We went to Nepal back in the early part of August. Some friends of ours had gone in April, and we thought it was a cool idea. We had to look on a map just to see where the heck Nepal was again and just how “far” away it was. Turns out, it’s not far at all. Gate to gate was about 3:15. I mean how many times in your life will you be this close to Nepal and want to take a family vacation there without breaking the bank! So we asked our nanny, if she wanted to come with us, and she of course said “yes” and jumped on the chance to see something pretty cool.
The flight was uneventful, Reed slept for part of the way, but was awake and squirmy for the rest of it. It solidified the fact that not coming back to the US with an 18 month old sitting in your lap was a good idea! It will be a long stretch between US visits but by the time we come back again, Reed will get his own seat and will hopefully like TV. Can’t believe I just said that, but I really need him to like TV when we head back to the US! But back to Nepal…..
Thai Airways has a direct flight which was great. One flight a day. It’s crazy if you look at some of the travel websites, they will actually suggest and think it’s a good idea to travel to India, and then have a layover of 18 hours just to save $100. We decided to not take their best price and determined the direct non-stop route was the best. When we were in Bali I had some USD with me, and so I decided to bring some on this trip too…. Turns out everyone loves US money, and will gladly accept it. You have to watch your exchange rate, but its a good thing to have on you. I don’t think I will travel again without carrying some US money with us… just in case. And it turns out that as soon as we landed, I needed some of it!
The airport is full of people who are willing to help you with you bags. And when they see a western family with a couple of kids, they know they have a prime tourist! But a couple of dollars later we had our bags in a cart and loaded into the hotel van. overall, a good investment. Straight out of the airport we knew we were not in Kansas anymore. Actually, as soon as we landed and saw the airport, we knew we were in for adventure. The plane towered over the airport. The runway had old dilapidated planes sitting just off the concrete, burnt out helicopters sat idly by, planes with no engines just hanging out, etc. We were definitely not in a major country anymore. But we got in the van to take us to the airport, and it was a sight to see. Some cows in the street, pots holes everywhere, people all over the place, I am not sure how many miles it was from airport to hotel, but it took us well over 30 minutes. The van was hot and stuffy. Not too many people use the AC because it costs too much. But if you had the window open, the breeze was nice, but the smell and the horn honking was incessant. Our hotel was cool. Right in the middle of the touristy area of Thamel. We got a 2 bedroom 2 bath suite that worked out great. Except for the club on the roof, which was loud when the kids were going to bed… but you can’t have everything.
The front desk was really nice. We asked where a grocery store was so we could get some milk and other food for the kids. And instead of pointing us in the right direction, one of the front desk people walked us to the place and showed us around just a little. very nice. So after the food run, we needed to eat dinner. The Thamel area has tons of places to eat. Just not too many Western places. We decided to keep things safe and simple for the kids. We found the Northfield cafe and Jesse James bar. It took me a little bit, but I finally realized and then confirmed with the waiters that the owner went to St. Olaf college in Northfield MN. Which is also where Jesse James was shot, and of course my older brother and other friends went to school. They were very helpful with the kids and have a great assortment of Western friendly food. We actually went back there another night as well!
I had worked out with the hotel to get us a car / driver. As we had heard and then later confirmed that the taxis are very tiny. And we wanted AC. You have to pay extra for these kinds of things, but I figured my family was worth the extra $2 a day for the AC! So the next morning we had breakfast on the roof of the hotel (the same place as the noisy club from the night before) but the views were great and the food was ok (at best!) But that didn’t matter as we were up for adventure and we were in sight seeing mode. First on the list the Great Stupa of Boudhanath. A Buddist temple that is on the UNESCO World Heritage site lists and means “Lord of Wisdom” It’s pretty cool to see and it’s nice as there are no cars to watch out for.
Next on the list was the Pashupatinath… A Hindu temple that is only the World Heritage lists. We picked up a guide for this part of the trip as again, a bunch of Westerners with kids in tow, we were the obvious tourists. Plus, honestly, we were a little lost…. so it was all good. We could not actually go into the main temple as we are not Hindu, but we saw everything else and it was also pretty cool. The tour started out by showing us where they cremate the bodies, not sure if anyone was being cremated while we were there, but they had the fires going. And then they dump you into the river. The Hindu temple also has a bunch of guys that have given up on all earthly possessions and family and have devoted themselves to the faith. And of course they love taking their picture taken with the tourists, because then they ask for a donation. And me not thinking gives them what they asked for, which was like $10… that’s a lot over here! But oh well, live and learn. The temple was pretty cool and it was fun to see. A couple of monkeys were here and there so Douglas liked it too! Then we went to the Kathmandu – Durbar Square. We didn’t have that much time as the kids and the rest of us where getting beat down. But we saw some cool buildings and determined we needed to come back another day. That night we ate a New Orleans Cafe! I did try my hand at some local food, but again it was nice to have some safe food for Douglas and Reed.
