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Saturday, April 1, 2017

Experiencing Life in the Beautiful Land of NEPAL

It has been awhile I haven't post anything in here...I can say around 4 years I haven't have time to write anything or any unique event happened in my life that would like to share here (actually there are lots has happened but too occupied with work and too lazy to write)....until recently the most beautiful thing had happened in my life that I must write it down. Trip to Nepal was the best trip ever so far.

Nepal is a landlocked central Himalayan country in South Asia, bordering China in the north and India in the south, east, and west (source from Wikipedia of Nepal)
    There was a time, one of my colleague had proposed to me a trekking trip in Himalayan range in Nepal. That was back in 2013 we had this conversation and it was never a serious plan as it require some expenses which I don't have at that moment. The interest was never diminished and still planted in my heart. After gone through so many things in life especially enduring my 3 and 1/2 tough years completing my Master research and finally graduated last year (2016), and after settling down into new job and familiarize new tasks and new work environment, we had this conversation again, this time we are serious.

My visual itinerary: Msia→Kathmandu→Pokhara→Himalayan Trekking→Pokhara→Kathmandu→Msia
We make lots of references especially through research via blogs in preparing the itinerary and estimating the overall cost. I have contacted my old friend who actually been to Nepal 3 years in a row for photography works. She had advised me some tips and had given us her 'favourite' agent based in Kathmandu. It was really really helpful πŸ˜‰

Before I start my journey on this beautiful land, let me tell you how and what we had prepared earlier beforehand...

Actually my colleague is more experienced in planning for any trips as she has been to many places. But we have different strength to provide information and preparation for this trip. We have planned to visit and trekking in Nepal for 12 days in the month of February 2017. If you noticed I have mentioned two different activities; 
Visit means as a leisure tourist visiting the state of Kathmandu, PatanBakhtapur and Boudhnath which these places are neighboring each other and the main visits here was that the famous with the architecture under UNESCO World Heritage buildings. The architectures that falls under this are mainly their temples; 
Trekking as you know is an extra energy needed to ascent and descent mountains which in this case the Himalayan trekking of Annapurna Himal Range based in Pokhara with a mission to experience the Himalaya mountains view at the top of Poon Hill and Ghandruk.

DAY 1
05/02/2017
KUL  - KATHMANDU flight at night 6 pm; 4hrs 35 mins flight
Visa Upon Arrival
Airport - Tribhuvan
NIGHT 1 
Overnight in THAMEL

DAY 2 
06/02/2017
Sightseeing of Swayambhunath & Patan. Go to Nepal tourism board for trekking permit and TIMS permit.
Need: Passport copy & 2 photos for permits.
NIGHT 2       
Overnight in THAMEL

DAY 3
07/02/2017
Sightseeing of Bhaktapur and Bouddhanath
NIGHT 3       
Overnight in THAMEL

DAY 4
08/02/2017
Bus travel to Pokhara (Approx 7 hrs journey). Rest of the day free
Tourist Bus (Greenline)
NIGHT 4      
Overnight in POKHARA

DAY 5
09/02/2017
Early morning sunrise tour of Sarangkot. Later after breakfast visit Davis FallGupteshwor Cave and boating in Fewa Lake.
NIGHT 5         
Overnight in POKHARA

DAY 6
10/02/2017
Drive to Nayapool. Trek to Tirkhedgunga (2.5 hrs drive, 3-4 hrs trek).
Nayapool - Birethanti - Tirkhedgunga
NIGHT 6         
Overnight in Tea House, TIRKHEDGUNGA
Meals included: Lunch, dinner

DAY 7
11/02/2017
Trek to Ghorepani (6-7 hours trek).
Tirkhedgunga - Uleri - Bhantanti - Ghorepani
NIGHT 7        
Overnight in Tea House, GHOREPANI
Meals included: Breakfast, lunch, dinner

DAY 8
12/02/2017      
Trek to PoonHill for sunrise. Later after breakfast trek to Tadapani (7-8 hours trek).
Ghorepani - Poon Hill - Ghorepani - Tadapani
NIGHT 8        
Overnight in Tea House, TADAPANI
Meals included: Breakfast, lunch, dinner

DAY 9
13/02/2017
Trek to Chomrong. (6-7 hours trek)
Tadapani - Chomrong
NIGHT 9        
Overnight in Tea House, CHOMRONG
Meals included: Breakfast, lunch, dinner

DAY 10
14/02/2017     
Trek to Jhinu. Enjoy hot spring for some time and then trek to Ghandruk. (6-7 hours trek)
Chomrong - Jhinu - Ghandruk
NIGHT 10       
Overnight in Tea House, GHANDRUK
Meals included: Breakfast, lunch, dinner

DAY 11
15/02/2017      
Trek back to Nayapool. Drive to Pokhara. (4-5 hours hike, 2.5 hrs drive)
Ghandruk - Birethanti - Nayapool - Pokhara
NIGHT 11       
Overnight in POKHARA
Meals included: Breakfast, lunch

DAY 12
16/02/2017      
Bus travel to Kathmandu (Approx 7 hrs journey). 
Tourist Bus (Greenline)
NIGHT 12
Overnight in PATAN

DAY 13
17/02/2017      
KATHMANDU - KUL flight at night 9.25pm; 4hrs 35 mins flight
Expected to arrive at KLIA the following day dawn.

