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                    Rafting ventures in Nepal – Paddling down the rapids!

                    Nepal although a land-locked country avoided by the marine bodies boasts with an immense resource of water. As only a small percentage of this huge reserve has been utilized purposefully for hydel projects, water-supply or irrigation schemes, a majority of the rivers rove aimlessly. However, a few of them offer the opportunity of white-water exploit to the swashbucklers who enjoy maneuvering their rafts against the rapid of Himalayan streams. According to the Nepal Association of Rafting Agents, a union of the rafting entrepreneurs, 11 rivers in the country are open for rafting expedition. These rivers are categorized according to the international scale of river difficulty, expressed in Roman figure from I to VI, sometimes appended with a + or – to the figure. The grade for each river varies with the season. The rivers in Nepal permitted for the rafting are usually between the grades III and IV. Hence, rafting and kayaking can be enjoyed by the novices also with the help of a river guide.

                    Whitewater Rafting on the Bhote Koshi in Nepal.The most popular rivers for rafting in Nepal are: Trishuli and Bhotekoshi followed by Sunkoshi, Seti , Kali Gandaki and others. Trishuli and Bhotekoshi can be reached within 4 hours from Kathmandu. The start-point of Trishuli expedition lies somewhere in the middle of Kathmandu and Pokhara making it the most accessible river-trip. The trip can be completed within a day, is relatively easier than Bhotekoshi and is the most economical raft option. On the other hand, Bhotekoshi has a high gradient with steep rapids and is preferred by somewhat experienced rafters. It is also recognized as one of the best short raft trips found in the world (source: Lonely Planet). The other easier and cheaper alternatives are Sunkoshi and Seti while challenging river-routes are Marsyangdi, Kali Gandaki, Tamor and Karnali, the last two being located a bit farther from Kathmandu.

                    The season appropriate for rafting and Kayaking coincides with the tourist season of Nepal- between September to December. The river is gentle during the spring which is best time for beginning paddlers. For more audacious rafters, monsoon is favorable with the floods contributing to an adrenaline-surging challenge! The trips can be booked between 50 to 80 USD depending upon your requirements and the number of expeditors. The river guides provided with the payment of package price are usually well-experienced, most of them having overseas experience and/or license. There are also training centers or “Kayak Clinics” run by rafting companies that provide practical on-the-water instructions to the tyros on proper paddling, rescue and maneuvering according to river dynamics.

                    Are you ready for a memorable and adventurous white-water experience in Nepal? Then you can take the next step and fill out the Inquiry Form and get FREE travel info.

                    Getting a Nepal visa – the first step before you step into Nepal

                    Nepal is one of the few countries where visa can be obtained easily and free of hassles. Since tourism is a major income source, the government has maintained its policy of granting visas to the immigrants at any of the entry points to Nepal. The issuance is virtually unconditional, unless your passport is on the verge of expiry, you hail from one of the restricted countries or something fishy is linked with your travel. The immigrants of these 11 countries (3 from Asia and 8 from Africa), however, need to obtain a visa prior to their arrival in Nepal, which are: Zimbabwe, Somalia, Ethiopia, Liberia, Nigeria, Ghana, Cameroon and Swaziland; Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine.

                    The department of immigration or the offices thereunder is responsible for regularizing all visas, except diplomatic and official visas. All tourists except Indian visitors are required a visa for their admission and stay in Nepal. The visa cost is free for the South Asian (SAARC) countries. You can get your visa issued at the International airport(Kathmandu), one of 6 entry points at southern border or an entry point at the northern border. The essentials for obtaining visa are a valid passport with at least 6 months of validity period remaining and a lucid passport size photograph. The visa fee is acceptable in US/Aus/Can/Singapore/HK dollar, UK pound sterling, Euro and few other foreign currencies. Nepalese and Indian currencies are not acceptable.

