On the spur of the moment

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September 9th 2007
Published: October 8th 2007
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We had decided to go to Nepal on a bit of a whim, it was never really on our itinerary and at the start of the trip (in fact until a few weeks before we arrived in Nepal) we had never considered we would find ourselves there. Nepal bound we where though, on our way to tackle the Himalayas on our final trek of the journey. Our previous experiences of trekking in Peru, Chile, Argentina and New Zealand had been some of the most memorable moments of our trip with landscapes that had challenged, inspired and impressed us. We hoped that our final trek would provide us with similar memories, and we had chosen to go to some of the highest mountains in the world, not to do things by halves.

Entering Nepal was supposed to be easy, there is a visa to acquire but that can be done on entry for a US$30 fee. Sounds simple, but it proved slightly more difficult than it should be. We filled in our arrival forms (as has become a formality as all countries require it) stating we where not carrying anything dodgy or plants/ animals (bahhhhh, shhhhh!), and proceeded to immigration. Here
Colour PowderColour PowderColour Powder

Everything is just sooo much more colourful in Asia
we were greeted with a large sign saying that the visa fee had to be paid in foreign currency only (surprisingly they don't accept their own currency as payment). OK, so we go to the foreign exchange desk to get us some foreign, but wait, they don't accept plastic of any variety. This presented us with a bit of an issue as we never carry any cash really, but we had to get some somehow. Mr Immigration Officer offered us a solution which was to go to the ATM outside of the airport and get cash out, did we mention? OUTSIDE! Andy had to leave his passport and enter the country as an illegal to do this, passing all the seemingly armed ,one way, security on the way. On getting cash out, there was then another problem, it was of course Nepali Rupee as we where in Nepal. This had to be changed at the Foreign Exchange, before running the gauntlet of armed security and persuading them to let Andy back into immigration again, despite all the No Entry signs. This was achieved, our visa was paid, we got our passports back and we entered Nepal as legitimate tourists, Hurah!!!!
Pilar of the MonasteryPilar of the MonasteryPilar of the Monastery

at the Bodhnath Stupa
Everything after that was easy, as for once on our trip, we had pre-arranged all our plans with the guide. Our new friend Mahesh was there waiting for us as we left the airport which was a really nice change.

After travelling for so long, independently and without a plan, you get used to landing somewhere with very little clue of where you are going and how you will get there. In many ways it is liberating, and more often than not you end up somewhere wonderful you would never have been able to plan for or book ahead. There is a certain level of stress involved with this, so we really appreciated on this occasion to have had someone else do the hard work for us. All we had to do was to shake hands, put our bags in the boot of the waiting taxi and drive to our hotel which was also pre-arranged. After 9 months on the road these kind of things class as sheer luxury to us. We were booked in at the "7 Corners" hotel which was comfortable enough with all the facilities we needed (bed - check, shower - check, toilet - check).

That night we managed to blag our way to a meal with Mahesh's family, a typical Nepali meal with a Nepali family, right up our street. We spent the night learning some Nepali (words for food items), playing "take my picture" with the kids, and getting to know Mahesh who we would be spending the next 2 weeks with. Luckily for us the recommendation we had been given was a good one and Mahesh was a great bloke with a good sense of humour. We didn't stay up too late that night as we had a sightseeing tour arranged for the next day which was also included in our package.

The next day we took a sightseeing tour of Kathmandu and the surrounding area. Driving through the streets in the capital city of Nepal is a slightly weird experince, as it doesn't really feel like what you normally get in a capital. There is a distinctly townie feel to the whole place with very few (none actually that we saw) large buildings of any type or flashy shops. The traffic on the roads just adds to this feel as it is seemingly totally lawless and matches (and probably
Monks in TrainingMonks in TrainingMonks in Training

Their crazy little hats make them look almost cartoon like, comedy really
beats) India for on the road chaos. There are people driving the wrong way , on the wrong side of the road. There are vehicles fighting for position on the road with the largest/ heaviest vehicle being the winner every time. There is the constant beeping of horns, which seems to be acceptable for warning others of your presence, for highlighting other drivers mistakes, for announcing your intention to cut in front of someone or for preventing someone from cutting in front of you. Then there are the motorbikes which drive down any strip of surface where they will fit. They will also drive the wrong direction on the road, squeeze in any gap big enough, drive down the pavement when the road is blocked, and all of this performed carrying up to at least 3 people, and/or ridiculously sized objects. I have described this at some length but to be fair it is nothing we havn't seen before in other countries, except in Nepal the level of it all seems that little more. Also, Kathmandu seemed nothing like we have imagined it. It actually felt like the most touristy place we have been so far. The centre, where most
A Funeral Pyre A Funeral Pyre A Funeral Pyre

