Kerala, India
Red Lantern Journeys

Red Lantern Journeys specializes in arranging sightseeing tours and adventure travel packages to Asia customized to fit your schedule and interests. We focus on the best destinations in Asia including, Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar, China, Mongolia, Bhutan, Tibet, Nepal, and India.


Article and photos by published | june ‘09

Many people travel to Nepal to trek and climb amongst the highest mountains in the world. However, you don’t need to don a backpack to see the mountains and experience Nepal’s unique culture and history dating to the days when Buddha walked this part of the world. The temples and shrines of Kathmandu, the beautiful architecture of the buildings in the ancient capitals of Patan and Baktapur, the mountains of the Annapurna range towering over Pokhara, and the wildlife of Chitwan National Park offer some of the most unique and diverse set of experiences in the world—without having to hike ten miles a day.

My passion is mountain climbing and I’ve trekked and climbed in Nepal on several occasions, including an attempt to climb Mt. Everest in 2005. However, my last trip in March 2009 was with my 69-year-old mother and 70-year-old aunt, and we focused on sightseeing in and around Pokhara and Kathmandu and visiting an orphanage that I support there. These two women are only moderately adventurous and their main hobby is quilting, but my involvement in the orphanage by raising money through a benefit climb of Mt. Rainier in Washington State the last four years piqued their interest. They wanted to help the orphanage by donating more than money, so I arranged a two-week trip for them and adjusted my schedule so that I could be with them for part of that time.

The day after they arrived in Kathmandu, we flew to Pokhara for a couple of days. The 30-minute flight on a small turboprop airplane flies at about 20,000 feet and gives an incredible view of the Himalaya when the weather is good. Be sure to get a seat on the right side of the airplane!

Nepal woman with yarnPokhara is known for being a picturesque lakeside town, the start and end point of many treks into the Annapurna region, and of having incredible views of the mountains from the city itself. Unfortunately, the weather was a bit cloudy while we were there and we only caught a hazy glimpse of them one morning, but even that was spectacular. Because the mountains weren’t out much, the highlight of our visit to Pokhara was a visit to the Tibetan Refugee Center where we visited a Tibetan-Buddhist monastery and a hand-loomed carpet center. At the carpet center we were able to actually sit with the women as they spindled the wool into yarn and worked the looms, hand-tying each knot at the speed of an electric sewing machine. They also patiently let us try our hand at it.

After a couple of days in Pokhara, we returned to Kathmandu by car. It’s about a 6-hour drive through rural villages, river canyons, and terraced fields, but the road can sometimes get clogged by truck traffic, espcially as you near Kathmandu. It’s worth the drive, though, just to be able to drive through some of the small towns and villages in the countryside.


nepal funeralYou can visit the three main sites of Pashupatinath, the Boudhanath Stupa, and Swayambunath in a day. However, I recommend taking your time and spending at least a half day at each place to soak up the atmosphere, take photos, and watch the local people as they perform their ritualistic ceremonies. I also recommend that you go with a guide. A guide will be able to make sense of everything going on at the temples and to explain the history and current happenings much better than a guidebook.

Pashupatinath, situated on the banks of the Bagmati River is the oldest and holiest Hindu Temple in Kathmandu. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, one of the three main Hindu deities, it serves as a place of worship, a hospice, and a crematorium. Only Hindus are allowed to enter the main temple, but the cremations are done on open air platforms along the river banks. Anyone is allowed to walk along the opposite side of the river and watch the happenings from there and you’re likely to see several funeral pyres and funeral ceremonies during the course of a day. As a westerner, I felt like I was intruding on very personal ceremonies…not just the cremations, but also ceremonies between a priest and family members who were still mourning their lost relatives from the previous year. However, as someone who was once married to a Hindu Indian woman in a Hindu wedding ceremony, I understand that ceremonies of joy and mourning in South Asian cultures are meant to be shared with society and one needn’t be shy about asking questions and even participating if invited.

bejeweled BuddhaThe 14th-century Boudhanath Stupa is the largest stupa in the country and the center of Tibetan culture in Nepal. It is surrounded by monasteries filled with chanting monks and the pungent odor of incense. Local Tibetans and monks make it a daily ritual to walk clockwise around the stupa and spin the hundreds of prayer wheels surrounding it. Shops filled with Buddhist and Tibetan artifacts also abound. Common souvenirs include multi-colored Buddhist prayer flags, singing bowls made from five different metals, carpets, and hand-painted mandalas.

