Nepal opens its arms wide open to tourists seeking activities in the extreme department. It sports bungee jumping, canyoning, rafting, kayaking and paragliding. The reunion with nature has numerous possibilities to push oneself to the limit in Nepal. The most famous places frequented by tourists are Kathmandu, Pokhara and Lumbini. However, these adrenalin pumping activities may spell some serious cash, let alone the safety concerns for very young children.
It didn’t take me long to discover how this destination can be a treasure trove of cultural diversity and a threshold of merry escapades. This lovely place can richly supply meaningful cultural experiences that can be equally unforgettable and affordable. I wish to impart some inexpensive, life-changing activities that will leave your family a lasting impression of the Nepal heartbeat.
From my own family travel ventures, I recommend some unconventional and not-so-known activities you should not miss in Nepal:
Halfway between Kathmandu and Pokhara lies a few gems. Pristine beaches stretch parallel the riveting River of Trisuli. Nepal outdoors gifted us with the soft sand beneath our feet, the cool waves of the water and the refreshing gentle breeze.
If you wish for a grand repose and respite for your family, Mother Nature offers every inch of these in Nepal. What better way than to embark on a camp, cook simple meals at the campsite and for a moment, let your kids live the life of a true survivor.
You may opt to dine in the small, family-friendly local restaurants. The most popular camping sites are: Fishling, Kuringhat and Charaudi. Among the three, Charaundi stands out as my personal fave. It has a great local food house nearby and the scenery of the beach is like no other.
Interestingly, the sand on the river bank is different from the sand on the seashore. It is pure and not sticky. In our camping in Charaudi, the children enjoyed the luxury of playing with the sand for hours. They mingle with local kids and instantly they cliqued. The local fellows are friendly and soon enough your children will be in meeting-and-greeting mode. We even shared our supper with a local family.
In Nepal, you can find a variety of accommodation types - from extravagant ones to simple bamboo huts at the beach fronts. But a simple tent and sleeping bag can work wonders to take the whole camping adventure into an ultimate outdoor experience.
Perfect Timing: The most conducive period to go camping is between March and April and sometime between September and November. Come December, the weather gets extremely cold in the evening, while from May onwards the scorching heat of the sun may hamper the fun.
The Route: If you are in Pokhara, the best way to get there is to catch a bus or mini-van to Kathmandu, and vice-versa. Solicit the help of the driver to get down to one of the better camping places I mentioned earlier.
Cost-wise: The travel time will take around three hours and will cost between 300 to 500 Rupees per seat. For the camping gears, rental of a tent plays around 300 Rupees while one sleeping bag is ready for 60 Rupees.
Another expense will include the food. My children and I have availed ourselves with “eat all you want” style of serving at 100-120 Rupees per plate: lentil soup, rice, pickle and a combination of fresh and cooked vegetables. If you have an appetite to eat meat, think about adding 80 Rupees per head. Chai costs 10-20 Rupees and water comes handy at 20 Rupees.
Experiencing Tibetan Culture:
Nepal is the road that takes you to many remarkable individuals, Tibetan people among them, as Nepal is a vibrant home to many Tibetan people. There are two refugee camps situated around Pokhara City. The more distinguished one is called Tashi Palkhiel, based in a village called Hemja - 30 minute drive from Pokhara.
I gladly took my children there to gain a piece of what the Tibetan culture and Tibetan Buddhism are all about. The experience is preciously set apart from the ordinary visiting stints. Your children will earn the unique opportunity to meet monks their ages. They wear the red gown, shave their hair, recite the prayers, sing and play the authentic Tibetan music instruments.
My children witnessed the powerful message of the Tibetans' unique lifestyle, where the entire family lives in the same small room, without running water or electricity - but with a lot of happiness and joy. There is a genuine pleasure strolling around the camp, meeting the children playing on the street, and observing the women working in the house or weaving ropes from wool to earn a living.
The monks at the monastery were so accommodating and welcoming. They immediately begun to interact with us, shared their stories, entertained our questions and invited us to participate in their service. You can also spend the night at the monastery guest house, with nice clean basic rooms, and a taste of Tibetan food.
I remember thinking that the kid monks were no different from my own kids - running around in the halls, chasing each other, laughing and having fun. After our visit to the monastery, we walked on the streets of the camp. One girl followed us and soon we were talking with her and making her our friend. She invited us to her home, introduced us to her family and offered us tea. She took my children to her school and taught them a game. My kids never forget about her.
Perfect Timing: An encouraging news – any time of the year will be great for this short visit. If you want to observe the main service, better be around at 3:00-3:30 pm.
The Route: Take a taxi or a bus from Pokhara.
Cost-wise: The transportation cost is around 250-300 Rupees. The accommodation at the monastery guest houses has no fixed charge; but their customs encourage visitors to share some amount as donation.
Visiting Nepali Village:
Nepali village in several respect, is not your typical village; the lifestyle sustained within the community is nowhere close to western orientation. Immersing in Nepali Village will give you and your younger companions a glimpse of simplicity. The locals’ routine may not be fueled by modern comforts, but they are teeming with satisfaction and contentment.
Roaming around the Nepali village - whether half a day or the entire day - will allow you to savor that rural feel in it. It gives us a window to the heart and soul of the lovely community. There’s beauty about it, beyond a doubt. The Nepali families are very warm, hospitable and they adore children. They reside in small houses made of stone, wood or mud. Some homes do not even have a kitchen, and they cook on a prepared fire outside. They labor in the fields and eat from the food they grow. The chickens are running around with their chicks and the buffalo and goats are part of the family. More often than not there is no electricity.
From your trip from another location, you can have a short trek interlude before arriving in the village. When we headed to Ridchok, we had to walk up the mountain for a few hours to get to the village; but it was an enlightening experience because we understood what the local people brave every single day. Most of the children have to walk long distances to be in school and to bring home water, day after day .
The Nepali Villages frequented by tourists are: Astam (near Pokhara-Anapurna view), Ridchok (near Malekhu, Fishling-Himalaya view), and Saranghat (near Damauli,on the Seti river bank).
Perfect Timing: While March –April are fairly good in terms of weather advantage, I would recommend coming in September to November, as this period has cooperative weather too and just in time for biggest festival spectacle of the year- the Dassai.
Cost-wise: Transportation will cost you around 500 Rupees per pax. We have proven that local fellows would appreciate gifts of basic necessities like soap, vegetables, fruits, some candies and crayons for the children as a gesture of congeniality and gratitude, rather than money.
No matter how brief your family travel will be, it is never a bad idea to be a do-gooder. Sprinkle some generosity in any of the Nepali orphanages. These charitable facilities can be found in many places. Take your children to play with the orphans. They will learn indelible life lessons from each other. The children in the orphanage are very sweet and most of them speak English. They frolic around visitors in sheer delight. The sparkle in their eyes is in itself a language of gratitude that eludes the words. Your children will remember it and learn the beautiful thing called empathy.
Seize a chance to let your children see some Nepali and Hindi dance performances at the local community center. There is more to Nepali and Hindu dances than mere moves; there is heritage breathing. The songs and the movements tell a whole story and teach you a lot about this beautiful culture. It is always a winsome choice to expose your children to different forms of cross-cultural arts; it awakens their capacity for appreciation and inspires their creativity.