in forest products, so the king stopped the forest clearing, declared Chitwan a national park, and then opened it to the public.

Animals in Chitwan

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Chitwan park is home to 68 species of mammals, 56 species of reptiles, 544 spices of birds, and 126 species of fish. Among the threatened and endangered animals are the Bengal tiger, 1 horned rhinoceros, giant hornbill, gharial crocodile, and the south Asian river dolphin.

Elephant love
Elephant love

Despite their threatened or endangered status some of these animals are quite common in the park! The most commonly encountered animals in the park are alligators, gharial crocodiles, elephants, 1-horned rhinos, deer, monkeys, and birds of various species, which includes the wild chicken.

Alligator in Rapti River
Alligator in Rapti River

Cost to visit Chitwan

The entrance fee into the park is $7.50 with an added $0.98 as a tax.  This fee does not include the any services such as jeep/ elephant safari, elephant sanctuary admission, boat ride, guided hike, or elephant bathing. These services can be purchased individually at a premium, but in a package, they are cheaper.

Package jungle tours come in a variety of classes. The prices range from $150 to $1,3335. In general, you get what you pay for.  Upper Himalayan Treks and Adventure offers an excellent tour package that includes food, accommodation, and all available jungle activities for $1,090. Mention this article and receive 10% off the purchase price.

Best time to visit

The best time to visit the park for comfortable weather is in the winter, November through January. The best time to visit the park for animals is in the spring season, April and May, which is also the best time to see Bengal tigers.

The park is closed to tourists during the monsoon season from July through September.  During this time, you can book trips to the buffer zone which has a lot of the same amenities as the park.

 

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Chitwan National Park Jungle Safari Day 2

Chitwan National Park Jungle Safari Day 2

Chitwan National Park
Chitwan National Park

Day 2 of the jungle safari tour is when the real adventure begins.  I’m talking elephant rides, jungle safari, endangered animals, a canoe trip, hiking through the jungle, and a visit to the elephant sanctuary.  This trip captured my attention and gave me memories that I still fondly look back on.  I’m grinning as I wright this blog post. You can read about day 1 by following the link.

Elephant ride and jungle safari

Elephants lining up for tours
Elephants lining up for tours

We woke up at 6:00 and took a jeep to the entrance of the Chitwan National Park.  There was a line of about a dozen elephants waiting for people to ride them.  I was too excited to realize that the elephant drivers and keepers do not treat their animals well, but more on that later.  We climbed up on our designated elephant and waited for more people to arrive.

Elephant love
Elephant love

Our elephant was a sweetheart. I immediately fell in love. I doubt the feeling was reciprocated though, because its hard to love a monkey on your back.

Elephant jungle safari
Elephant jungle safari

We set out into the jungle after a few minutes. Everything was new and thrilling. The elephant swayed left to right as she walked.  Wild chickens and pheasants ran across the trail with each snap of a twig. People were whispering,
“look at that.”

Rhinoceroses in Chitwan National Park
Rhinoceroses in Chitwan National Park

It was like participating in a drama where you keep anticipating some wild jungle animal to come out of the bushes.  We were, of course, safe from unknown beasts on the back of the elephant.  It was still exhilarating and fun spotting chital grazing in an open area of the jungle or alligators and gharials bathing in the sun on the banks of the Rapti river.

Bird on the bank
Bird on the bank

I saw all types of birds and plants, and even a few monkeys.  The highlight of the jungle safari was seeing 2 rhinoceroses grazing on a burnt patch of grassland.  We came within 20 feet of the rhinos, who didn’t seem the least bit concerned by our presence.  One of them even laid down and fell asleep.

Parrot in a tree
Parrot in a tree

Canoe trip down the Rapti river

Bird on Rapti river
Bird on Rapti river

We finished the elephant ride and jungle safari at the bank of the Rapti river.  A dug-out canoe was waiting for us in alligator and crocodile infested water.  I questioned the “sea worthiness” of the vessel but decided to throw caution into the winds and let the sails catch us on our maiden voyage.

Alligator in Rapti River
Alligator in Rapti River

I jumped into the canoe and immediately regretted it when an alligator on the opposing bank darted into the water.

I thought “that’s it. We’re done for!”

Deer in Chitwan
Deer in Chitwan

Fortunately, the canoe didn’t tip, and we remained safe as we paddled down the river.  We saw all sorts of amazing birds as they hunted for fish along the river. We also saw a lot of deer, some elephants, and lots and lots of alligators and crocodiles.

The canoe trip was a lot of fun.  It stopped on the bank about 2 hours after it started.  Everyone got off and we started hiking through the jungle to the elephant sanctuary.

Jungle hike

I was excited and a little terrified of the jungle hike because tigers eat people. The hike was a lot of fun though.  We saw some more rhinoceroses, signs of sloth bears and huge termite mounds.

We hiked for about 45 minutes with each turn of the trail just as suspenseful as the one before it.  Be careful if you go, because there are leaches on the plants near the trail.  They are more of a problem in the rainy season, but they are there in December too.

We hiked a little further then suddenly, the jungle disappeared, and we were in a grass land prairie. The elephant sanctuary was a quarter mile from the edge of the jungle.

Elephant sanctuary

Elephant sanctuary
Elephant sanctuary

We walked in the “sanctuary” expecting a preserve for happy elephants, but instead we found an elephant prison.  It was pretty much a zoo minus the other animals.  The elephants had chains around their legs to keep them in their pen.

Elephant sanctuary
Wild elephant at the elephant sanctuary

The sanctuary’s intentions are good, to keep poachers from killing the elephants. However, they also use the elephants as taxis.

After seeing this, I started to reflect on the jungle safari. I realized how unpleasant the elephant drivers were to their elephants.

I do not recommend the elephant jungle safari and visiting the sanctuary for these reasons.

Concluding the trip

After we visited the elephant sanctuary we went to the Rapti river and watched the elephants bathe and be washed by travelers.  The elephants and the travelers both looked happy.  I highly recommend this practice.

The next day we left Chitwan a little smarter and as more experienced travelers. I recommend Chitwan National Park to everybody, but be mindful of how they treat their animals.

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Chitwan National Park Jungle Safari Day 1

Chitwan National Park Jungle Safari

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Chitwan National Park is amazing!  I thoroughly enjoyed my 2-day tour of the park and Chitwan village.  Some of the highlights were a Tharu cultural dance show, a walk to Rapti River, elephant ride jungle safari, Rapti River canoe trip, hiking through the jungle, and a visit to the elephant sanctuary.

If you would like to visit Chitwan National Park you can book your trip through and number of travel companies in Nepal or Upper Himalayan Treks and Adventure, which has an Office in California and Nepal. 2 for the price of 1! All joking aside, mention this article and receive a 10% discount on your Chitwan National Park Jungle Safari tour.

Day 1 Visiting Chitwan

My friends and I were on vacation from our jobs with the Peace Corps. We were all hanging out in Pokhara, when I got the idea to visit Chitwan.  I contacted Ganga who booked my trip for me.  The next day I told my friends I was going to Chitwan in a couple of days, and they insisted on coming with me.

It was me, Saline, Sacha, and Stephanie.  It was an oblong dynamic to say the least.  I could never remember Saline’s name until I associated it with salt, which is unusual because her personality was more creamy than salty. Saline and Sacha were best friends, and Stephanie was my former girlfriends best friend.

How we all ended up in Chitwan together, I have no idea.  But there we were, 2 days later, on a tourist bus from Pokhara to Chitwan.

We traveled for 4.5 hours before arriving to Chitwan.  The trip was entertaining because I enjoyed seeing the country side.  You can see a lot of Nepal by taking the bus to different locations.

Chitwan

Elephants in stable
Elephants in a stable

We were picked up by our travel company when we arrived in Chitwan.  It was a very easy process because everything was arranged for us. They drove us to our hotel, which was beautiful, and we checked into our rooms.

I went out exploring because why stay in a room when an adventure awaits outside the door.  I discovered an elephant stable in the back of the hotel. You couldn’t imagine how happy I was and the amount of discipline that kept me out of it.  Honestly it was also partly fear of being stepped on.  Those are some huge animals.

Next, I walked down the main road, which doesn’t have much in terms of tourists’ interests. I remember being extremely unhappy about the result of my adventure.  The result was me back in my hotel room playing cards with the girls.  I laugh about it now.

Hike to the Rapti River

Alligator in Rapti River
Alligator in Rapti River

Our guide knocked on the door and asked us if we wanted to go down to the lake and watch the sunset over the Rapti River.

The road from the hotel leads directly to the river, but we took a side trail and hiked to it.  We didn’t see much of nature, because it was December.  When we arrived at the river, we saw a heard of elephants, some wild boar, and a lot of alligators and crocodiles.

The sun set over the jungle and it reminded me of a mirage in the Serengeti desert.  It looked a like this Picture from Wikipedia.

