Saturday, September 10, 2005

Fab India, not so fab Hotel Imperial

We made it back from Kathmandu to Delhi and finally back to Dublin. Dublin is less than half the 40 degrees we left behind in Delhi, but it's nice to be back at last. Somehow in both Kathmandu and Delhi airports we fell for the same trick. Both countries have non-convertible currencies, so strictly speaking Nepali and Indian rupees are worthless once you leave the country. In the airports of both capital cities, as soon as you get through the first security check there are no foreign exchange counters and you are not permitted to leave the secure area. Yippee! We fell for this a second time in Delhi. That said, we found ways to convert our leftover currency, so it wasn't all bad.

We found Fab India on the second try in Delhi and shopped our little hearts out. It's located in M-block market in the Greater Kailash Part I suburb, a good 45 minutes drive from the city centre. Unfortunately there are at least 3 M-block markets in Greater Kailash Part I (we visited them all, in reverse order of usefulness). We didn't get to check out Greater Kailash Part II or East of Kailash (real places!).

We made the foolish mistake of treating ourselves to a night in a luxury hotel in Delhi, as a counterpoint to the lack of electricity and heating in the mountains I guess. This went badly wrong. The otherwise 5 star Hotel Imperial, which had been recommended to us by some colleagues who had stayed there, was a disaster for us. The water was muddy and brown, the air conditioning made the room like Antartica and eventually had to be switched off, they lost our luggage and were rude and implied it was our fault they had lost it. It took three reminders and three hours to get the promised bed for Jasmine. Spending money != happiness.

We transferred to another hotel and were much happier, although in hindsight, returning to Major's Den would have made us happier still.


Thursday, September 01, 2005

Back in Kathmandu

We're back in Kathmandu and we fly out to Delhi tomorrow - almost home. After the jungle we spent a week in Kathmandu, followed by a week in Pokhara and now back in Kathmandu. The Thamel area in Kathmandu is completely geared up for tourists and it's wall to wall restaurants, souvenir shops and hostels. We're staying in the famous Kathmandu Guest House which is providing many luxuries at budget prices.

Our week in Kathmandu was spent relaxing, sometimes siteseeing in the morning and then doing nothing much in the afternoons. There are a lot of temples, palaces, Buddhist stupas, Tibetan Buddhist monasteries and winding, medieval streets to wander around and enjoy. So plenty to do, and then all the facilities of Thamel to fall back on afterwards.

After we had our fill of all this, we took the seven hour bus journey to Pokhara in the west of Nepal. It's at the foot of the Himalayas near the famous Annapurna mountain (well, mountains, there are six of them!). We arranged a trek for 4 days in the mountains, walking from Naya Poul (1,000m altitude) to Ulleri (1,900m), next day to Ghorapani (2,950m), day 3 started for just me before dawn on Poon Hill (3,200m) to watch the sun rise over the mountains, then all of us walked to Tadapani (2,500m). The final day we walked via Ghandruk all the way back to the starting point. We managed 6-9 hours walking per day (including breaks) with Jasmine walking almost the entire time. Dylan got carried almost the entire time - we hired a porter just for him, plus one for our rucksack. It was a fantastic experience and we didn't even meet any Maoists. We did get our photos taken for some newspaper and were interviewed for Nepali television though. More on all this later, no doubt. :)

Now we've just got back to Kathmandu with very sore legs - apart from Jasmine who is still bouncing along! The return bus journey seemed even longer than the original one. Amazingly, on returning to the Kathmandu Guest House we were greeted with "How was your trek? Here is your room key." They handed us the key to the room we were in the week before. We hadn't booked a room and they didn't know that we would be returning! What a welcome.