The alternative Kathmandu: #1 A walk back in time.

A Walk back to time indeed 🙂

Tales of Mindful Travel

The alternative Kathmandu

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If this is your second visit to Kathmandu you may be in need of a few thoughts to explore the city further, understand it more, so you don’t just have a quick stay before shooting off to Pokhara, Solu Kumbhu etc. If this is your first visit then we hope to help you get more out of your trip and get out of the mainstream rather than following the hordes every day to Swayambhu, Pashpatinath or Durbar Square.

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1 Basantapur to Thamel

This is our #1 city walk through some of the oldest parts of Kathmandu. We’re not going to give you a detailed map (Google offline download of Kathmandu should do that!) nor is this a history of the area. Suffice to say you could do this at a decent pace in 30 mins or about 90 mins if you take lots of photos and explore…

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My Favourite Nepalese Foods!! Part 3

3)Bhat, Daal and Tarkari.

Honestly for me and my family , not a day goes by, without having a proper set of ‘Bhat, Daal and Tarkari’.  I can vouch, same goes for any Nepalese family whether living in Nepal or abroad.  And as I mentioned previously,  ‘Dhidho and Sishnu’ may be the traditional Nepalese food, but staple diet is this set, a cuisine very well popular in South East Asia.

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Bhat, Daal, Tarkari with Achar, gheu (liquified ghee), papaad and machha(fish).

‘Bhat’ refers to ‘Boiled rice’ usually ‘white rice’, ‘Daal’ is soup made of lentils. Any lentils (black gram, petit yellow, pink, brown chickpeas etc etc ). And ‘Tarkari’ is a vegetable curry. Most families, add on side ‘Achar’ which basically means pickle, something that is sour and spicy, to give your tongue that last ‘click’.

I must say, do not  be surprised hearing, about people  preferring ‘Daal, bhat and tarkari’ for morning lunch and evening dinner too. If you ask me, I even make in-between meals with ‘fried rice’ from left-overs.  Why not? It is healthy as well. Fills in the definition of ‘my plate’ for healthy diet given by USDA itself. ‘Bhat’ provides ‘carbohydrate’, ‘Daal’ gives proteins and ‘Tarkari’ has  ‘greeneries,’ meaning vitamins. Bravo right?? In addition, since both ‘bhat and daal’ are boiled, the ‘fat’ content on the meal is quite less. Yupiee for me”

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Thakali set

But then,  you must know the portions you want to include with these cuisine. Preferably  ‘Daal and Tarkari’ more to ‘Bhat’. Otherwise, like my mom says ”Dumb like there is nothing in your head except Bhat, Bhat and Bhat’. 😉

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Last time i had a ‘delecious’ invite over.. hehhe

4) Wai Wai noodles.

Yup! When you walk in Nepal and you don’t buy this ‘packet’ of brown noodle, you might want to give  a second thought, to  ‘how complete was your trip to Nepal?’. I tell you, as much as the popularity of momo goes, it runs side by side. You can boil it, fry it,  have it just the way it was packed or season it raw and enjoy the crustiness, while you sit together with your friends for house warming gatherings, movies or kitty parties! It is perfect for occasions..believe me. And it comes in all flavors’

That is me stocking my ‘wai wai’ load, when i last entered into a Nepali shop.

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Love seasoning it and eating it unprepared.

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LOve this one boiled or fried.

At other times, when i run out os stock, i try my best effort to survive with any other noodle available. Thank God for Ramens!! Nepalese are superfans of Noodles” did you know that? Atleast everyone that i know of 🙂

My Favourite Nepalese Foods!! Part 2.

2) MOMO

Yup MOMO!  And as good as the name has a ring to it, believe me, the taste is equally good, infact better.

