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19th November 2011

Competition Results

We received the competition results with Buddha no where in the top 3. Turns out top 1 and 2 went to students of the bartender school who hosted the event, and also 2 of the competitors who got the most critics from the judges. We all agreed the competition had been fixed from the start, which just made us angry that it had happened. Oh well what ya gonna do… I know go sightseeing and eat!!!

Temples and Shrines

After breakfast we headed out to a small temple on the edge of Kathmandu, Shree Budhanilkatnha Bishnu Bhagwan, a holy Hindu site. The tale goes that many years ago when this area was still farmland, a local farmer dug into his field and discovered a life size statue of Lord Vishnu in repose on a bed of giant serpents. It quickly became a holy site and devotees from all around visit it. Since it is a Hindu site, no photographs are allowed, no leather materials may enter the site and no videos may be taken. Only those of the Hindu faith may enter the gated area surrounding the statue. In comparison to Buddhist sites where everyone is welcome and photos are accepted.

Lord Vishnu, courtesy of Jasmine Strings Blog

The Mall – how else do you spend a saturday

After exploring the shrine we headed for some lounge around time at the mall. It always astounds me to walk in from crowded, noisy, polluted streets into a shopping mall mirroring those found in the Western world. It does make for some great people watching. We had tea with Buddha’s friend who owns a store, watched my first 6D (didn’t even know that existed) film. Or rather 4 shorts in 3D, moving chairs, and air blowing with the occasional brush against your leg. It was hilarious, and Buddha delighted in scaring me during the scary short by grabbing onto me now and then.

Monkey Temple routine

Then it was off to continue what had become an evening tradition, feeding the monkeys. I wished we could bring fruit or rice or something like that vs cookies, but carrying bags of cooked rice or fruit on a motorbike was just not feasible, so cookies it is. We pulled up to our local vendor window where the lady had got to know our routine and started getting the 20 packets ready before we were even off the bike. Finally it was time to reunite with some old friends…

Some of them are almost polite


Checking to see if he has space for one more


Do you think he gets training to look this cute??

A sad truth

As we walked through the temple looking for the different tribes of monkeys that seem to have very well defined territories we came across an old woman lying prone on the ground to the side of the path. Her skin was bloated and her stomach distended. Buddha explained she was most likely a poor person who had come from India seeking a better life and had fallen ill. He encouraged me to give a little something and some of the cookies. He is always careful not to let me just give money away unless he believes the person truly needs it. It is so sad to see things like this and not be able to help in more ways… a sad truth in every country, whether its a westernized world with the best health care or a developing country with barely enough doctors.

Off to Facebook

As the sun began to set we headed off to another of his friends restaurants, named Facebook, offering a range of Nepali foods. The first time I ate here the dal baht (traditional meal with rice and curry sides) was too hot for me. So this time I stuck to something simple and fried… always good. We chatted with a couple of his friends from the cruise ship who were having a late lunch and one of them mentioned he had a sister who owned a pashmina factory and he could take me there some time if I liked. Always handy knowledge to have.

Sauna time

After my long trip and all the motorbike riding Buddha had been doing we looked for a place to have a sauna. The first place seemed very fancy but unfortunately their saunas were segregated. So we headed into the tourist section of Thamel and found another place. Luckily we were the only 2 sitting there wrapped in our towels, it might have felt weird with strangers. We had a choice between a hot steam or dry sauna and took turns in each. Then some hot noodley soup before saying goodnight.

Tomorrow we are off to explore a monastery almost 2hrs outside of Kathmandu… hope my butt can survive a bike ride that long!

 
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Posted by on April 8, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Return to Kathmandu…

18th November 2011

side note, I believe I have been writing 2012 on some of my posts, oops, ignore that and imagine 2011 when you read it… Thanks! (of course I guess I could always go back and change them, I could…)

Bus Ride number 3

Returning to Kathmandu would involve another 6+hr bus trip, luckily this time I had booked in advance and had ensured I would have one of the very front seats. So after checking out and saying a sad farewell to my new sister, Laxmi, I grabbed a taxi and headed to the bus station. As luck would have it, the driver didn’t have change, but one enterprising young lad selling baked goods quickly took advantage of the situation:
“Lady, lady, I can make change if you buy something…”
Well I did need something for breakfast. I told him he was a bright lad and would go far and he seemed to like this. Now that I think about it maybe the two were in cahoots… But either way it meant I didn’t overpay the driver and got something to eat at the same time.
I felt a little bad for another chap who had tried to sell me something but I had said no, he just sort of looked on in shock. Am guessing he learnt a valuable lesson.

