New places, old friends

New day, new sights, new experiences and old friends. What more could a person ask for? Today was a good day.

As promised, today we got to see  the Himalaya again. You’re supposed to be able to see the mountains from Pokhara but as I am here at the end of the monsoon, they are hidden behind continuous clouds. The good thing about that is that I had no spoilers and didn’t quite know what to expect. I had gotten a sneak peak when we were in Nagarkot but I didn’t expect anything as spectacular as what we found.

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The taxi picked us up at 5am from the hostel and took us up the 12km road to Sarankot peak. The poor thing was over 25 years old and we had to get out and walk for a bit as couldn’t quite make it up the mountain with all of us in the cab. There were so many tourists going up that at a certain point there was a traffic jam. Up a bleeding mountain!

Here comes the sun
Here comes the sun

We finally made it to the top and there was a viewing platform which was packed full of Chinese tourists and a few westerners. This is the first and only time that my size has been an advantage here in Nepal as nobody was taller than me. I managed to snap a few good pictures by stretching my arm as tall as it would go and towering over everyone else’s heads. Chinese tourists are quite a show themselves as they ooh and aah at ever little ray of the sun. You definitely never miss anything that is happening.

Fishtail mountain
Fishtail mountain

Annapurna at sunrise

After about an hour up there we walked down to our waiting taxi and squeezed ourselves into the seats. We made our way down to the hostel and when I arrived the owner told me that there would be a room freeing up today so Sarah could join us. She was due to arrive on the bus at 2 pm so I booked her a room.

As we were all rather tired, we decided to take it easy and lounge around the hotel until midday.

After midday we walked into town and tried to rent a scooter but the prices we got were too expensive for a half day so we left it until tomorrow and jumped on a bus into downtown Pokhara. Well at least we thought the bus was going into town… Turns out downtown pokhara is not great and is also rather large. We got off the bus in the middle of nowhere and proceeded to get well and truly lost. We wandered through a residential area looking for a place to eat but all the restaurants were closed. In the end we woke up the owner of one of them and convinced him to make us some chow mein.

Pokhara kids
Pokhara kids
Keeping Pokhara safe
Keeping Pokhara safe

As I said, downtown Pokhara ain’t great. It’s an actual town with no touristic value, how dare they! 😛 I got some interesting street pics and missed Sarah when she arrived at the hostel. She sent me an email thanking me for the room and as we were a bit tired of the town we got in a taxi and headed back.

Like a fish out of water.
Like a fish out of water.
Out for a walk
Out for a walk

When we arrived at the hostel I had the very nice surprise of seeing that a French couple I had met at Kathmandu was staying in the hostel next to us. Their name are Max and Claire, they are just now starting a 2 year trip around the world and you can check out their experiences at their website weshoestheworld.com. In any case, we invited them over and went into town for drinks. All I will say is that there were drinks, dancing, me playing the guitar with a live band and lots and lots of laughs. I think tomorrow will be another slow day! 🙂

Lost in Pokhara

The day started off peacefully enough. Coffee to sat and some yogurt while admiring the view over the lake. Little did we know what was in store for us that day.

We had decided to take a walk to the Devi’s falls. These were some waterfalls which were about 6 km of town. The way seemed easy enough and most of it was around the lake so we decided to walk there. The way was great and the day was not too hot. We stopped along the way to play some ping pong with some local kids and after a while finally made it to the falls.

Pokhara lake
Pokhara lake
Enjoying the falls
Enjoying the falls

Devi’s fall is named after a tourist that fell in there and died. It is a bit sombre as a name but the place is rather catching. The heat had really started to rise at that time and I was sweating like a pig. When I say a pig I mean a large wet animal that has been rolling around in a salty lake most of the morning.

The three amigos
The three amigos

We saw the falls and then went to see the underground caves through which the river flowed. Caves are supposed to be cooler than the outside but this was not the case. Water was falling from the walls and there were large amounts of tourists queueing to make pictures. We got out of there looking as if we had had a shower with our clothes on .

