Thursdaysd's South Asian Sojourn

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Nov 25th, 2010, 12:28 PM
  #21
 
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I am here too....

Enjoy your trip, thursdaysd.
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Nov 26th, 2010, 04:13 AM
  #22
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The car and driver thing wasn't looking so good this morning, so I spent some time on Plan B, which (given lousy trains all on waitlist) ended up being a flight to Goa and a stay at the Panjim Inn. On the one hand, I like the Panjim Inn, on the other hand, been there, done about everything you can do from Panaji.

However, when I got back from today's sightseeing, I had a confirmed reservation. So, I'm taking off for the wilds of Karnataka tomorrow with a driver hired over the Internet... I don't expect Internet in Bijapur, but I should have good access in Hospet when I get there Monday evening. So unless I get something written this evening, it will be a while. Also, if I haven't checked in by Tuesday or Wednesday, the place to send the search party is savaari.com.
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Nov 26th, 2010, 12:26 PM
  #23
 
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Sounds like a fun adventure. Looking forward to the report!
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Nov 26th, 2010, 01:54 PM
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We're all hoping a search party won't be necessary. Keep us apprised of your status!
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Nov 26th, 2010, 04:27 PM
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Don't worry, thursday, Captain Dogster and his mighty Azamara are sailing to India full speed ahead.
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Nov 27th, 2010, 11:57 AM
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Yup, I'm heading for the rescue.

I'll be in Mumbai... err.. I forgot. But whenever it is, I'll be there. Try and hang on for about two weeks.

[Actually Captain Dogster is having a verrry interesting time. AWBR once I get off - if ever. The Azamara KGB track my every cyber utterance]
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Nov 29th, 2010, 06:27 AM
  #27
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Well, I made it to Hospet, and the Hotel Malligi, where wifi is only available in the lobby, along with mosquitoes at dusk.

I actually did think a search party might be needed the first day - there will be full disclosure at the proper time. For now I'll just suggest avoiding savaari.com!

Meanwhile, here is the post I didn't get up before I left Hyderabad:

Nov 8-10 - Monuments and Mountains

I'm a mountain person - you can keep the beaches if I can have the mountains - so given I wasn't trekking, my absolute top priority for Nepal was the "mountain flight" out of Kathmandu. On a clear day - the flights don't go on any other - you fly parallel with the Himalaya range towards Everest, and then the passengers take it in turns to gaze through the cockpit window at the world's highest mountain. On my first day I arranged with Pujan at the Courtyard to go the next morning, and kept my fingers crossed for fine weather.

I was lucky. I had a ticket for the 7:30 flight, but my taxi got to KTM in time for me to be moved up to the 7:00, before the clouds rolled in. I couldn't have asked for a better view - just for more time to enjoy it! But while I marveled at the mountains, I could see how much effort was involved in merely reaching their feet, never mind actually climbing one. Personally, I'm quite content just to look. (In fact, I find what has happened to Everest, with "tourist" climbers and a trashed Base Camp, tragic).

That was my second morning in Kathmandu. My first, I took a rickshaw (mindful of my still bad foot) to Durbar Square. Wow, wish I'd made it back there later - I could spend hours just watching the passing parade. Tourists and locals. Old and young. Sellers and buyers - or at least lookers. Sadhus. Cows. And let's not forget the buildings. Dusty red brick and carved wooden beams, rising amid the swirl of activity. I climbed the steps of one of the taller buildings and settled down to watch the show. Later, I found a ceremony under way, with two rows of seated men, garlands round their necks and flowers and lamps in front of them.

That afternoon I took a taxi to Swayambhunath, one of the iconic Nepalese stupas with the all-seeing Buddha eyes. The proper approach to the temple is up a great many steep steps, home to a horde of monkeys. No way would I have made it all the way up, never mind down, so I was glad my taxi could take me to a parking lot near the top. The stupa, impressive on its own, is surrounded by statues and shrines that could keep a devotee occupied for quite some time. After admiring a selection I made my way up to the Cafe de Stupa to check out the views - alas, mostly lost in haze. I could see, however, that the Kathmandu valley, once filled with water, then with fields, is now almost completely filled with buildings. The owner of the cafe said that much of the building had happened in the last twenty years, and that land prices were crazy. I can attest that the resulting traffic is more than crazy.

Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur, now essentially one big city, were once separate kingdoms, each with its own durbar, or palace, square. The square at Patan was much more sedate than Kathmandu's, although with similar elaborate buildings. I spent some time in the museum (the one in Kathmandu had been closed) and then went for lunch in the museum cafe, where I had been assured I would find a quiet oasis. Not any more. A buffet had been set up for the several tour groups already present. I did find a table somewhat removed from the groups, and ate (not very well) off the menu, but it wasn't the atmosphere I expected. Bhaktapur's square isn't really a square, with buildings scattered over a wider area. Seeing it third may have affected my response, but I found it less interesting than the other two. I did find a good place for a good lunch - the Watshala Garden Restaurant.

Aside from the square, and traffic jams, what I mostly saw of Kathmandu was Thamel. The closest equivalent is probably Bangkok's Khao San Road, but Thamel is bigger, and louder. A maze of tall buildings, hung with signs proclaiming the businesses crammed into all three or four stories, its streets packed with pedestrians, rickshaws, motor bikes, cars, it exists to make money from foreigners. Whatever you need to trek, or to travel, in Nepal, you can find in Thamel. (You can surely find some less legal things as well, but I didn't go looking for them.) Although raucous by day, it quiets down surprisingly quickly at night, as the action moves indoors.

The time to have visited Kathmandu, of course, was back in the sixties and early seventies. I did wonder, winding my way among the crowds in Thamel, how my life might have turned out if I had headed for Nepal forty years ago, instead of going to work for IBM.
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Nov 29th, 2010, 06:46 AM
  #28
 
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Yes, I often wonder that too. Not the IBM bit obviously but...
I agree with you about the frustrations of travel these days when things are arranged around tour groups, buses and cruise ships. It's the old dilemma of wanting to do it 'my way' and letting other people do it 'their way'!
Oh for a time machine.

Otherwise I'm still with you and still enjoying. Vicarious travel means you get the ups and downs and we just get the ups.
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Nov 29th, 2010, 11:04 AM
  #29
 
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Enjoying your trip report, thursday! Obviously Kathmandu is still quite fresh in my mind. I found your impressions of the Kathmandu airport kind of funny; since we flew there from Kolkata, we actually found the airport in Nepal clean and organized in comparison. We flew into Kolkata from Frankfurt, and felt pretty much like you did flying to Nepal from Hong Kong.
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Nov 29th, 2010, 12:22 PM
  #30
 
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From Alexandria. Great to get a new instalment. Soon Phulbari...!
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Nov 30th, 2010, 05:18 AM
  #31
 
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great info for my trip next fall, thanks
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Nov 30th, 2010, 07:35 PM
  #32
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Bob - will you be staying at the Courtyard?

The smart money said dogster would jump ship in Alexandria, but it looks like he'll be staying the course. Perhaps he might get some writing done during all those days at sea? [hint, hint]

I had planned to get a good night's sleep after four tiring days, but then this post started writing itself in my head, so you get a piece of Phulbari early:

Nov 10 - The Road to Phulbari: Take Two

My planning for Nepal did not include Phulbari. Why would it, when I'd never heard of the place? But then, while I was already traveling, dogster wrote about a crazy mountain road through lovely scenery, leading to an isolated farmstead with stellar views, and with accommodation. He even gave a link to the website. How could I resist checking that out when I would be so close? As I wrote in the last post, I love mountains - and I love mountain roads, too. Time was, when I owned first an MX6 Turbo and then an MX6 V6, that I liked to drive them myself, but now I've realized I can enjoy the scenery better if someone else does the driving. Admittedly, based on dogster's description, this was the ne plus ultra of mountain roads, but then dogster might perhaps have been exagerating a little. Besides, the Courtyard Hotel had worked out fine. The Courtyard people had been up, although not for an overnight, and said it was beautiful there. They could arrange the trip for me, and I decided to drop two of my six nights in the chaos of Kathmandu in favor of peace and quiet and views in the mountains.

