Gay Travel Nepal: Karl’s photo trip to the Himalayas in 2008
Karl’s gay travels to Kathmandu, Nepal in 2008 before the earthquake – Yes, it is already quite a while ago since I was backpacking in India and Nepal. But the fascinating country in the Himalayas left a deep mark in my memories being so different, lovely and disturbing at the same time. When I was packing my backpack for my trip to India for a month, I was always having one eye on the mystically Asian country in the highest mountain range in the world. Correctly, as I was experiencing it firsthand, not only while I was flying around the Mount Everest with Yeti Airlines.
But back to the beginning when I started my trip to the North West of India in New Delhi making my way east along the Ganges River to the holy city of Varanasi. After some spiritual days in the heart of Indian Hinduism, I jumped on a night train in a northern direction to cross the border to Nepal afoot. Together with a group of other backpackers, we made our way up in the legendary mountains of the Himalaya to the capital of Nepal, Kathmandu. Join Karl on his trip with his “Gay Travel Nepal Kathmandu” around fascinating Nepal with its unique architecture, religion, spectacular sights, and unbelievably friendly people, and see the heart of the Himalaya through a gay traveler’s eyes.
Kathmandu, Bhaktapur, Mount Everest & I
Memories of a decade sometimes feel like a little eternity, even if it is actually just about ten years ago. But that is exactly what was happening with me when I was going through my travel photos and diaries of the last years. One very special trip of my life was my backpacking adventure to Nepal. Although I was suffering from food poisoning and a very bad bacterial infection for almost a week, I had the chance to get a glimpse of this mysterious, lovely, almost isolated country between India and the autonomous region of Tibet.
Recalling my past years of being a traveler, those partially dangerous but highly intense travel experiences visiting unusual destinations like Nepal, Sri Lanka, the Sultanate of Brunei Darussalam and several other exotic Asian countries shaped my sense of cultural differences and left a mark in my mindset becoming the more open-minded, respectful, and inclusive traveler, I am today. But back to Nepal, the beauty of the Himalaya and my photo story of the Asian country.
From Varanasi (India) to the Nepalese border
My journey to Kathmandu started with a night train ride to Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh, India. The Varanasi City Railway Station itself was an adventure already. Hundreds of Indian travelers were stranded at the station waiting for their mostly delayed trains. No one could have known when one’s train would actually arrive. So everyone is simply camping in the station hall while cows walk over the tracks eating out of the waste bins. Unfortunately, I do not have any photos of the night train itself, only some shots from the next morning during my journey. But I will publish some train ride photos in India soon in my India articles. However, after arriving at the train station in Gorakhpur, I caught a public bus going all the way further north to Sonauli at the Indian – Nepalese border.
Since I already had my Visa pre-organized back then in Germany, I could just cross the border without any troubles. Together with a group of backpackers, my trip continued in a small bus driving the dangerous road up into the Himalayas to Kathmandu. A crazy eight hours ride begins over hazardous rodes along narrows steep valleys and overtaking huge trucks horning like crazy. I might have aged during the trip about a couple of months (or even years), or at least get the one or other grey hair. But in the end, I made it safe and sound to Kathmandu. I stayed at the Kathmandu Guest House, a central located 4-star hotel. And my explorations of Nepal could finally began…
Monkey Temple Complex Swayambhunath
One of my first explorations brought me to the Swayambhunath temple complex, the so-called Monkey Temples. The centerpiece of the complex is a Buddhist stupa surrounded by two Hinduist towers. To reach the top of the hill, I had to take 365 steps of the main stairway directly to the main platform. But I had to be very careful. A group of holy apes lives around the temple hill and makes the climbing kinda adventurous. Why? Well, you should be prepared for aggressive monkeys trying to get everything you are holding in your hands by rapping the visiting tourist over the knuckles.
I managed to get a shot of a monkey trying to drink out of an obtained water bottle. After I arrived on top of the hill, the sun began to set already and I was able to take some stunning shots of the stupa, some Buddhist monks, and a calming down Nepalese capital. For the first time, I could feel how special, mystical, and intense Kathmandu really was. By the way, the inner buildings are estimated to be more than 2.500 years old. Which is considered to be one of the oldest still remaining Buddhist buildings in the world together with the Buddhist temple complex Borobudur (I visited in 2009) which located 25 km away from Yogyakarta on the Indonesian island Java.
Temple Pashupatinath: Sadhus at Bagmati River
Just 5 km north-east of Kathmandu center, the temple Pashupatinath as UNESCO World Heritage site is considered to be a sacred place of the Hindu faith. And it was a mystical place indeed. There have been cremation fires everywhere along the River Bagmati with huge clouds of smoke. While wandering around the different temple buildings, shrines, and old trees, I ran into a group of happy playing children, praying Sadhus at the riverside and got caught in a meditative atmosphere of the place. I could overlook the Arya Ghats and the Pandra Shivalaya complex with its 15 shrines from a bridge. Seriously, a magical place.
