My Top 5 Uniquely Asian Activities

It’s been a while since I’ve written one of my Top 5 posts and as I sit here in a wintery Colorado, my mind is currently being transported back to wonderful Asia.

As you know, It is impossible to choose just five but here it goes, in no particular order, These are my top five uniquely Asian experiences.

Doing a temple stayIMG_9198

This was such an amazing experience that I will treasure for a long time to come. Asia is the best place to find a temple stay that will teach you about Buddhism and meditation. It’s a great way to strip away any stress that you may have and also learn a bit about the country that you are in.

Hiking in the Himalayasimg_4378

They are an amazing mountain range with the highest peaks in the world. There is nothing more magical than knowing that you are standing on the roof of the world and seeing beauty around every corner.

Seeing the Taj MahalIMG_5171

Few famous buildings live up to their hype but the Taj Mahal definitely isn’t one of them. I remember just being in complete awe when first setting eyes on it. It is amazingly beautiful and will leave you breathless.

tip: Go first thing in the morning to beat the crowds.

Seeing Orangutans in Borneocb61f-malaysia058

Okay, Asia has some wonderful wildlife and you can just as easily replace the word orangutans with turtles, whale sharks, tigers or rhinos. But for me, when I got to see orangutans up close and personal without barriers at the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center, it was astounding. It was something that I had dreamed about for years and when it finally happened I was left in awestruck.

Karaoke38255_1428887613677_7902928_n

Yes, I know that karaoke exists everywhere in the world, but to enjoy a karaoke session somewhere in Asia, it’s a completely different experience. Most singing rooms are small and fit a private group of people. While in the room, you snack on food, drink alcohol and sing songs while playing the tambourine. Also, most of these places are open 24 hours so you can enjoy it after a night of partying. I have had way too much fun in singing rooms over the years, especially the ones that have costumes!

 

Okay, so that’s my list…how about you? is there anything that you’d add, or remove from this list? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

My Top 5…Cities in Asia

I’ve decided to start a new feature on my blog called “My Top 5…” it will be about anything and everything.

To start off, I’m going to give you my top 5 Asian cities. I have been lucky to have traveled extensively throughout Asia (although there are so many more places that I still want to go to!)

It was tough to choose, and even after choosing I am coming up with many more cities, but here are my top five cities in Asia:

5. Kota Kinabalu, MalaysiaMalaysia 032

 

Kota Kinabalu is the largest city in the Bornean state of Sabah.

I absolutely loved this city because it had the perfect mix of everything that you could want from a coastal city, delicious fresh fish markets, beautiful architecture, amazing beaches just a short boat ride away and out of this world sunsets

It’s such a fun relaxing city that both myself and Jason really enjoyed. We had fun wandering along the coastline taking in the views and eating the amazing food!

 

Malaysia 038

4. Kyoto, JapanOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

If you are looking for culture then look no further because Kyoto is a city that has beautiful culture everywhere. Whether you are looking for the more modern Japan, you want to eat some delicious food and drink some sake, want to wander down the beautiful backstreets where geishas roam or want to take a short subway ride to see the beautiful golden temple you can do it all in a few days in Kyoto.

Kyoto has everything that you need to have an incredible city break!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

3. SingaporeIMG_7857

I absolutely loved Singapore. It is probably one of the  most multicultural cities I’ve ever been to and what makes it even better is that all of the different cultures and religions seem to get along harmoniously.

…and the food, don’t get me started on the food! it was so good!

I think I might have spent most of my time there trying to change Jason’s mind about moving to America and to move here instead!

 

IMG_7825

I could definitely live here and be happy…

2. Shanghai

Shanghai

Shanghai is one of those places where the different parts of the city feel like different worlds.

When we visited the French Quarter I was in heaven with the peacefulness, but getting on to the subway nearby brought me back down with a bang and made me realise that I would have a hard time living here with all of the craziness.

But to visit…it really is an awesome city destination.

You can spend your days wandering through old towns, shopping in the large malls, walking along the Bund in awe at the amazing architecture or drinking green tea in the beautiful old town.

312dc-302084_2272489383194_1881706897_n

 

1. Kathmandu

The wonderful city of Kathmandu

WOW!

That was pretty much my expression for the entire time that we stayed here. The culture, food, architecture, people and sights all make this my favorite city in Asia.The wonderful city of Kathmandu

I have the fondest memories of sitting on rooftops with a tea, watching the people meander the beautiful old streets below. There are so many impressive buildings all over the city and even if you stayed there for a month you would still find something new and exciting to see everyday!

We found that we were never with a lack of something to do in Kathmandu. You can fly over Everest in the morning and stroll around the monkey temple after lunch.

 

It was such a cool city! I hope I get to go back there some day and especially after the horrible earthquake that happened recently, I’m sure that your tourist dollars would be much appreciated.

IMG_3953

 

What do you think?

Do you agree with my choices? Are there any cities that you would add to the list or take off the list?

I’d love to hear your opinion!

Memories Of Nepal

Our 7 Day Langtang Trek in the Himalayas (part 2)This horrible tragedy that has hit Nepal this last few weeks has left me heartbroken and speechless.

As some of you may know, myself and Jason spent a month in Nepal a couple of years ago which you can read all about here. It is a beautiful country with even more beautiful, loving and happy people. During our time in Nepal we did a trek in the Himalayas. It was probably one of the best things that I’ve ever done in my life. It was challenging, breathtaking and extraordinary.baad8-img_4498a6e87-img_4376

Our 7 day Langtang Trek in the Himalayas (Part 1)We had decided to hire a guide to help us during the trek and it is a decision that I am so happy with. We ended up spending 7 days with the lovely Bolle. He is such a great person and by having him as our guide he gave us a more in depth look at the life of a Nepali. We stayed in beautiful family homes along the way, using Bolle as a translator to get to know and understand these people more.
7f27f-img_4519

After our 7 days together, Bolle had invited us to have dinner with his family, an invitation that we graciously accepted. He lives in Patan which is a small city near Kathmandu, in fact we managed to walk there from our guesthouse in Kathmandu which took us about an hour but, again, gave us a great insight in to Nepal and its people.5cf64-img_4678

When we got to Patan, we found a guesthouse and dropped our stuff, and went to meet Bolle and his family.fcedb-img_4648

Most people don’t know poverty, true poverty. I grew up in a struggling family. My dad died when I was a baby, leaving my mom to bring up 4 children by herself.  But the poverty that Bolle and his family face is something entirely different. Bolle, his wife and two children all live in one room. They have a double bed for the four of them and no bathroom. There is an outhouse outside that is used by people in the area.

