Friday, February 26, 2010

Tamang Heritage Trail: Part II

So I left off talking about our arrival in Tatopani, where there were numerous lodges and best of all some very nice hot springs. The water was that brackish rust color, but it was warm and wet, very similar to the stuff you see in Iceland. The water coming out of the large spout felt awesome on the back of my neck and getting the last couple days of grime and salt off of me was well worth the foray into the public bath.

After that night we got to an early start and made for the Rhododendron forests that clung to the side of the mountain at this elevation (roughly 8,000'). The trees here are covered in moss and vines as this is the elevation where clouds regularly form from the rising hot air that comes up from the valleys providing thick moist air for the trees and whatever grows on them.
After a mile or so out of Tatopani we came across a large troop of Nepal Gray Langur Monkeys. At first I just caught a glance of a few running across the trail, but after standing still for a moment and looking around it became evident that the forest was full of them. My guess would be that the troop consisted of at least twenty five, though there may have been more that we didn't see. As my camera is useless at taking pictures of anything that isn't right in front of you, I had to rely on Kim and her large lens to get all the shots, which I think she did a good job of considering she had no tripod.
Onward we went, through the very picturesque village of Brimdang, and then up the side of what was the highest and steepest part of the trail. Every ridge promised better and better views with the Ganesh Himal on the West side and the Mountains of Langtang in the East. I'm not afraid of heights, but there were several parts here on the trail where if you jumped you would have several long tens of seconds to consider your mistake. The trail would bend and it was like being at the edge of the world, something I haven't experienced before at only 10,000' of elevation. Anyway when we got to the top, we were rewarded with an almost complete 360 degree view of the surrounding mountains and a little monastery at the top of the place called Nagthali Ghyang. Here though the fields were covered in a good amount of snow, and the trail was anything but clear. Lucky for us a pair of Buddhhist monks were on their way to the same village as us. Although they couldn't wait for us, as they had to be there to assist with a ritual, they very kindly showed us where to go, gave Kim a walking stick and left a trail of arrows in the dirt for us every once in a while.
Now this is the part of the trail that shortened the whole expedition. Kim did very well going up, despite the precipices and steep trails, but going down the same kind of steep trails in the snow and fresh mud was not on her happy list. As the above picture shows, I occasionally got the look of death. Watching someone come down a mountain that is convinced that at any moment they just might die is not something you want to watch or put anyone through. We agreed after a short while, that the trek would be adjusted to avoid any other steep downhills with snow and ice.
After what seemed like an eternity we did finally reach the village of Thuman, which was fairly good sized and had a monastery that was preforming some special rights, I think for Losar (Tibetan New Year). We shared a guest lodge with a pair of French chicks (mother and daughter) and also got some really great pictures in this village. This village also sat facing the peak of Langtang Lirung, giving another set of gorgeous mountain views. The above picture shows monks blowing horns as part of the ceremony that they were preforming during our stay.

The next morning we made our way north across the ridge, neither gaining or really descending until after we passed the small village of Dahal Phedi. From there the trail descended steeply again, and Kim reminded me that she hates hiking again. We finally got to the bottom crossed a suspension bridge and made our way along a new "road" to the village of Timure. From here Kim rested and I took a stroll up to the Chinese/Tibet border.
The above picture is taken from the ruins of a stone fort on the Nepal side. On the Chinese side you can see they are building a very large bridge. In fact the whole road that was being built was being built by Chinese workers, with Chinese equipment, and it looks like the Chinese are serious about getting roads down to India through Nepal. I've read they are doing the same in Lo Mantang, and in one other place, giving them four routes through Nepal.

On the last day we followed the road south back to Syrabru, only problem was that just North of LingLing we ran into a Chinese dynamite team. The road aint quite done. So we had to turn around find the old trail, take it several hundred feet above the dynamite team, and then descend back down after LingLing. It was a little scary walking within a foot or so of very long drops knowing dynamite could be going off under you at any time. Some did go off a little bit before arriving in LingLing and scared the bejeezus out of me. After that and a slight worng turn we found that the trail suddenly terminated about 80' above the new road, and the very steep dirt made it so sliding down was not an option. After a little backtracking we followed a path through some nomads camp and found our way down to the road. From their it was mostly smooth sailing to Syrabru.

