Sunday 18 March 2012

Nepal Trip

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single click. Jame Zu.

Another journey into the unknown, fueled by my misfired neurons that very often leaves my readers; I used the plural for readers, because I’m sure that there are some poor souls out there who have nothing better to do in life than to spend time reading my travel log.

So this all started many months ago, I wanted to take a trip, I didn’t know where, nor did I care. I just didn’t want to spend my birthday in Bombay and wanted to just get away from all the hustle and bustle of the city. Suggestions flew from all angles; I took each suggestion, studied it carefully and then made an informed choice. Well whom am I kidding, I just checked how much each suggested trip would cost me, and how difficult it would be to get there and chose the one that I could plan, or a better operative word would be ‘book’ with the help of a couple of clicks.

Dharamsala, Shimla, Leh, Port Blair and a few other names.
Checked too expensive for an Indian visit. So I looked at International travel, with a visa on arrival, criteria.

I learned that as an Indian citizen I can visit 55 countries without a hassle most in south East Asia, a British citizen can go to 188 countries without a problem, getting back to the search I found Kenya which was in the list of 55 countries. I checked the airfare and it was 24K, not bad for an overseas trip. So I was all set to book my tickets when I realized that my passport was expiring in May. I needed a passport that was valid for a minimum of 6 months.

So Kenya was now on the back burner. I needed to find another place quickly. A couple of people suggested Nepal, so I thought what the heck let’s do it. I checked the airfare -19K, click, click type type…enter
Ticket booked.

Now, you should know if you already don’t that I am a last minute packer and I just hate planning, so if you’re nodding in agreement, you are the other person who has nothing better to do in life than to spend time reading this. So getting back to the blog, I packed an hour before and headed to the airport.

I wanted to convert some more INR into USD, but apparently the Bombay Airport has a few departments that do not follow the 24/7 schedule Forex exchange being one of them. I had no other choice but to convert it in Delhi. I was seated at 18D aisle, I was happy I had the entire row to myself; well that happiness was cut short. In popped a lady in her mid-30’s who had apparently decided to carry her entire make up kit on her face, she had false eyelashes and thick layer of every shade you can imagine. She looked like a walking pallet for a suffering makeup artist. 

On board we also had the talkathon
2 women different rows having the most animated conversations for 2hours non-stop, the sad part it was not even interesting, other than that, the flight was smooth, and I reached Delhi on time.

The Delhi airport is massive times 10. It’s swanky and every 50meters they have these cool looking vending machines. I was thirsty so I thought I’d get a bottle of water. I punched in the code, No response, I did it a couple of times however the same result. I got my money back and went to another one
I fed the machine my money and waited I saw the empty row get activated and then the machine thanked me for making a purchase, so I quenched my thirst with this bottle of Ghost water, it was so clear, that the water and the bottle was invisible.

I didn’t attempt to buy anymore invisible stuff; I walked and walked and walked some more until I came to the International transfer area. I headed to the Forex exchange counter and handed the guy my passport and ticket and gave him 20K INR and asked for USD, “Sorry sir, you can’t get USD if you’re going to Nepal” He politely changed all my 500 and 1000’s into 2 fat 100 rupee bundles.

Boarding pass in hand I walked another 8miles to the other end of the airport. I was tired and 2kgs lighter when I finally arrived. Immigration was a treat, the officer felt offended and disappointed that I didn’t speak Punjabi. I could care less.

I was directed to terminal 7B, which was a mile away, literally a mile away, I walked and walked and passed all the possible stores you can imagine. The duty Free section was huge. I saw a Mercedes and clicked a snap of it, and then I waited to board the flight.  I saw one very nervous passenger; probably it was his 1st flight. He buckled himself so tightly I was afraid he’d pass out, and when the plane hit some turbulence his eyes shot wide open and he gripped the seat handles.

I don’t know why but people generally think that if they strap themselves tightly it’s safer, now if the plane was going to crash, I’m sure that the all so robust seat belts wouldn't prevent certain death.

I've never understood why planes have floatation devices installed, how many lives in the airline history have been saved due to these so called life jackets.

You’re in the air 35000+ feet, now if you’re going to crash, you got to be lucky to be over water and you need to hope that the pilot is as skilled as Chelsey Sullenberger. I expect people to know who he is, so if you don’t Google it.

If you don’t have water in sight, well you got to hope your, so called life jacket, magically transforms into a parachute. Now seriously wouldn’t you be far safer if they installed parachutes. I don’t know why, no one has thought of that.

