We crossed the border from Tibet (Kyirong) to Nepal by land, and wow was the difference visible immediately. First, the time changed by 2 hours and 15 minutes as we stepped one meter across. 😄 We won the time. Moreover, on the Nepalese side there were multiple manual checks of passports, then a manual check of the luggage. No scan machines, only a smiley man poking in your bag and asking: ‘are you carrying any illegal items on you?’ Plus the road quality is non existent: there are no paved roads.
We were taken to some guest house ca 3km from the border to get our visas. We filled in a paper, attached a picture and paid the money. Then the guy helping us (still hired by the Tibetan agency we assumed and were happy that he was there to navigate us through the system) disappeared with our passports. He returned with visas in them, we paid the money for our jeep to Kathmandu and hit the road.
We went ca 170km from the border to Kathmandu in 7 hours. This includes one lunch break, and a ride as if on a roller coaster or a 4D cinema. 😄
First observation on the way was that surprisingly people in Nepal look and dress similar to people from India: saris, colour on forehead etc. I somehow expected them to look more Tibetan, only more pale.
We stayed in Kathmandu for 4 days before the trek and another 24 hours after the trek. It is a fantastic place, we really loved it! So busy, yet so relaxing at the same time. The only bad side is the air pollution that ran us down on day 3 with a massive throat infection.
It is a capital city with a lot of traffic but almost no traffic lights. There is also no waste management, couldn’t find a single trash bin in the city.
Thamel with it’s cutely narrow and busy streets is where the tourists thrive. There’re countless mountain travel gear shops, where you can get stuff for a good price. And they don’t hide that they are fake copies (all of them admitted fake when we asked them if they are originals). Interestingly they don’t copy the good stuff – I was hoping to get a good hard shell for a nice price, but they sell everything with a summit series logo but not the actual design. 😔 We did get gloves, yak wool booties, water bottles and a hat.
The first night our Tibetan travel group somehow didn’t want to depart from each other, or it was more of the comfort of not having to think where to eat and not eating alone. So we met up in Florida garden that was the favorite place of the couple who had been in KTM before. After we had a walk in Thamel, V got offered hash and other drugs many times and I of course managed to find the most expensive thangka there is – 500 dollars and no negotiation. Hopefully once we have our own house I can order one to be made.
The next day we got our laundry done, found our country flags and got them sewn on our backpacks. The latter we wanted to do in the Baltics already but didn’t have enough time. Here they even had the flags and service was super cheap.
The monkey temple was very touristy. I was very happy we did Tibet before and got a full pretty private education of the religion, temples, stupas etc. This place had so many people, shops and a bit tricky to grasp what is happening. There were a lot of monkeys though, which we enjoyed and spent most of our time taking pictures and videos of. 🙈
On the way back from the temple we accidentally ended up on the bustling local market. It was massive. Only locals shopping there (tourists buy in Thamel), so you can walk in peace (noone is targeting you) and that was an amazing cultural experience. They sell everything there and it’s so exciting! One can see many people carrying heavy and big loads on their head and back.
On the second evening we went to sort out our trekking papers and had our welcome dinner organised by Pariwar Holidays that we had booked for our Manaslu trek. It was a fun evening with traditional Nepalese food, music and dancing. There was rice wine shots, I had ciders and men had rather a lot of whiskey. With the director, the accountant and an Austrian that had just returned from Everest trek we got a bit tipsy and some good advice (bring lots of Snickers and toilet paper).
Otherwise we just enjoyed the relaxing vibe of KTM. We found Coffee with Menz cafe to do excellent food for nice prices that’s convenient to chill and work on the computer as well, and plays awesome music.
Just outside the Thamel main streets is restaurant Yangling that was recommended by an acquaintance and their Chilly Paneer and all other food didn’t disappoint. 3 floors of modest design with full emphasis on food.
Due to the throat infection we were actually happy to leave this city and escape for the cleaner air in the mountains. But that thought also made us a bit sad as we were hoping to return every once in a while and chill.
On the one day in KTM after the trek we had our farewell party. What are the chances of having a bonfire in the middle of a capital city?! ..with potatoes baking in foil. It was a calm and lovely night again organized and funded by Pariwar. They know how to host and we picked an agency very suitable for our style I think. There was also a group of French with us.
We went to Pokhara after our 20-day trek. So all we wanted was a nice hot shower, heat and some tasty food that was not on the menu in the mountains. So we booked a bit nicer hotel than usual and it turned out really good. The first day we arrived they didn’t have hot water on during the day (it’s only in the mornings or evenings), but they were so nice and turned it on for us. An amazing HOT rain-shower with good pressure. HEAVEN!
After heavenly showers we went out to find food. V had done the research of everything we need to try. First we had tasty sandwiches from the Hot Sandwich Corner and Cheese shop. Then after a short walk we sat for dinner in European looking (refreshing sight after such a long time) Roadhouse cafe. We had wine for the first time since we left Europe, I had been craving for a glass. The Indian Sula Shiraz turned out to be really good actually. Surprising, as we had never heard anything of Indian wines before. And we treated ourselves with our favourite pizza: Pepperoni feast.
The first morning we got out late, but our relaxing day still ended up doing a 5h trek to the top of Sarangkot. It was hot! On the way we met a guy from New Zealand, also following the random path on maps.me up the hill, so we ended up trekking it together up and down. He was a proper hiking enthusiast, he just did the 3 passes trek and was off to Annapurna the day after.
V originally wanted to go paragliding, as it’s a big attraction in Pokhara. So we got quotes from many places, prices ranging from 6000 to 11000 rupees. But as the visibility is so bad (at least this time of the year) he passed the opportunity. The sky was still crowded with plenty.
In the evening after dinner we checked out The Old Blues Bar as they were supposed to have live music. The band was good, but what drew our attention was the big screen showing V’s cousin Rose Namajunas fight and win in UFC.
The day after we were smarter and hired a scooter to go around. We rolled up to the World Peace Pagoda. It was very white. The view on top is supposed to show the Annapurna peaks, but due to the pollution nothing was visible. We met also the German girls from the trek there. They had hiked up (like we did the day before to Sarangkot) and we all agreed that is was very hot, sweaty and unpleasant compared to Manaslu.
We also saw 2 dogs in sexual intercourse and being attached to each other for a very long time after the male had “finished”. As we had witnessed this a couple of times during the trip I finally googled and apparently that’s normal, the penis just gets so swollen it needs time to relax.
Later we rode towards the village life. But we clearly overestimated how much petrol we need (here the rental is empty to empty) as the roads are so bad and we didn’t make it very far.
P.s. AM/PM Organic cafe bakes caramel slices and has a tasty cheesecake! Yum!
Pokhara gave us exactly what we needed and was a pleasant place to chill a bit. More boutique style shops and European like restaurants.
Nepal is so much poorer than I expected. By the capital city you can evaluate that the country has no money, there’s not a single place of luxury here. Their proneness to earthquakes definitely affects the situation. Especially the 2015 one has left a mark and it’s difficult to get on track.
The trekking, beauty of the country and the coolness of KTM will most probably bring us back still many times.
In total we spent 2660 EUR in Nepal, during our stay from 26th October till 23rd November 2018.