Category Archives: Kathmandu Valley

We’ll be back!

It’s our last night in Nepal and , as I’m typing this, I’m sitting with my last beer on the roof top terrace of our hotel.

Tomorrow we’re off to Singapore and, while we’re looking forward to our next destination, I’m already “missing” Nepal. The last six weeks were great and, given the chance, we’d do it all over in almost exactly the same way again. Ulrike, Ute and the four of us … we all had a great time in and around Kathmandu, as well as on the trek.

It’s my third time here and I still think that Nepal is a fantastic travel destination with (or without) kids. Kathmandu is interesting, the mountains are breathtakingly beautiful, the prices are very reasonable … and the Nepalese are unbelievably helpful and friendly. What more can you ask for in a holiday?

We all sat around the dinner table today, talking about what we liked (and didn’t like) in Nepal and, except for the pollution in Kathamandu, there wasn’t a whole lot we could find wrong with it. All four of us agreed that we we’ll be back again. There is still so much to see here. Once the kids are a bit older, I’d love to go hiking in Dolpo or Mustang … or maybe do parts (or all?) of the newly established great Himalaya trail.

Quoting Finn and Lara: “It’s great here, why do we have to leave?”

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R&R at Shivapuri Heights

We decided to treat ourselves after the trek and booked four nights at the Shivapuri Heights Cottages. We found it on tripadvisor.com a few months ago and there are good reasons that it’s getting so many fantastic reviews. Situated in the hills above Kathmandu, you feel like being in the countryside, while only being half an hour away from the city.

It’s run by Steve and his wife Neeru and we feel a bit like being house guests in their home. Truth be told, we did very little the last three days … except sleeping late, eating great food, doing quite a bit of reading and enjoying the evenings with the other guests. The kids even have two dogs and a trampoline to play with … and if that get’s boring, there is a stream nearby to catch tadpoles in.

It’s (quite) a bit over our budget, but was well worth the extra money spent!

Here are a few more pictures: http://www.flickr.com/photos/uwefassnacht/sets/72157633406966122

Today it’s back to the hustle of Kathmandu for a night before we’ll be flying out to Singapore tomorrow afternoon.

Bye bye Ute!

Anna and Lara brought Ute out to the airport an hour ago. It really is too bad that she has to leave us. Just like in 2009, it was great to have had her along for a while. Not only is she a good friend and travel buddy, but “managing” the kids is so much easier with three adults.

Tomorrow the four of us are off to a guesthouse in the hills just north of Kathmandu and plan to do nothing but eat, sleep, drink, read and catch up on schoolwork for three days.

Nagarkot and Dhulikhel

After having seen our share of temples (there are more to come), we decided to stretch our legs a bit and do some hiking in the hills surrounding the Kathmandu Valley. The plan was to hike from just outside Bhaktapur up to the village of Nagarkot, which has great views of the Himalayan Range.

There are no clearly marked hiking trails and you either pick your way through potatoe fields or stick to the local “roads” (dirt tracks). Walking through the small villages along the way really was a lot of fun, especially seeing our kids interact with the locals. The adults like to pat their heads and the kids love to try their English on them. At some point Lara and Finn were walking with a whole group of school children, only to be ambushed a few minutes later by a few older kids with water balloons.

It’s not all idyllic though. You see a lot of poverty along the way and the amount of trash lying everywhere is just shocking for us. It doesn’t seem to bother the locals (I suppose when you are that poor, you have other things on your mind), but it sure takes away from the picture perfect postcard rural Nepal that a lot of tourists expect.

We ended up taking a bit longer than expected (7 hours of solid hiking) and were all pretty exhausted by the time we reached the final ridge line. The kids did extremely well, really never any complaints about either the heat or the distance …if things go well with the altitude, they’ll do just fine on the Everest trek.

We found a very nice guesthouse with a warm shower (even with an open fire place) and all went to bed early. The main draw in Nagarkot is the sunrise over the Himalaya range and I got up at 6:00am …only to look out at haze and clouds.

From Nagarkot we went on to Dhulikhel by car and then hiked up (about 3 hours) to a Buddhist monastery, where we stayed for the sunset.The next morning we could just barely see a few peaks in the distance, before the clouds came in a few minutes later.

All in all, two nice days of hiking … which could have been so much better, if we’d only had a clear view of the mountains.

Now we’re off to Kathmandu again, back to the noise, traffic and pollution. Ute is arriving on Monday and we’ll spend the next two day getting our gear sorted out for the Everest trek … while sneaking in the Patan museum and a few more temple visits.

Two Nights in Bhaktapur

After a week we had enough of Kathmandu (the polution, traffic and noise started to really bother us) and headed out to Bhaktapur. During my first visit in '88, I remember bicycling there … today that would border on suicidal. If you don't get hit by a car, you'd surely die of lung cancer.

