A Travellerspoint blog

April 2017

Temples in the jungle

Siem Reap, Angkor Wat

sunny 34 °C
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Siem Reap greeted us with hot, humid weather. We had thought that we had acclimatized well in Phnom Penh, but soon realized that Siem Reap’s heat was much less bearable.
The solution was easy: once Mr. Tommy (our tuk tuk driver) had dropped us at our hotel, we quickly changed and headed down to the pool. Lucky us, that we had booked a place with a pool again!

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That evening, we took it easy and did not venture out for dinner – even though the hotel even offered a free shuttle service into the center of town. We tried the hotel’s restaurant and were soon after ready for bed.
The next morning, we were a bit disappointed about breakfast. Having been spoiled by a large buffet selection in Phnom Penh, both size and quality of our breakfast did not reach that standard by any means. So we headed off hoping that we’d be finding some better food during the day.
Mr. Tommy was waiting for us already. We were excited to have him as a companion for the next couple of days. Being used to the tuk tuk drivers we encountered in Phnom Penh, it was a pure delight to talk with someone in English, who knows his way around and who even offers suggestions of his own. All of that at a daily rate of 15 USD - just perfect!
Our first stop was at the ticket counter getting three day passes for the Angkor Wat Archeological Park. At 62 USD per adult, prices for US American or Canadian National Parks seemed very tame in comparison. But, we wanted to see the place without having to rush through in a single day.
Mr. Tommy suggested us to start our tour with a quick look around Srah Srang, a royal bathing pool dating back to the 10th century. Its gigantic size of 700m by 350m surrounded by stone steps gave us already a first impression of the incredible size of buildings that have been undertaken in the area.

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From there, Banteay Kdei was just across the road. We were amazed once more by the sheer size of this monastic complex, despite the fact that our guidebook described as much smaller than other temples surrounding them. It was fun exploring the temple and finding our way through the various enclosures. While partially restored, parts of the temple looked rather deteriorated – which added a certain charm to the building.

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Seemingly it had been built using poor sandstone and not the best construction methods. We did not mind. It was a perfect introduction to Angkor’s many temples. And it featured much shade which was important in the mid-day heat. After a feast of fresh coconut juice, mango and pineapple, we were ready for further explorations.

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Our goal was to see the Ta Phrom temple. This is one of the most photogenic temples as it has been only partially cleared of jungle overgrowth. While partially restored, it had been intentional to leave most of the massive trees that had grown in the temple, creating a jungle-like atmosphere. We were impressed and even though I had never seen the ’Lara Croft‘ movie with Angela Jolie, it seems that Ta Phrom served as backdrop for several scenes.

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We were fascinated by the place and impressed to see how the jungle is claiming back what man cleared centuries earlier. Unfortunately, we were not the only ones impressed by it. While we wandered around rather aimlessly, we ended up in the middle of large tour groups twice. In both cases, we found a quiet corner and waited. Once the chatting and constant selfie and picture taking of the Korean and Chinese groups had ended as quickly as it came, we headed off again – largely undisturbed and having the place for ourselves and a couple of other tourists again.

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As much as we liked the place, the sun won today’s battle easily and we asked Mr. Tommy to take us back into town for lunch. We went to the Butterfly Garden, which is not only known for good food in a pleasant garden-like setting, but also for supporting local communities.

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After lunch, we headed back to the hotel and were thrilled to have a pool. Admittedly, I rather spend a bit of extra money to stay in a nice place offering a bit of comfort and luxury. The thought of returning from a hit day just to a tiny hotel room without any possibility to be outside is not really appealing to me. So we fully took advantage of the pool and stayed there for most of the afternoon and evening.
The next day, we took a break from visiting temples. While Max and I stayed at the hotel, Sam went motorbiking for half a day. He got to ride some single trails through remaining jungles. But between the stretches of jungle, most areas have been deforested. And the continued development with more and more roads being paved, caused tracks to be graded, which just a mere two weeks ago were still some nice offroad terrain.

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But Sam also enjoyed having the opportunity to watch some village life and a jungle temple that is not on the usual tourist route. Despite the fact that the half day ride was laid out for 4 hours, Sam and his guide La were back already after a bit more than three hours. And La could not resist commenting that he had not done that tour so fast for quite a while.

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In the afternoon, we headed out together again into town. After an excellent lunch at the very comfortable Blue Pumpkin, we checked out the old market. It was easy to get lost between the stalls, even though everything was organized in sections. The fruit and vegetable section was not very busy and we even detected a couple of sellers sleeping on the tables surrounded by their wares.

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Then there was the textile section which eventually turned into the souvenir section. In an attempt to keep our baggage light, we declined all offers to buy bronze buddha statues, wooden elephant carvings and even the pretty muesli bowls made from coconut shells featuring colorful insides.

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The meat and fish section tempted us even less to do some shopping. The dirty floor and the smells did not help to create an atmosphere where I’d trust the quality of the wares. That might be wrong – after all eating in restaurants probably implies that our food might originate from a market like that. Even though we did not buy anything, the market was a nice place to take pictures.

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There’s something that strikes me about today’s markets. No matter how small the stalls are, no matter how little basic hygiene there seems to be in many areas, no matter how slippery the floor might be. Nowadays at least one out of two salespersons seems to hold a smartphone in his / her hands, briefly distracted by customers and eager to return back to whatever they were checking out on social networks.

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To a certain degree that is disappointing, as it clearly signals that time has not stopped here and that things might not be stopped in time like we would sometimes like to imagine in our romanticized view of less developed countries. But practically speaking, this adds a freedom to look around the market stalls without the otherwise tiring firework of ‘Mister, mister, good price. How much you pay?’.
Filled with lots of impressions from the market, we headed across the road to a nice icecream shop. It’s interior design was well thought through and would have fitted as well in a downtown of any major European city. Well, except that in Germany we’d probably have paid three times as much than here for our icecream – even though the store was way above local standards in terms of pricing.

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But not only the market was a good source of photo opportunities: just driving along in traffic was providing so many fun sights that we were only able to capture a fraction of the inventive and packed vehicles we saw on the road. And we loved the small gas stations along the roads!

