Sunday, March 17, 2013

Nepal, 2013

" Travel likes Ghandi with simple clothes, open eyes and an uncluttered mind " 

" The man who goes alone can start today but he who travels with another must wait till the other is ready " 

" Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world

" My 15 days traveling solo to Nepal (Kathmandu, Pokhara, Sarangkot, Chitwan National Park & Bhaktapur ) from 2-16/3/2013 - unravel the mystery of Nepal, a country without a government since May 2012, a little mountain trekking (minus ABC or EEC treks) & visiting the major UNESCO cultural & natural world heritage sites & a bad attack of diarrhea in Chitwan National Park "

Total expenses incurred in Nepal (15 days) : Rm1,815 (US$605)

Air Asia ticket (KL>Kathmandu return): Rm1,160 (US$386)
KL>Kathmandu  11.50> 14.00
Kathmandu>KL  15.30>22.30 
Visa fee: Rm95 (US$31) 
Airport taxi (KL) : Rm64 (US$21)
Hostels (14 nights): 5,600 NRs + US$6 = (US$72)
Food : 3,535 NRs (US$42)
Entrance fees: 1,020 NRs (US$12)
Tourist buses: 1,700 NRs (US$20) 
Taxis: 1,150 NRs (US$14) 
Micro vans: 200 NRs (US$3) 
Exchange Rate = US$1=NRs85;US$1=Rm3.05;Rm$1=NRs28 
Travel itinerary: Kuala Lumpur > Kathmandu > Pokhara > Chitwan > Kathmandu > Bhaktapur > Kathmandu > Kuala Lumpur

The weather in March in Nepal was superb at around 10c - 24c and the ideal cool climate made my traveling from city to city less tiring and stressful. However, frequent power breakdowns, occasional bus strikes (one or two days) and food hygiene ( especially in villages) could affect your travel; so be prepared to bear with the inconvenience when in Nepal. 
Due to bad & congested road conditions and hilly terrains, a 200km journey from Kathmandu>Pokhara by tourist bus could take 7 hrs. From Chitwan>Kathmandu (160km), the traveling time was around 5 hrs.

Due to a bus strike in Pokhara, there were no tourist bus services  for two days and this resulted in me cancelling my visit to Lumbini.

Nepal has 10 UNESCO world heritage sites. For this trip, I visited 6 of the sites:

1) Kathmandu Durbar Square
2) Patan Durbar Square
3) Bhaktapur Durbar Square  
4) Pashupatinath Temple
5) Swayambhunath Stupa
6) Chitwan National Park
Others are:
7) Lumbini
8) Changu Narayan Temple 
9) Boudhanath Stupa
10) Sagamatha National Park

It is interesting to note that of the more than 4,000 climbers who had scaled Mt Everest, more than half were Nepalese but only two dozen of those were women ! In 1993, a Nepalese woman - Pasang Lhamu - first reached the 8,848m summit of Everest but she died on the descent - an unfortunate outcome ! 




Royal Chitwan National Park


" It is your attitude, not your aptitude, which determines your altitude in LIFE - go mountain trekking & when you reach the peak, you are feeling on top of the world "

" In LIFE, you have a choice. If no coffee, I drink Chinese tea. If no coffee & Chinese tea, I drink wine ! Drinking coffee or Chinese tea or wine does not poison your mind ! "

Kathmandu, Nepal (2013)

Hostel: Alobar1000 (6 nights x NRs300) = NRs1,800
Hotel Blue Horizon (3 nights x NRs500) = NRs1,500 
Food: NRs1,825 
Tourist bus: NRs500 (Kathmandu>Pokhara)
Entrance fee: NRs200 ( Swayambhunath Temple) + NRs250 (Palace Museum)
Exchange rate: US$1=NRs85 

I spent a total of 10 days in Kathmandu ( 2 nights on arrival and 7 nights upon departure ). Given the extra days I had in Kathmandu, I was able to visit and explore the city in greater depth.  

Originally I had booked for a night stay in Bhaktapur but I joined the Chinese group and accomplished this visit on a day trip. I was keen to visit Nagarkot, about 18km from Bhaktapur but due to a cloudy sky, I aborted it.

I stayed in Thamel in Kathmandu due to its proximity to major tourist sites ie Kathmandu Durbar Square, Narayanhity Palace Museum, Tourist bus station ( to Pokhara & Chitwan ). If you do not mind taking public transport ie micro vans or mini buses, you could easily visit places like Patan Durbar Square, Pashupatinath Temple, Swayambhunath Stupa etc. Taxi is another option but you may have to haggle each time you flag one on the roads.