The front seat I had so hoped for ended up being almost jammed into the glass behind the driver giving no room to put my legs up and the seat was too high to put my feet down, for those who don’t know I am barely 5ft/1.5m tall, you can pretty much use me as measurement. My seat mate was a local travel agent and was kind enough to ask the driver for one of the little stools people use in the aisle when the bus is overcrowded, and I had an instant foot rest. It only got better when the people booked into the row behind us never showed up and the agent moved to that row, providing ample space for me to stretch out.

The bus ride still took over 7 1/2 hrs and I was utterly exhausted at the end of it.

Without much warning and in an area completely unfamiliar the bus stopped mid traffic flow and the driver yelled “Thamel! Last Stop”. All of us piled out of the vehicle rather confused and disoriented, we grabbed our bags as they were unloaded, with the bus still moving with the traffic, and then hurriedly got out of the road.

Luckily a couple of folks were heading my way so I was completely left to fend for myself and in no time I recognised a street corner and knew where to turn. My friend, Buddha, had promised to meet me, but when I called he said he had been invited to participate in a bartending competition and if I could make it back to Hotel Silver Home the owner, Yogi, would come and pick me up and take me to where he was.

Competitions

I had hoped to have time to shower and grab something to eat, but it sounded like we had to go asap. So after they showed me to my 4th floor room (I have always had a severe dislike of stairs, especially after a long bus drive), I washed my face and headed back down. Unfortunately Yogi got side tracked with some duties at the hotel, and Buddha called twice to find out where we were before we finally left.

I was tired, famished and dressed in wonderfully touristy Nepali clothing when we pulled into this rather fancy looking bar hosting the event. A local bartending school was using it as a way to prepare bartenders from around Kathmandu for international competition, with a rather nice sum of over $100 for 1st place. Buddha works as a bartender on the MSC cruise lines, and has for the last 5yrs, he is a natural when it came to that.

He was excited to see me and gave me a big hug then lent on me as we watched some of the other bartenders take their turns. Unfortunately I was so light headed and tired I had to find somewhere to sit. It took almost 2 hrs before it was his turn and he was by far the best of the lot, I am not biased in any way…ok maybe a little.

He had wanted to make 3 cocktails in the 5minutes they had, the judges permitted 2, but with a severe shortage of glasses and then have a glass shatter mid pour and cutting his finger he ended with one… and still a minute to spare. It was called purple rain and I thought it was spectacular, as the 2 colors of alcohol turn a vivid purple when mixed. The judges were well impressed and the only negative comment was that perhaps he seemed too confident. We felt he was a shoo in for 1st.

Buddha doing what he does best

We waited for the results but the flaring competition which was very cool, ended up taking too long, so we headed out to Buddha’s friends place for dinner.

Bronco Billy’s

Bronco Billy’s is a western theme, cowboy type place ,with pics of John Wayne and other stars on the walls. There was a circle of chairs and a big drum for a fire pit. Buddha had arranged it all for me and a few friends, super sweet thought, if I hadn’t been so exhausted. But the food was amazing with chicken and beef ribs (or rather buffalo) all done on open flame and slathered in yummy sauce. The hot rum punch that was ordered for me was also fantastic, threatening to make me pass out then and there. After a great evening it was time to head home, almost falling asleep behind Buddha as we rode through an eerily quiet Kathmandu at 2am on his motorbike. Dropping me off at my hotel we planned to meet the next day for more sightseeing.

Bed oh glorious bed!!!!!

 
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Posted by on April 7, 2012 in Travel, Uncategorized

 

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Final Day in Pokhara

17th November 2011

Taekwondo at Sunrise

I started my last day in Pokhara by waking up at 5.45am and meeting Garaub so he could take me to watch his taekwondo class. He was so excited that I was finally coming to watch. About 9 kids were there already and started doing warm ups with 2 of the higher belts leading the way. A few minutes later the master showed up. He seemed a little nervous to see me and apologised profusely for not having his uniform on, but that he hadn’t known I would be coming that morning. Then he made me stand in front of the class and introduced me, making all 9 kids bow to me. It has been such a long time since I have been involved with taekwondo and it felt really good. For those of you who don’t know, I lived in Seoul, Korea for 3yrs and earned my 2nd degree black belt while I was there. It is a sport that is still very close to my heart, as it taught me lot of confidence and so much more.

