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Trip Report rkkwan's Nepal trip Sept 2014 - Kathmandu, Pokhara, Poon Hill Trek

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First trip report in a while, and this will again be long. Photos are posted slowly as well on my photo site. Main folder is at: http://rkkwan.zenfolio.com/nepal1409 So far, one complete album posted (for first day in Kathmandu): http://rkkwan.zenfolio.com/kathmandu140903

All comments and questions welcomed!

Who & Why

Three years ago, my then GF (and now wife) Bonny and I made it to the top of Mt Kinabalu (4,095m/13,435ft) in Sabah. Tough trip, but we thought we would climb another mountain some time. Talked to my good friend Daphne about hiking up Yushan (3,952m/12,966ft) in Taiwan, but somehow we switched to Nepal along the way. Trip was originally planned for May of 2014, but just weeks prior, I had emergency vitrectomy surgery, and couldn't fly or go to high places for 2+ months.

Our initial plan for our 12-day trip was Kathmandu 2 nights, Pokhara 1 night, Trekking 3 nights, Pokhara 2 more nights, Chitwan 2 nights and Kathmandu 1 final night. Would hit the most popular spots in Nepal as well as some light trekking up to Poon Hill (3,210m/10,531ft).

Medicinal Preparations

Daphne is a marathoner and has also done 100km of trekking in under 48hs in Hong Kong, so she's much fitter than Bonny and I. I have also travelled with her to Tibet, and altitude sickness is generally not an issue for any of us three. Still, we got ourself diamox for our trek to Poon Hill; plus vaccinations for Hep A, cholera, and typhoid. We were planning to go to Chitwan, so also brought doxycycline - which we ended up not taking, as that part of the trip was cancelled.

Pre-booked flights and hotels

We decided to take Nepal Airlines' non-stop HKG-KTM (about US$600 r/t per person). For the first two nights in Kathmandu, I booked the highly-rated (on Tripadvisor) Hotel Mums Home in Thamel for US$78 (triple) via Agoda. Turned out I should have booked through the hotel directly, as the cheaper rate from Agoda doesn't include airport transfer. I also booked the first night in Pokhara at the (again highly-rated) Hotel Dream via booking.com for US$40 for triple room. [For Chitwan, I booked the Sapana Village Lodge via Agoda, which I later cancelled for free.]

I considered getting the domestic air ticket to Pokhara after getting to Kathmandu, but decided to get it about a week prior, so that we would certainly fly Buddha Air (with its larger planes than Simrik or Yeti) at the times we want. Instead of shopping around agents (some advertising 10% off the US$109 fare), I just had Mums Home do it for us for US$105 each.

The only other part we considered pre-booking was a guide for our trek. For whatever reason, we didn't get much response from the few companies we contacted, and one offered expensive all-inclusive packages only. We decided to just get to Pokhara first, then look for guide and possibly just do it on our own with guide and porter.

Visa and money

I know we could get visas on arrival, but since our flight arrives fairly late, we decided to get them at the HK consulate for HK$200 (15-day visa, multiple entries within 6 months), a little more than the US$25 rate. 3 business days.

For money, since I can exchange HK dollars to US$ with basically no penalty, I just got several thousands of USD in fresh $100 notes for the three of us. Did not bother with credit card or ATMs throughout our trip.

Trekking preparations

Because it's still monsoon season, we correctly prepared for rain. Gore-tex shells, pants and boots (I love my LOWA Renegade GTXs). All packs have rain-cover. I love my pair of Black Diamond ultra-distance poles for the Kinabalu hike, so we bought another pair for the trip. Head lamps are useful for our pre-dawn hike to Poon Hill for sunrise, as well as when the power cuts out in our guesthouses. Things we brought but were not used include salt for leeches (either our guide took care of them, or we just "flicked" them off) and wet wipes (as showers are available every place we stayed).

Cameras and electronics

Bonny took her Canon 600D with Canon 18-200 and my Sigma 8-16. I only brought my Canon S95 to reduce weight. Daphne has her Fuji X-E1. Got a new 11" MacBook Air just prior to this trip to replace my decade-old Dell netbook. Also got a higher-capacity SD card for Bonny's 600D as they are so cheap now, as well as a new 1TB hard drive for photo storages. Needed a lot of adapters and cables for all those as well as our phones, and my Monster Cable traveler's extension cord is great as often we found only one power outlet in our room.

Phones and SIMS

We considered getting local SIMS, but we ended up getting none. I still carried my iPhone 5s with me all the time, to use its camera as well as the GPS function. I used the maps.me app for off-line use - it was great for our trip to Austria a year ago, and is still great for this trip. Otherwise, we would just rely on wi-fi at hotels and restaurants.

Final thoughts

Funny thing is that despite all I've mentioned, I have done the least homework for this trip than most I've done in the past. We wanted to be more "free", and in a country like Nepal, you don't really need to have everything pre-planned and pre-booked. Not my normal style of traveling, but at the end it worked just as well.

Day 1 to follow...

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    Day 1 - Sept 2, 2014

    Nepal Airlines (used to be Royal Nepal) only has two medium-haul aircraft left, 757-200s ordered new in the late 80's for Doha, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur and Hong Kong. Our aircraft, 9N-ACA is in pretty good shape and we were only about 20 minutes late departing HKG. The over-wing exit rows, 16 & 17, were blocked and we got Row 18. No IFE of any type, and they don't serve alcoholic drinks. And for some reason, they ban cellphones throughout flight outright, and their FAs are strict in enforcing it.

    Dinner choices were a Chinese-style fish and rice, and a Nepali style chicken and rice. The fish was horrible, while the chicken was delicious.

    The flight took 4:14 and was uneventful. We cleared immigration and customs and everything within 50 minutes of touch down, and were met by the driver of Mums Home with my name on a sign. [I actually worried about this, but we found that Nepalis simply don't reply to emails for confirmation. They would just do it and show up!!!]

    At night (10:40p to be exact), the drive from airport to Thamel only took 10 minutes as there was no traffic. First impression of Kathmandu was that it's very dusty, as the roadway pavements are often broken up. Street lights not very strong and most shops already closed by that time. Reminded me of secondary or tertiary Chinese cities from about 10 years ago. The numerous Chinese signs in Thamel also added to that feeling. Mums Home charged US$12 for the airport pickup at night time (US$8 by day), which I think is fair. Though if I had booked directly through them, that would be included.

