Nepal

Another mother-daughter trip, this time to a bucket list country for both of us – trekking the Himalaya Mountains in Nepal!

Oct 21, 2014

After a grueling 19+ hours of flying time, we rounded the Himalayas and from the right side of the plane, we got our first view of Mt Everest. How cool is that, to see Everest on the very first day of our trip! They peaked out of a gray-blue haze below, touching the blue sky above with white clouds encircling them and looked like castles floating in the sky. We were mesmerized. To think that we were staring at the place where earth touches the heavens was enchanting.

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Then culture shock hit as we landed in the buzzing, dusty city of Kathmandu and risked our lives in the taxi dodging buses, scooters and pedestrians, oh my! We walked around busy Thamel and took respite in an Edwardian garden called the Garden of Dreams, which housed local lovers kanoodling on park benches and tourists lounging on broad grassy terraces in front of Roman columns and fountains. Quite the oasis in busy Kathmandu – I almost expected to see Greek nymphs flitting around the garden…

Then jet lag set in and we relaxed at the hotel for the rest of the evening, prepping for our next few days…

Oct 22, 2014

Pleasantly surprised that the shower was warm in spite of the frequent power outages… Got an early start to Patan, home to a square of ancient temples and palace. Today is the second day of Tihar, worshipping dogs, so many of the dogs we saw had marigold flower necklaces and red powder on their foreheads. The mangier, stray dogs had none.

I’m so glad we started with Patan because the museum had a wonderful introduction to Hindu deities and some of the temple architecture. Beautiful statues and symbols that made sense in the museum, but suddenly outside, I can’t tell what’s what on the temple carvings. I can pick out Ganesh easily, because he has an elephant head.

We got a hard sell demonstration for singing bowls, which was interesting to learn about the differences in quality versus knock offs. I liked the vibrations and calming sound of them, but not for the price, so I might settle for a knock off from a street vendor later.

Oct 23, 2014

We’ve learned to charge batteries and shower whenever possible, due to fluctuating power and water supply, which does not necessarily go together – power on, no water pressure, sometimes no electricity, but hot water aplenty.

Today, we traveled to the Tibetan district, Bodhnath to visit the gleaming white stupa. People pilgrim here daily to walk clockwise around the large dome and offer flower garlands, oil, scented water and incense to help bless their lives with good health, wealth, morals, etc. We walked around a few times, then hiked up the hill to find (not so easily) the Kopan monastery. On the way, we stopped at a smaller monastery where we received admittance from a young Buddhist monk that let us meditate in the temple and light candles/incense, and gave us a tour of the grounds. The Kopan monastery has beautiful grounds, atop a hill overlooking an almost 360 degree view of the Kathmandu valley.

Back at our hotel, we were surprised by an impromptu concert by a roaming group of Nepalese who sang and played drums and loud horns, and danced! At night, every business sets out mandalas, elaborate designs of flowers and powder and candles to welcome the goddess of prosperity. So, we strolled around the streets admiring the beautiful pieces of art and got red tikas on our forehead to help celebrate Tihar and the coming of the new year.

Oct 24, 2014

We decided to do a walking tour of Kathmandu and the Durbar Square, but today is Tihar, so schools and many shops are closed. All the school kids parade through the city, and we got caught up in the parade several times. Once at Durbar Square, we made sure to get a tika and ring the bell at Ashok Binayak shrine which is supposed to ensure safety for upcoming journeys.

We continued on through the streets of Kathmandu with endless street vendors and courtyards with shrines and stupas… We will be glad to get out of the city in the next few days.

Oct 25, 2014

Today is Bhai Tihar, brother’s day. This is the only day that the Rani Pokhari temple is open to the public. It was built for a previous queen whose son died, now people go on Bhai Tihar if they don’t have any brothers/sisters or if a sibling died. So, we went to the white temple in the middle of a big pond and made an offering and received a very colorful tika on our foreheads. It feels nice to have something special just for the loss of a sibling.

Then we went to the medieval city of Bhaktapur which is one of the oldest cities in Nepal with brick buildings, old temples and cobblestone streets. It was nice to see another part of Nepali history and we appreciated the quiet, slower alleyways.

Oct 26, 2014

After seeing a stranger’s photo blog and emailing them for advice, they told us to drive instead of fly to Pokhara with a stop in Bandipur, and we are so glad we did. It was absolutely gorgeous to dive through the country and see hillsides with rice terraces and beautiful valleys below, from the comfort of a nice car.

Bandipur was up a very steep hill with a one lane road, which made getting there a little terrifying, but we made it and the views were incredible. Apparently, they would be even better if clouds weren’t covering the mountains.

While in Bandipur, my shoes disintegrated one after the other and totally fell apart! With half a day before our trek, this was one of the worst things that could happen. I’ve been told that you can buy or rent many of the supplies you need, but the one thing you should make sure to bring are a pair of good, worn in hiking boots. And these standbys have been good to me for the last decade. So I guess their time was up. Better to fall apart before the trek, instead of ON the trek.

So, when we got to Pokhara, first order of business was to buy new shoes (a couple of places said they could not fix my old pair). See misadventure here.