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By the time, we got back to the hotel, Aurel had arrived with his parents Thomas and Petra. They had stayed at the same hotel with us in Phnom Penh and as the boys got along so well, they booked the same hotel as us. Max and Aurel were delighted to meet again. And their parents were delighted to have such a good entertainment for their respective kid.
Even though Max would have been entertained as well in the hotel, we headed out for some entertainment of a different kind: We wanted to see Phare, the Cambodian Circus. Standing in line to get into the tent, we met Nadja, Remo, Ben and Lenny again – who had stayed with us in Phnom Penh a couple of days earlier. Similar to Western Australia, also in South East Asia many tourists seem to walk along the same trodden paths, so meetings like that did not really surprise us much. It was nice to see them.
But even better was the circus itself. It recruits its talents exclusively from a school for disadvantaged kids in a nearby town. And with the proceeds from the circus, the school is being supported such that 1200 kids are getting a free school education and another 500 are getting vocational training.
We did not really know what to expect of the circus, but were pleasantly surprised how the protagonists combined music, artistic performances and dance. All artists were fairly young and were teeming with energy. In a way, the closest I can compare them with is Cirque du Soleil – just on a bit smaller scale. And as we love the Cirque du Soleil, this was great.

Posted by dreiumdiewelt 19:19 Archived in Cambodia Tagged temple market tree jungle circus pool motorbike tuk_tuk Comments (1)

Impressive, but crowded temples

Siem Reap, Angkor Wat

semi-overcast 35 °C
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We had taken our lesson from the first day sightseeing not to start sightseeing too late in an attempt to avoid the midday heat. Consequently, we went for breakfast at 6:30am and headed out with Mr. Tommy already at 7am.
Today we planned to check out the Bayon, one of the most famous temples in the Angkor Wat Archeological Park. In fact, the Bayon is the central temple of the Angkor Thom royal buddhist city which dates back to the 12th century. It is supposed to have been home for 1.000.000 people.
Already the approach to Angkor Thom was very impressive. There was a 100m (!) wide moat, then an 8m high wall (of a total length of 12 km) with an enormous entrance gate. The bridge leading to the entrance gate was lined with Buddha statues on both sides.

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The Bayon temple marks the exact center of Angkor Thom and is famous for its gigantic sculptures. In total there are over 216 huge smiling faces looking down at the visitors of the temple. So no matter where in the temple you are, there is always a ‘big brother’ watching you.

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Well, and in addition we had at least another 250 people watching us – probably a third Chinese, another third Korean and the last third all others. Especially the last and highest level of the temple was more than crowded and we were happy to descend again towards the quieter levels further down.

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In addition to all the tourists, there were lots of monkeys around – probably a result of being fed by eager tour guides who want to enable their guests to get great shots of the monkeys. We rather kept our distance. Since I had a monkey jump on my shoulder in a Balinese temple over 20 years ago, I have become extremely cautious with these animals.

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From the Bayon it was only a short walk to the Baphuon, While the temple is impressively big, being in the shadow of its famous neighbor Bayon makes it look rather pale in comparison. Still, there's one story about it that we could hardly believe: according to archeological best practices at the time, all stones of the temple had been taken apart, cleaned and when needed repaired or replaced in order to assemble the restored temple again. What seems straight forward was only made significantly harder due to the fact that all works halted during the reign of the Red Khmer and by the time works were recommenced, none of the plans on how to reassemble the 300.000 pieces were to be found anymore. That's what I'd call puzzling!

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From there we headed towards the Terrace of the Leper King and the Terrace of Elephants. We explored a bit, but eventually were just too tired and hot to continue much longer.

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When we left the area via the Western gate, we found an area of solitude. No cars were allowed along that dirt road and there were just a few tuk tuks and scooters using it. The wide moat was not tended as well as at the fancy Southern Entrance that is mainly used by tourists and there were even some waterbuffalo around.

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Along the back roads, we got to see once more some interesting vehicles that we’ll never be able to see in Europe. Mr. Tommy took a couple of short cuts and suddenly we found ourselves in front of our hotel.

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We had done enough sightseeing for the day, and used the remainder of the day to relax: we relaxed in the pool, had lunch in town and decided to get a massage. At 4 USD for half an hour massage, it’s a luxury we’re enjoying without having to spend huge amounts of money. And even though the fish massage would have been an even cheaper treat, we preferred to decline – being afraid of the tickling fish.

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Back home, the pool was the destination of choice again and thanks to Max and Aurel entertaining themselves, we had some time to relax ourselves.
We had left the best for last: On our last day of sightseeing, it was time to explore the temple of Angkor Wat which Guinness lists as the world’s largest religious structure. It is made from several million sandstone blocks weighing up to 1.5 tons. In total, there were more stones used in Angkor Wat than in all Egyptian pyramids combined. And all of these stones had to be transported over a distance of over 40km from the quarries. And while this is already an impressive statement, we were even more in awe when we read that the temple was built by 300,000 people with the help of 6,000 working elephants.

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Originally it was built as a Hindu temple, but then gradually converted into a buddhist temple. But this seemed to have gone both ways depending on the respective ruler’s afflictions: at the Bayon temple there had been Buddha carvings that had been converted into Hindu symbols by later kings. Contrary to most other temples in the wider Angkor area, Angkor Wat has been preserved better. It was always more or less actively used and never overgrown by the jungle.
In an attempt to avoid the crowds, we had opted to enter the temple from the Eastern entrance. And indeed, there were hardly any people around and we could enjoy the quiet atmosphere and solitude approaching the temple.

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Admittedly, we did not walk along all of the 800m of bas reliefs depicting various scenes of Khmer history and culture. After a couple of meters, we got the idea and rather headed into the temple than around.

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Getting closer to the inner sanctum, we finally hit the crowds again who had entered the building from the western entrance. There was a 30min queue to climb the ‘Bakan’ - highest part of the temple. We kindly declined and tried to find a quieter corner again.

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Close to where a couple of monks were holding ceremonies for local worshipers, we had a huge area for ourselves. At least for 5 minutes that is which is when a couple of Asian tour groups chose exactly that spot for doing their selfies and fun pictures to prove that they have been there. When some of them tried to sit next to us to have us in their pictures, it was time to flee once more.

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We headed outside, tried to do a couple of classical reflection pictures (which proved to be very hard due to the wind) and headed out. A bit more people watching and we left.

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Once more we rewarded ourselves for a successful day of temple sightseeing with an excellent massage and a relaxed lunch at the Blue Pumpkin before heading back to the pool.
A short rain shower did not stop us from taking a dip in the pool – it was hot and we were anyhow planning to get wet. Soon enough, our friends Thomas, Petra and Aurel arrived. We were treated to a pleasant surprise - a round of cool ‘Angkor’ beer. Sure enough, a second round followed before too long and beer continued to be the beverage of choice over dinner.

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While food was the same as always, we had some unexpected entertainment when suddenly a frog jumped from the roof onto Petra’s head and from there into the grass. We had lots of things to laugh about and it was a fun filled evening. We decided that we had to make sure we met again once more in Bangkok.
We left the next morning in a heavily packed tuk tuk to the airport and soon enough found ourselves in another Air Asia plane. It was time to wave good bye to Cambodia and to prepare ourselves for Thailand.

