Nepal - Holi in Kathmandu, Mt. Everest, Trekking

Trip Start Mar 29, 2007
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Trip End Sep 30, 2009


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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

March 31st officially marks my one year anniversary in India and while my travels have been significant in India, I have yet to visit a new country in this part of the world.  When I started this gig, I had on my list to visit Nepal, Bhutan, Myramar, Sri Lanka and several other countries.  So far after nearly 12 months, I've been to one country outside of India...Thailand....which is a place I've been multiple times before!  So this trip to Nepal was something I was definitely looking forward to.  I went with a buddy from work, Mark, and we had planned a 5 days trip up there over the weekend. 

Day 0/1 - Departure from Hyderabad and First Day in Kathmandu:
Our evening flight on Wednesday night to Delhi landed into Delhi at about 11PM.  We collected our bags then caught a bus to the the international airport.  Our flight to Kathmandu didn't leave until 6:30AM on Thursday morning so we found a 24 hour airport restaurant and camped out there for a few hours.  Interestingly, they wouldn't let you sleep in the restaurant and would wake you up if they saw you nodding off.
Up early the next morning and caught the quick one hour flight to Kathmandu.  Immigration and customs at the airport was a bit of a process but fairly simple (not computerized...everything done on paper).  We had arranged a guide to meet us at the airport and he (Kedar) was waiting for us with a car and driver.  Kedar was a great guide and I would definitely recommend him to anyone interested in visiting or trekking in Nepal.  We made the quick drive to our hotel (Hyatt Regency) where we rested, got cleaned up and then hit the town with another guide Sanga to explore Kathmandu.  First stop was the Stuppa Boudhnath which is one of the largest Buddhist shrines in the world...and in fact was visible from our hotel.  Click here for more information on Boudhnath.  We walked around it a couple times, visited some side street shrines, tourists shops and had a nice lunch overlooking the shrine.  Second stop was the Pashupatinath temple fairly close to the airport.  Given the significance this temple has to the local Hindu community and the temples proximity on a local river, it has become the main place for the local Hindu community to cremate their dead and on this day there were several cremations in progress.  As you exit your car and make the walk up to the temple, you can't help but notice the burning smell and see the smoke in the air.  Non Hindu's are not allowed to enter the temple...but I think I saw plenty from the other side of the river.  The local holy men (or sadhu's) were also hanging around and they looked like they belonged in Jamaica...not India....hopefully the pictures will do that description justice.  You can read more about Pashupantinath by clicking here.  Our final stop was on the other side of town at the Monkey Temple which is also called Swayambunath.  This important Buddha temple (stuppa) is located at the top of a large hill and offered great views of Kathmandu and the opportunity to listen to some local monks chanting as the sun began to set over the city.  You can read more about this stupa by clicking here.  After the long drive back to the hotel, we chilled by the pool, had a steak and drank a bottle and a half of wine.  At that point I passed out...lack of sleep the night before, busy day and red wind...stick a fork in me, I'm done.

Day 2 - Happy Holi and More Sights in Kathmandu:
Happy Holi!  Today is the day the Hindu's (and everyone else practically) celebrate the Holi festival in Nepal.  Holi is a major holiday in India and you can read more about it here...but it's essentially a festival to celebrate the coming of Spring and it's also called the festival of colors for reasons which will soon become obvious.  I spent the night before filling up water balloons with colored water to ensure I had a ready supply of ammunition to "do battle" with the locals of Kathmandu....but more about Holi later.  We got up fairly early at 6AM as we've got a few more sights to see in Kathmandu.  But first we've got one thing to do which was to be the highlight of this trip for me.  Early morning flights depart the Kathmandu airport every day to perform a one hour flight down the Himalayan range with the high-lite of course being flying near Mt. Everest.  We had purchased tickets for a 7AM Buddha Air flight which is one of several airlines who perform these morning flights.  Buddha Air flies 14 seater turbo props and provides each passenger a mountain range map so you can see the towering peaks as you fly by.  I sat on the left side of the plane which means that I got the view as we flew from Kathmandu...my buddy Mark got a seat on the right side of the plane which means he got the views on the return flight.  In addition to the great views out the side of the plane, everyone got multiple opportunities to visit the cockpit as well to visit with the pilots and see the views from the front of the plane.  Mt. Everest was of course amazing...as were the views from 30,000 feet of the entire Himalayan range.  I hope the pictures do it justice...it's something I would definitely do again if I visit Kathmandu in the future.  Back at the airport our guide Senga was waiting to take us to a couple more amazing places in the city.  First stop was the ancient city of Bhaktapur.  Bhaktapur is an amazing, intricate and ancient city that is full of pagoda style temples, royal baths, Kama Sutra carvings, tourists stops and other shrines.  It's also a great place to celebrate Holi as the streets are narrow and the rooftops offer a good vantage point to nail the unsuspecting people below with water balloons, colored powder and other projectiles.  We spent a good two hours here visiting the sights and getting good and nasty with the locals by throwing water balloons and colored powder over everyone.  My white tshirt will never be white again...  After Bhaktapur, it was off to a major tourist stop in Kathmandu, the Durbar square.  This is the #1 UNESCO site in Kathmandu and it didn't disappoint.  The number of temples and shrines was overwhelming...as was the voracity of the Holi celebrators.  At one point the police actually came to calm down some people who were celebrating a bit too much.  After walking around the Durbar square for a bit, we had a nice cold beer and said good bye to Senga as the remainder of our trip would be with Kedar.  That night Mark and I went out to the main nightlife area of Kathmandu and met some cool people from France and Canada who were at a local club that made the nightlife in Hyderabad look like a library.  Got home a little after 1AM and enjoyed one last night at the Hyatt Regency.