Water way
Water way

After that we decided to take another walk to the world peace pagoda. It is a large temple placed at the top of a mountain which did not seem too far according to our map. Little did we know what we were getting ourselves into!  The climb was about 2 hours up a mountain. There must have been thousands of steps along the way and we were exhausted by the time we made it to the top. We had been walking for over 7 hours at this point and I was tired, hungry and my knee was starting to bother me.

Views
Views

The views were spectacular but we got there just after sunset and we’re asked to leave after only 5 minutes there. We then faced the dilemma of finding a way back down. We didn’t want to walk back the way we came, as that led us to a road that was still 7km from Pokhara. We tried to go down one path that seemed to head into town but a local girl said it was dangerous and full of thieves. We turned around to go down to the lake to grab a boat but another guy told us there were no more boats. At  this point the light was fading fast and we’re still stuck at the top of the mountain.

The long and winding staircase
The long and winding staircase

In desperation we stopped two local kids to ask what was the best way down and they offered to walk us down. Thank goodness for that as the way down was long, extremely slippery and not the most obvious. I almost fell down a ravine a couple of times, Gus slipped and slid dangerously every short while and Ana was too scared to look away from the circle of light at the feet.

It took us the better part of an hour and a half to make it to the bottom of the mountain and another 30 minutes to make it to the hostel. Ana managed  to get a frozen bottle of water from a bar and I iced my knees to bring down the swelling. I also took some ibuprofen as I think it will help. The day has been quite an adventure and the writing does not paint the full picture. Did I mention we all got attached by leeches?

The plan for the next day was to get up early, grab a taxi and go see the sunrise over the himalayas again. Don’t miss it! (Sneak preview below)

In the next episode...
In the next episode…

On the road again

So today (well yesterday actually) was the day I blew my budget. It was worth it and bound to happen sooner or later. I am still within my original crazy budget for the trip but I have a feeling I will not be staying under my revised one.

This morning I almost missed my bus. The alarm sounded but I somehow ignored it and when I opened one eye I only had 15 minutes to pack, check out and get to the bus to pokhara! Suffice it to say it was a bit stressful. On top of that there was nobody at reception so I just left the money for my room and the key on the desk and ran off. When I got to the bus I realised that there was no need to rush. As I have mentioned previously, Nepali people have a different concept of time than we do. Everybody was still milling around buying food for the bus trip.

Leaving Kathmandu
Leaving Kathmandu

I left my backpack in the hold, got myself some crisps and clambered into my seat. The bus was pretty nice, with seats big enough for me and huge windows. If you ever take the Bus fro Kathmandu to Pokhara, make sure you get seated on the right hand side and that you get a windowseat. You will not regret it!

Views from the bus
Views from the bus

The bus trip was long but enjoyable. We made 3 stops along the way and at one of them I met a Spanish couple (Gus and Ana). They are travelling through Nepal for 40 days and are 5 days into their trip. We got on really well together so I made like a leech and attached myself to them. 🙂

As I said the trip is rather long (7 hours for 200kms) but the views are so spectacular that it will fly by. The beginning of the trip is the hardest as there are long queues to leave the Kathmandu Valley but once that is past, time will really fly by.

More views
More views

We go to Pokhara at around 3 pm and piled into a taxi headed to the north of the area called Lakeside. Pokhara is very clearly a tourist town. The lakeside area is full of shops and tourists milling around. There are also plenty of hotels and restaurants. It reminds me a bit of some Spanish tourist resorts in the 80s. We did not want to be stuck in the middle of all the mess so we went north looking for a smaller place to stay.

By this time it was 4pm; the sun was beating down fiercely and we were still carrying our backpacks. In spite of all that we visited several guesthouses and ended up at a great place called the Lemon Tree Guesthouse. I am paying 350 rupees (around 2.50 euros) for a single room with a bathroom. Everything is clean, the bed is comfy and I have a great view.