    Our room was on the 4th and top floor. No elevators, for good reason. Service was good with welcome drinks (tea/coffee/coke), and Everest Beer there was cheapest throughout our trip (RS290 for 650mL bottle). Front desk gave us RS9,530 for US$100, inline with currency exchanges outside, and less than 2% under official rate (around 97 during our trip). Clean, hot water pot provided, good A/C, fast wi-fi, hot shower, plenty of electric outlets. What else could one ask for?

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    Day 2 - Sept 3, 2014

    We had buffet breakfast at our hotel. Eggs are cooked to order, and we sat at their table outside. The whole staff very attentive and courteous, which we would find to be typical of all Nepalese. We also went up to the roof top for a view of the city and the whole Kathmandu Valley with hills surrounding it. Most of the new buildings are 4-5 stories tall with brick walls, and the roof top seems to be an important part of each building - many with stylish staircase to get up there.

    Mums Home sits in an alley behind the busy Amrit Marg with its many Chinese restaurants and guesthouses, in the south end of Thamel. After breakfast, we ventured out by foot towards the south and then to the East to the Rani Pokhari (Queen's Pool), then continue south to get to the Nepal Tourism Board on Durbar Marg for our trekking permits. We wanted to do this in Kathmandu to save our time in Pokhara, and that we would have the option of trekking without a guide.

    We'd get the TIMS (Trekkers' Information Management System) cards for RS1950 each (the official price is US$20) and the ACAP (Annapurna Conservation Area Project) permits for RS2000 each. Two passport photos for each one, and the TIMS office can take your pictures if you don't have photos. Not too bad. The offices weren't that busy, but having to fill the forms and have them make the card, the whole thing still took over an hour to finish at the two offices.

    Trying to escape Central Kathmandu with its traffic and dust, we took a taxi to Durbar Square of Patan. Nice thing we found about Kathmandu is that the white Maruti Suzuki 800 taxis are everywhere. And it's well known that it's RS300 to go anywhere within Kathmandu, which makes bartering rates easy with the drivers. "300". "600". "300". "500". "300". "400". "300". "Okay, 300".

    To our pleasant surprise, traffic eases up a bit south of central Kathmandu, and we arrived Durbar Sq of Patan in about 15 minutes, with our first experience of day-time driving in Nepal, which is to say, quite "interesting". But pretty much what one might seen in movies of 3rd world countries. Hungry, we decided to eat first and sightsee later. We were attracted by the "roof top dining" signs of Cafe de Patan, and decided to give it a try. Turned out it's listed in plenty of tourist guides. We ordered two Nepali set meals, which is enough for the 3 of us. At RS800 with curry chicken and RS750 vegetarian, it's cheap by western and Hong Kong standard, but we would find that to be the most expensive we've seen in our trip. But it does include raksi, the rice liquor.

    We stayed there for a very very long time, and the roof top area was really an oasis, with view of some of the buildings of Durbar Sq and more. Finally, refreshed, we ventured down into the actual square (RS500 fee for foreigners). Not THAT interested in the fine details of Hinduism or Nepalese history at that time, we ignored the guides who wanted our business and we skipped the Royal Palace Museum. Instead, we just walked around, sat around, took photos, and that was good enough. Finally, we walked north a bit to the Golden Temple, but again didn't go in. Satisfied with Patan, we took another taxi (RS300 of cousse) back to hotel to freshen up.

    Just around the corner of our hotel, we found a restaurant in an empty courtyard called Fren's Kitchen. Turned out it's been opened only since Sept 1. Prices were low to start with, and they were offering 20% for grand opening. Food was generally okay but with some issues. We pointed out to them, and they gave us dessert for free! So, we had an Everest Beer, banana momo (momo is Chinese/Tibetan-style dumplings), fried chicken wings, grilled fish (similar to catfish), and the complimentary fried bananas. Total cost? RS910! That's under US$10!!! Incredible.

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    Day 3 - Sept 4, 2014

    Pictures for this day just posted, at http://rkkwan.zenfolio.com/pokhara140904

    As I mentioned earlier, we wanted to fly to Pokhara rather on spending 6 hours on a coach, and we wanted to take Buddha Air, with its (slightly) better reputation and safety; and bigger ATRs (48 seats), compared to the B1900 flown by Simrik or BAe 748 by Yeti. Mums Home charged us US$105/ticket, just $4 off the rack rate, but they also didn't ask us to pay them in advance.

    They charged us $8 for the transfer to airport after breakfast, and we got there in about 25 minutes (vs 10 on the night coming) due to serious traffic. The domestic terminal is a really nondescript building to the north of the international terminal, and there were some construction going on at the supposedly "baggage claim" area. Check-in was no problem, and security was at the same time lax and tight. Our passports and BPs were checked many times, and we went though multiple screening, but the screeners themselves seemed very nonchalant.

    Our flight was delayed (no surprise, as weather is always a problem SOMEWHERE in Nepal) for 20 minutes. We boarded an old bus for the short ride to our ATR 42-320, 9N-AIM. Delivered new to Brazil in late 1990s, it's in decent shape. We forgot to ask for seats on the right hand side, but since the flight wasn't full, Daphne quickly moved to a right-side window seat after boarding and Bonny followed afterwards.

    Even though the ATR only seats 48, there were two flight attendants (in the US, there would be only one for up to 50 passengers). Yet, there was little for them to do during the 25-minute flight besides passing a candy and then a cup of water. No safety instruction demonstrated.

    We flew up to only 12,500ft, much lower than the ragged 8,156m/26,759ft Manaslu (8th tallest peak in the world) we saw on the right. Lush green Trishuli Valley could be seen down the left side. Before arriving Pokhara, Annapurna II and IV were seen.

    For our night at Pokhara, I booked Hotel Dream through booking.com for $40 for a triple room, but I started to have doubts as repeated emails asking for hotel transfer received no replies. But again, a nice driver with my name on a sign was right there waiting for us. We were driven in a tiny Kia Picanto (hatchback about same size as the Maruti Suzuki 800) for the 5-minute drive, with my Delsey suitcase sitting unstrapped on the roof rack. It arrived safely.

    Hotel Dream sits on a quiet residential street in the Lakeside area, but it's actually a 15-minute walk to the main tourist area with all the restaurants and shops, and further than most other hotels. Not the most convenient, but it was a nice walk when it wasn't too hot. We got a room on the 2nd floor, and the staff there were nice as well. Our main problem was that power cuts out in Pokhara very often, and the back-up generator at Hotel Dream is only for emergency lightings and not for the ceiling fan. That'd be a problem that night.

