Thursday, 3 April 2014

Kathmandu, Phokara & Everest

If you ask me what I think about Nepal after I been there for a week, I would answer you, chasing angels or fleeing demons, go to the mountains.

Where to start?

21 March 

We reached Kathmandu International Airport at 8.15 pm 21st March 2014 by Air Asia X Kuala Lumpur - Kathmandu. It took about 5 hours journey.
As myself passed the immigration, eyes were searching any Nepali holding a card written my name on it. I've requested an airport pick up from hotel that I booked online.
No one was there, even after 30 minutes of waiting. I was worried as it was me who booked everything. We walked slowly to the taxi pick up lobby. Some old Nepalis asked us there's anyone going to pick us up? And I said yes but that person is not here. Then we got lucky, an old man offered his mobile phone for me to call the hotel. So, I called the hotel, Pariwar B&B hotel, Thamel Street.
The conversation went like this:
The receptionist said they already sent someone to pick me and friends last night, 20 March. He added, I booked for 20 March.
I was mad, I was pretty sure that I booked 2 rooms for our staying on 21st March. As I barely can understand the receptionist, I just agree with him.
He was kind, he still sending someone to pick me and friends up, he said.
We were asked to wait near to an abandoned coffee house. We waited there almost an hour while adoring the architecture of the airport. The airport was simple, cultural, made up from red bricks, with the touch of Indian arts.
Kathmandu International Airport

Kathmandu was 10 degree Celsius on that night.
An hour passed, came two Nepalis man. One of them well American-English speaking, introduced himself as Kiwar. Another man just smiled and kept on driving us to Thamel street.
Kiwar said that we booked the room on 20 March's night and that was why no one waited for us tonight. I checked my Agoda email on phone as I didn't agree with him.
Uh-oh, I made a silly mistake, booked the hotel on the wrong date. I apologized and asked Kiwar how.
He smiled and asked us to not worry, there's no problem to stay there tonight, he said.
Pariwar B&B, Thamel Street
(20$ per night for 4 persons)
So we reached Pariwar B&B hotel at 10pm. The street was dark and most of the shops along the street were closed. Kiwar said at 10pm all shops are closed except for pub & bar restaurant. He added that there's no electricity tonight because of the heavy rain an hour before we arrived.
We were lucky, Kiwar doesn't ask more money to let us stay there, indeed he gave us to stay in a bigger room. He asked us to have a rest and promised us to talk about price of our trekking trip if we are interested on the next day.
Checked in. The room was big, four single beds side by side, it was like a dorm.
Everyone was hungry. We decided to find a restaurant for our late dinner.
It was 11pm. We were walking down the Thamel street trying our luck to find a halal restaurant. Before that, Kiwar offered to escort us to any pub for welcoming drink party. But, we rejected as we all are Muslim.
We had our dinner at Tandoori & Pub Restaurant. It served Indian food, since it not stated there it's a halal restaurant, all of us had a vegan style dinner. Lucky no pork served, so we ate happily. (Naan was the best!) (Dinner costs us 1000 NPR/person).

Walked back to Pariwar in the dark street then slept.

22nd March.

Woke up for Subooh, no water heater in the bathroom, freezing cold. We had our rooftop breakfast at the hotel.
(250 NPR/person)

Right after that, a hotel worker/trekking tour guide came to discuss about trekking tour prices. Tbh, we were not planning to trek to Everest since we have very limited time in Nepal. But he insisted that we can trek for 5 days if we want.
His name is Manur, Manur explained us for 5 days trekking cost us around $280 per person included 5 days treks, permit, guide, food, accommodation and all transportation.
It was expensive as we were on a budget bag-packing trip. But he insisted us to take this package. We told him that we can't afford that. After awhile, he gave us lower price from $280 to $250. But with a condition that we have to take a bus from KTM to Phokara.
$250 is still expensive for us.
Manur went to discuss with Kiwar. Kiwar came after a few minutes, he said he understand us and gave us his last price which was $200 per person.
We agreed.
We will start our trekking tomorrow, he said. We signed few documents and went to a camera shop to get two passport pictures for the permit. (Take note, if you were planning to go bring extra passport picture!)
Day still long, so we decided to explore KTM city since the next day we will be leaving KTM for Phokara & Everest.
We walked along Thamel street, it was much merrier in day time compared to night life. Brought some outfits to wear, I brought a fisherman pants while others brought I don't know what. After about 2 hours, we rushed back to Pariwar to check out for a new hotel.