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Posted by dreiumdiewelt 23:16 Archived in Cambodia Tagged temple monkey pool crowd tuk_tuk massage Comments (1)

Rooftop bars

Bangkok

sunny 35 °C
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Arriving at Bandkok’s old Don Muang airport, we were surprised how long it took us to get through immigration. After all, we did not need a visa, apart from not having to pay any money to be allowed to enter the country, the formalities seemed quite complex.
After our brief interlude in Cambodia, we were back to left hand traffic in Thailand. Despite the heavy traffic, we were able to move rather quickly – thanks to the many highways criss-crossing the city. And being high up above most buildings, we got to see that there’s much more construction in progress such that things should improve even further in the future.
Our hotel was nice and modern. But being situated along one of the tiny backroads of a rather old and shabby neighborhood of Chinatown, it seemed somewhat misplaced. Still, we were excited about it: We had an apartment with two rooms for ourselves with a view of some of Bangkok’s high rises. And there was a huge pool, a fitness studio and a rooftop bar at our disposal.

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We did not have many plans for the next nine days. After all, we had come to Bangkok first and foremost for Sam to get his visa for Mongolia (being German citizens, Max and I do not need one). Within minutes of having arrived in our hotel, Sam headed out to the Mongolian embassy. It took him almost an hour to get there in the dense afternoon traffic. If he would have known that he was able to successfully leave the embassy again after a mere seven minutes, he would have probably told the taxi driver to wait for him and to take him back immediately.
This way, he had to walk for ten minutes to even find an area where there were taxis around. And soon he realized that the first six taxi drivers he asked, did not want to take him, as they feared to be stuck in rush hour traffic. And not even the moto taxi drivers were interested in such a long drive. After all, he did find a taxi to take him, but realized before too long, that the driver was simply awful: he exclusively drove in first and second gear and did not seem to be too familiar with his vehicle. After over one and a half hours in the taxi, Sam eventually decided that instead of being stuck in traffic, he’d be quicker by walking the last four km.

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Other than Sam’s visa, we only planned to take it easy. After all, Sam and I had largely explored the key sites and some surrounding places like the old royal town of Ayutthaya already ten years ago. So there was no ‘must-do’ activity except the goal to enjoy ourselves.
The enjoyment started on our roof-top terrace. Sitting up there at dawn, having a nice dinner and seeing the lights fading while the lights of the skyscrapers were coming up was clearly a highlight. And considering how easy it was to take the elevator up one floor, we repeated the event multiple times.

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That’s also where we started our days: the breakfast buffet left no wishes open, even after nine days, breakfast did not get boring.
Our first plan was easily set: we agreed to meet Petra, Thomas and Aurel at their hotel. While the boys splashed around in the pool, we got to chat and make plans what to do. Eventually we headed out along one of Bangkok’s many klongs (canals) and even got to see a large goanna swimming in the murky water.

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A short stroll delivered us right into the middle of Bangkok’s tourist center, the Khao San Road. The place is crowded, funky and sometimes a bit strange. Not something I’d like to have around me at all times, but fun to enjoy for a limited time. We were easily able to avoid buying a roasted scorpion or other more ‘normal’ food. Sam declined all offers for getting a tailored suit and even though the ladies at the many massage saloons were keen to get blond Max into their places – at their dismay he was not interested at all.

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He rather ran along the street with his friend Aurel, all set to arrive at the Thai Boxing place where we wanted to observe the training. The kids were excited and had so much fun. They would have preferred to participate fully in the training themselves. The trainer noticed their interest and let them do a bit of hitting and kicking.

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We had excellent food from Northern Thailand at ‚Madame Musur’. After strolling along the busy street some more, seeing great food, lots of people and many fun sights, we eventually ended in a small bar. By the end of the day, we had sealed our plans on meeting again when we’ll be back in Germany.

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Going back home from the Khao San Road should be very easy in principle: there are lots of taxis, you take one and go home. Well, real life is different: taxi drivers are keen to earn more money on unsuspecting tourists. We had about five of them offering to take us to our hotel for a price of 200 baht (about 5-6€) before finally finding one who agreed to simply turn on his meter. At home the meter said 72 baht, we gave him 100 baht and everyone was happy.
Another thing that Bangkok is famous for is shopping. While we’re clearly not the typical tourists in that respect, we still headed to several of the main shopping malls. At the MBK Center we got all errands done easily: there was a bank, a camera repair place, countless stalls specialized on IT accessories and a toy store. And best of all: the gigantic food court offering all kinds of food from every corner of Asia.
At some stage, we got lost a bit between the many shops selling t-shirts that we turned in circles for a while until we finally found an elevator to get us out of the place. It was time to leave and as we did not want to get stuck in afternoon traffic, we walked home passing through the quiet grounds of one of the universities.

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What an unbearable heat! On the way home, we stopped the local juice bar for smoothies and then deserved a bath in the pool. We were more than happy about the fact that we had cancelled our original booking for Bangkok and went for a place with a pool instead.
One other day we headed out to an Italian restaurant that was highly praised in our guidebook and just a 10 min walk away. We soon realized that things change more quickly than guidebooks are able to keep up with. The place seemed to have closed down. But at least we found some pizza anyway just a couple of blocks further. And anyhow: there was enough to be seen along the streets to justify the trip. Pictures of the late king Bhumibol can be seen everywhere around the city along with black and white ribbons.

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From there it was only a short taxi drive to the pier where we took the express boat. Just like the locals we opted for the orange flag boat which costs 15b (around 0.5€) per person vs. the blue flag tourist boat which would have cost us 150 baht. The river is the same, the view as well and we did not mind mingling with the locals.

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More or less by accident we got off at Wat Arun. Being there, we figured that we might have a look around as well and visited the well-known temple.

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From there we took the ferry shuttle to the other side of the river where we originally had wanted to go. Wat Pho, another temple, is well known for its school of traditional Thai massage – sometimes even dubbed Thailand’s oldest university. The 1h herbal massage was very pleasant and the massage therapists were well qualified in what they were doing.

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From there it was only a two-minute walk to the Amorosa rooftop bar overlooking the river. It was great to see the sun set behind Wat Arun. The atmosphere was really nice. And it could have been even nicer if it wasn’t for the nervous couples at the prime spots who continued to take selfies over more than half an hour making sure that they did not miss a single angle of the sunset. Admittedly, we did take pictures ourselves as well – but after a couple of shots, we rather sat there and enjoyed life.