    We spent quite a bit of time discussing with the hotel people about the need of a guide and porter for our trek, and at the end, we decided to hire one based on the hotel's recommendation. The rate was US$20/day for the guide and US$15/day for the porter. We paid the hotel, and the guide by the name of Ramchandra Subedi (Ram for short) would meet us later in the day. We also paid Hotel Dream $40 for the transportation to/from Naya Pul.

    Somewhat settled, we ventured down to lake side for lunch. Found the Fewa Paradise, and ended up spending all afternoon there for pizza, curry, beer, lassi and cocktails. All for RS2300. It IS paradise. [See pictures in my linked album.]

    Back in the hotel, our guide Ram arrived and he counter-offered us an inclusive rate for US$25 per person per day, but we figured out that things are cheap and we don't eat much, so we declined and would just pay as we go. Interestingly, the 2012 Rough Guide which I brought said US$30/day for a guide is fair. So, maybe it's because it's not peak-season yet, so we got a good rate of US$20/day for his service.

    And for dinner after the meeting with our guide, we went down to another part of lake side and found Aankhi Jhyal. It has a wide-ranging menu, from Indian to Chinese to steaks; and food quality was excellent. We dined on the patio, and our bill (with beer) came to only RS1320.

    Some may say Pokhara is touristy. Sure it is, but at least in early September, it was also quiet and sleepy and nice. Bonny and I had seen more beautiful lakes (in Canada, Austria, etc), but there's a kind of "leisure" or "laid-back" quality about Phewa, with its no-motorised vessel policy. It is the opposite of most popular lakes you find in China, for example.

    And the contrast between Kathmandu and Pokhara is huge. Air is much cleaner, with not much vehicular traffic in Lake Side. Houses (including many hotels, new or being built) have styles, whether you agree to or not; rather than just the red brick walls we saw in Kathmandu. It's a place we certainly wouldn't mind staying for a few days doing nothing, while we couldn't wait to get out of Kathmandu.

    As for power outage, it was warm that night, and our ceiling fan was out when we were trying to sleep. Very very unpleasant until power came back at around midnight. I seriously thought about switching to a hotel with bigger back-up generators after we got back from our trek.

    [Exchange rate was worse in Pokhara than Kathmandu. Everywhere offered 94.05 on this day, compared to over 95 in the capital.]

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    Thanks for all your comments so far. Next part will hopefully come later today.

    Kathie - We found using USD simply much simpler. In fact, I cannot remember seeing a single bank or ATM (not that we were looking for one) while in Kathmandu, and in Pokhara I only remember seeing a Standard Chartered Bank.

    In Thamel near our hotel in Kathmandu, there are tonnes of money exchanges offering the same rate. Same in Pokhara. With just 2% or so under the official rate and no fees, it's cheaper than using an ATM. And with three of us traveling together, we didn't feel any issue splitting a few thousand USDs among us when traveling.

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    Day 4 - Sept 5, 2014
    Starting the hike to Poon Hill

    [Photos to follow. Not ready yet.]

    As mentioned, we weren't sure if we would have a guide and porter, so Bonny bought me a new 38L Osprey backpack for the trip to go with her slightly smaller Vaude and her big 65L. But with a porter, we decided put all the heavy stuff into the 65L for him to carry; and the three of us would just carry small backpacks and camera bags. My new Osprey and other suitcases were left behind at our hotel.

    Weather was better than expected in the morning, and we climbed to the roof to see the majestic Annapurna IV (7,525m/24,688ft) and Annapurna II (7,937m/26,040ft). Turned out that would be the only time during our stay inside Pokhara city to see them clearly. Breakfast was included in our room rate, and it was very nice made to order full breakfast with juice, eggs, meat, fruits, toast.

    Ram arrived and we left our hotel at around 8:30a in the hotel Kia, and we picked up our porter Raju near his home 15 minutes north of Lake Side. The cramped 45km/28mi drive with 6 adults in a little hatchback to Naya Pul took another hour and went over a 1,700m pass (Pokhara is at 800m, while Naya Pul is around 1,000m). After using the bathroom and Raju buying a rope for harnessing our backpack around his forehead, we started at exactly 10a. Very soon after a flat walk, we arrived at Birethanti where we had our TIMS and ACAP permits registered and where we crossed the big Modi Khola River. We were officially inside the Annapurna conservation area, and climbing began.

    Let me pause and explain a little about the typical Poon Hill Trek. It's generally done in 4-5 days with the first two days climbing directly from Naya Pul (1,070m) to Ghorepani (2,875m), overnighting at Tikhedhunga, Ulleri or somewhere else. Third morning, one will wake up early for the 45-minute hike to Poon Hill (3,210m) for sunrise. After breakfast, one returns to Naya Pul directly (two easy days); or make clockwise loop via Ghandruk (2,000m) in 2 hard or 3 easy days. Our plan was to finish in 4 days, hopefully via Ghandruk on our way down.

    Most guide books or blogs from avid hikers recommended staying at Ulleri for the first night, but this is where we were glad to have a guide. We restarted at 10:45a from Birethanti, hiked at a leisure pace under strong sun on this first day, took an hour-long lunch break at the Green Land Guesthouse (RS810 for noodles and cokes), and arrived the small village of Tikhedhunga (1,540m) at 3:15p. Without a guide, we would have pushed on for Ulleri for its numerous guesthouses and good views. But Ulleri is another tough 500m up, and it'd take us two gruesome hours at the end of a hot day to get there, totally exhausted.

    Instead, we rested early at the quaint Laxmi Guesthouse in Tikhedhunga and relaxed there. Nice clean place, but hot water was unavailable at that time. Fortunately, on this hot day, it wasn't too big a deal. Each village in the area has a set price for all lodgings and food, and the price is cheap, even before our guide got us another small discount for the room. Our triple room with shared bath costs only RS400 (just over US$4!). And food wasn't expensive either, as our final bill for board, dinner (including beer), breakfast next morning, bottled water and charging a camera battery came to only RS4090. No wi-fi available, unfortuantely.

    Total hiking time on Day 1 (excluding long breaks): 4hr. Elevation gained: 500m.

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    Pictures from first day of trekking, Sept 4, uploaded:

    http://rkkwan.zenfolio.com/trekone140905

    Do want to add a few things about that day. The first 2.5 hours of hiking was along a jeep path, and there's jeep service available for RS1500 back to Naya Pul. Not unreasonable. Second, about the food. Most of the "tea houses" offer similar food - Nepali rice set with lentil soup, chicken or vegetarian fried rice or noodles, and momo - the dumplings. Food comes slowly as they're prepared fresh. For dinner, there's often pizza, pasta, roast/fried chicken, etc.

