Tag Archives: Nepal

Days 14, 15, 16, 17: Nepal: Lumbini and Chitwan

Crossing borders on foot often makes you thankful of how easy we all have it with airport borders. Crossing from India to Nepal was no exception but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Back in Varanasi, we had a train to catch. We were hoping to meet up with a French couple we had met earlier at the train station. We were dropped off an hour before our train was supposed to leave because the driver could not wait around any longer. Good riddance to him.

It was 11:30 pm and the train was going to leave at 12:30 am. We found a spot for ourselves and ran into our French friends who had been unable to book an air-conditioned coach and were travelling in sleeper class (like 3rd class but with no AC). We got wifi by borrowing someone’s Indian phone to get the activation SMS message and settled down to wait for the train.

The train was initially delayed by 35 mins, then 50, then an hour and 5 minutes. We suspected the cows walking down the rail track were partly to blame.

The train finally arrived at 2 am and we settled in for the night, this time in 2nd class AC which had only 2 levels of bunks and curtains! Quite the luxurious ride. The train was only 8 hours so we arrived at Gorakpur at 10 am and were only 3 hours from the border by bus.

As we hadn’t slept much and we were 4 people we decided to just take a taxi for a thousand rupees to the border. It was a bit shady as we had to pay for his petrol as well and we were still on the defensive due to our Indian experiences. In the end all was well and we were dropped off at the Indian immigration office.

The heat that day was pretty bad, (about 38 degrees centigrade) and with a lot of humidity so it was a long, sweaty wait for our passports to be checked and signed. Once we had checked out of India, we started the long trek across the heavily guarded border.

It was all one long line of trucks, stuck at the border for what looked like days. The line was over 3 km long and didn’t seem to be moving any time soon. We crawled through the traffic and found the Nepali office just past the border on the right hand side. If we’d walked on the left hand side, we’d be illegal immigrants right now.

The office was hot and the paperwork was way too thin for our amounts of sweat. Esther had also developed a splitting headache so everyone was in a great mood! We handed over our somewhat ripped forms, two photos and 50 pristine dollars (2 bills were rejected because they had minuscule tears on the edge, luckily I had brought spares) and we now had Nepali visas!

As Esther was not feeling great we headed straight to Lumbini in a local bus. It was hot, packed and as much fun as I remember. Esther, I think, wasn’t quite so enthusiastic but she stuck in there like a trooper and we arrived safe and sound.

At the hostel, we decided to splurge on an air-conditioned room. I felt that the bus and border crossing were enough discomfort for a day and Esther needed to rest. We had a relaxing evening and rested up.

In the morning we wanted some space so we rented an electric scooter and headed off to see temples. Lumbini is the birth place of Buddha and the international Buddhist communities have built big temples around the birth place. It was rather hot so we only saw the Nepali, Chinese and Austrian temples but there seemed to be no expense spared. The stupa which was built by the Japanese government is also nothing to sneeze at.

Lumbini only has sights for a day so the next morning we boarded another local bus to Chitwan. This bus was no fun. It had blaring music over the speakers but only had 50 minutes of music so after 4 hours we had more than enough. I put my headphones on and blasted Hamilton while Esther used earplugs to try to block it out. We thought we had it beaten and then the bus broke down.

We headed to the “garage” which was a dirt-covered lot with some bricks to lift up the bus a bit. After a while we realised we would be here for a long time so we headed to a nearby hut to drink some beer and eat momos. No point in stressing out about it.

After a change of parts, delivered by speedy motorbike, we continued on to our final destination. After one more bus and a tuk-tuk we got to a nice lodge and we booked our jungle walk and elephant safari.

Chitwan is a chilled, laid back community. We walked around the streets, ate some local fish and went to sleep early as we had a sunrise to catch.

Floating down the river in Chitwan at dawn, on an unstable log canoe is one of the scariest things I’ve done in a while. Every time I moved, the canoe would tilt and the water would lap up to the edge. We had crocodiles all around us and once they popped underwater, they disappeared. Jaws was a fucking rom-com compared to this!

Safely back on dry land, we headed off into the jungle and ran into a rhino. It stared at us from 5 meters away and I remember the advice of our guide. “If it charges, run up a tree”. I looked around and made the decision that I had more chance of launching the guide at the rhino to distract it than I had of ever getting up any of those trees.

