Tag Archives: Riki

Various Observations by Riki….Nepal

Pictures at the bottom!

On the plane from KL to KTM – they don’t have any more beer so they bring me half a cup of vodka (barely any ice)…. Hmmm, thank you I guess?

Nepal First Impressions (Kathmandu):

– Flying into the city was awesome (at 10pm), with colorful flashing lights dotting and blinking all about the skyline (we got lucky with our timing, because we came during the midst of Tihar, festival of lights (the Nepali equivalent of Diwali)

  • Airport is old school and crazy, lucky we didn’t arrive when it was too busy, otherwise I dunno…
  • At the baggage carousel, people be thinking, if I push my cart right up there then I will have so much space to get my bags and it won’t be in anybody’s way… not
  • Dusty drive in. Couldn’t see much but the blinking, colorful lights draped from the buildings. DUI checkpoints everywhere (instead of breathalyzers, the driver just kind of spits in the cops face, or says something in such a way that if you’ve been drinking the cop can definitely smell/feel it…
  • The egg yolks are yellow again!!! They were more neon orange in Thailand and Vietnam
  • Super dusty main streets make for cool pictures
  • These stray dogs are great at crossing the street without getting killed, they must have a lot of practice
  • The shopping (or potential to buy stuff) is the best I’ve ever seen. I want to buy everything, but I don’t have the money, or even a place to put the stuff if I did (here or anywhere)

Tihar (Dipwali) evening observations – colored powder, marigolds, candles (wax and oil), firecrackers, kids going door to door singing for money, lights everywhere…

Nepalese people are amazingly diverse, the kids are really cute, the women are beautiful, and the young men are all “cool dudes”

In general, the cars and bikes in KTM are the worst we’ve seen (most old school and full of awful drivers). Julie was almost hit more times in 4 hours of walking around Thamel than during the rest of our entire trip (and we’ve been around a lot of cars/bikes in Vietnam & Thailand)

Bus trip on the way to Pokhara

This bus is crazy bad @ not causing a traffic jam, along with the other 50 buses trying to get gas at the one gas station on the busiest street around

  • Back seat – we got air at least 10 times (air: whole body lifting off the seat by an inch or more…)
  • They were playing 50 Cent @ a lunch spot, great food, but weird vibe with the music
  • Saw a hemp plant growing on the side of the road, somebody in the bus shouts out “marijuana!”

Festival in Pokhara – great music, and people dancing all day and night (alone, in groups large and small, brother and sisters, etc…)

Cow in the Road – really can do whatever they like – tourists taking photos – one big old German guy tells another, of course, “Holy Cow!”

Me “I think all the dust is finally out of my mouth.” – Julie “They have paved roads here.”

On walk up to Peace Pagoda – we saw monkeys, a whole tribe of them (also we got lost again…) the baby’s were really cute, but there was a moment when we were surrounded, and a couple of the big guys were chasing each other, and it was pretty scary (like the gorillas in that movie Congo), but then I realized I was being a baby…

5 day Poon Hill Trek

  • Brutal if you don’t have a good pack (and shoes cause it gets “slippy”) and if you have a wicked cold (literally woke up in Ghorepani @ 2874M and my lungs hurt when I took deep breaths)
  • Sapa don’t have nothing on the rice terraces here… Btw, I love rice terraces
  • Little kids in towns we pass asking “chocolate” or “photos (for money)” is a little cute, til you think of how many people must be actually giving them chocolate… But when a kid says “medicine?” and is pointing at a lil infection on his leg, it’s a little depressing (we didn’t have any medicine… left it all in Pokhara)
  • So many porters, or just random teenagers/young adults were the friendliest people I have ever encountered (!!), just asking where you were from, how long in Nepal, etc… w/ huge smile, super friendly. Wish I could hang out w/ them more than just a pass on the trek
  • Water Features! Everywhere, just walking up and down little streams that have taken over the paths, must get awful during the monsoon.
  • While trying to fall asleep when it’s nearly freezing in our room: Julie: “Are you comfortable?” Me: “No! I’m wearing a f@#$ing leotard!”

Back to Pokhara

While having dinner, Busses full of students (or just lots of young people) pass us by & they are either singing or yelling happily. They do this as they pass each restaurant down the road.

Julie’s calves are wicked swoll right now after the trek

KABADDI (Wave World Kabaddi League)? – some crazy sport on Indian TV that looks like a mix between red rover and wrestling (w/ awfully depressed looking white cheerleaders)

Back to Kathmandu

These trucks are awesome – they just say whatever the drivers favorite thing is: Sports, Playboy, Lionel Messi, Bob Marley, Road King/Viking, Titanic (complete with Kate & Jack painting) – sometimes they have beautiful pictures painted on them (mountain scenery, gods & goddesses) and sometimes just kittens and puppies…

I’ve been offered Hash (in varying discrete ways) an average of 5 times a night every time we walk through Thamel (the touristy area)

The Three Durbar Squares around KTM:

Patan: coolest, most compact, pretty

Bhaktapur: old school, quietest, most quaint

Kathmandu: lived in, busy, most ornate decorations on certain buildings

This one song that is playing @ every music shop will now forever be in my head & Julie hates it (really just me singing it…). I find out later that it’s just Tibetan monks chanting for hours on end.

The dust is completely overwhelming, @ the end of the day, I use a tissue, and everything that comes out is grey/brown/black. TMI.

