The wonderful city of Kathmandu

Now before you start reading this entry I just want to apologize beforehand about it’s length. Kathmandu was an incredible city, we both fell in love with it and once I started writing about our time there I physically couldn’t stop, so this post is quite a bit longer than previous ones, so grab yourself a cup of tea and get settled in before reading πŸ˜‰

OK, now you can start reading…

WOW! That was our first feeling when we arrived into Nepal. We had spent the night before in the Kuala Lumpur airport and were pretty tired when we arrived. Actually, I noticed while queueing for our cheap Air Asia flight that about 90% of the people were men, which was a little worrying. But we soon realized that that’s life in Nepal. The women stay at home and look after the children while the men go out and work. When we were getting closer to Kathmandu I was straining my neck to look out the window and try and get some views of the Himalayas but I couldn’t see anything. After the heat of South East Asia for the previous two months it was such a relief to get off of the plane in Kathmandu and feel the cool air.

The Nepali women are so beautiful in their colorful Saris.

I was expecting Kathmandu and Nepal in general to be crazy and quite like India (or what I imagined India to be like) but I was wrong. Kathmandu is such a lovely (albeit a little crazy) capital. It was also where we were to get used to the frequent power cuts that happen in this part of the world. In fact, there was never any power in the city it seemed! We stayed in a beautiful guesthouse in Thamel (the backpackers area of the city) . The Hotel Florid had lovely big rooms with big thick blankets to keep us warm in the cool evenings. It also had a generator which was used after 6pm everyday which meant we had electricity in the evenings.

Our guesthouse was down a nice quiet lane way away from the craziness and the beeping horns of Thamel, but only one minute away from all of the action. Our first evening was just spent wandering the lane ways of Thamel and taking a look in many of the shops. We had been very good in both Cambodia and Thailand not buying stuff, but Thamel forced us to buy some cool souvenirs. We instantly fell in love with the city and we hadn’t even explored it yet! It’s hard to describe what made us fall in love, maybe it was the cooler temperature, maybe it was the fact that it seemed very safe, or maybe it was just knowing that soon we would be hiking in the Himalayas. I think it was a combination of all three of those and probably a lot of other things. Whatever it was we were both excited for the next day to come so that we could explore the famous Durbar Square.

Durbar Square is basically the name that is given to the old town centers. Every major city in Nepal (especially historic ones) has a Durbar Square and it is where you can see the old architecture of Nepal and imagine what life was like hundreds of years ago there.

Kathmandu’s Durbar Square is quite big and we were pleasantly surprised when we entered the city gates. We decided to get our first views of the square by having lunch on one of the many rooftop restaurants. This is one aspect of Nepal and India that I really love, the rooftop restaurants.Β Nearly every guesthouse has one and it’s such a nice way to see a city.

Jason on our rooftop restaurant
Our lunch; Buffalo momos. These are everywhere in Nepal
and it’s almost impossible to go to Nepal and not try them.

Kathmandu’s Durbar Square is full of old temples and it used to be where the king of Nepal lived. From our rooftop we could see all of the beautiful tops of the temples and watch the world go by us down below. We had fun wandering around the crazy streets and seeing goats and cows wandering around. We also saw a holy man so decided to get photos taken with him (for a tip, of course).

The beautiful rooftops of Durbar Square.
Chasing the pigeons in Durbar Square.
The next day we had to go to the Indian embassy to apply for our visas. The process for getting the visa is so frustrating and I guess it gives you a little slice of what India is going to be like. Before going to the embassy you have to fill out a very detailed form online and then print it off and go in. The embassy opens at 9:30 but we were told to get there early so we arrived at 9. It had just opened when we arrived and we choose a ticket, we were number 52 and they were now on number 4! It was a long wait and while waiting we got chatting to a nice German guy (who we randomly met again while trekking in the Himalayas AND in a random temple in India) who told us that he did an hour long mountain flight over the Himalayas and that he got to see Mount Everest, so we began thinking about splashing out some money and doing it ourselves…you can’t come to Nepal and not see Everest!

At about 12:30 our numbers were finally called and we went up to the counter and handed in our forms, after looking at them the man told us that the current address was actually your address in Kathmandu, not your home address, which is what we had written down. He then told us to go back and fill in the online application again and come back to repeat the process all over again tomorrow! We were so frustrated, one little mistake and we had wasted the whole morning! We decided to do some sightseeing and visit Boudhanath. Boudhanath is a lovely little town that has a giant stupa in the middle. A stupa is a Tibetian Buddhist structure that contains relics inside. It’s a place where Buddhists come to meditate and pray. But a word of advice, when you see a stupa (or any Tibetian Buddhist structure) you must walk clockwise around it. It was such a beautiful place, there were lots of monks around and the shops and restaurants that surrounded the stupa complemented it perfectly. It was such a nice evening that we had soon forgotten our woes of the Indian embassy and were back in our Nepal love affair story.

