Nepal 2023

Exploring Nepal’s Capital City

As we strolled along the vibrant streets of Katmandu, a striking observation caught my attention – the monkeys that forty years ago graced every temple seem to have vanished into thin air, as if whisked away by the authorities. In their place, what caught my eye were the intricate arrangements of electric wires on the poles, resembling an art installation worthy of any museum.

We ascended the grandiose Monkey Temple, a place of great spiritual significance supposedly dedicated to Buddhism. However, to my surprise, it was buzzing with Hindu visitors, making the visit even more fascinating. As I soaked in the atmosphere, it became clear that Nepal is a unique blend of cultures and religions or, as I call it, the oneness.

We also visited Durbar Square, a complex of ancient palaces, temples, and courtyards that was once the center of Kathmandu’s royal power. In a beautiful wood ornament courtyard, we had a glimpse at Kumari, the living Nepali girl goddess; no photos were allowed. She is a manifestation of the Hindu goddess Taleju or the Buddhist deity Vajradevi. There are several Kumaris in Nepal, but the most important one is the Royal Kumari of Kathmandu, who lives in a palace called Kumari Ghar.

Bhaktapur and A Taxi Driver’s Perspective on Hinduism and Buddhism in Nepa

We embarked on a day trip to Bhaktapur, an ancient town on the old trade route that connected India and Tibet. As we wandered through the narrow streets, we were greeted by many beautiful temples, some of which had been standing for over a millennium.

During our ride to Bhaktapur, I asked our taxi driver if he was Hindu or Buddhist. He answered, saying he is a Hindu, and then quickly added, in Nepal, it’s all the same, God is one. I loved that!

It is a pleasure to be traveling with the kids, who are seasoned adventurers and know how to make the most of their budget. What impressed me even more than their travel expertise was their remarkable kindness, patience, and love toward one another. Witnessing their harmonious interactions brings immense joy to my heart.

Joyous News from Kathmandu: Deena and Tomer Announce Engagement

Deena and Tomer have just made a joyous announcement of their engagement here in Kathmandu! I am beyond excited and overwhelmed with emotions. Wishing them both a lifetime of love and happiness as they embark on this new journey together. May all their dreams and desires come true! They are the sweetest couple.

A Humbling Visit to Manakamana and A Wild Ride from Kathmandu to Pokhara

We embarked on a memorable journey from Kathmandu to Pokhara, choosing to hire a jeep with an exceptional driver who skillfully navigated us through the day. Our journey included one stop at Manakamana, where we rode a cable car up to a mountaintop and visited a Hindu shrine dedicated to the goddess Bhagwati, an incarnation of Parvati. Witnessing the heartfelt wishes of so many devotees was a humbling experience. Even though the tradition involves sacrificing a goat or a chicken to seal the power of the goddess, we expressed our wishes instead with deep intentions only. Deena and Tomer even discussed the gender of their future child, which I found endearing.

The road conditions were treacherous and one of the worst I had ever encountered. The road was under construction and covered with thick rain slush towards our journey’s end, making it feel like a wild ride. When I reminisce about that journey, words like slushy, bumpy, dusty, chaotic, under construction, and dilapidated come to mind. Despite the unnerving experience, our driver’s expertise and aggressiveness got us to our destination safely, making it all worthwhile. Waking up in a cozy hotel room in Pokhara, we feel grateful for this unforgettable adventure.


Pokhara served as our base camp; it was our starting and ending point for the trek. Located about 200 km west of Kathmandu, it is a popular tourist destination in Nepal. We stayed in the well-curated and maintained lakeside neighborhood, which is known for its easy-going atmosphere.

On our return journey, Milan and Deepak, our porters, took us for a hike to the Peace Pagoda. This Buddhist stupa is situated on a hilltop overlooking Pokhara and was built in the 1970s as a symbol of peace.


Holi is the “Festival of Colors” or the “Festival of Love.” Appropriately for Deena and Tomer’s engagement background photos. The festival is typically celebrated by throwing colored powders and water at each other, dancing, singing, and feasting. The colorful powders represent the arrival of spring and the victory of good over evil. The water is usually mixed with turmeric powder, which has a cleansing and purifying effect.

I heard that in India, people splashed colors on each other during this festival, and I was worried about my “fine uniform” getting ruined. However, to my surprise, people respected boundaries, and it was clear who wanted to be painted and who did not.

Embarking on the Annapurna Circuit Trek

We’re gearing up for the Annapurna Circuit trek. Tomorrow, we’ll start the ascend to dizzying heights of 17,769 feet (5416 m) with grit and determination to guide us. Thankfully, we have all the essential gear and two porters by our side.

It’s been four decades since I last hiked this trek, and I won’t lie, I’m feeling a mix of excitement and apprehension. Will I still have what it takes? Will I be able to keep up with my kids? These questions linger in my mind as I prepare for the journey ahead. But one thing is for sure – this adventure will be an unforgettable one, full of breathtaking vistas and awe-inspiring moments that will stay with us for a lifetime.