The flight to Nepal was absolutely awesome, very picturesque, it’s a pity I didn’t have a point in shoot camera, I had to make do with the BlackBerry. I got a few fuzzy snaps of the Himalayas. Tip: ask for the window seat on the right hand side when flying to Nepal, you will get to see the Himalayas.

The temperature at Nepal was a beautiful 10degrees C, the airport was small and pretty disorganized. Tip:- An Indian can stand in any queue, just filled the disembarkation card for foreigners, (white one), Nepalese (Yellow), pretty racist huh?

I waited in the queue to get through immigration and then after a long wait, I proceeded to customs, since I had only a carry-on bag, my baggage was not checked and I just breezed through the green channel.

Outside the airport I got myself a Nepal Sim card (130 INR + 1 Photo) and then got a taxi, I asked him to take me to a hotel that was in the range of 400
500 rupees and he took me to Brihaspati I asked the guy, how much the room cost and he told me to check it first.

The room I was shown was absolutely amazing, so I went down and told him I would take it. He did some calculations and told me it was 2400 INR, WOW, for 5 days, I was brought down to reality when he told me it was for one day. I flatly refused it was way out of my budget, He looked at the cab driver and then at me. I could sense his irritation with the cab driver, but he politely told me he had another room.

I was tired and would have taken anything at this point, to my surprise, the room was pretty good, barring the flat LED TV and a sofa, and it had everything that was important to me, a place to sleep and a clean toilet.

It was 1200 per day + taxes (something I found out later) I paid him in advance and headed up to my room, I had a shower and then I ordered for some chicken kolapuri, 2 parathas, and a Jeera rice. A meal fit for a king, at least in my books.

I spent the rest of the afternoon editing snaps and then I took a couple of short naps from 4pm to 10pm. I had a shower and then went down to the restaurant and ordered chicken biryani. I know so typical of me.

The next day I got up early at 7am, I was feeling too lazy to get out of bed, but I was in a new country and I wanted to make the most of my trip, so I showered and got dressed and headed to explore the city, I walked about 2 kms and I reached this beautiful café KTM Espresso it was near the Ducati showroom. The place was exquisite and posh. I had an awesome breakfast, bacon and cheese croissant and a hot chocolate.

Post breakfast, I walked and took a few turns and voila right in front of me, my hotel, however that’s not where I intended to reach. I headed to the hotel to charge my camera and then after an hour I went to the Garden of Dreams, it was about 20 minutes away. I went wild clicking snaps from every possible angle. It’s a park and most couples go there. I was the odd man out.

I spent about two hours over there and then I went to a travel agent to check for bus tickets to Pokhara, the local bus is around 500 NPR and the slightly better private bus is around 1100NPR, I chose the slightly better bus.

I was not sure if I wanted go to Pokhara the next day and told the lady that I would call in the evening, I went shopping in and around Kathmandu and stopped by for lunch at Sherpa Mall, I bought a Jacket and then after a light unintended very expensive snack at the Annapurna restaurant. I went back to the hotel at 5pm, on my way back I had decided that I was going to check out and go to Pokhara the next day. I called up the travel agent and got the last seat on the bus, literally the last seat.

I got up at 6am the next day and went to the bus stand. The bus was on time and we were on our way to Pokhara, I was seated next to a Swiss couple we never introduced ourselves, and its good we didn’t. We started to chat about Bombay and how busy it was. I compared it to New York and they nodded in agreement. They asked me about places to visit and I was bored so I thought I’d spice up and make Bombay seem more interesting. 

I started with facts and embellished the truth in the middle and ended with a flat out lie. So in the beginning I told them that some of the places that should see were ‘The Gate Way Of India’, ‘Leopold’s Café’, Kala Godha, Marine Drive, Bandra (oh how could I forget promoting Bandra) and the National Park in Borivali.

I also told them an interesting story about how Juhu Beach got its name, a story most people don’t know. Commander Juju Whu came to Bombay in the 17th century and was given a stretch of land by the British, along the coast line as a token of appreciation for the services he rendered in the form of hand to hand combat training for the British troops. In time Juju Whu was known as Juhu. 

I also spoke about the Mithi River and compared it to the Seine in Paris. They were spellbound and were looking to Visit Bombay on their next trip.

The bus stopped at a really nice Resort Riverside Spring
they provided us a buffet lunch which was really nice, now thats the difference between the regular bus and the slightly better one. We made a few stops and by 3pm we reached Pokhara.

Pokhara was as beautiful as I imagined it to be and trust me I have a good imagination. It’s surrounded by mountains, and the air absolutely clean and untainted. The temperature during the day is around 4 to 5 degrees and in the evening it drops to 1 degree. Tip: - If you arrive by bus, the lake is only 5 mins away and unless you have heavy luggage, do not take the taxi. I paid 100INR for a 3min ride.