(My current status and usual status)

It is the most popular dish among kathmandities. And there are no streets in Kathmandu, to my knowledge at least, that won’t serve you a delicious plate, be it a local restaurant, cafeteria, hotels or street vendors. Of course, nothing tastes better than ‘home made momos’. But, for that, you will have to wait for a big gathering or some sorta family reunion, where everyone participates in the cooking process. (The trend is big in Nepal. Invitation to ‘MoMo party’ is  a big YES always! )

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And trust me, when i say it, every household in Kathmandu knows the recipe for ‘these dumplings’. However, many of us still prefer eating outdoors or ordering take-aways because  ‘gulping them quick’ is much easier than sitting down and ‘preparing them’. Stating the obvious fact. (No one likes to play chef when one gets to be a customer..Right? Atleast not me :))

So enough of that then. Lets start with, what is momo and how is it prepared? 

‘Momo’ is a basically a ‘steamed dumpling’, made either with vegetables or meat wrapped in  flour. Ones like Chinese dumpling but much smaller in size. That  reminds me to mention, the dish itself may not be a of ‘Nepalese origin’, though’ where and how did it flourish in Nepal is definitely an answer i am looking forward to know.

So, preparation of ‘Momo’ is a two step process. 1) prepare the wrap and 2) Make the filling.

Question is, how do you prepare the wrap? Well, make the dough by usual process, mixing water with flour and kneading till the consistency is right. Do i need to explain more??? Oh well..Pound the flour, squeeze it and press; time and again with your heels firmly on it, back and forth, till the flour is soft, elastic and smooth.. So when you are done, poke it, does it spring back? If it does so, and also maintains it’s shape while you leave it lying on the rolling surface, then bravo! The dough is perfect and ready to be used anytime. Take a small portion  now, and roll it into a small flat disc, gently with a rolling pin. There” the wrapper is ready too.  (Reminder, that portion is just for one dumpling. You have 10 dumplings in a plate for one person.)

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The second step is to make the filling. If you are vegetarian, you can prepare fillers with onions, cabbages and neutrellas. Infact anything, you want the fillers to be prepared of. And if you are a non-vegetarian like me, mix meat (any meat of your choice) with onions, cabbages, salt and spices (according to your taste).  And by now, i will have to trust that, when you are putting together the fillers, you were smart enough to grind the ingredients  in the blender.  Because, remember, it’s a STEAMED dumpling, you don’t want under cooked chunks. 

Now, once your wrap is done and fillers are ready. Fill the belly of wrap with the fillers and knot the wrap, gently at top. Make sure it is enclosed from all around the corner while you do so. (Traditional momos are usually cooked closed, other types may be open style like pic below. The openings are to add the sauces). Now steam them for 7-8 minutes. And serve, while the aroma still fills in your senses and the momos are still  hot with juiciness, just boiling over their surface. I suggest something as simple as a  tomato soup to go with it since it blends in perfectly with the taste, trust me. But, if you are thinking otherwise, any other sauce works great too.

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Personally, for me, the perfect time to have momo is in ‘Winter’ or a ‘Cold chilly Rainy day’. Imagine, taking a bite through it’s soft supple contours, when the bun finally gives in to your demanding hunger. Imagine that moment, when the steam inside the wrap, puffs into your nostrils as a ‘give away’ sign to you, releasing into your mouth the mixed savouries, the flavors of all, that it was steaming over with. And now, picture yourself, watching  the vapour, escape from it  blending in with the thick winter fog to nothing infront of your own very eyes, while the taste of it lingers in your tongue wanting more and the pits of your stomach gives  the deepest gratifying nod..

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NOW THAT IS MOMO PEOPLE!! hehhehe

My Favorite Nepali foods!! Part 1.

  1. Dhidho, Sishnu and Gundruk.

One cannot emphasize enough about ‘Dhidho and Sishnu’ as an authentic taste of Nepal, without mentioning a quote of poetry from one of the greatest writer of Nepali Literature, Laxmi Prashad Devkota.