Lucky for us the bus ride home was much more comfortable, and a little quicker than the one up there. The suspension on the bus was much nicer and the seats more comfortable. Any bus ride in Nepal can be a little scary though with the second rate roads, sharp switchbacks, and very very long drops that are very evident right out your window. We made it back in one piece though and over all had a great time.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Tamang Heritage Trail: Part I

Ok, so we're back from hiking a little early, and short on anything to do with the Langtang valley, instead we did just the Tamang Heritage Trail. I'll explain why in this post (or the next) but the short of it is that Kim wasn't fond of steep down hills in the snow, something there was sure to be more of in Langtang proper. This part aside, we had a great time, saw some great stuff and met some fantastic people. I was able to map the whole trail with GPS and the results can be seen in the Google Earth image below. I've color coded each days hike a different color, and the places we spent a night are marked as the house with a flag.

I was really happy with how my Garmin performed, getting what looks like really good data almost the whole trip. The only day things got a little jumpy was on day 5 (purple) when we were walking at the bottom of the valley and had our worst satellite exposure. On close inspection you can see that there is a slight deviation between reality and where Google has their imaging, it's just under a 100' shift to the west. I've mapped all my photos and POI in one KML file, so if anyone is interested just leave a comment or e-mail me and I can send you the file.

So to get to this region you catch a 7 AM bus out of northern Kathmandu, with an estimated travel time of ten hours. Despite being under 80 miles as the crow flies, several ridges, rivers, and miles upon miles of switchbacks mark the actual route, making it a very long ride. To add to the comfort, the bus is made for Nepali people, meaning if you are over 5' tall your knees hit the seat in front of you. Our bus made numerous stops along the way, onloading and offloading various bags of grain, rice, potatoes, people what ever. At one point we came across a traffic back up due to a blocked road. Apparently there had been an accident, the guy who had hit someone on a motorcycle had fled on foot, and to prevent his car from going anywhere until police arrived the road had been blocked. Two hours later we continued on our way and reached our destination after only 11 hours and a few bruises. That night we stayed at the Hotel Peaceful and I awoke with the worst dehydration headache I have ever had, I felt like someone had kicked me in the back of the head with a steel toe boot. Only time in my life I have been nauseous from pain, apparently caused from some odd muscles I used to hold my pack on the bus and a lack of proper hydration. Lesson learned I guess.
So anyway on to the trail. By the time morning rolled around I was feeling much better. The day started with about 2,500' ascent up a bunch of switchbacks that would get us to Rongga Bhanjyang a pass at just about 7,500'. Along this section we got awesome views of Langtang Lirung and the adjacent mountains. Along the trails were numerous Buddhist Chortens (pictured above) and mani walls. These all added to the already picturesque landscape.
After topping the pass we continued down the "road" for another couple miles to the village of Godam, from where we took a trail gently leading down the hill toward the village of Gotlang. This is where we ended our first day, and the view from the community lodge there can be seen above (the mountain is Langtang Lirung). The lodge was run by a man named Dawa who was incredibly helpful and made our stay very comfortable. The village was extremely photogenic and Kim got some of her better pictures of people here. We also had the fortune of sharing the lodge with a Dutch couple, the kind of people that you are grateful to spend dinner with chatting over whatever. Really interesting people.
Above is a picture of Kim being mobbed by children who want their photo taken. They would all yell "One Photo?!?" and then after the shot they would run to see their faces in the preview screen, then run away again so they could get in another picture.

From Gotlang the trail descended gradually along the ridge down to the Bamdang Khola (a river) which we crossed then turned north along the Chilime Khola (another river) to the town of Chilime. We then crossed this river and began the long climb up to Gongoling, where we had lunch. While waiting for lunch some woman came through town singing and dancing which was kind of cool. The lodge owner was also very helpful and after lunch we made our way to Tatopani (meaning hot water) where we spent the next night. Here they also had hot springs and we were able to get a fairly nice bath.

