29 September 2010

Outside Kathmandu

Our third day in Kathmandu was our opportunity to get outside the city and see some of the Kathmandu valley.


We hired a car and driver to take us to Nagarkot, considered to be one of the best spots to catch panoramic views of the Kathmandu valley and much of the Himalayas including Mt. Everest.





We arrived there in  mid-morning hoping we could get there before the clouds rolled in and obscured the views, but were disappointed to find very cloudy conditions, not good for seeing Everest. Undeterred, we were still able to enjoy the beautiful countryside...and the views of the valley below.


We got to see the Nepalese Army training around the hill station, which is home to their Commando unit, the Nepalese Rangers.

After Nagarkot, we decided to stop in Bhaktapur on the way back to Kathmandu..which turned out to be one of the best decisions we made on our entire trip.


The "Town of Devotees" is not nearly as touristy as other places and its chocked full of amazing architectural delights. Around every corner in the maze like side streets is another temple, statue or breathtaking views.


We wandered around the city, had a delicious lunch and played a little soccer with some kids.


We were able to get off the beaten path and really enjoy Bhakatpur. Its too bad we weren't there outside of Monsoon season....this is what it looks like on a clear day.


Our photography expert, Guillame, showed me how to take color accent pictures..which has opened up a whole new option...especially in a place as colorful as Nepal.




To end the day, we just sat around on a side street, drinking cold sodas (it was pretty hot), saying hello to the super friendly Nepalese....and laughing with kids who were so very curious about the foreigners.

Thanks Bhaktapur....you're a great place to visit.


25 September 2010

Nepal


 Long have I waited for a chance to visit Nepal. Tucked away in the Himalayas. Home to 8 of the world's 10 highest mountains. Birthplace of Buddha. Highly diverse, rich in geography, history, culture, and religion.

Like most kids, I had no idea about Nepal.....until my uncle came back from a trip there in the 70's. It has been a mecca for hippie backpackers, free spirits and, in more recent  history, adventure/adrenaline junkies.

It is not a place you just pop by. "Oh I have nothing to do this weekend, I think I'll go to Nepal". Its remote, expensive to get to, and off the beaten path....but worth every penny.



For the only time on the trip, we decided to splurge on a real hotel. The Kathmandu Guest house serves as a hub for westerners exploring Nepal. You can organize tours from here, as well as rent cars, motorcycles, meet other people or just relax.



Will, Guillame and I settled in, giddy with anticipation and had a celebratory meal of traditional Nepalese food.


...and of course some Everest beer.


We had read that our trip might coincide with Gaijatra, the cow festival. There is no set date, but it happens during the Nepalese month of Bhadra (August-September)

Families particulate in processions leading a cow through the streets of Kathmandu to honor family members who have died during the previous year. The cow, a revered holy animal, is said to help the deceased relative's journey to heaven.

We asked someone at the hotel if we had missed the festival and they said "No! Its tomorrow!"

We were very, very lucky to be there for this, one of Nepals biggest and most popular festivals.



Everyone takes to the streets.


What a great day to be in Kathmandu...incredible.

We walked amongst the crowds, talked to people, played with some kids and followed the processions to Durbar Square.


It was just a fantastic day....truly.


video

More Nepal stuff soon...
 


18 September 2010

First stop in India - Delhi

by C

When I got back from India, people of course asked "What was India like?"

My response would be a long pause with a puzzled look and then something like "Well...its dirty, chaotic, awesome, disgusting, beautiful, frustrating, amazing, surprising, unpredictable.... and the filthiest most beautiful place I have ever been."

When I landed at Delhi's very modern airport at 6am, I followed the signs/crowds to Customs & Immigration where there were maybe 30 desks with officers checking peoples passports, visas etc.

There are forms to fill out prior to queuing for passport control....but there were no forms at the tables where the forms are supposed to be. Maybe 40 tables with spaces for hundreds of forms....no forms.

I turn around, there are easily 50 customs and immigration personnel on duty, some sitting some standing and apparently none of them able to restock the forms. So I watch as maybe 200 tourists from my flight get in line, wait and get turned away because they didn't have the forms. I also watch as people ask for the forms, and are directed to the empty tables...even after they explain that there are no forms.

I walked over to an official looking type and asked him if he could provide me with a form because there are none available and he seemed genuinely stumped by the whole situation.

It took 20 minutes before someone brought some forms out to the 200 pissed off people waiting. How many forms did they bring out?

5

Welcome to India....everything here is completely screwed up, and barely works...but somehow it still does.

So I get my bag and go outside where there is a driver waiting holding a sign that says "Arolnd"

I say "I'm Arolnd" and off we go by car on a 40 minute ride through the most congested  mass of people and cars I have seen since my trip to China. Complete madness and chaos, followed by shortcut driving through the back "streets" of Old Delhi towards where many cheap "hotels" are concentrated, famous among budget backpackers, we arrive in Paharganj.


Paharganj main drag...Main Baazar is...well...its absolutely filthy, hence the reason the concentration of super-budget "accomdations".


Its a great first taste of India. Up in your grill madness. Cows walking the streets crapping as they go, motorcycles zipping through crowds, mud, sewage, 100 degree heat, a nauseating stench, and people trying to sell you everything under the sun.

Welcome to India!

I don't want to sound like I am completely bashing India, because I'm not. I just want to make sure I paint an accurate picture. My travel companions Will, Guillaume and I came to India to get off the beaten path and do a trip more on the edge.

We got exactly that...and then a whole lot more.


Elephants....on the street!

Stay tuned for more pics and stories of India....coming soon.

11 September 2010

India & Nepal

video

Have finally settled in Houston after several weeks of traveling. I just made this video of clips from my trip. Stay tuned for more detailed posts about the trip later this week!