Nepal (part 6 Chitwan – Pharping)

We sighed upon leaving Lumbini. Despite it’s deep significance in Buddhist terms, it was a dusty, grey and dirty place and the hotel we stayed in was a soulless establishment. The whole place was submerged in fog every morning, until way after lunch – so all inall, it was a confusing and eerie place.

On our way to Chitwan National Park we took a few wrong turns and only realised our errors as we drove through a “Welcome to India” arch! Oops, we took a u- turn quicksmart and continued on our way to Chitwan.

One of the most significant experiences for us in Chitwan, with our hotel right on the river, surrounded by greenery – was the realisation of how much we take GREEN and CLEAN for granted, how much we just feel entitled to have all this clean nature around us!img_8786img_8782

But right after that comes the experience of WILD animals, which was pretty awesome! So, elephants in the street.img_8780

Rhinos bathing in the river at dusk.img_8843

We did an elephant ride into the park and saw rhinos from very close, that was pretty amazing! (No photos).

Crocs everywhere along the riverbank. img_8833 img_8831img_8836

Cheeky monkeys in trees (no photos).

We did a wonderful guided walk through a village adjacent to the park and were privileged to see how people live. These communities were supported by various international Aid projects that provided toilets and biogas in the individual homes.img_8802 img_8810img_8827img_8824img_8806img_8792img_8791img_8788

After 3 nights at Chitwan, we took forever to get back to Kathmandu… 8 hrs for a 100km journey. Here is why it took so long (hint: potholes, road repair, slow trucks, mountains, goats on roads…):img_8847 img_8848 img_8856 img_8868 img_8871 img_8873 img_8874 img_8882

To be exact, we went through Kathmandu to Pharping, where we stayed for 2 nights in a Buddhist monastery. img_8913 img_8915img_8902img_8906img_8903

We joined the monks in prayer / meditation. img_8963 img_8964 img_8967

We also had a private meditation lesson with a Tibetan senior monk. He taught in Tibetan and had an interpreter to translate into English. Again, I loved hovering in the kitchen to observe how our meals were prepared.

One afternoon we took a guided walk with a young monk into the local village and saw more holy sights. And more monks… on bikes, on mobile phones, playing soccer… monks everywhere!img_8948img_8921img_8926img_8936img_8937img_8927img_8954img_8950img_8951img_8953

On our last morning, the monks sat their 3 hour ethics exams in front of the temple. At sunrise. Right after morning prayer.img_8971

It was a short drive to Kathmandu, but as we walked the streets in Kathmandu, we felt that we had traversed the universe – the contrast between the two locations could not have been more dramatic!img_8982img_8981img_8978img_8974





Mid December we embarked on a wonderful journey, we travelled to Nepal with our girls. This trip had been planned for months, and I was so exited to go, I had to keep pinching myself as we finally boarded the plane.

Due to a series of unfortunate events, I was locked out of Facebook and WordPress during our trip, which did not bother me at the time and I was very happy to just take it all in without sharing it at the time. Being back at home now for two weeks, in full swing of work and deck rebuilding, I do have the urge to recount the highlights of this wonderful time, so here we go.

When we arrived in Kathmandu (late at night) we received a very warm welcome and were picked up by our Nepalese travel agent and it felt that we had landed on a new planet. The dust, the hooting, the busyness of the streetscape was just amazing. For the first few days we stayed in a very nice hotel in Thamel, in the heart of Kathmandu.img_8291

img_8284Though the big earthquake, in which 6500 people lost their lives, was 18 months ago, it is evident wherever you look, that rebuilding efforts are being made and will continue for years to come. We saw no machinery being used in the building work, just elbow grease and a few shovels. Many women work on the sites to clear rubble and clean bricks. Often their children play alongside their mothers.img_8297img_8327img_9033img_9036

Whilst taking in all these new sounds, sights and smells we started a bit of sightseeing, which helped us to categorise some of the ‘impression overload’.

We started at Swayambhunath, the Monkey Temple, which is situated on a hilltop, towering above the city, but still clouded in its dust and noise. It is a big Buddhist temple, a Unesco World Heritage Site – but rather than being a museum or place of detached reverence, it was a site for picnics, prayer, selling trinkets, begging and more. Dogs and monkeys everywhere. It became quickly evident to us that no religion is practiced in its purist form here, Buddhism and Hinduism borrow iconography and Gods from one another and spirituality is everywhere… wherever you turn a corner in Kathmandu, there will be a big or small shrine with incense, a prayer wheel, offerings, candles…


In the afternoon we visited Durban Square, which suffered a lot of damage in the earthquake.

Driving through Kathmandu is so exiting. Our driver was very skilful, not only navigating the narrow streets, but dodging cars, motorbikes, pedestrians, dogs, goats and cows! Makeshift temporary accommodation for earthquake victims is part of the streetscape, like behind this pile of rubble.img_8267img_8353img_8279