Wednesday, January 6, 2010

From the archive - Thailand & Nepal - IV

[The diary that I compiled during our visit to Adele in Nepal in January & February 2008 came up in conversation the other day. As far as I know only Mum & I have ever read it - so here is part of it for posterity, the photos are complimentary - yeah, they are for free.]

9/2/8 Pokhara

Large breakfast at Mike’s, tried to sort out our huge amounts of gear for the trip home – it is one big mess on our floor at the moment, and that is without my bike. Cleaned mud & my blood off my bike. Dad & I & random Belgian girl from Blue Planet went to International Mountaineering museum – a quiet day all round.

10/2/8 Pokhara

Up for ride up to World Peace Stupa/Pagoda on the hill opposite Lakeside. Nice clear morning with good views of the mountains. An hour riding to almost the summit (the stupa is below the summit) – half an hour up main road to Tanseng, then half an hour up rocky track through one or two villages. On the way down great views of the Annapurnas & Pokhara & the lake – a few photo stops. A nice mixture of gravel track, rocky technical singletrack, stone steps & flowy singletrack through forest. Six kilometres down in all – good fun.Not much else for the rest of the day – a farewell lunch for Adele with her INF mates, Skyped Mum in Sydney & dinner at Monsoon.

11/2/8 Pokhara

Breakfast at Mike’s again as everyone is busy at Blue Planet getting ready for Madu’s wedding. Repacking bike for third time in three weeks. Adele dressed up in kurta for the wedding. As I hadn’t shaved since before trekking, I popped down to the barbers for a shave & haircut. The first five minutes of my haircut, I could have been in a Python sketch – the guy was snip-snip-snipping away merrily but I could feel nothing & see no hair coming off my head in the mirror. The only thing missing (I think) was the homicidal maniac resisting the urge to cut my head off.
Dad & I tried to catch a taxi to the temple on the other side of town. The driver had to get directions from someone else before we left & then managed to drop us at a Buddhist monastery (incidentally, I finished reading “Seven Years in Tibet” this morning). Never mind, ten minutes walk & a few turns later we were at the bottom of a large flight of stairs that led up a large forested hill – at the top of which sat the temple. There wasn’t one large temple at the top; rather, there were a few small temple buildings & a fair amount of open paved ground.

It took Dad & I a while to find which wedding to go to as it was like a common wedding ground. Perhaps there were seven to ten separate weddings today – as it is the last good day of the Nepali/Hindu month to get married. Eventually we saw some badeshis (foreigners – one of the few Nepalese words I know) we recognised & headed over to see what was the go. The bride was beautifully dressed in red with a lot of sequins sparkling in the sun waiting with her friends & family for the groom to turn up (c.f. Western wedding).

After we had spent some time looking at all that was going on & sussed out some of the other weddings in progress, the food started. Somewhat sceptical of the Nepali food prepared en masse & served outside, I only had half a plate for a change & Dad only really had rice.

As we finished eating the first part of the ceremony started with some ritual of the bride sitting on the ground in front of a small fire surrounded by plates of food & her father & uncles doing I don’t know what. Eventually the groom appeared & the priest (I assume he was) started the ceremony proper. It was all very solemn & the priest sounded like he was arguing (that would be the five minute argument, please) with others around him. It was all very strange as there was only a small throng around the bride & groom (mostly us curious westerners), while every one chowed down on the feast some distance away or talked on their cellphones. I still have no understanding of what happened. The bride & groom ate (after everyone else already had) & then there was more ceremony, still no smiles & much putting of red dye on the ‘happy’ couple’s foreheads. Dad & I left about here & went back to the important task of cleaning & packing up my bike.

When Adele arrived back exhausted, we went for a paddle on a hired boat on a very still Phewa Tal. Then our best dinner yet in Nepal at Bistro Caroline with a Dutch friend of Adele’s.

