Saturday, July 16, 2011

Journey to the rooftop of the world: NEPAL

The title is inspired by a movie "Journey to the center of the earth" Hehehehe, I was in between that and "Journey to the country with the coolest flag".  Yeah, its true, just in case you didn't know Nepal is the only contry in the world whose flag not in rectangular shape. Well, I don't know what's the name of the shape, I can say it has the shape of Christmast tree (consists of 2 triangles), red-color, with sun and the moon. Okay, you can just search image in the google I guess :)
This trip is part of my India trip I did May 2011. A little overview about the trip

When: 15-17 May 2011
Location: Nagarkot and Kathmandu, Nepal
Travel mate: Dian
Brief Itinerary:
15 May: Arrive at Kathmandu, go to Nagarkot, stay at Nagarkot
16 May: Back to Kathmandu, visit Swayambhunath (Monkey Temple) and Durbar Square
17 May: Fly back to India

Why go to Nepal?

Well, if I got to be honest here, when I decided to go Nepal, it was totally for the sake to add Nepal to "list countries I've ever visited". I know, that is lame. I didn't have much expectation about the place, what to do, what to visit, etc. Ah, actually had one more reason after I read the story about the founder of Lonely Planet, Tony and Maureen Wheeler, where Nepal is one country which they most visited, somehow they just managed to be back to Nepal again and again.

Almost missed the plane experience

Finally, I experienced this, now I can claim myself a true traveler. Hahaha. Well, the truth is, I hope that would be my first and last ever. Here goes the story: When we went to India, our other travel mate, Nila went to Mumbai, we were using 1 taxi together and we dropped Nila first to the local terminal. In Indira Gandhi Airport, the local and international terminal are located in separate building with about 15 mins distance by car. One thing we didn't realised at that time is the security checking for international flights took longer time than local. Had we known it, we should go to international terminal first.

Our flight is on 7.50 in the morning. We arrived at the airport at 6.30. When we came the check in counter for our flight was closed already, apparently it was just closed so the lady at the counter still allowing us to check in but she said we really really have to hurry as its already boarding. Say what whaaaat?? It turned out our flight was scheduled 10 mins earlier at 7.40 and so one hour before take off the boarding begun. We, tried to stay calm, fill the departure card. At first we worried about the queue at the immigration, but then, the immigration is not something we need to be worried about, its the security checking!!!

After passing the immigration, we felt like getting smacked on the face by seeing how seriously long queue for security checking. I tried to ask the officer if we can cut the queue as our plane already boarding. But, he said he can't help us with that. Okay, stay calm. I do some calculation and reasonableness in my mind if one person took 2-3 mins I think we still can make it. However, it wasn't that simple. During the checking we need get into small booth where the officer will search us in more detail. There is only one special booth for women, while for men, they have several. Its okay actually if the queue also separated men and women so we can really get ahead as there are more men than women, but no, the queue is still the same, and that's what make my reasonanbleness no longer reliable. Darn it. I somehow still had positive thinking that we will make it but not until the time showed 7.10 am and we still not being checked yet. I really really don't wanna miss this, I want to go to Nepal, its not just about the money we paid (we pay IDR 1.7 mio, though), but we just spent 1 day and India and it wasn't the pleasant one and we really don't want to stay in Delhi for another 2 days. It will be a nightmare, and yeah, main reason, I want Nepal stamp in passport!

Inside the booth the lady officer really do some thorough checking and it took some minutes, at that time I almost want to cry to think that we will miss the plane, it would be one of the saddest experience. When I get out of the booth, I saw Dian were with lady with spice jet uniform and I realized, we still have the chance. The lady then said something on her HT (Handie Talkie) to inform about us. Thank Goodness!!! Then, we were accompanied by a guy from spice jet have to run in order to get to the gate, we supposed to go to gate 9 and we need to pass 1-8 first, we took some short cut where only officer allowed, we ran on the conveyor, even when we're with the airline guy, there is still a possibility that we miss the plane, some miscommunication or whathever so we keep running and running until we finally we get in the plane. When my butt touched the seat, I take a look at the watch, it was 7.36. We're 4 mins away from the take off. Alhamdulillah.