Haat kaa maila sun kaa thailaa, ke garnu dhanle? – (हातका मैला सुनका थैला, के गर्नु धनले )
Saag ra sisnu khaaeko besa aanandi manle! – (साग र सिस्नु खाएको बेस आनन्दी मनले)
Translation:  Sacks of gold are like collected dirt on your hands, what is one to do with all these wealth? 
It is better to eat nettles greens and cultivate happiness in your heart. ( reference- TASTE OF NEPAL blog 🙂 )

Dhidho is a traditional Nepali food.

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Mostly served with sishnu(a form of thick soup) and gundruk(fermented leafy green vegetable). It can be cooked of corn flour(makai), millet flour(kodo) or buckwheat(fapar). The recipe is very simple, as it only needs flour. But the process of stirring it and making it into a consumable paste is tiring!( Believe me, I have seen my mom do it a number of times). And although, it pairs up with shishnu well (explained below), it can be served with chicken soup or tomato soup too. (Like, I prefer it with chicken soup, not sishnu.  Only a matter of personal taste, i guess 🙂 )

Similarly ‘Sishnu’, is basically nothing but a thick greenish soup. Prepared from sishnu leaves( commonly known as stinging nettle; as the name suggests, it has stingy leaves and stem), you would think it’s a wild plant when you first look at it, unpleasant and unpalatable to put into your mouth. And add to it, any painful experiences you have had being pricked by it, then it can be a ‘hard to digest cuisine’. Why did i say that? Well just for fun fact. In case you didn’t know, many Nepalese parents love whipping their children with sishnu leaves soaked on water, for their long lasting stingy effect. I tell you, it works better than ElectroConvulsiveTherapy for any kind of behavioral problems they are showing  😛

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But, despite its notoriety, it is one of the most ‘favored dish’, among people of hilly and Himalaya region of Nepal. Taken as an medicinal  herb, this soup prepared out of  sishnu plant is believed to cure ailments such a Hypertension, Diabetes and bowel problems.

How do you eat something like that? Oh’ Don’t worry. Once it is prepared into soup, it will not sting or irritate your throat anymore. Infact, you will taste nothing but ‘how a soup is supposed to taste’. Now, Taste? you ask?  Depends on what flavor you add to it. Because, as you know by now, the soup on its original form only consists of sishnu leaves stirred in hot boiling water with a pinch of salt added to it. How do you want it, depends on your choice. My mom likes adding only onions, preferring it to be as bland as possible.(She is so fond of it, she had whole bush on our front yard!!)

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Not everyone in Nepal, even in Hilly and Himalaya region have dhidho as their staple diet. Those in kathmandu may not even have tasted it,although a number of restaurants readily serves it in their menu. Because, Staple meal for us, usually constitutes ‘Bhaat, Daal and Tarkari’ that i will be writing about on my next blog, which is more easy to prepare and offers more variety in taste.

In summary, from the health point of view, ‘dhidho and sishnu’ constitutes healthiest ingredients put together and boiled. No additional element not even oil, unless of course you want to change the flavor. But from taste point of view, i cannot guarantee you will like it, unless you are a foodie like me and are interested on experimenting with your taste buds. 🙂

Nepal is a very small country. Now imagine how big is the capital city!! Yes, I was raised there. But unfortunately, like you folks who travel around majority of time and know every inch of your land from north-south, i don’t know. Lets just say, I was brought up like a ‘frog in a pond’, you might as well put it as a ‘frog in a bucket’ because, that is how limited my knowledge of geography about Nepal is.

i colori del Nepal

i colori del Nepal

But i sure can flash a torch light on things, i found interesting about living in Nepal. Of course, being one of the poorest countries, you do not have all the privileges available. And for a non-Nepali citizen, living in Nepal can be next to torture. Talk about pollution, crowded and dangerous transports, load shedding and etc etc. There are lot of issues!!

However, as i was raised there in such circumstances..i pulled through pretty well. I do not mean ‘such circumstances’ as in we are ancient, too backward on development and cut out from world. i mean is ‘Modernisation’ is patchy. Like geography itself,  lifestyles widely differs.