The taxi guy took me to the 1st hotel on the block literally the 1st hotel
U and I, however it was only I and ME. The lady who runs the hotel told me it would be 500NPR a day Inc taxes, however Im sure you can get it for 400. I was tired so I didnt argue. The room was decent; it had 2 beds and a large Bathroom. I needed a place to sleep and a clean loo and that’s all that mattered to me. Spending 1100NPR on a plush place was not required.

I had a quick shower and then I got my camera and headed out. I clicked about a million snaps of the lake and the 7 hills, however no sign of the Himalayas, the place was packed with tourist shops and restaurants, I walked the length and breadth of the lake, or so I thought. I dined at a nice place Bella Napoli. The food was OK.

Later that evening I went back to the hotel and I thought I would get myself acclimatized to the Pokhara temperature. So I decided to have a cold shower, and the best way to do it was to just turn on the shower and stand under it and in time I would be used to cold or so I imagined. I stood under the shower and turned the tap on …a total shutdown, every molecule in my body was frozen solid instantly. I could have sworn that if I needed to use the restroom, I would poop ice-cubes, I stuck to hot showers from then on.

15th March
Well, yeah my birthday. Whoopee ME. I got up late very late around 12:30pm, I had a shower and I went to the lake. I hired a cycle for the whole day or 5hours (300NPR) I scouted the area and discovered more hotels and restaurants further down the road. I was going to go further, when thunder rumbled in the distant the sunny skies was now overcast with dark clouds, I rode as fast as I could back to the cycle shop and returned the bike, as soon as I did that the rain came pouring down, and to make it more exciting it started to rain hail stones, well that’s some solid blessings I received on my birthday.

It rained for about 2hours, and then as quickly as it started the skies were blue again. I rode back to the stores and got myself a wet proof bag. I stopped by at ‘Once Upon A Time’ restaurant for lunch a very nice place and great food. Post lunch I went back to a travel agent and checked for the fares to Kathmandu via air. I was pleasantly surprised when the guy told me it was only 2600NPR (1600INR), that meant that I could spend an extra day in Pokhara, and avoid the hassle of checking into a hotel for a couple of hours and then going to the airport the next day. The Pokhara airport was only 4kms away and I had a 7:30am flight.

At around 6pm I went back to the hotel and dozed off, I guess it was the earliest I’ve ever gone to sleep on a holiday. I got up intermittently to check my messages and then around 9pm I was dead to the world.

Friday 16th March, was a bright blue sunny day, I took a stroll down by the lake, and what do you know? On my right the snow-capped mountains of the Himalayas; it was hidden the previous day with thick cloud cover. I snapped away until I had my fill and then took the by-lanes of the village and found some really nice hotels. I walked for about 8kilometers and headed up to the trekkers trail, where all the paragliding happened and then I clicked some more snaps of the place and took the local bus back, the bus is the best means of transport and its cheap (10NPR).

I went to a nice place ‘Gurkhas’ for lunch and then after some shopping for souvenirs I went back to the hotel. I spent the evening editing snaps and then I packed my bags and paid the hotel bill. I set my alarm for 5:40am.

I didn’t have dinner, I just went to sleep, in all the excitement of coming back to Bombay I didn’t really sleep. I was up before my alarm rang and I had a quick wash, as the water was freezing. I started my long walk to the airport as no taxis were available, but it did not matter as the walk was very pleasant and in no time I was at the airport.

Pokhara airport is small, very small, and its roof top restaurant, has a breath taking view of the Himalayas and the airfield. So there again I clicked some more snaps of the Himalayas and when I had my fill I packed my camera and waited for departure.

My travel agent told me that I had to pay the airport tax of 200NPR and charged me at his office, TIP:- the airport tax has to be paid at the airport and not to the travel agent. When flying from Pokhara to Kathmandu, make sure your 1st inline at the departure gate and when they start to open the boarding doors, run to the plane and sit on the left hand side of the aircraft. You will get an amazing view of the Himalayas. Well I was a bit too late and had to make do with just enjoying the view from the other side.

The flight to Kathmandu was nice, and I was in an aircraft filled with shutter crazy Chinese (South Asians) I thought I clicked a lot of snaps, well the small Chinese woman beat me by a terabyte, She would click anything that moved and didn’t move. She clicked a snap of the sign that said NO CAMERAS ALLOWED, PHOTOGRAPHY PROHIBITED. She clicked snaps of every Nepali national, the flight attendant, the pilot, the plane and the tourist on-board.