*On the day, some itinerary changes on site. We end up hired porter and cut down days of trekking from 6 to 4 days, due to some event happened that cause the changes. The story were told in this blog below..

Expenses wise, we bought our flight online with Malindo Air, cheaper compared others with return ticket of RM1,400++. We change our money to USD as Nepalese Rupee is not permitted to change outside the country itself. We spent around RM 5K for flights and hotel online booking in Kathmandu and Pokhara; and cash to bring along for payment and spending in Nepal including the payment for visa upon arrival, trekking package (include teahouse stays and meals), transportation, permits, entrances fees, food, shopping and TIPS!. Yes, tips is crucial needed whenever you are in Nepal.

Expenses done before the trip
1. Flight (return ticket)    -   RM 1,400 (including 30kg luggage per person)
    Insurance travel            -   RM 84.96

2. Hotels booked
    Thamel                           -   RM 250 (3 nights) 
    Pokhara                          -   RM 140 (2 nights)*
    Pokhara (return from
    trekking)                        -   RM 114 (1 night)*
    Patan (before flight
    back)                              -   RM 155 (1 night)*
*indicate only booked but need to pay full on site

3. Money change            -   USD 800 (around RM3.6K)
    (at the current rate of USD was 4.423)

Expenses upon arrival and through out the journey:
we changed the USD to NRP at different rates around 104/105/106, exp: 10 USD = NRP 1000++ = RM40++

4. Visa application
    at the airport                -   RM 125 (yes we paid with RM. Bring a photocopy of passport)

5. Trip & Trekking
    package (5 days and 
     6 nights)                     -   USD 310  
(paid to the agent once arrived. Include airport transfer, transportation in Kathmandu and Pokhara during sightseeing, accommodation in tea house during trek, meals during trek & 1 guide for trek)

6. Trekking permit         -   USD 20 
    TIMS permit               -   USD 20  (both paid to the agent once arrived. They will settle it)

7. Local sim card (Ncell) - NRP 100 (must provide photocopy of passport and visa)
    Data roaming 3G         -  NRP 500 (3 Gig, more than enough for our 12 days stay. We were told that there are data coverage at the mountains. Fantastic!)

8. Entrance Fees
    Swayambunath Temple   -  NRP 200
    Patan Square                     -  NRP 1000
    Boudhnath Temple          -  NRP 250
    Sarangkot                         -  NRP 50
    GM Cave                          - NRP 100
    Devi's Falls                       -  NRP 50
    Seti River Gorge             - NRP 25
    A temple in Pokhara      -  NRP 50

9. Tourist bus Kathmandu→Pokhara   -   USD 50 (including lunch)
    (return ticket)

10. Shopping and meals spent base on the balance in hand, in my case around USD 200

11. Tips is depend on how you generously given out. Below are the tips on how to give:
      Sightseeing driver  -  NRP 500 per person (2 of us so he get NRP 1000)
      Trek guide tips       -  USD 10 per day (we paid NRP 3000 for 4 days)

# To note that for this journey, there were changes; 
1. We end up hired porter for the trekking  -  cost of NRP 1,500 per day; tips of  NRP 1,000 per person
  
2. Since we have paid for the trekking package for 6 days instead of 4 days, our early 2 nights stay in Pokhara before heading back to Kathmandu were paid. We cancelled our booking for the hotel stay in Pokhara on Night 11 (refer to itinerary) and changed our return bus ticket to 1 day early. We cancelled our stay in Patan and booked stay in Thamel instead as in Thamel is best and easy shopping. So we spent 2 days in Kathmandu instead of 1 day before fly back to Malaysia.

What to Pack
We did some serious shopping in preparing for our trekking needs. Most of the items for trekking I already have, but really need to buy new quality hiking shoes, winter jacket, gloves, winter socks,thick base layer for tops and tights and lastly hiking poles. Most of the items I bought at the bundle store for cheaper price. Below are the briefly details of the items we had list down, but it is always up to your own needs:

1. Socks for trekking and night sleep
2. Base layer tops and tights
3. Pyjamas (t-shirt and track bottom - 2 pair for non-hiking & hiking each)
4. Buff
5. Muffler
6. Hat
7. Personal 1st aid kit
8. Toiletries
9. Winter jacket, fleece, light jacket
10. Travel towel
11. Sleeping bag
12. Hiking shoes & slipper (I brought Adidas Jaba shoes instead of slipper)
13. Gloves
14. Headlight / Torchlight (check on its batteries)
15. Sightseeing attire and hiking attire
16. Trekking poles (if needed)
17. Camera (of course!) either use your hp camera or digital camera. *Drone usage is against the Nepal law while trekking in Himalaya unless you applied for its permit.

