How we got there: Flight from BKK to TIA
Visa: We got our visas ahead of time, but there was a visa on arrival option for USA citizens
Money: Nepalese Rupee
Craziest things we saw: The traffic. Living in Asia we’ve definitely seen some crazy driving, but never have we seen 6 people on one motorcycle before Nepal.
Even though we are currently in a worldwide lockdown, it’s been exactly 1 year since we got to be completely blown away by the Himalayas and we wanted to share our experience.
Our first real trip climbing mountains was just out of college and we’ve been in love with them ever since. Traveling to Nepal was inevitable. With the amount of time we had, we originally decided to go on 2 week trek around Annapurna with KE Adventures. Unfortunately, because of the amount of snow (and avalanches) we weren’t going to be able to make it to the Annapurna Sanctuary and instead opted to hike the Khopra Ridge Trek. It ended up being an absolutely beautiful trip and we want to go back in sometime in the near future.
Day 1: Fly Kathmandu, settle in and meet the rest of the group.
Day 2: Local flight to Pokhara then afternoon to explore the area.
Day 3: Drive to Kimche and begin our trek
Day 4-11: Trekking
Day 12: Crazy Jeep ride transfer to Pokhara
Day 13: Flight to Kathmandu, last dinner with group
Day 14: Morning sightseeing and then flight back home
Lucky for us, we live in Asia and the flight was only about 3 hours to Nepal. Once we arrived we were picked up by KE. The immigration process was the longest part of our arrival and we had our visas prior to arriving in country. As Americans, there was an option to purchase your visa upon arrival, but the lines were incredibly long. For reference, a friend that joined us on this trip arrived almost 4 hours before we did. She bought her visa upon arrival and then went through immigration. She arrived at the hotel 20 minutes before we did. If you have the option to get your visa ahead of time, we highly recommend it.
Where to stay:
After getting through immigration, we were immediately whisked to the Shanker Hotel and able to get checked in for the night. The Shanker Hotel has a very old world feel to it. When we arrived it felt like we were stepping into an Agatha Christie novel and that Hercule Poirot would be coming out to greet us at any minute. It was also surprisingly quiet, which was very much appreciated considering the city itself was very loud.
When we stayed in Pokhara (two separate nights) we stay at The Hotel Kantipur. We had one of the tower suites and it was adorable. We had our own walk up and the suite included a front seating area and separate bed and bathroom. No complaints. This hotel also let us keep our check bags here while we were gone on the trek. Nothing was lost and we came back to our stuff in the same condition we left it in.
During the hiking portion of our trip we stayed in both public and private teahouses. Look for our next post to hear about our experience hiking in Nepal.
Celiac/Gluten Free Notes:
For the beginning of this trip we didn’t want to mess around with a gluten exposure prior to heading into the mountains for 2 weeks so we were very particular about our food. Both hotels served boiled eggs for breakfast and we had our own gluten free oatmeal packets and the hotels were very happy to provide us with boiling water. For dinner we brought gluten free dried meals and ramen. The hotels had rice and potatoes that we were comfortable eating and did so without any reactions.
What to do:
Well, this was a hiking trip so on this trip… you guessed it, we hiked. On our travels to the mountains we stopped in two major towns:
We didn’t have much time on our first day to explore Kathmandu, but because of our late flight we were able to do some exploring on our last day before we returned home. Because our driver was busying taking parts of our group to the airport at different times throughout the day, we were limited by walking. The driving in Nepal is absolutely crazy. We live and drive both cars and motorcycles in Asia. That being said, Nepal is not somewhere we would volunteer to drive. It is amazing to watch how everything flows, but we preferred to let the locals handle that. We walked to the Thamel Market. This market is more of a neighborhood, but it had some great tea shops and our friends hopped in to get some baked goods. We stopped by the Garden of Dreams (note that there is a fee to enter). Although we didn’t have anything else in mind to buy, we did stop by the Asan Bazar to experience some more of the local culture and get a few spices before heading back. We finished up our morning with a stop at a coffee shop. The coffee here was surprisingly good (the mountains are another story) and we bought a few bags before heading home.
We really enjoyed getting to see this city. After getting off of one of the most terrifying flights of our lives (they had the climb really high in a very short amount of time to get over the mountains), we dropped our stuff at the hotel and then headed out to explore. We were given the day to do whatever we wanted by ourselves, but instead we all opt’ed to head to the Shanti Stupa (aka the Peace Pagoda) as a group.
After arriving at Phewa Lake, our guide got us some boats. There is an option to have the locals row you over, but what’s the fun in that? We got some paddles and rowed ourselves. After a pleasant and short ride, we started the climb up this mountain. Oh, we didn’t mention? The Pagoda is located at 1100 meters. Although it didn’t take us a long time, we very much appreciated the little shops on the way where you could buy more water or pop/soda.
After our hike we went our separate ways to go shopping. There were some great shops out and about as well as some beautiful paintings. As we collect paintings from our travels we decided to pick up a few here.
To wrap this up…
We loved Nepal and will definitely have to make our way back there again someday. One of the best parts is that it is unapologetically Nepalese. There were options for western food and they cater to westerners that stop by for an adventure, but they don’t try to hide their culture. The Nepalese people were very proud of who they are and were excited to share their history. We also count ourselves very lucky because we had a wonderful guide that was happy to share all his knowledge with us.
Gluten Free/Celiac Note:
Because this was a hiking trip, we came in with a lot of gluten free food (after spending a small fortune at REI). There were definitely options of eating gluten free, but as we’ve mentioned before- celiac disease is definitely a new concept in Asia and Nepal was no exception. There were multiple gluten free options in the major cities that were not celiac friendly. As we mentioned, our guide was fantastic! Seriously, Sunil not only speaks 4+ languages, but his English is superb. We explained what celiac disease was and he was very helpful in letting us know what is and what is not safe. He also let everyone else know how serious it was to ensure we didn’t have any problems in or out of the mountains. Our recommendation is to go in prepared to not be able to eat the local food. This gives you the freedom to mix between what you bring and what food you find that is safe. Look for our upcoming post on how we prepared to hike for 2 weeks with celiac disease in Nepal!