Friday, December 05, 2003
Just a short note as Internet access is not cheap here. We finally made it to Bhutan and are enjoying our short stay here. Beautiful country, lots of good food and very nice people. Will write more when we get to Bangkok (on the 7th).
Wednesday, December 03, 2003
No Everest Today...
Well, unfortunately today's morning fog was too thick, and our mountain flight to see Mt. Everest up close was cancelled. Ray and I spent a few hours at the airport trying to wish the clouds away, but alas, all in vain. Better they cancel the flight than try to fly in bad weather conditions; we got a full refund... actually, Ray's refund is in my pocket right now since he had to leave for Thailand, so we really won out on that arrangement! :) I guess we'll just have to come back here next time and hike to Everest ourselves, like most people do.
We've now got all our Bhutan things sorted out and have our tickets in hand for departure tomorrow. It will be a whirlwind tour, but getting a little taste is better than not seeing it all.
Incidentally, while we are laptopless, we are still going to be able to blog and post updates. We've received a few e-mails from people who were dismayed that they wouldn't be able to read about our trip for a while; we are still going to be able to update our blogs every few days, it's just that we might not be able to get pictures of Nepal/Bhutan posted for a while longer. Thanks for your concern though!
Well, the next blog you read will be from either Bhutan or Thailand, so stay tuned!
Tuesday, December 02, 2003
Still in Nepal...
Yes I know, we are supposed to be in Bhutan right now. Well, the banker in Seattle who was helping us out with travel payments decided to quit without telling us, so there was a big delay in getting funds transferred to the agent in Bhutan. This resulted in our not being able to confirm flight tickets from Kathmandu to Paro; a whole slew of e-mail and phone communications has now resulted in us cutting our Bhutan visit from six days down to three, but at least we're going to be able to visit, if even for a little bit. For a while there, we were wondering what we would do for nine days in Kathmandu.
So we've found ourselves with a bit of extra time here, which we have now filled up with various activities, including catching up on e-mail, shopping, catching up with other tourmates, shopping, catching up on reading, shopping... It seems I'm doing all the "catching up" and Jen is doing... well, the shopping. I must admit though, the prices here are pretty cheap compared to a lot of places we've seen.
Tomorrow I'm going to be visiting Mount Everest... our tour group was able to see a tiny little peak in the distance that was Everest, but it wasn't what I'd call awe-inspiring. And for those of you who think that I'm going to be walking/trekking/climbing there, heh, don't kid yourself. I'm taking a one-hour flight from Kathmandu to fly by the 8848 meter peak on Bhudda Air. One day perhaps, we'll come back and go to Everest Base Camp or do a 13-day trek in the Everest region, now that we have a better idea of what's involved and that we're actually capable of doing it.
The last couple of days have been quite eventful in themselves, notwithstanding all the changes in plans that we've become rather used to. Our visit to Royal Chitwan National Park was nothing short of spectacular... even though the park has lost much of its former glory due to over-touristification, at least in the main hotel area that we were stayed. There are a whole slew of resorts and cheap hotels in this area so there are obviously a lot of tourists around, most of whom come for the standard 3-day 2-night package.
The next time we come to Nepal (and we're pretty sure there will be a next time), we'd like to stay in Chitwan for at least 5-6 days, and spend as much time trekking through the park on foot, with at least two nights in the jungle itself. Although Jen, Raj and I had to leave early to return to Kathmandu (supposedly to fly to Bhutan), Ray, Gabby, and Cindy were fortunate enough to encounter a tiger in the distance on their jungle walk. Really guys, are you sure it wasn't a striped pumpkin?? :)
An aside: if you can avoid taking Royal Air Nepal, then do so. Pay the extra cash for Thai Airlines instead; the government doesn't have the funds to pay for decent management and aircraft maintenance. We don't even know where in the world Raj is right now; she couldn't take the first leg of her four flights to get home because Royal Air Nepal had arbitrarily cancelled their flight to Bangkok. We've heard lots of negative reviews of this airline, unfortunately.
Ok, back to Chitwan: I have to tell you about the incredible jungle guide that we all had. If Mowgli from the Jungle Book had grown up to be a guide, he would be our guide Padma. Padma grew up in a village in the park itself, and now is the senior naturalist/guide at Royal Park Hotel (which is a great place to stay, we loved the food and atmosphere there). His stories are absolutely riveting; he has been attacked by a sloth bear, has come face to face (literally) with a tiger, has had a leopard chase him up a tree, has been charged by rhinos multiple times, and has twice been bitten by snakes. In fact, the second time he was bitten by a snake, his clients had to carry him back to the lodge; they used a lighter to burn his feet to keep him conscious and cut his leg to try to bleed out the venom. Apparently he suffered more damage from their efforts to "help" than he did from the snake!
