Exploring the Forbidden Kingdom: An Introduction to My Trekking Expedition in Upper Mustang, Nepal

Exploring the Forbidden Kingdom: An Introduction to My Trekking Expedition in Upper Mustang, Nepal

Today, I’m going to share with you my trekking journey with an old mate of mine, Bill Crozier, through Upper Mustang, Nepal, a region steeped in centuries-old history and rich cultural traditions. In this blog, I will take you on an unforgettable journey through the Forbidden Kingdom.

Discovering Lo Manthang: Crown Jewel of Mustang

Mustang was once an independent kingdom, and it boasts a rich cultural history. As we pass through the ancient walled city of Lo Manthang, it becomes evident that this place is a living testament to Mustang’s ancient culture and heritage. Lo Manthang holds a special significance as the crown jewel of the region, where the echoes of centuries-old traditions create a timeless ambiance.

Navigating Modernity: Challenges and Conservation

But before we delve deeper into the heart of Mustang, let’s address the challenges facing this unique region. Modernity clashes with tradition as infrastructure projects, including the Chinese-led Belt and Road Initiative, reshape the landscape. The delicate ecosystem of Mustang, perched high in the Himalayas, faces the looming threat of climate change. Yet, amidst these challenges, efforts are underway to preserve both the environment and the cultural heritage of Mustang.

Flight Options to Kathmandu

Regarding the flight, especially for those coming from Australia or New Zealand, there are more options available now, like Qatar and Etihad flying to Kathmandu.

Typically, I’ve flown with Singapore Airlines or Thai Silk, which usually have stopovers in Singapore or Bangkok. However, this time, to save some money, I chose Qatar, which goes through Doha. Doha Airport is huge, turning what would be a reasonable flight into a journey of over 24 hours, which really threw me off. But I don’t have anything against Qatar.

Qatar Airways provided excellent service, although the extended layovers tested my patience. Note to self: direct flights matter, especially when trekking awaits upon arrival.

Exploring Kathmandu: Vibrant Tapestry of Sights and Sounds

After navigating the airport chaos and reclaiming my luggage, I found myself in Kathmandu, a vibrant tapestry of sights and sounds. Our journey began with a visit to Boudhanath. Bill and I were going to do our circle around Boudhanath to bring us luck and an auspicious trip. The atmosphere was serene, with people engaged in prayer and meditation. Boudhanath held a special place in the hearts of Buddhists, and it was a privilege to be there.

Boudhanath: One of the Largest Stupas in the World 

Boudhanath, also known as Boudha or Khāsa Chaitya. It’s one of the most prominent landmarks in Kathmandu, and it dates back to the 5th century AD. Boudhanath is one of the oldest and largest stupas in the world. This architectural marvel is more than a sight to behold. It’s a story in stone. It supposedly enshrines the remains of Kassapa Buddha, who is the third Buddha, and the stupa represents a connection to the ancient Buddhist world.

The design of Boudhanath is a marvel in itself. If looked up from the sky, you can see that it’s a massive mandala. Its symbolic structure embodies the five elements and the path to enlightenment, making a profound representation of Buddhist philosophy. But Boudhanath is not just about history. It’s a living, breathing, and cultural hub.

As a central point for Tibetan Buddhism in Nepal, the area around the stupa is a vibrant community with over 50 Tibetan monasteries. It was declared a UNESCO heritage site in 1979, and Boudhanath is recognized globally for its cultural and historical significance. 

Every day, thousands gather here for the Kora, a ritual walk around the stupa, reciting mantras and soaking in the aura of peace. Some will come as far as Tibet having prostrated themselves, lying down on the ground every three steps of their 1,000-kilometer journey.

Packing Preparations: Trimming Down the Luggage

The night before our flight to Pokhara, we had just found out that we had to trim down our luggage from 25 kilos of gear to 15 kilos. With only 10 kilos allowed for main luggage and 5 kilos for hand luggage, I had to plow through and make some cuts. It was a schoolboy error on my part – I should have checked the weight requirements for my flight.

Exploring Pokhara: Strolling through the Lakeside

As we arrived in Pokhara, there was quite a difference compared to Kathmandu. It was still a large city, ranking as the second largest in Nepal, but it sprawled out across the valley, hugging the shores of the lake. I went on a stroll down the lake. The air felt noticeably fresher. Down by the lakeside in Pokhara, there was a vibrant energy, and the festival of Dashain was in full swing. The streets were bustling with people, creating a lively holiday atmosphere that was truly captivating.

NOTE: This is just an introduction to my Upper Mustang adventure. Stay tuned for the next installment of my Upper Mustang adventure, where I’ll delve deeper into our trekking escapades amidst the rugged terrain and ancient wonders of this captivating region.


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