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thursdaysd Nov 23rd, 2010 07:20 AM

Thursdaysd's South Asian Sojourn
This thread is for the south Asian leg of my 6 month RTW. I started planning this trip all the way back in April - see - and left home September 10th. The east Asian leg, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and Hong Kong, is chronicled here - - where there's also some live chat about my time in Nepal. But since the thread is taking too long to load on my less-than-ideal 'net connections, and Fodors won't let me tag a thread with more than five countries, I'm starting a new TR for south Asia. I'm also blogging the trip at and my (totally unedited) photos show up periodically at - the password for a protected gallery is the name of the gallery in lower case. As you will notice from the dates, this is not a live report - I've just reached India, although we'll start here in Kathmandu.

<b>Nov 7 - HK to KTM Spells Culture Shock</b>

I rode the sleek and speedy Airport Express back out to Hong Kong airport, where my OneWorld business class award ticket got me into the Cathay Pacific lounge, right by the departure gate for the Dragonair flight to Kathmandu. Since I'd spent the morning sightseeing I was glad of the opportunity to shower. I had completely forgotten that I needed a visa for Nepal until the check-in agent asked if I was getting my visa on arrival. So after I got cleaned up I dug out the visa application form, the photos and the $20 bills stashed in my back-up money belt.

The flight is a little strange - it stops in Dakka but if you're going on to Kathmandu you have to stay on the plane, and you can't board the flight in Dakka to go to Kathmandu, only via Kathmandu (where you have to stay on the plane) back to Hong Kong. Dakka was a more popular destination then I had expected - almost the entire complement of business class passengers got off there. My seat mate, an interesting and well-traveled young man of Indian origin, said that he spent weekdays working in Dakka, and his weekends with his family back in Hong Kong.

If business class on Dragonair wasn't quite up to Cathay Pacific standards, it was plenty comfortable, given I wouldn't be sleeping (I don't think the seats went all the way flat). The food was good, as were the accompanying Shiraz and port. In short, I had a quiet, clean, comfortable, even pampered, afternoon and evening. Then I got off the plane at Kathmandu airport.

At 10:00 pm the arrivals building was mostly deserted. It was also dusty, decrepit and disorganized. Although I had already completed my visa application form I still needed to fill in an arrivals card, and then maintain my place in line to buy the visa and get stamped in. I didn't see an ATM, but I did change a few HK dollars at the one bureau de change, and was relieved to see a man holding a sign with my name among the hotel and taxi touts waiting to pounce.

The taxi, however, was not an improvement on the airport. In fact, I had doubts that we would make it all the way to the hotel, as in addition to the expected rattles it had a squeal like a soul in torment - given the state of the roads, it would be surprising if a car with any age on it didn't develop rattles and squeals. I had arrived on the last day of Diwali, the festival of lights, and after some dark and deserted streets we started passing buildings with long strings of lights hung from the roofs - in fact those lights had been about all that lit the darkness below coming in on the plane. It was clear that I was back in south Asia - I hadn't been to Nepal before, but I had spent ten weeks in India in 2001.

Despite my doubts, the taxi duly lurched its way to the Courtyard Hotel, in north Thamel (backpacker central). I had chosen the hotel almost entirely because of this thread: which many Fodor's readers know and love. So, as the gate to the enclosed courtyard (yes, the Courtyard has a courtyard) swung open, I was intrigued to see how much of dogster's description was embroidery.

dogster Nov 23rd, 2010 07:46 AM

lol lol lol what a cliff-hanger!

thursdaysd Nov 23rd, 2010 08:22 AM

Thought I'd see if anyone was reading. You jump ship already?

BTW, I just reread your Kathmandu thread over dinner, there's really not all that much about the Courtyard compared to everything else.

Marija Nov 23rd, 2010 10:52 AM

Waiting for embroidery details, thursday.

dogster Nov 23rd, 2010 11:35 AM

Nope, I'm just sailing out of Kusadasi - tomorrow Bodrum. Bizarre scenes. The Courtyard Cabaret is here:

- all that was fit to print, anyway. I'm dying to hear your take on the place - <i>and</i> Phulbari.

gertie3751 Nov 23rd, 2010 01:34 PM

I'm still reading Thursday but where actually ARE you? I'm getting displacement adjustment problems between what I read and where I calculate you are on your travels. Dogster's interjection with The Courtyard Cabaret has only confused me further tho it makes for great reading.

thursdaysd Nov 23rd, 2010 06:10 PM

<b>gertie</b> - sorry for the confusion, but I can't write and travel at the same time, and no travel means nothing to write about. This morning I'm in Lucknow, this evening I hope to be in Hyderabad. I hope my luggage is there too - I'm flying Indigo via Delhi on the only connecting flights on the whole trip!

This post is still pretty much correct:

Kusadasi <b>dogster</b>? Ugh! Hope Ephesus was reasonably empty for you. I quite liked Bodrum, but I stayed in cute little hotel with a pool and English books out of the melee.

gertie3751 Nov 23rd, 2010 07:56 PM

Ha Ha Thursday! I remember Hyderabad has a very state-of-the-art airport. Don't know about the rest of it. Are you going to Goa? To Panjim Inn? I loved that place.
I'm with you on Bodrum, I too found a little hotel in the backstreets with a pool and almost no-one else. And I liked their castle and theatre. But Kusadasi...ugh!
Have found you on My Time to Travel and will try to keep up.

rhkkmk Nov 24th, 2010 05:40 AM

i just looked in too

indianapearl Nov 24th, 2010 05:58 AM

thursdaysd: How is your foot/ankle healing?

thursdaysd Nov 24th, 2010 08:19 AM

My luggage and I both made it to Hyderabad. It was a one-stop flight rather than a connecting flight - I got to sit on the plane in Delhi and see that Indigo manages to have covered luggage carts when it rains, even if JAL doesn't.... I'm in my second hotel room - the AC didn't work in the first (same hotel, though).