I stood and watched the kids trying not to fall asleep (too many movies the night before), they were doing great and the master tried his best to teach the whole class in English for my benefit, and occasionally to the confusion of some of the kids. The highlight of the class was when he had a couple of the kids show off their sparring skills. He has some good potential in that class. He was a very humble man and tried his best to do good by the kids, by day he would take tourists across the lake and some other side jobs. He was very interested in my opinion of his teaching and seemed pleased when I said it was a great class. We took some photos and as we walked he asked if it was possible to help out with buying some equipment. I said I would try but couldn’t make any promises. As Garaub and I walked home for some tea, Garaub asked me what the master asked me for, he was rather embarressed that he had wanted something and insisted that I did not have to buy anything, it was kind of sweet to see him so indignant, repeating that I was like a sister and did not take me to the class to try get me to provide financial aid. If possible I will help, but it is unlikely as the equipment would need to be bought in Kathmandu and then somehow sent by bus to Pokhara with no guarantee of arriving.

Taekwondo Class – Garaub is 2nd from the right in the front

Bacon Roasty

After tea with Laxmi I headed for a nap as it was barely 7am. Then headed to Fewa Restaurant for my regular breakfast and blog time. I decided to try their Bacon Roasty with cheesy hashbrowns, on Roger’s (who was here a year ago) recommendation. It was delicious, wish I had discovered it earlier. It was also very rich and so made sure I at least finished the important part…BACON!! Somewhere in the back of my mind there is concern about ordering meat in developing countries, but then when it comes down to it, sometimes its worth the risk for the taste!

After breakfast I picked up a few last minute things and then headed back to the hotel to pack and sort. Returning to Laxmi’s I bought another top and a few other smaller items and then helped her adjust the hem of one of the pants I bought.

Laxmi sister

Back at the hotel I met a couple from Australia, both of them engineers working on a project for Engineers Without Borders. They were about to head out on their motorbike to do some touring. I gave them some advice from the places I had been the day before and we decided to meet for dinner later that evening.

For lunch I met Gaurab and Laxmi and headed to the Tibetan restaurant for momo’s. I wanted to treat them to something as thanks for adopting me and treating me like family, when mine was so far away. They were both so excited as I don’t think they get to go out that often. They both ordered banana lassi’s, a selection of momo’s and I had a lemon soda (fresh lemon juice with soda water, my new favorite).

Laxmi, Gaurab and me at Tibetan Restaurant

Afterwards I gave Gaurab a hug in farewell, he got a little emotional but seemed to listen to me when I made him promise to study hard and listen to his mother. I think he had got attached and used to having me around, I will miss my little brother and his wonderful mother, my sister.

World Politics

Had a glorious hot shower, scrubbed down, shaved and chilled out a bit. Hearing voices outside I went to investigate and discovered one of the Aussie engineers chatting with a guy from Luxemburg. We quickly fell into a discussion about world politics, Africa, China and much more. There is something to be said about the ease at which world travelers fall into conversation with each other and discuss things bigger than themselves and yet we all seem to see the answers, and they seem so simple.

All this talk of saving the world made us hungry so the engineers and I headed to the Tibetan restaurant for momos. Oh so yummy. The conversations morphed into life experiences, jobs and travel adventures, one of my favorite things to do when I meet like minded folks.

Early to bed as there was another grueling bus trip starting at 6am. My friend Buddha promised to meet me at the bus in Kathmandu and take me out to dinner. Pokhara has been great but I am really hoping to the sun in Kathmandu…


The Closest to Sunshine in 5 days

 
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Posted by on April 1, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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An Elephant Safari anyone??

11th November 2011

Today is 11-11-11, if I was in Korea this would be the ultimate Pepero day. 11-11 is traditionally a day of giving each other chocolate dipped cookie sticks called pepero, absolutely loved this day as a teacher there. I can only imagine the size made for 11-11-11.

mmmm pepero!

Elephant Safari

Waking up at dawn we shuffled to the truck and bounced our way through the town to the loading grounds. As we pulled in it looked more like an elephant airport than a safari staging grounds. Out of nowhere all 300+ tourists had shown up for the safari. Elephants were loaded up one after the other and moved on to the ticket stall.

waiting to load


tickets please!

As my fellow hotel mates and I took in the scene, we were tempted to say Sod it and head back to the hotel. But at the last minute we decided what the heck, we had already paid. So we waited our turn at the loading dock and met the 4th member of our group, Jens from Germany.