Tharu Cultural Dance Show

Finally, we concluded our day by going to the Tharu Cultural Dance Show.  The dance show was housed in a hall in Sauraha, Meghauli, which is right near the river.

The program was developed to introduce Tharu culture and tradition to tourists.  We saw dances like Danda Nach (Stick Dance), Aglo Nach (Fire Dance), and Mayur Nach (Peacock Dance).  The host talks about the dance, when it is performed, and why it is performed before each performance.  The show lasts 45 minutes and is a treat to watch.

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Gurkha Memorial Museum part 4, 3rd floor Gurkha regiments

 Gurkha Memorial Museum part 4, 3rd floor

Gurkha Museum entrance
Gurkha Museum entrance

The 3rd floor has information and displays of specialty units within the Gurkha regiments.  In addition, it also has a segment on the Gurkha Singapore police unit.  The museum identifies The Queen’s Gurkha Engineers, Queen’s Gurkha Signals, Queen’s Own Gurkha Logistic Regiment, Gurkha Contingent Singapore Police Force and other units.

If you missed parts one, two, and three, you can access them by following the links.

The Queens Gurkha Engineers

The Queens Gurkha Engineers' uniform
The Queens Gurkha Engineers’ uniform

The British government created the Queens Gurkha Engineers in December 1948 in Klaung, Malaya.  The unit contained 300 re-enlisted Gurkha Riflemen.  This Regiment supported infantry riflemen in several operations, but the 2 major ones were Borneo Confrontation, and Unrest in Hong Kong.

The Borneo Confrontation took place between 1962 and 1967.  Brittan developed this regiment to build bridges, landing strips, and landing pads.  Lieutenant Stephens and Lieutenant Thapa ordered the construction of a 1,700-foot-long airstrip.  The regiment finished the airstrip to civil engineering specifications.

Unrest in Hong Kong took place in 1967.  The Queens Gurkha Engineers built a 20-mile-long barbed wire snake fence.  In addition, they built 2 parallel high apron fences that were infilled with 4 lines of Dannert coils.

Queens Gurkha Signals

hand signals
Signals used before there was electronic equipment

The British military assembled Queens Gurkhas Signals in November 1948 in Kuala Lumpur.  They accepted 102 Gurkha men.  Major Gregory separated the men into 3 units Operator wireless and line, Lineman Field Permanent Line, and Dispatch Riders.

Queen’s Gurkha Signals supported many regiments in different operations, but the operation they are best known for was the Borneo Confrontation 1962 to 1965.  Queens Gurkha Signals provided communication between battalion commanders and operation directors. They also built rebroadcast links on mountains to allow units in the jungle to communicate with commanding officers.

Queen’s Own Gurkha Logistic Regiment

Queen's Own Gurkha Logistic Regiment uniform
Queen’s Own Gurkha Logistic Regiment uniform

Brittan formed Queen’s Own Gurkha Logistic Regiment (QOGLR) in June 1958 in Kluang Malaya.  The British government merged The Queen’s Own Gurkha Transport Regiment, and The Gurkha Transport Regiment, and The Gurkha Army Service Corps to form the Queen’s Own Gurkha Logistics Regiment in April 2001.

Queen’s Own Gurkha Logistic Regiment supported many regiments in different operations, but the operations they are best known for are Borneo Confrontation 1962 to 1966 and Gulf War 1991.

QOGLR moved into Brunei and Labuan Borneo in 1962 at the start of the conflict.  They commanded over 1000 miles of road and water ways by 1963.  They supplied other regiments with rations, ammunition, batteries, and clothing.

QOGLR entered the Gulf war in 1991.  They assisted ground regiments by driving trucks, ambulances and other support vehicles.

Gurkha Contingent Singapore Police Force

Gurkha Singapore Police Force uniform
Gurkha Singapore Police Force uniform

The British government created the Gurkha Contingent Singapore Police Force (GCSPF) in April 1949 in Duxton Plain Singapore.  Major Scott Leatheart commanded this police force because the Kikh police force deteriorated under Japanese rule.  GCSPF originally had 142 Gurkha members, but it grew to 300 shortly after.

GCSPF is best known for suppressing riots and acts of violence and is known for their discipline, turnout, and bearing.

25 and 9 years of service medal for Gurkha police
25 and 9 years of service medal for Gurkha police

Other Units

Gurkha women working the lines in a dress, flip flops, and hard hat.
Gurkha women working the lines in a dress, flip flops, and hard hat.

Queen Alexandra’s Royal Army Nursing Corps

Gurkha women also have a long history of fighting alongside their male counterparts.  They also have many other talents, which they argue they can do better than the men!  One such talent is nursing.  Brittan accepted Gurkha women into the nursing corps in the 60’s. Radha Rawat was the first Gurkha women to be assigned a nursing position.  She retired as a Major in the 80’s.

Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw famous quote
Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw famous quote
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Gurkha Memorial Museum part 3, 2nd floor Gurkha Rifles

Gurkha Memorial Museum 2nd floor Gurkha Rifles

Gurkha Museum entrance
Gurkha Museum entrance

The second floor of the Gurkha Memorial Museum is dedicated to the Gurkha infantry regiments.  The displays on the second floor consist of uniforms and accessories. In addition to the displays and regiment information, instances of Gurkha bravery and gallantry are highlighted.  If you missed parts one and two of the first floor, you can access them through the provided links.

2nd King Edward VII’s own Gurkhas (The Sirmoor Rifles)

2nd gurkha officer uniform
2nd Gurkha officer uniform

The adjunct general of India asked Lieutenant Frederick Young to lead a group of “irregulars” (hill men).  Young raised the Sirmoor Rifles on April 24, 1815. He collected 1,223 men and arranged them into 10 companies.  They remained in India until 1947 to join the British army.

Before the Sirmoor Rifles left India, they had a major battle in Delhi, which became their defining moment. Hindu soldiers revolted against the British East India Company on May 10th, 1857, because they were given ammo cartridges greased with cow fat, which was against their religion. The Sirmoor Rifles defended against the mutineers for 3 months.  Then with the help of reinforcements, they attacked rebellion stronghold.  The Sirmoor Rifles suppressed the rebellion on September 14th, 1857.

Queen Victoria recognized their bravery and valor and presented them with the Queens Truncheon.

Miniature metals received by the 2nd Gurkha regiment.
Miniature metals received by the 2nd Gurkha regiment.

6th Queen Elizabeth’s own Gurkha Rifles

6th Gurkha Rifles uniform
6th Gurkha Rifles uniform

The 6th Queen Elizabeth’s own Gurkha Rifles (6th Rifles) was originated in Cuttack, Orissa in India.  Captain Simon Frasier created the regiment to help keep order in the area.  The first Gurkha soldier joined the group in 1824 and by 1886 it was solely composed of 656 Gurkhas.

Before the 6th Rifles left India in 1947 to join the British army, they fought the Japanese in WW 2, which was their defining moment.  The 6th Rifles had orders to attack a railroad bridge in Mogaung, Burma. The Japanese had a strong position, which they reinforced with machine guns and bombs.

The 6th Rifles received heavy casualties along with other units. Tulbahadur Pun, one of the last men alive in his section, seized a bren gun and while firing from the hip he charged the Japanese base.  He single-highhandedly captured the base despite a heavy concentration of automatic fire directed at him.  Pun received the Victoria Cross for his bravery.

7th Duke of Edinburgh’s own Gurkha Rifles

Gurkha military patch
Gurkha military patch

The 7th Duke of Edinburgh’s own Gurkha Rifles (7th Rifles) has a mixed history.  It originated in 1902 but didn’t have any Gurkha soldiers until 1959. They moved through north east India and Pakastan for a while and were even converted to a field artillery unit for a short time. This company has 2 defining moments.

The Japanese advanced on Imphal, Bruma in June 1944. The 7th Rifles went to Burma to defend against the Japanese attacks. Japanese’s enforcements used tanks and superior fire power to break through the rear guard at the Tiddim road blockade.  Rifleman Ganju Lama immobilized 3 tanks and killed many enemy soldiers. He received the Victoria Cross for his actions.

Japan stationed 3,000 men in Meiktala, Bhutan. They had a strong position and were effectively fighting the 7th Rifles.  2 Gurkha soldiers, Naik Dalbir Rana and Narbir Pun, charged over open ground firing their rifles at the enemy. As they advanced on a position, 2 Japanese soldiers fled into a nearby building. Narbir Pun chased after the enemy and engaged them with his kukhuri. Pun killed the soldiers then rejoined Rana at the front of the fight.  They defeated the Japanese a short time later.

Pun and Rana received the Victoria Cross for the bravery.

10th Princess Mary’s own Gurkha Rifles

Metals for Gurkhas in WW 1
Metals for Gurkhas in WW 1

England created the 10th Princess Mary’s own Gurkha Rifles (10th Rifles) in 1890, to support Burma.  After service, the 800-man regiment left Burma and went to Pakistan.  lieutenant colonel MacGregor led the 10th Rifles.