Even though they were obviously so poor, they also seemed so happy. The children very content in their lives and the few things that they had and Bolle and his wife in their strong pride that they hold for their two boys.d9a45-img_4622

The children were shy at first, but opened up once I let them take photos on our camera. After that they beamed with confidence and joy. Bolles beautiful wife was so modest but cooked us an amazing meal of Dal Bhat. We left that evening with our hearts and our stomachs full. a5983-img_4619

bd037-img_4644

We returned the next day with some small gifts for the kids and spent some time with them before having to return to Kathmandu. 77cc7-img_4693

When news of the earthquake in Nepal broke my first thought was of poor Bolle and his family. I sent an e-mail to him asking if they were okay and what we could do to help. We had a nervous few days waiting for a reply, all the while seeing photos of collapsed buildings and temples in Patan. But luckily he wrote back saying that they were all safe but they lost everything. Their house, their belongings, their animals. All was gone. They were now living under a plastic roof.

Patan

Myself and Jason quickly e-mailed our friends here in Korea to see if they wanted to help. Luckily between us we managed to raise $650 for Bolle and his family. It’s not a lot but I’m hoping that it will be enough to get them by for the next few months, especially since there probably won’t be many trekkers needing guides in the near future. I haven’t heard from Bolle since the second earthquake but I’m just hoping that they are all safe. 87ad7-img_4313

How you can help:

If you would like to donate to the victims of the earthquakes in Nepal there are many ways. You can find a link to 10 great charities to donate to here.

If you have been considering visiting Nepal then don’t cancel just yet. So many people in this country are dependent on tourist money and by just visiting this country you will be helping.

If you are considering doing a trek anywhere in Nepal please consider hiring Bolle as your guide. He has trekked so many of the major mountains in Nepal and is very informative. You can contact him at bollemagar@yahoo.com

Lumbini, Nepal

Beautiful view of the special zone.

After our wonderful stay at Chitwan it was time to go to our final destination in Nepal, Lumbini. Lumbini is a famous town among all Buddhists around the world as it is in fact the birthplace of Buddha. We had heard some mixed reviews about Lumbini but since it’s quite close to the Indian border and it made sense to spend a couple of days there, we were excited to see it for ourselves.

First though we would be taking a local bus. I loved travelling on the local buses in Nepal, they are so vibrant with colourful hangings, pictures and beads all around the ceiling. The people that got on and off the bus were equally as vibrant. There was a big group of Nepali people on this bus that were returning to their homes after spending some time at a worship house for a guru in Chitwan. They were such nice people and were so excited to chat to us.

About three or four hours into our trip we heard a smash at the front of the bus. It was quite crowded so we couldn’t see properly but all of a sudden we saw the front windscreen just collapse! A rock had chipped the glass and made it just collapse. Luckily the people sitting/standing at the front didn’t get hurt and in true Nepali style the bus stopped in the middle of the road, some men pushed the rest of the windscreen out onto the road and we were off again with no windscreen. I have to admit I was secretly delighted because we now had a lovely breeze coming in through the bus which helped a lot in the 40 degree heat. I was a bit worried for the driver though as we were driving on high mountain roads and the wind that was coming in was quite strong that I couldn’t keep my eyes open if I looked straight on so I can only imagine how the driver felt. But this is Nepal after all so we made it to Lumbini in one piece.

Lumbini was an interesting town. It was mainly one main dirt street and was quite devoid of tourists. Lumbini isn’t a place that many western tourists visit and when they do they usually stay outside of town. Since we were on a tight budget we found a little guesthouse on the main street.

The main problem that Lumbini had was that it never had any electricity. Most places in Nepal never had any electricity which was fine but it was about 40 degrees celcius when we were staying there and no electricity=no fan which means we were just dying from the heat for our entire time there.

Anyways…back to Lumbini.
What makes Lumbini so interesting is that because it is Buddhas birthplace it is very sacred for many Buddhists. The government has set off a huge plot of land near his birthplace for Buddhist countries all over the world to build temples there. So in this one small area you can go around to all of the temples and see the differences.
We decided to rent bicycles and cycle around. That day we got to see Chinese, Vietnamese, Japanese, Cambodian, Burmese, Nepalese and Laotian temples. We probably saw more but I have forgotten due to the extreme heat that we were cycling around in!

Jason cycling around Lumbini.
…and me cycling around.
This is the Chinese temple (I think)
The buildings were so beautiful and peaceful…there were
no other tourists around.
The Burmese temple, this was my favorite,
the way it glistened in the sun was breath-taking.
I can’t remember which temple this was…maybe Cambodia?!

It was great fun though and we were usually the only people in the temples. It was so interesting to see the differences among the different countries. There was also many other temples, including a Korean one, but we got lost along the way and couldn’t seem to find them, we also couldn’t face cycling around during midday in the heat so we decided that it was time to go and see Buddhas birthplace.

His birthplace is still intact and you can see the remains from the area. They are covered and protected by a building. It was amazing to see the exact spot and to see all of the offerings that people have left for him. It was a huge sea of red around the area that he was born due to people putting the same stuff that tikkas are made from around it.
There was also a beautiful old temple next to the building which was nice to walk around.

The group of stupas that are around Buddhas birthplace.
Jason taking in the stupas
The building where Buddhas birthplace is being preserved.

We also got to see the Ashokan pillar which has an inscription on it that is said to be the oldest in Nepal. The inscription grants Lumbini a tax free area in celebration of Buddha being born there.

Overall it was a lot of fun to cycle around to the many different temples in the serenity of the huge temple area of Lumbini. I would definitely recommend it to someone, especially if you are making the trip from Nepal to India or vice versa as it breaks the trip up a bit and the border is only about 40 minutes away. But be prepared to sweat…a lot! (that is, if you are silly and go during the hottest months of the year, like we did)

Accommodation:

Unfortunately I cannot remember the name of our guesthouse and have searched through my many cards that I have kept from our travels and don’t have one from that particular one. But if you get off of the bus just in front of the main street it is the first guesthouse on the left. It was cheap enough and had a rooftop restaurant. I have also heard that the Korean temple does temple stays there which could be interesting. You can spend the night but cannot have any alcohol, smoke or play card games there and must stay quiet while there.

