A Travellerspoint blog

8.8.10: Goodbye, Nepal

Airports: Bag Exams and Breast Exams...

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We woke up to our last day in Nepal. We had a long day of travel ahead of us and we were not looking forward to it. We had a 90 minute flight to catch from Kathmandu to Delhi at 3pm and a seven hour layover in India before our overnight plane to Bangkok. Ugh. There is a reason our tickets were so cheap.. They gave us the sucker seats.

We did have some last minute business to take care of before we said farewell to Nepal. We needed post cards, stamps, and knives.
Knives?
Knives!

As we made our way up and down the streets of Kathmandu, we saw a few small shops dedicated to selling genuine Gurkha knives.
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A little history for those of you who are lost:

The Gurkha's were fierce warriors from Nepal and India who fought for the British army in the 1800's. They were best known for their barbarism and strength and were said to be naturally aggressive and war-like. Despite their small Nepalese physique, They were imdomitable and apt. They were said to be loyal to death and more disciplined than any other fighting force in the world. In other words: They were badass.

The Gurkha's guerrilla jungle fighting tactics were aided by their weapon of choice, a knife. Not just any knife, the Gurkha kukri knife is possibly one of the most renowned knives in the world. It's curved blade is a vicious killing machine. Tales of the legendary kukri say that if the knife was drawn in battle it 'had to taste blood' or the owner would have to cut himself before he returned it to it's sheath. The kukri blade could slice a man in two before he could grimace a look of surprise and for this is said to be the kindest quietest death.

How sweet! I wanted one! What is a better souvenir than that! My mother will say that it is morbid to desire this handheld slayer, and call me what you want, but I did. I marched back to my favorite knife shop and picked out a beauty.
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I bought beautiful silver blade carved with Nepalese symbols, encased in a beautiful sheathe made of black yak bone. It's a beast and it's all mine. It will sit on top of my mantle reminding me of my travels to Nepal and reminding others not to mess with Emily Michele!

With shopping out of the way, we packed our stuff, waved goodbye to Nepal and headed for the airport.
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I had a scare when I got to the airport and realized that I had no clue where my passport was. It wasn't in the pocket I thought it was and I clawed apart my bag in panic. "How could I be so stupid" I thought as I pawed through every crevasse of my purse. Turns out, it had migrated to a different pocket and had been right in front of my face the whole time. "How could I be so stupid", I thought again.

We entered the airport anticipating a quick departure. Entering Nepal was incredibly easy so we expected just the same leaving the country.
Wrong!
Just to enter the airport we had to stand in line and show our passport to a security guard who ushered us over to an X-ray machine to examine our bags. I thought we'd have a problem with the knives tucked into our packs but they waved us right through. I wondered if the machine was even on or if it was just for show.
We entered the ticket counter line and turned in our two bags in exchange for boarding passes. We walked toward the escalator to the customs area and were stopped again. Apparently our carry-on bags needed tags that we were not issued.
We headed back to the ticket counter. They handed us two ID tags, the kind that you can write your name and address on, in case your bags get lost. I looked at the flimsy piece of paper and thought, "There has to be a different kind of tag they're talking about." I secured the blank piece of paper to my bag and walk to the escalator, sure that I was about to be turned away once again. He looked at the unofficial blank ID and waved me right through. I waited in the customs line, handed in my disembarkation card and passport, received my stamp and was on my way.
Turns out "my way" was only another five steps to the next security line. I handed my purse to the next manual checkpoint as a line of woman fingered each compartment. They stamped my boarding pass and waved me through to man who checked to make sure I had the stamp and granted me access to the terminals. The "terminals" consisted of a large room full of people and two unlabeled doors leading to the runway. I waited in the line for a few minutes before it split in two and I had to go to my respective 'Women Only' line. This meant that I was, inevitably, going to get felt-up. I stepped in a small booth where a woman attendant stood, deep in conversation with a man across the room. As she looked at him, her wandering hands landed on my left breast and sat there for a good 30 seconds while she wrapped up her conversation. She turned back to me and continued my mammogram until I was officially violated.
I continued out onto the runway and stood next to a large group of people waiting for the bus to take us to our plane. The first bus was already filled past capacity, so I had to wait for the next one. I watched the bus drive no more than 30 feet away, stop, and unload it's passengers. Are we really waiting to get crammed into a bus to take us 30 feet? I could walk over there in a fraction of the time it took to coordinate this convoluted plan. It didn't seem too efficient to me. I went along with it anyway.
I stepped off the bus to wait in, yet another line; another line and another checkpoint. Once again they mauled through my belongings and set me on the road to tit-touching town. It was a bumpy ride, but I passed my breast exam with flying colors.

Other than that, it was smooth sailing. I had a nice flight and was able to reflect on my time in Nepal. I had mixed emotions. I was sad to go but more than ready to relax in tropical Thailand. Nepal had been good to me. It was much more laid-back than India, the people were friendlier and hassles were few and far between. I wish I would have had more time to spend there and in hindsight I would have traded some of hectic India for more time in the Himalayan hillside. I was only in Nepal for a week and had an opportunity to experience the city, the jungle and the mountains, and it was a great combination of scenic activity. Besides the frequent power outages, I don't have any complaints except that I couldn't stay longer. I will definitely return to Nepal and next time I will leave a larger allotment of time.

