Travel in Nepal: Kathmandu and Chitwan National Park

 Chitwan National Park

Located in the southwest region of Nepal, a mere six hours from Kathmandu, is the protected forest of Chitwan National Park. nepa15_map01Chitwan National Park holds some of the best wildlife viewing in Asia, with chances to spot deer, monkeys, over 500 species of birds, and even one-horned rhinos. DSC_2507While visiting Chitwan,  I stayed in Sauraha, a laid-back tourist district seated along the river’s edge. DSC_2553IMG_0038IMG_0040During my stay, I booked a tour package for 130 USD, which included two nights accommodation, meals, and all jungle activities, including guide.
IMG_0043My accommodation was at the Rainforest Hotel, which had lovely rooms, delicious food, and a very courteous staff.IMG_0044After all that porridge, I warmly welcomed these tasty American eats. Flavorful food with bonus points for presentation. 😀
DSC_2458DSC_2445They hotel even had some resident elephants. 🙂DSC_2448One of the first activities I did in Chitwan was a jungle safari through the national park.

During my safari, I met a woman from Denver, Colorado. Her mother had opened an orphanage in Kathmandu a few years back, and now she had taken it over. She visits the orphanage annually, to bring supplies to the 26 children and spend quality time with them, taking them to the shopping malls and cinema. This time around; however, she decided to explore other attractions in Nepal, in the hopes of finding excursions that would attract foreign visitors to come to Nepal, see this beautiful country, and potentially donate to their organization. 😀

Sitting with her worked out to my advantage as well, since she is also an ornithologist (bird expert), and was able to spot numerous Kingfishers, Bulbuls, and Bee-eaters along our route. 🙂DSC_2541DSC_2474DSC_2473DSC_2470In addition to the variety of colorful birds, we were lucky enough to spot both Sambar and Spotted Deer as well. DSC_2528DSC_2525They all seemed quite content with humans. 🙂DSC_2483Near the end we spotted Rhesus Monkeys, Wild Boar, and the pièce de résistance, a family of One-Horned Asian Rhinos. 😀DSC_2491DSC_2521Why hello there! 😉DSC_2505Sadly, before becoming a national park in 1973, Chitwan was the hunting grounds of the royal family.DSC_2513From the 1950’s to 1970’s, the population of rhinos had dwindled down to less than 100, putting them on the endangered species list. DSC_2511Luckily, due to laws and conservation efforts, their population is on the rise, with over 600 rhinos in Chitwan today. 😀DSC_2494Along the same lines of conservation, I will add that one constituent of my jungle safari was that I was seated on the back of an elephant. :/DSC_2569When I heard this news, I was very concerned and contacted the company immediately, considering the poor reputation Thailand has for animal welfare. The company assured that the care for animals is quite different in Nepal, and being atop an elephant is the safest way of exploring Chitwan, due to the danger of Bengal Tigers and One-Horned Rhinos. Later I researched this issue on the internet, and found an interesting article about the role of elephants in national park conservation.

http://matadornetwork.com/trips/elephant-based-tourism-critcized-years-nepal-heres-actually-creating-positive-change/

Overall, these things led me to proceed on the tour and, I will say that I had a wonderful experience. The mahouts seemed to care well for the elephants, and I didn’t notice any issues during my visit. It’s very hard to decide what is best for these animals, considering they have no voice, but I can only hope that there is a continued positive outcome from their involvement in conservation, and that these animals keep receiving adequate care and a quality life. DSC_2545Anyway, after the jungle safari, the next activity was a canoe ride along the local river. The dugout wooden canoe is handmade, and takes one month to carve.IMG_0042For this, I went with a nice Spaniard from Oviedo who had been staying at my hotel. 🙂DSC_2548On our journey we spotted various birds, including egrets and stork. DSC_2551We also spotted numerous crocodiles, which is when Krishna, our guide, showed us a picture of a crocodile attacking their boat last year. How comforting! 😮DSC_2477So glad he a stick to protect us. Hah! Anyway,  after surviving the river ride we took a jungle walk with our fearless guide. 😛DSC_2554He sure did have that concerned look down pat as he would pause every so often after hearing a noise, slowly crouching over higher ground, then surveying the land with his binoculars, expecting to see maybe a tiger or wild rhino. He gave us tips on what to do if we saw these ferocious beasts, but luckily we didn’t see much on our walk other than a bunch of cool trees. 😀DSC_2557The last stop of the day was to the elephant breeding center in Chitwan.DSC_2564DSC_2565Like I said, it’s a toss up whether the positive impact of these elephants in eco-tourism outweighs the negatives of domesticating wild animals.DSC_2562 I did find out from Krishna that the elephants graze freely from 10-4 PM each day, and stay here overnight. It doesn’t seem ideal, but also seems to offer more freedom than zoos. I guess the jury will always be out on this matter, but I will say that I had a wonderful time being able to see these creatures and experience a completely unique region of Nepal.


Kathmandu

Anyway, my last few days in Nepal were spent amidst the hustle and bustle of Kathmandu.IMG_9602Here, Hinduism plays a large role in culture, with many holy men (pictured above), gorgeous temples, and religious statues covered in colored dye- a symbol of worship.DSC_2586 These temples are most concentrated in any of the three Durbar Squares of Kathmandu. I found Patan Durbar Square to be the most spacious and intact in comparison to the other two, with beautiful Hindu temples dating back to the 17th century.

DSC_2581
Krishna Mandir and Bhimsen Temple

DSC_2573Visiting any Durbar Square costs around 11 USD, but hopefully this money will fund necessary repairs to these divine, yet deteriorating buildings. DSC_1895DSC_1897IMG_9627IMG_9596Oddly enough, in some religious sites, like Swayambhunath Temple, the wildlife of Nepal has shifted from rural to urban areas, where here you’ll find a gaggle of resident macaques. 😛DSC_2441Aside from the religious sites, I also decided to give Dal Bhat another try at a place called Thamel House Restaurant.
dsccHere, the Nepali set is served with lentils, spinach, curried veg, marinated chicken and spiced wild boar. Absolutely superb!

http://www.thamelhouse.com/index.php

Anyway, by the end of my trip, I wound up spending a lot less than expected, so I was able to exchange my currency and bring home some spending money with me to Bangkok. Bonus! 🙂
IMG_9632Overall, it was an incredibly mind-blowing trip, with memories to last a lifetime. 🙂

I’ll leave things off with a video I made highlighting my trip in Nepal, including my trek to Everest Base Camp, Gokyo Lakes, and my safari in Chitwan National Park. Hope you enjoy.

Take care and until next time. 🙂

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