Getting there and away:

We booked our bus to Lumbini through our guesthouse in Chitwan. The only bus that goes from Chitwan is a local bus that leaves once daily, I think. You may be able to get tourist buses from Pokhara or Kathmandu as they are more popular places.

From Lumbini to the border we caught a tourist bus that goes there early in the morning (about 8:30 a.m) It was waiting at the top of the main street in Lumbini. It stops a couple of kilometers from the border so we had to get a cycle rickshaw to the border itself for a little bit extra. There are plenty of rickshaws waiting when the bus pulls in.

Pokhara and Chitwan.

After recieving our Indian visas in Kathmandu it was time to finally bid farewell to this city that we both fell in love with. Our next destination was Pokhara. Most people visit Pokhara  because it is the beginning point of many treks in the Annapurna range. Since we were finished with our trek we were mainly going there to relax and have a very lazy week.

Pokhara is situated on a big lake and has a couple of short day hikes nearby from which on clear days you can see the Himalayas. We took a bus there and after looking through tripadvisor, decided to stay in the Iceland guesthouse. Even though we hadn’t booked, the owner happened to be at the bus station when the bus arrived and gave us a free ride to the guesthouse.

We were very impressed when we saw it, it had beautiful old rooms with high ceilings and lovely wrap around balconies. The price was a little above what we had hoped for but luckily the owner dropped it for us since we would be staying for 5 days.

Unfortunately I can’t report much on Pokhara as we took those 5 days and just ate, slept and relaxed. We did go to a bat cave one day. The guide book said that over 1,200 bats live in this small cave so were looking forward to seeing that. Unfortunately when we arrived we found out that it was mating season so there were about 10 bats there.

Jason crouching inside the bat cave.

The weather was mainly cloudy for our stay so we decided to not do any of the short treks as there would be no views. Pokhara was a strange little place as it seemed to be a town set up purely for foreigners. At the beginning it was nice, eating pizza and fresh bread every day but after a while we got bored and were ready for our next destination…Chitwan National Park.

There are 2 main reasons to visit Chitwan and they are rhinos and tigers. Tigers are very elusive and sleep during the day so we knew that our chances of spotting a tiger were very low but we both really wanted to see a rhino.

Once again after looking on tripadvisor (our savior while travelling) we found the Chitwan Gaida Lodge and hoped to get a room there. Before I go any further I want to say that if you ever visit Chitwan you must stay at Gaida Lodge! It was one of the best places that we stayed throughout all of our travels.

Moving on, we arrived at the bus park and Gaida Lodge had a jeep waiting and had rooms available so we jumped on. Once we arrived the staff had cold lemonades waiting for us and showed us our beautiful room. We were staying in a bungalow with a nice balcony where we could listen to all of the sounds from the jungle (that was just across the road from us). That evening we booked our activities for the next couple of days which were a canoe ride down the river, a full day jungle trek and then a half day jeep safari. We were determined to see some wildlife!!

That evening one of the guides , Bishnu, brought us and another couple out for a walk around the area, we got to see the government owned elephants. We found out that a lot of times wild elephants come into the area and impregnate the female working elephants. We also got to see some birds and rhino poo. (so close!) When we arrived back after our walk the staff were waiting for us with some cold drinks and nice cold wash towels to freshen up with. It were these little extras and the fact that the staff were incredibly friendly that made Gaida so wonderful.

I got pretty excited when I saw these buffalos…mistaking them for rhinos.
A cute baby elephant.
The next morning we were up early to begin our morning canoe ride. I was hoping to see some wildlife but I wasn’t feeling lucky as I always seem to miss out on animals. For instance, while in Borneo we did a jungle stay where you are practically guaranteed to see a wild orangutan, Of course there were none to be found while we were there. While I was diving in the Great Barrier Reef all I wanted to see was a turtle, unfortunately my air ran out quickly so I had to go back up about 5 minutes before the others…in that 5 minutes they all saw a turtle. You get where I’m going with this.
Jason inside our dug-out canoe.

Myself, Jason, Kristel and Gavin set off with Bishnu and a local canoe owner and began our animal spotting. Bishnu had told us that usually the morning canoe rides are mainly about bird watching. It was so peaceful on the water and we saw so many birds, then after about 15 minutes we spotted our first crocodile, he was quite far away but we managed to swim up close to him before he went under the water. Then as we turned a corner Bishnu saw a rhino a bit of a distance away. We all fell silent as we got closer and closer to him. He was wading in the water so close to us. He noticed us but then went back to grazing on the grass nearby. We sat for about 10 minutes watching him, he was so beautiful.

One of the crocodiles that we saw.
Our first rhino!

Asian rhinos look different from African ones in that they look like they are wearing full body armour. I was so content after seeing that one that when we saw a second one I couldn’t believe our luck! This one didn’t like us hanging around and wouldn’t keep his eyes off of us for the whole time we were there. But as we drifted away he went back to his business.

It was right around that point that we spotted another crocodile. He went under the water as we were getting close to him but while looking for him he came up right next to our boat and swam away. It was crazy seeing him so close!

After the amazing canoe ride it was time to get out of the boat and climb up into the jungle. Bishnu gathered the four of us around for a serious chat. He warned us that we must not make any noises and to always follow him and if a rhino comes and tries to charge at us to try and climb up a tree. It was at that point that I got a little scared. We were in a jungle where tigers, rhinos, sloth bears and elephants live and we were walking around with no protection whatsoever!

Jason and Bishnu just after climbing out of the canoe and ready for our jungle walk.

The first area that we were going to be walking around was a long grass area. The grass was taller than all of us and we all walked around so silently pausing every time we heard a noise. Every once in a while Bishnu would make us pause and then check the grass around us. While we didn’t see any animals we did come across some tiger pee, it was quite fresh which meant that a tiger had been there maybe a couple of hours beforehand. After the long grass area we got into a wooded area, here we saw some deer, a snake and were tracking some wild buffalo but lost the track before we could find them. It was close to midday now and to say it was hot is an understatement. It was probably in the mid 30’s so we found a shaded spot and ate from the delicious packed lunch that Gaida Lodge had made for us. We then continued walking until we found a watch tower. It was so hot and we didn’t have any water so we decided to stay here for a couple of hours to get out of the sun and to try and spot animals from the high vantage point.