Here is my own personal list about ‘what i love about living in Nepal’. Hope you will like it.

1)The Scenery-Nepal has complex geographical structure. The valley itself, is actually shaped like a ‘saucer‘ with hills surrounding it from ‘all around’. Can you imagine looking at the hills from your terrace while you bid the sunset goodbye? Yeah that is how it feels 🙂 Its especially amazing in  september,october with Himalayas in clear view.

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2) Great places to escape within miles from valley- Tired of everyday routine? Frustrated? Want a fresh breath of air. No worries. Just a little outskirts from city, half an hour ride around, are amazing places to chill. Want to go trekking/ sight seeing or just a peaceful place to have deep conversations with. There are plenty of those. Just make sure,you have  a right friend so you don’t get too carried away in peacefulness though 😉

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3) Adventure in an affordable budget- Yes you read it right!! If you still want to go further than the valley? No problem. I tell you, you don’t even need to be loaded with cash to travel around Nepal. Just get one of those schemes with friends and go safari on chitwan or boating on pokhara or hiking to Rara or on a jeep ride to Mustang! Those places are amazing!          (Honestly,I have only been to few of those places 😦 But i plan to start my world travel tour from there ^_^!  )

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Still feel more adventurous? Then you can go ABC camp or even climb the Everest! What do you think? But then, that’s gonna cost..

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Sagar Bhandari

4)Always something to learn– One of the most appealing thing for me about Nepal is cultural diversity. As you travel along, you get to meet people from different ethnicity and culture and traditions. For me,it’s like meeting a whole new person from a different country,every time i meet someone outside my ethnicity. There is so much to talk about starting from food to dresses to cultural beliefs..and many more.

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5) Candle light date- This 5th on the list is definitely different than all i have mentioned above.  And yes, it is kind of irony, that we have so much load shedding 14-16 hours a day sometimes in Nepal, despite it being the second richest country in water resources. But, it is how it is. And yes we did have to survive without internet and fully charged cellphones many times.  However..for many of us, it actually gave us good memories.  How many times do you have a candle light date? Ask us and we will tell you ‘Countless’. hehehe.

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What i love about Nepal..

A checklist ‘suitability for marriage’.

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A friend once told me ‘do you know who are the most racist in this world?’. I didn’t have to hear the answer. I knew and i know. ‘Asians’. Some may not agree to this but i talk  for the ‘majority’. It’s true. We are’ racist among ourselves, within our country, inside our communities, deeper in our neighbourhoods and segregated ‘inside and out’ even before we start to merge at the ground levels. So, it is no surprise to hear, we can be unwelcome of those outside the entire sphere. What better way to understand this division than understanding the basic principle of ‘Marriage’itself.

Let me begin, by sharing with you, my family’s expectation of me for choosing ‘Mr Right’. Believe me, it’s a very specific checklist, though it wasn’t presented to me initially as one. P.S Here is the reason why, i believe, i will be unmarried  ALLL my life. You’d be too, if you were in my place. 😉

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First, a simple geography and social background to help you understand why and how checklist came into  existence. Nepal is divided topographically into three distinct  areas. Himalayas, Hilly and Terai. With these three different regions, culture and  life style are also distinctly different. And another thing is, grossly Nepal has two distinct races of population. ‘Aryans’ and ‘Mongoloid’ which in former days didn’t prefer to intermingle among themselves. And within them, are still many subdivisions.

So, here is how this checklist works. For example, I am ‘Magar’ from mongoloid race. So what ‘list’ includes is, 1) A Nepali citizen, 2) Of Mongoloid race, 3) of Magar origin of same religious belief 4) with settlement in the hilly region  and 5) of same social hierarchy. Which means”” practically, my chances of finding ‘Mr Right’ narrows down from 50% to 25% and then to 12.5% with each additional category my parents decide to squeeze in!