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Posted by dreiumdiewelt 07:30 Archived in Thailand Tagged traffic taxi sunset temple shopping boxing bar mall rooftop Comments (1)

Feeling at home

Bangkok

sunny 35 °C
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After a couple of days in Bangkok, we even cut down further on our activities. We would be busy again before too long and had no intention of stressing ourselves with too much sightseeing.
At the pool, we did overhear others who had visited the Royal Palace in the morning, did a river cruise in a longtail boat, spent lunchtime in Chinatown and were discussing in their quick pool break which night market they should visit before retreating to a rooftop bar. Well – that’s not us. There were days which we spent exclusively at the pool – maybe interrupted by a quick to our favorite juice bar to get our fix of smoothies for the day.
And whenever we did venture out, one major activity usually was enough. On Sunday, our target was Lumphini Park. The original plan of walking there, was quickly dismissed when we passed a metro station along the way. The elevator down into the pleasantly airconditioned clean world of Bangkok’s excellently organized public transport was just too tempting.
Two stations further, we emerged again into the heat and strolled around the park. We had fun on our outing in a swan boat, passed the local version of Muscle Beach (which presumably is much more crowded when it gets cooler in the evenings) and realized that the canals were full of goanas and turtles.

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But it did not take long for us to call it a day. We headed home by metro again and retreated to the pool.
Another day was reserved for Sam to get his Mongolian visa from the embassy. Given the experience from his first visit, he had the taxi wait for him for the two minutes it took him to pick up his passport. He swiftly got back to the hotel with a new and shiny visa.
It was time to celebrate having all documents in place to complete the plans for our remaining journey. We went for Hanaya, a Japanese Restaurant just 15 minutes away on foot. We sat at the typical Japanese low tables and enjoyed excellent food. We had eaten so much Khmer and Thai food lately that we were excited to have something very different for a change.
The food was excellent and probably typical. We were not able to tell, but that’s what we concluded - considering that all patrons seemed to be Japanese. Despite some ‘interesting’ menu options such as shark fin or whale bacon, the most adventurous in our order were the roasted gingko nuts. The Bento Sushi Box and the Tempura Set were excellent.
Our city tour the next day cost a fraction of what we spent at Hanaya. We walked to Siphraya Pier and took the express boat on the river. It was nice seeing the river live. Once we left the touristy areas, the river got much less crowded and the vistas of stilt houses decorated with flowers took over. Every other stop seemed to be at a temple of some sort.

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Eventually we headed back all the way to the last station where we connected to the Skytrain which directly delivered us to the shopping district at Siam Square. Our plan for lunch was neither adventurous, nor very exciting. But MBK’s food court provided us with good quick food options. Just what we needed.
Compared to MBK, Pantip Plaza seemed out of this world. The shopping center that sells everything around IT and computers was fascinating. The neon lights all over the place grabbed Max’ full attention while Sam kept admiring the gaming PC’s. There were computers and mobiles everywhere, but not a single place to get an overview of where to find what. Eventually we were directed into the right area. After all, we had come to get our laptop fixed. Since the time when it fell into the sand and Sam was only able to get rid of the sand by taking some of the keys out, the backspace key had an issue. And not being perfect in typing, I really need that key probably more often than all the others.
We kindly declined the first offer to replace the keyboard for 1500 baht. A couple of stalls further someone was able to help: using some pincers, he pried the key and its mechanics apart. After fixing its attachments, everything was just like new. All of that for free. I am so thankful to have this fixed!
So while Sam and Max headed off to check out the gaming PCs, I retreated to the McDonalds to enjoy typing with my fixed keyboard. Strolling around in a mall like that might be heaven for Sam and Max, but gets close to the worst nightmare for me.
Getting a taxi to take us back home was a bit of a nightmare as well. We simply refused their offers to take us for 200 baht – knowing that we had paid a third of that price coming here. Eventually, a tuk tuk driver offered to take us back for 100 baht and we accepted. And it was an excellent deal, as he skipped many traffic jams by driving the back roads. The only downside to the much quicker journey was to sit directly in traffic with its unpleasant exhaust fumes. Bangkok traffic is only pleasant wherever there is public traffic available.
Sam also tried the other quick transport option: using a moto taxi was very quick indeed. Still, despite the luxury of having his own helmet on the ride, Sam did not recommend using this way of transport for the family.
At Max’ request we did one more trip to Khao San Road. He wanted to see some more Thai Boxing. And this time the trainer had even brought along his son. It was fascinating to see how well he was doing – much better than any of the other people training at the center despite him being not older than 10 years. Max knew already where he wanted to have dinner and anyhow felt quite at home.

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Well, needless to say that we spent even more time at the pool. Sam enjoyed having the fitness studio at his disposal. And with the exception of a quick shopping tour to get a birthday present for Max and a tripod for Sam (he had been regretting not having brought his since the beginning of the trip), there was not much more we did.
But despite having had lots of time to relax, the nine days in Bangkok had passed too quickly after all. And on March 31, the alarm clock woke us up at 6:15am and it was time to head to the airport. We spent our last baht on breakfast and made sure that Max got a maximum of exercise before boarding the plane. This time we flew on Thai Airways. In other words: there was an entertainment system and the four-hour flight was over before we knew it. Unfortunately, there were so many clouds and haze that we did not get to see any mountains as we descended into Kathmandu. Let’s hope we’ll get a better view in the coming weeks.

Posted by dreiumdiewelt 16:26 Archived in Thailand Tagged taxi boat river pool visa mall tuk_tuk Comments (1)

Namaste

Bhaktapur

sunny 24 °C
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We have seen a lot of airports already in the last year. But out of the 23 airports, Kathmandu easily wins the price for being most chaotic. There were long queues to pay for the visa – 40 USD pp. While Sam stood in line, I tried to complete the online process for the visa application. Only once I was done for me and Max, I was told that I did not have to do this, as I had already completed the paperwork in the plane.
At immigration, there were long queues once more. Suddenly realizing that the very left counter was not only to be used by crew members and seniors, but also by children, we were hopeful to skip the queues. Unfortunately, that counter was able to only process Max’ free visa. Sam and I had to go through the regular counters where the lines were.
Even though it seemed that we had spent over an hour getting to the baggage claim area, our belt had not even been announced yet. It was unbelievable hot, crowded and noisy. Eventually, the baggage from our flight arrived. The car seat arrived last – probably 15 minutes after everything else had arrived.