Shortly after I got situated in set 32C, we were beginning our descent. I was back in India.

The Delhi airport is actually really nice! I walked around for a while, entertaining myself at the overpriced kiosks and sampling the duty-free perfumes until it was time for dinner. Having a generous amount of time to kill I walked around perusing different menus and comparing prices until I finally settled on a cuisine. When we left India the first time, I swore off Indian food. My body could handle no more curry! Despite my oath, I was intrigued at the thought of a tasty Indian buffet. I think it's the American in me, if I hear the word buffet, my ears perk up. I've also had a lot of luck with foreign buffets. Back home a lot of the buffets consist of greasy, poorly-prepared food, that is left out under heat lamps until the next Roseanne Barr look-alike comes along and finishes off the last of the tater tots. All of the buffets I've had on the road have been a delicious way to sample all of the native foods and they have all been fresh and satisfying. I also figured that if I was going to try Indian food again, it may as well be in a place I know is hygienic. This airport was nicer than all of the airports in the U.S. and the restaurant had a cool modern vibe to it. The "Sports Bar" was dimly lit with red neon lights surrounding the bar and twinkling lights poking through the ceiling. The seats were sleek and stylish and the booths were huge with lots of room to spread out for the remainder of our airport stay.
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Before I agreed to the buffet, I had to get a look at the goods. They looked good! Everything was fresh, there were 5 different kinds of salad, a station for pasta and parantha made right in front of you, and a mouth-watering dessert table. I was sold.

The meal was as delicious as it looked and I felt good with my decision. It was a tasty and hygienic last Indian meal and a great note to leave on.

Goodbye Nepal and, once again, Goodbye India!

From Executive Producer Andy Streitfeld and AMS Pictures, comes Ma's Roadhouse a new reality show on TrueTV!
Rick Fairless is the owner of Strokers Dallas, a Texas motorcycle shop, tattoo parlor and biker bar. His greatest asset is his 71-year-old mother, who's also his best, but most outspoken, employee. Can Rick keep his business afloat? And can Ma keep her hands off the bartender?
http://op.amspictures.com/featured-work/home-page-accordian-1/

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I wish I could be there to watch it with all the hardworking people at AMS :( but at least, by then, I will be back in the states and watching intently from my TV at home :) You guys rock!

Posted by emichele 04:05 Archived in Nepal Comments (1)

8.7.10: Nagarkot, Nepal

Exercise with a side of Chowmein...

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Hard hiking was the only thing on the agenda today. I woke up and feasted on another scrumptious bowl of porridge before checking out of the scenic Hotel Nagarkot.

We had a 4 mile hike ahead of us from Nagarkot to a town called Changu Narayan and after a hearty breakfast I was ready to rock!

We said goodbye to Nagarkot and started our walk out of town. I was strolling down the road, observing the wild terrain around me, when I came upon some interesting plant life.
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Why this particular plant caught my eye, I have no idea, but it did. This was not the only sighting either, I saw plenty more like this randomly lining the streets. It was just growing out in the open, free for the picking, something I had read about in my Nepal book, but failed to believe until I spotted it myself.
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We walked along a windy paved path for a while and enjoyed the mountain breeze and the surrounding sights. After a while we came to a tiny town, which consisted of a few street stalls lining the road. Just to make sure we were headed in the right direction we asked if this was the path to Changu Narayan. A young Nagarakot native assured us we were heading the right way and asked if we wanted to see a short cut. Having walked on the same road for about 2 hours, we agreed to a change of scenery. We ducked off the main road and through a dense thicket.
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We walked off the beaten path on a slippery moss-covered road no wider than a foot.
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It was a fun detour and after 20 minutes we were back on the main road right outside of Changu Narayan.

I decided that this was a good spot to stop for lunch because my tummy rumblings could no longer be silenced. We stopped underneath a large 'Restaurant' sign, at a small cottage just off the main road. We sat down on a quaint little patio that overlooked the rolling hillside and ordered some chowmein and momos.
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My stomach had been nagging me for food for the past hour, so the wait seemed like an eternity. I noticed the woman who took our order, also the owner, venturing out into a garden behind the patio. She was plucking peppers and green beans sprouting off the plant. Turns out that she was also the chef and was preparing our chowmein with seriously fresh veggies! It was delicious and just knowing how natural it was, made it that much more appealing.
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We continued to walk a while longer before we boarded a mini bus to a town called Bhaktapur.
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I had heard great things about this medieval town and the guide book said that Bhaktapur is what Kathmandu used to look like before it became so populated. I was specifically looking forward to exploring the ancient temple which has a documented history dating back to the 5th century.

We could have kept on walking but decided to take a mini bus instead. I could feel my blisters pulsating underneath their cotton cottages and they begged for a break.
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The bus pulled up to the center of town and we disembarked eager to explore.
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We walked through the gates of Bhaktapurs Dubar Square and were abruptly halted by a group of ticket takers. "Ticket? What ticket?" I asked. We hadn't even come to the temple yet, we were in the middle of town. They had to explain it to me a few times before I came to the understanding that I would have to pay just for being in their town, not to mention the fee I would incur once I entered the palace. The fee was outrageous and more than I had paid to enter the Taj Mahal. This was no Taj Mahal and I did not plan for this kind of shake down.
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We took a few photos just to say we'd been there, chucked up a deuce and hailed a cab out of there. So, Bhaktapur, thanks for nothing!