The long grass in Chitwan jungle.
Me looking out at the jungle from the watch tower, desperately trying to spot some wildlife.
Some claw marks, Bishnu thinks they are from Sloth Bears.
Our guide, Bishnu.
Jason making his way through the jungle
A huge termite hill.
These beautiful bugs were everywhere!

At this stage you are so desperate to see something that every grass that moved we were sure there was a tiger hiding behind it! Once it got a little cooler we decided to head back towards the entrance of the park which would take a couple of hours. In this time we saw some working elephants and more deer. As we were walking all of us were dreaming about getting back to the lodge so that we could have some icy cold baths. My fingers swelled up so much from the heat that I couldn’t intertwine them. While getting closer to the entrance all of a sudden a massive hail storm began. I’ve been in lots of hail storms in Ireland but none like this! The hail was actually the size of golfballs and hurt so bad when it landed on you. Luckily it only lasted about 15 minutes and before we knew it we were back at Gaida with some nice cool drinks waiting for us.

The next day we had a free morning so we went down to the nearby river to watch the elephants being bathed. Then it was time for our afternoon jeep safari. Since we hadn’t seen any rhinos during our jungle walk the day before, we were hoping to see some today. About 10 minutes into our drive we were all startled by a rhino right next to the road. Unfortunately I think he was a bit more startled as he immediately began charging at the jeep. Luckily he seemed to come to his senses a couple of seconds later and ran the other way hiding in the bushes. I was so scared when I saw him charging but it was incredible to get to see him so up-close. During the next couple of hours we would see 3 more rhinos, monkeys, wild peacocks and working elephants. It was an incredible experience for both of us. We were both so happy with the animals that we had seen and after hearing that the night before a tiger had come in to town and mauled 3 locals to death we weren’t too upset about not seeing one.

one of the elephants getting
washed by his owner.

The next day was to be our final day in Chitwan and with no more activities booked we spent the day with Kristel and Gavin by a neighbouring hotels swimming pool playing with some Indian kids.

Leaving the river after his bath
This is a working female elephant and her baby that we saw during our jeep safari.
A flying monkey!
A rhino in the lake, the bird was perched on top of him for the longest time.
A wild peacock.
Sunset by the river.

Chitwan was definitely one of of the highlights of our trip and would definitely reccommend visiting it for anyone that is in Nepal.

Tips:

Accommodation:

Pokhara:

We wanted a guesthouse that was close to everything but not too close and the Iceland Guesthouse was perfect for us. It is down a small peaceful road with other guesthouses there but only a 3 minute walk to lakeside.
Tripadvisor reviews:

http://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g293891-d1964995-Reviews-Iceland_Guest_House-Pokhara_Gandaki_Zone_Western_Region.html

Phone Number:   9856031305  



Chitwan:

As I already mentioned Chitwan Gaida Lodge was an amazing little guesthouse. The staff were the most welcoming of any place either of us have ever been and always have a smile on their faces (seriously…even at 5:30am!) They also really try to create the best itinerary that suits you and try to keep the costs down as much as possible…highly recommended!

Chitwan Gaida Lodge Website:

http://www.chitwangaidalodge.com/Default.aspx

Tripadvisor reviews:

http://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g1367591-d2083553-Reviews-Chitwan_Gaida_Lodge-Sauraha_Chitwan_District_Narayani_Zone_Central_Region.html

Activities:

We organised all of our activities through Gaida Lodge and most other guesthouses would have this facility. There is no need to book anything before arriving in Chitwan.

Gaida Lodge from our balcony
Jason enjoying a beer after our jeep safari.

Patan

Patans Durbar Square

While we were trekking our guide Bolle had invited us to have dinner with his family in Patan. Of course we accepted the invitation since we were planning on visiting Patan anyway. Patan is a small city on the outskirts of Kathmandu, in fact it’s so close that we walked there from Kathmandu. It was an interesting walk, it took about 1 hour and it allowed us to see the real Kathmandu outside of the Thamel area.

While walking we noticed that many roads were closed due to protests that were happening, we weren’t sure what the protests were about but it was interesting to see. We also had to cross a bridge over the most polluted river I have ever come across. The smell was awful and there were poor cows down inside it trying to scavange some food. Once we got to the city walls of Patan we had to pay a fee to enter the city. We then got a tag that we had to wear while inside.

Patan is a beautiful city and famous for it’s rich cultural heritage. The Durbar square of Patan is probably the most beautiful square I’ve ever seen. it is full of old temples and surrounded by old buildings, no cars are allowed either which makes it even better. After walking around for a while we found our guest house, unloaded our bags and decided to explore Patan. Patan is a popular day trip destination for many travellers but few stay the night here. We are so glad that we stayed the night and got to see the Patan without the tourists. We were supposed to meet Bolle in a couple of hours so we found a rooftop and enjoyed a nice lunch while looking over the beautiful rooftops of Patan.

The beautiful rooftops of Patan.
Wonderful buildings.
Durbar Square.

Meeting Bolle again was so nice and we were both very excited to meet his family, he walked us down the small alleyways away from the square and eventually we made it to his house. Well, when I say house, I really should be saying room. I would be lying if I was to say that I wasn’t a little saddened when seeing his house. Him, his two young sons and his wife all live in one room that is smaller than any of the apartments I’ve stayed in in Korea, they had no running water and had to use a shared outdoor toilet. But they were honestly happier than any family that I know in the western world.

Bolles son posing for the camera. (he was very shy before
this shot was taken)

While his wife cooked us dinner, we took his two young boys out and they showed us some local temples and sights. At first they were so shy and didn’t want to be anywhere near us, but once I started taking photos of them and allowed them to use my camera we were the best of friends.

Bolle and his two sons showing us the local sights.
Spinning the prayer wheels.
Believe it or not this is actually a temple!

We both loved Patan, especially the area where Bolle lives. It is so vibrant and full of life. There were ducks, hens and dogs running around as well as little kids.

Some ducks in the street.