Macgregor deployed the 10th Rifles to Gallipoli to fight Turkey in WW 1.  The 10th Rifles fought the most successful operation of the campaign even though the allied forces eventually had to withdraw from Turkey.  The 10th Rifles engaged the Turkish army and gained 1,000 yards and 5 lines of trenches.  They killed over 10,000 enemy soldiers and wounded 6,000 more. They withdrew from Gallipoli when Turkish reinforcements arrived on July 5th.

Royal Gurkha Rifles

England scaled back its military on July 1st, 1994.  England condensed the Gurkha Rifles in to the Royal Gurkha Rifles, because of budget cuts. They served in Bosnia, Kosovo, East Timor, Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast, Iraq, and Afghanistan with other UN forces.

Acting Sargent Dipprasad Pun was 1 of 4 men guarding a base in Afghanistan.  The rest of his platoon were off base on assignment.  Pun had sentry duties on the evening of September 17, 2010.  That evening his base was attacked by an unknown number of Afghan guerilla forces.  Pun identified hostile enemies approaching and engaged them with a grenade launcher and automatic fire.  The enemy counter attacked, but Pun anticipated their movements and gained a strategic post.  This occurred three times.  By the end of the fire fight Pun had killed 3 men and made the others retreat.

Pun receiving a metal and recognition.
Pun receiving a metal and recognition.
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Gurkha Museum part 2

Gurkha Memorial Museum part 2

Gurkha Museum entrance
Gurkha Museum entrance

This blog post is a continuation of the Gurkha Memorial Museum.   Part one introduces the museum, its departments and displays.  It also gives a brief history of the museum and Gurkhas before 1857, which is where the museum starts recording the heroic actions of Gurkhas.  Part 2 identifies minor conflicts the Gurkhas were in.  If you haven’t already read part 1, please check it out before continuing to part 2.

The Borneo Operation 1962-1966 aka the Indonesian Confrontation

Borneo Operation
Borneo Operation map

On Dec 8, 1962, the president of Indonesia, President Sukarno, began attacking areas tactical importance in Brunei, which was under the control of Malaya’s prime minister Rahman.  Prime minister Rahman asked the British government for assistance in uniting his country and quelling the invasion. The British sent British and Gurkha troops to fight; Gurkhas beat President Sukarno’s troops in 10 days.

The British and Gurkha forces succeeded in reclaiming the lost ground, but President Sukarno was persistent in his conquests.  In 1963 president Sukarno resorted to gorilla style warfare.  British and Gurkha regiments began patrolling and ambushing enemy units.  The Gurkha and British forces conquered all the Indonesian forces by March 12, 1966. Indonesia and Malaya signed a peace treaty on August 11th.

Permanent base for Gurkhas in England

IN 1972 a Gurkha infantry battalion received a permanent base in Church Crookham England.

Minor engagements

Gurkha Khukri
Gurkha Khukri, a symbol of bravery and ferocity

Gurkha forces went to Belize in 1978 during the Belizean-Guatemalan territorial dispute.  Their jungle warfare skills aided the Belize in defending attacks by Guatemala.  The Gurkha forces remained there for several years.

Gurkha units assisted with the invasion of the Falkland Islands in 1982.  They did not participate in a lot of combat, but they did play a major role in moral support.

The Gurkhas also had a minor role in the 1991 Gulf War. Their engagement was limited to officer attachments and stretcher bearers.

From 1990 to 2002 Gurkha forces were deployed to multiple international destinations to support NATO and United Nation forces.

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Gurkha Memorial Museum

Gurkha Memorial Museum

Gurkha Museum entrance
Gurkha Museum entrance

The Gurkha Memorial Museum was founded to honor the brave men and women who join the Gurkha army.  The museum is sectioned into 3 floors, with each floor becoming increasingly specialized and dedicated to a specific aspect of the Gurkha army.  The 1st floor introduces the people that live in the Gorkha district and a history of the Gurkha military.  The 2nd floor displays the uniforms of different personnel of the Gurkhas. Finally, the museum ends at the 3rd floor, which identifies the specialty groups in the Gorkha regiment, like engineers, signals, and transport regiments.

Instead of telling you about the museum, I will tell you stories exhibited in the museum, which identify acts of bravery by Gurkha soldiers.  It was because of these acts and acts like this, this museum was created.

History of the museum

The museum officially opened in Kathmandu in 1994, with a goal of maintaining records of Gurkha bravery.  At that time the museum was only an archive of information with few military items on display.  By 1998 they received more donations and enlarged their display.  From 1998 to 2000 the museum expanded to 3 rooms after the Gurkha Museum in Britian sent donations.

A major advancement happened in 2004 when Commander Colonel Peter Sharland gave leased land outside of Pokhara to the Gurkha Museum.  The first floor of the new construction was completed and then opened for public in 2005. By 2008, 2 additional stories were added and open to the public.  In 2015 the parking lot was built.

A Brief history of the Gorkha District.

Present day Nepal was created by the war efforts of the Gorkha Kingdom.  In the 16th century Dravya Shah gained control over the Gorkha kingdom by winning a foot race. This is the beginning of the Shah dynasty, which lasted until 2008. After his inauguration, he set his sights on kingdom expansion.  He used Magar warriors to fight battles with neighboring territories.

In the 17th century Dravya’s son gained control of the kingdom and continued its expansion.  At this time, he created the unified kingdom of Gorkha and continued to expand its territory until the Anglo-Gorkha war in 1814.  Though he was defeated by the East India Trading Company, he maintained control of the kingdom.

In 1846 the Shah dynasty was briefly interrupted by the Rana Dynasty, which lasted until 1951.  At this time Matrika Koirala became the prime minister, but after 2 terms he gave control of the country to the Shah rulers.  In 2008, after the murder of the royal family, the country became a constitutional monarchy.

 First floor

The history of the museum begins in 1857 with the engagement of the Sepoy mutiny.  The royal Nepali army, led by a Rana king, assisted the British army commanded by General Campbell for the relief of Lucknow. By 1914 the Gurkha military personnel began to be recognized for their bravery.  The author Sir Ralph Lilley Turner wrote this about the Gurkhas:

“As I write these last words, my thoughts return to you who were my comrades, the stubborn and indomitable peasants of Nepal. Once more I hear the laughter with which you greeted every hardship. Once more I see you in your bivouacs or about your fires, on forced march or in the trenches, now shivering with wet and cold, now scorched by a pitiless and burning sun. Uncomplaining you endure hunger and thirst and wounds; and at the last your unwavering lines disappear into the smoke and wrath of battle. Bravest of the brave, most generous of the generous, never had country more faithful friends than you.”

Most of the Gurkha soldiers fought in Turkey, Iraq, Palestine, Syria, Iran, Russia, France, and Egypt.

WW1 Gurkha bravery

Rifle, sword, and medals issued to Gurkha soldiers in World War 1
Rifle, sword, and medals issued to Gurkha soldiers in World War 1

This is my favorite story from the WW1 section of the museum:
Rifleman Karanbanadur Rana entered in a firefight with German soldiers on April 10, 1918 in Palestine.  He and a few other rifle men, under enemy fire, encroached upon the German position with a Lewis gun.  Their objective was to take out a machine gun, that had just demolished most of their unit.  When they reached their strategic position, Rana’s comrade opened fire on the machine gunner, but was immediately shot. Rana, without hesitation, moved his fallen comrade aside and began an assault on the enemy objective.  He took down the machine gun team under a hailstorm of counter fire and bombs.  After the machine gun was neutralized, he fought back the enemy riflemen and bombers.

He saved his battalion from heavy losses and remained steady in his pursuits even when his Lewis gun jammed twice.  He received the Victoria Cross from King George V in 1919 for his actions and bravery.

victoria cross medal
Victoria Cross medal

WW2

Gurkhas came to arms again after the announcement of the 2nd world war.  They were stationed in Malaya and Burma to defend against Japanese attacks, North Africa to fight Ramel, and later Italy, Iraq, Iran, and Syria.  In total 120,000 men were deployed to the front.  Unfortunately, as it is in war, 20,000 men died during their deployment.

Gurkha soldier

WW 2 rifleman lachhiman Gurung
WW 2 rifleman lachhiman Gurung

This story highlights the bravery and dedication of Gurkha soldiers during the second world war:
Rifleman Lachhiman Gurung was stationed in Burma at a strategic location to intercept japaneese persenel as they were moving through the country.  His outpost was one of the fist areas enemy soldiers passed through.  On May 13th, 1945 his platoon was attacked by advancing soldiers.

