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Every time you think you have “been there, done that, seen it all”, the world is going to remind you of its beauty and glory in the most astounding ways possible. It so happened to me on my first ever visit to the mountain kingdom of Nepal, the mighty land of the Himalayas including the world’s highest mountain, the birthplace of the “Lord Buddha” as well as a capital city that claims to count more temples & shrines than people. “Those are the very three facts I am proud of in my country!”, says young Rubi, of the Shrestha family in Sankhu village near Kathmandu. Rubi is a Nepalese girl born into a typical local farming community, but with an incredibly worldly outlook on life and love for her family and background. I have never before in my life met a 13-year-old quite like her, so alike in my own ways of thinking and feeling. The beauty of her presence is truly amazing, a gift that we have both come to cherish in those three days of meeting and sharing ideas at her farm village Sankhu, Kathmandu.
Mystik Mountains Adventures’ Rakesh Shahi is my first port of call for all things nature and culture-based experience travel here in Nepal. He is not only a great guide with the most amazing connections around the country, but also a true friend in spirit. Sankhu is where we go for a taste and experience of local life near the city of Kathmandu.
“My friend Ujjwal Uprety will join us”, Rakesh drops cheerfully as we steer our way around people, food trucks, scooters, pedestrians, dogs and whatever else chooses to pulsate in the fast beating rhythm of the streets of Kathmandu. Having just arrived from “orderly Japan” on this #CreativElenaRTW trip of mine, Kathmandu city traffic is overwhelming, to say the least: “We are still developing”, Rakesh laughs, “what with the pace of development quickening so as to reach a point of almost no control. At least”, he offers, “that is what you might get as your first impression.” Indeed, modern-day Kathmandu city life is beyond imagination – a city so quiet at night-time (a “city that actually sleeps!”) but bursting into an explosion of incense, people, colours, food, temples, cars, bikes as soon as the sun rises above the horizon. After enjoying my first typical Nepali breakfast, “bara” spicy little pancakes dipped in creamy curd gently sweetened, Rakesh and I head out of Kathmandu trading the hustle & bustle of the big city life for a visit to the peace of countryside Sankhu.
“First of all, let’s go and see ‘the real life’ of Kathmandu people.”
Sankhu village is located on the outskirts of Nepal’s five million people capital city, perched high on a slope hugging the city to the East. It is here where Rakesh’ friend & business partner Ujjwal Uprety runs a small farm stay business intended to welcome visitors such as myself wishing to experience first-hand, authentic food & culture travel experiences of Nepal.
Food & wine is plenty in this land. At least where freshly fermented rice wine, sweet local “Yomari” dumplings & spicy vegetables are concerned … Me & Nepalese food: A true love story.
No food tale, however, is complete without introducing you to the people behind my local #foodlover stories. And here is where I think back fondly of my dear young friend Rubi and her family, whose farm sits just next to Ujjwal’s and who have kindly taken me on as one of their own. “Guests are not just kings here. We treat them as Gods.” It might sound funny, but can really be understood in that way: I forever feel indebted, and simply blown away, by the kindness & hospitality of the people here in Nepal. Compared to my own culture, they live in such different standards: Power cuts are normal. Sealed roads are rare (in fact, you have to be lucky if there is a road after all). TV & cell phone coverage is but a recent arrival. Life is hard. Conditions are tough. Yet they happily, readily, insistingly, share everything they have with me, and everything that matters in the human exchanges of this world: Amazing food. Incredible hospitality. Human warmth. And so much “tender loving care”, as my Kiwi friends in New Zealand would say …
“Next time, please don’t bring us a visitor that will make us cry …”
“You can take this as a true compliment”, Rakesh smiles, translating from the feedback of the local community over saying goodbye to me as we both have to leave again. Come take this walk with me, therefore, stepping right into the beauty of Nepal culture & cuisine.
Visiting Sankhu village is not only perfect for a break from busy Kathmandu city life. It also marks my first ever immersion into a local religious festival called “Sali Nadi Swasthani Puja Parba” … (yes)!
“Unfortunately, I don’t speak any Nepalese”, I smile, shrugging my shoulders in excuse whenever faced with any language barriers. Yet. “I will simply have to learn some for my next visit!” Surprisingly, spoken Nepalese is not too hard. The name of the famous festival Rakesh and Ujjwal take me just out of Sankhu village loosely translates into the “Sali River Fasting Ritual Festival“, a festival dedicated to the traditional fasting & bathing of … women! I see hundreds of them in their bright red saris, many about to wash their hair and take a full-body bath in what must be, a rather icy river flowing off those mountains during wintertime. The dedication and belief are unfaltering, though. I stand, fascinated, camera in hand to capture whatever I deem fascinating to record from this land of many wonders …
Check out even more travel photos from my visit of Kathmandu city & Sankhu village here in Nepal on my Flickr Photo Gallery: