Nepal & Bhutan ~ November 1st - 15th, 2019

Trip Leaders - Jeff Koss and Carla Constantino

 

(click photo to see trip photo album)

It is a serious sense of wanderlust that gets people to fly 18+ hours to place like Nepal.  While Katmandu is a densely populated chaotic city causing you to think “why did I come here?”, once you get out of town, the country has much to offer.  Our first stop to ‘Monkey Temple’ with its countless primates hanging around the ancient temples was a wild site.  We visited kingdoms, fortresses, saw people working fields, walked narrow alleyways and ate a lot of rice.  Pokhara was the highlight of Nepal as a lakeside town drawing trekkers from all over the world.  A hike to the beautiful World Peace Pagoda with scenery of the Annapurna Mountains, a visit to famous David waterfalls and Gupteshwor Cave were all sites seen only in Nepal.

Onto Bhutan, one of the most extraordinary places any of us has every visited.  Priority to the Bhutanese King and his people is Happiness and it shows.  Bhutan is the size of Switzerland with 750,000 total inhabitants.  Sixty percent of the land must be kept undeveloped.  No chain restaurants or stores exist.  A large percentage of people are farmers in rural areas although there are modern towns with new homes being built.  Many people dress in the traditional way.  Sometimes, we felt like we were in a movie set.  Add to this the pristine scenery everywhere.  We saw exceptional sites of ancient structures, Buddhist stupas and temples all intermixed with going white water rafting, nature hikes into forests and open areas of grasslands. We attended the festival of the Black Crane.  We even tried a few rounds of archery, the National pastime.  And the size of a bottle of beer anywhere in Bhutan is h-u-g-e.

Our last day in Bhutan gave us the chance to hike to the famed “Tiger’s Nest”, a Buddhist temple high up in the mountains at 9000 feet elevation.  It is strenuous trek dotted with prayer flags combined with hundreds and hundreds of steps.  Eventually you arrive confirming it is worth all the effort.  The Tiger’s Nest is a place none of us will forget and a perfect ending to an idyllic land.

For the 17 travelers that continued on to tour India, we departed Paro for our flight to Delhi.  Our “Openeyes” tour guides Manoj and Ashish met us at the Delhi airport and gave us an orientation tour of the city.  We visited the India Gate and a city walk through the narrow streets of Nizanuddin, the oldest Muslim area in Delhi.  We were introduced to the wonders of Old Delhi’s fabric, spice and gold markets, and we learned of the cultural influences Hindu, Sikh, Muslim, Buddhist and the colonial period had on this vibrant city.  That evening was capped off with an India cooking class and dinner at a suburban residence.  We made a stop at the Wildlife SOS Elephant Conservation and Care Center to learn of their work to rescue and rehabilitate abused Asian Elephants.  The next stop was our hotel in Agra before the main event the next day—the Taj Mahal.  We arrived early the next morning and our guide skillfully located our group to quickly enter the check-in and security queue.  We entered the gate for our first views of the “Taj” about 15 min before sunrise.  It was magical to watch the colors of this spectacular mausoleum change as the dawn brightened and the sunlight appeared.  It was the highlight of our travels to India.

What is next?  Onward to more exciting lands in the years to come!

 Jeff Koss & Carla Constantino, Trip Leaders

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