View from the Guesthouse
View from the Guesthouse

After a quick shower we headed into town to grab a beer and a bite to eat. I also needed an ATM. There was a lot of noise in town as it was World Tourist Day. We headed towards the noise and saw a rather measly display of two guys dressed in purple walking on stilts and one guy in a mouse costume. There was also lots and lots of military. They seemed to be worried that the 40 people there were going to rise up in arms! It all felt very strange so we decided to head up into one to the bars with a view to the lake and have a beer.

storm over Pokhara
storm over Pokhara

One beer led to two, which led to three, which led to us wandering drunkenly down the streets of Lakeside looking for a place that was open past 11pm. We stumbled into a place called the Busy Bee and were just in time for last call. I ordered a Long Island Ice Tea which was disgusting but felt obliged to finish it. The rest of the night is a bit blurry. 🙂

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We made it back to the hostel and for once I failed to see the sunrise. I am typing this from the guesthouse eating area while cradling a hot coffee and waiting for some food to help me overcome my “slight” hangover!

Here I go again on my own

It was 4:45am in the peaceful village of Nagarkot. Not a creature was stirring except for the Spaniard and the Frenchie peacefully snoring in a room of the Nagarkot peak hotel. An alarm sounded and the Spaniard rushed out of bed to see if the stars were visible from the balcony. He was greeted by a stunning view of orion and the moon.

With a spring in his step he rushed back into the room to announce that there were no clouds and that it was time to grab the bus to go see the sunrise over the Himalayas. He sleepily put on some fresh clothes and rushed out to take a picture of the stars but they were gone!

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the stunning story of how we almost missed the sunrise!

As I was saying, we got up to go see the sunrise over the himalayas, planning to get a bus to take us to a Tower from where you supposedly had a great 360 degree view. I had read on the guide that there was a bus that left at 5:30 am to go there so we trudged off through the sleepy village on our way to find the bus. It was pretty cold as we were 2200 metres up but we soldiered on, motivated by the promise of magical views.

When we got to the spot marked by the Lonely planet guide, there was no bus to be seen. I assumed we were in the wrong spot so I moved a bit further and spotted some headlights through the mist. It was not  the promised bus but rather a minibus full of Chinese tourists. I had been stopped by 2 other French backpackers that were trying to get the driver to take them to the tower. The driver said the bus was full so we decided to go back to town together and try to get a taxi between the 4 of us. By this time the horizon was starting to get light and there was a thick fog that covered everything. I started to  think we might not make it.

After walking for around 5 minutes we were overtaken by the minibus, which stopped and said that we could jump  in. The Chinese tourists seemed to have scorched up and we were able to pile in to the last row of seats. It was tight but we were on our way to the tower!

The famous tower was 4kms away, which in Nepal means around 20 minutes. In the meantime there was more and more light and the fog was thicker by the second. I tried not to let it show but I was convinced we would miss it. After about 15 minutes I noticed that the fog was starting to dissipated as we climbed higher and higher up the mountains. 2 curves before we got there we cleared the cloud and saw a car park full of buses and taxis.

We jumped out of the car, gave the driver a tip and marched up the last few sets of steps to the magical tower.

The sun had not risen yet and we were treated to a foggy view of distant mountaintops. The sky was starting to get noticeably lighter along one side. There was a bunch of loud Chinese tourists setting up tons of photo equipment, 2 disapproving German tourists, the Frenchie and us. Oh and a swarm of Nepali people but I guess that’s normal. 🙂

The sunrise cannot really be described, pictures don’t really do it justice. Suffice it to say I finally feel like I’m in Nepal!

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We decided to walk back to Nagarkot and it was well worth the walk. Apart from the large amount of soldiers training up and down the road (there are 2 barracks nearby) it was a magical experience. Truth be told, even the Nepali soldiers are nice! The smiled and returned all our greetings even though they were clearly exhausted from running up a freaking mountain!