Thrilling Adventures on Nepal’s Suspension Bridges

The narrow suspension bridges are the only way to cross the raging rivers. Forty years ago, they were made of wooden planks. Today, they are made of metal grating and suspended by steel cables that stretch from one side of the river to the other. Although these bridges sway and bounce, making them feel unstable, Tomer and Deena are thrilled to cross them. On the other hand, I prefer to avoid looking down or to the sides because the rushing water below can make me feel disoriented. Instead, I keep my focus on the next step.

Road to Improvement

Nepal is at the lower end of the global poverty index. Nepalis are working diligently to enhance their living standards despite their challenging circumstances. Accessibility is one such area that is receiving attention. Although road construction techniques are often rudimentary and risky, progress is being made. Another area of improvement is internet connectivity. Almost all tea houses we stopped at had WiFi available, allowing Nepalis to broaden their horizons, aspire, and dreams.

A Walking Meditation

Chame, elevation of 2670 meters (8760 feet), is our chosen resting place after a five-day hike. The magnificent scenery is awe-inspiring. Everywhere you look, there are majestic mountain peaks and lush, forested slopes.

Houses are blended seamlessly into their natural surroundings, like gems nestled in the rugged terrain.

The gushing river provides a constant soundtrack. While my companions find the suspension bridge crossings thrilling, I just want to reach the other side.

The gravel road that makes up most of the trail is suitable for motorbikes and jeeps. While Nepal’s road infrastructure is under construction, and the methods used may seem rudimentary and risky, they now allow remote villages to be accessible. With readily available WiFi, the locals can access the internet and develop their aspirations and dreams, adding a touch of modernity to this otherwise rustic paradise.

Every day, I remind myself many times over, especially when I catch my mind drifting, the mantra my beloved Danna suggested: “You are here, right now, right here!” and thus the trek becomes a walking meditation.

A Hike Through a Snow Globe

When I woke up a couple of days ago in Upper Pisang, elevation 3300 meters (10,826 ft), I looked through the window and saw a deep carpet of snow. I thought to myself, “Are we going to walk today or just bunker in?” After consulting with Milan, our head porter, and checking the weather app, we decided to venture out to our next destination. It turned out to be a magical hike, as if we were walking inside a snow globe. The sun was shining, and snowflakes were falling from the pine trees.

Acclimating to Higher Altitudes: A Steep Climb to Ice Lake

Manang sits at an elevation of 3,519 meters (11,545 ft). Yesterday we embarked on a side trek to Ice Lake, which stands at 4600 meters (15,100 ft). The purpose of this trek was to acclimate ourselves to higher altitudes by ascending during the day and descending for a night’s rest.

The recent snowfall made the trail slippery; I was fortunate to have crampons. The climb was very steep and challenging, but it felt like a good preparation for what lies ahead in a few days when we reach the upper camp and make the final push to Thorong La Pass.

The morning views, when the sky is clear and sunny, of the Annapurna mountain range, are breathtaking. Especially the sight of Annapurna II, which was on full display as we climbed up to Ice Lake.

Buddhist Monasteries and Mindful Practices

As we trek through the Upper Annapurna region, we come across several Buddhist monasteries, prayer flags, and other religious symbols that signify the deep spiritual connection between the locals and their faith.

We often see local people spinning prayer wheels, cylindrical devices with inscriptions of sacred mantras that are believed to spread blessings and positive energy into the surrounding environment. Others chant mantras as they go about their daily lives. This constant reminder of spirituality and mindfulness is calming, peaceful, and contagious.

The Breathtaking High Desert of Manang to Upper Camp

For two days, we trekked from Manang to the Upper Camp, a section of the region safeguarded from monsoon by the towering Annapurna range. As a result, the landscape here is arid, with meager vegetation, making it a high desert.

However, this seemingly barren terrain holds a special place in my heart, owing to its breathtakingly beautiful and striking colors. The primary tones of gray, brown, and white dominate the landscape, while sudden bursts of vivid beige, dark pink, burgundy, and deep green add a touch of vibrancy. This combination of colors in its raw and untamed form creates an awe-inspiring and stunning sight.

The final stretch of this walk, from the Lower Camp to Upper Camp, a 500 meters (1640 ft) elevation gain, was quite the challenge. My body was pushed to its limits, as the ascent became steeper and more strenuous. I felt my nose running uncontrollably, my legs becoming increasingly heavy, and despite sweating profusely, a cold sensation crept over me. The temperature was around 0-5°C. The burning sensation in my lungs forced me to halt and take deep breaths, while the slippery ice-covered terrain demanded extra caution. And to top it off, snowflakes danced in every direction. In those moments, pure grit came into play. And when I finally reached my destination, I felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude.