Then we checked in to Friendship Hostel. I booked a family room using so that four of us can be in same room ($8 per room). It was cheap.
But when I was in that hostel. The receptionist said he don't know Agoda did a promotion about that room because it doesn't exist and it's impossibly cheap. He can barely speak in English, and kept calling his boss (I guess). The quarrel went bad as I don't really get what he was saying.
After waited for 30 minutes, he was sorry that he cannot give that family room. I was mad at him, I said it was the hotel fault that they didn't know about their hotel's promotion in Agoda. The quarrel didn't went long. He gave us to stay in a bigger room (one queen sized bed, one single bed, a TV, attached hot shower, great view from the window)
Right after everyone showering, we headed to Durbar Square, a cultural and heritage place recognized by UNESCO. It took 30 minutes from Thamel. We went there by taxi (400 NPR). The entrance fee was 300 NPR but if you can flirt with the ticket girl well, you will be getting free one week pass like one of us did.

One of Durbar temples

View from the rooftop cafe
Nepalis get clean water
Look at the architecture!

Durbar Square selfie. Azim - Firdaus - Farhan - Me (from left to right)

We didn't managed to explore Durbar Square completely as it happened KTM once again ice raining, heavily. We spent most of the time at the rooftop cafe having a big pot of hot chocolate. 
The rooftop cafe. Everyone was inside the cafe but we were so 'jakun' with the ice raining so we decided to harm ourselves here.

The heavy rain flooded half of Durbar Square. It was hard to not fall into the water while walking.
Flooded entrance 

We took taxi to go back to Thamel as we need to buy equipment for tomorrow's trekking (400 NPR back to Thamel).
It was freezing cold, I can barely feel my feet as I only wore really thin outfits and because of that we stopped at a halal restaurant named Annapurna for early dinner. It was expensive but worth it.
We finally ate some meats. (Total of 1000 - 2000 NPR) 

A shaking selfie, sejuk I tell you

Then brought gloves, snow caps, winter equipment, bottles of water (water is not provided when you are up there) and some snacks .

23 March

Sharp at 5am, Manur, our trekking guide stood happily at our hostel's lobby. We waited for bus to take us to bus station. Morning in KTM was not my favorite, it was really cold and everyone kept complaining about that while Manur laughed at us.
We reached at a bus station, but we were not taking bus, it was a van. We were asked to sit in a coaster (van) and all of our bag-packs were tied on the roof of the coaster. Everyone looked happy and excited.
To keep body warm we brought a cup of 10 NPR black tea from an old lady who sell tea from van to van. As the sun came out, more people were coming in to the coaster, packed. Manur was with the driver, around 7am, we headed to beautiful Phokara.
Happy Hindi song kept on playing while the coaster moving fast along the green mountains.
The only picture I can take when I was in that coaster.

We stopped few times to pee (mostly the Nepalis, they don't mind peeing everywhere they like) and also for breakfast.
My breakfast
After 6-7 hours journey from KTM, suffered the hell of bumpy roads and enjoyed the beautiful rivers, mountains views, we reached Phokara around 12pm.
Phokara is a clean and beautiful city, the bag-packer part looks like somewhere in western country. There's big green emerald lake facing the mountains, Phewa lake I guess. Lots of fancy cafes and small cottages for you to stay.
We stopped beside the road and waited for a jeep to take us up to Rajapur. On the way there, we stopped again at local Nepali restaurant for lunch. We had Nepali's dishes, it was great. The best part was you can have that dishes many plate you want without being extra charge. We ate a lot!
Fresh fish curry was the best

Then jeep took us up to Rajapur, the view was breath-taking. There was rivers, paddy and flowers field, and local villages. Once we reached Rajapur, we started our trekking to Hile. Manur told us that it's going to take us 6 hours to Hile. We walked with our heavy bag-packs. Some of us not feeling well because of the bumpy roads from KTM - Phokara. So the hours we took from Rajapul to Hile was longer. 

Manur, our trekking guide

Local village

One of the bridges we've crossed

Himalaya's water fall

The heavy bag-pack 

Spot the white horse

More river

The locals

We reached at our guest house in Hile nearly 7pm. I forgot what was the name but they treated us well. The room and toilet was really clean, the view was nice. One of the workers was Sumeetha, a young Nepali lady. She always smile no matter what. Sadly we didn't really have time to talk to her.
We stayed there for a night, the next day at 7am we hike again to Ghorepani Hill. 

View from my dining hall

Our room

24 March         


Manur was very understanding man, despite he had being doing this, trekking up and down the Everest for nearly 15 years, he asked us to leave anything less needed at this guest house to make our bag-pack lighter. He said the next treks will be just up up up no more flat treks. After we had our heavy breakfast, we started trekking up. The trek to Ghorepani was the hardest, we took long hours to reach there. Before this Manur told me there was no stone stairs, but to make the trek less dangerous, the local made the stairs. But it was still tiring, we took nearly 4 hours to climb half of the trek then we stopped for lunch.

