Amazing 3 Days at Sauraha

I went to Sauraha – the eastern entry point to the Chitwan National Park to spend a couple of days with family and friends. Sauraha, a popular tourist destination, is a must if you are visiting Nepal. Accessible by road (4-5 hours) from Kathmandu and Pokhara, if offers entry to the wilderness from within the moderately developed small town.

Here is how we spent three days at Sauraha as tourists and enjoyed every second of it.

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Meeting Tiger in the Wild

And what shoulder, & what art,
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat.
What dread hand? & what dread feet? (From Tiger by Willian Blake)

January 1, 2016: Tiger is an animal that co-holds the titles of both – the beauty and the beast. Meeting a tiger in its wilderness is a treat – not only for the eyes but for your heart too as someone termed the experience as equivalent ‘achieving orgasm during first sex by a lady’ – a possibility but a rarity.

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A Day at Ghalegaon

I spent almost 20 hours at Ghalegoan, Lamjung – a popular tourism destination for community based rural tourism and left wondering why exactly the village is so popular during the return trip on a jeep through rocky risky road (that took almost three hours to reach Besisahar – the district headquarters).

Ghalegaon, Lamjung

To say, the village is nestled on the lap of mountains including Lamjung, Annapurna II, Macchapuchhre and Manasalu, the village is at 2,070m (well, Nagarkot which is at one-hour easy drive from my home is at 2,175m), but the scenery I was offered was, well, not breathtaking.

For me, it looked almost foolish to travel/trek/ride that far for the views of the mountains that are offered better at many other easy destinations.

The homestay facility is something to look for. The food/night at a Ghale home was worth experiencing but I like it, I am not fond of homestay. However, my first experience of homestay at Goljung, Rasuwa felt much better (even the mountains).

The traditional-ness of the village is somewhat intact (despite the fact that the traditional Gurung house photo on the brochure is the only one of such type in the entire village).

And, the thing I was expecting but did not get was the briefing. Despite being a member of 30-member team to visit the village, the local tourism committee did not brief us on anything. We were left with hours with nothing to do other than roam around the village.

* * *

Welcome offered at Ghalegaon.
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I love Bhaktapur

One of my favorite activities while on holidays is roaming in and around the Bhaktapur Durbar Square – a UNESCO heritage site in my home district.

Being rich in art and artifacts, the mediaeval palace and its surroundings offer me something new every time I spent time there. Sometime, I discover an art I have never noticed, other times, I walk through a new alley and most of the time the square offers me a different kind of tranquility despite never being deserted.

I love sitting on a corner watching people’s activities: tourists taking photographs, children playing around, elders sitting together chatting and smiling and people moving. I feel almost like watching a favorite program on a muted television.

Bhaktapur Durbar Square is different than Kathmandu or Patan Durbar Square, for it seems lazily peaceful; for it offers glimpses into lives of people still to be touched much by modernity. It looks more a community backyard than a touristic attraction.

Last Saturday I was there for a peaceful evening just strolling around with my beloved wife and taking a few photographs and the most interesting piece I discovered, that I had never noticed before, was a statue just beside the famous 55-windowed-palace.

It’s a woman walking with a dog and dragging a child [distinctly a boy]. Here it is:

More about Bhaktapur: Nepal Tourism Board, Wikipedia & Virtual Tour to Bhaktapur Durbar Square.

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Daman, I’ll come again!

daman1

At 2322m, atop of a hill on the old Tribhuvan Highway, 80km from Kathmandu through winding/old/narrow road, Daman has nothing much if you do not stop. It could pass without you even noticing if you happen to be in the one of very few vehicles that plies on the almost forgotten highway.

But, if somehow you spend a few minutes looking around; you will fall in love with it.

