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Nepal (part deux)

The difference two weeks make. Arriving back in to Kathmandu, our second impression is so much different than the first. Instead of the dirty, scary, desolate city we arrived into February 19, we are greeted by a welcome calmness compared to India. The city is alive and bustling, and much cooler than the sweltering heat we had experienced in Delhi the day before.

For the next seven days we are in the hands of Shorty- a lovely Kathmandu local who will be leading us through our Annapurna journey. It's just the three of us now- and our porter An-the-man and another who will join us in Pokhara.

A few observations... We are realizing how adapted we have become to our lifestyle while traveling. There are many things which were novel (or bizarre) at first, which are now not of much concern. The top ten:

1. Military with guns and sticks. Whenever you spot them, they are always carrying a mean looking stick and some type of rifle. Not a completely foreign sight, however we are getting used to seeing them pretty much everywhere we go, through India and Nepal.
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2. Garbage. Obviously our ability to ignore the trash speaks volumes on how the locals likely feel about it as well. By far the worst was in Varanasi, but it's hardly noticeable any more.
3. Dirty feet. Regardless of what we do, all three of us have ridiculously dirty feet by the end of the day. The dirt tan has become embraced in our Trio as a thing of beauty. I unfortunately never seem to get the best dirt tan- I think it might contrast better on alabaster skin tones.
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(please note the dust in the picture...)
4. Cows. Our first day in Pokhara we saw two cows walking on the sidewalk and we chased them down to take pictures. We could really care less about them now, as they're not going anywhere fast, and aside from trying to eat off our plates at lunch in Orchha or hip check is while we're running through Varanasi, they are no longer getting much attention from us.
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5. The beds: our first night at Hotel Fuji, we thought the beds were hard and uncomfortable. Round two? They might be some of the most comfortable we have slept on in weeks.
6. Everything about using the toilet facilities. The squatting, the dark, the smell, the occasional splash back. All pretty much par for the course. We will say by far the worst was the train station in Jhansi (Orchha) however.
7. Cold showers. B is having the toughest time adapting to not having warm showers- but I'll give credit where it is due, she's a trooper. Sometimes we get warm water, but not too often. But when you're covered in dust and dirt- you gotta do what you gotta do.
8. Sporadic electricity. This one applies more to Nepal, but sometimes the electricity cuts out. In Delhi the power went while I was showering, and B came to the rescue with her headlamp so I could finish shaving my legs. This is what best friends are for.
9. Street chaos. Not even an issue after Varanasi. We're pretty much local now, jumping in and out of traffic, always walking on the streets, side stepping the occasional cow patty or stray dog.
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10. Not having to carry a purse. Ok this one only applies to me, as B suggested I ditch my ratty black purse back in Chitwan. I have been purse free for almost 2 weeks, while B and the Ging carry my life around. It's just so liberating.

Now time to get out of the city and into the mountains.

A little wiser now-
The Traveling Trio

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Posted by ellie nicole 04:56 Archived in Nepal Tagged military india dirt nepal showers kathmandu toilets cows electricity Comments (0)

Travel (down) Time- Chitwan to Varanasi

The one thing we have learned is that infrastructure in this part of the world severely impacts the transit time between destinations. We are getting into a good van (now bus) routine- an hour or two of music/napping, 20 minutes complaining about needing to use the toilets, an hour of the question game and in between I write our blog posts and the girls read. Efficiency in motion (literally).

We left Chitwan early Thursday to head to Lumbini. Lumbini is the birthplace of Buddah, and as such it holds significant meaning to Buddhists and Hindus alike. En route the roads were busy- busses filled with people all dressed up, singing and cheering- Chewy informed us that it was a day that marriages were allowed to occur, based on the blessing of the priest and the astrology (and likely many other factors I am completely forgetting/unaware of). An interesting fact to ponder nonetheless for a girl who only knows weddings on Saturdays and destination nuptials.