And the traffic is nuts here, no traffic lights, or even stop signs. These traffic cops must have balls of steel

Also, driving a car here (or bus) is like playing chicken (crazy scary chicken in the mountains), it’s all about who flinches first…

Final Observations:

Bus Travel – one highway b/w the major cities, going through crazy steep hills (what we would call mountains, but they call them hills, because the mountains here are the real deal…)

-On the way to Chitwan, saw a bus with its front section completely blown out, no windows, nothing, and the top half of the bus was leaning @ a 45 degree angle, and they were driving this thing…

-From Chitwan to KTM, saw a minibus fall off the cliff (we didn’t see it actually happen just the aftermath), luckily some dense trees saved it from going all the way down. Also, Julie saw at least 1 almost accident and the others said they saw three

-@ least the busses (for an 8 hour trip) are more comfortable than all the airplanes I have taken this year, and those busses are old school

Scooters Vs. Motorbikes:

Nepal does it right when it comes to motorbikes, real motorcycles (Royal Enfields, apparently these are real cool) w/ protection for your legs & plenty of exhaust. But compared to SEA (where they have scooters or fancy new motorbikes) they are bad ass…

Pollution in Kathmandu:

The dust is intolerable! I love the city, but c’mon! these road widening projects & all the construction for the SAARC summit (which happens Nov 26 & is nowhere near ready) puts so much dust in the air you can’t breathe…

-and I haven’t even started on all the trash they burn (literally, all of it) and the smelly river…

Leaving for BKK @ KTM airport:

The airport is old, so old, like Cuba w/out the organization (especially the domestic terminal where we left for Pokhara)

In the departure terminal: I’m pretty sure it was 95% men in there (mostly Nepalese migrant workers, likely going to Malaysia or the Middle East to be exploited as cheap labor) & I’m pretty sure many of them were about to board their first airplane b/c they were like little boys @ the airport (faces pressed up to the glass, watching the planes go about their business)

Deep thoughts by Riki….Vietnam

What cops are probably saying @ roadblocks to motorbikes/scooters: “sorry guys, road is closed, use the sidewalk.”

I’ve heard the Vietnamese national anthem so often here that I probably know the hymn better than the Swiss one…

American Aussie @ Bia Hoi place: “Hanoi is Bangkok 20 years ago and Myanmar is like what Hanoi was 20 years ago.” Conversation was about why we should definitely go to Myanmar.

Hanoi has the best tasting coffee I have ever had, honestly, just the simple Vietnamese coffee with milk (which is condensed and you don’t know it’s in there until you start stirring your coffee, then voila…) and it’s only 20,000 VND (just under $1).

Observation while eating at street food stalls: Vietnam may be the communist country, but they don’t use toilet paper for napkins like they do in Bangkok (they don’t always, but this place we really like does)…

Yes, there is a lot of propaganda, but mostly on billboards in the countryside/along the highways (in Hanoi, most were for the 60th anniversary celebration of kicking out the French) and they are all very positive (pro worker, school teachers & pupils, peace, and “Uncle Ho” is on almost all of them), quite cool looking, and less ubiquitous than other adverts.

Their chickens (in the city) and pigs, buffalos, goats (in the countryside) just roam around everywhere – free range for sure… Just hanging out on the curb, most likely aware of the crazy traffic (cause if they weren’t, they would go on about it so nonchalantly).

Wedding and graduation pictures are huge here. Always very professional, great attire, and everywhere all the time.

Two young schoolgirls from the country side practiced their English with me at the temple of literature, we talked about Hanoi, New Orleans, and what they were studying. The students here do this all the time, they just go to the popular tourist destinations, approach foreigners, ask if they know English and if they can practice for a short conversation, it’s great and they must do it a lot, because their English is quite good.

Families just hang out on the sidewalks, in front of their houses (like the whole family, three generations), especially if they sell stuff out of their homes. It’s all very communal, but with all the motorbikes on the sidewalks, you usually just end up walking in the street.

It seems like when they advertise meat here (cooked and ready to eat):
– Chicken – no head
– Pig – head is there, just not attached
– Duck – whole thing, including the beak, just hanging from a hook in its neck

It’s amazing how inventive/ingenious the sidewalk kitchens (or motorcycle repair shops) can be with so little space, and so few materials.

The kids (especially in the countryside/outside the busiest parts of the cities) are sooo cute. They wave and say “hello” to every foreigner that happens to pass by (the babies are taught early by their moms, helping them wave and pointing out the foreigners), and if it’s only you, they say hello as often as they can until you are out of sight. Of course, the teenagers say it ironically and giggle with their friends.

The Vietnamese are none to pleased with the Chinese right now.  China built an oil rig in their waters (which China says is theirs cause….). There’s even an exhibit in the revolution museum about it, showing old maps and stuff (from China) to discredit their claim. (It’s all very political and there are some other territorial water disputes in the region, involving China…, you should read up on it).

The ladies working in the train station, and the airport too apparently, have these great white and blue dresses/outfits on (Julie could describe them better I’m sure) but they look great.

The haze, from the smoke, from the rice harvest… makes strobe lights and fireworks look amazing at night.

Sales pitch @ every market or outdoor seller (not sure who it works with) – “buy something from me” or “you buy something from me” sometimes proceeded by “where you from” or “thank you”. There was a lady at a restaurant (I think she owned it) in Sapa making fun of them, “you buy from me not from her…” Wasn’t very nice cause they didn’t speak much English and were only trying to earn some money, but it seams like there is a bit of a rivalry up there with the ethnic minorities, who sell mostly handmade things and still live quite simply, and the Viet who have moved up there more recently to make money off the tourists.

Bikes of burden, let me tell you…. Actually, you can see it in a couple of pictures, but it’s amazing what they can fit on these bikes (there’s already a photo book with them… And we thought we were so clever when we came up with the idea).