From Executive Producer Andy Streitfeld and AMS Pictures, comes Ma's Roadhouse a new reality show on TrueTV!
Rick Fairless is the owner of Strokers Dallas, a Texas motorcycle shop, tattoo parlor and biker bar. His greatest asset is his 71-year-old mother, who's also his best, but most outspoken, employee. Can Rick keep his business afloat? And can Ma keep her hands off the bartender?
http://op.amspictures.com/featured-work/home-page-accordian-1/

large_Ma_s_Roadhouse_.jpg

I wish I could be there to watch it with all the hardworking people at AMS :( but at least, by then, I will be back in the states and watching intently from my TV at home :) You guys rock!

Posted by emichele 20:49 Archived in Nepal Comments (0)

8.6.10: Nagarkot, Nepal

Hiking, Climbing, and Porridge

Today I woke up and headed out of the city of Kathmandu and into the central hills of Nagarkot. The panoramic view of the Himalayas took my breath away as we drove up the twisty mountain turns.
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We arrived in Nagarkot and stepped out of the car eager to breathe a fresh breath of crisp mountain air. I inhaled deeply and a smile bloomed between my cheeks. I love the mountains. Our driver agreed to wait while we grabbed a quick bite to eat, so we slipped into a cafe for some grub. This low-key kitchen was called The Berg House and was run by one small family. Because there was only one cook in the kitchen, our food took a significant amount of time but the sweeping views kept us entertained. The cafe sat on top of a hill and offered patio seating that overlooked the field of green below.
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We watched herds of cattle lumber up the road and horses graze in the pasture until our momos finally arrived. They were the best momos I've had the whole trip, and definitely worth the wait.
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A few minutes later my veggie burger arrived, exceeding every expectation I've ever had about what a veggie burger could be.
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This thing was a beast. It was huge and delicious! The Berg House scored major points with my belly and it was a great start for Nagarkot.

We walked outside and looked around for our driver. We walked up and down, panning and scanning the surrounding streets. He was missing in action. We had been abandoned. With no room for worries, we strapped on our backpacks, shrugged off our misfortune and walked up the hill. We had no hotel booked, which means we had no idea where we were going, so we just walked.
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Nagarkot is a small hill community and there are quite a few hotels nested in the hillside. We strolled from one to another checking rooms and prices until we found one that was just right. Hotel Nagarkot was the most affordable and had the most incredible views!
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This was by far my favorite hotel that we have stayed in (Cuzco was a close second).
Our room had huge window sprawling two of the four walls. One side looked out to a field of green, with nothing else but nature.
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Another huge window sat behind the headboards and looked out over the restaurant balcony and out into the mountain peaks.
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When it was clear, you could see for miles. I sat for hours watching the trees rustle and the hawks soar before the mist blew through.
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The decision to move out of Kathmandu and into Nagarkot was not only for tranquility but also for fitness. Two months of eating out everyday will eventually get to you and I could feel my metabolism coming to a screeching halt. I needed more exercise. Nagarkot is known for having a wealth of mountain biking and hiking trails that come with amazing scenery and cool temperatures, just what I was looking for. We only had two days on the mountain before we had to go back to the city, so we packed them full of day hikes. We left our larger-than-life bags back in Kathmandu and decided to travel light. We brought one low-maintenance backpack each, perfect for hiking. We planned a big, all-day hike on day two that would take us the majority of the way back to Kathmandu. Today was the warm-up hike.

I put on my sneakers and decided to loosen up my neglected muscles with some yoga. I walked up to the roof and out onto a big balcony to begin my workout. I breezed through half-moon and lotus poses and fixed my gaze out onto the Himalayan forest. I was pumped and ready to roll!
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Our warm up hike was a two hour trek to a view tower at the highest southern point of the ridge. We trudged up hills on nicely paved roads hedged by towering trees. The weather was cool and breezy, perfect for the steep ascent.
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We finally reached the top of our climb, the viewpoint tower.
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We ran up the final steps, anxious to get a look at this raved-about view. The 360degree Himalayan views were adorned with colorful prayer flags that assured me I was far from home.
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The prayer flags actually originated in India, from a monk who then passed on the tradition of printing prayer on cloth to the Nepalese and Tibetans. They are less common in India but are a modern day staple of Nepalese culture. Traditionally the flags are hung around the mountainous Himalayas or in the surrounding countryside, but they are liberally strung around temples and throughout towns as well. They are hung as a blessing on the surrounding areas and different colors each represent a different elements.
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Blue, white, red, green and yellow make up the 'Five Pure Lights'. Blue symbolizes sky and space. White is for air and wind. Red is fire, green represents water, and yellow symbolizes the earth. It seems as if these flags are never taken down after they are hung. Bright vibrant new flags hang next to tattered, dull cloth remnants that look like a salvation army garage sale. It reminds of that lazy neighbor we all have who never takes down their Christmas lights. Its June and they're still sporting the same big multicolored bulbs from 1989. They're mostly broken and the nails used to secure them have rust stains running down the paint, but the one week a year they're actually turned on seems to be a good enough excuse to keep the monstrosity up all year.
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We climbed a metal ladder to get up to the top of the tower where we could really see for miles. I sat up there for a while just watching the clouds float over the mountains. It was a peaceful reward after a steep hike.
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We walked back down past an army ranger training camp that was strategically placed high on the mountain to get a defensive view of any invaders. Along with a helipad surrounded by barbed wire fences, armed soldiers stood guard next to painted rocks with poorly written quotations.
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Let's hope that their defense strategy is better than their phonetics.
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As we were strolling down the placid pathways, one thing I noticed was the cleanliness of the roads. There was no trash anywhere. They obviously take pride in preserving the natural beauty of their land and they even provide mounted trash bins along the highway for convenience. India should take notes.
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We got back to our hotel and had worked up an appetite. I ordered a bowl of porridge that I had been eying on the menu. When I think of porridge the first thing that comes to mind is Goldilocks. The second thing that comes to mind is a bowl of flavorless slop. For some reason, This porridge intrigued me and it turned out to be the best meal ever! A heaping bowl of sweet oats and milk with cut up bananas, walnuts and coconut dusted with cinnamon, warmed my tummy and filled me with satisfaction!
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I loved it so much, I ended up ordering it four times within the two days we stayed a hotel Nagarkot. Enjoying my porridge perfection while admiring the Himalayan hillside wasn't too shabby either!

