Back in May of 2003, thanks to some very wonderful friends, I got to make a return trip to Nepal. A year and a half later, it's still a wondrous place, and I highly encourage folks to make the trip if you've got the urge to get away somewhere unique.
This time, instead of taking the Easterly route, we flew west. Boston to LA to Tokyo to Bangkok. We got to do a VERY brief overnight in Bangkok, then bright and early it was off to Kathmandu.
Unlike my first trip, I didn't get my entry Visa ahead of time, so I got to stand in line with my travel partners while our passports were examined and stamped. Luckily for us, having a friend who works for the State department is a wondrous thing. We had a native 'escort' handle all the business end of the Visa and entry fees. We just had to stand there and smile like tourists.
With all our automation, the Nepali still get bags off the planes faster than Americans do. We were out of the airport in record time, and meeting Sarah, our host, in the waiting area. This trip, I was accompanied by two friends, so everything seemed to happen much more quickly. I didn't take as much time to just stop and contemplate-- or maybe we packed even MORE in since Sarah had the whole time we were there off. Either way, the trip was a more 'active' adventure than before.
Our first night there was filled with catching up. Not only with Sarah, but with all the people I'd met at the embassy the last time I was in town. Once again, we went out for a really nice dinner at Bukhara (one of Kathmandu's finest restaurants), and spent FAR too much time talking when we should have been packing. Packing for what? Why, for the trip to the Jungle, of course!
The next day, it was off to The Royal Chitwan National Park. We were booked in at Tiger Tops Jungle Lodge once again, and of course, the first thing we did was drop our bags in our room, then head off for an elephant ride in the jungle. We were there for three days, and spent time on elephants, in Jeeps with French biologists studying the garial (rare fish eating crocodiles), hiking through the jungle, and playing with the baby Rhino that was being raised at the camp after its mother was taken by poachers. Let me tell you, nothing is uglier (and yet somehow more adorable) than a baby Rhino.
It's just impossible to explain how stunning the country of Nepal is. In short span of 200 miles (at its WIDEST) it goes from the highest peaks in the world to dense, humid jungle down in the Terai. And the Terai itself changes within a short distance. From flat riverside expanses with 10 to 12 food grasses to thick trees wrapped in choking vines, to meadows sprinkled with flowers... It's just astounding. From the air or from the ground, you're in for an amazing treat.
After several days in the Jungle, we headed back to Kathmandu just in time for a luncheon with the American Ambassador to Nepal. Yep, I got to sit in an Ambassador's house and eat off all the gilt china embossed with the seal of the State Department. It was pretty cool. The Ambassador is a really nice guy. The event, of course, was the going away party for our host, Sarah, since she was almost finished with her tour, and would be heading back stateside shortly after we left.
Straight from lunch, we hopped in a van and headed up to Dhulikhel, a small village perched on the rim of the Kathmandu valley, home of the Dhulikhel Mountain Resort. After a nice dinner and several games of Cribbage, we hit the sack early in hopes of catching a nice sunrise glimpse of Sagarmatha (Mount Everest) from the patio between our bungalows. But alas, the deities in charge of clouds and haze denied us the opportunity. And so we packed up our stuff and hopped in yet another van, for the next leg of our adventure.
This van took us up towards Kodari (near the Chinese aka Tibetan border), where we were scheduled to hop on a raft and head down the Bhote Kosi River back towards Kathmandu. Now... Last time we went rafting, it was a very sedate experience. The Trishuli River in November is very calm, and very easy. Not so the Bhote Kosi. This was whitewater fun at its best. We actually ended up running over one of our kayak guides at one point. Luckily he was okay. It was at this point, that I drank too much of the iodined water. Because apparently it wasn't iodined enough, and upon my return to Boston it was discovered I had a nice little family of giardia living in my tummy. Let's just say, always double check the water, okay? That's my travel health tip to you.
So you're probably ready for this to be over, but no... It's not. The day after getting back from rafting, we were back at the airport and headed off to Pokhara, a small (now very touristy) village in the middle of the country. We stayed at the ever fabulous Fulbari Resort again, and managed to get ourselves caught outside in the middle of a monsoon. I don't care how old I get, running in the rain will never stop being fun.
From Pokhara, it was into ANOTHER plane the next day for the 6AM flight to Jomsom. Jomsom is an even SMALLER village located up in the Anapurna leg of the Himalayas. Someone described it as "Lawrence of Arabia goes to the Moon" and they weren't that far off. Planes can only fly in and out of the village between 6AM and 10AM due to the amazingly violent winds. So bleary eyed and butts dragging, we had our first flight actually up INTO the Himalayas.
Jomsom itself is just amazing. We stayed at the Jomsom Mountain Resort, which is constructed ENTIRELY of native slate and stone. So it's cold inside. Luckily, though, they put the heat on from 3PM to midnight. Jomsom affords a most spectacular view of Mount Nilgiri, and we all spent quite a bit of time just watching it as it changed colors while the sun set. We were only there for an overnight stay, but what an unbelievable stay it was. And so ended the Travel part of our tour.
The remaining few days were spent in Kathmandu, trying to revitalize the tourist economy with our credit cards. I think we did a pretty good job of it. One beautiful afternoon, we took a trip up to Bhodanath, the largest Buddhist Stupa in Nepal, and sat in a rooftop café having lunch and looking over one of the countries holiest spots. Oh, yeah, and getting food poisoning.
Our last day in Nepal was spent recovering from said food poisoning. Luckily it was quick, so we were all travel ready for our Saturday morning flight back to Bangkok. Wow, if I never get food poisoning again, it'll be too soon. So if you make it up to Bhoda, don't have lunch at the Stupa View Café. Eat ANYWHERE else. I mean ANYWHERE.
All in all, though, it was a FABULOUS trip, and again, I highly recommend it for the more adventurous out there.
Tiger Tops: http://www.tigermountain.com/ttops/tigertops.htm
Dhulikhel Mountain Resort: http://www.catmando.com/dhulikhel-mt-resort/
Ultimate Descents River Tours: http://www.udnepal.com/
The Fulbari Resort and Spa: http://www.fulbari.com/
Jomsom Mountain Resort: http://www.jomsommountainresort.com
And all my photographs will eventually be at: http://www.obeyyour.tv/photos/v/travel/nepal/