                    The tourist visa is granted for a maximum of 150 days in a visa year, including the extension. Visa year is equivalent to a full 12 months. The costs of visas according to duration are: US$25 for 15 days, US$40 for 30 days and US$100 for 90 days. Children under 10 year are exempt of visa fee. Visa extension can be extended up to a duration not exceeding 150 days per visa year. The prices of visa extension are: US$ 30 for a period of 15 days or less and US$2/day for the period exceeding 15 days. The visa extension is sanctioned by the immigration office of Kathmandu or Pokhara. You may also have your visa regularized before coming to Nepal via diplomatic agencies of your country by filling up and submitting the visa application form. Apart from the visa fee, you need to make separate payments for the trekking, mountaineering or access to the regulated areas.

                    Though obtaining a Nepalese visa is easy, a tourist should keep in mind few things and abide by the regulations, the breach of which may lead to deportation or penalty or both. A tourist visa doesn’t allow the grantee to engage in any business or work in Nepal, with or without salary. Counterfeit information furnished, if found, is not tolerated which may lead to the cancellation of the visa. The fill-up forms and detailed information regarding the visa to Nepal can be found on the official website of the Department of Immigration, Nepal.

                    Thinking of visiting Nepal? Please fill up this Inquiry Form…

                    Muktinath – Where Hinduism Meets Buddhism at a Picturesque Himalayan Landscape

                    Buddhist temple in MuktinathWith snow-clad mountain on the background, the beautifully adorned 3-tiered temple of pagoda style may give impression of a complete Hindu shrine. But, the Buddhist prayer flags fluttering with one side attached to strings that embroider the shrine will make you reconsider your last opinion. Yes, this is Muktinath- the pilgrimage for the Hindus as well as a sacred place of the Buddhists. The holy abode situated at the base of Thorang-la Pass, one of the favorite places of High altitude trekkers, represents a perfect paradigm of centuries-old understanding between the two religions. The main temple houses the statue of lord Vishnu which is also revered as Aalokitesvara – the deity of compassion by the Buddhists. Apart from the main temple there is a remarkable coexistence of other Hindu temples (Shiva, Vishnu, Ganesha) and many prayer wheels and chortens (stupas) in a common religious platform.

                    The history of Muktinath dates back to around 15th year from the start of 19th century when a queen of Nepal initiated the construction of the temple. Muktikshetra, the site of Muktinath, is considered by Hindus to be the place of salvation as is its literal meaning in Sanaskrit. According to a legend, the Hindu god of creation Brahma made an offering by lighting fire on water. Surprisingly, the phenomenon attesting this Hindu legend –flame of natural gas that is believed to be burning from the eternity can be witnessed inside a Buddhist monastery, namely Meber Lakhag Gompa. There are nunneries to the left of the temple. There is also a Shiva temple surrounded by Vishnu, Ram and Ganesh temples which is the only all-Hindu shrine of the site. The monastery at the entry of the complex is Sangdo Gompa which was once a residence of monks and who, as told by the villagers, performed Lama Dance during Lhosar. The complex apart from seating the religiously important temples and stupas is known for being the site of spiritual practice by Hindu as well as Buddhist yogis in the past. Guru Rinpoche or Padmasabhava who is credited for bringing Buddhism to Tibet had meditated here on his way to Tibet whose footprints are still preserved in the site. Similarly, an 18th century Indian yogi Swaminarayan had undergone a severe penance whose monument rests at one of the spots.

                    The yard of Muktikshetra consists of 108 water spouts, each with the shape of a boar-head, from where ice-cold water emanate. These are believed of delivering salvation if shower is taken from each. The devotees baring themselves in such a cold air and running quickly bathing from one faucet to the other with the chilling water is fun to observe. The Tibetan identify Muktinath as Chuming Gyatsa who probably coined the title after those water spouts (Chuming Gyatsa = 100 waters in Tibetan). A large number of religious visitors throng at Muktinath during the Poornima (full moon) of August-September, which is an auspicious day for the Hindus. For those interested in tribal festivals with horse-race, the propitious time to visit is during Yartung festival which is marked by open gambling (still illegal in Nepal ), horse-race , joviality, alcohol and much more. For the rest, any time between April-May or October-November is the best. The recently constructed handsome gate, shops run by the nuns, poplar trees at the altitude of more than a dozen of thousand feet, a peculiar Chorten with strange sounds said to heal ear diseases are also the attractions of Muktinath worth mentioning.