  • First Side Note: Thanks to all of you who have been following my blog! It really means a lot to me! I love writing them and I love that people actually read them! :) I am at 8,500 view so far and my goal is 1,000! Help me reach my goal by spreading the word! THANKS!

From Executive Producer Andy Streitfeld and AMS Pictures, comes Ma's Roadhouse a new reality show on TrueTV!
Rick Fairless is the owner of Strokers Dallas, a Texas motorcycle shop, tattoo parlor and biker bar. His greatest asset is his 71-year-old mother, who's also his best, but most outspoken, employee. Can Rick keep his business afloat? And can Ma keep her hands off the bartender?
http://op.amspictures.com/featured-work/home-page-accordian-1/

large_Ma_s_Roadhouse_.jpg

I wish I could be there to watch it with all the hardworking people at AMS :( but at least, by then, I will be back in the states and watching intently from my TV at home :) You guys rock!

Posted by emichele 03:19 Archived in Nepal Comments (0)

8.5.10:Back to Kathmandu

Bus Rides, Hostels, and Power Outages...

We woke up this morning and took a stroll down to the river bed before we had to say goodbye to the Chitwan jungle.
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We left the Gorkha Resort and boarded a bus that took us on a 6hour long bus ride back to Kathmandu. Despite the beautiful scenery it was a bus ride that did not pass quickly.
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we got back to the Elbrus Home hostel to find out that we did not have a room waiting for us, as we thought we did. After the long bus ride and the four flight ascent up to the hostel, this was not the news we were looking for. The hostel manager said he had another hostel just five minutes away. He promised vacancy and the same amenities and assured us we would not be disappointed. We hailed a cab and arrived at the Avalon Hotel just a few minutes later. They ushered us up five flights of stairs to a room much smaller than the one we had in Ebris Home. The bathroom was the size of a shoebox and the TV was no bigger than an iPhone. Without any other choices we unpacked our stuff and settled in looking forward to a nice TV movie before bedtime. Unfortunately, the power went out as we were unpacking and didn't come back on the whole night.

Goodnight.

From Executive Producer Andy Streitfeld and AMS Pictures, comes Ma's Roadhouse a new reality show on TrueTV!
Rick Fairless is the owner of Strokers Dallas, a Texas motorcycle shop, tattoo parlor and biker bar. His greatest asset is his 71-year-old mother, who's also his best, but most outspoken, employee. Can Rick keep his business afloat? And can Ma keep her hands off the bartender?
http://op.amspictures.com/featured-work/home-page-accordian-1/

large_Ma_s_Roadhouse_.jpg

I wish I could be there to watch it with all the hardworking people at AMS :( but at least, by then, I will be back in the states and watching intently from my TV at home :) You guys rock!

Posted by emichele 05:06 Archived in Nepal Comments (0)

8.4.10: Chitwan National Forest

Elephants, Canoes, Moonshine, and Culture...

We woke up in Chitwan, which means "heart of the jungle" and we were excited for the fun day of jungle adventure we had ahead of us!
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We planned an elephant ride, canoeing, and a village tour and we couldn't wait to get started! We walked out of our bungalow and got our first glimpse of our resort.
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Last night we had arrived at dusk and couldn't see much and it was much different in the day light. It was a cute resort with gardens encircling all the bungalows and a rocky path weaving in between them. The sea foam green duplex bungalows each had their own patio with two wooden reclining chairs out front to lounge in.
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We walked along the pathways, past a straw-covered cabana and into the restaurant for breakfast. After our omelet and toast, it was time for our elephant excursion!