Luckily the rhino decided it had better things to do and so did we. We walked in the jungle for around 2 to 3 hours and saw a few monkeys, a lot of insects and some scary tiger tracks. Overall really cool. We had also booked an elephant ride in the afternoon so it was time to go to the hotel and rest up for the afternoon.

Many things can be said about elephant rides, but I don’t think anyone has ever said they were comfortable. We spent an hour and a half on a lumbering beast with a kid that got very sick and another one that started playing video games on his phone. My legs felt like they were going to fall off and even though we saw some rhinos really close, I don’t think I’ll do that again.

We eventually made it to our hotel and went to do some shopping. On the way back we encountered another rhino near the road to the hotel. We pretended it didn’t bother us and bravely scurried along to our hotel. Having had enough for the day we went to sleep in preparation for our travels onto the calm shores of Pokhara!

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New trip: India and Nepal!

It’s been a while since I posted on this site but I think now is a good time to let you all know that in just 3 weeks I’ll be heading over to India and Nepal for a one month tour through these two beautiful countries.

This will be my second time travelling to Nepal which is exhilarating for me as it is one of the countries that reignited my passion for travelling and where I really fell in love with travel photography. It’s also going to be a shock to go back to Nepal after the tragic earthquake they had in 2015.

Not all of these beautiful temples are still standing

As usual I’m not 100% sure of what I’ll be seeing and when but I’ll be keeping you all up to date on my progress. We will be landing in Delhi on the 23rd of September and flying back from Kathmandu on the 20th of October. All we need to figure out is how to get from one place to the other.

For this trip I’ll be taking the wonderful X-Pro2 and a small selection of lenses instead of the X100S. I feel like I’ll need a little more flexibility on this trip so the X100S might be a little limiting. I ahve also recently obtained the new 23mm f2 lens for the X-Pro2 so I’ll still have my trusty 35mm POV.

These are the kinds of views for which I’ll be needing my trusty lenses.

 

In my next post I’ll try to compare my travel setup on this trip compared to my last Nepal trip and see how my travelling has changed in the last 4 years! If you’re interested in reading my packing list from 4 years ago, you can read it right here. You can also read through my posts from that trip my clicking on the link to posts from September 2013.

My five favourite pictures of 2013

For my previous post I had to go through all my pictures for the last couple of years and I thought it might be interesting to publish my favourite pictures from last year.

These are not my best pictures. I find it hard to decide which are objectively the best images I took. These are the images that most stand out to me from 2013. I think they are all good images and also they bring back special memories which I will try to describe below each picture.

So, in no particular order, here are my top 5 favourite images of 2013.

Sunrise over the Himalayas

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This image was taken above the village of Nagarkot in the east of the Kathmandu Valley in Nepal. I had stayed there overnight with Sara, a fellow traveller, to see my first sunrise over the Himalayas. We had decided not to rent a taxi to get up to the viewing point as they were asking what we considered was too much money (I think they wanted 5 euro or so for the return trip). Instead we decided to get one of the communal buses that were supposed to leave at 5 am from the centre of town.

The only problem was that we never found the bus. In desperation we started waving at any vehicle that we saw passing by and were lucky enough to be picked up by a group of Chinese tourists that had rented a minivan to go up to the top of the mountain to view the sights.  They had initially refused to let us on but they stopped 50 metres down the road and signalled for us to run to get in.

Once we got to the top, I realised I had forgotten my telephoto lens so I was unable to take any close up pictures of the mountains but it was a magical experience all the same. Seeing the sun clear the cloud over mountains that are over 8 kilometres tall is sure to take you breath away. I also got my first and only view of Everest.

When we were leaving, I spotted this line of Tibetan prayer flags that were perfectly framing the golden morning light and managed to capture this image.

Clouds over the river Liffey

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This is one of the first images I captured with my Fujifilm X-Pro 1. It has a special place in my heart because it was the first time I saw what I could do with the new camera and finally made me get over my buyer’s remorse due to switching from Nikon to Fuji.

The story behind it is nothing special, I was walking over to my acting class and saw what looked like an interesting cloud formation. Here in Ireland we get spectacular skies as the clouds mover very quickly and sometimes the sun peaks through in strange places.

This image also showed me the importance of having my camera on me at all times. I would not have been able to capture this if I had not been carrying around my camera bag. Since that day I always try to keep a camera on me as you never know when a beautiful scene will appear in front of you.