I'll Continue the rest of the hike's details in the next post. My pictures can be viewed from the link on the side of the page "Tamang Heritage Trail" it's the mini slide show. Kim's much better and more numerous photos can be viewed HERE.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

5 Things that may take some getting use to in Nepal

I take pride in being a fairly adaptive person, I can eat lots of different foods, get use to many different customs, and acclimate to various degrees of cleanliness with ease. That said, all places have a few things that take a bit more time to get use to. Here are my top 5 for Nepal;

5- Cows in the Road: I don't know why exactly, but this always surprises me every time I turn a corner and there is a cow or bull hanging around the trash or staring at me. Chickens? Goats? Lambs? All these I can get use to in an urban setting but cows throw me for a loop every time. Maybe it's just their size, but for some reason, despite having seen many, they always seem unexpected.

4- Steamed Rice: I can eat almost any food (save for fried bugs and durian fruit in Thailand), but eating the same thing over and over again is somewhat hard for me. I constantly felt ungratefulwhile staying with Pradip and Sabita's because after a few meals of dahl baht (steamed rice with lentils and curried vegetables) I began to eat about half of what everyone else was eating. It wasn't that I didn't like it, I did, but after a while I would just feel satisfied with what I had eaten and was full enough that I really didn't want to eat too much more. On several occasions I tried to eat until I was really stuffed to be polite, but no one seemed to believe me that I was full. The upside is that I know what I can eat to just feel full now.

3- Driving, Walking & Traffic: Traffic goes on the left side of the road in theory, but really it just goes where it can. Most roads here are about 15'+/- wide, and this forces you to drive a little differently. In the US the system is top down, we are all told the rules and we are all expected to follow them or someone will fine you. It doesn't matter that no one is coming for 15 miles at the stop sign, you need to stop. Here they don't bother putting the traffic lights on, you just move and meld with what you have in front of you. It takes some getting use to the constant horns (used to identify where you are, not to notify of anger) and just moving into traffic and expecting other people to adjust. It will take some getting use to, but the more I experience it, the more I understand how it works, and works well for Kathmandu.

2- Swastikas: With roots as an Eastern symbol used in various religions including Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism, the swastika has a very different meaning here as to what it conjures up in the Western mind. We are so ingrained with the symbol as being the ultimate evil of Hitler's Germany showing hatred and racism that is hard to adjust to a culture that uses it as a symbol for luck, wealth and good fortune. My landlords, who are the nicest people, have one just above the entryway to the house. Strikes me a little odd every time, though I know the cultural difference.

1- Skin Lightening Cream: In the subcontinent apparently they prefer them fair, and marketers aren't afraid of filling that niche with a product. I've seen similar products in South East Asia. Two products that I can recall are Fair and Handsome (for men) and Fair and Beautiful (for woman). Coming from a country that is so sensitive about issues of skin color and taught to be proud of what ever you are, these ads and commercials just don't sit quite right with me. In one commercial a guy is playing volleyball, he makes a play, but all the girls kind of laugh him off because he's dark (apparently). I can't understand what is being said, so in my mind I just hear, "No one wants you darky! lololololololol!" Maybe it isn't that bad. He then uses the advertised product, gets lighter skin, sees one of those chicks that laughed at him while riding his manly scooter, and she's like, "Wow! You are totally doable now that you aint so dark!" Or something to that effect in Hindi. They then ride off into the sunset. Praying on peoples insecurities is nothing new in marketing, so I don't know why it bothers me so much, but ya, it just sits awkward with me.

Honorable Mentions (or the things that aren't as bad as they sound)
-Power going out for long intervals during the day. Aside from keeping us from the internet to do work, I actually don't mind it too much. Sure electricity is nice, but so is reading a book and not feeling guilty that you could be more productive.

-Undrinkable tap water. Sure you can't drink from the tap, but after getting a water cooler (that heats or cools at least when we have power) it isn't that big a deal. The deposit for a full 5 gallon container was like 280 (NRS about 4$) and to fill it with water is like 60 NRS.

-Dirty Streets. Yeah trash collection isn't Kathmandu's strong suit, but really a little burning trash here and there is easy to ignore. Even the streams and rivers that double as open sewers don't really bother me all that much, though I won't be going swimming in them any time soon. The trick is to see that it works in it's own way, and the US had many similar kind of locals less than a hundred years ago as far as sanitation.