At 1:20 in the morning the Japanese soldiers began throwing hand gernades into Gurung’s trench. One fell on the ridge lip of the trench; he grabbed it without hesitation and threw it back at the enemy.  Then another grenade landed inside the trench, which he once again fearlessly grabbed it and threw it back.  Just after that, one more grenade landed just outside his trench. As he was reaching to grab it, it blew up, ripping through his hand arm and part of his face.

A short time later the enemy began advancing on his position, where he was the only one still living.  Gurung, still able to fight, began defending his base by shooting and loading his firearm with his left hand. For 4 hours after his injury he prevented the enemy from taking over his position and gaining a tactical advantage on his comrades.

He was evacuated and treated for his injuries when reinforcements arrived.  He regained full health minus his right arm and right eye at the hospital.  After his recovery, he received the Victory Cross on December 19, 1945 for his bravery and actions.

The Malayan Emergency

The Malayan Emergency resulted from the power void left by the evacuation of the Japanese at the end of WW2 (1948-1960).  In short, a rough organic military developed in support of the Malayan Communist Party and to oppose the Federation of Malaya.  6 Gurkha battalions were brought in and by 1957 most of the threat from the Malayan Communist Party.

Gurkha to Gorkha

Because of a tripartite agreement between Britain, Nepal, and India, the Gurkhas were spilt into 2 fractions.  Soldiers going with Britain became Gorkhas, while those staying with India remained Gurkhas.  After this fraction, the Gorkhas and Gurkhas maintained a presence in the many wars that followed.

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International Mountain Museum (IMM)

International Mountain Museum (IMM)

International Mountain museum
International Mountain museum

The International Mountain Museum in Pokhara Nepal houses a collection of artifacts and information related to life and mountain climbing above 12,000 feet.  More than 70,000 people visit the museum each year.  These people come to see the many exhibits, which include world famous peaks and the mountaineers that climbed the peaks, culture and lifestyle of the people who live on the mountains, biology of mountain plants and animals, and the geologic formations that created the mountains and their corresponding rock classes.

This blog post provides a brief overview of the entire museum.  Feel free to share it on your social media channels.  If you have a Pinterest, please pin the pictures you enjoy.

Location

The museum is 2 miles south east of Lakeside Pokhara. It takes 10 m minutes to get there by car or is a 30-minute walk.  I do recommend walking because there are a lot of scenic pathways that lead to the museum. You might get lost because its not a direct route, but if you follow Lakeside road south east, you should be able to find it.

Entrance fee

International mountain museum ticket
International mountain museum ticket

The entrance fee is dependent on your nationality.  Nepali nationals are charged $0.8, SAARC nationals are charged $2, and other foreign nationals are charged $4.

History

The international Mountain Museum was established on Dec 1st, 1995 by Nepal Mountaineering Association.  It had a soft opening on May 29th, 2002 and opened officially on February 5th, 2004.

Best time to go

The museum is open all year long from 9am to 5pm.  The best time to go is in the morning, but you run the risk of being swarmed by school kids.

International Mountain Museum exhibit halls

There are 4 exhibit halls in the museum.  Each covers a specific topic relating to mountains.  You will come to the hall of mountain people first, then hall of world mountains, after that the Hall of mountain activities, and then finally Hall of temporary display.

Hall of mountain people

Traditional cloths of Tamang people
Traditional cloths of Tamang people

The hall of mountain people has two sections, mountain people of Nepal and mountain people of the world. It provides information about the people that live on the mountains. It also has a gorgeous mandala that is amazing to look at.

Mountain people of Nepal

This section looks into the past and present daily lives of “mountain people.”  It examines their customs, traditions, culture, dresses, ornaments, musical instruments, and household items.  The ethnic groups investigated are Tamangs, Thakalis, Chhantyals, Gurungs, Sherpas, Pun Magars, Yakkhas, Rais, Limbus and Sunuwars.

Mountain people of the world

This section of the hall of mountain people is small.  It identifies other countries and their ethnic groups that live on mountains. The countries identified are Taiwan, Slovenia, Japan, and various European countries.

Mandala   

Section of the mandala
Section of the mandala

A giant sand mandala rests in an enclosed case at the center of the exibit.  It was created by Lama Ngawang Kechha Sherpa.  It is an incredible art piece, which is alone worth visiting IMM for.

Hall of world mountains

The hall of world mountains has 4 sections, mountain, geological, flora and fauna, and dedications.  It identifies the tallest mountains in the world and provides their height.  It also provides information on their geological formations and classifications, mountain biology, and the mountaineers and summiteers that made the mountains famous.

Mountain section

This section identifies the 14 peaks over 26,247 feet. It also provides their pictures with information about summits and summit attempts.

Geological section

Ammonite fossil found in Upper Mustang
Ammonite fossil found in Upper Mustang, about 150 million years old

This section is a geologist’s dream because of the plethora of information and displays it provides.  There are interactive monitors, and films that show how the Himalayas were formed. Fossils and different types of rocks are displayed.  In addition, there are even some rare earth minerals on display.

Flora and fauna section

This section is a natural history trove.  It identifies some plants such as rhododendrons and where to find them, but mainly focuses on the animals.  There is also a decent sized display of the different kinds of butterflies found int the areas.  The natural history museum in Pokhara has a great butterfly display.

Corner of dedications

This section displays equipment used by climbers, which includes cloths tools, and cameras with photographs.  It also identifies the Nepali people associated with the development of the of the IMM and their contributions.

Hall of mountain activities

The hall of mountain activities has 5 sections, equipment, ecology and environment, images, climate change, and touch screen sections. This portion of the museum focuses on climbers, equipment, climate, climate change, and provides a chronological display of the 26,247-foot peaks in the order they were summited. In addition, there is a side display of stamps with mountain pictures on them from around the world.

Mountaineering section

This section is similar to the corner of dedications section in the previous hall, but the displays are larger, and it only focuses on the mountaineers that summited the 14 peaks.  Pieces of the summiteers’ equipment are also on display with their photograph.

Mountaineering equipment section

Mountaineering knots
Mountaineering knots

This section displays the equipment most commonly used for summiting mountains.  The equipment is grouped by type and age. Its impressive to see the different styles and their advancements. In addition to the primary equipment, there is a small section on the different types of knots and what they are used for.

Mountain ecology and environment section

I don’t remember there being a lot of information about mountain ecology.  This section was mainly focused on the environment at altitude.  It also has a large display of garbage removed from Mt. Everest and Lhotse to demonstrate the importance of not littering and how a little bit adds up.

Imaging Everest section

yak wool sun glasses
Before there were sun glasses, there was yak wool

This section has a ton of photographs of mountains and the people that climb them.  The pictures were taken by people on British expeditions to Mt. Everest starting in 1921.  There are some very cool old photos in the lot.

Climate change section

This section focuses on the effect of climate change on the mountains.  The most notable impact is the recession of Himalayan glaciers.  The section is divided into the effect of climate change on air, water, and ice.

Touch screen

I don’t remember this section, but supposedly you can interact with satellite images to view mountains, lakes and different areas of Nepal.

Hall of temporary display

This area has items on loan in it.  When I went, it had photographs of Dr. Tony Hagen and others loaned by ICIMOD.  It also has a prayer room and library.

Prayer room (Lakhang)

This room is a replica of a Buddhist prayer room and is always open for people to enter and pray.  The room reflects the openness of people living in the Himalayas.

Library

The library has a moderate selection of books on mountains, biology, people and mountaineering.  When I went, I only saw a few books in English, but I didn’t investigate too deeply.

Mt. Manaslu model

The Mt. Manaslu model is outside the museum just before the front door.  It is not to scale, but you can play on it.  I’m not going to lie, it’s kind of fun.

Yak model

The yak model isn’t part of the temporary display.  It is outside located next to the foot path. Its ok, but it really doesn’t look like a yak to me.

 

 

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Pashupati Temple

Pashupatinath Temple

Pashupatinath by the Bagmati River
Pashupatinath (upper right hand corner) by the Bagmati River

This is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but only Hindus are allowed entrance.  Pashupati is complex of buildings on the bank of the Bagmati river.  You can find temples, ashrams, and artistic carvings in the primary temple complex.  Outside the temple funeral pyres are routinely held and the ashes are freed in the river.

A small zoo is located above Pashupatinath in a park.  It is fitting, because the deity Pashupati is considered lord of animals.Pashupati is important in Hinduism, because it is identified as one of the homes of Shiva as out-lined in the ancient text Paadal Petra Sthalams.

To see other important UNESCO World Heritage Sites you can follow these links: Boudhanath Stupa, Patan Durbar Square, Swayambhunath, or see them all.

Bagmati River in Pashupatinath.
Bagmati River in Pashupatinath.

History

Pashupati was originally built in the 3rd century, but has been rebuilt several times since.  The current version of the temple was built by King Shupuspa in the 15th century.  In addition, the Guhyeshwari Temple was built in the 11th century, and the Ram temple was added in the 14th century.