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Everything was labelled ‘KTM’. While most people simply interpret that as Kathmandu, Sam and Max felt like they had arrived in KTM heaven. They were reminded of KTM motorbikes, their favorite brand.
We were relieved to be able to finally leave the building and despite the many people waving signs, we quickly identified the logo ‚Weltweitwandern‘ and headed there.
When planning for the Nepal bit of our travels we knew that we wanted to do some trekking. And we did not want to go on our own, but have the support of a guide and porters. When researching the options, I quickly decided to get a full package with Weltweitwandern. Sam and I had been hiking with them through the Moroccan desert almost ten years ago. We like their concept, combining hiking with cultural experiences while leaving a positive footprint in the respective communities.
Our guide Prakash greeted us with necklaces of marigold and then we headed to Bhaktapur, the smallest of the three former royal cities of the Kathmandu Valley. By the time, we reached our hotel, we were starving. After spending just enough time in our room to drop our bags, we headed up to the rooftop terrace to get some food. Once we were well fed, we had the leisure to fully take in the beautiful view. We were just a two-minute walk from the main Durbar Square and could not only see parts of the royal palace from above, but also many of the temples raising above the other buildings.

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Back in our room, we started realizing that there was a very strange stench. A bit of exploration revealed a couple of mothballs in the closet. From that moment on, the closet was not opened again and we figured that we could easily live out of our suitcases for the time we’d be staying there.
We used the afternoon to relax and play. Even though it was tempting, exploring could wait for the next couple of days.
That evening we were treated to a big typical Nepali welcome dinner. After several starters (pakoda, Tibetan mo-mos, spicy potatoes and bamboo soup), we were served dal bhat – a lentil soup with steamed rice. It is the Nepali standard meal that is eaten by locals twice a day. We liked it a lot and are sure to have more of it in the coming days.

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We started our next day on the roof top terrace with breakfast, constantly observed by about 10 dun crows which hoped to get whatever was left over.

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Then it was time to explore the town with Asook giving us lots of background information about the main sights. All of Bhaktapur's old town is considered a World Heritage Site and there are significant efforts going on to preserve and restore the historic buildings. We started at the Durbar Square, just next door to our hotel. Our first stop was the royal palace with its famous courtyards. We liked the architecture and the features very much.

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But it was even more fun to observe the locals. With their colorful dresses and mesmerizing faces, we could not help being amazed at the whole new world we had suddenly entered.

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We also learned that Bhaktapur is famous for its arts and crafts, mainly in regards to pottery. While we marveled at the incredible amounts of piggy banks in the form of vases drying in the square, Max had a go with doing a bit of pottery of his own.

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It was obvious that the earthquake two years ago had destroyed many buildings and temples. Reconstruction works were going on all over the place with various stages of completeness. There had been a devastating earthquake already in 1934 which caused many buildings to collapse.

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Knowing that Nepal is a very poor country – among the bottom 10%, damages like that take time to be repaired. Specifically, for the not so fortunate inhabitants of town, it will take long to fully recover. Building materials are transported in large baskets supported by a sling around the forehead. Surprisingly, most this back breaking work is performed by colorfully dressed women. And in general, most construction work is done absolutely manually without the use of any machinery.

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The owner of the pottery workshop, Sirjan, told us that he and his family had their house destroyed by the earthquake and moved in with their grandmother. And until their house will eventually be rebuilt (timing unknown), he and his brother will continue using their workshop as their bedroom. Still, he is putting aside all money earned with pottery classes to build a bigger studio.
Our next stop was the Nyatapola temple, a five-story pagoda that has such deep foundations such that neither the 1934 nor the 2015 earthquake damaged it.

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Heading on through the windy streets, we passed a wedding party on the way to the bride’s home – day one of several days of celebrations.

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By the time we reached Dattatreya Temple, we had already gotten so much background information on the various temples and buildings from Asook that we started getting everything mixed up. So we did not mind that our city tour concluded with seeing the famous peacock window – the most famous of all the exquisite carvings in Bhaktapur.

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On the balcony of the nearby Peacock Café, we enjoyed a great lunch. But even better than the food was the view of the square underneath. What a setting: The old men sitting in the shade of a temple, the goats fighting for food, groups of people walking by animatedly, scooters carrying families of four… We could have sat there for ages to observe, take pictures and just enjoy being where we are.

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Max had different perspectives: he wanted to go do pottery again. So that’s where we went. On our way, we passed a festival where the locals came to a tiny temple hidden in a side street. They offered all kinds of food to the gods while others were just looking on.

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This is what is so fascinating about Asia: the culture is just so different to our own that there's so much to be discovered. And with people looking distinctly different towards what we're used to, it is just so much more interesting. Sam was very happy to have his telephoto lens to take close up shots of people without them being offended by being photographed.

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Once we reached the pottery shop, Srijan was very patient once more. He was finding just the right balance between letting Max try out on his own while teaching him how make some basic forms. Eventually the fun was stopped by a typical event: the power was suddenly gone.
Back at the hotel we also faced some power outages. At least they did not come as a complete surprise this time: there were severe thunderstorms going on and we seemed to be just surrounded by lightning and thunder. Sam used the opportunity trying to take some pictures of lightning using his new tripod until it was time to have dinner.

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That evening Sam realized that he had taken over 250 photos in a single day - without even counting the many pictures of trying to catch lightning. Nepal is definitively a very special and fun place, so we'll be looking forward to the coming days!

Posted by dreiumdiewelt 20:23 Archived in Nepal Tagged temple power carving earthquake thunder pottery hindu Comments (3)

Nepali culture

Kathmandu, Bhaktapur, Changu Narayan

sunny 24 °C
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After our tour of Bhaktapur the day before, today we had to get some shopping done. After all, we’d need sleeping bags for the rest of our trip. We took a taxi into Thamel, the tourist district of Kathmandu.
We had not thought that after our experience with Cambodian traffic that we’d be easily shocked. But Nepali traffic was even wilder and more chaotic than anything we had seen so far. Seemingly, most drivers fully trusted the attention of the other people on the road. Most people seem to just turn from a side street into a busy road without even a brief look. Or they fully trust their Hindu beliefs that the soul is immortal and will be reborn after death. That makes for an interesting traffic (and general safety) experience. Not even the times when we were simply stuck and not moving ourselves were a relief: just watching how motorbikes tried to squeeze through traffic were making my stomach twitch.

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After more than an hour we had successfully arrived in Thamel. Our first stop was at a ‘North Face’ store which turned out to be full of fake products. Well, either that or we were shown magic -10 °C sleeping bags with low weight, minimum pack dimensions and a reasonable price.
We preferred to head to Shona’s Alpine, a store that I had found recommended on the internet. They are producing their products in Nepal using imported Australian down at a great price. We were positively surprised about their sleeping bags and soon left the store as the proud owners of three of them.
After a great lunch at Gaia, we quickly headed back towards Bhaktapur and were happy to be back at the hotel. In the lobby, we found an article in a newspaper. A boy that is considered untouchable had been asked by his friend who belongs to a higher caste to fetch something from the kitchen. He did as he was told, only to be beaten up with a stick by his friend’s older brother – after all an untouchable is not allowed to touch anything. The good news is that since 2011 there is a law that forbids discrimination of lower castes. The newspaper reported that enforcement of this relatively new law still needs to be improved.