A jungle tour atop of an elephant was something I was very psyched to do and I skipped down the road in eager anticipation.
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I walked up to our massive jungle limousine and introduced myself. I patted her trunk and thanked her for lending her services. Her name was Pinky Cali and she would be our tour bus for the next two hours.
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I had to walk up a small wooden stairway to mount her and slide myself into the wooden box secured on her back. It took me a while to get situated but I finally found a comfortable nook and we headed off.
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We walked along the road as if we belonged there. No one even turned a head when we lumbered by and as I saw several other elephants sauntering down the road, absent of passengers, I quickly realized that this is just another part of their everyday life. In Chitwan, elephants are just as much a part of the road traffic as motorbikes, horses, and water buffalo.
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We walked along the main road, past rice fields and bathing buffalo until we turned off the beaten path, into the jungle.
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We were hoping to catch a glimpse of the infamous one horned rhino that have often been spotted roaming in the area, but we had no luck.
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We had to settle for a few peacocks, a toucan, and a deer.
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It was fun venturing through the jungle on a path we would have never been able to see but the ride was less than comfortable. The wooden box we sat in had no padding and with each turbulent footstep we were jostled around, banging our dangling limbs on the wooden safety bars.
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They had not advised us to wear sneakers, a suggestion that would have been greatly appreciated, so we were sporting flip flops and shorts. This is not appropriate attire for an elephant ride through the jungle. With my legs flailing about, I decides to take off my flip flops for fear of losing them. As our legs hung over the side of the trotting Titan, the jungle fauna scraped against our bare limbs as we maneuvered through the growth. Every tree we came in contact with seemed to have an entire community of bugs living on them, which consequently spilled onto our laps as we made our way through the plants. I don't fancy bugs and I'm mildly arachnophobic so I was not too thrilled with the creepy crawlies. I pulled my legs into an Indian style position and tried to block out the bugs by enjoying the jungle around me.
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After about an hour of seeing the same 'ol trees, i was getting bored.

I watched Pinky Cali stuff bushes into her mouth after plucking the shrubs with her trunk. She chew them loudly and swing her trunk from side to side. Sometimes she'd grab a chunk of tree off a branch and just throw it on the ground for fun. I think she was as bored as we were.
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We turned out of the jungle and stopped to give Pinky Cali a drink of water before heading back. As our guide pumped water out of the well, she would wrap her trunk around the spout and suck in water like a vacuum. After her trunk was full shed fold it up into her mouth and shoot it in like her own personal fire hose. It was fun to watch.
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We said our goodbyes to Pinky Cali and walked back to the resort. We enjoyed a nice lunch and a power nap before it was time for our canoe trip.
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Thank god we slept through the hottest part of the day because when we left to go canoeing at three pm, it was still sweltering!
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We walked out to the reception area and met up with Asok, the man who would be our canoe guide.
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We walked down to the river, tiptoed into a canoe and sat on a tiny wooden seat (that was actually a lot more comfortable than it looked).
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As Asok taught us about the river and it's Inhabitants, another man rowed silently behind us.
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I never heard him speak the whole boat trip but I did manage to squeeze a small smile out of him (only once).
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The river was calm and serene.
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There was a small breeze and the sun ducked behind some clouds just for our comfort.
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The water was clear and beautiful and the forest surrounding us made for a peaceful scene. I snapped my camera in awe at the gorgeous greenery.
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Enormous trees to tiny bushes, fields of short grass you could see far out into the horizon on one side and dense jungle on the other.
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Jagged trees that look like they were painted with a trembling hand shot up into the sky marking the border of jungle terrain.
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We crossed our fingers that we'd tango with a crocodile but, once again, we had no luck. We did see a huge buck scampering through the forest that I barely got a picture of.
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We saw some local goats munching on tall reeds of grass and we were lucky to see a rare Nepalese stork before it flew off into oblivion.
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As we cruised around the river bend, I spotted a conspicuous gray mass amongst tall green blades of grass.
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As we got closer I saw the wild elephant shoveling hoards of grass into it mouth and clicked away.
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As we continued on our way we came upon several more elephants enjoying their freedom on the river banks. My camera never got a break.
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Asok pulled our canoe up onto the muddy river bank and told us to hop out. It was time for our village tour. I looked around and saw nothing but a field of grass taller than I was. We would have to do some walking.
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Once again I was unprepared. I didn't know the canoe trip included a jungle trek and i was sporting flip flops. I had left my machete at home and was only armed with a smile as I trudged through the muddy ground. Luckily there was a water pump waiting for me and I wiped off the sludge from my feet and calves.
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As we walked up to the village, we walked past a group of domesticated elephants. As I walked closer I realized that they had chains around their ankles and were secured to large wooden posts.
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The chain was short and only had a two foot reign so they could do nothing but stand idly. This made me regret ever agreeing to an elephant ride in the first place. I'm no PETA member, but I don't like to see animals treated like this. In my fantasy land I had imagined the elephants were kept in a pen, free to roam and interact in a small area which i can understand. The reality was different and this chain gang was something I was not cool with. No more elephant rides for me.
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As we walked through the small village, Asok explained their lifestyle. He told us that the villages are mainly comprised of multiple families who own small businesses that are passed down through generations. The village is very community oriented and everyone helps one another. A completely different philosophy from the 'every man for himself' ideology of America.
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We strolled along and Asok offered to introduce us to their local alcohol. I'm not one to turn down opportunities to try new things so I was happy to agree. We ventured into the back side of a small convenient store and sat underneath a bamboo hut. He brought us some glasses and a water bottle filled with rice wine moonshine.
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It wasn't great but it did the trick and after two water bottles, I had a nice little buzz.