That really is a body on the steps awaiting burning.
of the tourist stay is full of souvenier and hiking shops. On top of that are many loud bars. Somehow we were expecting more like a serious trekkers gathering place and not a "party place". Anyway, onto the sights, we went first to the Bodhnath Stupa. This was really the first time that we were so close to such a big stupa and the monument looked breathtaking. Appartently this is the largest Buddhist stupa in Nepal. There we wandered around and took advantage of having somebody with us to answer all our questions. On the way around the stupa a our guide pointed out a little shop full of singingbowls. He knew that the guys inside know their craftsmanship very well and we certainly were interested. So we went in and listend to the amazing sounds of the singing bowls. They all have different sounds and a different sound is used to heal different part of the body. A good sinigingbowl will vibrate while it is making the sound and all in all is very mesmerising and relaxing. Finally we left the shop with our own special bowl that plays the "C" note - for vital energy. We thought we might need that when back in england for the winter 😉 Dooooonnnngggggggg 😊))) Next we went to see the Pashupatinath secret sanctuary. Here numerous cremations take place. There are dedicated places for high officials and "normal" people to be cremated. We were "lucky" to see a body being prepared for a cremation while various were already burning. Not a pleasent smell we have to say, but an unforgettable sight. After that traumetising experience we went to the Durbar Square in Patan. This is a magnificent site with so much history and religion that we are not able to repeat here. A short stroll through Patan revealed that this is a very nice place and somewhat relaxter than the touristy centre of Kathmandu. But then, what isn't 😊 Next stop was Swayambhunath Stupa also known as the Monkey Temple. Why? Because it is full of them! They even have their own private swimmngpool and we never have seen monkeys jumping so happily from a tree into cold water. We nearly joined them 😉 By then we were done with our itinery for the day and certainly our intake on history and religion was more than exhausted. It was time to go back, get the last few things organised for the trek and leave this civilised world behind.

So, we packed, grabbed our tickets and went back to the airport to catch the first flight out to Lukla, the start of our trek. The domestic airport seemed more like a "bus stop" here, all very relaxed, nobody is interested in passports and security is wrapped up quickly with the question "Do you have a knive or a lighter in your handlugage sir?" - a quick no and you are through. That is efficiency for ya. We got onto the plane with another maybe 20 people - that's it. Trust me, this very small aircraft makes your flying experience very different to what you are used to. You can feel every flap! We positioned ourselves on the right side (all seats are window seats by the way) only to find out that all the nice views were to be had on the left side - Dough! After few rounds above Lukla the pilot decided that it was not possible to land due to clowds covering the landing path. So we had to turn around and fly back to Kathmandu. It wasn't clear if any more planes will leave for Lukla that day, all was depending on the weather conditions. We heard that some people were actually waiting for days to get out there with no success. That made us worried a bit as we have not planned that into our flights in and out of Kathmandu. As we were back in the capital, we took the opportunity to go to the jet airways office to ask if we can change our flight. Of course we can! But there are no seats available in October - so we asked to be put on the waiting list and hope for the best. Another night in Kathmanu and again we were back at the airport. This time we were booked on the second flight out - so if the first flight lands in Lukla we could hope to land too. Our backpacks managed to get onto the flight but suddenly someone announced that big clowds gathered above Lukla. What could we do - we sat down on the runway and waited for better weather. Comedy. Finally we were lucky and let onto the flight. We chose the left side of the plane this time but the mountains decided to dissapear behind the clouds that day. And there we were!!! At the beggining of probably our last trek during our one year journey - how exciting!!!

Additional photos below
Photos: 15, Displayed: 15


Stupa at the Monkey TempleStupa at the Monkey Temple
Stupa at the Monkey Temple

here the monkeys rule!
A monkeyA monkey
A monkey

at the monkey temple - where else? :)
Stupa at the Monkey TempleStupa at the Monkey Temple
Stupa at the Monkey Temple

Look into my eyes, not around the eyes, look into my eyes...
The cookery lessonThe cookery lesson
The cookery lesson

Learning how to make the Nepali Staple, Dahl Bhatt
If I twist hard enough, do you think they will come off?If I twist hard enough, do you think they will come off?
If I twist hard enough, do you think they will come off?

The Kids at Maheshe's place were soooo cute! This particular one will be a model in future, he could not get enough of us taking a picture of him.

11th October 2007

Well , going to the chippy is never going to be quite the same again . Glad you are so obviously keeping well and continuing to stretch yourself .
11th October 2007

Make mine a Smokey and Chips!!!
Dad, your comments are so random sometimes, Josie says she now knows where I get it from :) Can I get my chippy order in early before we get back?
12th October 2007

U R tourists
You keep dissin the tourists like you aren't one. You are - get over yourselves!
13th October 2007

A little confused
Thank you very much for taking the time and reading our blog. As we encourage any comments, we thought it would be rude to ignore yours. We are not quite sure where exactly we were "dissin" the tourists - does saying that a place is touristy qualify as "dissin"? We describe places and situations as WE experience them, everyone is free to go and make their own picture. In fact, is this not the purpose of Travelblog? We are not here to write another lonely planet, but our own personal experience, utilising the freedom of speech. Of course we are tourists / travellers / globetrotters or whatever you want to call people who have a genuinly interest in other cultures and make an effort to understand and respect them. The only time we do not like to join the crowds is when local customs are not appreciated and/or when the chance to get a flavour of a culture is minimal - unfortunately this is the case all around the world at the "must do" - "must see" places. And again, this is not necessarily the "tourists" fault (as long as they behave that is) - it's just how the economy around these places responds to the masses of visitors. However, it would be a crime not to see the one or the other UNESCO heritage site on the way - don't you think? Hope we didn't put you off - stay tuned!

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