If you’ve seen my Facebook postings, you know I’ve become totally sick of travel. Have now been on the road nearly 6 months, and so ready to go home. However, I’m locked into my Frequent Flier Miles return ticket, and that has me being in Nepal for 30 days.
What could I do for 30 days? My body with its finicky knees and back can only do so much “soft” trekking.
I arrived safely in Kathmandu (via Malaysian Airlines after stopover in Kuala Lumpur) and I was immediately blown away. This is NOT like any other country I’ve visited in Asia. I stayed in the tourist part of town called Tamal, and it has the feel of a Middle Eastern bazaar combined with a vibe honed by generations of Hindu and Buddhist traditions.
On my first full day I took a flight to see Mt Everest.
Then went directly to Bakhtapur
and then high up the mountain to scenic Nagarkot:
Nagarkot is a village where people spend the night so they can see the sun rise. Obviously, I was a little late for that.
However, these two villages, which I easily did together as a day trip from Kathmandu, are worthy of considerable exploration on their own merit.
Being sick of travel, I’d committed to doing some volunteer work for a change of pace. However, I’m someone who doesn’t really like volunteer work – at least not the standard stuff like playing with orphans. So, with the miracle of Google, I located a graduate level counseling program in Kathmandu, and to make a long story short, did two 2-hour “lectures” at Tri-Chandra College, part of the oldest and largest university in Nepal. Of note is how easy it was to set up the opportunity to share my own experience. My guess is no matter what your field (and it could simply be helping someone practice their English) you could use it as an entry point into a different aspect of this culture.
Here are my oh-so-nice students. Their level of polite is so high, I have no idea if what I shared was really useful. But I can say with complete (American style) honesty that what they shared with me was totally useful to me:
After completing my seminars, next day I headed off to Chitwan National Park, just to check it out. What the hay, I’ve got the time. First, let me mention that very long row of tourist buses lines up every morning, going either to Chitwan, or Pokhara, a reputedly beautiful city from where folks depart on treks in the Anapurna Range. They all leave at 7 a.m.. Yup, Nepal really does have its tourist facilities organized, from what I can tell so far:
The bus was basic, but at least everyone had a seat. The ride was bumpy, but the scenery was completely entertaining:
So, now I’m spending 2 nights/3 days at a fancy jungle lodge, complete with 3 good meals and all my tourist stuff. Here I am on my “elephant safari” – i.e. going looking for wildlife while sitting on the wildlife I usually find the most interesting. We did see rhino’s and croc’s and peacocks and monkeys while atop Jumbo.
The town that’s the entry-way to the park is “elephant central.” There are private elephants used for tourists and other work, and government elephants who do work. Here’s one impressive resident:
On another note, my visit to see the elephants being bathed was cancelled because yesterday an elephant actually killed his mahout (his handler) – while tourists were watching! When I heard about this I was blown away for many reasons, not the least of which was how calm people seemed as they told me about it. I kept asking about how the other mahout’s were handling this, if anyone was helping the tourists cope, what would happen to the elephant, etc. All I was told is that the mahout had not followed standard mahout procedure: he had just transferred to this elephant yesterday and he had not taken the time to get to know his new elephant first. He’d just gone astride her and started bossing her (him?) around. Apparently the getting acquainted process between elephant and mahout is long and gentle and doesn’t always take. The tiny bit I could learn about this highlights how handicapped I always am in my travels because I don’t speak the language.
This afternoon I took a long jeep safari, and tomorrow morning it’s canoeing and bird watching before I catch my next tourist bus, this time to Pokhara.
Oh, and have I mentioned how inexpensive it is here? My 2 nights/3 days at this Parkland Resort, with full board (that’s 3 big tasty meals/day) and all the tourist stuff I’ve done, and my bus here and my bus to Pokhara, comes to a whopping: $230 total! (And remember, I pay for the whole room, it’s cheaper if you’re sharing).
There’s so much more to write about Nepal thus far. It really is a wonderful place to come for a lengthy visit even if trekking is not on your dance card. I’ll sign off with a photo I took of Mt Everest from the cockpit of the sightseeing plane I took on my first day – the passengers repeatedly take turns going up into the cockpit and the pilot points out all the mountains to you.
That’s all for now.