The route

Fake happy faces


Stop for snack

After an hour of lunch and rest, we continued trekking to Ghorepani, about 3 1/2 hours. Legs were cramped, lips was dried and body was extremely exhausted. But once we reached there... everything went away.

Can you imagine my room facing the Everest?

Me & Everest

Our dining table
Everyone was happy since everything was just what we were expected it will be. Ghorepani was 0 degree Celsius, so it was pretty cold for Malaysia guys like us. The room was really nice, but no water heater at the bathroom. It quite hard for us.
Dinner served on 7.30 pm. All of us were ready at the dining table. The dining hall was full with people all around the world. Beside us, two girls from England with their trekking guide were being choosy choosing their dinner, near to the counter was a group of old Japanese talking loud while having their dinner. At the center of the dining hall, there was a heater stove, it generated heat from burning of agricultural residue and animal dung. There were few travelers around the stove, a Korean couple was writing their travel journal, and few more white travelers were reading and online. The seat around the stove heater was well occupied with other travelers, so what we did was only holding our hot pot to get warmed. Everyone phone was dying at that moment, because there was no plug in our room.We asked Manur to get our phone charged, he said we have to pay 150 NPR if we want to use any plug here. In that desperate condition, wanting to online on phone, we don't mind paying. Right after dinner, we went back to room, we talked while making fun of each other (mostly making fun of Azim). Out of sudden, an old Japanese man knocked our room with a very mad face. He asked to slow down our voices. It was funny because he can't speak English and it took quite sometimes for me to understand him. Then around 10 pm, three of us went down to the dining hall to get ourselves warmed. We sat around the stove, then came a Nepali man. The Nepali man was so interested to know about us soon as he knew we were from Malaysian. He said, one day he will move to Malaysia to get a good job and be rich. He was nice despite of his left toe was frozen. Yes frozen! He just got back from the Everest and probably because of not wearing a proper shoe. He said it was normal and laughed like it was a joke to him.
After an hour, we went to bed.

25 March

We woke up at 5 am to trek up Poon Hill to see the Everest nearer and the sun-rising. Everyone wore really thick attires with flashlight in hand. Manur waited for us 15 minutes early at the lobby, he offered to carry my bag-pack (what a relief!)
It took around 2 1/2 hours to Poon Hill. I don't know why, my feet was extremely hurt after 5 minutes of trekking and one of my friend was having this bad dizzy. So, we both were the slowest. Manur kept asking us to be fast if we wanted to see the Everest sunrise. My feet can barely move, and I nearly give up but because Manur we managed to be at top of Poon Hill at the moment of sunrise. He was the best!
Sunrise Everest

People around the world came here for Everest
Spectacular Everest

Selfie Everest lah konon, berpeluh teruk

Group photo


Expensive Everest hot milk

Exhausted but happy nganga

Frozen 'Let It Go... Let It Go...'
It was -10 degree Celsius. We were the last group leaving the Poon Hill. I just sat there, enjoyed the fresh air while everyone was busy taking photo etc. After about 2 hours there, we walked down happily. Took our bags then went back to our guest house at Hile.
Actually, tbh, I quite sad at the moment we leaving Ghorepani. Why? Because I feel like I didn't fully explored the place and I wanted to take more pictures. The route to Hile from Ghorepani was easy as it's the same trek. The best part of trekking in Nepal was when you met other travelers on the route, they will greet you and smile. I greeted people Nepali's greeting 'Namaste' a lot and I enjoyed that.
We stopped again for lunch after 3 hours journey at the same place we had our lunch before. The owner was really friendly and the dishes were nice too. After few hours, we continued back trekking down the mountain. Soon after that, Manur asked me and anyone who can trek fast to go back to our guest house at Hile as fast as we can because he said the it's going to rain soon, heavy rain.
As I was so energetic at that moment, I leaved the group with one of my friend, Firdaus, we walked really fast and some of the moments we forgot our route. Fortunately, we took the right route. About 30 minutes more to the guest house, the ice rain came heavily.
I forgot to put my phone and money in the bag, so both of these things ruined. What a tragic! We only found and stopped for shelter at a small local house after 10 minutes in the rain. There was also a group from Korea sheltered there from the rain. It was nice, I did talked to the owner and he did introduced his daughter to us. He said his daughter was known as 'miss personality' there. Me and Firdaus laughed as we can see that why people calling her that.
Right after the rain stopped, we walked back to the trek. We reached at the guest house at 6.30 pm. Sumeetha, beautiful Nepali lady (one of the workers at the guest house) kept asking us, how was the
trekking while helped us to our room. I could see from my room, Sumeetha was busy serving an old lady at the dining hall, probably a Spanish lady. The Spanish old lady also made a joke that Sumeeta can barely understood, the old lady wanted Sumeetha to be her daughter-in-law, she pronounced Sumeetha's name with her son's last name. It was funny to see Sumeetha faked her laughs.
Soon after that, Manur and two more my friends arrived. One of them was really sick, cause the food and the drastic altitude changes. We leaved one of us sleeping, me and others went down for dinner. While waiting for dinner we played cards and reminiscing back treacherous route we took.