Padma had all the knowledge and fieldcraft to back up his stories too; there wasn't any doubt in our minds that we lucked out with our guide. Thanks for helping make the Chitwan experience incredible, Padma!
Although our Chitwan stay was brief and followed the typical itinerary for most tourists, it was fulfilling. Taking a quiet canoe ride in a hollowed out canoe in the early morning mist was serene. Trekking back through grass that was taller than us, bumping into a sleeping rhino, and coming across all kinds of animal tracks along the way kept us nattering excitedly for hours. Riding a plodding elephant into the jungle to see multiple rhinos, sambar deer and all kinds of other fauna was also a highlight. Even visiting the Elephant Breeding Center where we played tug-of-war with baby elephants was an great experience.
I think we have been getting pretty excited about a lot of the National Parks and wilderness-type experiences that we have had in the last five months. Not that seeing ancient ruins and different architecture isn't exciting; I think it's just that we have really enjoyed getting the opportunity to see natural environments and landscapes. I must admit though, being go-go-go for the last five weeks has been pretty tiring. After our three day visit to Bhutan, we're heading down to Bangkok for a few days, and then down to Phuket to meet Lisa and Simon, where we will get to enjoy a bit of R&R for a change. I'm sure with their work schedules, they wouldn't mind lazing out on a beach for a while.
That reminds me, the other thing that I mentioned last time was the whole problem with our laptop. Well, the Sony Vaio that you might have seen in the photo in the "Gear" column is now going back to Seattle with Ray; it won't boot up properly any more. Fortunately, most of the data (i.e. pictures) we have is backed up to CD, but unfortunately, some of it (like the website) isn't. I'm going to be able to download the files on the new laptop that Lisa/Simon are bringing to us in Phuket (hopefully, if the order is filled in time), but it might be a little while before I am next able to update the website with pictures from Nepal and Bhutan. The blogs will continue of course, we can post from any computer connected to the Internet. Stay tuned; I will send out another One Year One World update when we get more pictures uploaded (sign up to be on this mailing list on the home page).
I'd like to wrap up today's blog with a little comment on the current affairs in Nepal. Like we mentioned before, we did encounter Maoists on our trek and did have a little brush with Nepal's own civil war, but most people including us are quite insultated from the issues that are brewing in this little mountain nation. Everyone in the tourist industry covers and glosses over the troubles that are happening here, but dig a little deeper and you will find that there are very serious issues that the Nepalese people currently face. The government is unstable, poverty seems to be getting worse, and there appears to be growing dissent among the population. One disgruntled storekeeper, after some questioning, actually said that he thinks there will be a revolution of some sort in the next few years, he thinks so many people are unhappy. The Maoists don't have the popular support, and neither does the current government.
As tourists, we contribute greatly to the Nepalese economy, but most of us are pretty much blind to the troubles that brew in the country as we walk the streets of Thamal buying our pashminas and trinkets. Not that there is a lot that we can do about it ourselves, but it's a sobering thought nonetheless.
Anyhow, I will stop ranting for now, and instead will look forward to visiting the highest point in the world tomorrow, if the flight takes off, that is. Cross your fingers for calm winds and clear skies!
Sunday, November 30, 2003
Until Next Time, Nepal!
Don't have time for an update on our great but short visit to Royal Chitwan National Park, so will have to do that next time.
We're back in Kathmandu right now, and are supposed to be flying to Bhutan tomorrow, but it seems that our flight tickets have not been confirmed, so everything is up in the air.
If we do make it to Bhutan, we might not be online for a week, seeing as they may not have Internet access there. If we don't make it on that flight, well I'm sure you'll see me online venting my frustrations a bit.
Not to mention, we have developed a situation with our laptop: it won't boot up. We have the data (photos) saved, but until we figure out our computer situation, we might not be able to upload/update any new pages (other than the blog) for a while.
So, as you can see, things are pretty hectic right now. Stay tuned, the adventure continues!
(By the way, we didn't see a tiger in Chitwan like we did in Panna, but boy is it a neat place to visit! More later!)
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