10.20.2010

I'm going to Kathmandu




After a brief 12 hour layover in Bangkok, Thailand we headed off to Kathmandu, Nepal. It was a quick flight and after just over 3 hours we landed in a rainy Kathmandu. After a little delay at the visa office, we weren't as prepared with our visa photos as we should have been, we met our van to the Kathmandu Guest House. The Kathmandu Guest House, in the Thamel area of the city, from what we've been told and have seen is the de-facto place to stay if you are trekking out of Kathmandu. Unfortunately, even after confirming our reservation the day before we arrived, we were told they had no room for us and they put us up down the street in a decent, but noisy place. After a rough night of sleep they we were able to get us a room back at the guest house, with a free breakfast (after some complaining) for our troubles. We've had about 5 days to explore Kathmandu and get prepared for our upcoming trek. The first day or so was spent taking short "expeditions" (a few blocks from our hotel) and then trying to make our way back through the narrow windy streets of Thamel: the busy backpacker area of the city where the streets are lined with knock off hiking gear shops and the never ending honking of horns.






After about a day or two of wandering around the bustling Thamel, we felt confident, along with a map, to head out on a longer walk out to Swayambhunath, or the Monkey Temple as the tourists call it. The Swayambhunath stupa sits on top of a hill on the western edge of the city. It's about a 40 min walk to the base. On the walk to the temple we got to venture out of the touristy Thamel area; the streets widen and it's a little easier to get around. You also leave the infrastructure, and I use that term rather lightly, that the tourist area offers. It was very hard seeing the river banks of the Bishnumati River piled high with garbage. I'm not sure what to feel about the situation and I won't pass any judgement, I've just never experienced a sight like that before. Nepal is the least developed country we have ever visited and it comes with a mix of emotions. It is difficult to see the poverty and some of the conditions that exist here, but the people seem genuinely happy and children run around laughing and flying kites. It definitely gives you some perspective and there are constant reminders of what we take for granted at home.




Upon reaching the base of Swayambhunath you climb exactly 365 stairs to the top. From there you can explore the stupa and other temples and get a great view of the city below.





Ascending Swayambhunath






















On the following day we visited Hanuman-dhoka Durbar Square. About a 20 minute walk from Thamel Durbar Square has dozens of temples and shrines, including the Hanuman-dhoka Royal Palace and a large white European style building, Gaddi Baithak.



Along Gaddi Baithak









Jagannath Temple



Maju Dega

Maju Dega Rickshaws




Then after two days and two attempts, we were able to obtain our Annapurna trekking permit and TIMS card which would allow us to head out on our trek of the Annapurna Circuit. Unknown to us, we were in Kathmandu during the multi-day Dashain festival and that combined with what people call, being on 'nepali time', trying to figure out hours of operation and exactly what was needed was a little bit of a challenge.

However, now that we have our permits, our bus tickets and our supplies, including a some cheap knockoff gear we bought on the streets of Thamel, we are ready to hit the trail. We expect to be trekking for about 14 days, a few days less than originally planned since some of the once isolated sections of the trek are now jeep accessible (making a ride back in a jeep more enjoyable than walking in their dusty path). After we return from the trek we'll have a few days to recover before we head back to Thailand to finish our tour of Southeast Asia.

We aren't planning to bring along the laptop so we will be out of touch for a couple of weeks enjoying the high altitude, look for an update once we return.

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