Monday, 26 March 2012

Traffic in Kathmandu!

24th March Pokhara

We left Kathmandu this morning to go to Pokhara. The six hour bus journey was spectacular. As soon as we left the chaos of Kathmadu we were pretty much in the countryside until reaching Pokhara. It is countryside unlike some though, based high and low in the mountaineous valleys. Women out picking tea leaves and men with their little boys plowing fields using buffallo, so basic and so beautiful.

Pokhara :) although, this is not the view we have at the moment due to the haze. The mountains just look like shaddows and our camera  can't even focus on it. When it rains the haze disappears so we are hoping for a nice downpour soon!
Pokhera is a lovely place. We checked into our guest house, which is so so lovely. It's only open 3months so you can imagine how CLEAN it is :) Happiness right there!!!! It's also super cheap. We are based right beside the lake with a lovely view of the mountains.

We rented a boat and headed out on the lake for hours the day after we got here. It was so so lovely sailing along listening to Bowie :)

We were approached by lots of trekking agencies in Kathmandu trying to sell us packages we could not afford..and we pretty much accepoted the fact that we would not be able to do it. However, we have met quite a few travellers over the past few days who said they have done it alone and it was completely fine.

So, today we went and registered for our trekking permits and rented out two heavy jackets, a pair of pants for me (seeing as I only have flippin dresses), four walking sticks and bought a few pairs of wooly socks. The total cost came to €95, the price we were given in Kathmandu was €600...and that didn't include any of the clothing, just permits and a guide!! I'm so happy we ignored them!

We leave tomorrow for a five/six day trek in Annapurna.........VERY EXCITED :) 

Shangri La guest house, Kathmandu

After booking for just one night, we have spent almost a week here in the guest house and will find it very hard to leave. Sabin and Amit have been the most welcoming people we've met during our travels so far. They have created a beautiful guest house which is really a home away from home. Whether its relaxing on their roof terrace eating a lovely breakfast or drinking in the chill out room at night, Shangri La was a very special place for us.

As always, we arrived completely confused as to what to do, where to go, but Amit and Sabin helped us plan our entire trip in Nepal, they are so helpful. We intend to return here at the end of our tour of Nepal :)

Níl aon tintéan mar do thintean féin
Our contribution to the wall :) inspired by the lovely Ann Dunphy

Buddhist festival at Darbar Square

I woke at 6am and knew straight away something was wrong. There was a fire in my belly and I didn't know what to do. Then it began...the eggy burps! I have heard lots of stories of this from travellers who have been in India and Nepal, and it was indeed as unpleasant as they said it would be!

I rolled over and tried to fall back asleep but to no avail. Soon after my belly started acting up and I was in and out of the loo. It passed after about five hours which wasn't so bad. First case of Dehli Belly!!!!

Today we went to see a Hindu festival with Sabeen and Meoko. There are many festivals throughout the different religious groups, Sabeen was apart of this one.

We made our way to the main square, dodging cars and bikes as we cautiously walked. We stopped on the way to get a Nepalese Lassi in a cafe that is renowned for them. It was really good. Like a vanilla milkshake almost but with fruit and nuts.

Anyway, we got to the square and it was already crowded with men playing music, women dressed in beautiful saris and children running wild! Sabeen pushed us to the front so we could see what was happening.
this school overlooked the square where the sacrafice was happening, not so sure the kids should have been hanging out the window watching it?!

First we could hear drumming and other musicians initiating a beat creating the atmosphere for the ceremony. It reached a cacophony and the shamans came running out dressed in white robes wearing masks, guided by other members of the community. After some time a Buffalo is led out into the square...this was thankfully out of our view. The animal is sacrificed (by decapitation) and as it lies bleeding on the ground each of the five shamans drink its blood through a pipe until they are possessed by the Gods.

This process is repeated a few times, the entire ceremony was quite bizarre but very special to witness. When it ended and the crowds dispersed we saw the true carnage of the beast. The entire ground was covered blood, the brightest red I have ever seen. I thought that was bad, until the crowds parted further and we could see the headless Buffalo with blood gushing from its severed neck.


