levitra serif;”>This is Nepal” shrugged our host, view Neel, as numerous motorbikes sped past beeping continuously and kicking up dust in the busy streets of Kathmandu. This quickly became his explanation for anything I found surprising during my holiday to Nepal this past summer.

I wanted to write this article to share my experience of travelling in Nepal. And to prepare you, should you ever decide to go a wee bit off the beaten track to visit this beautiful country.

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I’ll start with the capital city: Kathmandu. Every street in Kathmandu is a complete assault to the senses – from the constant beeping of motorbikes, taxis and rickshaws, shopkeepers shouting from their doorway to come inside, street vendors following you and telling you their life story to the smell of burning incense at every shop front, mixing with the smell of rubbish piles on the street, exhaust fumes from the motorbikes and the mouth-watering smells of samosas and chicken momo cooking in restaurants. And then there’s the sights. Hindu shrines can be found on almost every street. The Monkey Temple offers breath-taking views of the Kathmandu valley and an insight into the local religious traditions (both Hindu and Buddhist). And of course, there’s lots of monkeys roaming around! Motorbikes weave in and out of traffic and pedestrians alike all over the city. Pashupatinath, a Hindu temple, offers the unique experience of witnessing the cremation of bodies beside the river and photos ops with Hindu monks (sadhu) who paint their faces and pose for pictures, for a small fee. The streets leading in and around Durbar Square are thronged with people, cows, chickens and dogs. The shops are filled with MC Hammer type pants, ornate scarves and tapestries, countless varieties of tea and all manner of trinkets. To put it simply, it’s a world apart from Ireland.

After Kathmandu, I went to the wee village of Talamarang to volunteer in the children’s home there. The volunteer work when we were there mostly consisted of manual work on the land and playing with the kids when we weren’t up the mountain working. (FYI, Nepal is full of mountains – Ireland is totally flat in comparison.) The benefits of volunteering are well-known and I would strongly recommend for everyone to do some volunteer work at some point in their lives (it doesn’t have to be abroad, there are plenty of very worthy causes here in Ireland). What I love about volunteering abroad is that you really get to experience the culture of that country, as opposed to being a tourist and seeing very little of the traditions and values inherent in the daily lives of the locals. If you’re interested in volunteering in Nepal, I would definitely recommend doing it with Draíocht, you can find out more on Facebook http://facebook.com/DraiochtNUIG or by emailing [email protected]. Depending on the time of year and what needs doing at the time, volunteers can be involved in just about anything! (So please don’t be put if off if manual work doesn’t appeal to you!)

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To finish up my trip in Nepal, I travelled to Pokhara and Chitwan National Park. Pokhara is so clean and fresh in comparison to Kathmandu. It’s quite touristy, but the scenery is beautiful. There’s boat rides on Fewa Lake, Devi’s Falls and the World Peace Stupa (“Stupa” = Temple) to visit. Paragliding is really big there and it’s a fantastic way to see the sights – it only costs about €80, including a DVD of the flight! Chitwan National Park was my final stop before returning to Kathmandu to come back to Ireland. It was my favourite place in Nepal. It’s expensive and so hot & humid, but I got to see elephants, crocodiles, rhino and so many other animals up close on the safari walks. Simply put, it was amazing.

There’s so much more I want to say about Nepal, but words fail miserably to truly describe the experience. There is so much more to see and do in Nepal than what is covered in this article, after all I was only there for a month and it’s at least twice the size of Ireland! I just hope that this article puts Nepal on the map for somewhere new, a little bit off the beaten track, for people to travel and experience.

 

Things I probably should have known before arriving:

  1. Mount Everest is in Nepal.
  2. Buddha was born in Nepal.
  3. They love to drink tea just as much as us Irish do!

 

Here’s a few basic words of Nepali:

Namaste” (nam-ass-tay) = Hello

Ke chha?” (kay cha) = How are you? (Informal)

Tick chha” – I’m fine

Ramro chha!” – If you’re feeling really great

Kati parcha?” (cat-ee par-cha) – How much is this?

Mahango chha” – That’s expensive!

Mitho chha” – Tasty

Ma _______ ho” – I’m a __________ (insert volunteer/student)

Sasto dinuus” – Give me a discount

Dhanyabad” (dan-ee-bad) = Thank you (Locals don’t really use this much unless someone is giving them a present)

 

Haggling tips:

  • Bargaining when shopping is a must in Nepal, even in shops that advertise “set price” – if you speak a few words of Nepali with the shopkeeper and have a bit of banter, they will definitely knock at least 10% off the price for you. And they’ll probably get their friend in from next door with a pot of tea to sit down and have the chats with you! (Nepalese people are very relaxed about time, so don’t be surprised if you end up staying in the shop chatting for more than an hour!)
  • The general rule of haggling is that you halve the price they give you and negotiate from there. In Kathmandu, they often multiply the price by at least 4 when they see tourists – that is not an exaggeration – so you can change the general rule of thumb there!
  • If you’re volunteering in Nepal, tell them and they’ll give you a discount! You can even play the student card too if you’re feeling a little bit cheeky.
  • The important thing to note is that anyone who has a shop in Kathmandu is loaded by Nepali standards, so you don’t need to feel bad about haggling with them. In all honesty, if you don’t haggle at all – they will think you’re an idiot.
  • The most important haggling tip is to act totally disinterested and even walk away after haggling if you’re still not happy with the price they’re giving you – it’s a nifty trick for making them drop the price further. 

 

– Aileen Riney