Our hotel in Lumbini was Hotel Budhhamaya, a 15 minute walk from the Mayadevi Temple and a 45 minute drive to the Nepal/India border. The hotel is fine, definitely the least comfortable of the places we have been so far, but given there isn't much in Lumbini other than the Temple, it makes sense.

Mayadevi is the Mother of Buddah- so the Mayadevi Temple seems to make sense at his place of birth. The Temple was not open to the public until 2003- relatively recent. Scattered through the courtyard there are signs with Buddah wisdoms written on them. Under the shade, the Aussies and Canadians all sat in sight of the Bodhi tree and pondered life and religion. I figure we are a week in- you can have those chats now.

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After the temple we headed into "town" which was just one street with a handful of hotels and stores lining either side. As it got darker we decided to grab some food at one of the hotels (we thought we spotted a rooftop patio, so naturally we investigated). The place was empty, but was as good as any. Feeling adventurous we ordered a few different dishes- veg thupka (soup), veg chow mien and veg biryani (rice dish). Of course black tea (chai) and momo landed on the table as staples as well.

After a long (but inexpensive, Rs450) dinner, we had to walk back to the hotel. We had completely disregarded the fact that it was going to be pitch black as we had to walk on the road back to the hotel. Funny how the road seemed 10 times longer in the dark. Without fail, the second we walked into the hotel we were spotted by Chewy- who just wanted to make sure we were safe and had full bellies.

This morning we were up early to head to India (!!!!!). The process couldn't be easier- drive to the border, get out of the van, get blessed by a Brahman (strictly involuntary), walk across the border and get in your next mode of transport. It seemed the second we crossed the border however that things instantly got more hectic, busy and loud. Chewy has warned us several times that the Nepal part of our journey is the easy piece- and that Incredible India is next. Honestly- I can't wait.

Bring it on-
L

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Posted by ellie nicole 20:26 Archived in Nepal Tagged temple border nepal lumbini Comments (1)

From Mountains to Jungle

The Ging and I woke up in a bit of a panic as I had set the alarm but had failed to turn it on... So instead of having piles of time to get ready we had about 20 minutes. This compounded with the fact that the electricity was out when we woke up made our early morning routine quite difficult- so we improvised and got ready by candlelight, quite romantic. We both know as we're struggling in the dark, B will be cruising around with her headlamp- and will be more than happy to let us know how functional it is when we see her (it was the first thing she told us actually!)

After having to scale the marble stairwell in the dark, we headed off on our 20 minute ride to Sarangkot to catch the sunrise over the Himilayas. Sarangkot is on top of a hillside with a great vantage point of the mountains. I believe it is about Rs25 to enter, however Chewy takes care of those details so I'm not sure.

As we enjoyed a cup of coffee while the sun came up we couldn't help but talk about how amazing it is to watch the sun come up in the Rockies in the winter when you're headed to the hill, or what it's like to drive through the Okanagan Valley in the summertime. Funny we can be so far away from home but still be reminded quickly how beautiful our home country is. The sunrise over the Himilayas is quite spectacular- and although the Rockies are home- the Himilayas are impressive.

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After sunrise we enjoyed a lovely spread of coffee, mixed fruit porridge, boiled eggs and banana pancake at OUaT... We are pretty much regulars now, and we have all found our item of choice for breakfast. No sense in messing up a good thing.

After breakfast, we left Hotel Stupa behind and hit the road again to head to Chitwan, south of Pokhara by a 5 hour drive. Goodbye Pokhara- we'll see you in couple of weeks.

We are staying at Sapana Village Lodge in Chitwan, and it's gorgeous. It is set at the boarder of Chitwan National Park in south east Nepal. The scenery (and temperature) is vastly different then in Pokhara. It's jungle, wetlands and agriculture. The balcony of the restaurant overlooks the river and onto the green space behind the village. The sky is a beautiful blue and there is a calm peace here. Love.

