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Hangovers, Temples and Diaries…

The day after…

Meeting Buddha for breakfast I realised he was as rough as I was. It seemed like such a good idea last night to have that second tongba. He took me to restaurant he often visited and we decided to sit up on the sun deck, another thing that seemed like a good idea until I was on the 4th flight of stairs and feeling like the room was beginning to spin. But we eventually made it to the top, barely. The sun was incredibly bright to our alcohol induced eye sensitivity. It was strange though it was like any hangover I had every experienced, I didn’t have a throbbing headache or anything like that. I just felt thick and slow, and decidedly… well… not very perky.

Raj and Yogi were meant to meet us too, but it appeared as if they were even rougher than us. So we just spent a couple of hours gingerly fiddling with our food and sipping on the nectar for hangovers, coffee.

When in Nepal, one should trek…maybe

After reaching a point where we could move a little better through the molasses of our hangover we headed to see if Raj was in his office, Mosaic Adventure Tour Company, http://www.trekntour.com/. Raj and Yogi were helping me plan my trip to Chitwan and Pokhara and possibly some trekking near Kathmandu.

The first words out of almost everyones lips are “Have you been trekking yet?”. It seemed to be the thing to do when you were in Nepal. After being on the road for over 10mths I wasn’t sure how keen I was to follow the crowd but figured I could manage a light trek at the very least.

Raj explained that I would be picked up from the hotel, my personal guide would meet me and we would begin a 2 day light trek. Day 1 would consist of at least 7hrs walking uphill and end at a local lodge.
Day 2 would only be 5hrs uphill and 2hrs reasonably flat and end at a different lodge.
Day 3 would have me return to Kathmandu and most likely pass out at a local massage parlor.

Ummmm sure, if that’s a light trek what the hell is a heavy trek???? Apparently its just more days. Raj was great though and I really appreciate him not sugar coating what the trek would consist of, but after a few guilt ridden moments thinking “when in Nepal one should trek”, but once those were over I decided after 10mths on the road, walking uphill for 7-10hrs was not my cup of tea. Just have to come back I guess.

Patan Temple

Buddha took me to Patan Temple in the old city of Kathmandu, an absolutely stunning example of old architecture and many of the work is done in wood that are hundreds of years old.

Patan Temple


Carvings


Carvings

I was in awe as we walked around the temples, about 12 in total in this complex. There is something so intensely peaceful about staring up at some of the carvings even in the midsts of so much going on around you.

carvings

Once again the people watching was excellent, one of my favorite views being a line of Nepali men in traditional hats, just sitting and talking.

retirement!

Lunch…Facebook style

We headed to Buddha’s friend’s restaurant for lunch. Formerly a waitress on the cruise ships with him, she has now opened a place by the name of Facebook, all traditional Nepalese food with some western variations when needed.

Once we finally made our way through the lunch hour traffic, which gives a whole new meaning to that term, we ordered some Thakali (also known as Dal Bat).

Lunch hour traffic

The thakali, rice with different pickles traditionally eaten by hand (the right hand), was delicious. But a little on the spicy side and I had to order a second banana lassi (yoghurt drink) to cover the burn.

Thakali

The diary drama is concluded!

While we ate I tried to call the 4 phone numbers I had for Biman airlines as I hadn’t given up on finding my diaries, even though EVERYONE said there was no hope. I finally got through to someone who gave me the number of someone else… As luck would have it that person actually answered and the conversation went something like this:
me – hi I was on flight 234 from Bangladesh to Kathmandu on sunday and I forgot my book.
Biman – huh, are you Nepali?
me – no no I was on the flight do you have lost and found?
Biman – what, are you nepali?
Thinking he was asking if I spoke Nepali, as surely my accent would give away the whole foreigner aspect, I handed the phone to Buddha
Buddha – spekaing in Nepali
Buddha hands the phone back saying the guy was speaking Hindu
me – hi lost and found, do you have books?
Biman – ahhh you are foreigner from Kuala Lumpur?
me – yes yes I flew from Kuala Lumpur
Biman – come after 4pm
me – do you have the books then
Biman – come after 4pm
and then the phone went dead.

