Our guest writer and traveller, Izzie Devall shares her nine nights in Nepal – February 2017
Nothing quite prepares you for arrival in Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal. Fortunately we had the guidance of TLC World to hold our hand throughout our stay, and the organisation and the punctuality of their schedules and appointed drivers was faultless. We’d elected to travel economy class on Etihad Airways from Heathrow via Abu Dhabi and can truthfully say that the whole experience, from their service to the ample legroom, was infinitely superior to other airlines we’ve travelled with that have charged more and consider themselves to be world leaders in air travel.
Well done Etihad!
Entry to Nepal does require an entry visa. The important thing to remember is that you cannot leave the country without it in your passport. So it’s important to do this correctly. The visa can be obtained online through the Nepalese Embassy or you can simply buy it on arrival at the airport. This is what we chose to do. We filled in the form, which you can easily find piled on the window ledges, with passport details, length of stay etc. and paid at the appropriate desk – $50 or £45 if I remember rightly. You can choose which currency for payment.
We then passed through passport control to the baggage area – where we encountered another potential hiccup that is easily overlooked but which could cause a serious setback! It is vital that you keep hold of your baggage receipts when they are initially given to you at check-in. Every bag and rucksack is checked against this receipt on your exit from your destination terminal. Your baggage will not be released without evidence of it belonging to you!
Outside we were met by TLC’s man on the ground in Kathmandu. The taxi drivers are not allowed into the airport building but you will find them lined up outside on the other side of the road as you exit.
We were staying at Dwarika’s Hotel and our journey to it was an experience. Some of the road into the city is nothing more than a narrow tarmac strip that runs down the centre of the road with wide unmade verges on either side.
Cars, lorries, buses, bikes, and motorbikes all compete with each other to drive on the relatively smooth central surface regardless of the direction of their travel. It makes for an interesting journey. Our driver chose to take the off-road strip littered with boulders running alongside, in order to lessen the travel time. Not a great experience if you have a bad back I imagine, but nevertheless effective!
Dwarika’s Hotel is a dream, a haven of calm and finesse detached from the hubbub of the main streets. It is family owned and provides for every need during our stay. Staff are attentive and lunch under the parasol in the main quadrangle is a delight.
TLC had arranged a half day tour for us around Kathmandu for the following morning. The guide arrived promptly and took us to the Buddhist Monkey Temple, or Swayambhunath (meaning ‘sublime trees’) and the main square in the city. He stayed with us throughout and imparted a wealth of knowledge. We were so lucky to be in the courtyard of ‘The Living Goddess’ when she chose to appear at the window…a portent of enlightenment for us!
The centre of the city was destroyed in part by the 2015 earthquake, but the warmth, resilience and determination of the Nepalese people in rebuilding the monuments is truly awe inspiring. Interestingly, there seems to be no demarcation between the work that the men do, and that of the women!…Impressive.
Our flight to Pokhara in the west of the country was booked by TLC on Yeti airlines. There appear to be several to choose from but this was a good choice. The method of travel you have to this destination is either 7 hours by road, aboard a bus travelling on a busy track which follows the contours of steep mountains, or a 25 minute journey at 13,000 ft in a small but friendly aeroplane.
We chose the latter as the accident statistics for the road journey aren’t great! Boarding time for the aircraft is a bit random so you need to listen carefully to the crackling noise coming from the Tannoy system in order to be on the tarmac at the right time! Choose to sit on the right hand side of the aircraft for the outward journey, and the left hand side for your return. The views of the Annapurna mountain range from the plane are simply spectacular. Once again, arrival in Pokhara requires you to have kept your baggage receipt.
The driver and guide working for TLC were waiting outside the airport building, such a comfort to have indigenous friends who are familiar with the area. Pokhara is the tourist destination in the west of Nepal used by backpackers as a starting point for their trekking, and also those who wish to relax by the lake.
Pokhara, situated at an altitude of 827m above sea level is part of a once dynamic trade route extending between India and Tibet. To this day, mule trains can be seen camped on the outskirts, trading goods from remote regions of the Himalaya. This is the land of Gurungs and Magars, local tribes who have earned worldwide fame as Gurkha soldiers.
This fascinating city has several beautiful lakes and offers stunning panoramic views of Himalayan peaks. Nestling close by Fewa Lake in the Pokhara Valley, Temple Tree Hotel is framed by the foothills and majestic peaks of the Annapurna Mountain Range. The air here is pure and clean and the sub-tropical climate warm and pleasant.
Our trip had a main focus and that was to witness the Attestation Parade for the 270 newly recruited Gurkha soldiers into the British Army.
It was an amazing day to witness the discipline and commitment that these young men have shown in order to secure a place in the army.
We spent the next few days in a village called Sikles which by Landrover is around 4 hours north of Pokhara. The journey up the mountain is challenging in terms of the terrain, but I put it down to an experience! Sikles is a village perched on the side of a mountain with spectacular views over Machhapuchhare and the Annapurnas.
The village is a model of sustainability and the village people, with the help of external agencies, have transformed their futures by harnessing local resources for the common good.
The facilities in our guest house were fairly basic but the bed was warm and the food was plentiful….and remarkably, there was Wifi! If you are venturing this far into the hills, then definitely take warm clothing for the evening and morning as the temperature drops dramatically as soon as the sun goes down.
Our return trip to Kathmandu was smooth and our final stay at Dwarika’s hotel was a moment to unwind before the journey home.
Thank you TLC for enabling us to experience Nepal without a hitch, and provide us with the security we needed to explore a country in stark contrast to our own.
Izzy and Mike Devall
If you’d like more information about the various elements of Izzie & Mike’s Nepal trip, the following links might be useful – but please don’t hesitate to contact us if we can help plan your travel.