I apologize for the delay in the next Nepal post, I was planning to type it on the plane, but my computer chose this morning to lock itself up so completely I couldn't even turn it off! Since the battery is sealed I had to wait for it run down - fully charged, of course. Good thing I wasn't flying in the US, the TSA would have had a fit.

Thanks for asking, <b>indianapearl</b>. Would you believe that just as my right foot finally seemed healed, I hurt the left one??? (Other people have intestinal troubles when traveling, I have bad feet.) I didn't lift the trailing foot high enough stepping over the threshold of the Chinese temple in Lumbini and hit the fourth toe REALLY hard. Not broken, thank goodness, but spectacular bruise the first couple of days.

indianapearl Nov 24th, 2010 08:48 AM

It seems one gets new aches in an attempt to compensate for an existing ache. Keeps us mentally alert!

dogster Nov 24th, 2010 12:44 PM

Yeeowch, thursday. Take your time. Whenever you report in is fine by me. I know how hard it is to write and travel. Matter of fact, I find it too hard. Your reportage is tremendously impressive.

Nepal will appear when and if it does. We are all in your debt.

Marija Nov 24th, 2010 01:05 PM

And so the promised AWBR once again recedes.

MaryW Nov 24th, 2010 03:08 PM

I'm still reading too Thursday. Hope your toe is much better.

rhkkmk Nov 24th, 2010 06:43 PM

anxious for updates as you find time

thursdaysd Nov 24th, 2010 06:55 PM

Thanks dogster - praise from Caesar, indeed!

Toe is considerably better, thanks, one red bar instead of total blue-purple.

Today's priority is organizing onward transport - I want to go to Hospet via Bijapur, but I don't want to pay a fortune...

thursdaysd Nov 25th, 2010 04:59 AM

<b>Inside the Gate</b>

Inside the gate, across a little, hump-backed bridge, rose three red brick wings: breakfast to the left, bar and library to the right, and reception in the center, with benches outside, where Michelle was chatting with some guests. Those benches, and the library, and Michelle herself are the heart of the hotel. Dogster was right, this is a travelers' hangout for travelers who'd like a little comfort with their conversation. Actually, in the renovated rooms, rather a lot of comfort, although those rooms may be pushing the affordability envelope for some travelers.

Next to actually traveling, travelers like nothing better than to talk about it. Enthuse about their finds, bemoan their more hair-raising adventures (have to have some of those), even listen to a few stories from other people, and perhaps connect for a meal or a ride. Hostels, guesthouses, some B&Bs and pensions and low end hotels are all places travelers find each other. But like my guesthouse in Gyeongju, they tend to be on the spartan side. Upgrade, assuming you can afford it, and your fellow guests will maintain a polite reserve, and probably aren't travelers in the first place.

The Courtyard is filling the gap in the middle, and for all dogster's tales of walking into walls in the middle of a freezing night, filling it well. There's a generator now, so Nepal's daily power cuts weren't a problem for me. The showers were admirable. Laundry gets sent to the Radisson so it stays white - just one of those little details involved in running a hotel in Kathmandu.

And dogster's flaky female cast of characters? Well, I met "Aunt Esme", still working with mosaics, but getting ready to move into a flat in Kathmandu, and she seemed pretty sane to me. A couple of other long-term denizens of the hotel might have been busy doing good, but weren't above enjoying themselves at the same time. Nobody trekking in flip flops and a sun dress. No wild-eyed zealots. Not even a visa-less tuk-tuk racer. And dinner at Thamel House, to celebrate the arrival of Michell's father? At my end of the table the three sedate couples vacationing from jobs in the Middle East hardly managed a single bowl of local fire water apiece, and showed not the slightest desire to join the very bored-looking dancers on stage. Sorry guys - better go reread dogster's account. Maybe you have to stay in the depths of winter to meet the true eccentrics.

Plus I have some sad news to share: the wedding scheduled to take place shortly before my arrival between a pink-gowned dogster and one kimmyejones? Never happened. Dogster has passed his opportunity on to Tibby the dog (with the comment: "One pooch is much the same as another"), but Tibby expressed deep disinterest. kimmyejones hasn't been heard from.

So the Courtyard was pretty serene during my stay. Michelle is busy renovating rooms (my upgraded room (many thanks) was gold and green to match a desk chair she had found), and helping people connect. Her husband Pujan, whose parents built the hotel, is a go-getter with loads of nervous energy who seems to me unlikely to be satisfied just running the Courtyard for long. In fact, when I left he was designing luxury tents for a putative resort near a little place called Phulbari. After checking out the hotel scene in Pokhara, though, I'm lobbying for a Courtyard West.

gertie3751 Nov 25th, 2010 05:15 AM

So true your comment re the inverse balance between comfortable places to stay and the interesting people who stay in them. I've often bemoaned that.
Sounds like dogster was using a bit of poetic license re The Courtyard. It still sounds worth a go though.

ekscrunchy Nov 25th, 2010 07:09 AM

Checking in and eagerly awaiting more....

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