Mythology

Deer at the Pashupatinath zoo
Deer at the Pashupatinath zoo

There are several myths surrounding Pashupati.  My favorite myth is:
One day Lord Shiva was walking around on earth and he came to Bagmati River, which he believed to be one of the most beautiful sites in the world.  He fell in love with the area, and turned himself into a deer. He spent many years in this form.  Because he grew missed by his deity friends, they came and grabbed him forcing him back into his original form.

Lord Shiva announced, after he returned to his divine form, that he will be known as the Lord of Animals.

How to find Pashupati

Pashupatinath Temple is located 2.5 miles east of Thamel.  It is a 15 minute drive, but if there is traffic, it can take up to 40 minutes. You can walk there without too much trouble, because it is a short distance.

When to go

Pashupatinath shrine
Pashupatinath Pandra Shivalaya

You can visit Pashupati anytime because the area is always open.  You can see the funerals and zoo during the day and the lighted temple at night. If you are Hindu, you can enter the temple between 4am and 9pm.

How long to stay

Because you will probably not be able to enter the temple, you will want to spend at least 1 hour in Pashupati.  If you are Hindu, you will want to visit for at least 2 hours.

 

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Bhaktapur Durbar Square

Bhaktapur Durbar Square

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Bhaktapur Durbar Square is one of the most beautiful UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Kathmandu. Other sites include Patan Durbar Square, the Kathmandu Durbar Square, and the Boudhanath Stupa.

It is also one of my favorite areas because of its towering towers, museums, temple art, many mandala studios, cleanliness and pottery square.  The whole area is made up of 4 squares, which each have their own attractions.  You can learn about the area, before your visit in this blog post.  Kick back, relax and enjoy.  If you have a Pinterest, feel free to pin these pics.

History

Temple art in Bhaktapur
Temple art in Bhaktapur

Bhaktapur was Nepal’s capital city from the 12th to the 15th century.  It was also a sovereign country at the same time!  The city is surrounded by tall brick walls with many gates, which gives it a fortress or medieval feeling.   Bhaktapur was joined with the rest of Nepal in the 18th century, and though it is no longer considered the cultural capital of Nepal, it still has a rich and beautiful Newari cultural heritage.

Durbar Square

The Durbar Square is the first area you come to after walking through the main gate.  You are immediately inundated by beautiful temples, shrines, statues, artwork and culture.

You will see a giant lion statue, Lion’s Gate, Golden Gate, and 55 Window Palace on your left.  The Bhaktapur museum is in the 55-window palace.  You will see the mini Pashupati Temple, Rameshwar and Gopi Nath connected Temples, Vatsala Devi Temple, and the remains of the Vatsala Temple on your right.

Golden Gate

Golden Gate in Bhaktapur Durbar Square
Golden Gate in Bhaktapur Durbar Square

The Golden Gate is decorated with gold and has a figure of the goddess Kali and her griffin Garuda at the crown of the door.  Click here to learn more about recognizing Buddhist and Hindu gods.

They are served by 2 nymphs (one on each side).  Above the door and on the trim are mythical Hindu creatures performing mischievous acts.  Golden Gate is the entrance to the Bhaktapur museum and the 55-Window Palace.

55-Window Palace

The palace is not much to look at from the outside, and since I haven’t been on the inside, I can’t speak for it.  The wood trimming surrounding the 55 windows are beautifully decorated with ornate carvings of deities.

Vatsala Temple

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Vatsala Temple is directly across the 55- window palace.  It is a wooden 2-story temple with a brick foundation.  There are 2 lion statues guarding the entrance to the temple.  It was moderately damaged in the 2015 earthquake.

Vatsala Devi Temple

This stone temple is directly behind the Vatsala Temple.  It was reduced to ruble in the 2015 earthquake.  Restoration attempts are being made, but progress is slow.

Mini-Pashupati Temple

Mini-Pashupati Temple in Bhaktapur
Mini-Pashupati Temple in Bhaktapur

This temple is tucked behind the Vatsala Devi and Vatsala Temples.  It was built to honor Shiva and is a smaller version of the Pashupati Temple in Pashupatinath.  This temple as many beautifully carved support structures.  Some of the carving are borderline crude to extremely erotic.

Rameshwar and Gopi Nath Temples

These temples are connected to each other.  They are located on the right-hand side of the entrance gate.  Rameshwar Temple is a 4-pillar temple built to honor Shiva.  Most of the time the door to this temple is closed, but it is suspected of housing 3 deities.  The Gopi Nath Temple is a 2-roofed pagoda style temple also built to honor Shiva.

Taumadhi Square

The Taumadhi Square is the 2nd most important area in the city.  It has one of the most famous temples in Nepal, Nyatapola Temple.  It is also the home of Bhairabnath Temple, Tilmadhav Narayan Temple and Stone sculptures.  On April 10th, large slides are brought in people can play on them.

Nyatapola Temple

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Nyatapola Temple is the tallest 5 story temple in Nepal.  Its name means 5 stories.  It is extremely beautiful, because it’s 5-tiered brick foundation reflects the 5 wooden stories above it.  It has many artistic carvings in the doors, window frames, and supports.  The temple overlooks Taumadhi Square and is a delight to climb to the top and look out.

Bhairabnath Temple

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Bhairabnath Temple is a much smaller temple in comparison to Nyatapola, but it is still huge.  It is a 3 storied temple made of brick and wood.  It has a stone and iron fence around it with sculptures.  The entrance to the temple is rarely opened.

Dattatreya Square

Dattatreya Square is the oldest part of Bhaktapur; it also serves as an open museum.  This square is known for its wood carving craftsman.  It has Dattatreya Temple, which is the oldest temple in the Bhaktapur.

Dattatreya Temple

Dattatreya Temple is a 3 tiered wooden and brick temple built in 1427.  The temple is rumored to be built from the lumber of a single tree.  There is a later addition in front of the temple that is sometimes referred to as the porch.  It has stone statures guarding the entrance and deities looking over it on pillars.

Pottery Square

Pottery Square is one of my favorite areas in Bhaktapur.  You can see how pottery is thrown and how they “kiln dry” their creations.  The earthen containers are also set in the sun on display.  In addition, you can receive a pottery lesson by a master craftsman.

Entrance fee

The entrance fee is 15 dollars.  The price was increased after the 2015 earthquake.  The museum fee is $2 to $5 dollars.  There are many entrance points into the Bhaktapur.  If you are willing to hustle your way through the side streets and back allies its possible to get in for free.

How to get to Bhaktapur

Bhaktapur is about 10 miles south east of Tamel.  It takes 45 minutes to 1 hour to drive there.  I would not recommend walking or riding a bike, because the route travels along a busy freeway.

For help planning a trip, reach out to us at Upper Himalayan Treks and Adventure.

When to go

Any time is a good time to go.  If you want to see the Bhaktapur museum, you should be there before 4:00, because it closes at 5:00.

How long to stay

When I come to Bhaktapur, I usually spend 1 to 2 hours walking around and taking pictures.  If it is your first time in Bhaktapur, you will probably want at least 3 hours to wonder the area.  The length of your visit also depends on what you want to see.  If you want to see all 4 squares at one time, you might want to stay for 4 to 5 hours.

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Kathmandu Durbar Square

Kathmandu Dubar Square

Kathmandu Durbar Square
Kathmandu Durbar Square

The 2015 earthquake left most of Kathmandu Durbar Square in ruin.  Since the earthquake, a massive recovery effort was initiated, and a lot of the buildings are being restored.   All the damaged buildings are expected to be refurbished by 2020.  One highlight of Kathmandu Durbar Square is the presence of the living goddess (kumari).

If you would like to learn more about Buddhist and Hindu gods, click here. This site should not be confused with the Patan Durbar Square and the Bhaktapur Durbar Square.

Kathmandu Dubar Square is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, one of many in Nepal.  In addition, it has an outdoor market, and many beautiful carvings and engravings on buildings.

Entrance fee

The entrance fee is $10, but you might be able to enter the area from a side alley.  The entrances are well guarded, and it would be difficult to get past a check point without paying the entrance fee.

History

Kathmandu Durbar Square
Kathmandu Durbar Square

Kathmandu Durbar square started with the construction of the royal palace in the Licchavi period (400-750).  King Mahendra Malla built more temples and expanded the square.  He added Jagannath temple in 1563, Taleju Temple in 1564, and Kotilingeshwar Mahadev Temple afterward on an unknown date.

Kathmandu Durbar Square
Kathmandu Durbar Square

After Mahendra Malla’s death, his son took the throne and began an extensive building campaign.  He built Vamsagopala in 1649.  Between 1649 and 1670 he built two other temples, the Agamachem temple, and a 5 roofed temple, both in the northern area of the palace (Mohan Chok).  During this time span, he also restored Taleju Temple, Degutaleju Temple, Shiva temple.  In addition, he built another temple dedicated to shiva (Indrapur) and decorated the Jagannath Temple with carvings.  He also built the pavilion Kavindrapura and decorated the area with fountains, ponds, and baths.