Once we got back to Bolles house his wife had dinner ready for us. It was the Nepali staple that is Daal Bhat but she had bought a chicken and cooked it for us. We felt so honoured as we know that chickens are very expensive for them and aren’t eaten very often. Dinner was absolutely amazing and the chai that came with it was equally wonderful. We had a great evening and when it was time to bid farewell we arranged to meet up again the next day as Bolle needed to go back to Kathmandu with us.

Bolle and his wonderful family.
Me playing with the two boys on Bolle and his wifes bed.

To get back to our guesthouse we had to walk past the square again. It looked even more magnificient at night with all of the beautiful temples lit up and the travellers gone home.

Patans Durbar Square at night.
It looks beautiful no matter what time of the day it is.

The next morning I woke before 6am. I didn’t want to sit around waiting for Jason at the guesthouse so I got up to go for coffee somewhere. I walked towards the square and realised that nowhere opened until 9 so I sat at the square and watched as Nepali life went on around me. It was interesting to see just how busy the square was with locals coming and going even though it was so early.

The square during the daytime.
One of the many beautiful buildings in the square.

After a while Jason joined me and we ate breakfast. Afterwards we decided to try and find presents for Bolle and his family as a thank you for dinner the night before. We really wanted to buy them a chicken but after searching everywhere we couldn’t find one so we settled on getting some toys for the children.

We found a little shop and bought a soccer ball (which was randomly a Dublin Gaelic football!), an alphabet puzzle and a magic board for drawing on. When we arrived at Bolles house he wasn’t there but his wife was with her friend and her friends child. It was a little awkward as they couldn’t speak English and we couldn’t speak Nepali but we gave the youngest son the alphabet puzzle and watched as him and the sweet little girl played with it. They were so happy. Then when it was time to leave they tried to give the toy back to us. We had to try to explain that it was for him to keep, when he realised this he had the biggest smile on his face.

Playing with their ABC puzzle.

This next moment I’ll never forget for as long as I live. We pulled the ball out and gave it to him and I don’t think I’ll ever be able to explain the joy in his face, I have never seen it before on any other childs face. It was pure shock, happiness, amazement all in one. It really hit us that this family had so little but seemed so happy and when the children get a gift they appreciate it more than any child in the western world would.

After that incredible moment it was time to say goodbye to Patan and go back to Kathmandu one last time and collect our Indian visas

How to get there: 
We walked from Kathmandu and it’s a very straight forward route, it takes about one hour. We then took a taxi back into Kathmandu from Patan.

Where to stay:
Since it’s so close to Kathmandu many people do day trips to Patan so there isn’t a huge selection of accommodation available in the area.
We found the Durbar Square Guesthouse and really enjoyed our stay there

Tripadvisor reviews of Durbar Square guesthouse:
http://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g315764-d1520704-Reviews-Durbar_Guest_House-Patan_Lalitpur_Kathmandu_Valley_Bagmati_Zone_Central_Region.html

.

Our 7 Day Langtang Trek in the Himalayas (part 2)

Day 4: Kyanjin Gompa.

The next day was a free day and that morning Bolle offered us a chance to do an additional half day hike to get to an even higher elevation, once again my stomach was aching and I knew that I would be better off trying to get better for our hike back down rather than going higher. But Jason went with him. They had a nice hike and got to know each other better. That day Jason got to 4,000 meters.

Kyanjin village from Jasons extra hike.
Our guide Bolle taking in the views.
We spent the rest of the day walking around the village, taking in the views and visiting the town bakery. The food on the trek was very basic and every tea house had identical menus so it can get boring very quickly. We were quietly surprised to find the bakery up so high and even more surprised to find that the owner bakes everything himself. We enjoyed some yak cheese pizza and some cake. I hadn’t been able to eat much over the last couple of days so I pretty much just stuffed it down my throat, it was such a good feeling!

Myself and Jason in Kyanjin Gompa
We got photo-bombed by a local in this photo.
Day 5: Kyanjin Gompa to A tea house along the river.
Our first day of descent was magical. It was such an uplifting feeling knowing that I could walk as fast as I wanted to without having to worry about suffering from altitude sickness. I guess our mistake for this day was walking very fast. The weather was beautiful and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky making the descent beautiful. Initially while walking away from the majestic Himalayas I had to turn my head every couple of minutes to take a look at them, knowing that I may never see such a beautiful sight again. It was a little sad having to walk away from them. After about an hour of trekking we stopped at the Tip Top café. This is a wonderful little café that served real coffee. I ordered a cup and sat drinking it with the finest views in the world. It was one of those moments that I realized just how lucky I am to get to do these things.

The beautiful Himalayas
Jason on the descent
Such beautiful views!
Myself, Bolle, Jason and Dendee
A coffee with a view!
Once we arrived at Langtang village I knew that the view of them would be hidden from me forever and took as many final glances as I could. But now that we were going back down the way that we had come we were given a chance to see the views that we had missed because of the mist and rain on the first two days. The valley itself is incredible, the river flowing down the middle of it is surrounded by mountains on either side. The lush green just makes it postcard perfect.

One of the local children near Langtang village.
Entering Langtang village.
That night we stopped at a delightful teahouse that was right on the river. There was also an older couple from England staying there with their guide so it made for a nice little group. We sat outside next to the river chatting and monkey spotting (there were quite a few Lemurs there) and it was definitely an evening that I’ll remember for a long time. Once it got dark we moved inside where once again the fire was lighting. I really do feel that these tea houses are what sets trekking in Nepal apart from other places. The people are locals that have a chance to make some money and you get to stay in a locals house and learn a bit about how they live.

On our way to our tea-house.
The river next to our tea-house
Enjoying the views by the river wearing my really comfy jumper that
I bought in Kathmandu.
Bolle and Jason sitting by the river.
Day 6 Tea House to Thulo Syabru.
Waking up that morning was torture. After doing a full day downhill the day before we both woke up with aching bodies. I had pains in places that I never knew existed. Also we both thought that today was another day of downhill but how wrong we were! This day will definitely go down as the toughest day of the trek for me.
We continued on downhill for another 3 hours and had lunch at the hot springs. While having lunch we had chickens running around under our feet. After lunch we had another 40 minutes downhill backtracking the way that we had previously come. Then came the turn off to Thulo Syabru.
To get to Thulo Syabru we had to climb straight uphill in the sweltering heat for about 2 hours and to make matters worse our muscles were still aching and we had run out of water.

