Published: November 1st 2010May 21st 2010
And so the misadventures that had started at the ForEx in Manila's airport a week prior trailed me. Nothing new. Banks wouldn't exchange my peso and I could not get cash from my credit card as it was maxed out already. Just great -- in a foreign country without local currency, and with only non-convertible money and a useless plastic card. No money to buy food or my plane ticket to go back home. Anxiety settled in and made herself really comfortable.
I was living on credit from Yla. But then, she would be going home on the 23rd (Sunday), which would leave me without any means of communication (Sun Cellular had no service in Nepal!) or money to continue my journey to Pokhara. Email was not an option. With proliferation of scam emails of people pretending to be stuck somewhere and in dire need of money, I was pretty sure my family would just think that my email had been hacked or attacked by a virus.
So, I had to ensure that my family got my texts to wire me money immediately -- or I would be stuck in Nepal. All the trekking gears and merchandise an outdoor
starting them young
This charming young boy was preparing an offering.
enthusiast want were there and yet I could not afford to even just look at them lest the inner shopaholic in me scream "Foul!" I eventually got wired some money. Luckily, there was an open money transfer facility on a Saturday, a non-working day in Nepal when almost all establishments were closed. That was really close, not to mention stupid (of me).
"Eat, Pray, Love," really?
"They are from the Philippines," Tashi told the border policemen, as they attempted to stop us on our way to the immigration. Apparently, we look like Chinese and he said they would ask us for money if we were. Uhm, okay. Good thing Tashi was there to assist us.
Taking the cramped local bus was both tiring and amusing. Many passengers stayed on top of the vehicle; some women just hanged on the door railing. In Filipino we refer to it as "sabit"
but usually only males do it. The 5-hour bus trip from Kodari border to Kathmandu was peppered with checkpoint stops that were more frequent than in Tibet, probably because it had only been a couple of weeks since the Maoists ended their crippling general strike. The
UNESCO World Heritage Site
occasional fields and waterfalls eased the discomfort brought by the really bad road.
Somehow I imagined Nepal as mystical place -- where one could go on a self-discovery journey and get an answer on what the meaning of life is or how deep love is. Elizabeth Gilbert, is that you?
Well, I discovered that I have a really overactive imagination.
Kathmandu exuded a certain charm reminiscent of my country, just surrounded by majestic mountain ranges and with an established tourist/backpacking industry. It was probably the terrain and dominant flora.
Although poverty is apparent, everywhere I looked people seemed happy...and dressed up. Most of the young and not-so-young men were in dress pants and shirt; I only saw few who were in jeans.
Waiting for Western Union to open and with just a few rupees at hand, we went around Kathmandu by foot. We went to Swayambhu, a very large stupa atop a hill 3 km from Kathmandu's center. Upon reaching the last of the 365 steps to the 15-meter high stupa, one is greeted by "The Eye" of the stupa that seemingly looked over the entire Kathmandu Valley. Offerings, prayer wheels, circumambulating worshippers abound. I just
wish there were not too many vendors in the area for the sake of maintaining its sanctity.
Why did the chicken cross the road? I don't know.
But I do know that a cow at the center of road has so much greater chance of living than pedestrians walking by the roadside in Kathmandu. Motorcycles and cars would just suddenly pass us by without warning. Vehicular movement was chaotic. And I thought Manila trained me well for that.
- In order to facilitate border crossing, get your Nepali visa from your country of origin.
- The 3 royal cities in Kathmandu Valley are Kathmandu, Bhaktapur, and Patan.
- One could take either a local bus or cab from the Kodari border to Kathmandu (travel time: 4-5 hours). Local buses are only up to 2pm, after which time, one could only take a cab. There are small, rickety eateries in the area where one could sample a local Nepali cuisine. They typically serve Dal Baht, a plate of steamed rice and lentil soup (equivalent of mongo / mung beans in the Philippines), with vegetables and curried or spicy meat dish.
- Thamel in Kathmandu City is a good area to look for hostels. It is lined with quaint shops selling many outdoor merchandise, souvenirs, tea, and local food.
- Nepal has a 6-day work week, with Saturday as non-working day.
- Some banks in Thamel area are open until 8pm for tourists who want to exchange foreign currencies.
- One can explore Kathmandu City on foot. Just wear comfortable shoes (not slippers because roads are really dusty).
There are more photos below