Views on the way down
Views on the way down

We had a lovely breakfast at the berg house café with a beautiful view of the rolling mountains. After much reading up on the town and it’s surroundings, Sarah decided to stay another day in Nagarkot so it was time to say goodbye. We went back to the hotel and packed our bags as she had found a cheaper room in a hotel down the road. It is her birthday in 2 day and she wants to be in Pokhara for it so we might see each other there! 🙂

I climbed into a local bus to Bhaktapur, much to the enjoyment of the locals. The fact that the bus rocked when I got in and that I couldn’t fit into one of the seats kept them entertained for a good while. Suffice it to say it was not a very comfortable ride. I grabbed another bus from Bhaktapur to Kathmandu and after only 4 hours (to cover 36 kms) I was back in Kathmandu.

After 4 days outside of Kathmandu, you kind of forget how crazy it is. I had also only had 4 hours of sleep, no lunch (it was 2pm) and was sweating like a public woman at a holy ceremony. The good thing about this is that I wasn’t taking no silly business from anyone. I got a room for half the price they asked for, got a steep discount on my bus fare to Pokhara and even got a discounted rate for my urgent laundry. To sum it up, I was a badass! 🙂

After all that I had decided I had done enough for one day and decided to relax. I had a nice Lebanese lunch at the Nargilla restaurant and then went to the Gardens of Dreams to have a nap. I lay down and listened to the soundtrack from “Into the Wild”… twice! It was the perfect music for the perfect place. I wish I could do this life for much longer! 🙂

Garden of dreams indeed
Garden of dreams indeed

I got an unexpected call from Jacques and Laure. They were going to have dinner somewhere south oof Thames and wanted to see if I could joint them. i/ went over and had a quick dinner before heading to pickup up my laundry and then go to bed.

Tomorrow will be another big one as I take the 7 hour bus ride (200 kms) to Pokhara! I wonder what will happpen?

Tips for Nepal part 2

Following on from my previous instalment here is the second addition to my list of tips for travelling in Nepal.

Tip 6: Order food at least 30 mins before you’re hungry

Life in Nepal has another rhythm and it isn’t exactly a speedy one. In Kathmandu, service can be speedier though still slow by European timeframes. Outside of Kathmandu be ready to wait quite a while. They have not forgotten your order, they just need to prepare everything from scratch. The upside is that the food will taste great and you will also get to enjoy the views or get to know your travel companions a bit better.

Tip 7: Don’t be afraid to explore

Nepali towns can be crazy if you stick to the main streets. You will be hassled and might even end up getting stressed! To avoid that and also ensure you see a little bit to of what it is like to be a Nepali, go into the dingy little streets. You might end up in someone’s courtyard but a quick smile and a “namaste” will get you out of more trouble than you’d think was possible. Also you’d be surprised at the beauty of some of the things hidden away inside Nepal’s courtyards!

Tip 8: Be prepared to say no… a lot!

This doesn’t just apply to the street vendors, it is also a good tip for when buying anything, agreeing on a hotel price or even buying tourist bus tickets. Everything is negotiable in Nepal. The best way to get someone to lower the price of something is to flat out refuse to discuss it any further and then walk away. Don’t be afraid, they will come after you with a better price or if not you can try again at the next corner. Very few things you can buy are only sold in one shop in Nepal.

Tip 9: Always get the price first

Whenever looking to buy anything or rent a service or book a room, make sure you get a price first. If they say no, then insist and if they refuse, give a price that is 50% of what you’re really after. They will expect it and then will give you a price that will still be too high but it’s a starting point. I hate showing my hand and letting them know what I’d be willing to pay as it is really hard to lower that first number.

Tip 10: Don’t judge a restaurant by its entrance

The 2 best places I have been to so far in Nepal had dingy horrible entrances. To get into one I even had to walk through a woodworking workshop and then a freight service office! With the lack of electricity and windows in lower floors in Nepal, most place look horrible. Wait until you get there to judge. Even then, I’d trust more what my fellow travellers (or me) are saying than the appearance of the place.