We sat under our straw cabana for a while and learned all about our guide Asok. He told us that he was originally from a rural hill town and moved to Chitwan to become a tour guide. He knew no English before he started working with tourists and after nine years of being a tour guide he is fluent and is very well-spoken. He told us that life in Nepal is hard because it is tradition for the women not to work. He has a wife and a 15 month old baby boy to support and works hard to provide for them. We talked about politics and he told us that Nepali people really like Americans because the U.S. gives a lot of aid to Nepal. He told us about the upcoming elections in Nepal and that he was eager to see some change.
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We stumbled back to the resort, feeling the effects of the moonshine, and sat down for dinner. Our tasty dinner was a massive egg roll that stretched across the entire plate sided with salad and French fries. It was scrumptious!

After dinner we had a small window to get cleaned up before we were carted off to our next excursion, a traditional Nepalese dance performance. We were herded into a large auditorium where we watched large groups of dancers work their stuff for the crowd.
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Their trademark entertainment is the Tharu Stick Dance, a mock battle in which participants parry each others sticks with graceful, split-second timing. The original purpose of the dance was to, simply make a lot of racket to keep the wild animals away at night. It was a phenomenal show that reminded me of the Stomp show Ive seen before, only with more physical contact. They flung the sticks around without a care and I couldn't figure out how they didn't smack themselves in the head.
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It was a great end to a great day!

From Executive Producer Andy Streitfeld and AMS Pictures, comes Ma's Roadhouse a new reality show on TrueTV!
Rick Fairless is the owner of Strokers Dallas, a Texas motorcycle shop, tattoo parlor and biker bar. His greatest asset is his 71-year-old mother, who's also his best, but most outspoken, employee. Can Rick keep his business afloat? And can Ma keep her hands off the bartender?
http://op.amspictures.com/featured-work/home-page-accordian-1/

large_Ma_s_Roadhouse_.jpg

I wish I could be there to watch it with all the hardworking people at AMS :( but at least, by then, I will be back in the states and watching intently from my TV at home :) You guys rock!

Posted by emichele 04:44 Archived in Nepal Comments (0)

8.3.10: Chitwan National Forest, Nepal

Time for a jungle adventure...

Today we set out for a 3 day, 2 night jungle adventure in the Chitwan National Forest!

We loaded up our bags and boarded a tourist bus for the 3 hour drive ahead of us. Well, it was supposed to be a three hour drive. We hit massive traffic traveling on a congested two-lane highway winding down the mountain. Bus after bus lined the ridge for miles. We would drive about a foot and then stop and turn off the engine for ten minutes and repeat. It was horrendous.

I was thrilled when they called the white water rafting group off the bus. Our jungle package offered an optional half day of white water rafting for $20 extra, so we quickly signed up!

We ate a boxed lunch and changed into our bathing suits, ready for the water.
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We started rafting in a town called Malaksu on the Trisuli River and we had three hours of beautiful scenery!
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We hit class three rapids and were soaked from head to toe. It was a cooling refresher from the scorching sun above us. Although we didn't hit the rocky obstacles that we had in Arequipa, we enjoyed the docile river. We would hit rolling rapids and have to paddle hard for a while and once we were through, we got to chill in ecstacy. The lush green thicket covered the rolling hills and sparkled with every shade of green imaginable. The sky was a perfect blue with giant marshmallow puff clouds that looked as though they were drawn into a picture. I laid back on the raft and watched the clouds morph into different shapes thinking what a perfect day it was.
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After a wonderful rafting trip, we got changed into dry clothes and waited for the next public bus to take us to Chitwan.
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We had another two hour drive ahead of us and this time we didn't get a nice tourist bus. Because we opted for the rafting trip, we'd have to settle for public transportation, always an adventure!

We waited by the side of the road for about an hour until our bus finally rolled up. There were four of us that needed a seat and unfortunately there was only one seat available. "Do you want to ride on the roof?" asked the bus driver. I looked inside the bus, filled with people and extra bags pouring into the aisles. I contemplated waiting for the next bus but who knows when or if it would arrive. I agreed. Top of the bus it is. 8Picture_015.jpg
We took our bags to the back of the bus and climbed up a small metal ladder. I situated myself on the roof rack, jammed nbetween two Asian guys who rafted with us, and a giant bicycle sitting in front of me.
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Sitting on the metal rack was not a comfort I wanted to endure for the next two hours so I wedged one of the bags underneath my bum and I propped another behind my back. Ahh comfort. This was actually one of the best bus rides I've ever taken!
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The sun was shining and wind was blowing, we could see for miles.

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I had to brace myself once or twice as we swerved around corners, but it was fun. It was like a free scenic roller coaster and I enjoyed every minute of it!
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About an hour and a half into our two hour drive, we started talking about how great the ride was and laughing at the congested mess of people crammed beneath us. What suckers! "I'm just glad it's not raining", I said with a chuckle. All of a sudden I felt a drop on my leg. I jinxed it! One drop turned into a downpour and we had to quickly dismount from our first class seats. Goodbye luxury, hello sardine box. We loaded inside the bus and were forced to sit on peoples lap because it was so full. There were rows with four people crammed into two seats, people were standing in the aisles and bags were everywhere. We only had to snuggle up to strangers for another 20 minutes so we still had our sense of humor and laughed about it. Had we been forced to ride that way for two hours, it would have been a different story!