I had pack in 2 bags; normal luggage and actually the blue bag is to transfer to my 6 liter hiking backpack
The journey begin...Namaste❤
The flight took 4 hours and 25 mins, departure at 7 pm to arrive straight to Thribuvan airport, Kathmandu. My advise is to have the flight in the daylight instead at night time...why? Well, once the airplane reached Nepal territory,  you can view the beautiful Himalayan mountains clouded with white thick snow and slow moving clouds passing through their peaks from above and very much feeling near to you. You can't see those at night time except the lights from the houses which appear randomly on the ground like twinkle little stars in the sky. (It is true as their town planning is obliviously not a systematic planning). That's what we experienced when both, yes BOTH our flight at night....so sad 😒

We arrived around 11 pm local time. The landing was not so bad, as I always hate to fly. The airport is really opposite of our KLIA airport...small, cold and pretty much old. And no, this is not the much said short runway airport as some of you may know (that is the Lukhla & Pokhara airport, ya). This is just a normal airport in the big capital city.

My first emotion once my leg rested on the land of Nepal was excited, thrilled and especially cold. The temperature was around 7 degree at night. The transition was smooth. We had prepared what to expect to clear our way out from the airport customs. The VISA-upon-arrival process was convenient as our passport is a biometric passport, everything done just by scanned the passport in their visa application machine. There was an officer ready to assist you on how to fill the form via the machine. It was really simple. Once done, it will printed out and bring the application form to the counter for processing. Handover together your passport photocopy (bring this before leaving Malaysia ok) and paid RM125 (equivalent to USD 27) for 15-days-visa. Yeah, the officer asked to pay with RM. I'm sure can pay with USD too, I didn't ask. Just ask them if you want to pay in USD. Everything settle in less than 5 minutes!

Another different experienced is when collecting your luggage. There will be another officer guarding those luggage. They will check the flight tag on those luggage and your flight ticket if same, proved your are the owner of those luggage, then you are free to take the luggage. So, please don't throw your flight ticket just yet or will face difficulty to claim your luggage later.

Our transport has waited for us outside holding our name on placard. There are many people rushed to us if needed any transport or hotel stay. We didn't change yet our money at the airport as the rate were pretty expensive. When we were about to leave the airport in the car, there was this one guy (not our driver) asked for a tips for his service I think for helping loaded the bag in the car boot and guarding the car at the parking lot. I am quite furious when he asked for USD 5 each from us (there are only two of us on this trip) since we didn't change our money yet to NRP. That is a lot for a tips for that kind of service!!

Our hotel is around 20 minutes from the airport. The road look deserted as it was 11.30 pm and all shops were close and people are already asleep. It was foggy of cold and at the same time dusty. To me it looks like a war torn town and I felt so excited yet scary about it.

We stayed at Kashtamandap Boutique Hotel, located at the Thamel area. It was not a big hotel but perfect for us. It was a good thing to come in February or any off peak season months as the rate for hotels especially for good rating hotels offered good cheap price. On another note, it is kind of weird when you were in a nice comfy hotel but yet looking outside are old-like-after-war ambiance around it.

 
Kashtamandap Boutique Hotel, exterior and interior

On the next day, after having nice and delicious breakfast prepared by the hotel (We had fresh fruits, yogurt, scramble eggs, sandwiches, special Tibetan bread, and more which I can't recall all), our young agent, Mr Kshitij, came to discuss further on our trip plan. He brought along Mr Tenzing, our trekking guide, and Mr Nima, our driver in Kathmandu. We paid him the agreed trip package of USD 310 plus USD 40 for trekking & TIMS permit process with passport photocopy and passport photos (2 copies each). 

From left; Myself, Mr Kshitij, Mr Tenzing and Mr Nima.
Money changer is not hard to find in Thamel street as there are plenty of them and it is walking distance from our hotel. We managed to change our money as the shops open around between 9.30 to 10 am. The rate was USD 1 → NRP 106. The 2-days sightseeing around Kathmandu were told below:

Day 1: visit to Swayambunath, Thamel (The Monkey Temple)
~ Entry fees: NRP 200
~ Many monkeys around the temple site and dogs as well
~ Buddhist temple, nice place for visits to experience their culture in term of their religion believe
~ We don't hired guide for this so we took lots of pictures and ask around for info.
~ Lots of souvenir booths.

 
 

Visit to Patan Square, Patan
~ Must visit place for UNESCO World Heritage historical site.  
~ 20 mins drive from Thamel
~ Awesome architecture of Hinduism temples; many museums and gallery inside the temples.
~ Entrance fees of NRP 1000


  
 
 


We had our own lunch inside of the museum in Patan. Food is easy for Muslims as many choices for vegetarian menus in Nepal.


