Since Nepal is the gateway to the roof of the world, it is easy to think of this country as a destination only if you are a serious, cross-that-off-my-bucketlist type of mountaineer.

I used to dream of setting foot in the Everest Base Camp and I was that person who kept on pushing it down the list because heck, I'm not yet ready (I don't think I'll ever be). Nepal was not a priority until a fortunate event happened that led me to booking KL-KTM tickets in less than a minute, without thinking twice. I'm thankful I did because Nepal was a great colorful surprise, even without doing my big dreams of trekking in the Himalayas. 







So whether your stay is just too short for a trek or trekking is really not your thing, you can easily come up with a week's worth of activities.


Watch the video for the summary of our week in Nepal:



Here's our detailed itinerary:

Budget: 650 USD (inclusive of food, accomodations, transportation, and miscellaneous expenses - pretty much everything except the souvenirs)

Day 0: 

5PM-10PM - KL-KTM via Airasia (Visa on Arrival - 25USD for 15-days stay)
9PM - Arrive at Kathmandu

Day 1: Kathmandu


6AM-8AM Everest Flight (optional) - 163USD
9AM-2PM Visit Kathmandu Durbar Square, Boudhanath, Swyambhunath
4PM- Travel to Pokhara (Travel Time: 6hrs)
10PM - Arrival at Pokhara


Day 2: Kathmandu/Pokhara

8AM-10AM Around Pokhara/Phewa Lake
11AM-3PM Paragliding - 85USD
5PM - Sunset at World Peace Pagoda 

Day 3: Sarangkot/Bandipur


5AM-8AM Sunrise at Sarangkot

9AM-10AM Visit International Mountain Museum
11AM - Leave for Bandipur (Travel Time: 3hrs)
3PM - Arrival at Bandipur
4PM onwards - Around Bandipur

Day 4: Chitwan


5AM - 6AM Sunrise at Bandipur

9AM - Leave for Chitwan National Park (Travel Time: 3hrs)
12PM - Arrive at Chitwan
2PM - 4PM Elephant safari
6PM - Sunset by the river
8PM - Cultural show

Day 5: Chitwan/Nagarkot


8AM - Bird watching

10AM - Leave for Nagarkot (Travel Time: 6hrs)
4PM - Arrive at Nagarkot - Hotel at the end of the universe

Day 6: Nagarkot


5AM - 8AM Sunrise at Nagarkot

10AM - Leave for Bhaktapur
11AM - 12PM Bhaktapur Durbar Square
2PM - Free time (Thamel area)
6PM - KTM-KL flight

**Travel time is even longer if you take the bus and the ETD/ETAs are quite unreliable too so if you are going with a big group, it is better to rent a van. It's way cheaper too. If you have any questions for your Nepal itinerary, send me a message over at See.Hear.Explore. and I'd be glad to help you out.

Wishing everyone more travels!

One week from our Nepal trip and I'm still hung over.

I wonder why would anyone ever trade such lovely views of the Himalayas and the cool morning breeze with the smog in the city and the endless honking of cars? Existential thoughts ran through me as I sipped my coffee while gawking at the breathtaking horizon.

Nagarkot

We caught our last sunrise at Nagarkot. The great Himalayas spanned out before us, from Annapurna in the west to Everest in the east. "It was cloudy the past 3 days", one of the guides said. Luck must be on our side as the sun shone on the Himalayan ridges. We stood there and bathed in the warmth. No one seems to mind that Everest is just a tiny, little dot. Compared to the magnificence of the whole Himalayan range, Mount Everest's peak is just an added spectacle.

The sun coming from behind the Himalayas - From Nagarkot, Mount Everest can be seen as a little peak


Snow-capped Ganesh

Overlapping mountains that stretches far into the horizon, the rays of the sun touching the peaks, the hues playing before our eyes, and the chilly wind at the tower made the experience unreal and overwhelming. The Himalayas is nature's masterpiece meant to make you cry. Or laugh. Or make you think about your choices in life.  I'm on the edge of being overly dramatic here but yes, the view of the Himalayas even from afar is a memory that you will always hold dear.

View from Hotel at the End of the Universe in Nagarkot

Bandipur

Not all sunrises are the same. Let's rewind to a few days earlier in Bandipur. After a late night session, we dragged ourselves out at dawn towards the huge clearing at the end of the road. It was a hazy day and we were ready to be disappointed. While the Himalayas decided to hide itself that day, the sun rose like an egg yolk emerging from the steam as if telling us that "Hey, you came for me right?".