When we got to Chitwan, we were met at the bus stop by an employee of the Gorkha Resort, where we had booked a room. We loaded into the back of his truck for a beautiful 20 minute drive to the resort.
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It was a gorgeous drive, the sun was setting and brilliant colors saturated the rice fields all the way to the horizon.
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We checked into the Gorkha Hamlet Resort and they showed us to our jungle bungalow.
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A sweet small room absent of air-conditioning and television. It was just us and the mosquito's! We secured our mosquito netting and headed out to explore our resort. By now it was dark, so the exploring was minimal.
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We used our flashlights to find the diner and sat down for dinner. As part of the package deal we booked, we received a set breakfast, lunch and dinner included. We were very curious if they were going to get away with serving us bread and butter or if we were actually going to enjoy our meal.
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We were pleasantly surprised! They served us a deep fried vegetable cutlet, French fries and salad, all of which were very tasty!
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We concluded with a dessert of deep fried bananas and retired into our jungle abode.

From Executive Producer Andy Streitfeld and AMS Pictures, comes Ma's Roadhouse a new reality show on TrueTV!
Rick Fairless is the owner of Strokers Dallas, a Texas motorcycle shop, tattoo parlor and biker bar. His greatest asset is his 71-year-old mother, who's also his best, but most outspoken, employee. Can Rick keep his business afloat? And can Ma keep her hands off the bartender?
http://op.amspictures.com/featured-work/home-page-accordian-1/

large_Ma_s_Roadhouse_.jpg

I wish I could be there to watch it with all the hardworking people at AMS :( but at least, by then, I will be back in the states and watching intently from my TV at home :) You guys rock!

Posted by emichele 03:27 Archived in Nepal Comments (0)

8.2.10: Kathmandu, Nepal

Prayer Wheels and Blackjack...

The first spot on today's Nepali adventure is Swayambhunath Stupa, also known as the monkey temple.
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This colossal golden cone sits on top of a high hill and is one of the most esoteric expressions of Buddhist symbolism in Nepal.
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This holy shrine is visible from miles around and carved with inscriptions from the 5th century. Since Tibet's invasion in 1959, the Kathmandu area has become home to many exiled Tibetans and many of them come to this temple to pray. Aside from the giant fixed prayer wheel on top of the hill, there are about 6 thousand small ones that encircle the exterior of the complex.
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I had fun running along side of them, spinning away. Up and down and all around this towering temple monkeys scamper around for the amusement of all who will watch. They vastly out number the human visitors and don't seem bothered with them at all.
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I had such fun watching them chase each other up and down the tree branches, but I was bummed that I had no camera to capture their antics. I felt naked since it broke the day before and it was finally time to go pick up my baby.

  • all Swayambhunath Stupa pictures provided by google.

Me and my camera were reunited at last, good as new!

My trusted guide book noted Nepal's casinos as a "weirdly memorable experience" and being the gambling queen I am, I wanted to see what exactly that meant. There were a few casinos in the Thamel area, where our hostel was located, so we wandered into the first one we came upon.

Upon entering Casino Royal, it looked rather drab and smaller than any casino I have ever been to. I walked around searching for the video poker machines and after making my rounds, finally spotted a few of them. I needed tokens. I walked to the center of the room, to a booth where money was changed. I handed the teller one hundred rupees and asked for tokens.

"For what?"
"The machines." I said, perplexed as to what else I would need them for.

He handed me a stack of ten rupee coins. Knowing that the minimum for video poker was five rupees, and wanting my money to last as long as possible, I asked for five rupee coins instead. I walked back over to the video poker machine and sat down. I felt like an idiot when I could not find the money slot. I looked high and low and for the life of me, could not find it. A few of the casinos employees peered over at me with smirks on their faces. I bashfully asked them what I was doing wrong and they told me that those particular coins were not for my machine. I would have to get new coins.
I have never heard of a casino with different coins for different machines, but then again I have never gambled in Nepal so I went back to the teller. I asked for coins specifically for the video poker machines and was handed a new stack. I went back to the machine. Still unable to locate a money slot on my machine or any of the other neighboring machines, I watched a woman a few seats down from me. She didn't seem to be depositing any money. When I asked her for assistance, she motioned to the employees for help.

"Where does the money go" I asked, holding up my small stack of coins. They informed me that they took the money and entered the amount into the machine via computer. Seems a little inconvenient. What if I wanted to switch machines? I held up my coins and asked them to put my money on this one machine.
"The minimum is 500 ma'am" the attendant said with an authoritative grin.

What the hell? I have never had so much trouble giving a casino my money. I was not about to put 500 rupees on a video poker machine that I would be stuck at until I was broke. We headed back to the teller and cashed out. We left confused and annoyed, but at least we broke even.

Even though this casino experience was a bust, I was not done. There is no way that the guide book would call a casino like that a "weirdly memorable experience". I was weird, yes, but the only thing memorable about it was the inconvenience.

I walked down the block to the next casino, Casino Nepal. I thought it was odd that upon entering I read a sign that said "Nepalese citizens not allowed". For some reason they are banned from playing. It just seems bad for business. Isn't all money good money?

This casino was a lot like the casinos in the states, dazzling lights, singing slots, and money you could smell from the front door. This casino also had a 500 rupee minimum for the video poker machines, but what was weird was that the blackjack minimum was only five rupees. A complete 180 from the US, where I can play 5 cent video poker all day long, but I will search all night for a $5 blackjack table. I was all for the blackjack though, so I pulled up a seat and cashed in a hundred. The drinks were free so I splurged on a few too many of my signature 'whiskey on the rocks'. That was probably where I went wrong. That's how they get you, the free drinks. They get you all liquored up so you forget how to count and the only words you remember is 'hit me'.
"but miss you have 20"
"hit me!"