I spent a weekend there with a few of friends and family members: the choice of time was not very good as there was only a glimpse of Himalaya peaks. But nevertheless, the journey was a worthy for without the white peaks too, the green hills were majestic.

daman2

The greenery and wavy landscape, with a few groups of houses afar and clouds moving all over and fogs convering everything now and then provided us a beautiful view from a View Tower at the View Tower Daman Resort: a budget place to spend a night (Rs. 1,000 for a room with attached bath /Rs. 600 for without attached bath with 33 per cent discount/no AC). The manager told me that the tower, with a eating space plus viewing space, was build 53 years ago.

If I had been there in season/got the clear weather, I would have seen mountains peaks on three side, from Annapurnas and Machhapuchhre on west to Mt Everest on east along with all peaks of northern side. The Lonely Planet Nepal says it’s arguably the best place to view of Himalayas: wow!

There is also a short hiking on offer. We walked some distance on road to a cemented gate to the temple of Risheshwor Mahadev. Thirty-minutes of moderate jungle walk brought us to a peaceful place [the temple is combination of natural big stones but considered holy].

daman3

On the way, seeing a small water fall, three of us deviated from the normal route to take photos; and on the way back, I slipped off a stone and fell into a small pool of water injuring my left knee. Lesson learned: never deviate from normal hiking route.

60 kilometers from there is Hetauda which is two-hour away from Sauraha, the tourist point of famous Chitwan National Park. If we had time, we would have gone there but we had to return through the same windy road with majestic views of habitats and slopes of hills.

Just as we left, I thought: I will come there again in September/October to view all the white peaks; to absorb the pious of Daman.

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Chisapani: the coolness of hiking

Height: 2194m from sea-level
Distance: 14km walk (mostly uphill) from Sundarijal, Kathmandu

Walking uphill, especially on stone steps till you reach the end of Mulkharkha, is not easy but the rewards you get then after – almost three more hours of walk through the jungle of Shivapuri Wildlife Reserve and the place called Chisapani on a hilltop – are lifetime experience.

The most important thing not to miss on the way is the Kharka [plain grazing land on the hills] just five minutes uphill from the last house/teashop of Mulkharka.

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The plain, with greenery and beautiful green hills behind, is somewhat hidden from the hiking path but it’s walking on it was one of the best part of the hike.

During the uphill walk, the local life and the Kathmandu Valley down below are something to watch.

cp1

I saw no animal on the jungle walk but the peace it gives to soul made me forget the aches on legs.

Chisapani itself is not a big village, only a few houses – half of them lodges. No mobiles. But it’s cool – for the cool breeze, for the fog that comes and goes covering hills.

From Chisapani, though my team walked back, we could have walked six hours to reach Nagarkot.

“That’s nice of you, we all Nepali should see our own country,” a villager told us after knowing we hiked to Chisapani. And, I agree.

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On Chaukathi, a short film

Threshold or Chaukathi, a 30-minute film made by my friend Deepak Rauniyar, was officially the first film to be selected to be screened at Cannes Film Festival. There were two more from Nepal same year.

Despite being screened at the Kathmandu International Mountain Film Festival in Kathmandu, where it was adjudged the third-best film, I had not watched it and when it got selected for Cannes, I just felt like I should have watched it.

Deepak was surprised when I asked him, after he returned from Paris, to inform me to screening of it. He promised he would and he invited me today at Kumari, where the film will be screened just before Terminator Salvation [oddly enough to comment] on the ticket for English movie.

To be true, I didn’t expect anything ‘very good’ from Deepak, a close-friend during our jobs at Nepal Samacharpatra daily. But he proved to be beyond my expectations; although I feel there are still a lot to be improved.

threshold

So, what’s the Chaukathi all about? It’s a story of a woman, educated till standard 10 before marriage, who is amazed by the talks of a census data collector woman. The woman says the household Tarai woman that she left her husband because it did not just worked. Then, during the night, when her husband asks her for an intercourse, he refuses and leaves the room as she was in no mood for it.

Very simple storyline but told nicely – a strong message of women empowerment. I loved a few things about it:

  1. There is no villain, even the husband of Saraswoti Gupta, the woman, loves her dearly.
  2. Messages are told vividly yet nothing like preaching.
  3. Natural story – I didn’t felt like even a piece of it can not happen in my neighborhood.