Hope you enjoyed these. I’ll post more as I collect them!

Into the mountains

If you’ve been paying attention, today was the big day in which we went to Nagarkot up in the Himalaya mountains . It promised to be an interesting day and it definitely did not disappoint.

The day started, as usual, at 6 am for me. For once I decided I was not going to walk around bhaktapur as I felt like I needed some time to start my day calmly. I made my bag lazily and wasted time until I met Sarah for breakfast at 8. I don’t know what these Nepali people put in their potatoes for breakfast but man is it good! We were supposed to leave for Changu Narayan temple in the morning, come back to bhaktapur to grab our bags and then head off to Nagarkot. All of this with the added difficulty of avoiding all checkpoints so Sarah didn’t have to pay.

We headed towards the bus stop and made it easily there with no money leaving our pockets. There was much laughing about how Sarah was escaping her medieval prison. We were lucky and managed to grab seats at the back of the bus. I once again did my Guliver’s travels impersonation and towered over everyone that sat next to me. The trip was not so bad and the views of the rice pads were beautiful. Unfortunately I could not sit next to the windows as my giant legs did not fit in the seat.

Ready to harvest
Ready to harvest

Changu Narayan temple is not bad but in my opinion does not deserve a UNESCO World Heritage Site award. It is a small temple at the end of a village and is pretty but not as spectacular as others I’ve seen. Then again maybe I’m just spoilt now.

Meh... :-P
Meh… 😛

I squeezed into another bus back to Bhaktapur and we proceeded to sneakily enter the city, dodging checkpoints along the way. We met Jacques and Laure back at the hostel who were just back from an 8hour trip back from the mountain village they had been visiting. They seemed happy but exhausted. Sarah and I ordered our food and an hour later had lunch.

We had planned on getting the bus at 3 pm at the latest so we could get to Nagarkot to see the sunset. The bus was as packed as I have ever seen one so far. More and more people kept piling in. Once again, Sarah and I manage to snag seats for the one hour and half journey to cover the 16kms to Nagarkot. It was a crazy trip with breathtaking views up until we actually got into Nagarkot.

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Clouds incoming
Clouds incoming

We managed to find a cheap hostel room facing the sunrise but it is cloudy and misty and I don’t think we’ll see much. 🙁

Not much to see!
Not much to see!

Tune in tomorrow to see what happens!

Change of pace

Up until now I have been travelling through the more hectic parts of Nepal and that shows in my pace of doing things. I would see 3 things and try to get a fourth one in every day. In Bhaktapur the pace is different. I think it is due in part to the peace and calm of this lovely city and also to the fact that Sarah enjoys taking frequent pauses and just enjoying time. As you can imagine, we get along really well!

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Through the rabbit hole

All of this is to say that today I took it easy. We were also limited by the fact that Sarah did not pay the toll to enter the city so we cannot wander past any of the checkpoints in case she gets caught and forced to pay! The best thing about this is that it allowed us to see a lot of the tiny streets that most people don’t venture into as we had already covered the major arteries.

My day, as is usual on this trip, started at 6 am. I did not sleep well as there were dogs fighting most of the night in front of my window and at 1 am we had a huge thunderstorm. It was scarily loud and I would have loved it if it wasn’t 1 in the morning. So at 6 I got out and saw early morning Bhaktapur. It is a lovely city and well worth waking up for. Plenty of people on the streets and all the temples were full of people worshipping.