Torc Waterfall

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The reason I love this image is because it is also one of the last I took with my old Nikon camera. I took this during my trip to Kerry last august and it also reminds me of a great trip with my brother.

We were staying for a few days in Killarney in County Kerry and decided to go see Muckross estate. I had read that there was a beautiful waterfall that wasn’t too far from the house so we decided to walk over to try to take some pictures.

Even though I had already bought my X-Pro 1 at that time, I was still not sure I could do a whole trip with only 3 fixed focal lenses so I decided to take my full Nikon gear with me. After walking for 5 kilometres in search of the waterfall with my heavy DSLR and lenses on my back, I decided that this would be the last trip I was going to make with this much gear.

This picture was taken once we finally got there. I know 5 kilometres is not much but when you are lugging a bag with 8 kilos of equipment over your shoulder, they can feel very long indeed.

Looking out over Bhaktapur

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I love this image mainly for 2 reasons: it captures the spirit of this old city perfectly and it captures my attitude during this trip.

I had been travelling through Nepal for a week or so when I arrived at Bhaktapur. This amazing Medieval city is a must see for anyone staying in Nepal. It is only a few hours away from the craziness of Kathmandu but has a peace to it that is unrivalled anywhere else in the Valley.

I had taken a local bus to get there and was rather tired so I headed straight for the hostel I had found online, hoping to check in and have a shower. On my way there I ran into a french couple I had met in Kathmandu and we agreed to meet in front of my hostel in a few hours to go grab a bite to eat.

As things turned out, my hostel room wasn’t ready so I had to wait around and didn’t have time for a proper shower before I was due to meet my friends so instead I decided to go for a quick walk around town to get a feel for the city.

The sun was blazing in the sky and I quickly decided that a walk was probably not the best idea so I went in search of a good place to rest. I saw that at the top of the temples there were these nice ledges that were in the shade and gave a great view over the square. I climbed up all the way to the top and sat down besides this man who was also hiding away from the midday sun.

The first time I tried to take this picture, the man saw me and kept on staring at the camera. I persisted and he eventually forgot I was there. I feel like I managed to catch the spirit of peace and relaxation I felt at that moment as well as the peaceful activity of the town below.

Waiting to start the show

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Dublin is a city that is full of music. You have live music in most pubs and buskers on every corner of the city centre. I love taking pictures of musicians and this is one of my favourite pictures of bands I took last year.

Normally band are playing and surrounded by crowds so it’s hard to get a good feel of the personalities of the people in the band. I love this picture because each member of the band is doing his own thing before the show.

I captured this scene in one of my many walks through Temple Bar. It is the most expensive part of Dublin by far but it’s unrivalled in its capacity to provide a street photographer with scenes of everyday life happening before your eyes.

That’s the end of my compilation, I hope you enjoyed it. You can see many more of my pictures in the “Portfolio” section of my website or in my Flickr account here. Also please remember to subscribe to get an email when I post a new entry to my blog. You can do so by entering your email in the subscribe box on the left hand side (if on PC/MAC) or below (if on a mobile device).

This round’s almost over

Once gain I apologise for the delay in posting but there really has not been too much to report. I did leave you in a bit of a cliffhanger but they say that absence makes the heart grow fonder. 😉

As I was saying, poor Sarah was not feeling too well in my last post and I asked her to let me know if she was feeling any worse so we could head to the doctor. I spent a restless night as every sound I heard I thought it was her knocking on my door asking to go to the doctor. I can’t imagine how I’ll be if I ever am expecting a child! Well not me, the person I would be with at that moment… you know what I mean!

Anyway, I got up around 7:30 and went to see how Sarah was doing, she was feeling worse so we decided to head to the hospital. The Lonely Planet guide recommends going to the public hospital but the guy at  the hostel said the metro City Hospital was better so we trusted him and went there.

Nepali hospitals are very different to what we are used to in the western world. The entrance to this place looked like any other shop or shopping mall. We walked up to reception and luckily one of the receptionists spoke english. She charged Sarah 1000 rupees and told to wait upstairs for the doctor. We proceeded to the upstairs waiting room which was a corridor above a courtyard with a bunch of plastic chairs. The doctor was not in yet so we sat down to wait. After about an hour and a half I went downstairs to see what was going on. You may ask why I went downstairs, well it turns out that the girl in the waiting room didn’t even have a telephone so she was not the most up to date source of information.

