After two months of learning, we finally had a break! We were so lucky to enjoy our mid-semester break in Nepal. Some students decided to stay in Pokhara and relax with serenity; some took an adventure, going trekking and reveling in beautiful scenery; I, on the other hand, invited my parents to Nepal and explored the country with them.
As you may know, Nepal is a very diverse country. It has 126 ethnicities and more than 100 indigenous languages. It is the origin of Buddhism and predominated by Hinduism. Nepal is situated between China and India, and its geographic diversity is also a main reason to attract world travelers. Because of our limited time, we planed to visit three major places: Kathmandu, Pokhara, and Chitwan.
In Nepal, especially in Kathmandu, you can find “a temple every 5 steps and a stupa every 10 steps”. Kathmandu, as the capital of Nepal, has such a rich history and culture. There are numerous places to visit in Kathmandu, and some top attractions are Boudhanath Stupa, Pashupatinath Temple, Monkey Temple, and Kathmandu Durbar Square. Besides visiting these sites, I find it also fun to wander in neighborhoods, observing people’s routine rituals, appreciating community worshipping temples, and enjoying exclusive street art.
Another popular destination is Pokhara, for its magnificent view of the Himalayas and the natural beauty of mountains and lakes. On Saturday morning, we went kayaking in Fewa Lake, which used to be a part of the royal summer palace. In the midst of the lake, there is a Hindu temple on a tiny isle, where villagers row boats to the temple and perform rituals. We went to the island without knowing about Saturday practice, and we are so fortunate to see many believers come to the temple to worship.
In addition to the landscape in Pokhara, one can also visit the Shanti Stupa on Anadu Hill. Shanti is a Sanskrit word meaning peace, and thus, the stupa is also known as the World Peace Pagoda in Nepal. It is a symbol of collaboration among Nepal, Japan, Thailand, and Myanmar. When one enters the space, one can find a sign requesting to keep silent and enjoy the tranquility. I walked in, taking off my shoes and going up to the second tier. The white pagoda has two tiers for tourists and religious visitors to circumambulate (a little tip: when circumambulating a stupa, walk clockwise). As I was strolling down, I stopped here and there to examine statues given from all parts of the world as well as the Annapurna mountain line across from the pagoda. Standing still in the midst of everything, I felt the ultimate peace and transcendent grace of nature and humanity.
On the India-Nepal border, there is a preserved area for wildlife. Chitwan National Park is famous for its biodiversity, for rare mammals like Bengal tigers and one-horned rhinos. I especially enjoyed the options of ecotourism. We went canoeing in the river and walking in the jungle. When the guides were preparing us for the jungle walk, they taught us techniques to protect ourselves from rhinos. (They really got me nervous for a moment 😂😂) Following the guides, we started meandering in grasslands. Slowly, we approached a small pool, where a mommy rhino and her baby were chilling. They looked at us for a few seconds and then turned their heads away, and we took some photos silently and continued our journey. The route was not so exciting for a long while, and suddenly, a giant rhino was right in front of us chewing (actually devouring) grass. This was a truly intense moment; the guides whispered to us to freeze, and they held the bamboo sticks tightly. The rhino spotted us yet did not move at all. After a minute or two, we quietly rushed behind his back and left. One little regret was that we only found tigers’ footprints; nevertheless, it was such an extraordinary adventure.
We spent a whole week touring in Nepal, yet, I still felt that I have seen too little. Luckily, Nepal is a neighbor of China, and I will definitely find a chance to return and experience more. I hope this blog can pique your interest in visiting this treasure of a place. And if you do, I wish you the best of luck to spot a Bengal tiger 😉