    Everest beer is available everywhere, but we also drank a lot of Coke. Diet/Zeros are not available on the mountain (and expensive otherwise, as the Nepali bottler only makes regular Coke. Still, a 500mL bottle of Coke can cost up to RS170, or about US$1.8.

    Bottled water is available up about halfway. Further up the mountain, guesthouses sell "safe drinking water" by the liter (usually RS60-70, compared to bottled water for RS80-120 where available). The "safe drinking water" are purified at certain point and packaged in 5-gallon tanks. They taste perfect, and is much more environmentally friendly than bottled ones.

    For the dinner at Laxmi, we had Everest Beer (RS370 per 650mL bottle), chicken fried rice (RS370), potato momo (RS400), and Nepali curry chicken set (RS600). They also charged us RS100 for a liter of boiling water (to make our own coffee).

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    Hi Ray
    I'm enjoying your notes & pics - as I enjoyed the Poon Hill trek 2 years ago. Nice to see all the wonderful green post-monsoon fields & crops.

    Glad I'm not alone in liking Pokhara, despite it being popular with trekkers.

    The Fewa Paradise is a good spot to chill out & watch the boats on the lake - and the hang gliders above.

    Did you go up to the Peace Pagoda? It's a nice trip across the lake, past the Temple & the walk up is a good warm up for the trek. The Peace Pagoda is lovely & the views are terrific.

    We stayed in Tikehdungha too - Dal Bhat, Momos & a cold Everest!

    Looking forward to following along with you

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    As always, your photos are wonderful!

    (BTW, there are ATMs all over Kathmandu, especially in Thamel. But I understand completely if you have a bank account that charges of foreign withdrawals and likely a foreign currency exchange fee as well, it's cheaper just to exchange cash.)

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    Continuing on our trip. Pictures of this day will be posted after, as Zenfolio is down for scheduled maintenance for the next several hours.

    Day 5 – Sept 6, 2014
    Tikhedhunga to Ghorepani

    Since we stopped earlier the previous day, we had a fairly early start for this longer trekking day. Got up around 6:30a, had breakfast and started around 7:15a to tackle the steep 500m rise to Ulleri. Breakfast set at the Laxmi includes a Tibetan fried dough, which we liked a lot.

    At around 8:35a, we stopped briefly for a great view of Annapurna South (7,219m/23,684ft) and finally arrived Ulleri (2,000m) around 9:30a for a 35-minute long morning break. Chatted with an elderly Indian who knows Hong Kong well and was trekking on his own, fairly slowly. The path became less steep thereafter, and we picked up speed and arrived our very nice lunch spot past Banthanti around 11:25a, after passing the only church we'd seen in our trip an hour prior with lots of kids singing inside. We took our time with our nice lunch at the Fishtail View and played with their cats. It's a very clean guesthouse which we would recommend for food and board.

    We resumed our trek at around 12:40p and it took us 4 long hours, with a few short breaks, mostly through the forest to get to our guesthouse in Ghorepani (2,875m). It was a tough afternoon as the weather turned poor and there was periodic rain. We had to cover everything and wear our Gore-tex jackets. And during the last 90 minutes or so, we were trekking through areas with leeches, so we couldn't stop for breaks. I stopped for a short moment to fix my Gore-tex shell, and I got a leech bit on my arm. Daphne and Bonny also got leeches on them.

    The leeches in this area and at this high altitude (over 2,500m) are much smaller than I'd expected, resembling tiny earthworms. We brought some salt with us to Pokhara, as we've read that it's one of the better ways to get rid of them; but since we had a guide, we decided not to carry them. My Rough Guide says just let it suck your blood as it probably causes more harm trying to get rid of them. The way Ram and Raju did was to pick it off with their fingers, and THEN flicked them off. But my natural instinct told me to just flick it off directly, which was NOT the best way to do it, as the leech would release more enzymes and toxins at that brief moment. Anyhow, it's been over 2 weeks now, and there's still a tiny scar on my arm.

    After getting rid of all the leeches on us, we made it to our guesthouse, The Hungry Eye, a fairly large and new one just off the main intersection of the 3 trails leading to Ghorepani. We got a corner room with windows on three sides on the 2nd floor, where it was possible to view both the Annapurna peaks AND Dhaulagiri right from our beds. Unfortunately, all we could see were clouds at that time. We got our much-deserved “hot” showers (shared bath), and did some laundry. Rooms are very cheap in Ghorepani, as our triple only costs RS350 a night. There was supposed to be wi-fi, but Ram told us it wasn't working well that day, so we didn't bother. The one electrical plug in our room was working so we could recharge all our phones and camera batteries, for free.

    Food was excellent and not expensive at The Hungry Eye. We had roast chicken (set with rice, potatoes and vegetables, RS700) and pizza (RS530, deep-dish, similar to Chicago-style). And we had apple fritters for dessert (okay, for RS250). Water wasn't expensive either, as they only charged us RS60 per liter of safe drinking water.

    We went to bed fairly early, as we would need to get up just past 4 to make the trek to Poon Hill for sunrise. Weather was lousy, but we were hoping for the best.

    Total hiking time on Day 2 (excluding long breaks): 7.5hr. Elevation gained: 900m.

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    Day 6 - Sept 7, 2014
    Rest (& some decisions to make)

    We woke up just past 4. Weather was lousy with some light rain. Still we got ourself ready and headed down to find Ram and other trekkers ready for Poon Hill. But weather actually got worse by 4:30a or so. In addition to rain, there was even some thunder and lightning in the distance. Not only would we not see sunrise, it wouldn't even be safe or worthwhile for the 330m (in elevation) hike to the top. Going back to bed was the easy decision to make, but then what? Quickly, we decided to stay at Ghorepani for another day and took our chance a second time the next morning. In the meantime, it's back to our beds!

    Now, our original plan was to finish our hike in 4 days, have one full day in Pokhara for para-gliding, and then leave for Chitwan for two nights before back to Kathmandu. With an extra day in Ghorepani, something have to give. Ram mentioned that we could take the same route back down to Tikhedhunga, and then hire a jeep back to Naya Pul, so that we could get back to Pokhara within same day. Or we could add another day in the mountain and give up para-gliding. Or, as we finally decided - skip Chitwan altogether and add an extra day in Pokhara to relax.

