DOSSIER: Culture & Customs 
Himalayan Heritage 

10 Days.  Character Hotels, some road travel. 
Flight: Pokhara-Kathmandu.

Tour Briefing:  Day 1 (pm) at Fort Hotel, Nagarkot.

See ‘First 48’ Dossier for pre-trip services.

We are about to embark on a short journey quite unlike any other – for the Himalaya and the peoples who reside here are themselves quite unlike any other.  You surely are planning to come here because Nepal is not only very spectacular but also because it is very different.  Tourism on any scale is barely one generation old and the Nepalese are still closely tied to their ancient cultures, religious traditions and regional differences (20 languages, 4 main castes, 36 ethnic groups, even 4 different New Years and 3 totally different scripts – each with its own variants!). This diversity is the basis of the Nepali’s exemplary tolerance of others, overseas visitors – honoured guests (Athitis) – especially.


DAY 1 - Transfer to Nagarkot (O/N Fort Hotel).  Afternoon ridge-top stroll.  Evening ‘Welcome Cocktail’ and Dinner. 
What better place to start than to first take the steep road that climbs to the eastern rim of The Kathmandu Valley, to Nagarkot famous for its stunning sun-set views of the knife-edged Himalayan peaks - including distant Everest.
As with the natural ‘ying and yang’ of all things, the glacial torrents of the High Himal are both the life blood of Nepal and too the source of dread; of tempests, landslides and floods.  So where else would the gods abide?
The traditional brick and timber Fort Hotel astride the ridge at 2,000m is an excellent, cosy and friendly refuge easing you gently into a classic journey of discovery. (D)

DAY 2 - Nagarkot – Changu Narayang Temple – Bhaktapur  (O/N Bhadgoan Guest House).  Comprehensive day tour, including Changu Narayang Temple and the UNESCO World Heritage listed city of Bhaktapur.
The first rays of a new day turn the grey tones of early dawn in the High Himalaya to a blaze of pink, an entire East-to-West panorama, typically above an ethereal sea of cloud, with the folds of the hills rolling ever upwards to the summits and away and beyond towards Tibet.

After breakfast we descend to one of UNESCO’s least known conservation projects, the exquisite temple at Changu Narayang atop its promontory overlooking the upper


Bagmati River as it flows through the paddy to then become the holy river of cremation at Pashupatinath.

There can be no better introduction to the temple architecture of the Hinduism of the Himalaya, for Changu Narayan is a master-piece. Dating as do parts of it, including many stone deities, from the 4th and 5th Centuries, it is beautifully awesome.  Vishnu, in his incarnation as Narayan, is the resident god-form.  Tantric influences from Tibet are depicted in the gloriously carved roof struts and the embossed doors with their custodial lions help explain its fame throughout the trans-Himalaya.

As if held in a time-warp, the little city of Bhaktapur amazes everyone. You have entered a time of feudal ways, a place of medieval street-scenes, with a uniquely magical ambiance that confidently pays no tythes at all to modernity. There are some who say that travel is part about going places, part about doing things there and part about ‘just being there’.  Well Bhaktapur is definitely - though not only - simply about just being there. (Indeed a lot of visitors don’t even know that it is there, for the wrong but ready assumption is that all the wonders of the legendary Kathmandu Valley are in Kathmandu City itself).

In fact Bhaktapur is one of three main historic cities in The Valley, not unlike separate city-states in ancient Greece and Asia Minor, and with all three to be visited on our odyssey.

So it is a place where the eye is instructed upwards
to pagoda roof-tops, where the neck turns to peer
down ancient alleyways and where one’s own inaction is the perfect counter- point to all the activity around.  All one’s five senses are employed and then a sixth Sense of idle exploration!

The definitive building is the 30m high Nyatapola
Temple of five pagoda roof-lines towering above the market  square. And yet this is merely  a centre- point, the iconic landmark, while palaces and temples and shrines, a hundred-and-one of them – nay a thousand-and-one of them – are in constant use, enticing or warding off deities and demons with offerings; offerings which are typically floral and food or percussion or horn music and always and everywhere the incessant clanging and tinkling of big and little bells. (From four in the morning so don’t say you haven’t been warned!) (B)

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