Since much of this post sounds kind of negative about Nepal, I'll try and end on a positive note. The weather here has been great. Due to the type of climate all the buildings have these awesome flat roofs where you can sit out, soak up some sun, see some mountains and read a good book. Although the city is somewhat chaotic, it feels very free. That all by itself is worth every bit of the things that may take some getting use to, and much more.

Final Note: Kim and I will be hiking in the Langtang region for the next two weeks, so this blog will be lacking updates. Please check back when we get back! I promise to have some kick ass pictures!!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Tamang Heritage Trail & Langtang Valley

On Thursday Kim and I are setting out for a 12 day hike (plus 2 days of bus trips) to hike the Tamang Heritage Trail and the more popular trek up the Langtang Valley. This one brings us right up to the Tibetan border and we should get some great pictures. Tomorrow we just need to grab our TIMS cards (Trekking Information Management System) and we're good to go.

The above map shows the approximate route we will be taking. Should be a nice warm up trek, as I don't think any single day sees much more than 3000 feet of elevation gain. Any climb in the Himalaya is certain to have its share of difficult spots and some tough days, but compared to some of the other stuff I've done, this shouldn't be too bad.

A Can of Gas, and some Electricity

So for the last few days we have been a little limited in our internet access due to only having internet when we have power. Power in Nepal is rationed this time of year, and thus we are at the whims of load shedding. A table entitled "Load Shading Ineffective from 28 Jan 2000 years and 10" (this makes me laugh every time) tells us when we do and don't have power. We've concluded after some observations that we are in zone 3. The good news is that we got a battery and inverter today that charges when the power is on and lets us continue to work when the power goes out. An electrician will be over tomorrow to hook it up.

We also made the jump to gas powered cooking yesterday when we got a gas canister for our stove. Our first meal was ginger fried rice, and todays lunch was mexican rice with refried beans and salsa. Not five star but it's nice to be able to cook again. The produce here is very cheap, and I was able to find some Nepali produced mozzarella that is quite good for only 150 NRS. As long as you stick to what is grown in season you can eat very good food on the cheap.

As usual both of these recent acquisitions owe thanks to Pradip for contacting the right people and getting them into our hands, especially the inverter and battery. My understanding is that all the inverters were draining the power supply so the government moved to ban their import. That combined with several recent holidays had made it a tricky matter to get our hands on one. Pradip always seems to know who to talk to.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Nargila Restaurant: Best Lunch in Thamel

Nagila restaurant is a small unsuspecting place just north of the Kathmandu Guest House under the Tom & Jerry pub and near more well known places like New Orleans Cafe. For the money, this place serves the best lunches I have had in Thamel, hands down, and that is saying a lot about an area that is packed with what seems like several hundred eateries of various quality. It serves Middles Eastern food at prices that are very reasonable, most of the menu is between 100 and 300 NRS.
This review is being done a week after we actually went, for the second time, so you need to forgive my utter lack of memory with the menu.

The tea is an excellent value. For around 90 NRS we got a small pot of tea (about 3.5 cups) and Kim's cinnamon ginger tea had large chunks of fresh ginger and real cinnamon bark floating in her pot, while my lemon tea had a good amount of the fresh squeezed stuff.

Kim both times got the hummus (around 150 NRS) and it was excellent. Served with two hot pieces of pita it was some of the best hummus we've had outside of the middle east. Certainly a good deal for the price.

Now I need to apologize for not even remembering the name of the wrap thing I got. What I do know is that both versions I got (mutton/falafel) were huge and very good. Both are made with the previously mentioned main ingredient, and stuffed with a cucumber salad, humus, and a bunch of french fries. At 205/210 NRS these are a great deal. The food was well prepared and fresh. They give you so much food that as you can see, my pita is experiencing structural failure in this picture. If I had to pick a fault I would say that the falafel, while good, was not quite like what I've had in authentic places, was a little dry and had corn in it. This is mostly nitpicking because the resulting sandwich/wrap was awesome.

All in all a great deal for the cash, and as much as I like to try new places whenever I get a chance, this place makes it tough, because I'd just as soon get lunch here. As I said, of all the places we've eaten in Thamel, this was the best for the money.
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Do they Burn the Bus on Losar?