Very strange, but hopefully that meant the books were there. Buddha offered to take me on his bike later. Back at the hotel I ran some errands and then we headed over to the airport.

I went upstairs following the signs to the door with Biman and knocked. There was no answer! Just as I was getting ready to say something completely inappropriate under my breath I tried the door, it was open. Right there on the desk were my diary and my dive logbook, I noticed a guy at the far end of the office, gave him a huge smile and said thanks, then literally skipped back down the stairs. Buddha was beyond surprised that I had proved him wrong, and I decided maybe Biman air might not be that bad after all.

Return to Monkey Temple

Feeling a lot more light hearted and relieved that I had managed to rescue my books from the lost and found of Biman Air, Buddha and I headed on his bike to feed the monkeys. Something that would become a regular past time for us. We stopped to buy the cookies and then realised we didn’t have his backpack. So I shuffled things around my bag and we emptied as many into it as would fit. With around 7packets left the only resort was to stuff them into every pocket we could find. The result was rather amusing:

cookies anyone????

Sim card

Before we headed to Chinese for dinner, we went to find me a sim card for my phone. As it turned out it was quite a mission, needing a copy of your passport and 2 ID photos. Luckily I still had ID photos left over from the visa and it wasn’t too hard to find a place to make a photocopy. I am not exactly sure why all the paperwork was needed, but oh well at least it was possible to get one.

Tomorrow morning I leave at 6am to go to Chitwan National Park. And so the adventures continue…

 
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Posted by on January 16, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Monkey Temple!

The Diary Drama

As you may remember from my first post about arriving in Nepal I mentioned how I had put my diary and dive logbook in the front pocket of the bulk head seat… Well my 2nd morning I woke up and as I had no plans till the afternoon figured a cup of coffee in a nice spot and writing in my diary would a perfect way to start my day.

I went to my bag and it wasn’t there, thinking I had placed it somewhere else I looked in the other one, noticing that my dive logbook was also missing I frantically pulled everything apart racking my brain as to the last time I had seen either… it slowly dawned on my that it had been in the airplane… Oh Crap!!!!

I ran downstairs and told Yogi, the hotel owner and he recommended grabbing a taxi to the airport and asking at the office. But he shook his head when I said I had flown in on Biman Airlines, “Mmmmm terrible airline I think they will throw it out as it has no value”. Well they have value to me so I jumped in the taxi and headed out. When I got to the office at 8.30am I discovered that the Biman office is only open in the afternoon and only on certain days, of course no one could tell me when in the afternoon or on what days. But a guy from Nepal air looked into his book and gave me a number wishing me good luck while shaking his head.

I was pretty close to distraught when I got back and didn’t even feel like eating breakfast, only a cup of coffee in the hotel reception. Finally I said “screw it” and did some retail therapy, picking up a skirt and shirt for about $15 total. I also picked up a new diary with handmade paper so I could at least keep up with my diary until I found the other one, hopefully! Mmmm retail therapy in Kathmandu could be dangerous.

I tried to call the number I had been given, along with 2 other numbers I had found on the Biman website, I also sent an email through the site. There was no answer to all of them.

I hung around the hotel feeling sorry and frustrated with myself. Buddha arrived around 1pm and said we would go to Monkey Temple to feed the monkeys around 4pm. He also agreed with Yogi that my books would be in the trash by now. Such pessimists.

