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Courtesy of Ollie Fitzgerald

A trip to Nepal: Monks and mountains

Nepal is a country that seems to be regularly overlooked compared to other countries in its close vicinity, such as India and Thailand. The country itself is one of the more diverse in terms of culture, wildlife and terrain. Nepal offers some of, if not the best, trekking in the world with the world famous Annapurna circuit and Everest Base Camp treks. The country is very student friendly, the people are naturally some of the most amiable you are likely to meet when travelling. It is very rare that you’d feel threatened when in the big cities such as Kathmandu and Pokhara. It is also incredibly cheap; accommodation, food and other items are all very affordable, with a small budget going a long way.

 

Courtesy of Ollie Fitzgerald

Courtesy of Ollie Fitzgerald

Monks wearing vibrant clothing and sporting some very impressive facial hair! 

However, when travelling throughout this country you do need to be extremely careful when it comes to water. Nepal is a developing country, and due to this one must take great care, never drink directly from the taps, or even brush your teeth with it! Water based bacteria can cause nasty bugs such as giardia, this can ruin a trip. However this is easily avoided and even the remote mountain villages supply safe bottled water.

Kathmandu is a vibrant and very busy city, and therefore very fascinating. It is far less hectic than its Indian equivalents, and therefore easier for someone not used to travelling in Asia to adjust to. When visiting Kathmandu there is some essential viewing. The Pashupatinath temple complex is one of the most important places in the Hindu religion, it is also a great opportunity to see some very fascinating ‘wise men’ or sadhus; monks who have given up everything in order to worship the God Shiva. They wear very vibrant clothing, as well as sporting some very impressive facial hair! They live off donations given to them from photos so you shouldn’t feel nervous to approach them and ask for a photograph. Other highlights include the almighty Boudhanath and Swayambunath temples also within the Kathmandu vicinity, Durbar Square is also picturesque. Although Nepal is most famous for its trekking, it also has some unmissable safari opportunities. In Chitwan National Park you have the best chance of seeing tigers and black bears here than anywhere else in Asia. You are also very likely to see the famous one horned rhino here, as this park has the highest population of them in the world. There is also the chance you will see leopards, elephants (although mostly tame), crocodiles and many different kinds of birds.

Courtesy of Ollie Fitzgerlad

Courtesy of Ollie Fitzgerald

Trekking as high as 5415m brings such a massive sense of achievement!

Pokhara is a more tourist friendly version of Kathmandu. The atmosphere here is far more relaxed, there are plenty of bars and restaurants to enjoy. Although more touristy than other towns the atmosphere here is still Nepalese. Apparently, it is one of the best places to hand glide in Asia. It also has a very large lake framed by the Annapurna mountain range for a breathtaking sight. The best time to visit is around October to November and then mid March to April. Although with these come many tour groups and trekkers, so it is best to start a little earlier than these peak times. Another tip is to not book anything activity wise such as tours or other activities until you arrive in the country. A lot of tour companies make a healthy profit, and usually will not pay the very hardworking guides as much as you think they are. It is much cheaper to book out there, as well as buying any specialist trekking equipment. Kathmandu has many camping shops and although a lot of the items can be fake, they are still incredibly cheap and probably just as good quality.

Particular trekking highlights include the Annapurna Circuit. This is quite a difficult trek as you are required to go as high as 5415m in order to cross the Thorung La Pass. There is a massive sense of achievement! On the off peak season it is cheaper and there is much more space in the lodges. Nepal is an incredible country and is highly recommended for students due to its friendly atmosphere, inexpensive living costs and incredible scenery. If you give it a chance, take it, you will certainly not regret it.

About Ollie Fitzgerald

o.fitzgerald@student.reading.ac.uk'

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