So Tibetan New Year, Losar, was celebrated yesterday. It is actually celebrated for 15 days, and yesterday may have been the second day of it, but I can't keep track of what is going on. They did have fireworks on Saturday over in the direction of Boudhanath so I have a feeling we were there for day 2 of celebrations. Anyway, we walked over and found that you could get into the square for free (saved us 400 NRS!) and there were tons of people, including a whole lot of Buddhist monks, all going clockwise around that giant stupa. When we got to the far side where the monastery is there was a large crowd and they were preparing for the celebration. Some friendly Nepali police stopped by in riot gear and there was a little pushing and shoving....not sure what that was all about, but they had to move the picture of the Dalai Lama while they were there. After that the crowd gathered, sang some songs and at the end we threw some flour (I think) up in the air. It was all very confusing to me, but it was fun to watch. I've uploaded some pictures from below.

After a short snack overlooking the whole square we decided we should catch a taxi back. Problem was there were no taxis for some reason. Odd. So we start making our way back in the dark, with my biggest concern being the possible stepping in something I would greatly regret (the streets here can be rather filthy). Kim has a little trouble with depth perception, especially in the dark, and was more afraid of ruining an ankle and not being able to go hiking. So we keep going and no taxi's, but lots of police in riot gear. This entails shields, bamboo sticks for whackin, helmets and a few guns that can launch tear gas and other crowd dispersers. They are moving some people around, but as tourists they just ignore us.

So after passing through a market and picking up a candle for Kim we come to a bridge with all kinds of people on it looking at something. The guy we got the candle from had said something about an accident, and as we get to the bridge there is lots of broken glass on the ground, and down by the Bagmati River is a bus that is on fire. It is clear immediately that the bus being on fire is not an accident. Kim wanted to take a picture but with police blowing whistles and moving toward the crowd on the bridge I advised against it. So anyway we continue on back to the house, passing more police and eventually getting home. Once the power came on I was able to get on line and find out that apparently a bus had hit and killed a street vendor, and injured a few other people. As this is the third time this has happened in six months (!) people went about attacking that companies buses and burning them. Apparently there were four, we only saw the one. So here is a link to the article on MyRepublica.

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Saturday, February 13, 2010

Shiva's Birthday and serious Table Tennis

So yesterday was this holiday that celebrates Shiva's birthday. Like most holidays where you lack the cultural background to understand why people do what they do on those days, the events seemed like an odd mish-mash of happenings. We knew Hindu pilgrims from all over flocked to the temple in Kathmandu, and despite the poor weather I think around half a million people showed up. What I didn't know was that children (and occasionally some adults along side) pull a rope across the rode and make you pay to get by, like a toll road. You don't really have to pay, and most people just give a rupee or too, but I have no idea what the connection is to the holiday. As we were still collecting things for the apartment we ran into several of these little "toll stations" over the coarse of the day. Most of the kids were well mannered and it was almost cute.

Later the teen-aged kids who lived below us showed us that we could watch a concert nearby from our roof. That was kind of cool. Then they pointed out that everyone makes little bonfires to honor Shiva. The people on the roof next door got one going in a chiminea like thing. It was a little soggy today, and it's hard to find wood in this city, so not as many people as normal were into it this year I was told. I think it's a good thing most of the city is brick and concrete!

This picture kind of deserves a post of its own, but it'll have to settle for this. Apparently Nepal takes its table tennis seriously. Pictured above is the sign for the National Table Tennis Training Center.
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Friday, February 12, 2010

New Apartment in Kathmandu

Our Street

So after a couple days of running around grabbing cook tops and a refrigerator, figuring out how drinking water and gas is handled and getting our internet connection going we are for the most part moved in to our new place. We still need to get our gas canister so we can cook, and we are supposed to have our battery installed soon, so that we have some power when the electricity in our district is shut off.