The next morning I went on a pretty neat ride of your life. I jumped on a turbo prop plane and went out to visit Mt. Everest. We’re talking bucket list kind of stuff here. We were visiting Nepal in the rainy season, so there were lots of clouds, but we could still see it and it was awesome. I had a window seat (everyone has a window seat on this airplane!) but I also had the freaking engine in my window… grr… one more row forward would have been prime. But they did let us into the cockpit to take photos… so it all worked out. I took both my camera and Robin’s camera with me on the airplane. But the photos from her camera are like 24MB… so I couldn’t upload those to the blog. The photo’s I’ve included are from my camera and taken from my seat versus from the cockpit. Still pretty amazing. I can only imagine what the view would be like without the clouds. The plane was at 24,000 ft. Everest is around 29,000 ft, which is higher than the plane… which is really crazy. In the photo with the wing, you have Everest int he middle and then Lhotse just to the right. Everyone on the plane was super excited to be there. There were at least 3 different airlines flying and probably 8-9 flights going all at the same time. And they do this everyday… weather permitting.
After I got back from that we went to Swayambhu, another Buddist stupa and also on the UNESCO list. This is more commonly known as the Monkey temple. As once again, lots and lots of monkeys. We were warned the monkeys have become quite brazen and will take food out of your hand or your backpack… so be careful and watch your kids. Turns out there is a front entrance with lots and lots of steep steps, or a back entrance… with only some steep steps. We went for the back entrance! The top had a great view of the city below and the surrounding mountains. It was pretty neat to see as well. As some point on the tour I decided that ice cream was in order. I got a bar of some sort and Douglas wanted a scoop of chocolate on a cone. No problem, everyone is happy… and then the monkey’s come. It was clear the monkey’s have done this before and are carefully orchestrated. While one monkey in front of Douglas kept him distracted a second monkey came up from behind and snatched the whole ice cream scoop / cone right out of his hand! I couldn’t believe it, but I guess we were warned. Douglas went into total meltdown mode and yelled that he did not like money’s anymore! So of course I had to get him some more ice cream. This time it was in a cup and we went inside to eat it. So maybe the monkeys are in cohorts with the ice cream guy! And as usual we found the typical Asian loves the chubby white kid. Men and women love Reed. It’s pretty amazing how Reed is perfectly ok with complete strangers holding him. I guess the whole “stranger danger” lesson will have to come at another time.
From there it was back to Kathmandu – Durbar Square. A little more time to walk around this time. It’s a collection of both Hindu and Buddhist temples and shrines built between 12th and 18th centuries. No guide for this trip, but it was neat to look at the architecture and the buildings. Dinner that night was at the Fire and Ice Pizzeria. We were warned we may need reservations… but I figured we were early, so no worries. Turns out, I was lucky. The place was packed, but had one more table, just for us. Pizza was pretty good too.
The next day we took a different car / driver out to Bhaktapur, to go see it’s Durbar square. Part of the adventure sometime is just in getting there. The car parked and the driver said “ok you’re here…” but it did not look right at all. I started to question the guy, but then saw some sign. Super unclear directions, I’ve got the whole family in tow, and just not sure which way to go. Luckily, we stuck out as tourists and someone volunteered to be our guide. and it was a good think too. I would have gone down the street on the left, when what we wanted to see was down the street on the right! Some of the old kings used to live in this area and so they had some cool looking buildings and architecture. Although some of these architects lost their site after they were done, so they could never build something so beautiful again! We had our most expensive and worst tasting lunch just outside this Durbar square. I think it was around $20 for lunch and that was very expensive. The price of living in Nepal was very reasonable! at least we thought it was. On the way home I asked the driver to turn on the AC. He immediately said it was going to cost more. I gave him some grief about the hotel booking the right car and it was dropped. And then the car got a flat tire. The traffic was crazy, but the driver very quickly changed the tire… I’m going to say, he’s done that before. And that night it was back to the Northfield cafe. It finally rained on us. We did come during the rainy season, and of course all of us forgot our umbrellas.
There was a Northface store about every 3 shops in the area we stayed. So I had to pick up a shirt and a small backpack. I figure it will give me instant street cred. Because I not only have the brand name but the fact that I bought it in Nepal as well. I feel more manly and more outdoorsy already.
The next day we just kind of hung out in the morning and then it was back to the airport. Lots and lots of lines there, Line to get into airport. line to check in… line to get through customs. This is once again where having small children is great. We get to go to more front’s of the line with kids then we ever thought possible. It’s really quite nice, but I do feel a little bad for all the others we just cut off!
Nepal was clearly the craziest place we have been in my opinion. The most fascinating, the most interesting, the most everything! Not sure I see the need to go back again, unless we’re going trekking, but it was great. Not sure where our next adventure will be, i’m sure it will be great, but I am not sure it will be as much of an adventure as this one was….
Hope you enjoy the pictures….