Our lunch of the day... Cheese Mo Mo; corn & spinach fritters; vege Patan burger & vege chowmein. It was delicious!!!!
We asked Nima to take us to buy local sim card and the rate was only 1 dollar (NRP 100). We need to provide passport and visa photocopy for sim card application. It can be bought at any mobile shop.  It was also easy to buy data roaming for our sim card, but separately. We went to Ncell branch shop (It is like our TM point office) to register and we bought only 3G data for 5 dollars which is more than enough for our 12 days visits.

We also managed to buy the returned tourist bus ticket from Kathmandu → Pokhara → Kathmandu at the Greenline bus company station which are also very convenient located next to our hotel street. I can say in Thamel everything is very convenient for tourists. The price for a ticket was USD 50 (returned) which is a good price as it provided lunch as well (the journey will take around 7 hours).

Day 2: visit to Boudhnath, Thamel (Buddhist Shrine)
~ The 2nd largest Stupa in the world!
~ Entrance fees: NRP 250
~ The temple is surrounded by a row of shops in circle
~ The shops architecture were like Dutch architecture
~ Many Buddhist pilgrimage performing their prayer here
~ Shops for Pashmima scarfs and witness how the 'Singing Bowl' works!



Visit Bakhtapur Durbar Square, Bakhtapur
~ Similar to Patan Square but bigger, UNESCO Heritage site
~ It is a big town with many roads with old awesome historical rows of buildings alongside the roads.
~ Don't have museum but many different Hinduism temples, shops, restaurant/cafe, houses
~ The ambiance around the town give feeling of ancient city 
~ Many poor children will come and beg for food or some change
~ It is best to try their homemade yogurt 'Ju Ju Dhou'. It is taste like tofu + ice cream..delicious!!
~ Lunch here and tried their famous 'Dhal Bhat' dish.



 

 

Shopping Along Thamel Street
We walk around the street which are nearby to our hotel. It was a busy road with many vehicles and people on the street. The prices are fairly ok looking at the quality. Please don't be shy to bargain...I mean hard bargain. Things worth buying are:
~ Pashmima of yak wool, wool fleeces, and more (Price can get between NRP800 - NRP1000 for pashmima)
~ Stone jewelleries (bangles, ring,..)
~ Trekkng devices & attire (jacket, shoes, gloves, inner, hat,..) with many brands but famous with North Face brand. Sonam brand is their local brand with good quality)
~ Books...lots of books about Himalaya, Nepal cultures, maps, etc. The prices are really cheap around RM 14 - RM 20 per book.


 


The road in Kathmandu is so congested with cars, motorbikes, bicycles and even trishaws, and dusty too. It is recommended to wear mask all the time while outside. Or else you will get sore throat and will coughing all the time. The people mostly wearing mask and easily buy them at their convenient store at price of NRP200.

We shop and walked till dark and easily finding way back to hotel using waze. The street is really safe to walk even if you are alone. We slept early that night for early wake up tomorrow not to missed the 7.30 am bus trip to Pokhara... 

Day 3: Bus journey to Pokhara
After check out & saying goodbye to the friendly hotel staffs, we walk to the Greenline bus station at 7 am. We left few luggage at the hotel & will come back to collect them once we back to Kathmandu on the 16th.

The walking distance is only 5 mins walk. At that wee hour, the shops were not open yet & few people & vehicles on the road to start their day.

Me at the Greenline bus station waiting for the bus.
It was really cold outside at 7 degree. There were not many passengers boarding the bus as February is not a peak season month. We met a jovial Thailand girl tourist and became close friend during the whole journey. Also a young French guy who speak good British English accent. Tourist love to visit Pokhara for many reasons. It is a place held many outdoor activities such as paragliding, zip-line, bungy jump with the background of Himalayan mountains. And of course the most sought after is the trekking at the Himalayan mountains passing through the many villages by the hills.

The bus journey took 8 hours long by road.At the early journey, we encounter massive jam cause by a stand still lorry by the hill side which held one way of the road. The Nepali's drivers are very adventurers driver. They are very daring knowing how to overtake vehicles in front but also very dangerous to themselves and for others. But it seems that they are very expert drivers and inpatient also!



 
 

The journey too was a bumpy ride where the roads were uneven surface and ruined cause by the 2015 earthquake. There were many road constructions repairing work on-going and also for underground pipeline construction. Not easy to sleep in the bus while moving. The bus was actually very clean and comfortable too. It is just the road that make the journey bit more adventurous. 

The journey include 3 stops for; toilet break, lunch, and another toilet break. The lunch was fairly good and tasty with good view of mountains at one of the rest house. We reached Pokhara around 4 pm & took taxi that cost NRP 200 for 1 ride to our hotel. Actually our hotel is quite nearby from the bus station and easily can walk instead.