Day 3 - Day Trek to Nargarkot:
Up early again to pack, check out and hop in the car  with Kedar for a 30 kilometer drive to the Changu Narayan temple.  This small temple is a bit off the beaten path, but is one of the oldest shrines to Lord Vishnu in Nepal.  It's also a great starting point for a day trek which is unfortunately all we had time for.  As we both had luggage that we didn't want to carry on the trek, we had the driver take it on the the hotel we'd be staying at that night.  Many people come to the Kathmandu Valley for trekking...some treks are only 2-3 days...some are a bit longer (e.g. the Mt. Everest base camp trek is 11-13 days).  We had Kedar plan a Trek for us that was 4-6 hours which would end us at the town of Nargarkot where we would overnight.  Starting from the Changu Narayan temple,we went thru numerous small villages...where the kids were super friendly.  So friendly in fact that at one point I stopped to buy a bag of candy's and started handing them out as we encountered kids during the trek.  At one point we had a train of kids following us and Mark started calling me the "Candy Man"...which sounded creepy so I put the candy away until the kids dispersed.  The terrain was very hilly but the path was clear and the air was clean.  Lot's of impressive views as well greeted us around each corner.  After 5 hours we reached the town of Nargarkot and the Club Himalaya hotel.  While we checked in and picked up our luggage, Kedar left us for the evening to find his own place to stay and to also hire a porter to carry our bags to the next destination tomorrow.  The Club Himalaya hotel was an oasis in the middle of nowhere complete with a heated pool, massage and hot tub.  But the best part of the hotel was the views...each room had an amazing room of the Himalayas...and the roof top viewing center offered an even better view.  The main thing to see here is the sunrise over the Himalayas...so we made an early night of it and turned in after a nice dinner and a few beers in the hotel bar.

Day 4 - Day Trek to Duhlikhel:
So "the" thing to do in Nargarkot at the Hotel Club Himalaya is to get your butt out of bed as the ass-crack of dawn and watch the sunrise over the Himalayas.  So at 5:45 AM I'm up, looking for the sun and finally it sneaks over the hazy mountain tops.  Unfortunately it wasn't as clear as we would have liked, but the sunrise was spectacular nonetheless.  After packing and checking out with meet Kedar outside the hotel with our trusty Sherpa who's name sounded like Lama (no joke).  Lama takes our bags and somehow combines them all into a single unit and then attaches them all to some sort of headband contraption....and then he just takes off...almost at a sprint.  These Sherpa's are amazing...while Mark, Kedar and I followed up and down the winding path, Lama was bouncing around in front of us with over 40 pounds attached to his head.  Our destination today was a town called Duhlikhel...another town famous for it's mountain views.  We hiked around a couple mountain ridges and ended up 4 hours later at some very, very small town where we relaxed with a couple cold beers.  Kedar then told us we could continue hiking for another 3-4 hours...or catch a bus to the next town and then a taxi to our next hotel.  Bus and taxi won by a large margin.  We said goodbye to our trusty Sherpa who received ten US dollars for lugging our stuff around for several hours...he was happy, so were we.  We checked into the Duhlikhel Mountain Resort which was nice...and had great food and views.  The place is sort of in the middle of no-where so there isn't a lot to do besides relax...so I did.  Read a book, got a massage, ate and drank to my hearts content and enjoyed the great views.  There were a couple large tourist groups in...one big group from Germany.  As we were enjoying our drinks in the bar one night the bartender asked if we wanted the "house special"....but of course we did.  They took two large bottles of orange Fanta and brought it to a boil.  Then poured it over a copious quantity of dark rum and added honey and cinnamon.  Damn if it wasn't great!  So we had a couple...or three or four.

Day 5 - Departure Day
Up early to see another hazy sunrise.  Packed and checked out and met Kedar out waiting with our car and driver to take us back to Kathmandu.  The journey went quickly so we went back to a major market area to purchase some souvenirs and grab a quick bite to eat.  At the airport we jumped aboard our Jet Lite flight back to Delhi...barely making our connection in Delhi to catch our flight to Hyderabad.  Landed at the new airport in Shamshabad which was an experience for sure.

All-in-all it was an amazing trip to a place I've always wanted to visit.  In fact I've already started making plans for a two week return journey in October/November to hike to Mt. Everest base camp with Kedar.

Later...enjoy the pics!
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