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Early babe catches the worm
Early babe catches the worm

I had agreed to meet Sarah at the hostel at 8 am and I needed to move my stuff there as I was planning on spending the night at my new hostel. Just as I was leaving the old place, the guy at reception reminded me that I had a free breakfast included in the price so I was begrudgingly 15 minutes late to meet Sarah. The breakfast was one of the best meal to date here. They said it had hash browns but it was a stir fry of potatoes, onions and sweet peppers with some secret heavenly spice on top. I also got scrambled eggs, 2 pieces of toast, coffee and orange juice. Suffice it to say I had a late lunch. 🙂 I arrived at my new hostel at 8:15 and I was greeted by Sarah, Jacques and Laure. Jacques and Laure were supposed to meet a Nepali friend of theirs to go to his house at 8:30 and spend the night. The friend did not show up until 9:30 by which time I was informed that there were no rooms available for me but there might be space in one of the dorms. Luckily Laure offered me their room as they had it booked anyway and it was already paid. So in the end I have a double room with a bathroom to stay in, yay!

Thanks guys!
Thanks guys!

Sarah and I wandered around town for the rest of the day, exploring as we wished. It’s great to walk around with her as she will enter places I would not have gone into. Bhaktapur is full of little tunnels that lead to the interior courtyards and are well worth exploring. There’s always a way out if you look for it and the people seem amused rather than annoyed that we walk through their courtyards. I don’t think we would be as nice if that happened back home.

Hidden gem
Hidden gem

After a quick pre-lunch siesta (yeah, holidays are exhausting!) we looked for a place to eat. We ended up going up to a place called Dattatraya Rooftop Cafe where we had a selection of local Newari food and a shot of local engine degreaser which they say is actually alcohol. They views were great and we ended up lounging there for a couple of hours. Just before we left, poor Sarah got a really bad shock from some loose wiring but the waiter said not to worry as that only meant that Sarah has high blood pressure. People with normal blood pressure do not get shocked, which he proved by… not getting shocked!

Not a bad view
Not a bad view

We walked back to Durbar square to see the sunset and sat there for an hour or so, talking to some locals which tried to make us go see their painting school (to sell us some mandala paintings) but which were still nice when we said no. After that we did a quick stroll through the market and went back to the hostel. We grabbed a couple of freshly squeezed juices (and were proud to pay half what the Chinese tourist paid) and we’re now chilling at the rooftop terrace.

Kali!
Kali!

Tomorrow promises to be a hectic day as we want to visit a monastery in the morning, come back here and then take a bus to Nagarkot, to see the sunset over the Himalayas. All this while not getting caught by any of the checkpoints so Sarah does not have to pay. Tune in tomorrow!

Changing places

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Dawn over Kathmandu

Once again my morning began relatively early. I was up at the crack of dawn and looking forward to my big day, I was planning to leave Kathmandu to go to bhaktapur. I had heard good things about it and I had also decided to take public transport there as I wanted to mix a bit with the local population.

After a quick shower (hot this time!) and a short debate about how much I owed the hotel, I braved the streets of Kathmandu on my way to beautiful Bhaktapur! I stopped for a fuelling trip at the highly recommendable Pumpernickel (scrambled eggs and banana pancakes) and made my way to the bus stop.

Once again I was followed by a small troop of people selling me things until I left Thamel and enter the real Kathmandu. Even though it was only 8 am the streets were already packed with people. I had no trouble finding the pickup spot for the bus and I was lucky enough to find a seat next to the window. I kept on thinking that the bus was really empty and I initially took up two seats. I kind of needed them for my bags and my somewhat oversized ass. Everything changed as the trip went on. More and more people piled into the bus until it started to remind me of a Marx Brothers sketch. No matter how many people came into the bus, there was always space for more. I ended up carrying my bags and was really grateful for having packed relatively light.

Empty bus
Empty bus
Somewhere along the way
Somewhere along the way

The trip was worth it and I will definitely be repeating as you get to see a lot of fun things. I finally reached Bhaktapur and squeezed out of the bus. everybody seemed to find it really funny to see me struggle out of the bus. It was like when you try to pull out the big jumper from the bottom of your backpack. It was a flood of Nepalese people preceding me as I struggled out.

I found the city center and paid the tax to get in. Just as I was entering Durbar Square I found Jacques and Laura a really nice French couple that I had met at Kathmandu. They were staying in Bhaktapur for a couple of days and we agreed to meet up for lunch. I went to my hostel which is just in the middle of Durbar square and after about an hour of waiting I finally put down my bags.