    And that turned out to be the absolutely correct choice. Hiking in the Himalayas and seeing the mountain was THE main objective of our whole trip. Other things came after it. AND, we were actually quite tired from the hiking the previous day. If we had stuck to the original schedule and did the whole loop back to Naya Pul via Ghandruk, we would be beyond exhaustion. So, this unplanned rest day up in Ghorepani was really great. We had a nice brunch at our guesthouse, walked around a bit, did more laundry, took a nap. It was great. And the weather started to improve a tiny bit, so our hopes remained.

    Staying up at 2,875m for extra time was no problem for any of us. In fact, on this 2nd evening, we switched from beer to the local rum, Khukri. I drank it with my coke, but Bonny and Daphne drank it like the locals - with hot water. It was a good deal, as a 250mL bottle only costs RS400, same as a bottle of beer. I usually avoid alcohol at altitude, but didn't have any problem on this trek so far.

    And here I wanted to mention about a family we've encountered since first day of trek. A Korean lady took with her two kids (girl around 7-8, and boy around 5) AND her own mom (60's). With a guide and a porter. The kids were phenomenon. They walked the whole way, and we haven't heard or seen them complain at all. While we started on the same day, they stopped earlier on Day 2, and they've made it to Ghorepani on Day 3. [And we would seen them the next day, again.]

    Other trekkers came from all over the world. Europeans, Chinese, Americans, Indians.

    Total hiking time on Day 3: 0. Elevation gain: nil.

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    Sorry for the delay in posting updates due to stuff going on in Hong Kong right now and other matters.

    But here are the pictures for Sept 6 (hiking from Tikhedhunga to Ghoerpani) and Sept 7, our off day at Ghorepani.

    http://rkkwan.zenfolio.com/ghorepani140906

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    (Kathie - I responded briefly in the Lounge about the protests in Hong Kong, but that thread had gone off-topic. You might want to start a thread here in the Asia forum.)

    ---

    Day 7 - Sept 8, 2014 (Pictures to follow)

    We got up just past 4am like the morning before, and this time we left our guesthouse at around 4:45a. There were patches of clouds, but we could also see some stars above us. We climbed past all the guesthouses, and then paid RS50 each for our entrance fees to the Poon Hill area. The climb was continuous, but not excessively steep. Soon, it was daybreak and we turned off our headlamps. At 5:32a, we finished our 335m climb and got to the summit of Poon Hill at 3,210m or 10,531ft.

    The most prominent peak we could see from Poon Hill is 7,219m/23,684ft Annapurna South that's directly to the north of us. To the right is Machhapuchchhre, better known as Fish Tail, at 6,993m/22,943ft. At this angle, we finally realized how it got its name. Annapurna I (8,091m/26,545ft, 8th tallest peak in the world) and the whole Dhaulagiri range to our west were still behind clouds initially, but soon the cloud cleared and Dhaulagiri I (8,167m/26,795ft, the 7th tallest peak) started to glow golden. And soon, at just after 6, the sun rose over a ridge to the east of us. No doubt, it was THE highlight of our trip. Very glad we made the decision to stay for another day.

    After some more photos, we descended quickly back to Ghorepani, packed, and had breakfast. On our way down, we saw the Korean family again - too bad they'd missed the sunrise. Our total bill for two nights and four meals at The Hungry Eye came to only RS8920, or under US$100. Unbelievable.

    Leaving Ghorepani at 8:15a, we took the path eastward towards Tadapani. Instead of going down, we actually climbed to about 3,200m again before descending. The summit reminded me of Tibet, where a lot of the multi-colored prayer flags fly. After a 30-minute tea break at Deurali at 10:30a, we descended next to a series of waterfalls slowly in a dark valley to about 2,500m before going up again. Because it was moist and slippery, we descended very slowly, passed by the Korean family. Tea houses are much less abundant on this trail, with few places to stop for rests; and we felt bad for those climbing up towards Ghorepani this way. (Some did. Apparently, they first went to Annapurna Base Camp, then Poon Hill).

    We had a quick lunch from around 12:15p to 1p at Tranquility Guest House just past Banthanti. Only place on our trip where they don't serve chicken, so we just had fried rice with egg. The Korean family was there too, the last time we would cross path. At 2:20p under moderate rain, we arrived at the larger village of Tadapani (2,700m) for a short break. Here, they sell bottled water rather than safe drinking water, and cost a steep RS120 for a liter. Tadapani is the major junction for those heading up to the Annapurna Base Camp.

    It was another three long hours through the woods before we arrived at Ghandruk (2,000m). And it wasn't uneventful either. Our guide and porter were ahead of us when we got blocked by several water buffaloes on the trail. Not aware that we could just hush them off, we stopped and waited. And that turned out to be quite a disaster as we were attacked by leeches.

    BTW, I was wrong in saying that I got a leech bite two days earlier. Actually, I was bitten here, along with Bonny and Daphne. When we got to Hotel Gurung Cottage at Ghandruk, we spendtmany minutes getting more leeches off our boots, pants and Gore-tex shells, and checking things over and over.

    Gurung Cottage is a very small guesthouse with just 4 rooms, with attached bath. But because of overcast weather, the solar-powered hot water in our room was not available, and we would use the shared bath with gas-heated water. It wasn't a big deal. The guesthouse has a nice view facing the wide valley east of Ghandruk, though the mountain peaks were behind clouds throughout our stay. For the first time in 4 days, we have wi-fi, so we caught up with Facebook, and I cancelled our hotel in Chitwan. A triple room with bath in Ghandruk costs a bit more, at RS900. Or just over US$9.

    The dining room is very nice, with a strong Alpine feel. Fried chicken was on the menu and I would never passed on that. They ran out of the Khukri rum, so we had the Bagpiper whiskey from India, served again with hot water. Over dinner, we chatted with two British Indian couples staying at the same guesthouse. One of the men served in the British Army and lived in Hong Kong in the 80's, and their barracks were just a few km from where Bonny and I live right now.

    Truth is, it was a very tough day of hiking, only exceeded in time and elevation change by our second day on Mount Kinabalu in 2011. When we chatted with other hikers, not many people attempted to do or actually did Poon Hill for sunrise and then arrived Ghandruk same day. Most would call it a day at Tadapani. But our guide believed (correctly) that we could do it, and this way we would have a leisure last day of hiking and a relatively early arrival back in Pokhara.

    Total hiking time on Day 4 (excluding long breaks): 9hr40min.
    Total Ascending: 850m; Total Descending: 1700m. Total elevation changed: 2550m.

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    Thanks! It's worth bringing a dSLR and a tripod (my fairly light carbon fibre one). And of course, we have a porter. Clear difference in quality between those taken with the dSLR and my S95 (which is already quite good).