And the sun did make a stunning appearance that day, despite of the 'less' stellar backdrop.


Sarangkot

Finally, we found our first Himalayan sunrise in Sarangkot, 45-minutes away from Pokhara. We did not know what to expect. You see, we spent the past few days in the town of Pokhara hating the hazy weather - we were almost desperate. My friend called out to the universe and and wished for clearer skies.



And the universe obliged.

We stood there and saw the Himalayas, Machhapuchchhre and Annapurna, come to life for the first time. The sunrise at Sarangkot was the start of a week of waking up at dawn and chasing more. We veered away from the loud crowd at the viewpoint and found ourselves a nice little clearing that we shared with a local family. While the rest of us took our time in taking selfies, contemplating, and going crazy with several Go Pros, two of our friends retreated to the small hut behind us and quietly got engaged.

Engaged by sunrise!

Just them and the Himalayas and seemingly clueless friends standing nearby.

More awesome sunrises for you guys! :*


Indeed, sunrises make way for wonderful beginnings.

A few weeks ago, I felt like dark clouds were settling in and that I was starting to get stuck in a serious rut. Life seems to be going nowhere, and unfortunately, I do not have any fight within me to beat it.

It got me thinking why I never felt that way when I was on the road. What is it about traveling that makes your serotonin shoot up through the ceiling and allow you to see the world as your playground, consequently throwing you into delirious happiness?

I have learned that the fastest way to get out of a jam is to summon my traveling state of mind and try to recreate it in my 'other' life.

What happens to us when we travel?

**This post is mainly me giving myself a pep talk

We find a lot of amazing things 
The feeling of being in a new place leaves us breathless. We listen closely and watch people intently. All our senses are heightened and we find ourselves in awe of the people, things, and culture that surrounds us.

Amazed by the golden Shwedagon Pagoda

"Familiarity breeds indifference", Aldous Huxley once wrote. When you know a place so much like an old lover, it loses its magic. Think about the people who grew up by the ocean - are they still amazed by the crashing waves and the view of the massive sky everyday? Remember that feeling of being at peace when you saw the Buddhist monks in Myanmar perform a solemn ritual? Do you experience the same feeling when you witness the rites performed here?  I don't. We can all agree that it's a matter of perspective.

How to do this today: Always find something amazing. The key is in paying attention to the little things - the ones we usually never bother to notice. Take the time to look at the trees on your way to work, or notice how clearer the skies are after raining. That view by your office window, that's neat right? You used to think that view was great until you saw it hundreds of times in the past 5 years and then it meant nothing. Try to look a little closer surely you'll find a new patch of green.

No one judges anyone
When traveling in a foreign land, no one knows you and you don't know them - at least at first. We postpone judging, just drop our thoughts, and let life happen. No stereotyping. Part of the excitement while traveling comes from meeting people on the road. Not everyone will end up as a long-term friend, some will be our companions and most likely be forgotten in a few days, but everyone we meet affects us in subtle, little ways.

Now back in the homebase. If you grew up in a society where people have created nice, little spots for everyone, it can be hard to break out. Once we are in our designated spot, it can be daunting to venture out and the thought of having to explain ourselves is twice as stressful.

How to do this today:  The golden rule does not apply, not judging won't stop others from forming an opinion about you. There really is no other way to put it. Quit judging and quit minding those who judge. 


We don't hesitate to share a part of ourselves

In a sea of travelers, each one stands out and becomes an ambassador of the place he came from. How many times does your country take the spot in conversations? When we believe in something, we passionately share stories about it. Talking about one's homeland or skills need no rehearsing, it all comes out spontaneously.

How to do this today: When things are all too familiar, our interests wade and relationships go stale. Make an effort to reach out and share your insights about that new project you are working on or about the group you've just joined. Build on your new interests and continuously make yourself a better person.

We have at least an idea where we'll be in the near future 
Also known as an itinerary. When traveling, it doesn't necessarily mean that we have to follow our plans down to the dot and kill spontaneity, but most of us do have a rough idea where we will possibly be in the next few days.

Libona, Bukidnon at 6AM

In a place of comfort, we usually do not find ourselves looking for something else. However, comfort can equate to stagnation too and that's the voice that just won't quit nagging. When was the last time you penciled in a goal for your career or personal life and you actually did something about it? And that time when you missed great chances because you were so focused on that one thing you thought you wanted? That doesn't happen with your traveling mind. What's good about traveling is we can make plans and scratch them. Draft plans but make nothing definite.

