Nargakot and Bhaktapur
My second full day in Nepal I had a private tour with NM. He picked me up early at the hotel for a sunrise view from Nargakot. Nargakot is a hike of varying length depending on where you start. Some people start in Kathmandu, and some start at the base of the area. NM suggested we drive in order to catch the sunrise views. Otherwise, we would have had to get up at 5 am to make it before the sun came up if I wanted to hike. I opted to shorten the hike and preserve my precious sleep time. We made our way up the hill, and I was not disappointed. I had awe-inspiring views of the Himalayas. I looked at NM hopefully and pointed to the largest, most beautiful mountain in the range. I asked, “Is that Everest?”
He answered honestly, “There is pretty much nowhere in Kathmandu you can see Everest. It is too far.”
Everest is about a 12-14 hour drive from Kathmandu. It is almost exactly 100 miles away. I was disappointed I didn’t have the bragging rights of seeing Everest in person but almost in tears at the beauty of the Himalayas.
After watching the sun come up over the Himalaya’s NM, and I drove to the ancient Hindu temple, Changu Narayan. This is located about 7 miles from Kathmandu. It was explained to me I was visiting one of the holiest of all Hindu sites. It is a shrine created for Visnu; it is said to be the oldest temple in Nepal. It was beautiful, and I spent hours examining the intricate wood carvings and listening to the chants of the local women offer praises to their gods.
From there we took a short drive to Bhaktapur. If you take only one excursion, I suggest making the short trip to this village known for woodcarving. The village is filled with ancient temples and Hindu shrines. You can watch as woodcarvers and potters practice their craft in front of their shops. Be sure to visit the five-story Nyatapola temple. It offered gorgeous views of the city and remained virtually untouched after the earthquake.
On our previous tour, I requested NM take me to his favorite lunch spot. I told him, “I don’t want to go where you take the tourists.” He brushed me off as we were with a group and took me to a lovely but touristy rooftop restaurant. On this day it was a private tour. I began my instance on local dining in the morning. By lunchtime, he was very hesitant. He warned me I probably wouldn’t like the restaurants he frequents. I challenged him to ‘try me’.
He took me to his favorite place for lunch. A hole in the wall called The Thakali Bhansa & Sekuwa Café. I walked into looks of ‘what is she doing here.’ I was obviously someplace local. The staff and the patrons smiled at me, as I was clearly a tourist in my large sunglasses and an oversized backpack. We sat on the floor as is traditional Nepal style. I asked NM what to order, and he instructed me to order the Thali set. The conventional Nepal meal. It comes with several different items (similar to curries, but not exactly. It is hard to explain as we have nothing like it here) and rice. It was $2.00. When ordering in many restaurants, they will keep filling your plate if you finish your food. The logic being if you consumed all your food, you must still be hungry.
The food was so inexpensive I ordered several appetizers and entrees for the table to share. I wanted to sample the traditional foods. The food was wonderful. One surprise was in Nepal food is eaten with the hands, even food like rice and curry. NM showed me how and I only made it a little way before I had created a mess of my space of the table and my face.
Sadly, this was the end of my time with NM. He was booked out for the rest of the week on tours. But I still keep in touch with him on Facebook, and hopefully, I will get to see him again the next time I am in Nepal!