The views from the top of the grueling hike.
That climb was by far the toughest climb I had to do on the entire trek, it took everything out of me and at one stage Bolle ran up to the top ahead of us and bought us some drinks at a little shack that was at the top. Once we had some drinks in us we felt better and made it to the top. We relaxed at the little shack for a while and drank more and more drinks, the views were beautiful and we could see Thulo Syabru from there…then came the most heartwrenching part of the trek.
After resting we walked for a bit and I saw the only way to get to Thulo Syabru was to cross a bridge. Meaning we had to climb back down to the bottom of the mountain, cross the bridge and climb back up on the other side. I’m not proud of what I did next but I may have stomped my feet like a four year old in frustration.
Some of the houses on the way up to Thulo Syabru.
This next part seemed easier than before as it wasn’t as hot and we had water and we had an ending point up ahead. We also had the porters from the big Korean group keeping us company.
Once we finally made it to Thulo Syabru we were pleasantly surprised, it was a beautiful little village surrounded by rice paddies as far as the eye could see. It was also full of cobbled old streets and had many children around playing.
The tea house that we stayed in that night was by far the best that we had had for the entire trek…why? Because I was FINALLY able to have a nice hot shower! I must have showered for about 40 minutes but it was so good. While at our highest point of the trek I had to have a cold water shower in an icy cold bathroom and then get dressed in our icy cold room, it was torture, so this was the best present that I could wish for.
Day 7: Thulo Syabru to Dhunche
The last day of our trek was finally upon us. We woke up to an incredible view of the Himalays in the distance from our bedroom window. It felt strange knowing that this was going to be our last day, it almost felt like a way of life now. But we had made plans to meet up with some people that we had met on the trek and eat a big steak dinner when we got back to Kathmandu so we were getting excited about that.

Our view from the bedroom the next morning.
Beginning our final day of hiking.
Thulo Syabru was beautiful except for one thing…the flies. There were flies EVERYWHERE. I would see old ladies sitting on the ground in the street with hundreds of flies on them, the same with the dogs. I don’t know why there were so many but it made eating nearly impossible, especially eating a pancake with jam on it, you’d look down and see about 10 flies on the pancake and another 30 or 40 on you!
This last day of hiking was enchanting. This route isn’t taken very often so there was only one other small group of trekkers on the route. It was very peaceful walking through the forests and seeing cows, sheep and goats on the path. We also came across many farms and farm houses. There were so many monkeys on this route also. While in the forest all of a sudden you look up and there could be 12 lemurs on the branches above you. After about 2 hours of going through the forest and farms we came to the road. We would walk on the road for the last 2 hours ever of our hike. While on the road we came across buffalos, children swimming naked in the river, old men resting on the side of the road while hearding their goats/buffalos. People from the surrounding villages walking to and from. We even came across a man and his young son chasing their 2 pigs that had somehow escaped.

Jason and Bolle looking out at the many rice paddies that layer the mountains.
A random cow on the trail.
Amazing views!
A woman tending to her crops.
A mother and son at one of the final tea-houses that we stopped at.
The mountains nearby were so beautiful.
It was a lovely day. Unfortunately for poor Dundee (our porter) our bags were heavier that day and he was feeling sick so the trek was hard for him that day, luckily he flagged down a passing truck and got a lift to our final destination. Once we arrived in Dhunche it was such a strange feeling, we were ecstatic that we had completed the trek, sad that it was over and nervous about the next days bone knuckling ride to Kathmandu. That evening we bought both Bolle and Dendee a big Everest beer and spent the evening playing card games. We also had Dhal Bhaat for dinner and Bolle and Dendee taught us how to eat it Nepali style…with our fingers. Jason was a pro at it (I think the child in him was delighted to be able to eat his curry with his fingers) Me; not so good. It was great fun all the same though.
Jason eating some Dhal Bhaat.

That evening we also had to say goodbye to our wood sticks that had gotten us through the 7 days of trekking, it was strange to know that they wouldn’t be glued to our hands anymore.

Day 8 Dhunche to Kathmandu.
The day to return back to Kathmandu was upon us and we were both excited to get back to a comfy bed and a steak dinner but I was also apprehensive about the bus journey back since the one to there was quite scary. Luckily the weather was good for us which meant that we had no near death experiences and arrived in Kathmandu 2 hours before we expected to.
Overall our trek was an amazing experience. The Langtang trek offers a quieter trekking experience with fewer trekkers compared to the EBC and Annapurna treks. It also offers a diverse landscape, starting with the beautiful lush green forests and then to the more sparse higher elevated areas. There are tea houses everywhere so you are guaranteed a comfortable nights sleep throughout the trek. Also if it’s yaks that you are interested in seeing then Langtang is the place for you; we saw quite a few of them and apparently there are no yaks on the Annapurna trails.
But saying that, whatever trek you choose I have no doubt that it’ll be just as beautiful and awe-inspiring as ours was.
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.
Their website is here.
There are some trip advisors reviews of them here.
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.

Our 7 day Langtang Trek in the Himalayas (Part 1)

Day 1:
Syrabrubesi-Lama Hotel.
The day had finally come to begin our trek. We woke up at about 6 and got ready then went downstairs and had some breakfast. We left our guesthouse at about 7am. The rain had stopped from the night before but it was still very cloudy and it looked like it could rain again.

The route we would be taking.
The beginning of the trek was walking along a beautiful river, it was very easy going and we got to walk through a beautiful little village. The first hour went very smoothly and we were surprised at how easy it seemed. The air was fresh and the area was so luscious and full of green. We were going quite quickly for the first couple of hours when Bolle (our guide) pulled us over and warned us to go slower because of the altitude. I had only ever done short hikes before so my style of hiking is to go quick, I love going up a mountain at a fast pace. Unfortunately this wasn’t going to be possible this time. Our first tea house came along and once we got there I immediately began to feel nauseous and had a headache. I knew that this was a mild form of altitude sickness and began scolding myself for walking too fast. I took some altitude sickness tablets and ordered a hot cup of peppermint tea from the tea house.
Our first tea house stop; This cute little boy lived there.
Tea houses are exactly what you think they are. They are peoples homes that you can stop in all along the trek and order drinks and food from and also spend the night there. Most tea houses are basic with no electricity and there is only hot water if the sun is shining. The best thing about the tea houses is that they are always situated just after a very tough part of the hike. So they give you a chance to catch your breath, have a chat and get ready for the next part of the hike.

