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Nepal

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Mar 11th, 2014, 02:19 AM
  #1
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Nepal

Off to Nepal next Tuesday, for our first visit to the country.
We're in the country for 5 weeks, non-trekking, and just intend to pace ourselves and enjoy whatever we encounter.

We're flying Etihad from LHR, with a flight change in Abu Dhabi.
I've arranged accommodation in Kathmandu, just outside of the Ring Road, for a week.

This is where we're staying...

https://www.airbnb.co.uk/rooms/88907...uests=2&s=5-Mb

Family run, and looks like great vfm, and has some v.positive reports. Picking us up from the airport too.

Then we'll take a Tourist Bus to Pokhara, staying for just over a week at a place that doesn't advertise, and is only recommended by word-of-mouth. Intend having a couple of nights in Dhampus and Bandipur too, and have a go on the Manakamana Cable Car.

Back to Kathmandu, and staying in Bhaktipur for a week, so we can take in the complete celebrations of Bisket Jatra (Nepalese New Year)...

http://heartofbhaktapur.com/
http://tasteofnepal.blogspot.co.uk/2...bhaktapur.html

Then down to Chitwan for 3 or 4 nights. Nothing boked yet, and I think I'll get better vfm by just turning up in Sauraha, and looking for accommodation and booking any tours.

Finally, back to Kathmandu for our last couple of nights.

I'll do a trip report when we get back to UK late April.
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Mar 11th, 2014, 04:12 AM
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Have been thinking about. Nepal for a while now so will look forward to reading your report.
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Mar 12th, 2014, 12:16 PM
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I'm also heading there for the first time in November. Would like to go to Pokhara but not too sure about the safety of the buses so I'll look forward to hearing what you have to say.
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Mar 13th, 2014, 04:23 AM
  #4
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The Greenline tourist bus seems to be the company of choice...

http://www.greenline.com.np/intro.php

I'm also considering Debit Travel...

http://www.debittravel.com/about_us.html

But as we've got a few days in Kathmandu first I'll have a wander down to where the buses leave from and have a look at a few of them.
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Mar 17th, 2014, 12:18 AM
  #5
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Only one more sleep.
All packed and ready to go.
Hope I've thought of everything!
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Mar 17th, 2014, 12:41 AM
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Ooh LL, how exciting, can't wait to hear about it.

Happy travels.
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Mar 17th, 2014, 02:39 AM
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I made one mistake, that I've since put right.
Our flight into KTM arrives @ 1535.
In order to get all the mountain views [cloud permitting], then you need to sit on the right-hand side. I'd chosen left-hand side seats, and glad that I noticed in plenty of time to make changes.

Printed off and completed VOA application forms, and attached a photo. US$40 each already in our passport pouch. So hopefully that'll help smooth our passage through the airport. I've read that the speed of baggage reclaim is a bit hit-and-miss though.

The US$40 visa is for up to 30 days. As we'll be there for 35 nights an extension costs US$2 per day with a minimum purchase of US$30 (15 days). I'll do the extensions while we're in Pokhara.

At the airport I'll just change enough money to pay the bloke who's picking us up at the airport, and to get us through our first morning.

We're staying v.close to Swayambhu Stupa...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swayambhunath

...so walking there for sunrise this Thursday morning looks like a good place to start our trip.
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Mar 17th, 2014, 10:57 AM
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There is an ATM at the airport, right outside - a better exchange rate than the kiosks as long as you have an account that doesn't charge you an arm and a leg to use a foreign ATM. Also, if you have forgotten anything, it will be readily available in Thamel.

Enjoy your trip.
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Mar 17th, 2014, 10:34 PM
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Thanks. But I've learned never to trust stand-alone ATMs, just in case it 'eats' my card or spits out the wrong amount of money. If there's nobody there on the spot to deal with the problem then you're up the creek.

So I only use ATMs that are attached to a bank, and only during business hours. So if there is a problem I can [hopefully] sort it out on the spot with the minimum of delay or inconvenience.
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Mar 17th, 2014, 10:58 PM
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Ooh, LL, I feel you've been burnt before.

While I also advocate the use of ATMS in Banks during business hours, it didn't help me in Singapore a while ago. Despite having passport for ID, there was no way the Bank was giving me my card back. My fault, dazed and probably jet lagged I got the pin wrong three times.

Several hours on the phone later to my bank at home, the issue was sorted, in a fashion. No replacement card, but I did have a spare, so no worries.

Perhaps since then I've lapsed into a false sense of security. I freely use stand alone ATMs now, always have that spare card though
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Mar 17th, 2014, 11:35 PM
  #11
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Ha! Not been burnt, more a case of continuous personal risk assessment, and making sure that I avoid as many potential pitfalls as possible.

My wind-up torch on a band round my head can't run out of batteries either when the lights go out!

