Tuesday, September 28, 2010
Saturday, September 25, 2010
Thursday, September 23, 2010
On to Pashupantinath. This is the temple complex that has mainly to do with the life and death cycle. In word word: Deep. People come here to cremate their family members and deposit their remains in the Bagmati River, Nepal's holy river that flows into the Ganges. This continues the cycle of life to death, death to life. The only people that don't get cremated are the holy men, who are instead buried, stopping the cycle. It was pretty powerful watching the cremations, and a Buddhist family performing a ritual on the one year anniversary of their family members cremation. I finally caved and hired a guide for this one.
Today I made a trip to Patan, to go see the Durbar Square there. To avoid confusion, Durbar Square is a universal term, there are many of them around the Kathmandu Valley. It was a pretty cool, medieval looking place. Lot's of old architecture and an impressive array of temples in the square. I was hoping for a clear day to shoot some good pictures, but no such luck. The sun here is so intense and the clouds are so gray it's difficult to shoot against, and a lot of my pictures don't end up being as nice as they should be.
I'm typing this on a computer at an internet cafe, the internet at my guest house has been down for a day so I am unable to post any pictures, but hopefully soon. Tomorrow I go finalize my Indian Visa and get the last minute things ready for my trek on Saturday.
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
The ball is rolling for my trek, which I will be departing for on Saturday. I had to hang around Kathmandu for most of this week waiting for my Indian Visa to push through, due to Indian beauracracy. I picked up some layers for the cold weather today, and found a decent travel agent to handle my flight and paperwork.
Yesterday I headed to Swayambhunath, aka the Monkey Temple, due to the sheer amount of monkeys that call it home. It is definitely a must-see of Kathmandu, with it's incredible views of the city, the giant Stupa, all the cool temples, and of course, the monkeys.
Sunday, September 19, 2010
My five days in Pokhara could have been better, between being sick and all the rain, but it was a beautiful place and I can imagine a visit there in the dry season would be ten times better. I'm sure the owners of Hotel Crown will be happy that at night they can finally listen to the peaceful sound of the insects chirping without being punctuated by my violently loud bowel movements.
Now I'm back in the hustle and bustle of Kathmandu. Things are noticeably busier now, the streets are crazy and the restaurants are full. What a difference one week closer to the dry season makes. I'm hoping to have my Indian Visa process underway tomorrow so I can start trekking right away and get it when I get back. If everything goes without a hitch tomorrow and I get lucky enough to score a last minute flight, I could be trekking by Tuesday. Right now Wednesday looks more realistic though.
Saturday, September 18, 2010
I hadn't talked to anyone from North America in almost two weeks, and it was a great relief to finally have a fluid conversation with someone where I wasn't breaking through language or accent barriers. When I arrive in Kathmandu tomorrow I'll have to start my quest to find a decent trekking partner for my journey to Everest Base Camp. I'm thinking it'll be a great asset to have someone around to watch each others backs and belongings.
I took a taxi up to the Bat Cave today to test out my claustrophobia. Good news, I don't have any. I hooked up with a few other Nepali people, crawling around the wet muddy rock and squeezing through spaces I didn't think I'd fit. I saw one damn bat the whole time, and didn't even manage to get a picture of it. It was fun as hell though, I'd definitely recommend it. An expensive cab ride (almost $10 there and back), but at 20 Rupees (about 30 cents), it was worth it.
Tonight I'll hit up the Old Blues Bar for a beer and pack my bag for the bus ride to Kathmandu tomorrow. That's if the mudslide that hit the highway is cleared by then. Cross your fingers for me.
Thursday, September 16, 2010
I'm sure the hike to the Peace Pagoda yesterday didn't help things. It was my first taste of hiking in the rainforest, I got poured on the entire way up. Luckily it stopped when I got to the top so I was able to take some pictures. I also went to Devi's Falls, which was pretty cool. It plunges around some cool rock formations into a chasm where it disappears underground, unfortunately the way the footpaths are set up doesn't really offer a really good picture opportunity.
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
Caught the 0700 bus to Pokhara in the morning, quite the experience taking a public bus cross country in Nepal. It really shows a person a lot of the problems with the infrastructure here, partly due to the civil war that ended a few years ago, weak government and poverty. The road we took is the major one between Kathmandu and Pokhara, a city of lower elevation near the Annapurna Mountain and gateway to the Annapurna circuit trek. What they consider their highway would be a semi-paved forestry road in Canada, complete with tons of buses, trucks, broke-down trucks, people and motorcycles. Life here in Pokhara seems way more laid back than in Kathmandu, and thankfully there's less pollution and noise here.