As luck would have it the doctor walked in at that very moment. Sarah asked me to stay outside and after 2 or 3 minutes the doctor came out to fetch me and informed me that she had to stay in observation. I tried to ask what was wrong with her but all the doctor would say is “Don’t worry, I will take care of it”. He gave us a list of tests and directed us up a floor to speak to a nurse.

Once upstairs things got weirder. The nurses asked me to sign some sort of consent forms but didn’t want to explain what was on them, they refused to call Sarah’s insurance company and kept on giggling every time we spoke to them. Between that and the lack of information from the doctor, we decided to go somewhere else. We managed to recover the receipt of aren’t from the doctor’s office (don’t know why he had kept it) and we left. The doctor followed us asking if we were coming back, it felt like he was desperate to get our money, not the most reassuring of signs.

I suggested that we go to the public hospital and Sarah agreed so we jumped in a cab and headed over there. It’s a bit far away but when we got there it looked like a real hospital. One that had been built 50 years ago and rarely been cleaned but a hospital nonetheless. Sarah went to reception and got her papers and we waited patiently outside magic door number 4.

The waiting corridor was very crowded and everyone looked at us as if we were aliens. When the door finally opened there was a flood of people waving their papers around and when Sarah finally got their attention they said we needed to go to door number 7 which was the maternity ward! We decided to follow the instructions and went over there. The guy at door number 7 was really nice and walked us back to door number 4 where we were refused entry again. He then proceeded to sneak us in the back door to room number 4. 🙂

The consulting area was one big room with 4 doctors and 4 nurses and you sat next to the doctor and explained all your symptoms. We got a nice doctor that spoke very good English and he quickly diagnosed Sarah, prescribed some pills and explained to us very clearly what was wrong. We left feeling much better and went to the pharmacy to fill the prescription.

Sarah now has to take like 8 pills every day to get better but if it works, it is worth it. Overall cost of consultation plus prescription was just under 10 euro.

Walk by the lake
Walk by the lake

We got in a taxi back to the hotel and spent the rest of the day being lazy. We prepared a trek for the next day with Gus and Anna and we went to the freedom cafe for a beer and dinner. The freedom café is north of lakeside and is a very hippy place where a band, with the most out of tune bassist ever, massacres pink Floyd on a nightly basis.

Yesterday I woke up early only to find Gus really sick as well. We stayed around the guesthouse and played cards most of the day. There is really not much to say, it was a nice relaxing, rainy day by the lake. Not a bad way to say goodbye to Pokhara. We had dinner at out favourite place in Pokhara, Shivana restaurant. Great food, lovely people and your host Samjhanna is the nicest and liveliest girl in all Nepal.

Great people
Great people

Today was a sad day as I had to leave all my new friends and head back to Kathmandu as my flight back to Ireland leaves tomorrow. I will miss Nepal and all my new friends but I have realised that I had forgotten how much I love travelling. There will be more to come soon.

hard crossing
hard crossing

The trip from Kathmandu to Pokhara was not remarkable. This time the bus was worse than the last time but it was cloudy all the way so I didn’t miss the AC. I managed to get a seat on the left hand side at the window so I had great views all the way. The ticket guy tried to move me but I refused and he gave up. 😛

take me to the river
take me to the river

in the meantime I will continue to post about my adventures in Istanbul tomorrow as well as loads of pictures, tips and practical information I have gathered during my trip . Stay tuned and please let me know in the comments if there is any particular aspect of my trip you would like to know more about!

Biking into the hillside

Today was the day we were supposed to rent bikes. We wanted to all go together and pedal our way to Begnas Tal, which is a lake that is around 10kms east of Pokhara. We had heard that it was not too touristy and we had bought a map to find an alternative route to get there as we didn’t feel like biking down the main road.

We all gathered at 8am in our hostel and as soon as we started moving it started to rain. We therefore decided to take a slow breakfast to see if it would clear up. It was a slow drizzle and didn’t seem to be likely to quit any time soon so we resigned ourselves to another lazy day and headed back to the hostel. We all split to our separate rooms and, of course, 15 minutes later it stopped raining.

