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  • Writer's pictureBarrett B.

A Trip to Kathmandu, Nepal: The only place I've ever been that I can't forget. Unbelievable!

Updated: Jul 11, 2023

Have you watched an intriguing film and wondered, is that a real place? Is that really how it is there (people, culture, religion)? In 7 days I was exposed to only a portion of Katmandu, Nepal and here is just a short list of what I experienced:

(many of these things mentioned below sound scary but in fact the people, the culture and the atmosphere was very positive, safe and respectful)


"Glancing from the distance at the dead bodies being burnt"

  • Glancing from a distance at dead bodies being burnt near a prominent river during a burial ceremony and then witnessing the stale blood from animal sacrifices on near by corners viewing wood carved Hindu temples and walking the ruins of ancient 20 story temples that had felt the effects of a past earthquake.

  • Going nearly face to face with a living goddess (child) paraded in a golden chariot with endless locals screaming for this holy youngster's attention.

  • Spending countless hours pacing the semi paved streets to locate premium Pashmina (Himalayan wool) products while getting grabbed by fearless furred monkeys patrolling the historical grounds.

And just imagine this, I never had time to take a small trek into the mountains. Also know that many of the passages described above are done for a genuine and cultural purpose.

Now some might read this and think why in the world would I go there? I can tell you this, its a safe experience that is deeply rooted in their way of life and culture and more importantly, it's the most valued and interesting experience I have ever had in any country, PERIOD! And I've been to 64 countries.

In 2017 I took a trip from Bangkok, Thailand to Katmandu, Nepal and I have to say I haven't ever experience a city like that before (also realize that I didn't even go hiking or trekking). I landed in Katmandu and for $50 a got a one month visa on arrival. It was pretty painless and an efficient process.

I had some vague ideas of what to expect but until you get to your hotel or hostel you can't really put your initial thoughts into words until you experience it. The surrounding city of Katmandu was definitely run down with a lot of reddish brick buildings lining the road. A bit of land and air pollution was around and that wasn't really a shock.

After I got adjusted to the city for a night I hit the ground running and ventured throughout the capital as I made my way down back alleys and prominent roads. I ducked in open air souvenir markets and handmade tailor shops. I found fresh fruit and some bakery goods then eventually ran into a cafe on a corner perfect for people watching as I sipped on a coffee. (On a side note one of my fav things to do is locate a cafe with a view and do some amazing people watching while writing in my journal).

The second day I found myself noticing bright red festive decorations around the city. I asked people what was going on? One older Nepalese man in his 60's said "The Living Goddess Festival." I of course was thinking what on earth is this guy talking about. I figured it was religious festival of some kind and kept walking.

For anyone who doesn't know about the Living Goddess Festival it takes place at the end of March each year. The purpose of the festival focuses on a god known as Kumari (meaning princess) or Kumari Devi, or Living Goddess. This is the tradition of worshiping young girls as manifestations of the divine female energy or devi (god) in Hindu and Buddhist religious traditions. The young girls are then set for a life of solitude as they admired and worshiped until they get married. These women will always wear red and are chosen after they meet 32 different criteria from their physical appearance. Their horoscope is also quite important.

Later that afternoon I saw huge crowds of people gathering in the main square known as "Durbar Square." As it was getting late I heard cheers and chants from people in the distance and before I knew it a mob of friendly and over engaged Nepalese locals were clamoring for their "Living Goddess." Some believed this nine year old child being could bring about good fortunes for an uncertain future.


"A group of native Nepalese carrying fiery torches that lit the way"


Let's see if I can paint a vivid picture of what I saw and felt during this festival that evening. As night approached the lighting in the city was eerily dark yet calming. The city had electricity but in most of the smaller streets, a faint glow from distance lights was noticed. Some of the larger temples were lit by candles and larger lanterns that lit the way. As "The Living Goddess" was pushed forward by her protectors I walked through a narrow brick walk way that approached an even darker corner. I began to focus on the lights ahead but as I got closer I saw a group of native Nepalese carrying fiery torches that lit the way. (yes, a larger wooden branch that was lit on fire) One younger man in his 20's was leading a group. The fiery glow of the torch allowed me to get a partial look at their faces.

To my amazement, other than the Indiana Jones movies I loved as a kid, I had never seen a person guiding himself or a group with an actual fiery torch. This is something that I only imagine happening 150 years ago but it was happening all over the city from time to time that night. From a higher vantage point you could follow various people lighting the way with these torches.

This festival that I had never heard about continued throughout the night as chants, songs and local music was played to celebrate a custom that has been around for generations. The question I kept asking is why had I never heard of this?


Then I visited the National Museum which was once the home to the Royal Family until they were unfortunatthely murdered on June 1, 2001


The next day I met up with a local tour guide who I still talk with from time to time and he took me around with a personal driver for $50 a day. I believe I paid around $20 for a tip so it was around $70 for the day. My guide took me to the famous Religious Burning Ritual at Pashupatinath Hindu Temple along the river (where they cremated the bodies during the funeral service), then we visited the National Museum which was once the home to the Royal Family until they were unfortunatthely murdered on June 1, 2001. Twelve members of the family died. After this tragic event happened the royal blood line was wiped out. My tour guide told me that this story was reported nationally and the public was told the Prince killed his entire family. Apparently his motive for doing this was that he wasn't aloud to marry non-royal so he took his family's lives. Most locals didn't believe this tale. Inside the museum at the time you could still see the outlines of the bodies where the royals had died.

Later that evening we walked through the city of Lalitpur to the south of Kathmandu about 82 km or 51 miles away by car. There we saw Patan Durbar Square and some other amazing temples. We later just walked around Mangal Bazaar and looked at unique hand made Nepalese products. Here are some other intriguing historical options: Patan Gate, Taleju Mandir Temple, Kathmandu Valley

On certain corners throughout each of the cities are small worshiping shrines like the one in the photo. On selected Hindu days there are animal sacrifices that usually involve a goat, cow or chicken. Animal sacrifices are for the Hindu goddess Gadhimai. This is to end evil and bring prosperity.

Kathmandu, Nepal is just a complete collection of various aspects that make it a true adventure. Everyday you will encounter a fascinating fact about the people, culture, religion or even a simple product. The mystery, history and wonder of Nepal is on another level. I usually rate a place on what I hear and what I heard before was awe-inspiring but in actuality it far exceeded my expectations and for that reason, it's extremely rare and highly recommended. If you truly experience all that Kathmandu has to offer you will ask one question, "When can I go back?"





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