Now for those of you who never been on an elephant safari, you would be amazed at just how difficult it is to get into the little square box that serves as our seat. First the front people climb in, balancing on the top of the elephant and then lowering themselves down to a somewhat seated position. Your legs slipping either side of the corner post. Then come the two behind you slipping into their seats and facing backwards. All in all a pretty tight fit. As our mount heads off in the direction of the forest, I am amazed at how the gait of an elephant is just the right amount of movement as to make photos nigh impossible. You have to sit there with your finger on the buzzer in the hope that one rolling gait might be long enough to snap a shot. In the end you just wait till the “bus” stops, usually in a river to get itself a drink.

refilling the water tank


Heading into the forest

As you cross the river you enter a new realm, and the trees completely surround you. It is at this point that you assume the elephant train will scare any living creature away, but soon find your mahut leading your elephant in a completely different direction and pretty soon the forest envelopes you, and so do the spider webs.

The one important rule we had been given was not to drop anything, as it is nearly impossible to hop on down from an elephant (unless you are a mahut of course). Barely 10min into the safari we hear a thud… followed shortly after by an “ah oh”. Jens’ bag had come lose and fallen to the floor. We all looked sheepishly at the mahut, for some reason it made us all guilty, but with a word our fabulous elephant simply turned her head leaned over and picked it up with her trunk. The bag was triple tied at that point.

Our mahut spoke some English and told us a little about our Elephant. Her name is Galipoli and she is 30yrs old. He had been her mahut for 5yrs and 2mths. She had had 1 baby so far. Such a beautiful eley!

As we veered right away from the other elephants we immediately saw some spotted deer, monkeys and some birds. The jungle noises surrounded us completely and you were just amazed by everything you saw, smelt, heard. Jens and I chatted a bit as we rode and looked for tigers (there is always hope right?) or rhinos (a much more likely but still slim possibility). Jens had been in marketing in Germany and had recently quit his job to travel for a year, so we hit it off immediately as that was pretty much what I had done.

After almost an hour of avoiding branches and spider webs, on the most part unsuccessfully, our mahut pointed something out to us in the mud. We all ooh’d and ahh’d, I am fairly certain we were all too high to really see what he was pointing at. But there was a definate indentation and he said Rhino!!!, and off we went on the hunt.

As we neared a clearing the younger elephant that had been with us started rumbling and trumpeting softly. Galipoli for her part, also started rumbling and acting a little uneasy. And then there he was… just behind a small bush and out in the open. He was a prime specimen and even from that distance we could tell he was huge. Of course he got bigger the closer we got. The poor elephant to our right started trumpeting earnestly, apparently in fear as it is not uncommon for rhinos to charge them. Her mahut had to encourage her somewhat firmly, shall we say, to go closer.

This was an Indian Rhino, also known as a Greater One-Horned Rhino or Asian Rhino. They are considered a vulnerable species with around 3000 left in the wild.

The Rhino!

Now I have to mention this, in Africa our rhinos are pretty damn big, but they usually have small birds called oxpeckers merrily cleaning them of parasites. This bugger had, what appeared to be a bloomin CROW!

Rhino and crow

After that little bit of excitement we headed back to the elephant airport and disembarked. Then saying fairwell to our beautiful Galipoli we boarded our truck.

fairwell Galipoli


Namaste!

Jens joined us in the truck as we were going by his hotel. Barely 5mins after leaving we hit a bump and the truck came to a halt. Jens kind of chuckled and informed us that since arriving in Nepal every mechanical form of transport had broken down on him, oh joy we have the bane of motor vehicles with us. Luckily it was nothing serious and we were soon up and running. We all decided to meet up for drinks that evening.

After breakfast it was time for a much anticipated activity, watching the elephants bathing with the chance to join. I was still feeling the trip from the day before so wasn’t sure if I would join. Boy am I glad I did, as it was one of the most amazing things I have ever done in my life.

Our bathing partner was a hefty female named Laksimi. As we headed to the water our hotel guide said, just remember to keep your mouth closed, the water is not so clean
Entering the water we waded close to Laksimi and I climbed on first followed shortly by Caroline who sat behind me. Then the mahut got her to stand and climbed up her nose. She proceeded to douse us with water over and over again and as much as I tried to keep my mouth shut, I was just laughing to hard to care.