                    The accessibility to Muktinath has become much better with the construction of road, though many trekkers consider that the excavation has rather hampered the long-preserved and exotic significance of that route. However, you have plenty of options to reach Muktinath – either by trekking, flight to Johmsom and a short trek or directly via jeep ride. Whatever mode you opt, you can make your Nepal stay memorable simply by paying a visit to the Muktinath – a pilgrimage located at the spectacular Himalayan setting, a focal point of the Annapurna trek, an ideal conflation of Buddhism and Hinduism and much more.

                    If you want your Muktinath trip to be organized in an ideal manner, then you can take the next step and fill out the inquiry form and get FREE travel info.

                    Mindfulness in the lap of Himalaya

                    Life can only take place in the present moment. If we lose the present moment, we lose life. ~ Gautama Buddha

                    Right Mindfulness has been described by the Buddha as one of the seven factors of enlightenment. This can be achieved through insight meditation (popular as ‘mindfulness meditation’ in the west). Unlike the concentrative meditation that leads to short-term bliss or attainment of psychic powers, insight meditation helps the practitioner to attain wisdom and free herself from the worldly suffering. In today’s world we are exposed to a good many things but sadly, not all of them are good enough! These in turn produce incessant thoughts and emotions leading not only to psychological disorders like stress or anxiety, depression and schizophrenia but also somatic diseases like high-blood-pressure, heart-disease etc. The monks, hermits and yogis who undergo a secluded or monastic life are able to guard such thoughts as they are less exposed to the thought-provoking agents. Unfortunately, we cannot live a life like that in today’s busy world and a quick-fix that can help us pause our thoughts for even an hour without side-effects or other costs hasn’t been discovered yet. Insight meditation, nonetheless, is an appropriate answer to the problem which requires/costs nothing but an orientation from a mentor and a commitment to apply what you learnt in daily life. Separate hours/day for meditation is also not compulsory since you can practice this meditation later while walking, eating or even trekking!

                    Yoga meditation at sunsetVipassana is the Theravada approach to mindfulness meditation. A very noble aspect of this practice is that you don’t need to convert into Buddhism to practice Vipassana and the mentor never urges you to do so during the practice. One thing you should keep in mind is that Vipassana meditation is not to motivate you to follow an austere life or forsake worldly attachments AND NOT to cure your disease (although some report of this positive side effect). But instead, the meditation helps you to recognize yourself in the spiritual sense, your purpose of the world and bring an overall transformation in yourself. Besides, many scientific studies have revealed the progressive effect of this meditation in concentration, anger management, anxiety alleviation and so on. These results depend upon your dedication, perseverance and belief.

                    In Nepal, the birthplace of Shyakyamuni Buddha, Vipassana sessions are conducted by few spiritual institutions. The most popular and the oldest one open to general people including foreigners is Nepal Vipassana Center. The spiritual quiet assembly is a 10 days-long meditation session in the foothills of Shivapuri, a place away from the hustle and bustle of Kathmandu.

                    The 18-days spiritual program also includes 8-days Kathmandu-Pokhara-Chitwan tour package. These include sight-seeing of temples, museums and monasteries around Kathmandu; Jungle safari in Chitwan National park and tour to the beautiful town of lakes- Pokhara. The meditation will commence on the 8th day after you have become somewhat acquainted with Nepal and Nepalese culture, heritage, wildlife and other tourist attractions, with a completely novel vibe.

                    However, if you don’t have enough days for the complete tour package and want to customize your trip or you want to modify the itinerary by including only one of the three cities (Kathmandu, Pokhara or Chitwan) Or you just want to participate in the meditation program, we shall adjust the package in accordance to your requirement.

                    A spiritual journey into yourself is waiting for you to make your first stride. If you think it’s the right time, Why not fill up the inquiry form and get free information about this unparalleled undertaking of self-transformation?

                    Quote of the Day…

                    You can travel the world and never leave your chair when you read a book.
                    ~ Sherry K. Plummer