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Nepal is a very different world for us indeed!
On the next day, we explored Bhaktapur. On the main Durbar square, we had a closer look at the temples there. They were decorated with lots of wood carvings. The gods and goddesses had up to ten arms. The temples are not only home for the 330 million hindu gods and godesses (which are all incarnations of the three main gods), but also of many birds.

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While this was fun to see, we also laughed about the many representations of various sexual positions. A 16th century king wanted to promote married life vs. monastic life and thought it was a good idea to give his people some good ideas about the benefits of having a partner. Coming from a Catholic background ourselves, it seems just out of this world to go to a temple and to contemplate about pictures like that. How about a religion that helps couples being some variety into their love life?

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At one of the temples, we observed a group of girls taking hundreds of selfies of each other. Sam couldn’t resist to take a couple of pictures as well – which led to much laughter on both sides.

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We also loved the shopping options of Bhaktapur. There was a wild mix of regular stores with well-organized displays of the wares on offer. But even more fun were the many sellers along the sides of the road.

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Max was adamant to spend some more time at the pottery workshop. While he worked with lots of enthusiasm, Sam and I had time to just observe life in the square. Some of the houses around us had artistic facades of latticed windows – which looked even better when someone was looking through the window.

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We had lots of fun with a couple of kids. Despite being much smaller than Max, we learned that they are five and six years old and what their names were.

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What a great day this had been once more! We continued to be overwhelmed by the amount of sights and smells we experienced in the last couple of days.
But there was more to come. The next day we headed to Changu Narayan, one of the temple complexes part of the Kathmandu Valley UNESCO World Heritage listing. Along the way, we passed some of the many brick-works in the region who seem to make the business of their lifetime in the aftermath of the earthquake.
As we headed up towards the hilltop, we got to see the Kathmandu Valley from above. With the climate getting hotter in April, it was extremely hazy. Even though we had read in our guidebook that only between October and March there’s a good view, we doubted even that. Having seen the sheer amount of brick works and private households using wood fires, we assumed that much of the haze was also man made and present all around the year.

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Even though Changu Narayan is the oldest Hindu temple complex of Nepal, we must admit that we were not very impressed. Unfortunately, much of the temple had been damaged in the earthquake and there was a distinct feeling of being in the middle of a big construction site. And admittedly, we did not make a big effort to locate famous inscriptions from the fifth century AD.

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On our way down to the minibus, we had to pass through the many market stalls offering souvenirs and eventually got tired of repeating our mantra of ‘No, thank you. We’re not interested in T-shirts / singing bowls / paintings / food / carvings / pottery / etc’. The insights in village life were much more interesting than anything we could have bought for money.

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Later that day, we did invest in a souvenir. While Max got to try doing some painting on his own, we did buy a mandala. While we do not care too much about its philosophical meaning in religious interpretation, we liked the geometric forms and thought that it will be a nice memory that we can put up back at home.

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We had lunch with a nice view of the place in front of Nyatapola temple. Being up at a balcony, we benefited once more of being able to observe what was going on the square and taking pictures of the many interesting scenes we observed.

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Lunch was great. We really like Nepali food and especially the big choice of vegetarian options on the menus - once again a consequence of the respect of Hindus towards all higher life forms.
In preparation of the upcoming Nepali New Year festivities, a big chariot had been constructed and was being decorated. The local kids (and Max) used it as a climbing frame and substitute for a playground.

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We also headed up the big steps of the Nyatapola temple. We had a great view from up there. But Max loathed the fact that he was a popular photo motive for the locals and wanted to leave quickly again.

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Still trying to get our head around everything we had seen in the last days, we opted for a distinct contrast that afternoon: we went to an extremely comfortable café, had tea and cakes. While we were in a clear tourist establishment with not a single local stopping by, we did not mind having a well-known culture around us for an hour. While life floated by outside the big windows, we knew that by the end of the hour, we’d be in the middle of Nepali life again – excited about what to see next in this fascinating country!

Posted by dreiumdiewelt 21:40 Archived in Nepal Tagged traffic temple painting god sex dust hindu Comments (1)

Adventurous roads in the mountains

Namobuddha, Dhulikhel, Bhaktapur, Pokhara

sunny 25 °C
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Our drive to the Buddhist monastery of Namobuddha turned out to be much more adventurous than what we had imagined. We had not realized that the traffic and condition of Nepali roads can easily turn an outing to a place 25km away into four hours of driving.
While we had obviously known about the mountainous nature of Nepali topology, it turned out that the highway we used is the only major connection of Kathmandu towards the Eastern part of the country and towards Tibet.
A fascinating thought: continuing on the highway for not even 100 km and finding ourselves in Tibet… Unfortunately, this is wishful thinking only. For one thing, we don’t have visa for China or the Autonomous region of Tibet. And even if we had visa, we’d not be able to go there: since the earthquake of 2015, the road has been severely damaged and has still not reopened.
The road did not make the slightest impression of a highway – by German standards, it would have been rather a county road in terms of width and curves. We’ll skip the safety standards – which were mostly damaged or simply not existing. And the state of the pavement left much room for improvement. While there were some stretches without potholes, those with potholes clearly were in the majority. But even worse were those parts of the road which completely lacked pavement and had been worn out so badly that it took our driver Dhil lots of creativity to find a path that did not make our long Hiace bus scratch the ground.
Along the road we got to see some rice paddies and a gigantic statue of Shiva which even holds the title of being the largest of its kind in the world. It reminded us of a similar statue we had seen some years back in Mauritius (but which is only holding the third place in terms of size).

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Eventually we arrived at the monastery of Namobuddha, located on the top of a hill with a view of the surrounding valleys. On a less hazy day, the view would probably be spectacular. But being here in April, we did not see too far into the distance and unfortunately none of the higher peaks of the Himalaya. The monastery is pretty much in the middle of nowhere. The last 5km of the road were unpaved and probably better suited to be driven in an offroad vehicle vs. our Hiace.
We explored the grounds of the monastery with its prayer wheels, balconies, Buddha statues and pagodas. It was a quiet and peaceful atmosphere.

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But there was one thing that fascinated us: on a nearby hill we saw hundreds of prayer flags attached to a pole. I’m not sure why prayer flags are so attractive, but they definitively are.

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From the monastery, we got to hike a bit and it felt great to be moving again. It had been a while since we had gotten some exercise and we realized that we had missed it. And hiking pace had the obvious advantage of being able to observe more details of village life than by just driving by.