The hotel we stayed is Nirvana Hotel. It is a fine hotel located by the Fewa Lake & walking distance to many shops & restaurants. There are many hotels you can choose around here with different prices and qualities. It is a tourist area so the price are a bit higher than in Thamel. Money exchange rate also selling at higher price.




We spent 2 nights in Pokhara before the hiking expedition take over. At nights we walked around the town that have many shops & restaurants with many tourists all over the world and hotel stays that vibrant with lights and colours. As muslim, we were happy that there are choices for halal food to dine in which mostly the middle east menu and Indian menu such as Biryanis chicken or meat, naan bread with chicken tandoori, and more. However they cost more compare to vegetarian meal.


That night we dine at one of the halal restaurant called Lazeez Halal Food and had meat kebab and naan with lassie yogart drinks. In the same restaurant we met a group of Malaysian hikers that just came down from their ABC trek trip. We had a good chat and storytelling about their whole experience.

Day 4: visit to Sarangkot, Devi's Fall and more temples

Sarangkot
As early at 5am, our local driver (arranged by our ground agent, Kshitij), Shiva, came to take us to Sarangkot. The journey took 30 mins outside the Pokhara town, up the hill & walk few steps up to a rooftops of few shops to catch the famous sunrise near the Himalayan mountains.

~ Entrance fees: NRP 50

We were the 2nd earliest to arrive, it was dark & could not figure out which seats are the best to choose. When the sunrise came nearer, more tourists came & the rooftop became crowded. Everyone were ready with their cameras of all sorts to catch the glimpse of the mountains.

Stunning sunrise view over the Annapurna range; Dhaulagiri, Ananpurna III, II & Machapuchare
The view was so amazing and soooo beautiful!!!! I just couldn't get enough of taking their pictures on different time of the sunrise. At one moment you get the white colour of their peaks, and another you get them in gold colour when the sun start scorching down hard. It was sooooo mesmerising😍😍

The crowd with the great mountains behind.
Gupteshwor Mahadev Cave, Devi's Fall, Seti River Gorge and a temple...
Interesting places to visit which are related to their culture and religions. 
~ Entry fees for GM Cave, NRP 100
~ Entry fees for Devi's Fall, NRP 50
~ Entry fees for Aquaduct Seti River Gorge, NRP 25 
But somehow during those visits, my heart still at the Himalayan Sunrise Sarangkot..... 


After saying good bye to Shiva with giving him a good tips, we have more time to relax. We sat only by the Fewa Lake which opposite of our hotels. We were visited by a lovely Tibetan lady selling jewellery handicrafts made from beautiful natural stones.We had a good long chat and she told us that she had to walk down for 3 hours from Tibetan Refugee Camp to earn some money. We bought a beautiful bangle and she gave us a simple good luck charms for our tomorrow trekking. We were so touched by her generosity. 

Day 5: The start of the Himalayan Trekking (Nayapool, Tirkhedgunga, Uleri)
As sharp before 7 am, our local guide for trekking, Tenzing, arrived with a big smile to greet us. We check out the hotel and leave 1 luggage behind. We drive in a van leaving Pokhara to Nayapool, the starting point of hiking.

The whole trekking was relaxing with beautiful view of villages passing by. We walked comfortably even tho my hiking buddy walk slower because of her injuries inflicted back in Malaysia in a car accident just before coming to Nepal. 

The earlier plan was to trek from Nayapool to Thirkhedgunga. However, Tenzing gave us an option plan to go further to the next stop of Uleri instead. The reasons are:
1. Stop at Thirkhedgunga. The teahouse stay will not have an attached bathroom.
2. Stop at Uleri. The teahouse stay is better with attached bathroom & can save 3 hrs max for tomorrow trek to Ghorepani.

The catch is, the trek from Thirkhedgunga to Uleri is the most challenging with the steps going up all the way non stop for 3hrs max.

We walk slow...I mean really slow. I had no problem as I was fit and walk comfortably fast. But my hiking buddy was not fit and furthermore she had a shoulder & chest injury due to the accident. But our Tenzing was very calm and superb patient. He really make sure our journey safe & foremost enjoyable for both of us.

We met several other hikers from all over country along the way. Some of them going up the same way with us. But there were also coming down. These hikers were most likely starting their hiking from Dhampus, another starting point beside Nayapool. They went up to Ghandruk, Ghorepani then down to Nayapool.

Starting point at Nayapool...going down to the village below.
 
