Approximately 25km to the East of Kathmandu, in Bhaktapur District, you can capture Nepal at it’s essence. Nestled in the hills and crevices of the Kathmandu Valley, beyond the famous heritage site of Bhaktapur itself, a beautiful selection of villages, temples and nature await.
I spent 8 days in this gorgeous nook of the world in November 2016. I found the climate in Nepal to be comfortable this time of the year. Daytimes were warm (in the mid 20’s) and nights were cold- a result of the altitude. Telkot was my base point- a tiny village in the hills, 10km below Nagarkot. Nagarkot is renown for it’s spectacular views of the Himalayas and Kathmandu Valley. I made my way here via a local bus from Kathmandu via Bhaktapur- an adventure in itself! Weaving through the dusty backroads with the locals, you feel you could be on the Knight Bus from Harry Potter, (Nepal, after all, isn’t known for having quality roads.) Having caught the bus too far, I was lucky to capture the view from Nagarkot when stopping by the luxurious KavyaEpikurean Resort for Nepalese tea and directions. A week here in the hills enabled an oasis of serenity, with a selection of must-see sites within reachable distance. Here are my top 3 excursions:
Changu is located on a high hilltop surrounded by forest, a panorama of the Himalayas completing it’s landscape. You can walk here from Telkot (the next nearest village), passing by the huts and farms of the locals along the way. The beauty is in the contrast between snowy mountainsand a landscape below that in not unalike desert villages I’d expect to see in Africa.
The village of Changu houses the ancient Hindu temple of Changu Narayan, one of the oldest in Nepal. This temple miraculously survived the 2015 earthquakes while the village around it near- shattered. The locals are gentle, many of them selling quality, inexpensive home-made goods on the lane leading up to the temple. They have been working together to rebuild their village, and it’s fulfilling to be able to support them. Should you wish to stay longer, homestay with a local family is also an option. (Regrettably, I wasn’t able to do so due to my schedule.) With a 3 hour return walk- if you’re coming from Telkot- the combination of stunning views, history and shopping make for a lovely day.
Sankhu Village and Bajroyogini Temple
Stand in the right place and you’ll see the vast village of Sankhu sprawled in the valley below Telkot/ Nagarkot. Surrounded by crop fields, and with a river that weaves its way around the outskirts, Sankhu provides a classic example of Nepalese daily life. Take a walk down the hill from Telkot to capture the valley in it’s entirety (the nearest buses go to Telkot, or to Sankhu itself if you’re coming from the direction of Kathmandu.) Greet the locals as you pass through- you’ll find they are as interested in learning about your culture as you are about theirs.
Across the valley and halfway up the opposing hill lies Bajrayogini Temple, celebrating a Hindu Goddess by the same name. Getting there requires a walk up over 1000 steps through the jungle (a challenge- I won’t deny it) though the view is worth it. The main temple is 3 stories high and beautifully constructed. Monkeys, goats and cows can be seen along the way. Go there on the right day and you’ll be able to sit and listen as Nepalese play music and sing in celebration of their God. As you return through Sankhu, stop for some lunch at a local restaurant- after all that walking, you’ll need it
Sunrise at Nagarkot Heights
At 2,195 meters, Nagarkot Heights offers panoramic views of the Himalayas (including Everest) and Kathmandu Valley, making it one of the most scenic places in the District. Coming here at sunrise is probably the best way to see it. This will require an early start- but do ensure you get up there in time to source a prime location for the spectacle. To watch this everyday occurrence in such grand surroundings is truly powerful. The Himalayas sure have a way of capturing your full and undivided attention. If possible, take some masala tea up there with you. Not only will it keep you warm until the sun rears it’s head, but it will add to the experience of capturing Nepal’s finest.
Sometimes known as the ‘eighth’ wonder of the world, Angkor Wat has always been a mysterious place that I definitely wanted to tick off my travel list and that came true for me recently….
The town of Siem Reap Cambodia is home to Angkor Wat, built during the early years of the 12th century by King Suryavaram II. One of the world’s greatest historical and religious sites, Angkor Wat is UNESCO World Heritage listed.
Angkor Archaeological Park is located in north-west Cambodia and contains the remains of the Khmer empire. It is Cambodia’s number one tourist destination and is so famous and important that it is featured on the national flag. But as famous as it is, it represents only a small portion of this extraordinary site.The Angkor region contains many temples (built between the 9th – 15th Centuries) and include: Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom, The Bayon Temple, Banta Srey and many many more. Each temple is so different and unique in its architecture that I recommend at least a few days to take in as much of this breathtaking complex as possible. As there is so much to see, it is advisable to organize a local guide to show you around.
Banteay Srei is approx 25kms from the main complex of Angkor Wat and is a comparatively small 10th century temple. It has a pink hue due to the hard red sandstone and has extraordinary detail and exquisite sculptures. It is one of the oldest and most beautiful temples you will see in Siem Reap.
The Bayon stands the center of Angkor Thom which forms the heart of the Angkor complex as it is today. The Bayon forms a three tiered pyramid with 54 towers, each dominated by over 200 enormous four meter high mysterious faces all looking out to the north, south, east and west. Each incredibly formed face has a faint smile and closed eyelids. As with most of this magnificent archeological site, the colours change due to the light, depending on the time of day. I advise early in the morning or late afternoon
Giant figs and silk cotton trees have embedded their roots so deep into this temple that they have been left untouched as disturbing them could mean the crumbling of this historical and magnificent structure.
Angkor Wat and the city of Angkor Thom are historical and majestic but Ta Prohm is by far the most dramatic and enchanting temple of all, making it the most visited and popular amongst tourists. The temple of Ta Prohm was used as the eerie and surreal location for the movie Tomb Raider, starring Angelina Jolie, making this site even more popular and well known.
Top Attractions at Siam Reap:
Visit Phnom Kulen Mountainand see Lingas (rock carvings in the river bed ), Sleeping Buddha and the Phnom Kulen waterfalls.
Ballooning….balloon ride above Angkor Wat.
Eating…Many restaurants catering for every budget and taste, but none better than “The Sugar Palm” restaurant and bar.
Bars/Nightlife…Pub Street and the Old Market area have establishments that cater for drinkers and diners either for a quite cocktail or a thumping night club.
Markets…In town there is the Old Market (Phasr Chas) and the Central Market (Phasr Kandal) and also the famous Angkor Night Markets.
Bike riding…both standard bike and mountain bike riding have become very popular in Siem Reap. There are many places to hire from.
Golf…Phokeethra Country Club, opened in 2007, was the first international golf course in Siem Reap. A very challenging par 72 hole course.
Other popular activities include; cooking classes, horse riding, spa and massage and also classes for painting, weaving and carving. There is plenty to do in Siem Reap.
*Due to amount of walking and steps you may encounter and the heat, ensure you wear comfortable clothing and appropriate footwear.
*Angkor Wat is so popular I suggest you start your tour early in the mornings for two reasons.
1. Less crowded
2. The light in the morning is perfect for great photography
Tuk Tuk driver and guide
Mr Pech Vanny English speaking driver….Tel+855 97 72 65 499