Laksimi heading to the river


settled in and awaiting bath time


here it comes!


bulls eye

When preparing the dismount during bath time it is vitally important to remember to push off away from the elephant. This is because the elephant will sit and then roll to the side, not a good idea to get caught under it.

preparing to dismount


the roll

We were allowed a second bath and promptly got back on, this time Caroline was in front. The mahut climbed up via the trunk and insisted I shift backwards. Now please note Laksimi had a fairly large hump and with my short legs this meant I had no way to hold on, gives new meaning to sitting on the fence.

how to mount an elephant the mahut way

As laksimi took one step I overbalanced and landed head first in the river, luckily we were deep enough to cushion my fall. But not deep enough to make it a short fall.

yup that splash is me

As i surfaced, spluttering with laughter I realised that another elephant had been walking in my direction just before I fell and was now awfully close. I guess I should have been nervous, but once again the laughter was more important. It was then time to say fairwell to Laksimi and head home for a shower.

fairwells

As we left we watched as Laksimi’s mahut allowed her to go and roll around in the water for a bit. However, she was in no mood to come out and we couldn’t help but laugh as she looked defiantly at her mahut and refused to come out. Eventually his insistence paid off, and you could almost see her sigh and think oh very well then.

Laksimi the Elephant

After a rather squelchy walk back to the hotel, with huge grins on our faces, we all went and had a shower and a nap before lunch. While we had lunch we watched as one of the maintenance guys trimmed a hedge in true Nepali fashion.

hedge trimming

Around 3pm I manage to rouse myself enough to pop over to one of the bars and have a yoghurt lassi while I worked on my journal. Then we all gathered to walk to the sunset point with one of our hotel guides. On the way we swung by the bachelor stables to see the male elephants and what specimens they were. I never realised how big the tusks of an Asian Elephant could actually get.

The big boss

Some of them were a little less endowed, but made up for it in personality.

can you see me now?

We learned more about the history and conservation at an information site and stopped for a photo.

As the tour ended we came to the spot where we had bathed the elephants and were rather unnerved to discover this guy had been hanging out barely 200m from where we had been in the water. I am guessing he was 2m+ in length.

After dinner I was taken to the “cultural evening”, the others had decided on taking a chill out evening. I got there to discover that, although we had seen barely 20 tourists, every single one plus another 280 had decided to join the evening. The room was small and we were all cramped in. I watched the first dance from the very back, but could barely see anything and finally decided it was just too much and left early. Rather have a nap and pack. Then all 3 of us went for a drink at the pub and to meet up with Jens. Jens brought his other hotel mate, Cecelia from France, and I bumped into the American couple I had met on the bus. Pretty soon we looked liked the United Nations.

France, Germany, South Africa, Canada, Canada, USA, USA

All in all it was a great first half of the trip, even with the occasional misunderstandings, and I met a great group of people and got to take a bath with an elephant. What more could you want??
Tomorrow was another early rise and 6-7hr trip to Pokhara.

 
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Posted by on February 4, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Chitwan National Park…Here I come!

10th November 2011

Side note on ATM’s

I forgot to mention the heart stopping afternoon I had my second day when I attempted to find an ATM that liked my card. I tried every one I came to and even tried waiting in a bank for 30min before giving up and looking for more ATMs. At my fifth one I was on the point of panic, as Nepal is very much a cash based society. The guard looked concerned and suggested I try a Nabil bank just down the street. I had been told by other foreigners that Nabil seemed to work, but had already tried one of their ATMs. Oh well got nothing to lose. So I walked over, tentatively put my card in, said a little prayer to whichever almighty is in charge of money dispensing and waited for that special drrrrrrrrrrr sound of money being counted out. After a few heart stopping seconds I heard it, did a little happy dance and breathed a sigh of relief. The Nabil bank does like my ATM card it really does.

So to all those would be cash with drawers in Nepal, persistence pays off!

Off to Chitwan

Rolling out of bed at 6am I lugged my big bag downstairs of Hotel Silver Home to be put in storage and prepared to leave on my first bus experience in Nepal. I had been told that someone would pick me up and take me to the bus station. Unfortunately the night manager had no idea what I was talking about and it started to become painfully obvious that my ride was not showing up.

Just as I was about to say screw it and find my own taxi, the night manager said he would take. I assumed he meant take me to the taxi. Nope he meant walk me to the bus station as high speed so he could return to the desk. He didn’t offer to carry a bag (thank heavens I only had a small one) and walked ahead of me the whole time.