View from my window
View from my window

I took a quick shower and walked around for a while until it was time for lunch. I met Jacques and Laure for lunch and then went with them to their hostel.

I had originally intended on staying at their hostel but there was no room. I have made a booking for tomorrow so hopefully I’ll get in. We had a coffee there and met Sarah, a French girl that is taking some time to travel the world. She has been travelling for 4 months now and will not return to France until February.

Sarah
Sarah
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Jacques and Laure

We all went for a walk together and after a while we’re told that there was a festival happening in the city centre where a fake elephant would do a parade. We sat at the top of one of the temples and waited for the show. More and more people sat around us and it was fun to be a part of the background for once. The fake elephant came and chased people around the square for a while. It kind of reminded me of San Fermin but with a fake elephant instead of a bull.

Beware of the blue meanie
Beware of the blue meanie

After that we each went our separate ways and agreed to meet up later. I went to my hostel and the elephant was running around there as well. It was great to see all the kids having so much fun and I’m really curious as to what was really going on.

As I write this I’m sitting at the hostel restaurant waiting for a plate of steamed buffalo momos. Life is tough! 😉

Tips for Nepal

I’ve only been here 2 days but there are already a few things I’ve learnt. I’ll try to post these things whenever I have a bit of downtime. These are a bit random but hopefully useful.

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Tip 1: Don’t be afraid of the bus.

I’ve met a few travellers so far that have been taking taxis everywhere they go. Don’t get me wrong, taxis are great if you are in a rush or too tired to walk to the bus stop. They are also relatively cheap but they are nowhere near the price of a bus trip.

I have taken a few buses so far and I am loving it! They are dirt cheap (0.20€ from Kathmandu to bhaktapur) and you get to see how the people of Nepal actually get around. As long as you can grab a seat you’ll be fine. They are a bit cramped (especially for a 185 cm tall big guy)  but so far they are my preferred method of travel.

Tip 2: Pack small.

You will be doing a lot of walking and squeezing into tight spaces so the smaller the better. If your backpack’s bigger than 45 litres, you might have a tough time.

Also, never pack sharp or pointy objects on the outside of your pack. You’ll soon end up getting jabbed a few times.

Tip 3: Chill out.

Nepal can be stressful at times, especially Kathmandu. You will be hassled by a lot of people trying to sell you things and will invariably end up swimming through a throng of people, cars and motorbikes. This can end up fraying your nerves and make you not enjoy yourself.

Whenever that happens just breath and enjoy it. It’s all a new experience and you should try to see it in that light. Remember there’s no rush to get anywhere. There’s also no such thing as wasting time, if you feel you need a break, take it! 🙂

Tip 4: Trust yourself and go with it.

You will never be 100% sure you are on the right road or on the right bus. Most people speak very little English and there are no Street signs. In case of doubt, trust your gut and go with it. In the worse case you’ll just end up seeing something off the beaten track and have to go back. It’s really not worth stressing out about it.

Tip 5: Get change and water

Whenever you exchange money you will be given a lot of large bills. Most places will have trouble changing a 500 rupee note so get change whenever you can. Also, it gets pretty hot walking round so I would recommend always carrying a bottle of water. They cost 20 rupees for a 1 liter bottle but some places will try to charge you more as you are a tourist.

Well that’s all I have for now. My room at the hostel is ready so I’d better drop off my bag and go see bhaktapur!

The adventure continues

I hope everyone likes reading long posts because that’s what you’re getting today too!

In Kathmandu many things depend on what they call load sharing. This isn’t people being good and helping other carry heavy bags, it’s a rotation they have of the city’s electricity. You will generally have about 6 hours of electricity in any given day so you need to make sure to have everything ready to charge as soon as the power is back. I almost got caught with no spare charged battery for my camera because of this and it is also the reason I was up and moving at 6:30 am. You see, the fan in my room depends on there being power in the hostel. So I woke up at 6 am covered in sweat and thought I might as well get up.