We were invited on an orientation walk through the village in the afternoon. After learning that the average income in Nepal is around USD$450, you start to appreciate that the Nepalese people are very self sufficient, however have a different quality of life than we do in Canada. Our guide was very busy giving the group information about the houses, food and people when the three of us started spotting the women and children...

The difference a smile and Namaste will make. Children were curious about us- the three of us girls in particular as we were waving and saying hello to as many as we could. B & I encouraged the Kitten to go give a Canada pin to one of the littlest girls we had seen running through the street. Watching Ging have that experience for the first time- putting a smile on the face of a child who speaks no English, who will likely grow up in this village and who might just keep that maple leaf beside her bed until she is watching her own daughter run into the road towards smiling strangers. It's so much more rewarding to experience this part of culture. The information is interesting, and important- but the people are what makes Nepal.

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The three of us enjoyed a spread of dal bhat and a couple bottles of red wine for dinner back at Sapana. We have all been quite surprised how every restaurant seems to offer so many types of cuisine- Italian, Mexican, Chinese. We all seem to immediately flip to the Nepalese/Indian part of the menu. Ging and B are teaching me their ability to translate food items- dal, paneer, palak- are all now part of my food vocabulary.

Chewy sat with us for an hour answering our questions about Indian culture, tradition and customs. About his family and how the caste system works (or used to work). All while enjoying a couple of rum's- he's an intelligent and quiet guy- who has been keeping his eye on us since the moment he met us.

Tomorrow morning is our elephant ride and our jungle safari... No big deal.

xo
The Tender Trio

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Posted by ellie nicole 20:26 Archived in Nepal Tagged sunrise nepal chitwan sarangkot himilayas sapana Comments (0)

We're not in Kansas Anymore

16 °C

Turns out not even strangers think that the three of us should be in Nepal. We met a fellow on the plane from HK to Kat who was shocked we were there, and who's parting words were "just be careful... Seriously"

Getting a visa was easy, all we needed was a passport photo and USD$40... Thank you visa on arrival. We considered doing this before we left, however I would recommend just doing it when you arrive- it was pretty seamless.

Leaving the airport we walk through a gauntlet of local military (with large guns and sticks which I can only imagine are for some type of physical punishment) into  a sea of taxi and rickshaw drivers all more than willing to take us on an adventure of Kathmandu at 11 pm on a Sunday. Luckily our driver is there to pick us up (A godsend really, for all you female travelers-swallow the CAD$20 and get a ride to your hotel...) after being harassed for a tip from the porters, we were on our way to our hotel. (Side bar: we get into the car, and get asked for a tip. I have just changed CAD$200 at the airport, Ging and B have had an unfortunate disagreement with the ATM, and are left without any Rupees. The porter is aggressively asking for a tip- another rogue male has blatantly opened the passenger door to grab for cash... So I hand him 20 rupee... He is unimpressed, so I panic and hand him 100 more. We start driving away when I realize why he was so unimpressed.... 20 rupee is CAD$0.25. I'd be annoyed too)

The streets are dark, for a city of 7 million it is poorly lit, but there are people everywhere. The roads are lined with rubbish- bricks, trash bags, refuse- we are driving pac-man style, mid road with out concern- packs of young males line the streets, hoarding in droves enjoying the night. Occasionally there are women, but they are sparse. Buildings are showing the wear of years of neglect. We are nowhere I have ever been before.

The hotel is hidden in a labyrinth of brick buildings and mismatched streets. We are not finding our way here even in the middle of the day. But when we arrive, it is gated, guarded, and clean. We have three single beds, a door with a deadbolt and a hot shower- its really the best we can ask for (Hotel Fuji, Kathmandu). 

So here's the good news Mom & Dad, Merv & Lauren, Jenny & Lynn... We have made it to Nepal.

L, Ging & B

Posted by ellie nicole 03:42 Archived in Nepal Tagged hotel on visa nepal kathmandu arrival Comments (0)

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