Love at first sight

It will be perfect to describe what I feel about Nepal. After one hot and chaotic day in Delhi, being in Nepal is like a fresh breeze in the summer day. Huehehe. I love how simple and old fashion this countries are, the airport looked like and old building but an antique one. When we stepped out of the airport I feel like I was in Jakarta on the 80s. The cars in the parking lot is from that era. We then took a taxi to Nagarkot with one of those oldies car, with no aircon.

Tribhuvan International Airport

I found Nepali (Nepal people) are sincerely nice and friendly, they humble, they like to help, in short they are the best host you can ever hope for. Several time I have missthought of the person several times. I had a negative thinking about some persons but it turned out they were nice. Like a man in the street offering us a tour when we just in the middle of our hostel searching, I feel annoyed at first, but turned out he helped us showing us the right street.

Our hotel at Nagarkot, Peaceful Cottage, has the best hotel manager, he, who admitted is a movie actor who become leading actor at 7 movies, is very nice to us. He even take our order and serve our order as well, he will make sure that we have a comfortable and nice stay there. We also met a trekking guide who according to him, we are his first Indonesian he has ever met, and the first Indonesian who stayed at their hotel. Owwww, I feel so honored. You can see my review for this hotel here

Tibetian Bread with honey for breakfast
Our other accomodation is hostel at Kathmandu, is also one of the best, the price is USD 16 for a double room with bathroom inside, with fan. Okay, we actually don't expect the fan, but, it's still comfortable as Nepal is not as hot as India. However, the price also include free breakfast which a lot, we can have everything in the menu, cereal, bread, omelete, and for drink we can have tea, coffee, juice, everything. And they tastes really good. Also, they have free wi-fi. At first I don't know and expect this hostel has wifi as our previous experience in nice hotel in Delhi, we have to pay for wifi, so in the night when I need to send message for car arrangement in India, I asked the hostel guy if there is any internet cafe, but then he nicely let me use his laptop, I have to chat with him for about one hour in return, but it was a nice talk. Later that night in my room I tried my luck searching for wifi signal, I found there is wifi in this hostel, and I enter "kathmandu" as my 1st guess for the passkey and it worked! Wohoooo! See my Review of Elbrus Home Kathmandu in Trip Advisor.

Being dropped off at the roadside experience

Its not all that nicey daisy in Nepal, we also get not so nice experience. It was during way from Nagarkot to Kathmandu, we have told our driver the name of our hostel and the address too, its in the Thamel, backpacker area. When we enter the Thamel area, the driver told us he will drop us in the street because its a one way street then we can reach our hostel by walking, I was a little bit surprised, but then after I saw the hostel address from the print out booking, it only said, Thamel area, Kathmandu. No wonder the driver dropped us there.

Our hostel key at Kathmandu

We then start to walked the area which was a small alley packed with shops on the sides, we then find internet cafe and decide to search the hostel map from google map or something. We asked the "warnet guy" about our hostel, but he didn't seems to know, but it was really nice of him to ask to his friends whether any of them know, although nobody knows. We feel a little bit anxious because of the fact that we almost run out of our Nepal money, we just found out that our Indian Rupee (INR) can't be used and exchanged in Nepal, but more on that later. Finally we found several map then we print out the map, we than asked to the guy again about the direction from his place, finally he can give directions. We paid using our last Nepal money we had. After a short walk, we finally found our hostel which is located at Tridevi Marg (street name) using the map we had. Well, I can't blame the driver for dropping us in the street like that as our hostel address only mention Thamel, Kathmandu. But overall, nice experience.