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    Day 8 - Sept 9, 2014

    Our last day of trekking was a relatively easy one. After breakfast, we left Gurung Cottage in Ghandruk (2,000m) at 8:40a. The initial descend was fairly steep, but dry and safe. In about 90 minutes, we had gone down about 400m to Kimche for our morning break. Kimche is at the end of the dirt road with jeep and bus service to Naya Pul, but a massive landslide just weeks ago made the road impassable. At the tea house, we chatted with a Swiss hiker who was coming down from Ghorepani the day before like us, but sprained his ankle badly, and had to return to Pokhara by himself where his partner(s) would continue to Annapurna Base Camp after Tadapani. The ironic thing was that even with a bad ankle, he would walk faster than us.

    We also came upon a pair of Chinese girls who apparently have also hurt themselves. Later, we would see them and partners on the bus heading down to Naya Pul. We would be slow, but we were careful not to hurt ourselves. A sprain would really ruin a trip like this.

    Because of the massive landslide, we would actually follow the dirt road more, rather than using the trail closer to the river through Sauli Bazar. We had a fairly long lunch break after passing the landslide site, and arrive back in Birenthanti at 3pm to get our TIMS card and Annapurna permits voided. The little Kia Picanto from Hotel Dream was waiting for us when we arrived Naya Pul, and by 5pm, we were back at our hotel in Pokhara after dropping Ram and Raju off near their home north of the city. We decided to give the two of them about US$25 in tips.

    Total hiking time on Day 5: 5hr15min. Elevation lost: 1000m.

    ---

    Summary of the 5-day trekking trip (originally planned as 4-day):

    Total trekking time, excluding long breaks where we had lunch or tea or coke: 26.5hr.
    Total elevation change: 5,300m/17,400ft

    Cost for 3 persons sharing a room:
    Guide: US$100
    Porter: US$75
    Tips: US$35
    Transportation between Pokhara and Naya Pul: US$40
    Room and food: RS22,850
    Poon Hill entrance: RS150

    Total about US$490 for 3 people, or $165 each. Add approximately US$40 each for the permits, it's just over $200 per person for 5 days.

    ---

    I have to say we highly enjoyed these 5 days in the mountain. Rooms fairly comfortable, food great, and the view from Poon Hill at sunrise is really worth it. Naturally, Bonny and I would compare it to our hike to the top of Mt Kinabalu in Sabah 3 years prior. We found that Poon Hill is much more enjoyable as, first, the steps are easier and nothing like those ridiculous tall steps at Mt Kinabalu. Second, timing is flexible. Since there are lots of teahouses along the way, especially on the main Poon Hill trek, one can do it on their own pace. We were fairly slow, but we've met others who were hiking even slower than us.

    In fact, this area is so nice and beautiful we were already thinking about making it to the Annapurna Base Camp next time. Hopefully, no leeches next time...

    As for equipment, my LOWA boots were awesome, so were the Black Diamond Ultra-Distance trekking poles. Bonny wasn't using hers initially, but ended up using them quite a bit on last two days. The 1-litre water bottle I bought just prior to the trip was also great as safe drinking water is sold by the litre. It was warmer than we though it would be, even for Poon Hill in early morning, so our fleece and gloves weren't useful. And since we extended our trek for one-day, we would have brought more light quick-dry t-shirts.

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    After returning to Hotel Dream in Pokhara, we took it very easy. Gave all our dirty clothes to Hotel Dream. They charged RS300/kg, and we had 3kg of it. Saw someone came on a motorbike to pick them up, which were returned to us next afternoon. There are actually lots of laundry places nearby, and most have signs that say "From RS50/kg". Not sure if they're dried and folded like ours. I believe it was my very first time to use a hotel's laundry service.

    We confirmed with Hotel Dream for our paragliding on Sept 11, as well as our return flights back to Kathmandu on Buddha Air on Sept 12. Paragliding is RS8500 no matter how and who you book with. Air tickets are US$105, same as what Mums Home charged us, and again likely a few USD more than an agent out on the street.

    Exhausted, we decided to just eat at our hotel. Our hotel is run by Buddhists (from the prayer flags outside and the "singing bowls" inside) and they serve beef. We had a burger for the first time in our trip, which was quite good.

    Day 9 - Sept 10, 2014

    We took it very easy this day. Breakfast is included in our room rate (same room, same rate as before, US$40 for triple room with fan but no A/C). They offer three levels of breakfast - basically "light", "moderate" and "heavy". Portions are generous, so eventually, we found that one "heavy" and two "lights" are more than enough for the three of us.

    We thought about going up to the Shanti Stupa (or World Peace Stupa) high up on the south side of Phewa Lake, but it was overcast with some rain, so we wouldn't get to see the mountains anyways. Instead, we just wandered down to lakeside and had another long, lazy and late lunch at the Fewa Paradise. Afterwards, Bonny and I had full body massage at the Senses Spa on Bahari Path (RS3500 for two of us of an hour), while Daphne has a foot massage (RS1000).

    For dinner, we decided to stay at our hotel once again.

    Day 10 - Sept 11, 2014

    There are many paragliding operators in Pokhara. I believe Sunshine is the oldest, and the larger ones offer training/certification programs. Our hotel booked us on one called "Paranova", which was rated pretty low on Trip Advisor, but I don't see much serious problem with them. (I don't look at anything on TA other than lodging anyways). All companies run 3 sections (9am, 11am and 1pm hotel pickups), as the clouds and rain usually roll in in the afternoon. We were booked at 9am, but weather was quite poor, and we were eventually picked up at 11am to their store.

    As mentioned, all the companies charge the same RS8500 for the ~25 minute session. And Bonny and Daphne both decided to get pictures and videos for extra RS1700. For whatever reason - perhaps bad encounter with other Chinese clients - the manager at Paranova's store at lakeside offered very low expectations. Like, due to weather, our ride could be as short as 10-15 minutes; maybe only a dozen or so pictures, and short video, etc... In fact, he even said we could change our mind and come back another day.

    We stayed put, and after doing our paperwork and more waiting, we were finally driven up the Sarangkot mountain (~1,600m) on the north side of Phewa Lake, along with two other Chinese and their companions, and our pilots. Lake Phewa is at around 800m, while the take off point is about 100m from the top of Sarangkot, making a drop of about 700m for our ride.