When we reach Kathmandu she started clicking away, the door, the check in counter, the baggage conveyor belt, the customs, the bomb squad dog, the escalator, and the list goes on and on. I’m sure that in a couple of months in some remote part of China, you will see a replica of Nepal, Pokhara and the airport. Some ingenious idea of a theme park, I’m pretty sure you will also see wax works museum of all the passengers on flight 702 and possibly a replica of yours truly.

I checked in at Kathmandu and waited to head to Delhi. I thought everything would be boring and uneventful until I reached Bombay, however I never fail to find some way to create unusual situations for myself.

I discovered that all Nepalese traveling overseas have pinch of rice pasted on their foreheads. I presume that they are either smuggling rice to India, or maybe that's their way of ensuring they always have something to eat in case they get hungry on-board.

So everything was peaceful since I last updated my story, until I had to board the flight back to Delhi, in my enthusiasm to help an old lady fill her disembarkation form, I left my passport and ticket on my seat, and when I got back it was gone. A million thoughts ran through my mind, “Terminal”, “Jailed Abroad” and other no so amusing scenarios. Then after a few minutes, I heard my name on the PA system. They had found my passport. Yeah I was finally heading back to India.

The flight was absolutely smooth, great landing, I reached Delhi Terminal 3 and headed to security check and the I got some alcohol for my Manager from duty free and then I was approached by a guy from the Forex exchange he asked me to buy 2 more bottles of  Chivas Regal, I was hesitant, but I complied. Unfortunately for him they had already stamped my ticket.

The poor dejected fellow just walked away like a lost puppy. I breezed through customs and then headed to get my connecting flight to Bombay. I went to the transit terminal and I was in for a rude shock I had to go to terminal 1 which was on the other side of nowhere. I had to leave the airport catch a bus and head 6+kms to the old airport. I finally reached and then I was advised that I had to put the booze in the bag and check it in. So I packed my clothes around the bottles and sealed the bag. I got my boarding pass and got the bag checked in.

All my troubles that I experience just a while ago was washed away by Sudhir Kumar, a very kind GO-Air assistant, he plastered my bag with handle with care stickers and called the Go0-Air crew to make sure my bag was safe.

I wrote a long letter of appreciation and thanked him for going that extra mile. He was beaming with delight. I finally got my boarding pass and walked into the airport. Delhi Terminal 1 isn’t that bad; I went to the café section and ordered some food from KFC. Then I waited for my flight to Bombay.

Some things I learned on my trip to Nepal are that we take life in general for granted. Things that we experience day in and day out are forgotten and unappreciated. We focus more on the have not than the haves. Life isn’t complicated, we just spend too much time trying to change things and in the bargain often make a whole mess of things. People, nature, and relationships, both professional and personal are also undervalued.

I learned we need to cherish everything we have, because you never know one day it will be gone. So take some time out while reading this and go and tell someone you really care about how you feel about them. When you step outside, take time to appreciate your surroundings and the natural beauty we have all around us, lastly and most of all thank God for giving you 5 lovely senses that enable you to appreciate all these things. 

Our lives are enriched with beauty all around us, we need to value it. At the moment I’m at 38000Ft and I can see a million lights blanket the city of Mumbai, every light gleams brilliantly and signifies life, hope and dreams. As the pilot starts to prepare for the final descent, the thought of coming ‘Home’ injects a sense of comfort and peace. So I bid you farewell, until I decide to take my next trip into the unknown, and hopefully not alone. Nepal Snaps


  1. Really nice post, James...and super travel tips...You always learn the hard way, dont ya?;)

  2. Wow!! Extensive post, loved reading it! Quite an adventure! :-)

    1. Thanks Sam, it was a crazy trip like most of my trips :)

  3. HAHA...Too Good...I wish I was with you in this trip...the fooled swiss couple (mithi river) and the chinese clicking woman are hilarious to imagine :-)

  4. Tempting post :D
    And love the pics :)

  5. Wow, lots of smiles, lots of travel tips, a lovely read. How do you manage to remember so many details, do you note them down along the way? - Serious question from someone who literally doesn't remember half the details when I sit down to write them.

    1. Aparna, I'm glad you liked it... I usually write my posts as soon as I come back or on my way back so everything is fairly fresh. however at times I do jot down a funny incident, some of my Nepal memories were written down on a napkin. :)

  6. You've packed some exotic places into your bags, haven't you? And as they say - God's in the details.

    1. :) Thanks Jane. I love traveling and I make it a point to see 1 new place each year. Although I'd prefer company when I travel, traveling solo does have it's advantages.