After all that I think my dodgy belly might be coming back!!!!!!!!!!!


Sunday, 25 March 2012

22 March Kathmandu

Frankie says.......RELAX!!

So we did just that. Here's some of Luke's pictures from out street wandering...

Billy Murphy's butchers

Kerviks fruit & veg
Rapid cabs 85-85-85

the 'sacred' cows!

I read a stastic in the newspaper resently that said women do 90% of the worlds work but account for just 10% of the worlds earnings....get up off your asses lads..........

21st March - Buddhantha Stupa and Pashupatinath temple

Today we set off to see some more temples. First we went to see the Buddhanath stupa, the largest Buddhist stupa in the world. Quite similar to yesterday but bigger!

There is always a crazy amount of pigeons that gather at the Stupas

After spending about two hours at the Stupa, we walked half an hour to another site, the Hindu temple Pashupatinath.

This is one of the most significant places in the world for Hindu worship. We walked for a while and came to the Bagmati river which cuts through the space. We could smell bonfire and wondered what was going on so we walked up the bank towards the river.
open cremetorium

Concrete blocks lined the river and on two blocks about ten spaces apart was a mound of reids and wood. A Nepalise guy came over and explained that this was the place of cremation for Hindu's and on closer inspection, we could see the body in the middle of all the reeds. It was strange. Really really strange. The wind changed direction and the smoke was pluming right into our faces....we were breathing in this burning dead person?? I know it's not as basic as that but it really was a strange event to behold. We stood mesmorised at the open cremetorium, not knowing what to say.

We continued walking high up on the hill, dismissing the many many people trying to sell things to us. Luke left my side for about thirty seconds and when he turned around a Hindu guy dressed in orange robes with long grey hair and blessed me, crushed some flowers in my hair, marked my forhead in red ink and tied a bracellet around my arm. He then asked luke for 200rupees...Luke gave him 50 and told him to bugger off!!

there were monkeys everywhere!
sun setting over Pashupatinath

We came back to our lovely guest house and had drinks again with Sabin, Meoko and Amit. Meoko is from Tokyo and we asked her about the disaster last year. It was surreal listening to her explaination of the events. She said for three months solid aftre the earth quake they would feel up to ten tremors a day, reminding everyone of what had happened and stirring fear once again.

She also said after Fukishima she, and many other people felt very odd. She explained that they would feel stabbing pains around their diaphragm area, which is one of the key symptoms of being exposed to radiation.She also said people slept and slept, having no energy. She said it was a very strange time.

We both spoke about it later when we got back to our room and thought about how lucky we are to have never encountered such a problem. We often say that we have no stories to tell and we spend our time listening intently to other people...we then realised we are actually really lucky to have nothing to tell because it means we live in quite a normal and peaceful place.

Especially listening to Amit and Sabeen talking about Nepal, its corruption and the difficulty the citizens have in obtaining a visa to travel anywhere else in the world. We are so so lucky to be Irish and to have all the opportunities handed to us, opportunities that so many people dream of.


Thursday, 22 March 2012

20th March -Swayambhunath 'Monkey temple' Kathmandu

This was our first real day exploring the city. We were advised to go and see the monkey temple. Sabeen told us to walk east in a straight line and we would find the temple no problem. The thing is..there are no straight lines in Kathmandu!

one minute we're walking a road you wouldn't see on a building site..

and then we are alongside some beautiful allotments..the contrast is unbelievable

Each road meanders into another splitting again, side streets leading in different directions is an absolute maze!

Luke, using his Bear Grylls

The climb to the temple was pretty big, we took our time and eventually came face to face with the gigantic shrine.

 We were greated by bright colour prayer flags dancing in the sky, 'Om Mani Padme Hum' mantra echoing all around, a spectacular view of the urban chaos of the city surrounded by breathtaking mountains, the pictures will tell the rest...

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

March 18th - Kathamandu

We just arrived in Nepal. The journey went so smooth too..for once!! The 16hr stop over flew by and we got to Kathmandu airport, got our visas, collected our baggage, all so easily. Too easily! We got outside and are met with as barrage of taxi guys. Our guest house came with free airport transfer, wasn't sure if they would actually meet us though.