This morning I woke up feeling pretty ill, I'm pretty sure the cause is a bottle of water I drank that had the seal tampered with. It was a brand I hadn't tried before and the seal wouldn't break in two places opposite from each other. I figured it might be just the brand but I bought another one today that unscrewed fine. Thankfully by afternoon, and after a good nap, I felt much better. I'm hoping this means I'm somewhat resistant to the bacteria here. On the good note, I found an awesome little blues bar last night, I'm definitely going to check that out tonight.
Monday, September 13, 2010
I headed to the Immigration Office today to get my Nepali visa extended, which went without a hitch. While I was waiting I cruised around the city and ended up in a nearby hole in the wall restaurant where I ended up meeting two other travelers and having lunch, a plate of chow mein complete with a small, dead cockroach on the side of it. I guess for less than a dollar you can't have high expectations. Thankfully I didn't get sick.
I have a bus ticket booked and tomorrow morning I will be off to Pokhara. Just in time I think, the pollution of Kathmandu is starting to get to me, I've developed a slight cough and sore throat that I'm sure isn't sickness related. I think in the long term sense, smoking would be a better choice than breathing in this smog.
Sunday, September 12, 2010
The Bodhnath Stupa was very impressive, it stands about six or so stories tall and is draped with prayer flags. The best part of the day was when I stumbled upon a Tibetan Monastery and was invited in to watch their prayer ritual. And they actually let me take pictures! I consider this a major stroke of luck since I read everywhere that you're not supposed to. The prayer ritual was incredible, seeing the young Buddhist monks in the flesh doing what they devote their life to is something I will never forget. Hearing the the three foot long Tibetan horns and the deep sounding drums played in movies does not come close to doing them justice to what they sound like in real life.
Saturday, September 11, 2010
It was also pretty funny moving through the jam packed crowds, at 5'11" I'm a good head taller than everyone else, save for the occasional tourist, so I had the birds eye view of everything. It's quite the change of pace for me to be one of the tallest and heaviest people around.
As for food, banana pancakes could become my new favorite breakfast. Eating those while sitting on the rooftop garden terrace was definitely a great start to the day.
Friday, September 10, 2010
One word to describe Kathmandu: Heavy. The air is humid and there is quite a bit of pollution, which makes it a little thick to breath. There's sound everywhere, honking (lots of honking), people talking, motorcycles, animals, birds, you name it. The streets are very narrow, roughly the size of our alleys back home, and they're full of people. It all sounds like a bit much, and it sometimes is, but it's still a really cool environment. There's never a shortage of things to catch your eye.
And thankfully the touts are not nearly as bad or as plentiful here as they were in Bangkok, that makes me really happy.
Thursday, September 9, 2010
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
I learned a couple hard lessons about Thailand today. First, I am not used to this heat. Carrying a backpack to the Grand Palace was a huge mistake, one I’m not going to repeat again. Another lesson is anytime a conversation with a Thai starts with a handshake and “Sir, where are you from?”, it’s not in your best interest to talk to this person. I thought Mexico was bad for people trying to sell you tours or lure you into their shops, but Thais make Mexicans look like pre-school. It’s downright devious, on the walk to the Grand Palace, which is about 3 km from my guesthouse, I encountered about six people who tried swaying me from my destination. It goes like this: “Today big Thai Expo, you go see Standing Buddha first, 50 meter tall! Then Sitting Buddha next, any other day 40 Baht, today no Baht. Special day. Grand Palace closed sir, Thai’s having ceremony. You come back in two hours when done, after you go see Standing and Sitting Buddha. Tuk Tuk cheap.” Then he hails a tuk tuk for you, and now you’re arguing with two people. It’s plainly obvious that the informative tout is making commission from the tuk tuk drivers for giving them business, and the 40 Baht you’re promised will likely turn into 400. Fortunately for me, I’m smart and can see past their bullshit. Unfortunately for me, I’m a solo tourist, which is an easy target for these fuckers.
The Grand Palace was amazing, so much beautiful Thai architecture in the Buddhist Temples, and amazing rich, golden colours. It was pretty cool going inside the temples and seeing the Thai’s praying, as well as the young monks in training. Tip: Pack cheap shoes, you are not allowed to bring shoes inside the temple, and I did not want to leave my expensive North Face shoes outside (the only reason I was glad I brought a backpack).
Tuesday, September 7, 2010
The humidity here in Thailand is insane. I've been to Mexico and Dominican Republic, but nothing compares to this Monsoonal humidity. Hopefully I adjust soon or I'll sweat out my will to live.