Four hours to go, and Heathrow here we come. Not much left to do on our pre-departure check-off list. Tick-tock!
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Mar 17th, 2014, 11:42 PM
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Oh funny, forgot you were ex military, the risk assessment makes sense.
My job, recently ditched, was all about risk too, that was in a financial sense, not sure I learned the lessons very well

Happy travels LL
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Mar 18th, 2014, 06:38 PM
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We're in Nepal right now for three weeks--no trekking--and it is absolutely gorgeous.

We have only used ATMs in the airport and Kathmandu so far and have had no problems other than the $100 limit per transaction.

This morning we are leaving from Balthali Village Resort where we have spent the last three nights. Beautiful, unspoiled location with some great shorter walks into interesting villages. As far as room, they're fine if you think summer camp for kids but with private baths.
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Mar 18th, 2014, 06:44 PM
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We're in Nepal right now for three weeks--no trekking--and it is absolutely gorgeous.

We have only used ATMs in the airport and Kathmandu so far and have had no problems other than the $100 limit per transaction.

This morning we are leaving from Balthali Village Resort where we have spent the last three nights. Beautiful, unspoiled location with some great shorter walks into interesting villages. As far as room, they're fine if you think summer camp for kids but with private baths.
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Apr 23rd, 2014, 10:36 PM
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Me and OH (Rosemary) arrived back in UK yesterday after 5 weeks in Nepal. Rather than scribe a long Trip report I'll just write a bit at a time. I'll be pleased to answer any questions as honestly as I can, and based on our own experiences which will obviously differ from person to person.

THE FLIGHT. We flew from LHR via Abu Dhabi with Etihad. Flights were fine, on time, and we arrived at Tribhuvan Airport at 1530 on 19 March. Food was so-so in Economy. Only comments about the flights are that at Heathrow, check-in is strict about the amount of [free] hand luggage you can take. But it seems that many other airports more-or-less turn a blind-eye.

When we boarded our connecting Etihad flight at Abu Dhabi, some people had a bag in each hand, and one around their neck. Result being that the over-head lockers can't cope with the quantity of stuff being shoved into them. The offenders always seem to make sure they board the aircraft early on, and make sure they've got enough locker stowage. I have a word for people like that, but I'll try to keep this thread as clean as I can, although the word 'clean', especially in Kathmandu isn't a very commonly used word!

TRIBHUVAN AIRPORT. It's a small airport, so at worst there won't be more than one other International flight arriving at the same time. There's no air-bridge, so you'll either get bussed a few yards, or walk from the aircraft.

We got VOA, having printed off application forms online. So we had the forms fully completed, a passport size photo stapled to it, and US$40 fee [30 day] all ready. There are different visa queues that I saw, depending on the length of visa you wanted.

We were staying for 35 days. So we joined the 30 day queue, having 'lied' about our intended length of stay on the visa form. Had we stated our correct length of stay then we'd have had to buy a 90 day visa for US$100, whereas it's less expensive to purchase a 15 day extension either at the Immigration Office in Kathmandu (KTM), or in Pokhara.

It took us 20 minutes from feet on the ground to retrieving our baggage, including changing €20 at the exchange kiosk to the left of the Visa queues. I saw a bloke in front of me reaching he front of the queue only to find that he never had a photo, so he had to suck-it and go to the photo machine in Arrivals. The RoE at the exchange kiosk was only marginally less than we got in KTM.

There was no separate queue for Immigration after you get your Visa into your passport. So once you get your Visa you can proceed to baggage reclaim.

So, providing you've done a bit of homework regarding VOA, the clearing Tribhuvan Airport is painless.

AIRPORT PICK-UP. We'd pre-arranged our pick-up with our KTM hosts, he was there, and off we went to start our little adventure. There's a fixed-price taxi kiosk in Arrivals, and you could also walk a few yards outside the airport grounds and flag one down. BUT if you do take a taxi be aware that the vast majority of the [zillions] of taxis in KTM are tiny Maruti Suzuki 800cc vehicles, which will only comfortable take 2 x medium sized passengers and a couple of medium sized suitcases.
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Apr 23rd, 2014, 11:20 PM
  #16
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FIRST WEEK (19-26 March). Our first 7 nights we spent with a wonderful (3 generation) higher caste Hindu family, at their home in Swayambhu...

https://www.airbnb.co.uk/rooms/88907...uests=2&s=5-Mb

If you read the comments made by other people who've stayed at the property they are all true. The family are amazing, and go out of their way to make visitors really welcome. We ate with them every evening, and their daal bhaat, which had subtle changes for each meal was heavenly. All the contents were organically grown in their own garden.

Because Swayambhu is a couple of miles out of KTM centre, it meant that getting around was either by bus, taxi, or on foot. I'll describe the general 'getting around' aspects later on.

We used public buses to visit Patan, Boudha, and Kirtipur. The ancient stupa at Swayambhu was within easy walking distance, and we also walked into KTM a couple of times.

An early word of caution in using public buses in KTM and the Valley. They ain't for the faint hearted, and are a thrill a second experience. Passenger comfort doesn't exist, as Operator profit is the name of the game. But buses are cheap!