12/2/8 Pokhara – Kathmandu

All packed up, goodbyes to all at Blue Planet & Shyam took us on our final taxi ride to Pokhara airport. True to form, the flight was due to be at least an hour late to bad weather in Kathmandu, or perhaps they had sent the planes elsewhere – I never really worked out which one. After an exhaustive manual search of our luggage (no X-Ray machine) – in which it was determined that my bike, was in fact a bike – we waited out the weather on the rooftop balcony in the sun. As we were drinking yet another pot of Nepali milk tea, who should turn up but some of Adele’s INF friends? Al was flying to Kathmandu, then somewhere else & her husband Phil & daughter Evie were seeing her off.

Their company somewhat helped to pass the time as we saw microlights land & take off & the Jonsom flight leave, return & leave again. Eventually, three flights from Kathmandu arrived at once & we were in the air one and a half hours later. Yet another pleasant twenty-five minute Yeti flight with great views of the Himalayas to the north.

Once we arrived in Kathmandu, Adele was keen to head out to Bhaktapur. Due to various reasons, we didn’t leave until after 1500 – a forty-five minute drive – but was worth it to arrive in the old city with some places having no vehicles - & therefore no horns, bliss! Had a good wander around & I took Adele & Dad through some small back street before we met our driver at 1800. The Kathmandu traffic back was diabolical – for no other reason that there are insufficient roads, no road rules observed & no enforcement if there were any rules. We got back after a hundred minutes.
Great steak dinner & surprisingly quick meals at the Everest Steak House.

13/2/8 Kathmandu – Bangkok

Adele’s final Nepali shopping in Thamel, then off to Kathmandu airport for quick check-in & then long wait for flight to Bangkok. Pleasant enough flight back in to the heat of Bangkok. Adele marvelled at every item of food at the buffet after three months in Nepal – much to my amusement. Nice to be away from Kathmandu – the powercuts had got to eight hours per day.

14/2/8 Bangkok

Wandered around getting Adele orientated with Bangkok & shopping/browsing at the same time. Adele & I booked a day trip for tomorrow – a bus ride out into the country, look at the royal summer palace & temples (some ruined, some not).

15/2/8 Bangkok

Up before 0600 for breakfast & tour. A minivan picked us up & drove us around town for half an hour until we rendezvoused with our coach at some other hotel. Quickly on to motorway out of town west & leaving Bangkok behind eventually. Past large flat paddies (c.f. with the small, stepped rice paddies in Nepal).

We first visited the summer palace at Bang Pa In – lots of magnificent buildings for all the royals to stay in – one donated by the Chinese, one with a distinctly European style. Adele particularly like the animal shaped topiaries (especially the elephants).Next on to one of Thailand’s four capitals – Ayuthaya (1350-1767). This was all in ruins as the Burmese invaded in 1767 & destroyed a lot of it. Still some very large ruins of brick temples & stupas remain. Most of the many Buddhas are sitting down without any heads. On to other temples where we saw a greenstone Buddha, a gold Buddha & the third largest reclining Buddha.
Finally made it to the boat after 1300 (sick of getting in & out of coach by now), where we had a large buffet lunch & a pleasant three hour cruise in to the city.
16/2/8 Bangkok

Down to the tailors to get Adele’s pants – she was most pleased with them. Adele was keen to get a tuk-tuk on the way back, but there weren’t many around & every one we approached wanted to take us somewhere else except our hotel. We gave up & got at $2 (equivalent) taxi instead.

Lunch at hotel & then me Alex & Sarah van Meygaarden in lobby. Alex was my metalwork teacher in my first year at high school. They are now missionaries here in Bangkok with Rahab (as are the MacGregors – who unfortunately are back in NZ now; it turns out that they only live about 500m from our hotel). It was good to catch up with the Vans & hear some of their stories of Bangkok & Nepal. Alex told of a mega computer mall just around the corner, so I had to check it out. It was crazy – six storeys of computers, ripped software & DVDs, components & of course people everywhere! Home tomorrow!

17/2/8 Bangkok – Auckland

There must have been some of the famed Australian wine Shateau de Chunder on the menu last night – it really opens up the sluices at both ends. So we are not so sure Adele will make the 12 hour flight home. Not much happening, Adele bunged herself up with med’s & we made the flight home.

18/2/8 Auckland

Home – with little sleep!

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