Hi! My name is Elke and I’m 21 years old. I’m living in the Netherlands and I will be travelling for one year and my first country to visit is Nepal! I just finished my Bachelor’s in Psychology and I wanted to travel before I will start my Masters. The reason I chose Nepal is that you can do a lot of activities, but you can also do things on your own or with the people you meet. I also think it’s a good balance to be a tourist in the country you visit and do some community engagement after. It was my first trip alone and I liked the idea of staying in a house with other people, but still have your own program. I stayed for 4 weeks at The Center in Kathmandu and I would like to give you some information about my time there!
After arriving at the airport on Sunday, I went to my new home for the next 4 weeks. My first impression of Kathmandu was actually not really good. There is so much traffic, chaos and there is a lot of dust. But when I arrived at the house, House In-charge Mr Bhumi welcomed me with a few house rules and so much enthusiasm.
Week 1: Culture Week
With excitement, on Monday we started the culture week. I definitely recommend you to do the culture week. You’ll learn your way around Kathmandu, you meet new people and after this week, I could say for the first time that I really liked Kathmandu!
We had some introductory lessons, culture lessons and language classes. On Monday, we ate Dal Bath with our hands, because that’s normal in the Nepalese culture. We visited the Monkey Temple on Tuesday that was my favourite! There were monkeys everywhere and you have to walk 365 stairs to get to the temple. Every stair is for a sin a day, so when you’re upstairs you’re purified and I think that’s a beautiful idea.
On Wednesday, we made our own lunch and that was so much fun!! After all, it tasted so good too. Before dinner, we had a culture night! Everyone had to make a presentation about their country. It was so much fun! We danced the polonaise (a dance people in the Netherlands dance when they are going out) and everyone tried our Dutch candy. The coordinators danced a Nepalese dance and for example, the girls from China drew a map with explanations about their food and culture.
We saw some other historical temples on Thursday, for example, the sex temple. The government made a temple to break the taboo around sex. In the afternoon, we ate MoMo’s at a restaurant, and also tried a typical Nepalese dish. On Friday, we did a hike in the morning and the view from the top was so nice!! In the afternoon, we took a nap and after dinner, we went to Thamel. We booked a hotel and went clubbing! Tip: LOD (Lord of the Drinks) is one of the biggest clubs with a lot of Western music.
On Saturday and Sunday, there’s no lunch, so we went outside for lunch. Nearby the centre you can have a nice lunch at DIYALO (15 min walk) or you could go to Thamel (500 rupees cab).
Week 2: Adventure Week
On Tuesday, we started early on the Adventure week. We drove to Dhading for two days of rafting! That was so much fun! We had our coordinator Mr Prakash with us and he took care of everything. After a day of rafting, we slept near to the river and made a campfire. The next morning we had to get up very early because the river was approaching. It rained a lot in the night, so our camping adventure was over. After breakfast, we went back for more rafting and after that, we went to Chitwan National Park.
Fun fact: it is the only safari park in Asia where you are allowed to walk!!
We stayed in such a nice hotel, with air conditioning (be aware of Malaria) and nice beds and food. We did boat (searching for crocodiles) and jeep safaris, jungle walks (we saw rhinos, monkeys, wild pig, peacock and dears) and we went to the elephant breeding center! The government of Nepal has a lot of elephants in captivity, but they also build a breeding center to help the elephants survive. It is possible to ride on the elephants or bath them. I didn’t want to support using animals for tourism or riding on the elephants.
There was also a village tour and a culture night with cultural dances of an ethnic group called Tharu.
After a nice week of rafting and safaris, I went to Pokhara for the Poon Hill Trekking week.
Week 3: Trekking week
After arriving in the Pokhara Center, we had dinner with our guide and we went to bed early, because we went by bus from Chitwan National Park to Pokhara for at least 4 hours. If you take the bus, you can take local buses for small distances, but we took the tourist bus with more space and air condition (take a sweater with you). On Monday, we started our trip with Lok as coordinator. The first day we drove 2 hours by car and walked for 3 hours. The hotel was very nice! The owner is laughing all the time, the view is very nice and the food was good! The whole trekking week we could, for example, eat Dal Bath (national Nepalese dish), spring rolls, pizza or pasta. The hotels were basic but clean and nice and the blankets were warm enough. It is colder in the mountains than in Kathmandu so take a sweater with you.
TIP: you are carrying your backpack the whole day with you, so don’t bring too much! If you have problems with carrying your bag, you can book a porter (someone who walks with your backpack).
Anyway, the trekking was so beautiful! You walk through little rivers, woods and waterfalls. Everything looks so untouched. After the 2nd night, you will get up very early and walk stairs for 45 minutes to reach Poon Hill! The trekking is doable for everyone, but because I didn’t practice at home at all, I thought it was heavy sometimes but the view made everything okay! It was amazing as the Himalayan range was in front of me. The other 3 days you will walk most of the time down, but you also have to walk up because you have to cross a mountain before you can go to the other one. On Friday, we were back at the center and we had a full body massage for one hour. Our muscles were hurting so much after the trekking and 35.000 stairs but it is quite a good workout too!
We asked if it was possible to go back on Sunday and not on Saturday and that was no problem, so on Friday, we went paragliding! You can book it for around 40 euros at a tourist office at the lakeside of Pokhara. We used Sky Open Paragliding, it is a Nepalese company and it was cheaper than a Russian or American company. (You can search them on trip advisor.) After paragliding, we had dinner in Pokhara and you should definitely try happy hour at one of the bars at the lake! The ambience is so relaxing!!
Next week will be my last, I will finish with community engagement in kindergarten! We already went on Sunday to see the kids and to know how things are working over there. Did you know that in Nepal the weekend is only on Saturday? The kids have to go to school on Sunday, but you’re not obligated to teach them on Sunday so you can have your weekend off.
Week 4: Kindergarten
After 3 weeks of travelling and sightseeing, I finished my trip with teaching at the kindergarten. There’s also a construction program to make a new and a bigger kindergarten. There are two classes for the younger ones (2-4 years) and the older ones (4-11 years). There’s always a teacher with the younger ones and most of the time there is a coordinator around to help you if you want to translate something.
It was such a great experience! The children are happy all the time, they really want to learn and they also want to play all day. After 2 days they knew me a little bit and they listened very well. We teach them Science, Maths and English. The kids are so smart. Some of them could easily write all the body parts and winter clothes in English and I’m so proud of them.
Because it was my last week, we decided to go out on Friday again! We booked a hotel and almost everyone from the center wanted to join! After a few hugs from Bhumi, we went to the hotel and had a great night in LOD. I’m so happy that I made so many new friends, met the coordinators, could be with the kids and I’m happy to say that I saw so much of Nepal during the last four weeks! I hope your time in Nepal will be amazing as well!
Thank you, Nepal Team for the warm hospitality and coordination.