26 March

We woke up at 7 am from breakfast and packing up our things for Rajapur. Right after breakfast we went to say goodbye to Sumeetha and the rest, we did give them some food from Malaysia because they had served us well.
Sumeetha and us
One of us was sick, so we took that opportunity to take a jeep to Rajapur. It was cheap as supposedly it will cost you about $30 per jeep but we were lucky because the jeep had to take someone at Rajapur, so we don't have to wait the jeep to come to Hile from Rajapur.  ($20 from Hile - Rajapur)
Soon we reached Rajapur, we took a van directly to KTM. It took us more than 8 hours to KTM because of the small road that connect Phokara to KTM was fulled with big lorries. We did stop for lunch an hour. The journey back to KTM was bad. It was packed with people with really bad ventilation but we can't open the window since the road a bit dusty and some of the passenger was carrying a box of roosters. Can you imagine that?
We arrived at KTM at 8pm, Manur and us took a taxi to our hotel from the bus station. We stayed at Pariwar again for a night ($5 per person). Everyone there greeted us nicely especially Kiwar. We checked in to our dorm, and said goodbye to our awesome trekking guide, Manur. He said thank you to us and he can't wait to meet his wife and children.
In the dorm room, there was one more extra bed. We have to share the room with someone else. After showering and etc, a Turki man came in, he's name is Salcuk. He was friendly and we did share some travel experiences we have. He told us about his bag-packing journey to Iraq and Pakistan, and he was planning to go to India after Nepal. But, he was worried about getting a visa since it was a last minute planning. So, I suggested him to travel Malaysia as he also planning to go to Thailand and Indochina after that. I was nice to him. I was regret to not take his email, who knew he might need help when he was in Malaysia.
We leaved him at the room for dinner. We had our dinner at a halal restaurant, it was cheap. We had Buff Shepali and Buff Burgers. (Shepali is somekind like curry-puff but it's bigger) (100 NPR per person)
Then around 10 pm, we when back to the hotel since there was no night life in Themal.

27 March 

Our last day in Nepal.
Were woke up early, and went out for shopping. Shop for souvenirs. Everyone was happy as we get a lot of things cheaper that it should be because we have our bargain expert with us, Mr Farhan. The shopping session took about 3 hours since Thamel street is a long street. We rushed back to hotel. checked out and went to the airport. We took a taxi to the airport, before leaving the taxi, the driver asked us to give him any MYR note to him because he was a money collector. He was so happy after receiving MYR 1 from us.
Everything went smoothly at the airport even though our bag-packs did exceed few kilos, the officer was fine with it. We arrived at Kuala Lumpur around 10.15 pm.

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  1. What a journey. But I hope your journey was pleasant. I've wanted to go to Nepal for quite some time now. How much your budget was when you were there? Is it safe for a girl to travel alone? Thank you :)

    1. You can see my budget on the previous entry. It's safe to travel alone even you are a girl. But please do some study on places you wanna go. My advice if you wanted to start travel alone, go the place you used to go, then evaluate your performance, if you think you are okay travelling alone, you can proceed to a new place.

  2. What I meant by being alone was, is it safe for a girl to travel alone in Nepal, all by herself. And Malaysian need visa to enter Nepal right? Can I just apply here in the US instead of applying for the visa in our home country? Thank you so much :)

    1. Oh sorry, it is safe for a girl to go alone, don't worry. But please do all the hotel bookings before you reach there. Don't forget to request an airport pick up (less dangerous rather than you take a taxi from the airport). If you are planning to trek, I suggest you to bring a friend at least, because trekking is tiring and anything could happen. If you have friend with you, he/she can help you if anything happen rather than you just depend on the trekking guide. About Visa, you can apply it in any country that has Nepal embassy or you can just apply it at the Kathmandu airport if you don't mind of waiting.