Monkey Temple

Climbing onto the back of his bike, much to the amusement of others as I had to use the steps of the hotel to get up onto it, we headed to Monkey Temple again to do an evening feed. On the way we stopped at a little side store and picked up 20 packets of cookies, which we opened and emptied into a plastic bag which was then placed into Buddha’s backpack and then headed to the temple.

cookies for monkeys

When we got to the temple Buddha looked for a long, stout stick which he said he used if they got out of hand by simply showing them. He apparently came almost every night to feed them and you could tell some recognized him. As we walked they all came running and would huddle in front waiting for a cookie and holding out their hands to take one. The occasional one would get a little too persistent but for the most part they were really gentle and would occasionally tug gently at your clothing like a shy child. Buddha said to focus on giving the cookies to the mothers, babies and injured. But when the big daddy arrived we happily handed over 3 at a time just in case, even though he was a perfect gentleman.

The monkey whisperer


a barrell/tribe/troop of Monkeys

As we walked we could tell the territories of each troop as certain ones would follow us up to a point and then would hang back if we proceeded into the temple grounds. There were also groups of stray dogs who would be reluctant at first to take a cookie but soon got confident and followed us up to their border lines.

The view from the temple was spectacular and the hundreds of prayer flags hung along vast distances at great heights astounding.

View of Kathmandu


Prayer Flags and Monkey

As we walked we saw ones of all ages and the babies were precious.

mum and babe

Often they would come and sit on mostly Buddha’s shoulders, aka the monkey whisperer, but there was one that was brave enough to sit on me and use my…ummmm…. you know… to prop himself up.

getting felt up


no fear of Buddha

The other tourists loved it and I am fairly certain we are in numerous photo albums as this crazy pair feeding potentially dangerous creatures. All good though! The temple was more beautiful than I had thought now that we walked around in daylight.

Tongbas and Friends

That evening we all went out to the same place as the night before, this time with 2 Chinese ladies in tow. It was great fun and I had got used to the Tongba and so was able to slurp it down no problem. We ate tons of delicious side dishes and this time avoided ordering a main as the sides were filling enough. At one point another friend, Anna from Australia, called hoping to join us. I tried to give her directions but she got frustrated and asked me to meet her at the hotel. I said I would be right back and merrily hopped up and out. As I walked I realised just how inebriated you can get from Tongba and how much I had to focus. Back at Silver Home Anna wasn’t there and after some confusion we realised she had meant me to meet her at a hotel nearby the restaurant. Got to love miscommunication!!! I headed back and I must admit walking down dark streets on my 3rd night in Kathmandu was not on my most favorite things to do, and being a wee bit tipsy didn’t help the stress level. By the time I got back everyone knew what had happened and could tell I was not overly comfortable, but they soon calmed me down and we were all onto our 2nd tongba when Anna finally showed up.

At one point we were discussing how to write Nepali and someone wrote my name on my arm. No one, aka Raj, Buddha and Yogi, will admit to doing it. But in the morning when I asked Buddha how to say it he nearly fell over as it was something rather obscene and the type of pen used was almost impossible to remove. Thank heavens it was cool enough to wear a long shirt.

What a day and I still hadn’t got through to anyone at Biman about my books…

 
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Posted by on January 8, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Winging It To Nepal…

Flying Biman Air

After being dropped off by my fabulous friends I went to check in. The lady behind the counter told me my info and I realised I had a middle seat… oh horror! I asked her if it would be at all possible to give me a window or an aisle, pretty much anything but a middle seat. The lady said there was absolutely no way as the plane was full and no measure of puppy dog eyes could convince her otherwise. Just as she was about to finish and hand me my boarding pass, one of the others said something, there was a very short discussion and suddenly a window seat apparently, miraculously appeared and my boarding pass was changed. Thank the heavens, maybe the travel Gods are starting to look on me with favor… possibly.

The gate was in the far side, tucked into a corner of the airport, almost like it was an after thought, or an embarrassment. As I waited I noticed that there were an severe lack of the female breed in the large group waiting to enter the gate and there was definately only one of the paler complexion (in either breed), that being moi! The rest appeared to be a mix of Indian, Nepali and Bangladeshi (most appeared to be Hindu). I received a lot of strange, furtive stares. Except of course from the one “Mr. Sexy” with his shirt half unbuttoned and greased back hair, he was just missing a gold chain, he pretty much blatantly stared at me.