The unique faces of Nepali

Believe it or not, I get this a lot, people talk something I dont understand, I give the "I dont understand look" and shook my head, then the person said "Oh, I thought you're Nepali, your face look like a Nepali" Yeaaa right, I dont really believe it though, maybe that was they effort to be nice? I dont know. But, of course I feel honored. In general, Nepali have unique faces, as the country is bordered with India and China, the people is face is a mix between them, some look like India, China, or a mix. One thing I realised here, in my opinion, I think, generally Nepali men are more good looking than Indian men. Generally. Huehehe. You can see in the street or markets some random "abang2" or "mas2" who actually good looking.

Indian Rupee 1000 and 500 denomination are banned

It should be a general knowledge that we should have found when we do some research about Nepal. But we don't know it yet until we're there. I always have the thought that since India and Nepal are side to side, it will be no problem for us to exchange Indian Rupee (INR) in Nepal. I didn't bring much of USD but I was being confidence as I still had some INR with me. Firstly I realized there is no INR in the list of currency on the money changer at the airport. But, I have no clue at all until I read a free guide book about Nepal I got from the airport it said 1000 and 500 denomination of INR are prohibited to be used and exchanged in Nepal. What the heck? My money mostly consist of 500 denomination. Prohibited to be used is fine, but to be exchanged is really beyond my believe, I mean, how come, is there any dispute between these 2 countries? I finally got the answer from guy at hostel, its due to the fake money problem. There are many fake money in 1000 and 500 denomination of INR and that what makes they were banned even for the exchanged. What a surprise we just found this out when we're there. Actually the guy told us there are some plcaes to exchange the money but its an underground place.

I was sort of run of cash at that time, well actually my money is enough to pay for all the basic needs, accomodation, taxi, meals, etc. But, I will have no monye left for shopping. And this is terrible because I really want to buy stuff here, its Nepal, not everybody has ever cotme here, right? We looked around and Kathmandu is full with foreign traveler, we thougt there must be solution to our money problem, there must be a way for us to get Nepal money. We finally tried to get money from the ATM. I'ver heard from a friend in India you can actually get money from ATM machine where has "cirrus" logo and the rate is better. Ok. this is our last straw. After walk several minutes from hostel, we finally found ATM with the help of other traveler. Although we need to try several times, we finally can get Nepal money we need. Once again we're saved.

Shopping heaven

Nepal, as the rooftop of the world, is the best place to look for winter apparel. They got, thick jacket, knitting sweater, hat, gloves, everything too keep you warm. The good thing they have the best quality, well, thats understandable as they really need to have a good quality of sweater as some part of the country is very cold and during winter it can be relly cold, can be below 10 degrees even in Kathmandu. We purchased some sweater, blanket, hat, and when we tried, those stuff really2 warm, so we believe its a good quality, with a very reasonable price, well I can say for that quality they were cheap. Our sweater cost us USD 7-8, our blanket cost USD 6, you get the point. And those stuff really take the space of our backpack, but, we don't regret it.

My firts sincere "I love" T-Shirt

One thing I love about shopping in Kathmandu, the sellers are super friendly, they like to chat, usually asked us where we're from, and like most of the time, people's first guess would be Malaysia, euuuuughhhh, after we said no then the second guess is Indonesia, makes me wonder until now, why Indonesia didn't become their 1st guess? Are Malaysians travel more than us? Other usually asked are we a muslim because of the veils we used, after we said yes, the next sentence is "I'm muslim too!" with a happy cheerful face. It was a nice feeling for me too. Other seller was from India and knowing our next journey to Agra and Jaipur the old man gave us fruitful tips. Very nice. Well, shortly, I can conclude shopping in Nepal are like 10 times better than in India which sort of scary, intimidating, and chaotic.


About the money, I can say its quite cheap, our accomodation is ranging from USD 16-20 per room, for a nice meal, you can have it at USD 5, taxi from Thamel area to Kathmandu airport about USD 4. Okaayy. Those are some stories about Nepal, well, not all the stories I can tell, maybel next time, ahaha, all and all, I really love this country and I really want to go back there again someday, I just have to, and I say, you should go too.

For detail of expenditures, see this excel below.

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