Oct 27, 2014

Our trek started with aone and a half hour drive up the hill, then we began our journey. It was quite warm and we got got pretty quickly in the sun. Everyone said to pack in layers, so I packed what would be ski layers (long johns, fleeces, etc), what I should’ve done was packed layers like shorts and t-shirts, too! Our first day was somewhat uphill, past rice fields and milky light blue rivers.

Our first day was supposed to be short, three hours, but after lunch we were feeling ambitious and decided to continue another hour and a half to the next town, which would make tomorrow better. It was 90 minutes of steps, uphill. Ouch! Quite painful. But we made it. One day down, three more to go.

Oct 28, 2014

Our second day took us through the forest, crossing rushing streams and waterfalls, rocky steps, but thankfully it was shady and cool. We arrived to Gorepani at 1pm, in time for it to rain and to wait around for the daily power outage that is common to Nepal. We walked around town, then huddled around the wood burning stove in our tea house.

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Oct 29, 2014

Our third and hardest day started at 4:30am to hike up to Poon Hill for the sunrise. I dressed with all of my layers (long johns, shirt, two fleeces, and a down jacket, beanie and gloves) which was a mistake because within 2 minutes of climbing stairs, I was sweating more than I ever had in my life. Our trail met another set of steps which had a train of flashlights. I was shocked to see hundreds of people making the dawn pilgrimage. After an hour hike, racing the sunlight, I sat on the edge of the plateau, waiting for daylight.. Slowly, the golden light started shining on the peaks, and it was breathtaking. To think, I was literally on top of the world!

Then back down to the lodge for a quick breakfast before another 8+ hours of trek, this time mostly downhill. But it started to rain, hail in fact. Luckily it was soft hail and wasn’t too bad. But the afternoon was quite painful. I think I pulled a muscle in my groin, because every step was painful. By The time our day was finished, I was in so much pain that I could barely walk let alone stand up straight. From our lodge in Ghandruk, I could see the sun setting over the mountains, which means I watched the sun rise and sun set on the same mountains on the same day.

Oct 30, 2014

I woke up before the sun on the last day of our trek and watched the sun rise over the two mountains I could see from our tea house lodge (no panoramic view, but still pretty memorizing). Our last day, was supposed to be all downhill, but much of it was steep steps, which is still brutal when you’re legs are already in pain and angry with you. I’m not really sure how I made it those few hours home, maybe it was because the end was in sight. Our view was down the hillside with peaks in the distance and locals working in the rice flats. This view never gets old to me.

Finally back in Pokhara, we took a very enjoyable hot shower then walked to the lake and took a boat ride stone the lake. Unfortunately it was hazy, so no beautiful sunset with mountains in the distance.

Oct 31, 2014

Woke up to a very foggy morning, glad we weren’t on the mountain because you probably wouldn’t be able to see any peaks today. With only amorning in Pokhara, we decided to go too the Peace Pagoda atop a hill above the lake. There are beautiful views of Pokhara, Fewa Lake and the mountain range in the distance, unfortunately with the fog/haze, we couldn’t really see any of it. Oh well.

We were sad to leave Pokhara and wished we would’ve spent more time here, but sitting in an airport all day, want exactly how we wanted to do that… 🙁 Our flight that was supposed to leave at 1:15pm, didn’t end up departing until after 4:30pm! It was a little prop plane which I love, but makes everyone else nervous. Arriving to Kathmandu during rush hour meant another very long taxi ride back to our hotel. By then we were starving and tired, so we just ate at the hotel and called it an early night.

Nov 1, 2014

Back in Kathmandu, we relaxed and shopped around Thamel, then went to the Monkey Temple, where I got sass from a guy for not ignoring him (he probably wanted money), so he scared off all the monkeys. I yelled back at him that I didn’t want any photos of monkeys. And then we hiked up the stairs – great! Just what I wanted, more stairs when I’m already in so much pain! The stupa was nice and there were lots more monkeys at the top and TONS of prayer flags flapping in the wind. After that we were tired, so we retreated to our favorite Garden of Dreams to relax on the grass for a while.

Nov 2, 2014

We didn’t have much to do on our last day in Kathmandu, so we lounged around a bit and then went to the new mall near Bimsem Tower and watched a movie – Gone Girl, which was interesting because they edited out sex scenes, had big disclaimers at the bottom when someone smoked onscreen and even stopped the movie halfway through for an intermission! Then we went up Bimsem Tower, the gleaming white tower of the city – more steps, again! And walked around, shopping for a while. We ate dinner, then headed to the airport.

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Nov 3, 2014

We stopped in Guangzhou for 12 hours, so we got money from an ATM, then taxied into the city and stayed all day at the Four Seasons, moving from place to place in the lobby. We scheduled much needed massages, where we showered and relaxed in the sauna. It was a couples massage and my mom started snoring! Embarrassing. Then we had high tea (literally, high tea on the 74th floor!) and walked to H&M to shop for a new shirt and watched the sunset from the 99th floor with drinks. The city of Guangzhou is very modern. Back to the airport for our flight home!