Confession #1: I did not plan to come.
When I set down about a month ago to finalize my travel plans for this summer, Nepal came into the picture quite late. I knew I wanted to travel to Tibet because I was already living in Shanghai, which meant saving half of the complicated and costly procedure of visiting there (aka I already had a Chinese visa and didn’t have to fly to mainland China first to then take a plane or train to Lhasa). The initial plan was to return to Shanghai and continue from there until I realized that there were also tours that would take me all the way through Tibet to the Nepali border (side note: there’s no private traveling in Tibet as a foreigner – you have to book a tour).
Finding moving forward instead of in a loop very intriguing (when traveling, jogging or career vice), I decided to go for the adventure and add a week in Nepal.
Confession #2: I did not prepare.
Frankly, there was just no time to prepare much for my trip to the Himalayas while finishing up my Master degree in China and hosting my family for my graduation. I checked the essential boxes: health insurance, high altitude and emergency meds, high altitude and backpacking gear, transportation, snacks for the train. That was basically it. I figured my Tibet travel was organized anyway and I could read up on Nepal while traveling to or in Tibet. Little did I know that I would meet the most amazing travel companion randomly – already at the train station in Shanghai – who would then turn out to be my assigned roommate for the Tibet tour and who would continue traveling with me in Nepal. Instead of reading on the train we had amazing in-depth conversations. Instead of reading in the evenings in Tibet, I was trying to cope with the high altitude and rapidly fell asleep after dinner from packed, exciting days. Consequently, I ended up at the Nepali border about a week later – ridiculously unprepared.
There’s many things worth mentioning about my Nepal experience so far.
Firstly, it started of in heavy Monsun rain with my backpack fixed to the top of a SUV that was taking us to Kathmandu over mountain passes and mud roads, and even through little waterfalls. This 8h ride (for a seemingly short distance) was certainly one of the most nerv wracking yet exciting rides of my life – and the views simply incomparable. The sharp contrast between the sparse rocky Tibetan land in the rain shadow of the Himalayas and the fertile Nepali land we passed through only minutes later took our breath away.
Secondly, Kathmandu is an incredibly lively city. It is the center of the valley. The heart of Nepal. Pulsing in colorful temperament, Hindu and Buddhist elements seemingly effortlessly flowing together in harmony. The Nepali people is the most friendly and hospitable I have met thus far.
The most magical day.
Yesterday was one of the most magical days of my life. I made a new Nepali friend, Amin, who went above and beyond to show us around his town, Patan, with its beautiful traditional architecture (he even took a day off!). He then also made two of the most wonderful and personal experiences – we couldn’t even have dreamed of – happen for us: He invited us into his home, where we were honored to see his father Amir, a Master of his art, work on a casting mold for his handcrafted Buddha statues – an art that has been passed on in his family for generations. Both showed us the whole process from casting production until the final product – so impressive! After we said goodbye to Amin’s lovely family, he introduced us to his friend Kaushal who is an artist himself, and his father, a famous Nepali painter who drew the portrait of the current prime minister which can be found in the head of state’s office. Kaushal, Umesh and his lovely wife were also incredibly hospitable in inviting us into their home. Receiving the honor of a spontaneous private exhibition by the artist himself felt surreal – and when he gifted a painting each, drawn on handmade Nepali paper, to my travel buddy and me, we were finally completely out of words and simply filled with gratitude. Umesh Shrestha’s work will always be displayed in a place of honor in my home – and remind me of this wonderful day in Nepal.
Thank you so much, Amin, Umesh, Kaushal and families for welcoming us so warmly into your homes and your culture.