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Lunch was in a nice hotel in Dhulikhel which featured more flowers than what we had seen for a long time. The view of the Himalaya range from there is supposed to be spectacular – specifically at sunset. Hmmmmm - not for us. Hazy as it was, we got to see the hills surrounding us, but that was about it. A picture on the wall, explained which mountains we would have been able to see on a good day, but that was more depressing than anything else. We started wondering if we’d see any big mountains at all in our vacation or if we’d need to come back again to Nepal some other time.

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Maybe that glum outlook explained my rather bad mood at dinner. For once I did not have any energy to see the positive side of getting our desert of banana pancakes served simultaneously with the soups. While Sam just put it down as me having a bad day, I started wondering if it’s not eventually time to return back home. After all, it’s not the first time that blunders like that happen. It’s just that after so many times, I am eventually at the end of my patience with putting up with things like that.
The next day, we had more Nepali roads and traffic on our agenda: the drive from Bhaktapur to Pokhara led us through Kathmandu, over mountain passes and along some deep cut rivers.
Even though we were already accustomed to Nepali traffic, it still felt awful by far too often. When there was again one of those crazy trucks, busses, cars of motorcycles coming straight at us on our side of the road (mostly blowing the horn and / or flashing the headlights), I sometimes simply closed my eyes with the resolve of not opening them anymore until we’d get to Pokhara. As the landscape was very nice and there was much to be seen along the road, I did not follow through on that resolve though.

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It took us over two hours for the first 50km of our 220km journey – not a pleasant outlook. But given the conditions, there was no way to do that part faster.
Traffic was heavy with one truck after the next. The trucks were a sight in itself. The Indian brands of Tata, Mahindra or Eicher were not very familiar to us, but they dominated the scene. Most of them were brightly colored and featured some message on their back. They said things like 'road king', ‘see you’, ‘love star’, ‘blow horn’, ‘slow drive, long life’ or ‘speed control’. Some others were rather frightening such as ‘my life - my rules’. We were happy to have a very reasonable and defensive driver who tried to keep a good distance of all crazy drivers around us.

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Still, at times I recalled the words of my sister to go rating on the stretch between Kathmandu and Pokhara. And considering the atrocious traffic, it seemed like a heavenly alternative to move along on the rivers underneath us.

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Lunch break was a very welcome relaxation from our drive. But the bad news was that we still had some more distance to cover. At least traffic seemed to ease a bit and we were able to enjoy the sights of terraced rice fields along the road. Every once in a while we saw a wedding pavilion. Seemingly it was an auspicious day to have a wedding. And eventually we had made it: we reached Pokhara and about an hour later we had made it through town to the lake side where our hotel was located.

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For dinner we went to a nice restaurant with a view of the lake before retreating to our hotel room. We had to get ready for our trekking trip which would start the next day. We were really excited and looking forward to that – after all, that’s why we had come to Nepal for.

Posted by dreiumdiewelt 12:37 Archived in Nepal Tagged traffic mountain rice road pass trucks crazy Comments (0)

Trekking in the Himalayas

Phedi, Dhampus, Landruk, Ghandruk, Naya Pul

semi-overcast 23 °C
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Max’s birthday marked our first day of trekking. After singing him ‘Happy birthday’, he got to open his present and wear his birthday crown with a big ‘5’ on it for breakfast.
And then it was time to head into the mountains. We were excited. As we left Pokhara, we got to see the outlines of some snowy mountains. They were a bit hard to distinguish from the clouds, but here they were, the peaks of the Himalaya that we had been waiting to see for so long! Not sure if we’d ever see more than that, we took some pictures from the moving van.

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As we reached Phedi, it was time to shoulder our daypacks and to head up the mountain towards the town of Dhampus. We were a group of six: In addition to our guide Prakash, Hom and Bir joined us as porters.
It was 9:20 am when we headed off. We were off for a tough start: the trail consisted of steps that led us up along the steep hillside. And the blazing sun did not help to cool us down. I was relieved when after half an hour we reached a first settlement and got to see down into the valley where we came from. We had already covered quite some distance and altitude.

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Next was an easy bit: we got to hike through some terraced rice plantations dotted with small little houses. People were working in and around their houses or in the fields with their buffaloes. Compared to the start, it felt like we were able to stroll through level terrain – even though we consistently headed upwards.

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The steep steps started soon enough again and before we knew it, we had climbed the 600 m of altitude to reach Dhampus (1770m) where we’d be spending the night. From the saddle, we had to still head along the hillside to the other end of the settlement, where our Eco-Lodge was located.

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Max had walked everything on his own – supported by Sam who kept telling him stories and kept him motivated. At 11:40am, we made it – way quicker than what we had assumed given that we had been planning on three hours walking time.
We sat in the sun, enjoyed the view down into the valley below us, used the wifi to receive some birthday messages for Max and eventually had lunch.
We only realized when a heavy thunderstorm started how lucky we had been that we arrived so early at our lodge. The clouds were thick, there was constant lightening and thunder all around us and lots of rain. On the corrugated sheet roof, the rain was really loud. I mean really loud. The rain also marked the end of the internet connection and unfortunately also the end of the warm water supply. Prakash had been smart enough to shower right away while there was still enough solar water available. We learned a lesson and promised to ourselves not to make the mistake of waiting too long anymore.

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At dinner time, there was a big surprise: Max got a birthday cake decorated with a 5, ‘happy birthday Max’ and two sparklers. He was thrilled and we were happy that he seemingly enjoyed his birthday. And best of all: contrary to many cakes we’ve eaten abroad, this one tasted excellent!
We had an excellent night’s sleep. The rain had cleared the air, there were no dogs around and the exercise probably helped as well. As I had gone to bed quite early, all of the above helped that I woke up before sunrise and could not resist to wake also Sam to be part of the spectacle.
It was a fabulous sunrise! With the air crisp and clear, we were treated to a panorama that is hard to be matched: with Machapuchare (also called Fishtail Mountain) dominating the scene, flanked at both sides by various peaks of the Annapurna Range. At 6,993m it has never been climbed, as it is considered sacred by the local population.

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As the sun came up, the hues of red and pink emphasized peak by peak as the sun came up high enough to illuminate them. While there was no wind where we were, it obviously blew mightily further above and created snow banners which were really nice to look at.

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We had a typical breakfast in Gurung style – the Gurung being the major ethnic group in the region. And then it was time to head out into this marvellous landscape around us. What a pity that yesterday we had not even realized how beautiful it was.
The path was very nicely laid out. We hiked through a small settlement and once more we heard a welcoming ‘Namaste!’ from all sides.