How to do this today: Make tentative plans and throw randomness in. Will you have a lot of free time over the weekend? Plan to create things with your hands, to pay a surprise visit to your friends and family (suprise is key here), to cook your favorite chicken dish. If something comes up and you need to go to some far-flung place for an overnight trip, drop your makeshift plans and go!


We're up for absolutely anything 
When on the road, we take every opportunity and rarely think twice about it. Jump off the cliff to the sea? Why not! Start being serious with surfing? Go hang out with the locals? Get inked by the monks? Trek to the Everest Base Camp? Hmm.

In our 'other' life, we tend to have more reservations. We're hounded by the intricate plans we made and the judging voices in our head. In the absence of worrying about judgments and of ditching plans, we open a window for endless possibilities. Chances are we will have a grand time with whatever we come up with and if turns out to be one of those what-was-I-thinking moment,  it will still be a great story to tell.

Mt. Ugo - After a 7-hr trek

How to do this today: Say 'yes' to anything that you have even the slightest inkling too.. within the bounds of reason of course! My mantra has always been to try everything at least once. If you're feeling lazy about an activity, think trekking, push yourself through the door and still do it. You will like yourself more once you're done with it.


Your mind is always open to learn

"The more that you learn, the more places you'll go", said Dr. Seuss. Learning is exciting and it keeps us on our toes. Being in a foreign place always brings out the curious cat in anyone. We find ourselves reading about the Vietnamese War and the French Revolution. Watch Les Miserables and follow it right up with a fun one, maybe like Amelie. Maybe learn a few Gaelic phrases. We'd go as far as finding out the best chicken tikka masala in town. It's the thrill of learning that keeps us wanting for more.

Back in the non-traveling life, it's easy to lose one's self in the daily routine. The commute sucks but it could also mean the time to read. The innate need to learn and to keep ourselves interested will propel us through the tough days.

How to do this today: Learn new things. Always thought about cooking your own meals? Google a quick recipe. Pickup a phrase book and utter 'I need to eat something' in Spanish. Take home a bit of new knowledge everyday.

**

I evoke my traveling state of mind every single day. So if suddenly I ditch my plans or I seem zoned out, please do understand that I'm trying to get by. 😉

Any thoughts on how travel affects you? Share! 

Like most people, fireworks amaze me like a moth drawn to flame. It's even better when you set fireworks to music. Think sychronized swimming. Now it's just not all about bright explosions, but about art, choreography, colors and timing.
The Philippine International Pyromusical Competition is now running on its 5th year, and though I am a sucker for fireworks, this year was my first time to witness sparks fly everywhere.

Coming in early had its perks. I got to choose the best spot in the area and of course, aside from an unobstructed view of the main spectacle from Spain and United Kingdom, I had the chance to see the famous Manila Bay sunset. Because really, aside from seeing it while you're passing by Roxas Boulevard, when was the last time you purposely stopped to bask in the fiery beauty? 
The Patron area is a good spot for watching the sunset. PhP 1500 gets you a great front view plus a buffet dinner too!
Sunset view from my spot in the VIP area - it's as good as the Patron seats!
Early birds like me were greeted by bongo bands, mascots, and men walking on stilts. Food stalls were scattered around the area and their crew were going around the place to get orders from people like me who were hungry but couldn't manage to leave their spot.
I still believe that it was a TMNT mascot - maybe Leonardo
¡Ola!
SOS - Sekyu on Stilts
There were also several performances by dance groups throughout the night and half of The Zombettes, Sanya Smith, also played sets in between the performances.
Festivities went a notch higher when the announcer boomed over the speakers, officially starting the ceremony by playing our national anthem. The criteria were announced and the board of judges were introduced. A few minutes later, lights were dimmed for Brunchu Pyro of Spain. The theme for their entry was "Jump" - their way of telling Filipinos that we can jump over the hurdles of Yolanda.
Next entry was from Jubilee Fireworks from United Kingdom. Their entry started subtle with low fireworks in tune to the first slow beats and eventually breaking out into big, colorful explosions. I had a hard time fitting the sparks into the frame. UK also showcased different shapes to tickle your fancy, like hearts and palm trees and chili peppers like the photo below. It's either that or my imagination was all over the place!
It's no surprise that UK is the defending champion in the competition and a two-time winner (2010 and 2013). Former champions China and Canada are scheduled in the next few weeks and the competition would be tighter. But do we really care which country will take the trophy? The audience in awe is the true winner.
** The competition will run for 4 more Saturdays until March 22 at SM Mall of Asia (By the Bay).