Lazy breakfast
Lazy breakfast

We tried to gather the troops again but Sarah was not feeling too well and Max and Claire wanted to say in. We decided to head out just the Spanish group. We rented our bikes in a place near the hostel. The bikes were not great but they braked and had bells on them. Seemed good enough for 1 euro per day.

We trusted our destiny to Gustavo as he was the map bearer and headed out into the Nepali countryside. It was stunningly beautiful. We rode through rice paddies at the edge of a huge ravine. It was sort of a smaller, tropical grand canyon. After about 2 hours of riding up and and down a chappy road we decided we were probably lost. We needed to find a bridge across the ravine to head to the lake as we were on the wrong side. Luckily, we stopped to ask at a local school and they pointed us towards this tiny pathway that led into nowhere and assured us that it was the way. We were not so sure but didn’t really have a choice.

Gus admiring the view
Gus admiring the view

The path was barely walkable and we had to push our bikes for about 30 minutes but in the end we caught site of a cable bridge crossing the ravine. It reminded me of a 21st century Indiana Jones bridge. It seemed safe enough but it swung and bounced all over the place. Suffice it to say I loved it. Was one of the highlights of the day.

On the bridge
On the bridge

By that time poor Anna was struggling to keep up. She is not used to riding a bike and was in a bit of pain due to the seat. We checked the map and saw we were only about 2 km away from the lake so we tried to make a push for it. I started o go ahead o the group and wait for them at each intersection to check the way. In this two-tiered way we finally made it to the lake. It was indeed beautiful and worth the trip.

Begnas Tal
Begnas Tal

We could only stay there for 5 minutes as it was already 4pm and we only had 2 hours to get back to the entail place before dark. We also did not want to ride after sunset as we had no lights on the bikes. We headed off again but soon realised that at Angus pace we would not make it. In one of my scouting mission I discovered we could stop a bus and put the bikes on top to get to Pokhara. The look of joy on Anna’s face when she heard the news was priceless.

We flagged down a bus, loaded up the bikes and 30 minutes later were in Pokhara. We rode the bikes to the rental place and made it just in time for the sunset.

After leaving the bikes we checked on Sarah. She was feeling worse and did not want to come for dinner so we went for dinner just the three of us and brought her back some rice in case she got hungry.

Tune in tomorrow for a trip around Pokhara’s hospitals!

Lazy day

Monday was a lazy day. We had many plans to do things but nothing worked out so we decided to do nothing. not a bad plan overalll.

The morning started at 8am with Gus and I searching for places to rent a pair of scooters. This sounds like a simple endeavour but nothing is simple in Nepal. The first place had one good scooter and one scooter than kept on stalling, the next one had 2 scooter that started fine but would not brake. The third place didn’t have helmet for my watermelon head and the last place had good scooters and big helmets but needed a deposit and us to leave our passports behind.

Hawks on the prowl
Hawks on the prowl

All of that took almost  3 hours so we decided not to get scooters in the end. When we were walking back Sarah spotted us from the restaurant where she was having breakfast and I joined  her for a coffee. We then went exploring around the lake to see if we could find a nice place to chill. After walking through rice paddies for a while we though we had found a spot but it was too hot to lie there without tree cover. In the end we walked back to town and met up with the rest of the gang for a long lunch.

Walking to lunch
Walking to lunch

The afternoon was spent lazily writing my blog entry and reading a book (The dresden files, in case you are wondering). I had met the owner of a Spanish restaurant in the morning and we decided to go for some Spanish food. It ended up being quite an experience.

Not much to do
Not much to do

We ordered tortilla for everyone and some red wine and tapas. We had understood that the wine was European but it ended up being sweet Nepali wine. It was not good at all. Tasted of powder and chemicals and all sorts of strange stuff.

We had ordered some tapas and tortilla to eat. The tapas were 2 open bags of crisps and some peanuts while the tortilla was nothing to write home about. On top of that the owner kept on complaining how much he hated working and how he wanted to return to Spain. But the best was yet to come.

After a forgettable dinner (expensive too) the owner joined us at the table and proceeded to talk for almost an hour about how the world was coming to a change and the schuman frequencies and how now we were passing from the age of intellect to the age of wisdom and bla, bla, bla…. As you can imagine he killed our mood and we will not be returning.

As I said overall it was not a bad day but it had a very strange ending.

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!

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.

IMG_2013092544440

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!