The white gigantic Buddhist stupa of Boudhanath
Another spiritual spot on my Nepal bucket-list was one of the biggest white Buddhist stupas in the world, the Boudhanath with painted eyes and praying flags. Although I could see the stupa already from far away, coming closer I couldn’t spot it through the surrounding buildings anymore. After passing the entrance gate the while giant construction opens up between the surrounding buildings while I could hear Buddhist music out of a small shop’s radio.
What an impressive place just 11 km outside Kathmandu city center. I had half my day to spend here and I couldn’t get my eyes off the white beautiful statue-buildings. Since you were able to walk around and even on top of it, a number of prayers walked around the stupa in circles spinning multiple prayer mills and clanging the prayers bell repeating Buddhist mantras. While the sun was shining from a deep blue sky, colorful praying flags were waving in the wind…
Unfortunately, the stupa was damaged in the earthquake in April 2015. The reconstruction is already in the process since November 2015.
Faces of Durbar Square & Historic Center
Visiting Kathmandu in a day is actually not possible. There are too many narrow alleys, ancient temples of Buddhism and Hinduism, marketplaces and historic shops to discover. A good starting point for me was the Kathmandu Durbar Square with its multiple temples in pagoda-style. I was lucky to be in Kathmandu during market days in the historic center. But be prepared for uncountable colorful photo opportunities every moment. Be it women selling coronals made for Hinduist and Buddhist praying purposes, cut heads of goats in an open butchery shop, tableware made of copper, or Nepalese boys selling cotton candy. I am in love with the unorganized order of everything. My favorite moment: taking a break at the central Trailokya Mohan Narayan Temple and simply do people-watching. But have a look at my photos of Kathmandu yourselves.
Golden Buddha Statues at Amideva Buddha Park
What I didn’t know was, three gigantic gold-plated Buddha statues are located just on the other side of the hill of the Monkey Temple. The middlemost statue is considered to be the tallest Buddha statue of Nepal with 20,4 meters in height (67 ft) surrounded by two 19,5 meters (64 ft) high statues. Facing the west, the statues are a good highlight to visit before the sunsets. The golden light with the blue sky’s background was a stunning experience during my stay in Kathmandu.
Starting in Tokyo, we traveled around the country of the rising sun, Japan. The next stop was the city of Kyoto before we went via Osaka to Koyasan, the holy mountains in Wakayama district. From there we did a one-week Kumano Kodo Pilgrimage from Ki Tanabe to Nachi before we jumped on a train to Fujijama Mount Fuji and back to Tokyo.
Flying around Mount Everest with Yeti Airlines
Being so close to the highest mountain in the world, it was tempting to join an expedition to go further into the Himalayas. But I did not have the time, unfortunately. However, the tour operators and travel companies found a solution just for travelers like me: the option to book an “Everest Sight-Seeing flight” with Yeti Airlines. Yes, there is actually an option to fly around the highest mountain in the world having a sneak view over the captain’s shoulders into the cockpit and over the Himalayas.
I have to admit I was very scared of the small white-green propeller-driven plane, especially at the beginning, but it was worth every sweat bead knowing to be so close to the highest point of the entire planet. The view was incredible and the staff was wonderfully friendly. I still have my certificate of being around the Mount Everest in my small treasure box full of special moments at home.
Bhaktapur – A Kings City at Kathmandu Valley
On the other day, I planned to visit Bhaktapur, one of the three kings cities of the Kathmandu Valley. After a 45-minute ride with a cap, I arrived at the White Gate of Bhaktapur entering the ancient Newar city founded in 865 A.D. The historic old town was simply beautiful with huge wooden buildings, wide squares, and impressive temple complexes. Passing by the famous Golden Gate of Bhaktapur and the royal palace, I discovered numerous ornaments and detailed religious work everywhere. For example the famous fountain „Nag Pokhari“ statue of a cobra at the backyard of the palace. Walking further through narrow streets, I arrived at Taumadhi-Square with the Nyatapola-Temple in pagoda-style.
The five stories roofed temple and its statue crested stairway was probably the most crowded place in town and still, it left me speechless. I took a break and just watched the fascinating life of the Nepalese people on the square. Apart from the busy center, I continued my exploration through several alleys where I found the pottery market. Bhaktapur was a highlight of my trip to Nepal, although the UNESCO World Heritage Site (included because of its rich culture, temples, and wood, metal and stone artworks) was badly hit and damaged by the Earthquake in 2015. In total, 67 historic buildings were completely destroyed. I hope my photos can continue to preserve the beauty of Bhaktapur.
Karl’s Gay Travel Nepal Kathmandu Story before the big Earthquake
After the so-called Himalaya Earthquake in 2015 over 8.800 people died and lots of places have been destroyed. Thanks to international and national help the reconstructions are already in process. Additional to the devastating destructions, Kathmandu was shifted 1,5 meters south and lifted 1 meter. Even the highest mountains in the world, Mount Everest, was shifted 3 cm in a south-eastern direction.
Looking back on my time in Nepal it was an impressive and interesting time. The city was full of tourists eager to hike and go on tracking tours in the Himalayas. A variety of tour operators all over the center were offering hiking and climbing tours, flights, and city trips in the surrounding villages and towns. The beauty of the Himalayas is stunning and so are the people living there. Yes, Kathmandu is again on my, and therefore on our list.
Karl & Daan.
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