The place is nice, has a single bedroom, one bath a living area and a nice kitchen. The bedroom is good sized and the living area has some good sized windows overlooking a large outdoor patio (we're on the 3rd floor by US reckoning, 2nd floor by the rest of the worlds arithmetic). Above us is the roof, from where you can see some of the snow covered peaks when its clear and many of the roofs of surrounding Kathmandu. Anyway here are some more pics.
View from the roof of our building looking toward the east. When it is clear you can see the tops of snow capped mountains.
Our kitchen has tons of cabinet space, which is uncommon here I think. We grabbed a water cooler for drinking watter and a small fridge too. The counter top is designed for Nepali Woman so it comes up to about my thigh, so I think I'm going to figure out a way to elevate my cutting board so my back won't hurt.
Our living area with the big windows looking out on a good sized terrace. Just ignore the trash from the refrigerator in the corner. This room has a good amount of natural light and even a sink to wash your hands before and after dinner.
This is the garden attached to our apartment. The house owner does a very nice job of keeping it looking nice. The back section has a few vegitables being grown.
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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Apartment, Trekking and Holidays

Well the first big news is that we decided on an apartment! After discussing what we really needed a bit we did decide on taking the cheaper apartment in eastern Lazimpat. The home owners seem very nice, the apartment is very sunny and it really is a good location. We signed the lease today and put the deposit in for three months yesterday. Now we just need to get a gas cylinder for the stove, internet hooked up and buy bedding and kitchen stuff. We owe a big thanks to Pradip for all his help in finding the place and helping us with the stuff we need to to get settled (not to mention putting us up in his home for the last three weeks!). I'm excited to get moved in and will post some pictures as soon as we get them. The location is just about a quarter mile east of where we had been, and though it's a bit further from Lazimpat proper, it's closer to Bhat Batani (a good sized shopping complex).

Next up is trekking. Looks like our first trek is going to be in the Langtang region, Kim and I are going to do the Tamang Herritage trail combined with a trek up the Langtang valley to Kyanjin Gompa. For those not familiar with their Nepali geography, Langtang is a region just north of Kathmandu and on the border with Tibet. When I was here last time in 04' I hiked the Helumbu region which is directly north of Kathmandu, and I made it just to the southern edge of what is considered Langtang. The Tamang people are directly descended from Tibettans who moved into this region over time. This area was the major trade route between Kathmandu and Tibet and was famous for its salt trade. The Tamang Herritage trail supposedly lacks a little in views, but is said to be much like what Langtang was like twenty years ago, and not too many tourists. That part takes us within a days walk of the Tibetan border before we head south into Langtang proper. The langtang valley should be a good first hike, ascending only to about 12,000 feet (although there is a day trip I might do that gets you up to 15K) and is a gradual ascent up the valley. At the turn around there is spectacular views of mountains and Glaciers. When we know when we are going I'll post a map and itinerary. I've read the bus ride, only 120+/- kilometers is a brutal ride that takes upwards of ten hours to get to the trail head.

Nepal has more holidays it seems than any country on earth. This Friday is Maha Shivarati, which I don't know much about but when we were here in 2002 we attended part of the event. It has something to do with Shiva, and lots of Sadhus (Hindu holly men, ascetics) travel to Pashupatinath, Kathmandu's most sacred Hindu temple. Kim and I could get close, but as non-believers we are not allowed inside. Something like a quarter million people descend on this place on Friday. Last time I saw this it was kind of interesting to see all the Sadhus in their body defying yoga poses, with their ash and paint covered bodies. I'm not sure if we will go this time though. The other upcoming holiday is Tibetan New Year (Losar) which kicks off on Sunday and goes for two weeks, We will most likely stop by Boudhanath again to see any thing going on up that way. Supposedly at night they blow horns and light thousands of butter lamps. If we go trekking soon enough up around Langtang, we may even catch something up that way as I've read the Tamang people celebrate Losar as well.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Irish Pub

So down Lazimpat Rd. is a little place called Irish Pub, which we had heard is popular with ex-pats, and so we decided we would give it a go. Immediately upon entering the place you knew this was not your average Nepali bar/restaurant. It oozed atmosphere, had a seriously well stalked bar and had a huge high def television. The menu came and though it was a little on the high side for Nepal, you knew immediately that this place took quality seriously. Although tempted by the giant cocktail menu, Kim and I decided to pass on alcohol, though it should be noted that they had a great selection. For meals I got a Guinness Burger and Kim got a variation on an Irish stew. The menu items seemed to range from about 200 NRS to 450 NRS.

