A Peek at Nepal

By Joe Meny

Nepal is among one of the major tourist destinations in the world. It has a rich, if not awe-inspiring, geography. Nepal declared the year 2011 to be celebrated as ‘Nepal Tourism Year – 2011’. The primary objective of this campaign is the substantial growth of its tourism industry, and to attract more than a million tourists to this enchanted region. Eight of the world’s ten tallest mountains, including the highest point on earth – Mount Everest – are found in Nepal’s mountainous northern region.

Nepal is a thoroughly colorful slice of Asia. Ice-topped mountains soar to the heavens as rainbows of prayer flags shimmer in the bright sunlight. If there were ever a hiker’s paradise, this would be it. Nepal’s generous chunk terrain, from leafy Annapurna to the distinguished Everest. But spiritual and nature-rich Nepal is certainly not only for mountaineers with their sight set on Everest Base Camp. From the lime-green grasses found in Chitwan National Park, to the bohemian cafes and eclectic vibe of lake-side Pokhara, Nepal is an intriguing and welcoming destination for all.

Situated at an altitude of 1,336 m above sea level, and measuring 218 square miles, Kathmandu Valley is one of the most enthralling cities in all of Nepal. The historic seat of royalty. Kathmandu Durbar Square is a UNESCO World Heritage Monument which epitomizes the social, religious, and cultural life of the Nepalese people. It is the place where the kings of Nepal are crowned and their coronation solemnized.

South of Durbar Square, on the western side of the road, is the Rato Machhendranath Temple. Rato (Red) Machhendranath, the god of rain and plenty, comes in a variety of incarnations. Found in a large courtyard, the three-story temple dates from 1673. The temple’s four carved doorways are each guarded by lion figures and at ground level on the four corners of the temple plinth are reliefs of curious-looking yelti-like demons known as ‘kyah’.

The Golden Temple, also known as the Hiranya Varna or Suwarma Mahavihara, is just north of Durbar Square. Legend has it that this unique Buddhist monastery was founded in the 12th century, although the earliest records of its existence date back to 1409. The gaudy painted guardian lions on either side of the doorway lead to an inner courtyard with a railed walkway.

Remember to remove shoes and other leather articles if you leave the walkway to enter the inner courtyard.

Also north of Durbar Square is Kumbeshwar Temple, one of the valley’s three five-story temples. Dating from 1392, the temple dominates the surrounding streets and is the oldest temple in Patan. The temple is noted for its graceful proportions and intricate woodcarvings, and is dedicated to Shiva, as indicated by the large Nandi, or bull, facing the temple. An annual ritual bath in the Kumbeshwar Temple’s tank is claimed to be as meritorious as making the arduous walk to Gosainkund.

Nepal is a land of remote mountain villages, where people survive by growing their own food on the thousands of hill terraces that dot even the steepest slopes. Water buffalo or oxen plow the fields, and corn and wheat are threshed by hand and grounded by water mills. Nepal’s geographical conditions make for some of the most exciting and breathtaking hiking the world has to offer. It is truly one of the world’s most beautiful countries, not just in nature but in its culture, architecture and peoples who live there. It’s an amazing place. Viewed by many as one of the best exotic destinations in the world, you need to experience Nepal at least once in your life.