Swayambunath is also known as the "Monkey Temple" because of the hundreds of monkeys that live on the grounds of the park. They make for good photos, but they can be quite aggressive, so be careful with food and don’t get too close. This temple was founded roughly 2000 years ago, which gives some perspective on how ancient the history of Nepal is. The dominating feature of all the Buddhist stupas in Nepal are the all-seeing eyes of Buddha painted on each of the four walls of the tower. Between the eyes is what looks like an inverted question mark, but it is the Nepali symbol for the number one, which also represents unity.


nepal doorwayThe Mitrata Orphanage in Nepal was founded in 2000 by Nanda Kulu of Kathmandu and Christine Schutz of St. Louis. Nanda runs the orphanage, and Christine runs the US-based non-profit called the Mitrata Foundation for Children, whose sole function is to raise money to support the orphanage and educate the children. About 50 children live there now, many whose parents died during the Maoist conflict in Nepal. Another 30 live outside the orphanage, often with destitute single mothers and their education is provided for them by the orphanage.

My mother and aunt spent several days at the Mitrata Orphanage. They brought suitcases full of clothing, books, and even a laptop computer from my Uncle Bud. But their goal was to get to know that kids and help teach some skills so that they could speak from personal knowledge of the needs of the children and the home. They used their sewing expertise to design a couple of projects, one to have the girls hand-sew simple draw string purses. The other was to have each child trace their hand on a quilting block and create their own design on it. My mom and aunt have taken these blocks home now and are in the process of creating a quilt out of them that they will send back to the orphanage.

The children of Mitrata have touched all of our hearts. For kids that have gone though such tough times, the children at the home are happy and have a big family that extends from the other children to the staff to their sponsors and supporters in the US and even Europe.

About Nepal

Nepal boatsNepal is a very small country roughly the size of Arkansas. It is bordered by only 2 countries: India to the south, east, and west; and the Tibet region of China to the north. In fact, 8 of the 10 highest mountains in the world are in Nepal, including Mt. Everest.

Nepal is difficult to get to from the US, requiring roughly 20 to 40 hours or more of travel time depending on your departure city. To get there from the US, you can go east either through Europe or the Middle East to New Delhi or west through Bangkok, Hong Kong, or Singapore. If you go through New Delhi, you’ll likely need to overnight there, which also means you’ll need an Indian Visa. If you go through Southeast Asia, there are better connecting flights and you probably won’t need a visa if you do have to spend a night en route.

The main tourist area in Kathmandu is called Thamel with lots of shops and great restaurants and bars. It has accommodations ranging from the very cheap budget guesthouses to 3-star hotels. Other, more luxurious hotels in the 4 and 5-star categories include the Shangri-La, the Hyatt Regency, and my personal favorite, Dwarika’s, a locally-owned heritage hotel with beautifully restored wood-work rescued from abandoned structures destined to be demolished.

Nepal ended a 10-year war with Maoist rebels in 2006, which also ended the reign of the only Hindu Kingdom in the world. As a result, Nepal is now a democratic republic, but is still politically unstable.

Additional Info :

Dwarika’s Hotel:

Sacred Destinations Kathmandu:

The Mitrata Orphanage:

Climb for Himalaya Children:

CIA World Factbook on Nepal:

the arc magazineBack to top »

MediaStormiUniversePreemtive Love CoalitionCD BabyRed Lantern JourneysFeast