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Now imagine my dilemma, in UK!! I might as well have to  post my picture with a hoarding board saying, these are the checklist, eligible bachelors please apply if you fill in at least 3 out of five criteria s. hehhe.

Thank Goodness. My Parents are now willing to comply and be more flexible. They have now  expanded their checklist to following options. 1) Best if previous criteria s work. 2)IF NOT, a well educated Nepali Guy. 3)If NOT, a well educated, Asian Guy in same working field as me.

I don’t know if they are willing to be more flexible than this, but for now, i am just laughing hard. This definitely is a plot to keep me house bound with them for rest of their life!! hahha. But again, i do know someday , when they see me still unmarried in my late 30s or 40s..They are going to be like ‘ please just make sure.. you get married’. hehehe.

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Day 3 writting about Nepal :)

The Mountains

‘A country of Himalayas’.

Yes, world’s highest peak Mt everest stands with pride here. Did you also know, among the 14 peaks of Himalayas (above 8000m), 8 of them are located in Nepal?

 

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Mt Everest

8850m above from sea level, the Everest is indeed “the head of the sky” as its nepali name ‘sagarmatha’ given by historian Baburam Acharya  who describes it.

‘Sagar’ means ‘vast’ and ‘matha’ means ‘head’ in Nepali language, hence referring ‘mountain with vast peak  as the head of the sky’.  Also known as chomolangma (godess mother of the world) in Tibet, it lies at the Nepal-Tibet border in Mahalangur section of the Himalayas.

However the official name “Mt Everest” was named after Col. Sir George Everest, who was the surveyor general of the ‘survey department of the governmet of India’ and who discovered Mt Everest as the highest peak of the world. It is a must know, that despite being the highest peak (8,848m ), Mt Everest is not the tallest. The tallest is actually Mauna Kea in Hawaai, USA with total of 10,205m with only 4,205m of it visible, the rest being submerged underwater.

‘Namche Bazzar’ in solukhumbu district, is considered the gateway to Mt Everest. Hundreds of trekkers gather here for the expedition of claimimg the title of  the conquerer and many of them with their eyes set to break a new record.

“Ofcourse the summit must have lured the adventurous folks out there into trying something new..right??” So this thought got me scrolling through the website of Guiness world Record, to know “how many did exactly set the records?” And believe me, I was thrilled to see the list of the names and the number of records that were being made and being broken time and again at the summit.

Here are the intresting set of records that I personally think was worth the chase.

  • Sir Edmund Percival Hilary of New Zealand and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay of Nepal being the first climbers to reach the summit on 29th may 1953.
  • Junko Tabei of japan being the first female cimber to reach the summit on 16th may 1975
  • Reinhold Messner from Italy and Peter Habeler from Austria being the first climbers to ascent the summit without supplemental oxygen on 8th may 1978
  • Erik Weihenmayer of Hongkong being the first and the only blind climber to conquer the summit.
  • Apa Sherpa of Nepal being the most frequent climber to reach the summit with his 21st attempt made on 11th may,2011.

Now to imagine being one of those conquerors, and to be standing on the very summit of the world, looking face to face at the exquisite view of other equally majestic and beautiful Himalayas around it must be blissful. And to watch the clouds pass by below you like soft cotton balls with nothing but cold chilling wind howling to your eardrums while your heartbeat is still racing and your lungs are trying to fill, almost gasping now for more air must be a surreal phenomenon.

For an adventurous person unlike me, who loves the expedition, with  ‘the idea of conquering’ then Nepal is indeed the place. And there are lot more of trekking routes to follow too.

 

Here is the list of others Himalayas, above 8000metres peak located in Nepal.

2)Kangchenjunga (8,586m)

3)Lhotse (8,516m)

4)Makalu (8,463m)

5)Cho Oyu (8,201m)

6)Dhauligiri (8,167m)

7)Manaslu (8,163m)

8)Annapurna (8,091m).