Electricity cuts 'load shedding' happened daily, and often for hours at a time. So once it got dark then getting around needed to be by taxi and ideally only for a short distance.

Because of the regular power-cuts we started our days early, and always got back to our accommodation by dusk. Evenings were for relaxing, and enjoying the food and hospitality of our hosts.
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Apr 23rd, 2014, 11:59 PM
  #17
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THE TOURIST BUSES BETWEEN KATHMANDU AND POKHARA (AND CHITWAN). There are loads of bus companies advertising their 'Tourist' buses between KTM and Pokhara.

They all (I think) from the centre of KTM on Kantipath at roughly the same time in the morning (0730ish). They all (except Greenline @ US$20) cost roughly the same @ 500-600 NPRs for a seat.

The reasons for Greenline being expensive, are a few-fold, newer buses, has it's own depot to leave from, air-conditioning, 'free' bottle of water, daal bhaat buffet lunch included.

The trip to Pokhara is about 200 Kms, but ignore the distance as long distance trips by road in Nepal are talked about in 'Hours'. And the number of 'Hours' a trip takes depends on all sorts of possible delays that the bus can encounter along the way.

We decided to splash-out and pay US$20 each on Greenline. The booking office/depot in KTM is opposite The Garden of Dreams. I booked a few days early, and got the full pick of the seats. I must have felt a bit adventurous at the time and chose the two seats directly behind the driver for the best views.

One the day of the race, the bus wasn't exactly super modern but it was comfortable and clean, the a/c worked, we got a bottle of water, and we set off on time @ 0730.

But not far out of KTM descending along life-focussing switchbacks we hit a traffic jam. It took us 5 (five) hours to get through it, and I've never seen so many battered out old buses, trucks, and humanity peeing wherever they could by the road and in fields, in my life. There had been a landslide, and what a tedious crawl it was negotiating it.

By the time we reached Pokhara we'd been on the road for 10.5 hours! Some journey, but it was dry season, and we were probably unlucky. Goodness knows what it must be like during the wet season.

In order to compare Greenline with one of the other 'Tourist' bus operators, we decided to use Blue Sky for the return trip. The return trip was less eventful, we had windows open for the duration to allow a breeze to keep the bus airy, no bottle of water but they get us all a puke bag each(!), and we had to pay a few rupees for lunch.

So is Greenline worth the extra cost? Not really.

We could of course have flown between KTM and Pokhara. But we visit these strange countries to see the people, the places, hear the sounds, see the sights, experience the excitement, spills and thrills at ground level all along the way You can't do that from an aircraft cabin.
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Apr 24th, 2014, 07:52 AM
  #18
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KATHMANDU - WHAT'S IT LIKE? Like a lot of cities in Developing countries, Kathmandu will mean different things to different people. A lot will depend on how much homework you did on the placeprior to travelling, your expectations, length of stay, who you're travelling with, and your budget.

I think that Kathmandu can be described by many with just a couple of words "S**t Hole" or by many other people by a million words. The former will have wanted to get the heck out of it within minutes of landing, and the latter will have been prepared to get stuck into the place and loiter for a while.

The following is a Cross-stick of the word K-A-T-H-M-A-N-D-U. I'll be glad to expand on any of the words in the cross-stick...

K – Kilns; Khaotic; Kalamatous; Kocophonous; Krazy

A – Acrid; Airless; Armless; Airborne; Amazing

T – Tortuous; Traumatic; Testing; Toilet; Tricky; Traffic; Tramps; Torch; Transport; Tuberculosis; Theatrical

H – Hellish; Horns; Harrowing; Hopelessness; Humbling; Homeless; Handwash; HIV

M – Manic; Mange; Menacing; Monotonous; Monstrous; Morbid; Melodious; Medicine

A – Arduous

N – Noisy; Nauseous

D – Dirty; Dusty; Dogs; Debris; Dank; Dangerous; Difficult; Draining; Deafening; Drinking-water; Diarrhoea

U – Ugly; Unhygenic; Unclean; Unreliable; Unhealthy; Unbelievable
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Apr 24th, 2014, 02:04 PM
  #19
 
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Not too many positives there -if I hadn't already booked my flight I may be reconsidering. BUT I'm finding your account helpful and interesting.
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Apr 24th, 2014, 02:26 PM
  #20
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Frances. Your right, not too many positives, but the word K-A-T-H-M-A-N-D-U only contains a third of the alphabet!

Despite the negatives we still enjoyed, and learnt a lot from our trip. Some things you'll have to get used too v.quickly are barking dogs 24/7. Ear plugs do the trick. Out and about, and due to the smog, dust and other general airborne pollution, the national pastime is spitting, oiking, and snot flicking. It's difficult. but just try and ignore it or join in!

Once you're clear of KTM the filthy stuff becomes less filthy.

What's your intended itinerary, and your expectations?
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