After about thirty seconds outside some random Nepalese guy turns to me and asks if I'm Lisa? After my response there is a Chinese whispers...or more like shouts, "hey, I found Lisa," "Lisa's over here," and so on until it reaches the guy who's picking us up holding a handwritten sign with my name! I felt like a bloody movie star!

He brought us to his miniature van and off we set for the guest house. The roads, buildings, streets and people are like nothing I saw in Thailand, it is completely completely authentic. No high rises, brightly coloured block buildings stacked on top of one another. Rubbish piled high in the river. Amazing Indian dress and colourful jewelry. No 7/11's!

We got to our lovely little guest house, looks like something I'd imagine to find in Russia?! We are welcomed with Nepalese tea and told about the area and what we should do.
Oh I never mentioned.....ITS ALMOST COLD HERE!! Well 21 degrees but it is the most refreshing air we have felt since the 31st of January!

We went outside to explore. I have never never never experienced such a sensory overload. The photos will have to explain...

these are pictures of the main river than runs through the city..

 We got back and met the guys who own the guest house, Amit and Sabeen. They are amazingly welcoming and extremely cool, down to earth guys. We stayed up late drinking in their chill out room. are our new love..............

March 17th Bangkok/Bangladesh

This has to be the most random Paddy's day yet!!!

beginning of day in Bangkok
Today we flew from Bangkok to Bangladesh. We flew with Bangladesh airlines and were pretty sure we were going to die! The flight was actually perfect, far superior to ryanair and we arrived safe and sound!

We had a 16hr stop over in Dhaka before our flight to Kathmandu. The airport was tiny. Seeing as it was Paddy's Day we got ourselves all psyched up for some pass the time. Went to the duty free, big bottle of Captain Morgan in hand. We are asked for our boarding cards, and then refused purchase because we are in transit!!!!!! NOOOOOOOOOO!!!!

What do we do now?!

The seats were so uncomfortable and the place was generally not so nice. We spotted this Indian restaurant so said we'd chance out luck and see if we could sit in there. We bought one plate of chips and a coffee and stayed there for six hours!!! Our laptop and phone was dead and we even found somewhere in the restaurant to charge them!!

At 4am we were finally asked to leave..but they said we could come back at 8am for free breakfast!!!!

The night flew and before we knew it we were in Kathmandu. 

March 16th bangkok

We found a new hostel, this time we made sure to inspect the room before checking in!

Todays mission was to sort out our flights to Kathmandu. The only benefit of being on Ko San road is the amount of travel agents located there so we spent a couple of hours visiting each one trying to get the best deal.

We had two options. Leave tomorrow and take a 16hour stop over in Bangladesh or wait until Monday and fly direct to Kathmandu. We didn't want to spend any more time than necessary in Ko San so we opted for the stop over flight...we leave tomorrow :)

We were unsure of any safe/relaxing haven in the city so we headed for the MBK shopping complex. We went to the cinema there, it was so so nice. Sitting in that box we could have easily been at home, it was a nice feeling. The cinema was very superistic in style and I have to say the seats were one of the most comfortable I've ever sat on!!

We watched Big Miracle, it's a film about wales trapped beneath the ice in the artic. It was a little cheesy but still enjoyable. It was also in English with Thai subtitles so it suited us perfectly!

Afterwards, we went guitar shopping. Luke has been lost without his instruments since leaving. He got a beautiful acoustic in the only music shop in the centre, for 2000baht (€50) and it sounds like a dream!

March 15th return to bangkok

So we arrived in Bangkok just two hours later than expected, which is fantastic considering our luck with trains here! We made our way to Ko San road to find a hostel. Neither of us were prepared for the awful sensory overload of this road. We got there at 9pm, in the middle of the chaos of the night market/party pubs. We were pretty tired at this stage and battled our way through the crowds to find some place to sleep.
We took the first reasonably priced place we came across.