Although my money was quickly depleting, my appetite was not and I was soon hit with the after-cocktail munchies. I found out that food was free too, another ploy to keep you at the table. Free food and drinks, I must be lucky! At the end of the night I lost a good amount of rupees, however, I did spend a good three hours being entertained, not to mention my free Pakoras and whiskey. I'll justify my frivolous spending by saying it was worth it!

From Executive Producer Andy Streitfeld and AMS Pictures, comes Ma's Roadhouse a new reality show on TrueTV!
Rick Fairless is the owner of Strokers Dallas, a Texas motorcycle shop, tattoo parlor and biker bar. His greatest asset is his 71-year-old mother, who's also his best, but most outspoken, employee. Can Rick keep his business afloat? And can Ma keep her hands off the bartender?
http://op.amspictures.com/featured-work/home-page-accordian-1/

large_Ma_s_Roadhouse_.jpg

I wish I could be there to watch it with all the hardworking people at AMS :( but at least, by then, I will be back in the states and watching intently from my TV at home :) You guys rock!

Posted by emichele 02:46 Archived in Nepal Comments (0)

8.1.10: Welcome to Nepal!

Country #4

We had an early morning wake up before we hopped in an overpriced cab to take us to the Delhi airport. We were heading to Nepal and not looking back. It was a breeze through the airport and we boarded our plane with ease. I was prepared for a boring hour and a half trip to Kathmandu and was pleasantly surprised with the entertainment and pampering I received instead.

As I sat down I was handed a prepackaged lemonade drink for my drinking pleasure.
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I also noticed the headrest in front of me, decked out with an enthrawling touch-screen which allowed me to choose between games, movies or TV for my entertainment pleasure. Cha-ching!
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What blew my mind was delicious smell of food wafting up an down the isle. On just a short 90 minute flight they served us a shockingly good breakfast omelet with roasted potatoes, a flaky croissant, and a medley of fresh fruit.

Another international flight putting the U.S. to shame. Before this globetrotting adventure I had no idea what I was missing out on. I simply rolled with the punches I was dealt every time I flew. Sometimes it was a flight delay with no remorse or compensation, sometimes it's a seat that doesn't recline or a sadistic stewardess who gets her kicks from jamming the beverage cart into unsuspecting elbows but every time, it's American. Us airways, Continental, Southwest, United, they all suck. Every time I make an airport trip, I have to undergo some new ludicrous rules. No liquids, no nail files, take off your shoes, take off your belt, laptops off, no cell phones, checked bags are $25, sodas are $5. It's ridiculous. And now that I know better, I know it's trivial and unnecessarily ridiculous!

Pretty soon we won't be able to travel with anything other than clothes which will have to be pre-approved in a bag no bigger than a purse. Any larger bag will cost you more than a car payment. We will all have to endure full body cavity searches to get through security. If we finally do get through security we will be stuffed into individual crates the size of small beagles, to ensure maximum capacity. Maybe, if were lucky, they will set down a small saucer of water in case we get thirsty. That will cost us as well.

I recently read the newspaper article about the Jet Airways Employee who "lost his cool" and quit via intercom before using the emergency exit to slide himself to freedom.
I'm sure I'm not the first person to give his guy a standing ovation. Although a little tact is always nice, you can't blame the guy for finally having enough, and he works for the airlines! At least he can quit! The American airline business is the only business I've heard of where the customer is always wrong. You can't complain to anyone about anything. You have to deal with whatever crap comes your way. If I had any other alternative I would never give them another dime.

Enough with my rant.. I was in Nepal!
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We got to our hotel "Elbrus Home" and was immediately greeted by the welcoming manager. Smiling from ear to ear he took our bags and offered us some hot chai. He showed us to our large rooms, complete with a nice big bed, a low table set up for floor seating, a TV, and a bathroom. Inside the bathroom were fresh towels, already hung and ready for use, and a nice big shower curtain! When these are the things that excite you, you have to sit back and laugh.
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Normally though, these things don't exist unless I ask for them. I am ushered to my room and I have so ask for soap, TP, and towels. I also have to make sure that the air conditioning and TV are working before the hotel clerk has left or they will probably never work. I've stayed in places where you have to pay extra for towels and I've stayed in places where toilet paper is "not offered". I kid you not. Needless to say this place rocked my world.
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The first place we started exploring was Durbar Square which our guidebook described as the "natural area to begin sightseeing". Centered around a royal palace sit a multitude of statues, temples, and monuments. As I began to take pictures of the Nepali architectural style that was so new to me, my camera broke and the world stopped it's orbit. Not again. The lens was retracting like a seizure, convulsing in sporadic bursts. We decided to grab a bite before we went on a search for a camera repair shop, a task we knew could be a great feat. We munched on some savory spicy momos at a cute four-story restaurant overlooking Durbar Square.
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After a mission of searching, I found a camera shop and dropped off my baby. We wandered around a bit and got acquainted with the area we'd call home for the next few days. We stopped into a small Chinese restaurant as the rain started coming down, in hopes for some hot Saki. We settled for chowmein and cheap whiskey and I drowned my no-camera sorrows with some Nepalese beer as well.
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Posted by emichele 20:59 Archived in Nepal Comments (0)

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