After a good 15min job we arrived at the Bus Station, better known as a very long line of very old decrepit looking buses. Ahhh the joys of travel. Of course my bus did not turn out to be the rather nice, clean looking one that was first in line but rather the very last one (adding another 5min jog through masses of confused tourists). I have traveled in all sorts of contraptions but I must admit I raised my eyebrows a little as I had been told I was in the safer tourist bus… mmmmmmm sure… The most exciting part (please note the word is dripping with sarcasm) was that we had seat assignments and mine was at the very back in the very right hand corner. Not a promising start to this journey. But then again that’s what adventure is all about…right? Isn’t it?????

When we finally pulled out of the station, pretty much on time, which is always a surprise in any country. Within an hour barely outside of Kathmandu we hit a monstrous traffic jam. The roads in this country are the windiest I have ever seen and at this particular spot they are so angled and so narrow that only one line of traffic can come up at any one time. We sat for close to 45min before moving again, giving all the men a chance to jump out and water the bushes… MEN! We had gone about 2 meters when yelling caused us to stop, one guy had taken a little longer to water the bushes than the rest. Kind of amusing.

It took 6 grueling hours of windy, dusty roads sometimes at top speeds other times at a crawl, all the time honking the horn/ blowing the hooter (depending on your version of English). The roads were unbelievably dusty which meant keeping the window open was more likely to cause dust induced bronchitis than make you feel better, it didn’t take long for the pounding headache and bus sickness to start making me feel miserable. But on the bright side it brought all of us squished in the back a little closer and there were many moments that only travelers in these kinds of situations can make light of.

Here are a few pics to help you relive it with me:

Squeezing past each other at a crawl


Little did I know this would be the only time I would see the himalayas for a week


A long line of buses


Look carefully you can see 2 roads on the hillside as it winds its way down

One of the most amusing sights while driving were the fabulously decorated buses and trucks. All of them also had a saying painted on the bumper, we spent a lot of time trying to find the most unique. Here are a few:

First Love


Road Star


And for the safety conscious: Slow Drive - Long Life

Arrival Chitwan

As the trip bounced closer and closer to 6hrs, the elusive end time, I realised, along with every other foreigner, that none of us knew where we were supposed to get off. We drove down a “highway” of sorts, through a town and out in to more rural areas, all the while wandering if that should have been our stop. On one particularly bumpy section my phone rang and it was the hotel guy asking if I had arrived as he couldn’t see me. The bus was lurching and bouncing so much that I could barely keep the phone against my ear let alone hear him. I was so confused. Then suddenly we turned into a dead end, apparently the last stop and end of the journey and there was my guy to pick me up. It turned out that he was expecting me on a bus that had come about 15min before and so had called Yogi at Hotel Silver Home and asked where I was. If I wasn’t so exhausted it would almost seem funny. I met my fellow hotel goers, Carolin and Daniel from Canada. We climbed into the back of the bakkie/truck and bounced along again to the hotel just round the corner.

When I had been told about the trip a poster was pointed out showing this incredible hotel right on the river in the heart of the National Park, it seemed amazing and the low price was unbelievable. Unbelievable indeed, it turns out that poster was pointed out because it showed the activities I could join, not the hotel. Oh well at least the beds were clean and there was a fan. Over lunch we discussed what we could do that afternoon and then I went and passed out as I felt like I had just done a 6hr + bus ride over a bumpy road with blasting horns and tons of dust…wait a minute I just did, well that explains things!

Elephant Breeding Center

Around 4pm we headed out to the Elephant Breeding Center. This is where all the females and youngsters are kept, the females are trained along with the babies and some eventually become trekking elephants. For the most part the females were pushing 30 and the youngsters averaged 3yrs. The animals were stunning and there was very young one that stole the show. It was sad to see that the mothers were chained at the end of their day, but if not they would wander off and cause severe damage or get injured, apparently. But then again, the elephants are almost the same as horses to these people and you have to lock horses up at night… still sad though.

At one point I was watching a female walking from the forest with her Mahut on her back and her twin babies walking in front of her. Another youngster tried to join the fun which annoyed one of the twins and a few of us clumsy tourists, including yours truly, nearly got stampled!

Here are some pics from that visit:

Domesticated Buffalo (they don't eat cows but they do eat buffalo)


The bridge to the breeding center


fuzzy youngin'


Twins are very rare

Back at the hotel I slept, ate dinner and slept again, actually taking something to help me sleep through my now full blown headache. Tomorrow is an elephant safari and so much more!

 
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Posted by on January 22, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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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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