02.12.2007 - 07.12.2007 16 °C
This was one destination that we hadn't initially planned on visiting. But Daniel, who we met way back in China, suggested that we add it on. And we did. It cost a fortune to get here, but it was so worth it. We completely SPOILED ourselves in Thailand... staying at some posh resorts, lounging by the pool, camping out on beach chairs ALL day, not worrying about anything except when we had to roll over to tan our backsides. Some guy that we had met called us "Flashpackers" not backpackers... and rightedly so. We were living it up. As we were having our last breakfast in Bangkok before getting to the airport for Kathmandu, someone told us that the Kathmandu Airport was notorious for stealing from your check in baggage. Most trekkers go through Kathmandu and their fancy gadgets and equipment gets stolen. I didn't think anything of it... it's one of those stories you hear but doesn't happen to you, considering we weren't trekkers. The only valuable thing I had in my bag was a jar of Nutella. Anyway, we get to the Kathmandu Airport and it takes about 45 minutes to get our luggage. Another traveller immediately opens his bag to find that all his money was stolen. Our bags, however, looked unttouched... or so I thought. When we got to our hotel about an hour later, I found that my zipper had been cut. Nothing serious cuz nothing was stolen. Just annoying, but almost futile. But if that jar of Nutella went missing, I'd have something to gripe about. haha.
It was overwhelming when we left the airport. Taxi drivers in your face. We frantically searched for our arranged driver through the Hotel Gamesh Himal. No one. We then went to a tourist agency and asked them to call the hotel and our ride, who moments later showed up. Thank God! It was freezing in Nepal... and we thought we would find some warmth at our hotel. Nope. Also cold. They just give you thick blankets to keep warm. It took an hour to drive through the crazy traffic of Kathmandu; cars disobeying, cows in the sttreet, rickshaws stopping in the middle of the road. Insanity. It was a serious culture shock coming from the warm, hot weather of Thailand. This is what we get for being flashpackers for a couple of weeks; the harsh cold reality of the backpacker circuit came full force. The hotel was in an empty part of town full of stray dogs taht barked all night. Out room had a strange funk in the air... not very welcoming at all.
We went into Thamel, the busy backpacker part of town, to get some dinner. It took about an hour of going in circles to find an internet, dodging all the Tiger Balm alesmen, and finally eating a vegetarian dinner (outdoors of course). It was exhausting. Then we had to walk back through the empty, dark streets to get to our hotel. We slept in pants, sweaters, socks, and scarves and lay under the 20 pound blanket they supplied us with to keep warm. Surprisingly, I slept fine... but check out our PJs... hats, socks, pants, scarves... all bundled up.
We spent the next day shopping around for treks that we could do in the short amount of time we had. Trekking is the "thing to do" in Nepal. But we haven't worked out in months, so we didn't want anything too strenuous. Who would've thought that us marathoners would be out of shape... but it's hard to resist the rice and curries of the SE Asian countries we were just in. ***sigh*** We ended up booking a 1 night/ 2 day trip. A 3-4 hour trek to Nagarkot, then stay there overnight to watch the sunset and sunrise over the Himalayas and Mt. Everest in the distance. Then sightseeing the next day to some small towns and temples, and religious monuments. For 80USD, it was a steal... transport, guide, food, accommodations.
The trek was pretty hard. We were sweating as we climbed the steep hills and walked through villages. We stopped only a couple of times for lunch and some breaks to take pictures. Bu it was pretty difficult. We finally made it to Nagarkot and stayed on the highest perched hotel there. And we just basked in the remaining sunlight and looked at the Himalayas change colors as the sun set. It was beautiful and so worth the 3 hour tiring trek. It's one of those surreal moments I occassionally get. "I can't believe I'm looking at the Himalayas and Mount Everest." How many people get to experience this? It's freaking amazing. But it's like those other sights that I've seen, the Great Wall of China, Angkor Wat, etc... you're just taken aback by its beauty and greatness... ***sigh***
It was pretty hazy, so the pictures don't capture the beauty of the sights...
Sunset... I know it's the same freaking sun in Chicago that rises over lake Michigan... but this is the sun in Nepal. Imagine breathing in the cold, fresh, mountain air and looking out onto the Himalayas. It's not just the sun... it's the experience!!!
The next morning we woke up at the asscrack of dawn... to watch the sunrise. It was freezing outside. And still with eye crispies, I donned my warm clothes on the watch the sunrise. Ellen and I had never been too eager to get up so early and never got up for a sunrise yet on this trip. But this one was the one to get up for. It was amazing. You saw the valleys covered in mist, then the sun change the sky colors, while the moon was still visible. Then the peaks of the mountains change from purples, blues to oranges as the sun came up. F*$$@ing spectacular!!!
The rest of that day we spent visiting different sights on our way back to Kathmandu. We visited Baktapur, a small town with beautiful architecture of temples and saw their Durbar Square that was full of pottery.
We then visited Bhou-dha, the largest Buddhist stupa in Asia. You have to walk around the monument in a clockwise direction.
We also went to Pashupati, cremation grounds. Hindus believe in reincarnation and that the human form is the last form to achieve. So in order not to be reincarnated back into a lesser form, the body is cremated. Cremation here brings the body back to the 5 elements. Water is present for the family to wash the dead, Earth is the ash formed, Air is the smoke formed, Fire is duh, obviously the fire used, and um, I forgot the last one... but who's really paying attention anyway to this blog? We actually saw a live cremation going on. Pretty eerie.
We spent the next couple of days buying souvenirs and walking around Thamel. We checked out of Hotel Gamesh Himal and stayed at the famous Kathmandu Guest House. It's a landmark. It was right in the middle of town and the staff was so friendly. But most of all, their showers had hot water. I seriously stayed in there until my fingers wrinkled... The last night after some strenuous haggling over pashminas, shipping our goods out, and the electricity cutting out... we had a night cap with Brian, another American who was here doing some trekking. We treated ourselves to Everest Beer and some popcorn.
This was such an unexpected glich in our itinerary... but it was a surprisingly pleasant one.