Lines and bag scans

There was still over an hour before the flight left and we had to go through a further security check before being allowed into the actual gate area. Everyone had queued already and even though they were “organised” if someone paused or turned around, their place was often displaced. But finally it was time to go through the bag scan and weigh and into the final waiting spot. I had been nervous when they had checked my bags weight at check in and had put my diary, book, and what ever else looked heavy out and into my shoulder bag. I did the same here again and tried to look nonchalant. I got through, barely. In the gate area the people watching was fascinating. I saw a pair of gentlemen unloading a bag of fruit, placing what appeared to be 2 bottles of alcohol at the bottom and then loading the fruit back into the bag (there was a definite attempt to hide those duty free items).

Calling…….

Right before we were due to board a repetitive announcement came over the speaker, apparently someone had left their bag with some important documents in the front. But no one came forward to claim it. This perturbed the security guard to no end and he spent a fair amount of time walking through the crowd yelling her name. It occurred to me that since there were only 2 or 3 women on the flight it might have been faster just to walk up and check our ID’s. But then again that just my logic.

Boarding en masse

Finally it was boarding time. But unlike most airlines where seats are called and people stand around frustrated because they are one row before the ones that have been called. No, on Biman air in Malaysia it involves everyone surging forward and the poor flight attendant attempting to only let 10 through at a time, all the while the security guard is still yelling out the name of the person who left their bag. Rather amusing to watch.Eventually we were all on board.

Circa 1962????

Looking at the upholstery of the seats, the kind that would make the best tunic dress for 1960, big colorful floral prints in downright, how do I put it, stunning colors. The seats were the old kind that were large and comfortable (well if they hadn’t been 50yrs old), in places particle board showed through worn spots…My seat mate looked downright terrified to be seated next to the foreigner and kept glancing at me with a nervous smile and trying to lean as far into the aisle as he could. I don’t thin I smelled too bad… I was thrilled to be given a window seat, however it was the one window seat without a window, instead it was the section of the plane that curved at a rather dramatic angle inwards, so trying to lean your head on it meant you were sleeping at a fabulous angle.

DINNER!!!!!!!!!!!!

Since it was around 2.30am I desperately needed to just become one with the angle of the plane and pass out. I lasted the 5minutes through take off and then I was abruptly woken by the flight attendant taking her job way too seriously.
“Ma’am, ma’am, dinner ma’am, ma’am here is dinner”. It was the kind if insistence you dare not argue with as she would probably force feed you if you declined. Just a note, having reheated curry at 2.45am in the morning, and airplane curry at that, makes you want to throw up. I opened the foil and promptly closed it and tried to sleep again.

That lasted a further 2 minutes before the male attendant came by with the juice that I JUST HAD TO HAVE!!!! I swear are they paid on the number of meals and juice they hand out???? This went on for about 20minutes but finally their enthusiasm seemed to end and we could attempt sleep.

3rd world hygiene

Near the end of the flight all of the water and juice that were shoved in my face meant I needed to pee. I was delighted to discover that in true Asian style there was a pile of used toilet paper piled in the corner next to the toilet… oh joy! But at least it was a neat pile.

Welcome to Bangladesh…transit

Landing at Dhaka airport, Bangladesh at the fabulous hour of 4am ish, we were all herded off, possibly had another security check, and those of us in transit were veered off to the right and handed a plastic token with a number. So standing there, with no sleep, no way to communicate, I just looked at the token and then at the airline guy. He looked at me like I was an idiot and said “breakfast”, with no further explanation. Well of course its breakfast, I wander if I just add water…

I was too tired to worry about it now and was guessing that 4am was too early for breakfast to appear from my token so I chose a row of seats and curled up to sleep.

BZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ

You have got to be kidding me! Just as I curl up into a comfortable position, I hear the dreaded sound of the female mosquito out for blood. I have survived the Amazon, Tonga, the bloodsuckers of Australia and NZ… But none compared to the voracity of Dhaka airport mozzies. I was chewed to bits through my clothes, the only good thing was that I was so exhausted that I would only sort of wake up, scratch and then pass out.

Foraging for Breakfast

After a restless few hours I woke up with at least 7 mosquito induced welts, wonderful! Since it was around 7am I figured I would hunt down the location that would magically turn my token into something of substance to eat. As I wandered down the transit hall corridor I would periodically show my token and receive a head shake. Eventually I found the restaurant, an obvious place to seek food. The waiters were very welcoming and ushered me to a seat with big smiles. I, in the daze that is airport travel and layovers numbering in half a day simply held up my token and looked dumbly at them. Their huge grins turned to confusion and then understanding as they sighed and said “ahhh, Biman from Malaysia?”

At that with a flick of his wrist I found myself being handed juice, wonderfully strong coffee, toast, jam and a boiled egg. Never thought I would be so happy to see this simple spread, it truly hit the spot. The staff seemed bemused by my enjoyment and I decided to return later for a cup of coffee and to sit and write in my journal.

Twiddling my Thumbs

Still with almost 6hrs to wait in transit, I alternated between trying out the different seats for naps (all of the same design but you can always hope that maybe one set was angled just so as to afford comfort and the bliss of solid sleep). On occasion I would stroll up and down the transit area and for a short burst even had wifi, which ended with my battery.

Boarding Passes

After hunting down a plug and trying to charge my computer, turned out the wifi bubble didn’t extend the 10ft to the plug point, I realised the boarding passes were being handed out. Heading over one of the Biman staff looked at me and asked for my little plastic token (it truly must be a magical token to deliver food and boarding passes). He was just about to hand over my pass when he looked at me and asked if I had ever been to Nepal before, when I said “no” he tore up my pass. If I hadn’t been so exhausted I may have been perturbed at this. Then he turned his back on me…and reprinted it. It appeared he had given me a window seat. Unfortunately it only occurred to me weeks later that this may have been so that I could marvel at the force of nature that are the Himalayas.

Circa 2011

The flight to Kathmandu was definitely an improvement with the plane of being of a more recent design, spacious and clean! When I got to my seat I discovered a father and son (possibly Indian or Nepali) sitting there. The father looked apologetic and indicated his son who was excitedly staring out the window. Who was I to insist on having that seat (note it had not occurred to me that I would be giving up the chance to marvel at the magnificence that are the mountains of Nepal). I took the father’s aisle seat at the bulk head. This seemed like a pleasing trade and I was able to stretch my legs a little (not that I need much room for that, but its still nice to be able to actually lean them up on the bulkhead when you nap).

My seat mate from Bangladesh was flying to Nepal to meet her friend, this was her first time to Nepal and her first time flying. She was very excited but rather nervous too and kept looking at me as we took off. But then she found a window seat and left me to my own devices, which mainly involved napping.

On this flight the attendants were far more relaxed and didn’t seem likely to force feed you or put you in detention for sleeping through meal time. In fact they were downright helpful! I spent some of the time writing in my diary trying to catch up and using my scuba log book to remind myself of the diving in Borneo. When the meal came I placed the books in the pocket in front of me on the bulk head… a very bad idea.

As the plane came in to land I gathered my belongings on the seat and the attendant helped me with my bag. I knew the line for the visa could be long so wanted to get out as soon as I could… It was finally the end of ridiculously long flight and I hoped after making it through immigration (a procedure that had been known to take 2-5hrs), I could find my free pick up and get too the hotel where I could pass out… I forgot to check the bulk head pocket…

 
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Posted by on December 19, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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