Kathmandu Durbar Square
Kathmandu Durbar Square

His son died in 1674, but his family slowly built Trailokya Mohan, Maju Deval, Kageshwor Temple, and Kumari Bahal up to 1746.

Then, in 1770, Prthivi Narayan Shah built Basantapur Durbar, and Lam Chok, but no other major additions were added after King Shah’s death in 1785.

How to find Kathmandu Durbar square

Kathmandu Durbar square is about 1 mile south west of Thamel.  It will take you about 20 minutes to walk, or 10 minutes to drive.  You can book your Kathmandu sight seeing tour with Upper Himalayan Treks and Adventure. Click here to learn about some of what you can see on your tour.

Length of stay

In its current condition, I wouldn’t spend more than 1 hour there.  That is plenty of time to see the Kumari, and walk around and take pictures.

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Boudhanath Stupa

Boudhanath Stupa

Boudhanath Stupa
Boudhanath Stupa

The Boudhanath stupa is incredibly beautiful and massive.  Its white dome, like a cloud, stands out under a blue sky.  Its golden spire shimmers like the sun on a wave.  And its blue eyes are piercing.  There is no question as to why this is the most visited UNESCO World Heritage Site in Kathmandu.  (Other famous sites include the Monkey Temple, or Swayambhunath, and the Patan Durbar Square.)

You can walk around the base of the stupa spinning the several hundred prayer wheels or walk on top of the base to have a bird’s eye view of the monasteries and surrounding shops.

model of Boudhanath stupa
Boudhanath Stupa model

The Boudhanath stupa is the largest stupa in Nepal.  Its base is about 85,000 square feet and its volume is about 3.5 million cubic feet.  This is impressive especially considering when it was built and who built it (more on that later).  Please enjoy reading the rest of this blog post.  It is filled with a lot more fascinating information and pictures.  If you have a Pinterest please pin all the pictures you like.

Boudhanath Newar mythology

The Newars believe that a king durning the Licchavi period (400-750 AD) wanted to build a water tap (Dhunge Dhara) in his palace court yard.  Unfortunately, there was a drought and the royal water diviners, dowsers, and hydrologists could not find water.  The king was frustrated and turned to an astrologer.  The astrologer said he needed a perfect human sacrifice to find the water.

There were only 3 perfect people living at that time, the king, and his two sons.  The king decided he would be sacrificed for the water tap.

Side note: he must have really wanted that water tap! Its too bad he didn’t see the irony in that he wouldn’t be around to enjoy it.

The king’s son cut off the king’s head then threw a chicken into the air, which flew 8 miles west.  The king’s son then built Boudhanath stupa were the chicken landed.

Side note: the myth does not mention if water was ever found, but I deduced it wasn’t.

Boudhanath Tibetan mythology

On top of Boudhanath stupa's 2nd platform
On top of Boudhanath stupa’s 2nd platform

There was a Buddha named Kasyapa who lived for 4 thousand years.  An old woman who had given birth to 4 of his sons was grief stricken when she learned about his passing.  The woman petitioned a king (name unknown) for permission to build the stupa and place Kasyapa’s ashes in it.

The king gave the woman and her 4 sons permission to build the stupa, which she put kasyapa’s remains in.

History

Boudhanath stupa
Boudhanath stupa

There are conflicting opinions on the actual date of construction.  The stupa has been dated to the Licchavi period (590-604 AD), and to the Manadeva period (464-505 AD).  In Addition, Trisong Detsen, a tibetan emporer, is also associated with the construction of the stupa (755-797 AD).

Historically the area stupa was built on, was a major trade route from Tibet to India.  This gives a little more credibility to the Tibetan side with the stupa being commissioned by Trisong Detsen for the construction of the stupa sometime within 755 to 797 AD.

Earthquake damage and repairs

Boudhanath stupa’s spire was cracked during the major earthquake in 2015.  The golden spire was removed 6 months later in October and replaced with a new spire in November.

I checked the stupa in April 2018 and it was back to normal.

How to find Boudhanath stupa

Boudhanath stupa is 4 miles east of Thamel.  If you travel by private car, it shouldn’t take more than 1 hour to get there from Thamel.  You can take a private car or taxi.  You can also hire a guide and transportation from Upper Himalayan Treks and Adventure.

Entrance fee

The entrance fee is $4.  However, there is a side entrance that doesn’t charge for admission.  You can also enter after hours, when the ticket booth is closed.

If you are staying in one of the hotels around Boudhanath stupa, you must pay the entrance fee once then there is no charge.

Length of stay

Boudhanath can be walked in 30 minutes.  If you want to spend more time exploring the different monasteries, hotels, restaurants and shops, I would allow for 1 to 2 hours.

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Patan Durbar Square

Patan Durbar Square

Krishna temple Patan
Krishna temple and ticket counter

Patan Durbar Square is a beautiful city center in Lalitpur in Kathmandu.  The city is a testament to Newar ingenuity and culture.  Patan Durbar Square also has a beautiful history and many amazing temples.  In addition, it has an ancient palace, which served as the residence for Malla kings that governed the area.  Did I mention it is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site like Swayambhunath and Boudhanath Stupa?

This page is not to be confused with the Kathmandu Durbar Square or the Bhaktapur Durbar Square.

Entrance fee

There is a $10 entrance fee that can’t be avoided if you go into the museum or temples.  You do not have to pay if you are just walking on the street.

History

Lion in Patan Durbar Square
Lion engraving on Krishna temple in Patan Durbar Square

Before Patan Durbar Square was Patan Durbar Square, it was a crossroad and settlement or office area of foreign high-ranking political advisors or ministers.  From what I could deduce it was a place like present day Washington D.C. and a place for tax collection.

After Durbar Square grew into a prosperous area, it was taken up by Malla kings around 1200 AD.  For 600 years after, Patan Durbar Square was extremely prosperous and this period was known as the golden years.  Most of the improvements, including the temples, were built during the Malla dynasty.

The Malla dyanasty ended in 1768 when Kathmandu was invaded by the Ghorkha Kingdom.  The Ghorkhas ruled Nepal until 2008 under the Shah Dyanasty.  During this time king’s residence was shifted from Patan to Kathmandu.

The Patan Palace now serves as a museum.

Architecture

Malla Pallace in Patan
Malla Pallace in Patan

Most of the notable architectural accomplishments in Patan Durbar Square were built in the last part of the Malla rule, in 1600’s.

The architecture displays some amazing craftmanship and artistic work by Newar people.  The Krishna temple is one example and is regarded as the most important temple in the square.

Krishna temple was built in 1637.  The stone was imported from India and constructed on site.  It was built in the shape of a mountain (Shikhara style) and intricately carved.

The carvings on the first-floor pillars tell the story of a war fought by conflicting cousins.  Two cousins were fighting for the ownership of the throne.  The story is written out in Sanskrit epics of ancient India named Mahabharata.

The carvings on the second-floor tell the story of the deity Ram who rescued his wife Sita from a demon king named Ravana.  This story is also written out in the Sanskrit epics of ancient India named Ramayana

The third-floor carving tell the story of Buddha.

If you would like to know more about Buddhist and Hindu deities and mythology, click here.

How to get to Patan Durbar Square

Patan Durbar Square is located about 4 miles south of Thamel near the center of ring road.  It takes about 1 to 1.5 hours to travel there by car with traffic.

Duration   

Carving of a deity in Patan museum
Carving of a deity in Patan museum

Depending on what you are interested in, you could spend the whole day walking through the square and old palace and viewing the artifacts in the museum.  If you rush it, you can walk the square, palace and visit the museum in 2 hours.

Click here to learn more about Buddhist and Hindu sculpture.

When to go

Anytime is a great time to go.  The museum and palace open at 10:30 and close at 5:30. Before then, you can walk the square.

New Construction

Shikhara style temple in Patan Durbar Square
Shikhara style temple in Patan Durbar Square

Due to the earthquake in April 2015, most of the temples toppled over.  Since then, repairs are being made to the temples.  As of April 2018, the renovations have not been completed, but are expected to be completed by 2020.

Booking a tour

You can book a tour of Patan Durbar Square through Upper Himalayan Treks and Adventure.

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Swayambhunath

Swayambhunath

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Swayambhunath (Monkey Temple) is one of Nepal’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites.  It is a dynamic site with 2 main entrances and 3 side entrances.  In addition, there are a lot of monkeys that will keep you on your toes.  It also has a beautiful attached mythology and architecture.  Swayambhunath’s history and symbolism also make this site one of my favorites in the Kathmandu valley.  Come explore the Monkey Temple with me.

If you would like to know more about what you can see in Kathmandu, click here.