After a refreshing cold shower, I decided to walk to Swayambhunath or, as we westerners call it, the monkey temple. The Nepalese people are early risers, so there were already plenty of people around at 6:30. I was the only tourist I saw, which was kind of nice. The walk to Swayambhunath is not the prettiest but I got to see a bit of the real Kathmandu. Also, not being hassled by rickshaw drivers, flute sellers, hash dealers and tour guides was a great relief. There are a couple of nice temples along the way. That is the surprising thing about Kathmandu, where you least expect it you suddenly have these huge pagoda style temples and beautiful little shrines.

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I arrived to the monkey temple around 7:30 and I realised I had made it to the pilgrim’s entrance. This is the traditional way of approaching and there are a lot of stairs to climb! Also, if you have any food on you, the monkeys will harass you until they steal it. I had half a bag of crisps which I thought were well hidden but I ended up losing them to an entrepreneurial monkey. The climb was tough but with calculated stops along the way it is manageable. The effort is well worth it as the views from the top are spectacular and the stupa and surrounding temples are excellent. I was lucky enough to be the first tourist there so I got to see a morning ritual (no pictures allowed, sorry) and enjoy the peace and quiet.

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I went back down the tourist side and crossed the first groups of tourists arriving at the temple. Have I mentioned how lucky I was to be the first tourist there? I imagine the experience would have been very different with 2 busloads of Korean tourists milling about and taking pictures of the same things.

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I decided to jump on a taxi to Patan. Patan is one of the oldest cities in Nepal and has its own Durbar Square which is also a World Heritage site. I paid my taxi fare (around 3 euro) and a short 35 minutes after I was there. It was now 9:30 in the morning and there were still no tourists to be seen! I decided I had earned a breakfast (still being annoyed about my lost crisps) so I popped into the only place near Durbar Square that I found open. The place was nice but the breakfast was most definitely forgettable. (Café de Patan in case you’re curious)

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I then paid for a guide to show me around. The guides are reasonably expensive (around 10 euro for a one and a half hour tour) but I felt like I needed someone to show me the ropes. I ended up getting a great guide and I highly recommend him. I have all his information if anyone needs it, just send me a message or post a comment below. He showed me all the temples in and around Durbar Square and some others that were not on my map. He then dropped me off at the Patan museum. I would highly recommend the museum to anyone going. I takes a couple of hours but the information is really good. For example, did you know that Hindu gods don’t always have the same number of arms? Each arm and face of the figure represents a different aspect of that particular incarnation of the god.

By the time I was done it was lunch time so I went in search of food. I had wanted to take a bus back to Kathmandu and it turns out there was a nice Malaysian place on the way from Durbar to the bus station. I headed off into the middle of Patan and I  loved it. I felt like the only westerner in town. Patan is an ancient city and much like Kathmandu has beautiful temples where you least expect them.

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I had a lovely meal of mee goreng at the Sing Ma food court and then caught a bus into Kathmandu. Buses are quite an experience and I highly recommend them as they are one thirtieth of the price of a taxi and just as fast. The way they work is that the fare collector keep shouting out of the window to see if anyone wants to go where the bus is going. If someone does, the bus slows down a bit and they jump on. Luckily I got mine at one of the bus stops where the minibuses slow to crawl to let you get in(but don’t actually stop).

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I got to Kathmandu safely and walked back to the hostel to take a shower. I had drank about 4 liters of water so far and had not gone to the bathroom once. I felt a bit sweaty and hot so a cool shower is just what the doctor ordered. As soon as stepped out of the shower it started to rain heavily and has not stopped since. I am now sitting under a small roof on the terrace writing this blog. I shall attempt to upload it as soon as I am finished. If you’re reading this, I have succeded.

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Tune in tomorrow for more crazy adventures and my trip to the ancient city of Bhaktapur where I plan to spend the night.