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As we headed in the shade towards a small stream, I was startled by one of our porters: I had a leech wandering on my left hiking shoe. He quickly helped me to get rid of it before it could start sucking my blood and I was very alert from there on. In the next couple of minutes, I got rid of another three little fellows who found their way onto my shoe. Luckily enough, the spell was over then and we did not see a single leech for the remainder of our trip.
But there was also bad news: seemingly we had managed to wander off the path that we were supposed to take. Prakash decided to head on and after inquiring with some local farmers we started heading straight up the hill. I was devastated. For one thing, I would clearly prefer a slight incline vs. a straight line up the hill. And the other thing I need to have is a regular pace – which does not work when your guide and porters don’t know the way themselves and have to ask around here and there.
After what felt like 200m of altitude on narrow paths up the hill, we finally reached the official trail again, which was wide, laid out with stones and was ascending only slightly. What a relief. Five minutes later, we reached the settlement of Pothana, where an official checked our trekking permits.
The view from there was stunning and with it my mood was right back where it should be. All along the next stretch we got to see alternating views of Machapuchare, Hiuchuli (7441m) and Annapurna South (7219m).

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After some nice up and down we reached the highest point of our trekking round at the little village of Deurali (2150m).

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As the view suddenly expanded to the West, we got to see one of the top 10 mountains in the world: Dhaulagiri at 8167m is the seventh highest mountain. So far in the distance, it did not seem nearly as tall and without knowing, I would have never guessed that I’m looking up at a peak that is more than 6000m of altitude above us.

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We also got to look back towards Dhampus where we had stayed last night and Pokhara with Phewa Lake in the background. Just that morning with the sunrise above Dhampus and this view from Deurali was worth all the effort of coming to Nepal and hiking all the way up here.
From there on we headed down a steep descent towards Tolka where we had a great and relaxing lunch. By then we had walked already more than 7km and had 4km more ahead of us. But at least most of the 670m ascent and 790m descent we had done already and the rest was an undulating path along the steep hillside.

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By the time we reach the Tibet Guesthouse in Landruk (1640m) in the early afternoon Max was really tired, but he continued to refuse being carried by one of our porters. We were proud and celebrated our great day and achievement with a warm shower and a beer. And then it was time to play Uno – an easy card game that we also introduced our porters to.

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The guest house was beautifully located with a view straight up towards Annapurna South – well in theory that is. Soon after we left our great outlook in Deurali, clouds had started forming around the highest peaks and by the time we reached Landruk, we could only guess that there were high peaks surrounding us. The downside to the guest house was that it was not really clean. It seems that the floors had been swept, but fresh linen seemed to be an overrated luxury. I was delighted to be able to sleep in my cozy sleeping bag and just tried to avoid touching anything. Still, the beauty of the location and the nice outside areas of the guest house with its many butterflies were just superb. And it is absolutely surprising what delicious meals can be prepared on a simple wood fire!

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By the next morning, the clouds had vanished again and we got to see Annapurna South in its full beauty. On the other side of the valley, Ghandruk – our destination for today - was already lit by the first rays of sunshine. If it would not have been for the steep descent into the valley before being able to start the climb into Ghandruk, the walk would have been almost too easy.

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This morning we took it easy and had a leisurely breakfast. We left at 8:40 am, hiking through Landruk and down the steep steps towards the river. Only 40 minutes later we reached the lowest part of today’s journey, the river Modi Khola (1320m) and had 730m of ascent laying ahead of us.

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Making our way slowly upward, we were passed by many porters loaded with the bags of trekkers or with all kinds of wares. At that stage, we realized that there was no need to feel bad about the loads our own porters were carrying. With one of them carrying our 20kg backpack and the other one a bag in addition to their own packs, they must have felt like in heaven compared with their usual job. And given that Max had up to now blatantly refused being carried, we could have done the trek with a single porter up to now. Still, it was great to know that they were there.

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Two hours later we had made it all the way up. We passed a donkey / mule caravan that had brought supplies either to Ghandruk or potentially as far back as the Annapurna Base Camp. The animals seemed delighted to head down without any loads and their bells were jingling cheerfully.

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Once we reached the Annapurna Guest House, we had the whole rest of the day for ourselves. Sam used the opportunity to recover some sleep, while Max and I played extensive rounds of Uno with Prakash, Hom and Bir.

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Time has passed so quickly and we had a hard time to believe that this evening was already the last one of our trekking tour. We celebrated extensively and not only played Uno, but even introduced our team to Farkle. Like all other good acquaintances (well, except those where we forgot about it) we met on our journey, they got to write into our traveling guest book which proved to be a bit of a challenge but was successfully completed with the help of Prakash.
That night we were kept awake for long: the six dogs we had seen already all afternoon around the guest house did not believe in the advantages of night time sleep and made an effort to enforce that believe also with the hikers.
The hike down from Ghandruk was beautiful, but crowded. Contrary to the last couple of days, today we found ourselves in the middle of big groups of people. The stretch from Ghandruk to Naya Pul is not only the final stretch for the round we had done, but is also done by all people who either target the ABC (Annapurna Base Camp), the Poon Hill Trek or who are doing the Annapurna Circuit – one of the most popular treks in Nepal.
It was a long and nice hike down the hill to the settlement of Birethanti. We saw another couple of caravans, passed though many small settlements, mostly on stone-paved steps.

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After more than 10 km, Max finally gave in and allowed our porter Bir to carry him for the last remaining kilometer. Still, it had been a brave achievement that he had made it so far without using any help.

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We had lunch at the fishtail restaurant which probably boasts an excellent view of the mountain of the same name. But after our four days of experience in the mountains, we were not surprised that by noon time it was hiding in the clouds. We had a last lunch together with our porters Bir and Hom. After lunch, we had to walk only another 20 minutes until we reached Naya Pul, which marked the end of our hike.

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There our taxi waited for us. We were not pleased at all with our taxi driver. He drove like a maniac, was constantly distracted by his mobile phone despite the heavy traffic on a narrow road (which was deteriorated to the point that it seemed more like a one-way road than a two-way major highway). After five anxious minutes of observing what was going on, we asked our driver to stop talking on his phone while driving. Two minutes later we had to specify that that rule included writing text messages. He was less than amused when he realized he had to stop while talking on the phone. But that did not stop him from accepting more than ten calls and having to see how others were passing him in the meantime.
While we headed down in to the valley of Phedi, we got to see the full path we had taken on day one of our trek. It had been a really nice hike – probably one of the highlights of our journey.

Posted by dreiumdiewelt 19:17 Archived in Nepal Tagged mountains rain view trekking river sunrise clouds valley hill hike birthday lightning Comments (0)

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