What does Swayambhunath mean?

Monkey at swayambhunath
Monkey at Swayambhunath

Despite the common name “Monkey Temple”, Swayambhunath doesn’t mean monkey or temple.  In Tibetan language, it is reference to the many beautiful trees that were once at the site.  The name comes from its mythology; Swayambhu means self-created.

The nickname Monkey Temple also originates from its mythology.

Note: the monkeys are very bad here.  They will steal items like food, water, and combs from you.

Mythology

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Swayambhunath is believed to have originated from a self-created lotus flower growing out of the center of a lake that filled the Kathmandu valley.  An enlightened deity found the lake and decided to drain it by destroying a dam.  After all the water rushed out, the lotus flower was the only thing left.

The deity saw the significance in this and began creating a hill to honor the self-created lotus flower.  In the process or in disobedience to his mother, he let his hair grow long and eventually contracted head lice.  The deity, unfinished with his work left to get the lice removed.  But, when he left, the lice jumped off his head and became the monkeys that roam the temple grounds.

The lotus plant, realizing what had happened, rapidly grew thick and dense.  It turned itself into the hill and its flower became the stupa.

History

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The earliest record of the construction of Swayambhunath is from the 3rd century B.C.  Emperor Ashoka is thought to have built the first temple on the hill, but it was destroyed by an unknown cause.

According to ancient text, the current Swayambhunath was built by King Vrsadeva at the beginning of the 5th century (460-500) A.D.  An engraved stone found on the site identifies a work order for the temple, issued by King Manadeva in 640 A.D.

In the 17th century, the king of Kathmandu, King Malla, ordered the construction of the eastern staircase up to the stupa.

The stupa has been renovated 16 times from its construction to 2018.

Architecture

Swayambhunath has a stupa, multiple shrines and temples, a Tibetan monastery, museum, book store, gift shops, restaurants and a hostel.

The Stupa is a large, white, half sphere with a cube on top of its apex.  Each open side of the cube faces north, east, south, or west.  Painted on the side of the cube are Buddha’s eyes and a nose, which is a number 1.  On top of the cube are 13 tiers and a Gajur at the very top.

The symbolism of Swayambhunath

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The base of Swayambhunath, half sphere or dome, represents the world.  When a person becomes enlightened, their eyes open and they ascend to the level of Buddha’s eyes.  The 13 tiers above the eyes represent the stages of spiritual realizations needed for Buddhahood.

Buddha’s eyes represent wisdom and compassion. Buddha’s nose, the symbol for #1 represents the unity of all things existing in the world and the path to enlightenment.

If you want to know more about Buddhist and Hindu sculpture, click here.

How to get to Swayambhunath

If you are staying in or near Thamel, you can walk to the Monkey Temple easily.  Walk west for 40 minutes to get to the bottom of the eastern stairs. You will have to cross a bridge to get there.

You can also get to the stupa by taxi or private car.  If you are brave, you can try your hand at public transportation, but you might end up someplace that’s not Swayambhunath.

It is located on the top of a large hill and is easy to spot, if the sky is clear.

You can also buy a half day tour of Kathmandu and see Swayambhunath and other UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Some of these sites include Patan Durbar Square and Boudhanath Stupa.

Entrance fee

Occasionally there is someone charging entrance fees at the top of the stairs on the eastern side of the stupa.  The entrance fee is $2.  You can also enter the area for free by coming in from the western entrance and any of the side entrances.

Duration    

Depending on how interested you are and how much you want to see or experience, you can spend 1 to 3 hours here and be satisfied.  I could spend an hour just watching the monkeys harass people.

When to go

Mornings are the best time to go, any time before 8:00.  Any day of the year is fine too.  Just note you might have to bring rain suits if you go during the monsoon season.

If you are interested in planning a visit, you can reach out Upper Himalayan Treks and Adventures.

YouTube video

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Langtang Trek Day 6 Lama Hotel to Shyaphru

Langtang Trek Day 6 Lama Hotel to Shyaphru

Langtang trek to Kyanjin Gumba
Kyanjin Gumba, Langshisa Ri, and Ponggen Dopku,

 

Click here to read about day 5.

The started like any other multiple day trek.  I woke up ate breakfast and started hiking with my guide.  I had no idea that my day would end with me meeting a Himalayan shaman in Shyaphru and being accepted as his apprentice after a 3-hour ceremony.  My mom always says, “You have no idea where the day will take you!”  This was especially true this day.

Lama Hotel to Shyaphru in 3.5 hours

I was a little sad to be finishing the trek today because I didn’t want to leave it behind.  Looking back on it, Langtang is one of those treks that that isn’t left behind but stays with you.

I took my time getting out of bead at Lama Hotel.  My guide and I got up and ate breakfast at 6:30.  I had a terrible paper mache tasting oatmeal.  Fortunately, it didn’t last long, and we were back on the trail at 7:00.  We ran into a flock of goats on the way down.  Goats are so much fun to play with.  We spent 30 minutes petting them and chasing them around.

We were about an hour into our hike when clouds started to form.  I was a little anxious because I didn’t want to get rained on, but I decided to throw my doubts away and enjoy the experience.  The air grew colder, and crisp mist lightly touched my cheeks as I walked through the forests.  I knew it was going to rain.

langtang river
Langtang River

A group of Nepali men must have sensed it too, because they were hiking extremely fast.  After they past us we didn’t see them again until we rounded a corner overlooking the Langtang River.  There was a deer drinking water at the rivers edge.

About 2 hours later, my guide and I were back in Shyaphru.  Just as we were walking into the hotel, it started to rain. Perfect timing!

If you are interested in experiencing the Langtang Trek for yourself, click here to learn more.

Shaman in Shyaphru

I unpacked my gear and tried to pass the time as peacefully as possible, while it rained.  it was too frustrating and I couldn’t contain myself.  I was out playing in the rain like a little kid with rubber boot and rain jacket on.  However, I had neither boot or rain jacket on.  I had a t-shirt and flip flops.

If my friend Sarah is reading this, she is probably shaking her head and thinking he’s going to get sick.  Hi Sarah! I didn’t get sick. So, Ha!

What the rain did was make the Nepali store owners worry about me enough to invite me into their store and out of the rain.  I reluctantly accepted, which led to an awesome conversation about Jhakri.  Jhakri are Himalayan shamans.

The store owner told me there was a shaman in Shyaphru and that I needed to see him.  “The adventure begins,” I thought.  I will see this shaman in Shyaphru.

I went to his house, about a 15-minute walk up a hill, but he wasn’t home.  The store owner said he will be back at night time, and we should come back later to meet him.

Since the rain had stopped, I went back to the hotel and dried off.  I then ate a dal bhat lunch and hung out for a little while.  I still had a lot of energy and decided to walk around Shyaphru again.

At 7:00 I met the shaman in Shyaphru.

The shaman’s ceremony

A shamans alter in Kathmandu
A shamans alter in Kathmandu

It was just after dark and the shops were lighted by the dull yellow glow of incandescent bulbs.  The shaman told me I needed rice, a scarf, and a beer.  This was starting to get weird and I was into it.  I spent 4 and got the requested items.

He took me to his home where his wife was lighting candles and burning incense.  The Jhakri took the rice and poured them into a bronze plate.  I was then instructed to give him a blessing by putting the scarf around his neck.  His wife took the beer and poured it into glasses for everyone to drink.

We talked for a little bit and his wife brought tea for everyone.  (beer and tea together was a first).  He then requested a donation.  I placed $2 in the plate of rice.  He then asked for a larger donation of $15, which kind of made me laugh but also upset me a little.

When I gave it to him, he took the money out of the rice then started sifting through the rice like he was panning for gold.  He moved the rice kernels to one side of the plate and with a slight shift a few kernels fell to the other end of the plate.

The plate was shook until about 12 kernels of rice were separated from the rest of the plate.  I was asked to place the kernels in my right hand and put it to my forehead then repeat the process with my left hand.  After I did this a few times I kept the rice in both hands and shook them by my head 3 times.

I then cast the rice kernels onto an empty plate, which the shaman took.

The shaman’s chant

He took the plate with 12 kernels of rice on it and started to chant while holding the plate over the incense.  The chanting started loud and rhythmic, but as he progressed, it grew softer and became more of a conversation.

He asked for my right hand, then placed the rice in it, paying attention to where and how the rice fell in my hand.  Afterward he read my palm and fingerprints on my right and left hands.

The shaman’s reading

He told me what he saw for 15 minutes.  It was a long reading, all of which I didn’t understand.  At the end of it though, he told me I would become his apprentice when I came back to Nepal.

Imagine that, Craig the shaman.

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Langtang Trek Day 5 Kyanjin Gompa to Kyanjin Ri and back to Lama Hotel

Langtang Trek Day 5 Kyanjin Gompa to Kyanjin Ri and back to Lama Hotel

Langtang trek to Kyanjin Gumba
Kyanjin Gumba, Langshisa Ri, and Ponggen Dopku,

 

Click here to read about day 4 of the trek.