I should, perhaps, have considered that dogster, while providing a great deal of detail about people, tends to skimp on more mundane matters. And then, just as I was about to leave, he mentioned that I should take any luxuries with me. What would a man whose answer to any travel snafu was to head for the best hotel in town consider a luxury? Would I consider it a luxury (which I could do without) or a necessity (like coffee)? In any case, the warning was far too late to do any good. I did borrow a couple of books from the Courtyard's library before climbing into the Suzuki Maruti beside the young, pony-tailed driver. Another young man, with better English, rode in the back - I don't normally drive alone with two men, but I figured the Courtyard would want me back in one piece.

The road to Phulbari is really three roads - or three and a half if you're a stickler for accuracy. The first road takes you from Kathmandu past Bhaktapur. Fumes and dust and horns and chaos. Motor bikes and rickshaws, cars and jeeps, buses and trucks, all overloaded, and all the drivers poised to jump ahead and gain a few centimeters advantage, while missing each other by millimeters. It's amazing there aren't more accidents. Between the sheer numbers of vehicles, the broken down vehicles, the vehicles loading and unloading, the new road being built and the parlous state of the existing excuse for a road, it's a really miserable stretch. (Coming back a bit earlier in the day, I encountered less traffic and we moved a bit faster.)

Things did ease up some between Banepa and Dhulikhel, and then we turned right past some market stalls and started up what was clearly a mountain road. Surely this wasn't what dogster had been writing about? True, we rounded plenty of bends as we corkscrewed upwards. True, sometimes I saw nothing between me and a sheer drop but some good stone edges. But the road was wide enough for two vehicles - we met some very overloaded buses - the stone edging was in place, the surface seemed mostly smooth, and there was a gratifying absence of potholes. Turns out, this is the "new road to Sindhuli" and India. Probably a couple of Nepalese winters and a stream of Tata trucks will reduce it to the state of the other roads I traveled in Nepal - although I saw no trucks - meanwhile I sat back and enjoyed the scenery. Not lush enough for Bali, not enough trees for Bhutan, but plenty of stepped rice terraces.

Eventually we slowed and turned right again. I looked at the cart track ascending steeply in front of me, I looked at the driver, I asked "the road to Phulbari?" He nodded and we both laughed. Dogster had not exaggerated. I have traveled a road equally as bad, but only once, in Pakistan, and it was shorter, although steeper and muddier. The road to Phulbari is a road only in the sense that jeeps and motorbikes use it. Otherwise you'd call it a rutted track. We spent a good 25 minutes making a slow ascent, backing up once to make it round a particularly sharp bend. Some parts were wider, some smoother, and even narrower tracks led off here and there deeper into the countryside.

When we eventually arrived at the village of Phulbari I discovered the first of those mundane details dogster hadn't gotten around to mentioning. The road goes to the village. The visitor is going to the farm. There is no road to the farm. You walk the last stretch, uphill through bushes and trees, on a shoulder-width, stony trail.
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Nov 30th, 2010, 10:10 PM
  #33
 
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Great reporting.Enjoying it.Looking forward for the details at Phulbari.
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Dec 1st, 2010, 03:37 AM
  #34
 
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Enjoying your stories, thursday. Surely they met you with a palanquin, as they do their other distinguished guests?

Dogster still has a chance to jump ship at the Suez Canal today.
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Dec 1st, 2010, 05:11 AM
  #35
 
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Oh dear! How is your toe?

Will Dogster go staggering across the sand dunes to escape his cruise?
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Dec 1st, 2010, 06:35 AM
  #36
 
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lol lol lol

mmm, yup, there is a weeny hike up a stony trail...

BTW No jumping ship. The beat goes on till Dubai.

Someone died yesterday...
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Dec 1st, 2010, 06:58 AM
  #37
 
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Death by Azamara. For your sake, I hope it was natural causes...
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Dec 1st, 2010, 12:30 PM
  #38
 
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Sounds like a nursing home . . .
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Dec 1st, 2010, 12:56 PM
  #39
 
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It has now gotten interesting. I can't wait for the next installment...
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Dec 1st, 2010, 05:29 PM
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Best travel writing I've read recently. what's your pen name Thursday?
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