    Bonny and Daphne got local Nepali pilots, while I (most likely because of my higher weight) was assigned a contractor from Geneva. I won't say too much about the experience, except it is amazing, and definitely worth doing. I saw a lot of paragliders at Interlaken in Switzerland few years ago but never though about doing it. Next time, I would. Very easy to take off, extremely comfortable and serene, and landing was even easier. Highly recommended.

    In the end, Bonny's ride was the longest at around 30 minutes, including some adventurous maneuver by her pilot (captured on video as well). Mine was shortest at around 25 minutes, but I got to chat with my Swiss pilot Sebastian quite a bit.

    We found lunch at Maya Pub & Restaurant, across Lakeside Rd from Paranova. No view of the lake, but still very comfortable overlooking the street. Good pizza and pasta, and we tried a 7% alcohol beer called "Nepal Ice". After lunch, we collected our certificates and DVD. [We didn't have a drive to check the discs, but turned out both Bonny and Daphne got long videos and over 100 pictures each! - good deal for the extra US$18 each.]

    I should also mention that Paranova (also true for most other places in Nepal that we have dealt money with) is very honest in regard to currency exchange. We paid in USD (or many other currencies) and they would use that day's official rate to calculate the amount, and gave us change in USD as well. So, it was actually cheaper for us to pay in USD than by exchanging it (or use ATM) to get Rupees and pay them.

    For dinner, we went to Aankhi Jyhal, same place we visited a week prior. Big feast, multiple drinks, dessert. All came to RS2420. US$25 for 3 persons.

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    The rest will follow later. Meanwhile, very said to hear about the news that at least 17 trekkers had died on the Annapurna Circuit, which is north of our trekking area.

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    I am finally back in finishing off the trip report and photos. Here is the album for Swayambhunath after we returned to Kathmandu on Sept 12. Also, some from Thamel, where we were looking for lunch.

    From video footage I've seen, the Anantapur sikhara surrounding the stupa collapsed. Some other buildings may also have suffered damage.

    And I know that Mums Home, our hotel in Thamel, Kathmandu is undamaged.

    http://rkkwan.zenfolio.com/swayambhunath140912

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    Final album from our trip to Nepal last September. Very bittersweet as many temples you see in the album completely collapsed at the 2015-4-25 earthquake. But it was a special day - Indra Jatra - the biggest festival of the year. And we saw the Kumari (virgin goddess), all unplanned. Will write more about it...

    http://rkkwan.zenfolio.com/durbarsq140912

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    Day 11 – Sept 12, 2014

    After breakfast at hotel, it was time to leave Pokhara. We were taken in the little Kia Picanto for the last time on the short trip to airport. We flew on the same Buddha Air ATR 42-320 as before, 9N-AIM, back to Kathmandu uneventfully. The domestic arrivals area was being built, so we were taken by the “bus” to a hut, which was baggage claim. It was orderly chaos, but upon arrival of a big group of Chinese travelers, it became completely chaos.

    Anyhow, we found our driver from Hotel Mums Home. I was quite worried whether someone would show up as like before they never replied my emails, but once again a driver was there. Traffic was horrendous at around 12:30p, so the trip took around 30 minutes in contrast to 10 on our first night of arrival. I booked our first stay there via Agoda for US$78/night for triple room, but for this night on the return, we paid the hotel directly for only US$65 AND it included free airport transfers both ways. You can tell how much the agent earns. And when we arrived, there was no triple room available, so we were upgraded to a two-bedroom suite, which made it even better, even if it was on the 1st floor.

    It was almost two and we walked around Thamel looking for lunch. Considered the cafe inside Garden of Dreams, but since they would still charge us admission even if we didn't have time to visit the garden, we passed and had pizza and pasta at the popular Fire and Ice Pizzeria across the street. Lunch comes to RS1875.

    Then, it was a taxi ride (of course, it was RS300 after bargaining) to Swayambhunath, the huge white stupa on a hilltop west of city center. Built in the 7th C, it was the older, but smaller of the two most famous stupas in Kathmandu (or Nepal), the other being Boudhanath which we saw on the plane to Pokhara right after taking off.

    It was over 300 steep steps up to the stupa and surrounding complex. Wasn't easy, but satisfying as the view from the top was magnificent. Entrance fees for tourists was RS200 each. We spent just over an hour before heading down. It was worth going, but we were upset about the conditions of the dogs there – they don't even have access to semi-clean water. And the constant broadcast of “Om Mani Padme Hum” from a new Tibetan monastery there was a bit annoying.

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    Our final RS300 taxi ride was to Kathmandu's Durbar Square. The Maruti Suzuki 800 dropped us off a block west of the SW corner of the square, and the driver immediately made a U-turn in the crowd to get out of there, like there was a plague going on. I found it very amusing. It was 5:30p and the square was very lively. Lots of locals sitting on the concrete steps of the temples, especially the tall Trailokya Mohan Narayan and Maju Deval. Some temporary platforms were there, and lots of vendors selling fried snacks and cotton candies from bicycles. We were thinking, was it just because it was Friday evening?

    We didn't plan on visiting the old palace or anything, so we just snapped pictures, sat around with the locals, and made our way through the square to head back to our hotel to the NE of Durbar Square. But it just got progressively more crowded and we started to think something must be going on, even though we didn't know what. After passing the narrowest part of the square, we found a big crowd in front of a big golden mask of a fierce diety/demon on the side of the old palace, with liquid coming out a pipe from its mouth. Turned out that is the Sweta Bhairava, which is covered by a screen for the rest of the year, and this night was the last day of Indra Jatra (or Yenya), the biggest of the festivals in Kathmandu!!!

    By this time it was getting dark at around 6:30p and we left Durbar Square and continued to go NE through a narrow street. Suddenly, lots of security person signaled, and later pushed, us aside to the edge of the street, and a chariot rushed by, heading towards Durbar Square. We could see a young girl on it, with makeup most similar to Natalie Portman's Padmé Amidala in Star Wars Episode I. Only later did we realize that was the Kumari, the living virgin goddess. She would be Matina Shakya, age around 10.

    After catching our breath, we continued and reached Indra Chowk, a square filled with crowds. On one side is the temple for Akash (Blue) Bhairava, another fierce mask. In the middle of the square was a tent and we were taking pictures of the offerings of various grains inside when suddenly we were again being pushed aside by security. A dancer with a craggy red wig seemed to be possessed and was dancing wildly towards and right in front of us. It was a Lahke Dance and he was the demon. He went to the tent and wiped across the offerings before turning around and left. Unbelievable, as we had absolutely no idea about Indra Jatra, and this was our last evening in Nepal!!! There would simply be no better way to cap our fantastical journey.