This was the best day of the trek for mountain views.  My guide and I hiked up to Kyanjin Ri for some amazing panorama vistas of the mountains.  We could even see an 8,000er (Shishapangma 8,027m) in China (Tibet).  After our summit, we hiked down to Lama Hotel.  Without further ado, here is Kyanjin Ri.

Kyanjin Ri

I woke up at 5:00 to a beautiful starry night sky.  I threw on a few layers of warm cloths and my guide and I were on the trail by 5:30. Though it was still dark outside the mountains glowed.  They were highlighted in the darkness.  The trail head to Kyanjin Ri is a few minutes from the hotel.  It was extremely easy to find.

After hiking 20 minutes we were half way to the first sightseeing point and the views were incredible.  I was so giddy, I kept stopping every couple of minutes to take pictures.  We made it to the first view point at 7:00.  I could see Naya Kanga, Urking Kanggari, Kangjala Himal, Ponggen Dopku, Dshabu Ri, Gangchenpo, Langshisa Ri Tserko Ri Langtang 2, Langtang Lirung, Changbu, Kinshung, and Langtang Lirung Glacier.

 

Hiking to Kyanjin Ri in Langtang
Hiking to Kyanjin Ri in Langtang

The view point has a bench, mani wall and prayer flags.  The bench faces Yubra Himal, which limits your view of the mountains to Langtang Lirung, Changbu, and Kinshung.  If you do not sit on the bench and walk around a little, you can see it all.

From the view point we ascended another hour to Kyanjin Ri.  The trail led us on top of a narrow mountain ridge with steep slopes on our left and right.  A light amount of snow covered the ground and began to melt, which made the trail slippery and dangerous.

Kyanjin Ri summit

We arrived at the summit just before 8:00.  I stood there smiling my heart out while the mountains spun around me.  I felt like rain man counting cards in a casino.  The sky was starting to be come thick with haze, and a few clouds had formed, so I decided I should take a few pictures.

We could see Langtang Lirung, Changbu, Langtang Lirung Glacier, Kinshung, Yubra, Tserko Peak, Yala Peak Tserko Ri, Langshisa Ri, Pemthang Karpo Ri, Shishapangma (26,289 ft), Dshabu, Ponggen Dopku, Kangjala Himal, Urking Kanggari, Naya Kanga, and many others.

Tserko and Yala Peaks, Shishapangma, Tserko Ri and Langshisa Ri
From left to right: Tserko and Yala Peaks, Shishapangma, Tserko Ri and Langshisa Ri

I just stood there looking at the cairns and mountains and prayer flags.  It was so unbelievable I had to think about it for a time.  I understand why monks go to the mountains to meditate.  The atmosphere is clean and real.  It is just you and the mountains.

I took a few more pictures then headed back down.  I didn’t want to leave, but the clouds were starting to become thick and the views were becoming less viewable.

It took about an hour to make it back to the hotel.  We would have made it back sooner, but somebody peed in the center trail, so I had to walk around it, which proved more difficult on the steep terrain.  I also slipped in the snow melt or what I thought was snow melt a few times.

Trekking to Lama Hotel

We paid our bill and checked out of the hotel.  By 10:00 we were at the edge of the hotel looking back at what we were leaving behind.  Also, at the edge of Kanjin Gompa was Aku.  Aku is a young Nepali woman who operates a travel blog.

We walked the rest of the way to Lama Hotel together.  The trail down was surprisingly long, but it went by fast.  We passed through some of the most beautiful forests in Nepal.  These forests are almost as amazing as the mountains.  It was a real treat to go on this trek.

The forests were primarily oak and had a lot of ferns and moss growing on their trunks.  It was extremely beautiful and peaceful.  We again passed waterfalls cascading from the summits of clouds and cliffs.  We decided to take the direct route through the forest instead of crossing the bridges.  It was a good choice because it saved us a lot of time, we got to stay in the forest, and there were no horse trains to contend with.

Walking through the forest is like walking through peace.  It was like being eternally satisfied.

We came to a clearing where the river met us with its humming waves.  Birds danced over the river catching insects and chirping. The trail coaxed us along and eventually we were back in the forest.  We passed a small village and soon afterward we were back in Lama Hotel.

Click here to read about day 6 and the end of our journey.

 

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Langtang Trek Day 4 Mundo to Kyanjin Gompa

Langtang Trek Day 4 Mundo to Kyanjin Gompa

Langtang trek to Kyanjin Gumba
Kyanjin Gompa, Langshisa Ri, and Ponggen Dopku,

 

Click here to read about day 3.

We left Buttercups at the Tip Top Hotel and headed for Kyanjin Gompa.  The views on the way were spectacular. We could see Langtang Lirung, Changbu, Kinshung, Urking Kanggari, Ponggen Dopku, Dshabu Ri, Langshisa Ri and many others.  After we arrived in Kyanjin Gompa, I hiked around Kyanjin Ri, and visited Kyanjin Monastery. You are welcome to pin these images and share them on your social media.  They are great!

Trekking to Kyanjin Gompa

mani wall
Mani wall under the clouds (This photo was not taken on this day)

My guide and I woke up extremely early and saw that it was snowing.  We decided to go back to sleep to wait it out.  We woke up at 6:30 and the sky had cleared up.  The sky was a beautiful crystal-clear powder blue with a touch of white haze.  The mountains sparkled like streamers in the sky.  It was going to be a beautiful day.

Langshisa Ri and Shabu Ri Langtang
Langshisa Ri and Shabu Ri while hiking to Kyanjin Gompa

We left Tip Top Hotel and started hiking at 7:00.  The mountain views were amazing.  They were in front of us and behind us.  They were to our left and right.  We were surrounded by mountains.  If you are someone who loves mountains, Kyanjin Gompa is where you want to be.  The Annapurna and Khumbu areas are great too, but its hard not to be inspired by Langtang Himal.

Urking Kanggari in Langtang
Urking Kanggari in Kyanjin Gompa

We passed mani walls covered in snow and a stupa.  I hiked the trail to Kyanjin Gompa completely memorized by the new views.  I had better and better views with each step I took.  Before I knew it, I was in Kyanjin Gompa.

Finding a tea house in Kyanjin Gompa

My guide and I stood on a ridge overlooking the village.  We stood there in silence just looking when a shy little voice caught our attention.
it said: “Please… draw me a sheep.”  I’m just joking; the little prince said that.  The voice that was speaking to us, asked us to stay at her hotel.

We told her maybe and went to a different hotel to check their prices first.  When we returned, she was drawing in the dirt with a stick.
I said: “Take me to your leader!” in the best robot Martian voice I could make.  I don’t think she understood, but she did laugh.  My guide then asked her in a normal voice to take us to her tea house.

We arrived at Tibet Guest House 5 minutes later.  It was a bit expensive but after some negotiation we got the rooms for $5 per night.  I know $10 or $15 is not a lot, but if you don’t bargain for prices, the cost of the rooms will become prohibitive.  An example of this is bottled water.  One bottle of water can range from $3 to $5.  That’s more than at Disney Land!

The rooms were a little dirty, but the sheets were clean (I think).  The rooms had attached bathrooms with western style toilets and electrical outlets.  They had other rooms that were smaller and with out attached bathrooms.  These rooms share a bathroom with an eastern style squat toilet.

Hiking around Kyanjin Gompa

I finished checking in and put my gear in the room.  After I was situated, I started hiking up Kyanjin Ri , which is right next to the hotel.  Unfortunately, clouds started to form, and the entire mountain was covered in condensed water vapor.  I thought there is no sense in climbing up to the top if I couldn’t see, so I climbed down.

Note: Clouds tend to form around 8:30 am.  Your best mountain views are from predawn to 2 hours after.

Kyanjin Gumba Monastery, and Urking Kanggari behind coulds in Langtang
Kyanjin Gompa Monastery, and Urking Kanggari behind clouds in Langtang

I saw a monastery coming down from Kyanjin Ri.  Since I still had the rest of the day with very little to do, I decided to go on a village tour.  I went to the monastery, which was being built and didn’t have much to offer.  There was one monk inside carving a piece of wood into a dragon.

Next, I went to a glacier lake just above the village.  It is a small lake, not even labeled on maps, but it is important for the generation of hydroelectric power.

Then I hiked down and bought a slice of apple pie and carrot cake from a bakery.  They were both disappointing but good.  I remember the apple pie being over spiced with cinnamon and the crust being doughy.  The carrot cake tasted like a vanilla cake mix with carrots and raisins added.  It was crumbly in some parts and chewy in others.

I payed my bill ($7.5) then meandered back to the tea house.  I didn’t do much for the rest of the day.

To continue this journey with me, click here to continue to day 5.

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