We checked in and found our room. I went into the bathroom and as I came out I met Luke standing in front of we holding a towel like a weapon with a wild look in his eyes. What are you at? He pointed at the wall behind me and there sat a cockroach almost the size of my hand.

It was completely repulsive. We spent about 15minutes trying to lure it away from our room. Eventually it worked and he ran down the hallway.

We went to the night market and had some food, so so tired so came back to hit the hay. As I lat down on the bed I could see all these tiny black bugs crawling around. I've never seen anything like them. I pointed them out to Luke and he squashed a few, which left blood stains on the mattress. Lovely, these were blood suckers.

The reception was closed at this stage so there was no one to confront about them. We wrapped ourselves tight in our sleeping bags, hoping it would keep them out. I felt like I didn't sleep a wink that night, I lay looking at the window wishing for daylight. As soon as it was bright we fled the hostel.

I dread to think what those bugs were. Considering the amount of places we've stayed so far it's pretty good going that that was the first manky one.

15th March - last day in Hua Hin

We have had such a lovely week here in Hua Hin. We did very little and finally took a little rest from the yoyo-ing we've been doing around the country for the past few weeks. It is actually so nice to just - stop -!!! Whenever we arrive at a new destination we're like lunatics trying to get around and see as much as possible. However, we are starting to learn that the time we take to ourselves is just as important as the time we spend exploring.

We spent each day chilling out in the Hilton (so undeserving of their luxury!) or just relaxing at our humble guest house. It's great to have company from home too, we can sit around, talk about familiar things and have the craic. We went out for the nicest food each night, costing next to nothing and had drinks on their 8th floor balcony overlooking the sea from one side and the city from the other. We were spoiled rotten!!
We ventured into the Karaoke style bars a couple of nights and sat around laughing and commenting on almost everyone, especially the creepy western men and their Thai ladies. No harm was done and they certainly kept us entertained! We especially enjoyed the music of Lady Bla Bla, she had a massive habit of forgetting the words and replacing them with bla....we laughed and laughed and laughed, she was a true super star!

Carol works for an airline and has done a lot of travelling throughout her life. She backpacked around India alone in the 70's, in a time where so little was known of the country, there were no atm's so she carried literally every penny she had on her. There were no telephones so she would have to write letters home to say she was okay, they wouldn't arrive for about three months! I could not imagine travelling like that now, it's very admirable that she did that and we really enjoyed listening to all her stories from the places she's been.

I have to say we will miss their company now that they've left. We will also miss the slide into the Hilton pool!!!!

We're leaving for Bangkok now, I'm writing this at Hua Hin station. It's a five hour journey and we paid 88baht for the two of us to travel, that's about €2.50! The train's been delayed though so who knows when we'll eventually get on it, although as long as its not a 25hr bus journey to flippin Kuala Lumpar I do not care!!!!!!

13th March - Phraya Nakhon Cave Hua Hin

Maria's travelling buddy and best friend Carol has been to Hua Hin before. When she visited, she went to see Phraya Nakhon cave. It's about an hour outside the city, housed in their national park. We set off today to see it. We hired a taxi driver who took us directly to the park. As we left the car he was laughing about how tough the walk is and told us he'd done it once before but would never do it again! Lovely!

We took a long tail boat to the other side of the beach and began our adventure there. The climb was quite steep at 460m, we slowly tackled the steps, trying not to look ahead at the incline! It took about forty minutes to reach the entrance to the cave, then we began the descent to reach the entrance.

I can't explain what awaited us! You climb through this narrow passage and emerge in the centre of a gigantic open top cave. Mia walked in first and by the time I caught up to her she was overcome by tears. Neither of us could speak. It is by far the most amazing thing we've seen since leaving for our travels. The light shines into the cave at an angle and hits this beautifully ornate Buddhist shrine which sits in the centre of the huge space. The cave stretched high into the sky, decorated with vegetation and tangled in vines.

We all walked in separate directions and the four of us wandered around the space in awe.

We spent about an hour there and just as we left, a huge tour of Japanese school kids entered the cave, obnoxious and loud, like most teenagers. We were grateful we had the cave to ourselves for that brief time and go to experience it as it should be.