After our first tea house visit we realized that this would be the end of the level walking for now, our next part of the trek was all uphill. It was quite a tough climb, especially when you have to go as slow as you can to avoid altitude sickness. But it was so beautiful. That first day we hiked along with the river, hiked in the woods and near a hot spring.

 

Day 1
Day 1
Day 1
Jason on day 1 of our hike.
As you can see it was quite misty so there wasn’t any views.
It was a good solid 9 hour trek and by the end of that first day we were so tired. About 6 of those hours were completely uphill and it was tough. We went from 1503meters above sea level  in Syrabrubesi to 2420 meters in Lama Hotel.

Our first nights stop.

 

Lama Hotel is not one hotel but it is a name given to an area that has plenty of tea houses. It is usually the first stop for most people that are doing the Langtang trek. Bolle quickly found us a room and we were excited to find out that the fire downstairs went up through the pipes and heated each of the rooms, a nice little treat after our first day hiking. Once we got into our room all we could do was collapse on our beds. I think we got a couple of hours sleep until Bolle came knocking at the door warning us that we had to order our dinner soon. We went down to the common area and had a nice chat with some other trekkers while eating and then got ready for bed.
That night was a very scary night for me as I began suffering from altitude sickness badly. I was awoken in the middle of the night because I couldn’t breath, my chest felt so tight, I had a terrible headache and felt very nauseous. I knew that if you keep going higher while suffering from altitude sickness it can become very serious and you could die. So while lying there that night I was so worried that I would have to give up and go back down the next day.
Day 2:
Lama Hotel- Langtang Valley
Luckily, I woke up and felt much better so was able to continue on. Day 2 was the toughest uphill of our hike but thank god my mindframe was in the best place and I had a positive outlook on the day that I felt great and pushed through to our next destination. Unfortunately the weather wasn’t great and it was raining. I had a rain jacket but unfortunately Jason didn’t so Bolle made him a makeshift jacket from a plastic sheet. We also found some bamboo sticks to help us with the uphill and they soon became our best friends for the remainder of the hike. 
We had some pretty grueling uphill climbs on our second day and unfortunately because of the rain we had no views whatsoever. While hiking we came across a familiar face, Benjamin, the German that we had met at the Indian embassy. He was on his way down and told us that because of the bad weather he had to finish the hike early and go back down, he said it was snowing very heavily up higher and there were no views whatsoever. We were a bit worried at this point, thinking that we may not get the views that we had imagined, but we pressed on through some beautiful fields with horses and along the valley rim.
We noticed a lot of locals going downhill that day with their children. We were curious as to why so many of them were going down so we asked Bolle. He told us that the new school year was starting and many of the kids in the mountains go to boarding school in nearby cities so the families had to do the two day trek downhill to get the children onto their school bus and then the parents had to do the three day trek back up. It blew my mind that these people that lived up there had to do this trek everytime that they needed to get somewhere. There were no roads in this area and the only way to get supplies up and down the mountains were on donkeys backs.

Children on their way down to school.
Jason on day 2
Jason and our guide Bolle.
Jason at one of our many tea house stops.
Our view as we got close to Langtang village, as you can see it was quite rainy/misty.

 

We passed so many donkeys throughout our trek. The rule is that when a group of donkeys come along you must try to find somewhere to stand away from the path, those donkeys had very tough jobs and it broke my heart to see some of them collapsing on their way and having to get back up and continue.

Some of the many donkeys
on the trail
After another tough day hiking we arrived at Langtang village, our home for the night. Once we got here Bolle brought us past all of the other guest houses to one that was quite a bit away from all of the others. It was his friends tea house and we were the only guests. It was a wonderful little place owned by a husband and wife, his father and their three children. They also owned a horse that was out in the garden and her beautiful young foal. We had a lovely evening with the family and had a great time learning more about them and their culture.
That night I woke up with pains in my stomach so I went outside to use the bathroom (all teahouses only had shared bathrooms, usually outdoors) After using the bathroom I was walking back to my room when I looked up and saw the most wonderful thing I have ever seen. It was the middle of the night and it was quite dark out but the moon was shining and from its light I managed to catch a glimpse of a snow capped mountain. I was so excited that the sky finally looked clear and I was hoping that it would stay clear until the morning time. I think I stood there in the freezing cold for about 20 minutes just looking up at that mountain.
Day 3:
Langtang Valley to Kyanjin Gompa.
I woke up the next morning and immediately opened the curtains and looked out the window, I was so excited when I saw the majestic snow capped mountains all around us, I quickly got Jason up and we ran outside to get a better view. The mountains were so beautiful and they were snow capped all along the valley that we had just come from, it was hard to believe that they were hiding from us for the whole time.  We were quite excited, especially as this was our last day of trekking uphill. Kyanjin Gompa was to be our highest point on our trek.

Our view from the bedroom window.
Myself and Jason excited about the beautiful views.
The living area of our tea house. This served
as the cooker and heater of the house.
Beautiful son of the tea house owners.
the views from Langtang village.



Unfortunately I was still feeling sick and could barely stomach breakfast. Every teahouse along the trek had identical menus and served identical food. Since my stomach wasn’t good I had been turned off most of the items on the menus and since every menu was the same it meant that I could barely eat for a while.
That morning we set off and I immediately noticed that my mind frame was completely different from the day before. I was feeling sick and seeing the uphill climb ahead of me I nearly felt like crying and I was wondering how I was ever going to get through it. I had put on too many layers of clothes that morning also because it was much colder in the valley but once we started walking I soon began sweating. Halfway up a big hill that we were climbing I decided that I’d have to go into a nearby field and take off some layers. I was feeling so low and miserable at this point and then something amazing happened.
When I went into the field it was a bit higher up than the path, while taking off some layers I looked straight ahead and saw the most beautiful awe inspiring mountains I had ever seen, they were all snow capped and it was a glorious sight. I immediately felt drawn to them and suddenly my mind frame had completely changed. With those magnificient views that days trek was wonderful. I just kept my eyes focused on the mountains and could barely take my eyes off of them, they were honestly one of the most beautiful things I’d ever seen. Luckily that day was only a half a days trek. It also felt very different from the two previous days that were filled with lush green forests and rivers, today the landscape was much more barren and there were many yaks around. The trail to the Himalayas also became almost like a Buddhist shrine, there were prayer flags, wheels and shrines everywhere along the path. I had to keep remembering to walk to the left of the shrines (always in a clockwise direction).