Standing in front of the Boudhanath Stupa
Jason and the Stupa
While we were there there were many monks praying.
Buddhist Prayer Wheels
Boudhanath Stupa

The next morning we went back to the embassy and were number 21, which was much better than the previous day. While waiting we noticed that we had written something wrong (again!) Luckily there is an agent next door that just fills out the application for you for a small price. It was a relief to have them do it, knowing that it would be correct when we got called up. We were still a while away from our number being called so we decided to get some breakfast. But when we got back we were horrified to find that our number had been called and they were on number 25 now! Luckily we went up and they still accepted our applications!

That evening we went to a travel agent to discuss our trekking options. We had decided to do the Langtang trek because it’s much quieter that the other two popular treks and it can be done in seven days. Also because this was our first multi day trek we decided to make it as easy as possible by hiring both a porter and a guide. Our travel agents were so nice and even more importantly seemed very honest. We were so glad that we chose them out of the hundreds of travel agencies in Thamel. They tried their hardest to make things as cheap as possible and once we told them that we were interested in the mountain flight they gave it to us for $60 cheaper than all of the prices that we had found online. We were so excited because we were booked in for a mountain flight the next day and beginning our trek the day after.

We had an early morning the next day, it was time for our mountain flight. We had arranged for the taxi driver that brought us to Boudhanath Stupa to come and bring us to the airport that morning. The domestic airport was crazy, it was so old and run down. We were excited to get on to our little 12 seater propeller plane. It was my first time on one and since I’ve become a more nervous flyer as the years go by I was a little nervous about it.

Our little propeller plane

We were so lucky, there was not a cloud in the sky and the plane actually felt safer than a normal plane, there was no turbulence whatsoever. I was really surprised that less than 10 minutes after taking off the majestic Himalayas just appeared outside Jasons window. Our flight time was one hour long, we would spend 20 minutes flying towards Everest with the views on Jasons side, then we would turn around and spend 20 minutes with the same views on my side. We also had a chance to each go inside the cockpit, talk to the pilots and get our first glance of Everest.

Taking off with Kathmandu city below.
In the cock-pit getting my first look at Mount Everest.
There it is…Mount Everest
I think this may be Yala mountain.
On the plane, both of us ecstatic from the views we just witnessed.

I can’t describe my feeling as we were flying watching these amazing mountains pass us by. They were so beautiful and so untouched looking, it almost felt otherworldly. They also went on for as far as the eye could see. I was definitely in awe while looking at them. Our flight was probably one of the most expensive things that we did on our travels but seeing Everest and the other massive mountains was completely worth it and I’d definitely recommend the flight to anyone visiting Nepal.

After our mountain flight our taxi driver brought us to Swayambhunath Temple (more commonly known as Monkey temple) The reason it’s called monkey temple is because…yes you’ve guessed it, there are hundreds of monkeys living around the temple. The monkey temple was another exceptional experience that Kathmandu gave us, not just for the Stupa itself, but because it is on top of a small mountain overlooking the incredibly large city of Kathmandu. The views from the top were astonishing and the monkeys provided us with some great entertainment.

Monkey Temple.
One of the many monkeys that live around the temple.
A girl chasing the pigeons.
Monkey taking in the incredible views.
One of the buildings that surrounds the Stupa.
Cheesy couple shot!
More buildings that sup pound the Stupa.
Walking through the little lane ways that surround the Temple.
Two little girls taking in the views.

We found yet another roof-top restaurant, ordered a coffee and spent some time up there just admiring the views and monkey spotting.

The view from the rooftop cafe.
Enjoying the peacefulness of the area.

That evening was spent getting some last minute items for our hike and meeting our guide Bolle. We war both very apprehensive about the trek and had no idea what to expect. But what we didn’t know was that it was to be an epic trek to say the least.

Tips:
Accommodation: We absolutely loved The Hotel Florid, we stayed here on and off for about 2 weeks and they kept our gear for us when we went trekking. Because we stayed with them for so long they gave us a discounted rate when we got back from our trek. The staff were also amazing always helping us with directions and even opening the kitchen early so that we could have breakfast before going on our trek.
We spent the first couple of nights in a shared bathroom and unfortunately it was cold water shower but the private bathroom rooms have hot water.
Price: $15-share bathroom
$20-private bathroom

http://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g293890-d632769-Reviews-Hotel_Florid_Nepal-Kathmandu_Kathmandu_Valley_Bagmati_Zone_Central_Region.html

Travel Agents:
Exotic Mt.Treks: They were very honest and really seemed to want to help us in the best way possible. I’d definitely recommend any travelers to use their services.

http://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g293890-d4353870-Reviews-Exotic_Mt_Treks_Pvt_Ltd_Private_Day_Tour-Kathmandu_Kathmandu_Valley_Bagmati_Zone_.html

Trekking Guide:
Bolle Magar: bollemagar@yahoo.com
He was a highly qualified guide who always had our best interests at heart, he always had a smile on his face and became a good friend during our trek. His English is also great.
Hint: if you book with him directly you will be able to cut out the agent fees and save some money.

Mountain Flight:
When pricing flights online they were about $180 each but while booking our trekking with Exotic Mt Treks they offered the flights for $120 each and it was definitely money well spent.

Some of the views from the Temple area.

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