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Published: March 4th 2013
Landing in Nepal marks a personal milestone for your intrepid travel correspondent. Finally I'm in a position to celebrate 100 countries visited and still going strong! It's my dream that given continued good health and prosperity I can add further to this tally, and trust you will come along for the ride. Travel has become an all consuming passion, and long may the journey of life continue! It seems incredible as I look back at the starting point of this amazing journey commencing in 1986, when a young university graduate took a life gamble that entailed leaving friends and family behind and flying to San Francisco; a somewhat unilkely starting point for an incredible life of travel so far! How can I begin to describe the experiences I've borne witness to since beginning this adventure, but as a person focussed on the future I have little time for reminiscing about past glories, as I strongly believe the most incredible part of a human life is that which we have not yet experienced.
So let's push on, the lovely reader, as we move towards our collective future. The flight to Kathmandu included an overnight stay in Bangkok, and I chose to
Locals in the square
Three generations enjoy the temple district
check my bags all the way through and just bummed around in transit for twelve hours. Things worked out better than expected as I scored a lounge after a few hours so that I could stretch out for the night. By the way the Transit Hotel in the airport is absolutely outrageous, and 130 dollars for six hours was something I would never consider. It's a further three hours to Kathmandu from Bangkok, and we all queued for ages to get the visa on arrival sorted. Everything went very well if a little slowly, and after ninety minutes I was through immigration and walking free in country number 100. There's an authorised taxi service at the airport, and they got me to the excellent Sparkling Turtle hostel on the outskirts of town for just over ten dollars.
The hostel is run by a gregarious and engaging young Canadian, and from the first night I certainly got the opportunity to knock elbows with my fellow bar goers, in fact the place seemed to be packed of an evening with plenty of camaraderie on display. The hostel is thirty minutes walk from all the madness of the tourist area in Thamel,
so guests tend to get out and about during the day, and are happy to order food and drinks as they hang out in the common area of an evening. There's a great atmosphere at the hostel, and the guests are remarkably friendly. My itinerary is slowly taking shape with the help of the great guys from Green Valley Nepal tours, and the director KP is at the hostel every day organising all kinds of adventures for travellers, from the legendary Everest base camp and Annapurna treks, down to day tours and everything in between. There's so much to see and do in this spectacular mountain country, which features 8 of the 14 peaks at over 8,000 metres. Many travellers come for long walks amongst the mighty Himalayas, but there are many other travellers who come to Nepal to be part of the experience, who organise shorter tours in the time available to them. I fall into the second category, and KP has got me booked out for the remainder of my stay, and I'm pretty excited about the itinerary.
However, as my starting point is the capital, let's take a moment to bring you up to
speed on some of the exciting options on offer. For the first day I booked a half day tour with KP, to see central Thamel and some of the surrounding temples. The famous Durbar square features several temples in traditional wooden style for tourists and locals to explore. The atmosphere is great in the square, and there are many beautiful temples to enjoy in close proximity to each other. It's an enjoyable experience strolling around central Kathmandu, and the locals seem relaxed and at ease with their daily living. Currently the citizens of Kathmandu are faced with extreme power outage problems every day, in fact it's the worst I've experienced in all my years of travel. The power can be down for up to twenty hours per day just now, and there doesn't seem to be any government plan to alleviate the problem for the citizens of the capital in the forseeable future. A deadly combination of a rapidly growing population, disastrous lack of infrastructure spending by the government, and one of the major power stations being out of action for several years has culminated in worse than third word living for the locals. Yet the people I meet are
friendly and smiling, and the amount of hassle directed at tourists is inconsequential compared to my visit to the Indian subcontinent last year.
Following on from a terrific stroll around Durbar square, I was driven up to Pashupatinath on the banks of the Bagmati river. The complex is revered by local hindus, and is a must see for visitors to the Nepalese capital. I was shocked to witness more confronting cremation rites in Kathmandu than last year in Varanasi. I paid my respects while a body was being purified in front of her family and friends on the river banks prior to cremation, alongside a large and respectful crowd bearing witness to her journey to the afterlife. I was moved by this unexpected travel experience, and the temples around the Bagmati river are well worth a visit in their own right. The tour finished with a visit to Swayambhunath temple, where the stupa is best enjoyed by walking in a clockwise direction around it's base. The two eyes seem to follow you around, and visitors are able to enjoy a stroll up on the stupa as well as enjoying the wonderful shops that line the perimeter of the temple.
I enjoyed my day tour, and spent the following day exploring Thamel on foot, as I randomly walked around the crowded streets of the tourist centre. There's so much to see and do in Kathmandu to start the Nepalese adventure, basically all of you should be here now!
Some people are so far behind in the race that they actually believe they're leading." Mob boss, The Sopranos
As I continue my travels, until next time I'm signing off for now
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