It was four in the morning, I woke up and just couldn’t go back to sleep. The chilly weather’s not helping either. I tossed and turned to wake my buddy’s deep slumber to no avail. And then I remembered that we’ve got some laundry work to do so I went to our tiny bathroom and started the job not minding the freezing water. After two hours of battling with the icy water, I finished the job. I went out to the clothesline right outside our door (we’re on the rooftop) passing by my buddy who was still dead to the world. And then the majestic sunrise greeted me as I started to drape our clothes, it was lovely that I needed to stop for a moment to savor it.
My buddy got up as I was about to finish the last batch of my laundry work. He was stunned. I smiled, greeted him and asked if he wanted some coffee.
I knew that we needed to stay at Nawaranga Guesthouse the moment I saw it. We planned to stay just for a night but were so captivated with the relaxed feel and somberness of Dhulikhel. We had three full days and did only two major temple runs and slackened most of the time, coz it will be such a disservice to the subdued nature of the place if we’re in haste.
It was hazy all throughout our stay so we didn’t get to see the nice view of the snow-capped Himalayas. But the fact that we’re situated at 1,550 meters above sea level is quite noteworthy. I’m not a fan of chilly weather but this place is really nice.
On our very first day in Dhulikhel, we explored the southern end to one of the oldest Newari (Indigenous people of the Kathmandu Valley) towns in Nepal. The medieval city that survived for five centuries now is still inhabited. The Narayan Temple is located at the old town’s center (dedicated to Lord Krishna) and the main square is usually flocked with locals. Again, just like with the Kathmandu temples, this ancient town wouldn’t be as legit and soulful without the warm bodies that dotted every corner of it.
|Old town's main square|
We walked further along the narrow paths and alleys and were greeted by locals as we were mistaken to be Nepalese. There were no tourists at that time and we would easily pass as locals sans the cameras slinging on our bodies. The fine Newari craftsmanship is shown on their houses and structures around town. The planning of the city was in line with Hindu doctrines with regard to the positioning of the temples and structures which has its own meaning and importance. The brick houses also provide the needed warmness in this cold valley.
We then headed to the Bhagwati Temple where one can have a nice view of Dhulikhel. There were lovers who seemed to be canoodling and some kids who were practicing their biking skills. I love this place for its naivety.
We went back to the town’s main square to check out the afternoon scenes. Old folks gathered around on one of the podiums to witness a chess match, some young boys setting up a table and getting ready for a billiards-like game and some girls who rushed to us asking if we’d like to take their photos.
We took some snapshots; afterwards they hugged and asked us for some chocolates. There’s this girl who didn’t let go of me even if I informed her that I’ve got no chocolates. She then started to ask for some money instead. That ruined the moment. We could blame the kids for begging or the tourists who sent the wrong message of giving ‘rewards’. She didn’t let go of me and all I could do was to look at her in dismay. An old woman from one of the windows instructed me to just hit the girl, but I couldn’t do that. A lady passed by us and saw what was happening and hit the girl with her hand. That’s equally sad.
Moving on, we headed at the main square to look for a coffee shop for our caffeine-fix and there was none. A guy in an eatery asked if we want to try some legit Nepali tea, we said yes and asked the server to give us some. Apparently, it was Chhaang, a fermented millet drink that’s comparable to the Philippines’ rice wine. It was a nice booze at 10 Rupees (US$0.10) per glass so we asked for more while lounging on the side of the road.
When the elderly women saw me guzzling a few glasses, they went over to us and started speaking in Nepali. I couldn’t understand them but by the looks of it, they were mad, mad in a very grandma-like way. They were pointing to the glass and gestured that I needed to stop drinking for I might pass out and will be robbed afterwards. When they saw me smiling, they reiterated their message by motioning that I should stop drinking and let my buddy finish the glass so that I could carry him if he got drunk. They even told us to just eat, go home and sleep coz it’s getting dark. Upon seeing their huge concern (and them telling the guy who invited us that he’s such a jerk), I finally surrendered and gave in. We thanked them for being so concerned and headed back to our guesthouse all boozed up.
|This eatery sells hardcore Chaang|
It was really amazing; they are speaking in Nepali and we are speaking in English but it seemed like we were way beyond our own tongues and communicated through our kindred hearts.
And then our temple runs.
Our lovely host, Mr. Purna, showed us a hand-drawn map of Dhulikhel and pointed us to our first temple, the Namo Buddha. He gave us two options to get there; a 3-hour trek with the nicest view of the Himalayas or a 1-hour bumpy bus ride. The choice was easy.
We asked around and found the bus on the main road. We paid 40 Rupees (US$ 0.40) each for the non-AC bus heading to Namo Buddha. The bus scene was reminiscent of what I normally experience in the Philippines; packed and tight.
We got off the bus and trek some more to get to the stupa where the young Buddha’s bones were laid. Prayer flags were hung everywhere leading to it. And then we got to the topmost part.
The fact that it’s the most sacred Buddhist pilgrimage sites in the world outshines the stunning view from that standpoint. Pilgrims and tourists are flocking to the stupa with admiration and respect to Buddha.
|Where's the stupa?|
The place also houses the old Thrangu Tashi Yangtse Monastery. We headed there and checked out the monks’ way of life. The view of the rice terraces is also stunning. This is a perfect place for meditation and contemplation.
We were in the middle of the climb and I just wanna surrender. I detest any inclined surface.
We’re on our way to the Kali Temple, a supposedly 30-minute hike from our guesthouse, but no, it took an hour or so for us to get to the top. The steep uphill climb on the concrete steps was exhausting in spite the chilly weather. There are a thousand steps to be accomplished just to get to the hilltop temple with the stunning view of the Himalayas. And then I remembered that it was too hazy at that time that it will be too hard to imagine what it should look like without the haze.
|30 steps down, 1070 to go. Ugh!|
There’s a pit stop though, the Shanti Ban where a huge golden statue of Buddha can be found. It sits atop a hill and the view there is really impressive.
Back on our hike/climb/trek to the Kali Temple, we saw some kids who were rushing for school, they came from the top of the hill. They would stop by and chitchat with us, almost all of them. Apparently, they like speaking with tourists to hone their English proficiency. They were really cute.
|They wanna chat with us|
And then a couple of local guys said hi and chatted with us. They were baffled upon knowing that we’re from the Philippines. It’s the first time, they said, that they encountered Filipino tourists. And they started to share some stories about Dhulikhel from their childhood and the way things are going in terms of politics and stuff. They were so nice and you could feel the sincerity as they speak.
And so we reached the Kali Temple. Well, there’s a shrine there and that’s it. We climbed a thousand steps to check out a small shrine with a hazy view as backdrop. But we were not whining for we met really cool people on our way up, so it’s really the climb eh?
Climbing back down was easier, of course. It took us half the time when we went up to finish the thousand steps. And then we saw an eatery at the foot of the hill and had some coffee, al fresco style. It’s as if we’re on a backyard of someone with the nice flowers from the garden and a brood of chickens wandering around. In a few hours, we’re leaving Dhulikhel.
|Nepali Milk coffee is to die for|
|My buddy's 80-Rupee (US$ 0.80) rock star do!|
Dhulikhel is a great somber place altogether. The very essence of the word ‘laidback’ is this place. It just feels so light and free. There’s no worry or anxiety. No need for pricey pills and expensive shrink fees; if you wanna detox, Dhulikhel is just the perfect and organic anti-depressant for you.