Hopefully you know something more now 🙂

S0urce-Guineseworldrecords.com

Day 1(writting about Nepal) Welcome :)

(i donot own pic)

(i donot own pic)

Brought up in country of Himalayas, a sacred place of birth of lord Buddha I have always been proud of being “Nepali”. Yes if you see in world’s map ‘Nepal’ looks almost like a dot, a small rectangular brick like sketch perhaps squeezed between its huge neighbours ‘china’ and ‘india’ as referred by founder King Prithivi Narayan Shah as “yam between two boulders”.

But though small in territory of land only  147,181 sq km, extended 28degree north and 84 degree east in latitude and longitude, donot be fooled by appearance, Nepal is a world in itself.Geographically ranging from snow alpine mountains to hot humid plains of terai, vast diversity in floras and faunas to diverse ethnicity and religion blending together in harmony and peace, i believe there is none other place like Nepal.  And I welcome you in it “Namaste”.

The Royals and The loss of Monarchy in Nepal

Coming from generation of 90’s  one should know we come from era where a history was written and rewritten again. Civil war, loss of Monarchy and the big earthquake(2072) we survived it. And perhaps a reminder that will appear in history books of our children for generations is how Nepal lost its monarchy. “June 1,2001 Friday”

The ominous day of Royal Massacre at Narayanhiti Royal palace where the entire family of King Birendra was wiped out.  An Unsolved mystery that still lingers in the palace (now a national museum) leaving every visitors unanswered of endless questions.

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After the massacre, King Dipendra heir to king Birendra was announced the king. However it was shortlived .3days after his death. King Gyanendra(brother to King Birendra) ascended the throne, who was also forced to overthrow monarchy with rise of Maoist Government.

Very popular for his kindness King Birendra was loved by his countrymen, upon hearing the news of the royal massacre Nepalese were deeply mourned. Many shaved their heads as a tribute of respect for their king as the rites performed in hindu religion where people shave their heads to mourn demise of their family members.

I still have the vivid memory as a child, how NTV livecasted the bodies of Royal family being taken to the aaryaghat pashupati on saturday. Raised in a country of monarchy “The King” was the pride of our country, worshipped as lord Vishnu “The king” was our “Living God”. But suddenly he was there nomore. All of Nepal including me, refused to believe that the corpses we were seeing on broadcast was that of our beloved royal family, refused to believe that the ominous day of june1st,2001 Friday  has been engraved in our history.

We followed the procession of the body to  the aaryaghat with the broadcast, thousands of Nepalese had come along the route to bid our beloved royal family goodbye. Showers of rains gently drizzled that day as if the sky itself was crying  with the thousands of wails echoing in Kathmandu and mournful tears running down our faces. With flowers and sindhur tossed in air bidding sad goodbyes the cremation was held.

Perhaps the pain of never seeing the Royal Family again or perhaps the faces of painful assassinations we will never know what caused the outburst in us. Suddenly Chaos and riots upsurged. Curfew was announced to bring down the angry mob.

After 13days of official mourning we all returned to our daily schedules. Back at school I remember nothing but talks about the Massacre till months. Talks about The Good king, The Ominous day, The Conspiracies..The Talks with endless questions that will perhaps be never answered..

My attempt on writing about Nepal :)

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I am Nepalese by birth and i am proud of it 🙂

I have been planning to write about Nepal, especially highlighting its culture traditions and people for long. But i have been slacking all the time, reason ‘i didn’t consider myself good enough to be a writer’. But being here in blog has inspired me, constant support has made me believe that maybe i can reachout to people. And i’m hopeful i will.

If my blogs about Nepal happen to intrest you, please donot hesitate to make comments. I will be looking forward for your suggestions and every advice i recieve will be very graciously accepted 🙂

Originally my plan was to create a coffeebook for my dad. Something as memorandum to him, but i now have decided  to reach out for more people, which may or maynot be possible, though it will  obviously be  a gift to my dad. So i want this book  to be beautiful 🙂