During my flight from KL to Kathmandu, I met a Malaysian couple, Mr MS Yap & Grace. Both had signed up a ground package tour from a Malaysian travel agent to do a mountain trekking (Phoon Hill) in Annapurna plus visits to major tourist sites in Pokhara, Lumbini & Kathmandu. Before our departure & what a coincidence, we met again in Thamel and had the opportunity to chat & share our travel experiences in Nepal over two evening dinners at a Korean restaurant nearby our hotels. Both had taken a 45 minute Mt Everest scenic flight from Kathmandu domestic airport (US$175). I could like to take this opportunity to thank them for the warm friendship and also for giving me some medicine to cure diarrhea which I had been suffering for the last 3-4 days in Nepal !

For the adventurous travelers traveling solo, most could sign up a 12 day mountain trekking to Everest Base Camp (EBC) and this could cost around US$590 ( inclusive of permit fee, guide hire - US$12 per day, meals & accommodation-lodges or tea houses, domestic flight-US$280, insurance etc ). Without a mountain guide and for DIY ( do it yourself and everything on your own ) style, the cost is approx US$420 per pax.



              Pashupatinath Temple ( UNESCO)

Patan Durbar Square (UNESCO)

 Kathmandu Durbar Square (UNESCO)

Swayambhunath Stupa (UNESCO)

Narayanhity Palace Museum

Kathmandu Mall


Military Parade, National Stadium

" Aging soldiers know when to hang up their rifles ! Aging drivers know when to hang up their car keys for good ! As for aging travelers, they know when to hang up their back-packs & travel gears .....but in the meantime, faith & determination is what keeps me going ..... " 

Pokhara, Nepal (2013)

Hostel :  The Mountain House NRs600 x 3 nights = NRs1,800
Food : NRs960
Entrance Fees: NRs50 (Devi Fall) + NRs100 (Mahendra Cave) + NRs300 (International Mountain Museum)
Boating : NRs50 (Fewa Lake)
Micro bus: NRs200
Tourist Bus : NRs550 (Pokhara>Chitwan) 
Exchange Rate: US$1=NRs85

Pokhara is the 3rd largest city in Nepal. Many travelers come to Pokhara to start their mountain trekking to the Annapurna range. Pokhara is located 146km from Kathmandu (bus journey time is 7-8 hrs).

I stayed for 3 nights in Pokhara in a homestay hostel , within walking distance from the Fewa Lake, a very scenic place for travelers who love nature, boating & hiking around the lakeside. 

Using local mini bus services, I was able to visit interesting places like Devi's Fall, Mahendra Cave, International Mountain Museum and the town centre. 

From the North Lake side, I hiked all the way up to Sarangkot and I met a number of hikers & paragliders along the way

For the mountain trekking lovers, a local travel agency quoted a 5 day Ghorepani Poon Hill trekking package ( inclusive of taxi, mountain guide, permit fee, food & accommodation in tea houses etc ) amounted to US$350.  The itinerary covers :

Day 1      Pokhara > Tikhe Dhunga ( 3-4 hrs; 1,491m )
Day 2      Tikhe Dhunga > Ghorepani ( 6-7 hrs; 2,848m )
Day 3      Ghorepani > Phoon Hill > Tadapani ( 5-6 hrs; 2,540m )
Day 4      Tadapani > Landruk ( 5-6 hrs; 1,646m )
Day 5       Landruk > Pokhara  

Fewa lake, Pokhara


Devi's Fall

Mahendra Cave

International Mountain Museum

The Mountain House, Pokhara - homestay style hostel

" It's only words, and words are all I have, to take your heart away. It's only pictures, and pictures are all I have, to take my trips down the memory lane "

Sarangkot, Nepal (2013)

Sarangkot (1,592m) is a small village on top of a hill, about 5 km from Pokhara's Lakeside. On the 3rd day, I took the opportunity to trek up the hill to catch a glimpse of the Annapurna Range - though it was cloudy when I reached the top, but I managed to see the fish tail (the highest peak) of Annapurna from far. Most travelers could take a taxi to the hill top and watch the sunrise in order to have a clearer view of Annapurna. It took me about 5 hrs to trek up and down this hill - but it was well worth the efforts - seeing some actions on top ie paragliding and a panoramic view of Pokhara & excellent lake view !

" It's your road and yours alone. Others may walk it with you but no one can walk it for you - a little mountain trekking & hiking up the Sarangkot hill - I did it my way ! "