Now anyone who has had a burger in Asia is familiar with the normal short falls. Crappy beef or those mystery meet frozen patties, with horrible bread and forget about real cheese. This was just the opposite, and put many burgers I've had back home to shame. The cheese was excellent, the beef was real and very good (a rarity in a Hindu country) and the mushrooms and bacon were cooked just right. The roll was freshly made and toasted just right. Hands down best burger I have had outside the US. The fries were hand cut and not over cooked in old oil as is so common in Nepal, they too were just right and the lightly seasoned salad was a nice touch.
The walls are decorated with posters for Irish brews, just like the pubs we were at in Dublin.
This is the best stocked bar I've seen in Nepal, and has heaps of atmosphere!

We finished the meal with an piece of apple pie that was served with a side of sauce made from Baily's and some chocolate sauce. Awesome. I think it was like 250 NRS, whatever it was it was worth it. I think you could get spoiled very quickly if you ate here too often because everything else would just seem second rate.
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Othello, Apartments, Yoga & Maybe Some Trekking

So all kinds of things to talk about in this post. First I guess I'll talk about the play we saw on Saturday night, Othello: The Sen of Nepal. I wasn't sure what the hell a sen was, and at first kind of assumed it was a typo. Clearly it was supposed to be the line that replaces the Moor of Venice, so I thought maybe it was an ethnic group, but I had never heard of Sen people and I'm somewhat familiar with the Nepali ethnic groups, even though there are like 20. A Google search revealed it's a popular Bengali last I guess it means the dude is Bengali, which would fit the play. Anyway the play was put on by a new stage company called Nepali Shakes, with the founder having studied and preformed in London and New York. The actors all appeared to be of college age, and it was held at a college in Patan, just south of Kathmandu. Now understanding people who speak with a Nepali or Indian accent can be tough to follow, when they are speaking in Shakespearian English it can be  almost impossible. The guy playing Iago talked a little fast and the guy playing Rodrigo was a little tough to understand, so the opening scene was brutal, with maybe 10% comprehended. After my ears warmed up to their speech patterns I was much better off and all of the female characters spoke very clearly and were easily understood. The sets were good, the acting very decent. Over all it was an enjoyable experience and if they did another play that looked interesting I think I'd go.
Next up is the apartment search. We looked at a whole bunch of places on Saturday, and though I liked one of them, Kim thought it lacked privacy due to a common area going through the area that connected all the rooms. I can't blame her for not being wild about that. So today we looked at another four places and liked a couple of them. One is just down the street from where we are, it's on the top floor, so when the sky is clear it will have mountain views, and best of all it is dirt cheap, merely $135/MO. The drawback is that it is a little smaller than the other places we've looked at having just a Kitchen, bath, living area and one bedroom. Another place we looked at is in a nice part of town with a good sized garden on the ground level and again sits up on the top floor with decent views. This place has a tiled bath with a tub, good sized sunny rooms and is just around the corner from the largest shopping center in Kathmandu. At just over $200/mo it's a good deal too. Finally there is the very large fully furnished apartment that is right next to the Prime Ministers house. This one has ample space, 3 bathrooms (one though is an Asian squat toilet), 2 bedrooms, overlooks the prime ministers grounds and comes with a localized hot water heater, TV, stove, refrigerator, and is fully stocked with plates and utensils in the Kitchen. This would be like getting a place next to the white house in the US, it's kind of weird. The real estate agent joked that there is 24 hour security because of the armed guards at the Prime Ministers place. Looking out the east facing window no more then 50' away is a tower with an army dude in it and a machine gun. Kim of coarse thought this was the best and at just under $350/month it really is a nice deal. The cheapskate in me is kind of trying to convince me that I want the place that is $135/mo. Kim may win this one though.
  lastly it looks like we may take some Yoga classes. Kim is the one pulling for this, but if she can go trekking, I can put in an honest effort at Yoga. Besides I could use some additional flexibility. As for hiking I'm thinking of going as soon as we get this apartment thing worked out. Tibetan New Year starts on the 14th, and they celebrate for like two weeks. I'm thinking any area with Sherpa or other Tibetan people would be the place to go. I'm inclined to try and do the Everest Trek again, as getting up to Namche Bazar to see any celebration could be a lot of fun. I am going to look into Langtang as well, but I have never been up that way so I have no idea what it's like or what ethnicity inhabits that valley.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Lost in Translation- Part 2