We did it!

I am filled with joy and ecstasy, completely overwhelmed by the intensity of this experience I have dreamed about for so long. Hafiz, the 13th-century Persian poet, expressed it much better when he said, “The beloved has gone completely wild – He has poured Himself into me! I am blissful and drunk and overflowing.”

Ascending to the Summit

I’m struggling for air, awake in a cramped room at Upper Camp. Three beds, that’s all. The altitude’s to blame, my mind reasons, but my body’s in panic mode. “Breathe,” I tell myself, “deeply and slowly.” I lie on my back, avoiding my side or stomach.

Waiting is all I can do, not wanting to disturb Deena and Tomer, who are sound asleep nearby. What am I waiting for? The 4:15 alarm, or perhaps, better yet, for the sweet release of sleep to overtake me. And so the night drags on until 4:15 arrives.

The alarm goes off at 4:15. We spring out of our sleeping bags, hastily prepare ourselves and our belongings, and head to the packed dining room for black coffee and porridge. By 5:15, we are ready to depart.

A procession of roughly 30 to 40 hikers, porters, and guides from various groups, all sporting headlamps, embark into the darkness. There is no scenery to behold, only the sound of crampons crunching into snowy white powder and birds chirping.

At 6:30, the light starts to reveal the breathtaking white surroundings. We come across a tea house that offers hot, delicious lemon tea for the price of a meal. It’s hard to believe that someone actually lives and operates it.

The trail ascends 500 meters (1640 ft) in elevation, but the slope is moderate, not particularly difficult except for the cold and shortness of breath. I walk at a slow pace, passing some and being passed by others. Everyone is in their own zone of silence. I dare to stop and take off my gloves to snap some photos, thinking to myself, if not now, when?

Tomer patiently waits for me, and we continue in unison. I believe that he is accompanying me to ensure that I am safe and sound, although I have not explicitly asked him about his intentions. Nevertheless, I will stick to my story because I like it!

At around 8:30, we see Deena, who enthusiastically beckons to us whilst capturing footage. We have finally ascended to the pass, an elevation of 5416 meters (17770 ft). Embracing one another, as well as our porters, we revel in this momentous accomplishment.

I am overcome with jubilation, having envisioned and yearned for this moment for a long time. I am intoxicated by the ecstasy of being alive. Deena selects a tune, and Milan joins me in a dance.

After documenting our achievement and surveying our surroundings, we proceed towards the daunting descent – a staggering 1700 meters (5770 ft), treacherous and slick.

Deena, with her fitness and agility, resembled a true gazelle and stayed far ahead of Tomer and me, while our porters trailed in between. The sunny window we had enjoyed was now replaced by a steady shower of snowflakes that grew increasingly dense and intense as we descended further.

Unfortunately, our porters were struggling due to inadequate equipment; they were forced to share a single pair of crampons, as the other was useless. To make matters worse, they neglected to wear sunglasses, and the blinding snow glare made them dizzy. Deepak was particularly unstable, but they stuck together, relying on one another for support.

Despite their efforts, Deepak slid and fell, but Milan was quick to help him up. We pressed on; I worried about their safety as I struggled to manage my own screaming knees amidst the slippery and steep terrain and the relentless snowflakes. Tomer remained close by.

After a while, we stopped for lunch and relished a delicious bowl of vegetable noodle soup. Finally, by 2:00 pm, we reached Muktinath, where we are taking a rest for the day.

The Significance of Muktinath for Hindus and Buddhists

Muktinath is a sacred place for both Hindus and Buddhists, and the pilgrimage to Muktinath holds significant importance for both communities. Many devotees visit this site every year.

For Hindus, Muktinath is one of the 108 Vaishnava shrines where Lord Vishnu is worshipped as the supreme deity. It is believed that taking a dip in the holy waters of the Muktinath temple can cleanse one’s sins and help attain salvation or “moksha” – freedom from the cycle of death, suffering, and rebirth. The temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu, and it is believed that the deity resides in the sacred waters of the temple.

For Buddhists, Muktinath is an important site associated with Guru Rinpoche, the founder of Tibetan Buddhism. It is believed that Guru Rinpoche meditated at Muktinath and attained enlightenment here.

Once again, a profound spiritual journey, connection with faith, seeking blessings, and attaining spiritual purification do not distinguish between Hindus and Buddhists in Nepal, as they believe in God’s oneness. The rest of the world can learn a lot from this.

Creating Lasting Memories on the Annapurna Circuit

I have just completed the incredible Annapurna Circuit trek in Nepal with my amazing son Tomer and soon-to-be daughter-in-law Deena. Their excellent companionship made the journey even more special and deepened our relations and love. Thank you both for an unforgettable adventure filled with breathtaking scenery, laughter, and cherished memories. Love you both!