Birethanti village


 

 








We had lunch here in the blue restaurant. Lunch with view of ponies on duty transporting goods to another village.
We aim to have lunch at Hille, but because we were late, we had our lunch somewhere before Hille. The menu here in these villages had amazing choices. We thought we would eat only Dhal Bhat everyday but instead they have variety choices of local and western dishes. for our first meal, we ordered vegetarian spaghetti and the tomato sauce was superb! And they come in big portion!! We hardly can finish them πŸ˜ƒ

Since our trekking package include the meals, however for water bottle or any can drinks we have to pay. And the price for those are bit expensive from the cities. But to Tenzing advise, it is better to buy the water bottle instead of drinking the river source of water or filtered water straight from the mountain water as it is not clean and can cause stomach ache. This is only apply to the tourists as the locals are immune. I actually brought Life Straw that can filter water river into drinking water, but however I never used it.
Me posed at the Hile Village
the 1st sight of the unbearable steps going up to Bukhtangle Village
Thirkhedgunga Village
We reached Thirkhedgunga around 3pm and decided to continue to Uleri. We can see once crossing the hanging bridge from Thirkedgunga, the torture steps up to Uleri are visible. Tenzing said for fit hikers will take 1 hour and 30 mins. But we know that will took much longer for us....

 

We managed to reach Uleri before dark. It took 3 hours for us to climb thooooseee steps!! We were soooo exhausted but happy when we saw the tea house up above. It was so damn cold at night in Uleri. The room was simple, small and nice. It has 2 beds with thick blankets and a window. Yes, there is an attached bathroom but there was no hot water for bath. I was told that the solar energy for hot water was already consumed by other hikers who have reached earlier. But they have 1 unattached bathroom that provide continuous hot water.

The room was damn cold at night as they don't have heater. In fact in every tea house they do not provide heater in their rooms as electricity are limited up here in the mountains. But the Nepal government had injected millions of dollars to construct several powerhouses by the foot of the mountains, an effort to improve the villagers life and to boost the industry of their tourism.

We have prepared by bringing a sleeping bag. So, we will wear the sleeping bag before wrap ourselves with the thick blanket. it is more warmer and advisable. During dinner, in a confined room where you can meet others during meal, they do have an independent fireplace where everyone can sit around it. So it was a warm dinner for us..yeay!!

That night we have decided to hire porter instead. The journey up the cruel steps to Uleri have giving us a toll. Tenzing said he will try to get one from Pokhara as it is more cheaper than hiring the porter that reside at the mountain. He makes call and he successfully get one and that person immediately departed that night. He stayed a night at Hile and start journey the next morning at 4 am and reached at our tea house in Uleri at 8 am. When we saw him the next morning, we greet him with huge relieved and offer him breakfast before start the 2nd day trekking...

Day 6; 2nd Day of Trekking: Uleri, Birenthati, Ghorepani

Our tea house at Uleri

Breakfast



The journey up to Ghorepani do have mercy on us. It was more relaxing with more inclined flat ground and several short steps up. With Thet (our porter) with us now, the journey became more lighter. Luckily we brought a compact backpack that we can carry our own water bottle and can store in our jacket and fleece if not using. We have to separate for smoother and enjoyable journey, Thet will follow me as I'm walking much faster and Tenzing will accompanied my friend behind. Now both of us are happy as I love to walk within my pace and my friend enjoy slow walking and have time to take more pictures along the way without feeling guilty of being slow.


The picture above tells a good story. We have met the group of hikers from China back at Thirkhedgunga and met again the next day at Birenthati, which above from Uleri. They have stayed the night there. There are buddies of 3 whom are very very very friendly and with them their young petite Sherpa (in green). Their Sherpa was very jovial person and told me that he used to be a porter before he gets the licence to become a guide. We took this picture together with the owner of the tea house (with her daughter as well) right before they about to start the journey to Ghorepani. The picture looks sooo beautiful with the background of the Nepal's national red flower named Lali Gurans.


We were aiming to reach that blue tea house for lunch (left, top)
 

another unbearable steps!!! Above is where we stop for lunch
 
We hike for about 3 hours and reach around 11.30 am at a place....ermm... which I could not recalled its name and... too-tired-to-write-down-then-later-forgot-to-ask-again-and-now-feel-regret-to-not-know-the-name.... for lunch. We took long rest while waiting for Tenzing and my buddy to lunch together. We continue trekking towards Ghorepani at 1 pm.

We reached Ghorepani after 1 hour and 30 mins. The sight of a big arch with a signage of 'Ghorepani' at the top give a sense of relieved. It was a beautiful sight. But the village looks like being deserted. I couldn't see any human being around in this big village. I asked Thet and he just smiled and show a direction to go further up.

The Arch of Ghorepani
 

It's a police station in the Ghorepani village
Further up to another part of Ghorepani Village
There was another part of Ghorepani which you can't see if you stand at the arch, and even from the police station which located further in from the arch (refer to the pictures above). After pass by the police station, on the right side there is more steps uphill which will bring you the lively town of Ghorepani. We were greet by view of villagers attending the goats raging dry weeds by the side. I saw more tourists resting outside their hotels/lodges having hot drinks and sound of laughter can be heard. I smiled....(unfortunately forgot to captured any of this in my camera 😩)

We continue walked further in and climb up more steps in between the houses and hotels to reach our hotels. Peace & Excellent View Lodge by far is the best hotel you can ever ask in the mountain village. It is located at the top that have best view and near to the Himalayan mountains. 

