Here in this article, we will discuss 10 things about Upper Mustang trek worth spending $ 500 for the permit:
- 1. Sky Burial
- 2. Hundreds of cave and ancient monasteries
- 3. Highest Buddhist kingdom in the world
- 4. Deepest Gorge in the world
- 5. The only place where you can still hunt 210 million years old ammonite fossil
- 6. Muktinath, the holiest temple that every Hindu must visit at least once in their lifetime
- 7. Silk Road and Ancient trade route
- 8. One of the Expensive trekking permit in Nepal
- 9. Home to the finest apple wine in the world
- 10. Modern style “Dal Bhat” was inborn, in Mustang
1. Sky Burial
When someone dies high up in the Himalayan kingdom, a Lama (Buddhist priest) cuts the body into a small size and feed to the vultures in the open air. I know it sounds brutal, but It is the way of burial in the Buddhist tradition. Sky Burial is influenced by Tibetan Buddhism and believed that feeding to the vultures (Holy bird) means the dead has no sin and his/her departed soul can rest peacefully in heaven. This sounds very interesting as much as it is barbaric. You may be thinking, will I have a chance to see sky burial in Upper Mustang while I am there? Which I was often asked by my clients. The answer is no! Only the son in the family and some villagers are brought there to carry the body, and the Lama (A priest) will attend this ceremony. Here is the highlights by National Geographic in the video.
2. Hundreds of cave and ancient monasteries
Mustang is home to one of the world’s greatest concentration of human carved cliff caves, large complexes no one has had a chance to explore. Many are so high up the unstable rock making them impossible to reach. Some have been converted to monasteries. A large part of the cave was found as ancient people’s homes with thousands of years old painting on the crumbling wall. Highly skilled ancient architects who lived in the caves centuries ago made these chambers for their protection and as a safe place to live. The locals believe the caves are holy and that their ancestors carved out these caves for worship. Tibetan Buddhism believed that all these were discovered by their holy people, Padama Shambhaba and Guru Rimpoche, who established monasteries in the area. Only a few western climbers and archaeologist who got a special permit for this particular expedition have been explored this cave.
3. Highest Buddhist kingdom in the world
Lo-Manthang (4,300 m) is the last Buddist kingdom of Nepal. When Shaha King, from Gorkha, reunited all the smaller states as one country called Nepal, Lo-Manthang was the last kingdom who did not give up freedom. They agreed with the Nepal king for their kingdom to have their own monarchy as long as Nepal is a kingdom.
In 2008 the monarchy in Nepal was officially ended after the massive massacre in the royal family. Since then the king of Lo-Mangtang “Jigme Palbar Bista” was told to step down as a king. The late King of Mustang Jigme Palbar Bista (1933–2016) accepted the order but vowed to continue in preserving the Tibetan culture.
4. Deepest Gorge in the world
Kaligandaki River Gorge is the deepest canyon in the world lies in the Upper Mustang Trek route in Nepal. As tectonic activity forced the mountains higher, the river was cut down through the uplift. This incredible Gorge was made from two of the highest peak in the world Mt. Dhaulagiri (8,167 meters) and Annapurna to the depth of 7,337 m to the Kaligandaki River.
5. The only place where you can still hunt 210 million years old ammonite fossil
Ammonites also called “Saligram” in the Nepali language are about 145 to 210 million years old fossils can only be found in the bank of Kaligandaki river in Nepal. The Saligram is made of carbonate of lime, black in color and nearly the size of an orange.
There is an interesting story surrounding the Ammonites. According to Hindu mythology, it all started because of a love for a beautiful lady called Seti. Seti was loved dearly by Lord Shiva who at that time was a powerful enemy of her father, Jalandhar. Not only was Jalandhar blessed with a beautiful daughter, but he was also blessed with a powerful wife, Brinda. Brinda is a “pativrata” (a married woman who was faithful to her husband), and she draws her power from her faithfulness. Out of spite and jealousy, Lord Shiva instructed another god Vishnu to pretend to be Jalandhar and to sleep with Brinda. The intention is for Brinda to become unfaithful and eventually break her power. Lord Shiva then changed Vishnu’s face to look like Jalandhar and Vishnu did as he was told. When Brinda found out that she actually slept with Vishnu, she cursed Vishnu and turned him into a rock. From this story, Hindus believed Saligram as a representation of god Vishnu, which still is hunted on the bank of the Kali Gandaki river of the Upper Mustang Trekking trail. However, the naturalistic defines as petrifaction.
6. Muktinath, the holiest temple that every Hindu must visit at least once in their lifetime
The story of the god Vishnu also continued in this holy place. Eventually, after the curse from Brinda, he decided to repent, and Muktinath is believed to be the place he prayed to wash his sins. From then on, the place was called Muktinath where Mukti means “relief from something” while Nath is “god”.
To this day, Hindus believed that any sins could also be forgiven by visiting the temple. There are also 108 taps and pool now where pilgrims can wash themselves of their sins. Although this is a very sacred place for Hindu, there are also a lot of Buddhist monasteries within the wall of Muktinath. In fact, Buddhist monks are the main priests here.
7. Silk Road and Ancient trade route
The river valley of Kaligandaki that runs through the Upper Mustang is the only valley that passes from north to south through the Himalayas in Nepal. It’s an ancient route connecting India to the south with China’s Tibetan plateau to the north. It was also considered part of the Silk Road.
8. One of the Expensive trekking permit in Nepal
By law, you are required to pay USD 500 for the 10 days and NPR 3,000 for ACAP permit to trek Upper Mustang. The only region in Nepal Upper Dolpa and Upper Mustang has the expensive permit set by the government for a trek in the Himalayas. Due to it located in the restricted area of Nepal, you are also required to trek with a guide registered from a local agency in Nepal. As already mention Upper Mustang trek cost is expensive mostly due to the expensive permit fees. If you are ever in the region, we would highly increase you to find out that this region has to offer.
9. Home to the finest apple wine in the world
A small mountain village call “Marpha” in Mustang is the home to the most excellent apple brandy that exports to the world market. While you are in Mustang, you shouldn’t miss trying Marpha Brandy or an apple cider.
10. Modern style “Dal Bhat” was inborn, in Mustang
“Dal Bhat” is well known Nepali food but it has its own way of presentation and serving style depending on the region. In modern days it believes a complete set of Dal Bhat which you could find in every restaurant was influence by Thakalai Kitchen. A small mountain village call “Thak Khola” from an ethnic group of Mustang call “Thakali” is reach in food culture. According to the Thakali kitchen recipe, a complete set of Dal Bhat should be served in the brass plate and bowel for each individual dish. It comes with plain white rice, dal (a lentils soup), tarkari (made from mix vegetable), sag, (steamed mustard leaf ), achar (sour and hot spice), optional non-vegetarian curry, such as goat curry or chicken curry along with the sweet yogurt as a dessert. Thakalai Kitchen in Nepal is a chain restaurant that typically served authentic Nepali Dal Bhat.