You can see my delight at seeing the amazing Himalayas
(the sun was so bright that it made capturing them a bit difficult)
Myself and Jason
So beautiful!
On our way to Kyanjin Gompa
Dendee, Bolle and me.
Jason with the incredible mountains behind him.
After about 3 hours of hiking we made it to the highest point of our trek; Kyanjin Gompa. It is a small village that had some incredible views from every direction, it was also bitterly cold up that high.

Unfortunately I was still feeling sick when we arrived so when Bolle offered us a tour of the village I had to pass. I put on my layers, got into my sleeping bag and tried to rest (although the cold was making it hard). That evening was spent in the common room of our tea house playing games with some new found friends with the fire lighting. It was very enjoyable.

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.
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.

Our journey to the starting point of our trek.

The day had finally come. It was time for us to leave Kathmandu and take the grueling journey to the starting point of our trek in the Himalayas. This was the part of our journey that we were both excited and apprehensive about. Excited because we knew it would truly be an epic seven day journey to the top of the world with incredible views and apprehensive because we felt unprepared for what lay ahead.

Being the backpackers that we were, the cheapest option to get to Syrabrubesi, the starting point of our trek, was the local bus. The local bus was everything that you imagine a bus in India or Nepal to be. It was very old and extremely colorful, there were all kinds of decorations hanging from the ceiling and sitting on the roof was the norm for men traveling on the bus. That morning we met up with our wonderful guide Bolle and our porter, Dendee (that’s how we pronounced it, I have no idea how to spell it) and made our way to the bus station. The bus station was very chaotic and we were so thankful to have Bolle there organizing everything and ordering us food and chai from a little stall. We had some idea as to what the standard of the bus we would be taking would be but there were a couple of other trekkers on the bus also and they seemed completely shocked by the bus.

Our bus to Syrabrubesi

The bus was very busy and we felt extremely lucky to have Bolle with us, we met a pair of German sisters who were completely frazzled because they had no idea which bus to take, where to sit and what to do. Luckily for them Bolle generously helped them throughout the bus journey. It was at this point that we started realizing how lucky we were to have Bolle by our sides.

Syrabrubesi is only 120km away from Kathmandu but unbelievably the bus journey takes anything between 8 and 12 hours! This is because from the departure point to the destination the entire road is winding mountain roads. I don’t thing we ever drove more than 2km on a straight stretch of road. Also there are no bus stops along the route. A person stands on the side of the road and the bus picks them up. Luckily for us these mountain roads provided us with some outstanding views and I felt so in awe at the scenery. Everywhere the eye could see there were mountains with rice paddies going down the entire side. Most houses don’t have running water so the main source of water for people is from wells on the side of the road. We saw people showering, washing dishes, doing laundry and preparing food on the roadsides.
The scenery throughout the bus journey was so beautiful.
More rice paddies.

The closer we got to Syrabrubesi the more indigenous the people were. this trek is quite close to the Tibetian border so most of the people living in this area would be Tibetian. There were children who looked like they hadn’t had their hair brushed or washed in years and they were so excited to see the bus come. It was so cold up there that I couldn’t blame them for looking so disheveled. It’s incredible to think that they only have cold water available to them, on the road side. This probably makes showering unbearable for most of the year. The poverty in that area was also very visible. Luckily everybody had concrete houses, but that is for necessity as I can only imagine how cold it gets in the height of winter. Most children were wearing rags and there were many people on the roads carrying food and firewood up the grueling hills, some of these people were very elderly and carrying things that I couldn’t deem of carrying, sometimes for hours on end because they couldn’t afford the bus.

One of the houses on our way to Syrabrubesi.

There were also plenty of goat herders along the road, as well as buffalo and cows. It was an incredible journey that gave us an insight into the difficult everyday life of most people in Nepal.

Goats on the road.

Halfway through the journey we stopped for some lunch, typical Nepali style, Dal Bhat. Dal Bhat is really delicious, it’s a big plate with rice, lentil soup, pickles, some type of sauce and a curry. The typical way to eat it is to mix it all together and eat with your fingers. It took us a week before we’d try eating it the traditional way.

A typical Nepali Dal Bhat

I have to say though that the bus ride, for me, was honestly the scariest I have ever taken. The roads were so windy that a few people seemed to feel sick, in fact a very unfortunate incident happened on the bus. A person on the rooftop was feeling sick and started vomiting, unfortunately because he was on the roof the vomit was going down into the open window below and on to a poor woman! We were counting our lucky stars that it wasn’t us!

We were getting higher and higher as we went along and the road was only barely big enough for two vehicles. The vehicle on the outside would have to edge off of the road so all there was was a sheer fall down a mountain. We would have to get so close to the edge that one of our wheels would be nearly off of the road. If the driver made one slight mistake then we were going to be tumbling down the edge of the mountain. I was sitting by the window and nearly pee’d my pants every time someone would overtake us, as I couldn’t see any road, only the sheer drop of the mountain. Then there was the scariest part of the road. This one part had been swept away by a waterfall where the road should have been. It was raining so there was quite a bit of water too. And to make matters worse there was another vehicle going the opposite way, so we had to pull out to the edge of the rubble to let the other driver pass.

With my hand on my heart, I truly thought those were my last seconds on Earth. I had come to terms with the fact that I was going to die. It sounds silly but that is how scared I was. I couldn’t see anything underneath us, just the side of the mountain and we were driving over huge rocks that would make the bus lean to one side. In that crazy moment that I thought was my last all I could think about was what would happen to Willy.

As you’ve probably guessed by now, we didn’t die! We arrived in Syrabrubesi alive and well after about ten hours. We got settled into our guesthouse, had some food, watched some Dexter and had our last hot shower for a while.

We were both so nervous that night as the next day would mark the beginning of our seven-day Langtang Valley trek.

Beautiful scenery
Scenery on our way to the beginning of our trek.
One of the many rivers in the area.
Getting up high and the mist covers the tops of the mountains.
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.
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.

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 😉

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. 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.