View of the mountains which the tips were clouded from our room window.
It continue to the right side which become more nearer to us.
Poon Hill is located on the left side.
We rest the whole evening by the fire place for warm comfort. The electricity were off for awhile & no Ncell Data coverage at that moment. It is a good thing the government take the initiative to build up the powerhouse for the mountain villages. It will help to prosper the locals' income whose majority run businesses open up restaurants and hotels for the tourists. Until the projects completed, they will not have this problem of electricity shortage.

We enjoyed sitting laid back by the fire place.
Tenzing reminded us to be prepared early tomorrow by 4 am. We will start hiking up to Poon Hill around 4.20 after light breakfast. We slept early that night...

Some information I get from Tenzing on trekking seasons at Himalayan Mountains:
February - cold at the early month and less cold and warm towards end of the month. This month, have less trekkers but one of the best month if you don't want the crowd. And cheaper price for stays and easy for last minute booking.
March & April - warm weather. This is the peak season!! Many trekkers choose these months for best trekking in a warm weather and best view. But expensive and always full hotels if not booked early.
May - warm and bit wet. Less trekkers around.
June till August - Raining season! Trekkers will avoid coming at these months because of the wet and dangerous of slippery route. Furthermore can't promise will get any kind of  view from the mountain.
September till January - Cold and winter. Many trekkers love to come at this time for winter trekking experience and white view of mountains.

Day 7; 3rd Day of Trekking: Poon Hill
Today is the D-Day!! Trek up to the Poon Hill for the amazing sunrise view of Himalayas! It is really tough to wake up very early around 3.30 am. We don't even bother to take bath as the temperature was damn COLD! (- 6 ⁰C). We just had hot drinks for breakfast at 4 am and start trekking at 4.20 am. 

With our relaxed pace, Tenzing expected that we will take around 1hr 40 min to 2 hrs top in this journey. The sun will rise at 6.40 am, so he had planned for us to depart early if in case we faced any problem on the way and took longer to arrived. 

Thet is following us. Again I climbed faster so Thet will accompanied me to the peak. It was dark outside and luckily we bring headlamp for smoother climbing. The starting point of ascending, we can see the steps all the way up! Oh gosh!! We immediately felt the pain even before the start climbing..hahaha...this is torture man!😝

Obviously the steps up to Poon Hill are as crazy steps as back up to Uleri. It was soooo damn demanding, endless walking up not knowing when we will ever reach the top. Since it was dark, we really can't see how far we have gone up or how far the steps up. We just keep climbing in the dark with a bright full moon to give some lights to the surrounding. With that we actually can see the mountains was really near and next to us and seems they are following us up too.

Upon almost reaching up, I somehow felt my head spinning & had to stop more frequent than before. Thet aware that I was having some breathing problem. He advised me to take long rest, drink more water & eat chocolate. After had several bites of Snickers bar which I had in my backpack, I felt more relaxed and the dizzy gone. Then I realized I actually need some solid hearty breakfast for this kind of journey.

After gaining just a little extra energy, I continued climbing. It was just a few minutes later I can see the open ground trek ahead with a small arch in front indicating that we have reach the top! With that left over energy I had, I confidently walking towards it. I can see from where I was, a view of tower covered with roof on a flat ground with a full bloom moon lit it from above. And I saw few people were already there having hot drinks from a makeshift shack that sell them. It was a relieved view...

I sat on one of a few benches there facing a dark open space waiting my friend to arrived. I check my watch and it shows 6.20 am and I thought, wow...not bad. But when I look up, amazingly I saw a glimpse of white mountain peaks that was so near you that make you almost jump off. I was really shocked realizing how close they were right in front of me and I know my jaw was open admiring them.

10 minutes later, my friend and Tenzing arrived and by that time the place was full with people. I can see the place much better and I saw Thet was talking to Tenzing. Then I realised Tenzing was searching for me and when he saw me, he came to me. 

He ask me if I want some hot drinks from the stall which I have to pay. I felt I need some milk for energy so I said yes. We ordered hot chocolate from the open window then he brought me inside the shack. I think Thet had told him of what had happened to me on the way up and Tenzing was really concern of my well being.

Then I realized I was shivering cold. I wore thick gloves which I can felt sweats running in between my fingers. My inner shirts were wet of sweats underneath my fleece and winter jacket. I knew then that I was not feeling well. Inside the shack was warm from the burning woods to boil the water for drinks. Tenzing sat beside me on the wood platform facing the ordering window asking me what had happened.

I was really not paying attention to Tenzing. I told him the story but actually my eyes were gazing the mountains which visibly out of that ordering window. I can't stand this urge inside me. Once I get my drink, I excuse myself from Tenzing to go out to sit at the bench to gaze the mountains...Oh! I can't describe well how amazing the view was!! It felt soooo worth it to face all those obstacles just to be here.

