Nepaled It

I spent 4 days in Nepal, all in the capital city of Kathmandu.

The first time I ever heard the word “Kathmandu� was in a Happy Days episode (for all those in their 20’s or younger, it was a tv show starring a really cool short little Jewish guy called the Fonz)… anyway, in that episode the Fonz had a new girlfriend from Kathmandu… and the show made her sound all exotic and mystical. For some reason I always remembered that, and when I had the chance I decided to go there.

Now, granted, just going to Nepal and spending your entire time in the fairly poor and rundown city of Kathmandu is really not getting the essence of the area. While you can’t see the Himalayas directly from Kathmandu, a very short drive/flight away is the most amazing mountain range in the world, by far. You can’t even mention the Rocky Mountains in the same paragraph as the Himalayas, and the Alps don’t even come close as well.

The Himalayas, home to Mt. Everest (at nearly 30,000 feet high, or nearly 10 kilometers!) is at the height that international 747 airliners cruise at! To give you an indication of how high that is, you wouldn’t be able to breathe without assisted oxygen and the temperatures regularly hover below -50c at that height!

And it’s not just Mt. Everest that is there… To comprehend the enormous scale of Himalayan peaks, consider that Aconcagua, in the Andes, at 6,962 m, is the highest peak outside the Himalaya, while the Himalayan system has over 100 separate mountains exceeding 7,200 meters!

And now that I told you how fascinating the Himalayas are, well, I didn’t go there.

Why not? Well, again, I am on a bit of a sprint to get somewhere (more on that below) and not to mention my flip flops and a pair of shorts are about the only hiking gear I have in my arsenal at the moment… so, I’ll leave climbing Mt. Everest until next time!

Kathmandu is interesting. It is quite a mix between Indian and Chinese cultures there, but being on the Indian side of the Himalayas, Kathmandu looks and feels a lot more like India than it does China… right down to the holy cow’s roaming around right in the middle of the street.

Obviously, anyone interested in Nepal is interested in the amazing natural surroundings and hiking and mountain climbing. I don’t have much to offer in terms of info there except to say that the natural surroundings around Kathmandu look quite beautiful. I don’t know what kind of trees they are, but there are many trees there that are just full of purple flowers…

What I can tell you about is Kathmandu, though. It is quite poor looking and feeling… and, similarly to Vientiane, there are hardly any buildings over 5 stories, giving it a very rural feel.

There is very little nightlife in Kathmandu, but I managed to find what was there. The main/only place to go is an area called Thamel which has a lot of little pubs and a few go-go style bars. There really is nothing there you would call a disco. And even on a Friday night I never saw a place that had more than 25 people inside, so it is verrrry quiet. Although I still managed to have a pretty outrageous time, bringing two Nepali girls back to my room to the shock and dismay of everyone including the Nepalese military and staff at the hotel who had apparently never seen anything like that… I managed to talk my way through them all but they still came to my room in the middle of the night to tell me “that is simply not allowed sir”….

I found quite a few people really tried to rip me off there, which I wasn’t used to at all coming from Thailand… I had one taxi guy on the oldest, crappiest bicycle I’ve ever seen drive me around from pub to pub spanning a total of a few blocks over 1-2 hours after which he tried to charge me $100?!?!? All he got in return was a laugh, then a look of “try again and don’t make me laugh again�. He went down to about 1/10th of his initial price soon after, which was still probably a rip-off, but whatever.

The vibe in Kathmandu is very hippie… naturalist… environmental… zen style… which is fine, but not really my vibe.

So, after a few days I decided to leave. I talked to a travel agent and he kinda just said “oh, almost all flights from Nepal are fullâ€?… then his power shut off and he told me to come back tomorrow and he’ll see what he can do. The next day I went to a different one and he gave me the same story and then told me his power doesn’t work so he can’t even find out if there are any seats available anyway… if I were to have listened to them, I would have been under the impression that unless I took a train or bus, I was stuck in Nepal forever.

I knew there were a few flights to Delhi every day and also some other flights to places like Dubai. I was bored of Kathmandu and craved to be in a more modern/big-city style environment so I just decided to pack my stuff up this morning and just go to the airport.

The Kathmandu airport is probably the most unorganized, irritating, non-modern airport I have ever been to anywhere. There are no signs, no monitor’s…. nothing telling you what flights are departing or anything. You sort of just have to stand there and from time to time people will walk by and ask you where you want to go and then sometimes they help you try to get there. There are lines for everything there, including airport tax, customs, 3-4 different bag checks and searches… and even when you get through it all to the departure “lounge� there are still no signs telling you which flights are boarding or anything… it almost seems like you are in a flea market the entire time you are in the airport and just have to best try to find your way by asking people.

I stopped at a few counters and they told me all their flights are full, but I could wait on the wait list, which I did. In the meantime someone asked me if I want to go to Sharja… I said sure, anywhere! After he ran around for a bit I paid him cash (about $300 USD) which he just put in his pocket, then he wrote out an airplane ticket for me to Sharja… as he was about to walk away I asked, “By the way, where is Sharja?�

He said it is by Dubai, so I am presuming it is in the UAE. The airline I am on at the moment, writing this from, is Air Arabia and even thought it doesn’t really say in their onboard magazines, I am pretty sure Sharja is in the UAE. From the pictures Sharja looks very nice, but I was reading that there is no alcohol in Sharja.

Now, I am not an alcoholic or anything (yet), but if I am going to go sit in the Arabian desert, I’d like at least the option to have a cold beer or something.

So, even though the plane hasn’t landed yet (4 hour flight) I am already pretty much committed to trying to find an onward flight to Muscat, Oman, which looks like a pretty cool city.

If I can’t, then maybe I’ll spend one night in Sharja and then go on to Oman.

Before I left Kathmandu I got an email from one of my friends who seemingly has the ability to blow all my best laid travel plans out of the water. It was my buddy with the 90’ yacht from Mexico… he told me that his yacht arrives in Italy (after being shipped on a giant tanker from Florida for the cheap sum of only $100,000!) on May 27 and he said I should come and join him as he cruises down Italy, then up the other side, through Slovenia and on to Croatia. Hmmmmm, all expenses paid cruise through the Meditteranean on a luxuriously outfitted yacht complete with maids, waitresses and gourmet chefs…. I gave it about 2 seconds of thought and then emailed him back and said, ok I’ll be there!

So, forget my whole travel schedule I had so meticulously laid out in my last blog entry, I will attempt to spend the next 10 days or so in Oman, Jordan and Israel and then will fly to Zurich on about May 27 and catch a flight on my buddies private plane to Genoa, Italy, where the cruising begins! After I reach Croatia, I am not sure, maybe I will resume my previous plans and head to Kuwait and Iran… or maybe not. Why do I even bother to try to plan? Every single time I do, I never stick to it. 😛

*note: I just landed in Muscat, Oman after transferring in Sharja, wherever that was. More updates from Oman soon