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    Enjoyed the read and photos. Thanks for sharing.

    Two bottles of 7% Nepal Ice, and it's time for bed! Gorkha and Everest were my favourites, and you don't fall over quite so soon! Due to the almost continual power cuts I don't think we had an ice-cold beer in 5 weeks. Some places had their own generators, but you had to pay extra for the privilege.

    Walked down those 300+ steep steps at Swayambhu, but took the easy way up at the Kathmandu Ring Road entrance. There, a taxi will take you nearly all the way up, or there is an easy switchback path, which is lined with trinket [mainly religious] stalls. We stayed for a week, just across the Ring Road from Swayambhu, with 3 generations of a lovely Hindu family.

    Went into the Garden of Dreams twice. On the 2nd visit no sooner had we paid to go in, when the weather changed, and it went cold and started to throw it down with rain. Little to no shelter in there, so had to do a runner to Pumpernickel's Cafe.

    Great memories.

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    Thanks, LancasterLad for reading and looking at the photos, and definitely your memories!

    ---

    Continuing:

    Finally, we made it back to Thamel through the narrow (but much quieter) streets. We walked by the famous and popular Tibetan restaurant in the Utse Hotel a few times, and decided to eat there, as it was just behind our hotel. Guide book said it was the “oldest” or “original” restaurant of some type in the area. We ordered both Tibetan and Nepalese food, and it was quite good. Quite a few Chinese visitors ordered their set “hotpot”, and we felt like there was too much food. Our check came to RS1,175.

    Day 12 – Sept 13, 2014

    Hotel van took us back to airport after breakfast. There was this couple from Singapore or Malaysia who was with a group traveling to Tibet overland, but the two of them returned to Kathmandu after suffering from altitude sickness. Instead, they spent more time sightseeing in Kathmandu and Hotel Mums Home booked them on an excursion to Pokhara, as they were going to airport with us.

    Our Nepal Airlines flight was on the same 757-200 as before, 9N-ACA that was delivered in 1987. Lunch choices were chicken and chicken: one as a cutlet served with spaghetti, the other curry with rice. It was overcast that day, but after reaching cruising altitude, we saw some snow-capped peaks on the left side. It could well be Kanchenjunga (8,586m/28,169ft), the third highest peak in the world and on the border between Nepal and Sikkim, India, though I cannot be sure. We didn't see Mt Everest.

    Flight was uneventful, and there was a little epilogue. On our flight was an unaccompanied Nepalese girl, flying to Hong Kong to visit relatives or parents living here. Dressed in beautiful traditional ethnic clothing, she really stood out at the HKG baggage claim with a local ground agent. We think she probably lives in the countryside, and for such an important trip, she was simply wearing the nicest clothes she has.

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    Some thoughts after the trip: This was my first visit to the sub-continent, and really didn't know what to expect. First thing is that other than the air quality in Kathmandu, Nepal is a lot cleaner than I had expected. Every single hotel, guesthouse and restaurant we went to is clean, so is most areas of Pokhara. And for the air quality of Kathmandu, we found it very dusty, but not dirty. Just lots of constructions and broken pavement and such - it's not like pictures we saw of Beijing or many parts of China on its smoggy days. I'd take Kathmandu every single day of the year over Beijing.

    Second is how nice Nepalese are. Because of socio- and historical issues of Nepalese in Hong Kong, they were thought to be "rough". But instead, I found all of them to be extremely gentle. And they were all very fair with money. No charges on exchange, no extortion of tips, no nothing. And after we figure that we could ride a taxi for RS300 in Kathmandu regardless, it wasn't hard to negotiate that deal either.

    In short, we love Nepal and Nepalese, and in fact we were already thinking about going back sometime. The earthquake in April 2015 not only didn't deter us, it actually made that more likely, and sooner rather than later.

    Anyhow, that was our report. I will next do an update of what I've found about the April 2015 earthquake relevant to our trip. Thanks again for reading. And appreciate any further comments.

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    I'm glad you enjoyed Nepal. The people really are lovely, aren't they? And the taxis - I found that at sites the taxi drivers knew who was next up for a fare, and there was no jockeying. They treated each other fairly and they treated us fairly.

    I'm also glad to hear your comments about the air pollution, as i, too, thought it wasn't as bad as some people say. Indeed, the air qualtyt was better than it was some 20+ years ago, when I first went to Kathmandu.

    I'm also glad to hear that you are thinking about returning. There was a video on the NYT website this week of the Nepalese talking about wanting tourists to return. They have reopened some of the historical sites.

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    @Kathie<<<I'm also glad to hear your comments about the air pollution, as i, too, thought it wasn't as bad as some people say. Indeed, the air qualtyt was better than it was some 20+ years ago, when I first went to Kathmandu.>>>

    Air pollution during a couple of days in Kathmandu might not have much affect, but the longer you stay, and depending on where you spend most of your time, the more you WILL feel the effects of it.

    And you can't argue with the facts...

    http://crofsblogs.typepad.com/h5n1/2015/04/nepal-earthquake-what-about-kathmandu-air-pollution.html

    http://www.theguardian.com/cities/2014/mar/21/air-pollution-kathmandu-nepal-liveable-smog-paris

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    To wrap up this report, just want to add a few things. First about the earthquake. From various news photo and videos, I know that:

    Both hotels we've stayed in: Mums Home in Thamel, Kathmandu; and Hotel Dream in Lakeside, Pokhara; are undamaged and both open for business.

    Swayambhunath, the big white stupa, has some cracks, and some buildings surrounding it have collapsed. The most prominent one is the Anantapur shikra right in front, which totally collapsed. Its twin, the Pratappur that was rebuilt after being struck by lightning in 2011 stands.

    At Kathmandu's Durbar Square, many news report has shown the totally collapse of the Kasthamandap, Maju Dewal, and Trailokya Mohan Narayan in the southwest side of the square. These are all built in the 17th C. The older 16th C structure in the NE side are mostly okay. They top of the Basantapur Tower in the old palace also partially collapsed, though we didn't actually visit or take photos of it.

    At the Patan Durbar Square, the Hari Shankar Mandir and Jagan Narayan Mandir (which is the oldest there, built in 1565) were compleletely destroyed. And lots of damage to the buildings surrounding Manga Hiti, the public bathing tank.

    ---

    Also, as mentioned, I believe it's totally find and safe and go back to Nepal now, as that's probably the best way to support their economy. If you're heading to the Annapurna region for hiking, please let me know and I'll give you contact info for our guide Ramchandra Subedi.

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