Rooms for improvement: yes, the film is unnecessarily long – it will lose nothing if brought down to 20 minutes; acting is not the best; in few scenes camerawork/editing leaves scars.

Somewhere in Facebook, Deepak wrote that a popular commercial director told him that since the film is produced/written/directed/edited by him, only he would watch it. I am not interested in what he answered, but here is my answer: it is a lot better than a few of your films that I have watched.

And, before I conclude here is an encouraging comment from a man sitting behind me: It looks like a Hindi film dubbed in Nepali. Well done, Deepak!

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Moutain Flight: A Unqiue Experience

Lovely Moutains!
Lovely Moutains! Mount Everest at the middle.

That’s beautiful, isn’t it? The photo was taken from a Buddha Air airplane during a 45-minute mountain flight on February 13, Friday [scary date to go on mountain flight!]

Two times before the date, I had returned from airport without flying because of the weather. But this time, despite being on the date that many consider unlucky – one of the earliest computer virus was called Jerusalem infected computer only on Friday the 13th, I was lucky enough to get the flight.

And, I found out how lucky I was and what I missed after a few minutes [a bit quicker than half of the crew who were seated on the other side]. Beautiful mountains as if I was seeing them from my rooftop – so near and so majestic.

Lovely Moutains!
Lovely Moutains! Mount Everest at the middle.

I was not carrying a camera because I could not charge the batteries because of load-shedding but I took a few shots from the camera that my friend was carrying with him. When the beautiful lady [the air hostess] asked me if I wanted to go to cockpit to take photos from pilot’s window [yes! they let you do so], I said no and she glanced at me for a second surprised.

I thought, who wants to see such beautiful mountains through lens. It was truly an amazing experience [not as good as trekking to Everest base camp though, but I you have no time to got the EBC, the mountain flight is something not to miss in Kathmandu].

However, you can not take picture of you and mountain together with an amateur camera
However, you can not take picture of you and mountain together!

Here are three tips for you if you want to go for Mountain flights in Nepal:

  • Go to Buddha Air [disclosure: I was on the non-paid ticket that the airlines provides to my association as sponsorship]
  • Get into plane as early as possible [I was the last and I got a seat on wings, so some obstructive views]
  • Sit on the left side row. [so you are first half to see the mountains plus while returning, you can either sleep or talk]

Thanks to S. for these photos.

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Is Kagbeni As Good As Publicized?

My straight answer is: NO!

Kagbeni is one of two first Nepali digital cinemas directed by Bhusan Dahal. Even if you don’t care about Nepali television or music videos, its unlikely that you haven’t heard his name. From Nepal Television’s Sunday Pop to Kantipur Television’s top post, Dahal has a long history in the glamour media and is, no doubt, one of the best music video directors of the country.

Even to watch his music videos is a treat itself. But when he moved to big screen, with Kagbeni, he did some good things but failed to live the expectations – at least for me, and a dozen of people around me at the theatre.

Something that I liked most in the cinema are among others no use of Hindi terms by the actors (sadly true for many other Nepali movies); the brilliant cinematography that was backed by Dahal’s realistic approach and the Nepaliness. And, is there anymore?

The theme of the movie is ’Be Careful for What You Wish For’ and the storyline is derived from The Monkey’s Paw which is beautifully put into Nepali context. But is the story so strong enough to make a movie in 2008? I believe no. The attempt of the movie to gain a realistic theme through a unrealistic storyline is a fallacy in itself.

And, the audience suffer the attempt to lengthen a short story into a full length two-hour long movie with yawns and changing of sitting position. The weaker story make the whole effort of direction, screenplay, cinematography and acting (which is brilliant as far as I am concerned) look unnecessary.

The closing remark of the young man seated behind me: Since the name is Kagbeni, I should have understood its a Kage (unrealistic) movie!

I believe if you have been lately bored by seeing too much Bollywood imitation in Nepali movie, its a must watch! But if you are one who needs a fast pace story, just ignore it.

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