So here are a few more pictures I've taken with signs that have English of questionable translation. On more than a few instances I've wished I had my camera with me to take shots of some menus. Menus seem to be the leading offenders. For instance one proudly stated; "Your opinion is our motto!" Some menus list cheese as chis, so it might be called a chis burger, another common mistake is calling french fries, french fried. Every time I go out to eat I get a little chuckle.
I Have no idea what a Nepali Test is. I am thinking that maybe it's a "taste" but even that doesn't really make too much sense.
I'm thinking that Hoarding is not quite the word that they were looking for. What surprises me here is that this is clearly a marketing campaign with some bucks behind it. This is a very large billboard visible from King's Way in central Kathmandu. Heh.
I'm still not sure what exactly this is referring to. At first I thought maybe a hospital, but the hospital is in the opposite direction. This is at the end of a small road just south of where I am staying in Lazimpat.
LOL- in case you were looking for a quickie!
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Something else that I find really funny, but can't share, is that almost all the commercials are in dual language on the Indian and Nepali stations on TV. So the whole commercial will go by in Hindi lets say, and then right at the end the tag line will be delivered in English. I find this really odd, and more than once it has gotten a laugh out of me.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Trip to Boudhanath

The Bouddhanath Stupa is one of the largest in the world, and the surrounding blocks are home to many Tibetans that came to Kathmandu following China's occupation in 1959, and many Sherpa people that have moved here from the north east of the country. The area surrounding the stupa sells everything one can imagine having anything to do with Tibetan Buddhism, including prayer flags, lama hats, bronze statues depicting the Buddha and all the other characters of Tibetan mythology, Thankas (religious paintings), and a mish mash of the usual tourist driven merchandise.

Aside from the tourists there actually are many devout Buddhists that make their way here to either visit the Stupa or study as monks/nuns in the many schools that have pooped up in this neighborhood. Westerners are actually accepted at many of these schools now and you occasionally see some white dude walking around in the maroon robes.
This picture I think best shows the sheer size of this stupa, compare its base with the adjacent buildings and people. It's huge!
The prayer flags tied to its peak and flapping in the wind were a great sight. Other pictures from our trip to here have been added to the February folder and can be viewed on the left hand side of the page.

On a final note we walked over to this location from our apartment which is only about three miles away. That said, navigating a city where most streets have no name, and walls and other obstacles regularly block ones path is difficult and maps are of almost no help. This was the first time I got to really put the Garmin my dad got me to use, and I'm happy to report that it worked great. I was able to draw out a route in Google Earth, convert that KML file to a Garmin file using a program called GPS Babel (highly recommended) and uploaded it to my device. The combination of a shift in Google earths imagery and my devices lack of perfect accuracy made for slightly altered path, but all in all it guided us right to the destination with ease. Can't wait to use this in the mountains!
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Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Where the hell are you?!?

For anyone that was interested in where in Kathmandu we were staying below is a shot in Google Earth. My father gave me a nice Garmin Handheld for Christmas which lets me store GPS positions fairly accurately (at least in locating buildings, trails or villages). I was able to take a shot just outside our apartment and it is recorded as "Lazimpat Apartment" on the map. You can see we are just south of the Danish Embassy. Further south of us you can see what use to be the royal palace and gardens, and south west of us is the tourist district of Thamel, with the Kathmandu Guest House at its heart and Pilgrims Guest House defining its northern border.

If anyone wants a copy of the KMZ/KML file I've put together so far just send me an e-mail. Which brings me to another question, uploading video and picutres on Blogger seems easy enough, but does anyone know how you can link file downloads such as KMZ's or other data files? Any suggestions would be great.

Trip to Patan

Yesterday Kim and I got a chance to walk down to Patan, a city just south of Kathmandu that has one of the best Palace (Durbar) squares in Nepal. I've added the photos I took to a new folder for my pictures taken in February (a link is on the left side of the page). Below are a few examples.
Durbar Square, Patan
Rooster on the Roof!
Palace Courtyard, Patan
Back Street near Buddhist Stuppa
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