The center is still as nice as I remember it though and we stayed for two nights in a beautiful guest house, right on one of the temple squares. That allowed us to get back to our room for some school work in the late morning, just as the tour busses arrive from Kathmandu and dump hundreds of tourists into the narrow streets. In the early mornings, and especially in the evenings, we had the temples almost for ourselves.

It went remarkably well with the kids during the two days. What really helped was that we let them out of the guest house and into the square without us constantly watching over them. They immediately found local kids to play with and spent hours with water ballons and chasing each other around the temples. When I stuck my head out of our window this morning at 7:00am, two of the kids were already waiting outside, demanding that I sent Finn and Lara out to play with them.

The only thing that didn't go over so well with our kids was how remarkably clearly they were beaten at almost anything …. even though mostly younger, the local kids were much faster, stronger and tougher. Lara tried to argue that she is didn't really try to win the races, while Finn rationalized his loses: “of course they are faster, they are Sherpas and train at high altitude!” 😉

Temples and “Teenage” Tantrums

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Our friend and neighbor Ulrike has arrived from Germany and we’ve done a bit of sightseeing over the last few days. As you can imagine, that’s mostly temples (Hindu, Buddhist, often a mixture of both), small back alleys and everyday life.

It’s fun to watch how the kids interact with the locals and what they find interesting:

– being allowed to ride in taxis without seat belts

– soldiers with Gurkha knives and rifles

– corpses being burned at the Hindu Temple outside of town

and what annoys them:

– having to hold on to our hands while we’re dodging in and out of a chaotic mixture of rikshas, motor bikes and cars

– sitting in restaurants while the adults talk

– getting through their school work, especially with “the worst teacher in the world” (me)

Truth be told, this time we’re not off to a great start with them. Lara is “only” 9, but often behaves like 13. Not doing what we ask of her, lot’s of eye rolling and constantly pushing her boundaries with unbelievable energy. It’s the same back in Germany, but at home there is more time and space to “disengage” and let her be on her own for a while. Here it feels like constant close quarter combat …. and both Anna and I feel totally drained by the time we go to bed.

Let’s hope that the dynamics will change a bit once we get going on the trek … which will hopefully give the kids a chance to channel all their energy into hiking.

But there are great moments as well, in which we feel we’re “getting through” to them. There are quite a few beggars around the temples and many of them are terribly scarred from leprosy. Before falling asleep last night, Finn wanted to talk about the “poor people here that are sick”. After a long discussion, he concluded that “it isn’t fair that they weren’t born in Germany” and even considered a career change and to become a doctor instead of an astronaut. Who knows …

Later today we’ll be leaving Kathmandu and the guest house that we stayed at (highly recommended!) for a few days in the surrounding area.

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First Days in Kathmandu

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By the time we picked up our bags (unfortunately two trekking poles didn’t make it) and got through immigration at the airport, it was 9:00pm and dark outside the terminal. The arranged pick-up from the guest house worked perfectly … and we were in our room within the hour.

The night wasn’t too bad (I forgot how noisy the stray dogs are all night … deafening!) and we all slept quite late the next morning before we headed out.

Our guest house is on the edge of Thamel (the touristy part of Kathmandu) and very little seems to have changed since I we were here last in 2002. An endless mass of shops, selling everything us tourists need … trekking equipment, “local” crafts (mostly manufactured in China or Bali), coffee shops, restaurants and guest houses. A bit tiring after a few days, but also kind of fun. Especially for the kids, who want to stop at every store and stall because:

“The people are so friendly here!”

“Sure they are, they are trying very hard to sell you something.”

“So what dadd, that’s how they make money! It’s still nice!”

“Yeah, I guess you’re right. Sure beats the grumpy shopkeepers in Germany.”

Finn is mostly interested in used climbing equipment (especially oxygen tanks and masks), while Lara is drawn to the necklaces and beads. As you can imagine, we didn’t get through the day without purchasing a few necklaces … but so far we’ve remained firm on oxygen cylinders with Russian stenciling on them.

We’ve spent the first days with just walking through town, eating well and getting some errands done. Lara’s trekking pants needed shortening, Finn needed flip-flops … and we all needed to get our flights, guide and porters arranged for the Everest Trek.

In between, I had to be pretty tough with Lara in order to get her math work done … which didn’t go so well. Lot’s of eye rolling, complaining, debating and outright wailing … I guess we still have to find our rhythm 😦 The setting couldn’t be much more beautiful though, we have a great view over the city from the roof top terrace.

Our friend Ulrike will be arriving in a few hours and we’ll start showing her the sights tomorrow.

As always, the latest (pretty much unedited) pictures are on our flickr photo stream here:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/uwefassnacht/sets/72157633008662866

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