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You wouldn't be here if you weren't curious.*

Hi! I'm Elena! Welcome to my travel blog Creativelena.com.
For me, it is all about “life-seeing instead of sightseeing”: Join me as I create, eat & live my way around the world. Curious?

*Check out my book, “The Creative Traveler’s Handbook”, for learning more about what we mean by creative travel. Travelling means the world to me, makes me fit for everday life and sometimes, I trust, also calmer on the inside. Read this blog with a smile, share what you love and remember to check back regularly: After all, when was the last time you did something for the first time?

Food & Faces of Nepal: Culture Travel in Kathmandu City & Sankhu Village

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.

Arriving in Sankhu village just after noon greets you to an image like this: Incredibly strong people carrying firewood for their homes, often well over 50-60 kg.

Arriving in Sankhu village just after noon greets you to an image like this: Incredibly strong people carrying firewood for their homes, often well over 50-60 kg.

 

We wander around Ujjwal's little farm garden, surprisingly warm and sun-kissed for my idea of "winter" ...

We wander around Ujjwal’s little farm garden, surprisingly warm, colourful and sun-kissed for my Austrian idea of “winter” …

 

... with Ujjwal showing us how to use local resources ...

… with Ujjwal showing us how to use local resources …

 

... as well as meeting the locals over a brief first walk across the land.

… as well as meeting the locals over a brief first walk across the land.

 

Ujjwal and Rakesh are great local guides turned into friends in almost no time ...

Ujjwal and Rakesh are great local guides turned into friends in almost no time …

 

... sharing with me, the beauty of the land that surrounds us: A look upon the potato crop fields in Sankhu village near Kathmandu valley.

… sharing with me the beauty of their homeland: A look upon the potato crop fields in Sankhu village near Kathmandu valley.

 

And would you believe the colours of this first sunset we get to experience together here in countryside Nepal?

And would you believe the colours of this first sunset we get to experience together here in countryside 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 foodIncredible hospitalityHuman 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.

Part of my young friend Rubi's extended Nepali family ...

My young friend Rubi’s extended Nepali family out here in Sankhu village near Kathmandu city …

 

... including her uncle, one of the toughest, strongest guys I've ever met (never let size betray you!) - and an incredible cook at that ...

… including her uncle, one of the toughest, strongest guys I’ve ever met (never let size betray you!) – and an incredible cook at that …

 

... know how to welcome you to sweet local surprises, called "Yomari" dumplings filled with sweet sesame seeds in this case.

… know how to welcome you to sweet local surprises, called “Yomari” dumplings filled with sweet sesame seeds in this case.

 

Or how about sweet rice balls with coffee for breakfast on a peaceful deck terrace on a sunny winter morning?

Or how about sweet rice balls with coffee for breakfast on a peaceful deck terrace on a sunny winter morning?

 

Even the local birds pay attention to such delights.

Even the local birds pay attention to such delights.

 

And here is my dear friend Rubi, surrounded by her brother and children friends, peacefully writing profound words of love and friendship into my travel diary ...

And here is my dear friend Rubi, surrounded by her brother and children friends, peacefully writing profound words of love and friendship into my travel diary …

 

... Rubi whose family I've truly come to love and appreciate, forever taking me into their home offering me tea, food & sharing local life stories thanks to Rubi's perfect English fluently interpreting at only 13 years of age ... I am blown away.

… Rubi whose family I’ve truly come to love and appreciate, forever taking me into their home offering me tea, food & sharing local life stories thanks to Rubi’s perfect English fluently interpreting at only 13 years of age … I am simply blown away.

 

Thank you, dear Ujjwal, for such good late evening vibes playing typical Nepali songs at your farm!

Thank you, dear Ujjwal, for such good late evening vibes playing typical Nepali songs at your farm!

 

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 …

The holy Hindu festival on the outskirts of Kathmandu in Nepal ...

The holy Hindu festival “Sali Nadi Swasthani Puja Parba” on the outskirts of Kathmandu in Nepal …

 

... draws the crowds and many religious believers, including these women taking their ritual baths in the local river Sali ...

… draws the crowds and many religious believers, including these women taking their ritual baths in the local river Sali …

 

... among them priests ...

… priests offering blessings …

 

... punk dogs ...

… “pretty little dogs” …

 

... and other, perhaps more common types of "worshippers" (iphoneographers).!

… and other, perhaps more common types of “worshippers” such as the odd iphoneographer.!

 

I really enjoy watching the everyday festival life unfolding ...

I really enjoy watching the everyday festival & market life unfolding in front of me …

 

... including my first ever sight of a "real baba", a chosen spiritual nomad living a life of meditation and spiritual belief.

… including my first ever sight of a “real baba”, a chosen spiritual nomad living a life of meditation and traditional religious belief.

 

Watchful eyes ...

Watchful eyes from this beautifully carved, wooden window frame …

 

... follow me all the way back into Kathmandu city, where we visit one of the world's largest "Buddha Stupa", a UNESCO World Heritage Site of great religious belief among Buddhists.

… follow me all the way back into Kathmandu city, where we are looked at by the eyes of one of the world’s largest “Buddha Stupa”, a UNESCO World Heritage Site of great religious belief …

 

What an amazing opportunity to travel in this land full of colours, contrasts and comfort that is the spiritual & warm-hearted dimension of its people. BHANEWA - Thank you Nepal!

… simply, wow. What an amazing opportunity to travel in this land full of colours, contrasts and comfort that is the spiritual & warm-hearted realm of its people. BHANEWA – Thank you Nepal!

 

Check out even more travel photos from my visit of Kathmandu city & Sankhu village here in Nepal on my Flickr Photo Gallery:

<a href="https://flic.kr/s/aHsk7Pmbiq" target="_blank">Click to View</a>
 

Disclaimer: I have been invited by Mystik Mountains Adventures & Holidays on this culture / nature trip around Nepal. All opinions are my own.

Written by Elena

Elena writes about creative destinations, shares her personal travel stories and brings inspiring photography & interesting news updates home to you. Her mission is: "Continue to be amazed at this world, one creative travel experience at a time."

Ready for learning even more about creative travel?

Elena has recently published "The Creative Traveler's Handbook". Chock full of inspiratinal stories, travel tips and advice, it offers everything you need for planning and managing your next creative escape, addressing beginners and experienced travelers alike. Here's how to get your hands on it now!
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