1. A journey into Tibet - At Kathmandu

July 2012

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A journey into Tibet - Kailash Manasa Sarovar

Arriving in Kathmandu
The flight from Bengaluru to Kathmandu was a smooth affair. New Delhi was the stopover point where I had to cross immigration. The officials don’t bother much if you are heading to Nepal. All you need to have is either a Passport or voter Id (And none of the other documents will be accepted). And I was surprised to see the Delhi – Kathmandu flight filled with Kailash pilgrims with few of them chanting “Om Namah Sivaya”. And even more surprise awaited me when most of them started having beer (Allowed as it is an International flight). I think I should stop being amused about such stuffs!!

The journey from Delhi to Kathmandu took about 1 hour 20 minutes.  Coming from T3 terminal of New Delhi, Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan International airport looks extremely small. But what I liked was the traditional touch in the airport. That was something missing in huge T3.

The immigration was done in a jiffy. Indians are treated with respect!! They just see the ID card and let you in. No suspicious looks or questions!! I started liking Nepal!!!!

Thamel area in Kathmandu

Delay in plans
Out of the airport, I was greeted by the representative of the travel agency. Very soon, I was on the streets of Kathmandu. The drive was bumpy thanks to the bad road conditions in Kathmandu city. And it is dusty and polluted. If you are coming from Bengaluru, it is Home feeling as similar situation is present back in our city!!  

It was here I first came to know about delay in entering Tibet. The permits and Visa required have not yet arrived. Obviously, I did not like it.

Let me digress a bit here to explain about the process here. Though Tibet is in China, having a Chinese visa does not give you the rights to enter Tibet. First a permit from Chinese Embassy mentioning the places that you will visit in Tibet is required. That is only issued to a group and not for single person. For Kailash Manasa Sarovar, China has allowed two travel agencies in Tibet to conduct this trip. The travel agents from Nepal tie with these Tibetan counterparts to conduct the yatra. So, first travel agents get the list of people and submit to Chinese Embassy for permits. Once the permits are issued, Visa process starts. And there are restrictions on the number of people who can enter each day.

Hotel I stayed

Back to the story. The hotel where stay was arranged was called Thamel which bears the same name as the area. It was good as it was at the center of tourist place. I was told that I would be shifted to a better hotel next day. In fact I found this hotel itself good for me!!

The hotel was mostly filled with Kailash yatris. And most of them had arrived few days before me and were still waiting for permits. I was lucky, I thought. My trip is only postponed by couple of days while there were people waiting indefinitely for the permits. Few people who could not afford the wait had returned back. That was bad. People were blaming Chinese authorities, travel agents, Guru Poornima etc.

Here I was joined by few yatris. A large group would be joining on next day.

Kathmandu sightseeing was part of the package. The first place we visited was Pashupatinath Temple, one of the most important Shiva Temples.

One is not allowed to take the camera inside. Photography is allowed only outside the Temple.

It was less crowded and hence we could peacefully walk in the Temple complex and see the deity and surrounding areas.

The Temple has pagoda style of architecture with copper roofs. It has four doors in each direction which provides the view of the deity. A huge bronze Nandi is at the entrance of one of the door.

Outside the Temple were some steps that led to a place where one can get a good view of the Temple.

Pigeons were abundant outside the Temple complex.

We then moved to Jal Narayan situated at the other end of Kathmandu. We had to reach the base of the hills situated at the end of Kathmandu valley. It is a simple Temple with Lord Vishnu sleeping on a bed of snakes.

We then visited Swayambhunath situated on top of a hill. One can climb about 350 steps to reach to the top or use the road built almost to the top of the hill.

It is a major Buddhist site with a stupa surrounded by several Temples.

Also, one can get great views of Kathmandu valley.

Narayanhity Palace museum was not in the itinerary. But I visited it during one of the free days. It was originally the Palace of Nepal King. After monarchy was disbanded, King was ordered to vacate the place. Later it was converted to museum. The museum gives an idea on the lifestyle of Nepal Kings. This was the place where 2001 Nepal Royal Massacre tool place. The building where the tragedy occurred has been demolished but the remains are still seen.

Few points:
- Indian Rupee is widely accepted in Nepal. The current exchange rate is 1.6 Nepal Rupee for each INR. Note that 500 and 1000 rupee denominations are not accepted.

- Narayanity Palace Museum only accepts Nepal currency.

- Indians just need either a passport or voter ID card to enter Nepal.