 



The tower
Me looking at the Ghaulagiri

Me & my buddy :) 

We spent more than 1 hour taking pictures, admiring the mountain views & even make friends with locals and other hikers. It was a breathtaking experience.

Going down is another challenge. It was easier but painstakingly looking down at those steps that seem endless. But all of us just happy walking down together, slowly back to the hotel.

 

Inside the hotel having breakfast
I had Tibetan bread with mushroom soup for breakfast. It took longer time for me to finish it. I was shivering cold. I know I was still not feeling well. I couldn't stand the cold weather. I discussed this with my buddy & after lots of thinking, we agreed to not continue to Tadapani but to go back down to Thirkhedgunga. Tenzing agreed as well and he said that to Tadapani is another difficult journey and took 8 hours for normal pace. With our condition, we might not be able to reach Tadapani before dark. However, Tenzing said he can plan for us to take a jeep from Birethanti to Ghandruk before back to Pokhara the next day. We were considering that option as we had to fork out more money to rent the jeep.

After taking time packing & get ready to descend to Thirkhedgunga, I felt my legs start aching. We embarked around 10 am.

 

 
The view back down on the same route give different perspectives. The journey is much easier as mostly are descending. We have more time to take pictures & enjoying the view more. We met few hikers going up to Ghorepani & wished them best of luck. It is a norm to greet other hikers by saying 'Namaste'

The downside about going down, for me at least, is that it make your knee head loose even badly. The journey down to Thirkhedgunga from Uleri had worsen my leg condition. I didn't think much about it as I badly needed to reach Thirkhedgunga before dark. Me & Thet eventually arrived there around 5 pm while my friend and Tenzing arrived an hour later. 

The tea house we stayed is really located by the riverside. It was so relaxing hearing the sound of the stream fiercely strolling down. After taking a hot bath, we had dinner that night together with Tenzing and Thet. We discussed again for the next day plan. I regretfully told them I could not go any further and going down from Uleri had really taking toll to my knees. My friend took that decision positively. She said the mountains can still wait for us in the next time. I agreed with her.

One thing about this journey, I learned valuable lessons:
1. Please take your time trekking to enjoy the fullest time of viewing the surrounding.
2. Allow extra days for contingencies plan. If you needed longer time to trek to reached your desire destination.
3. If you need to rest, do take rest for a day before continuing the journey.

Day 8; 4th Day of Trekking: Back to Pokhara
After a good night sleep, we woke up with aching & bruises everywhere especially our legs. We took our time packing & had breakfast around 8 am. We start trekking and had good lunch at Birethanti. It was warm here. 

Birenthati
 
Lunch
 
Cute Nepali child
 

Once we reached Nayapool (it took 4 hrs), our ride has arrived and waiting for us. Kshitij had been informed of our change of plan & had arrange our 2 night stays in Pokhara in exchange of 2 nights cancelled plan in Tadapani & Ghandruk. 

We stayed at Kumari Lodge in Pokhara. It is located very nearby to the Greenline office. This is so convenient for us on the day back to Kathmandu. Since we're back 2 days early from trekking, we cancelled our previous booked hotel in Pokhara on the 15th (Day 11) and change the booked bus ticket from 16th to 15th. With that had been sorted, we will stay in Pokhara a day before departure back to Kathmandu on the 15th.

We paid Thet for his service as our porter plus hearty tips. We also give Tenzing a generous tips as well for his tip top service as our guide. We bid farewell & hoping to meet again for next plan in trekking. I told Tenzing for sure I'll come back to conquer Ghandruk and/or best still to Annapurna Base Camp (ABC).

Day 9: Pokhara (Full Day Healing)
It is a Valentine's Day in Pokhara! Since last night the romantic mood can be seen in many shops & restaurants. But we stayed longer in bed, lazy enough to go and find breakfast. Even lunch we had them at about 4 pm.

The weather has become warmer at this time. The shops starting to sell slippers, thin t-shirts & even selling ice-cream! People start wearing t-shirt & short pants.

We enjoyed the weather, walking by the street. We stumbled with that Tibetan lady that we bought the stone bangle. We hug each other & laughing upon our tales of trekking. It was such good feeling to be back down to town.

We had good & cheap vege lunch at TARA Nepalese Restaurant. We stroll further on the street & bought some good books about Nepal & mountains in several book stores. We wanted to save some money to spent at Thamel tomorrow which is cheaper.

Day 10: Pokhara - Kathmandu

 
Today is the day back to Kathmandu. We reached aerly at the Greenline office around 7.15 am and the bus scheduled to depart at 8 am.

The journey as expected took 8 hours to complete. It use the route as we come here to Pokhara and the same stops for toilet break & lunch.

We slept almost throughout the journey. The road & traffic as usual bad but luckily no accident or bad jamm happened. The bus reached Kathmandu around 4 pm but stop 3 km away from Thamel. We had to take taxi to our hotel & we bargain from 400 NRP to 300 NRP.

The hotel we stayed, Hotel Jay Suites, is a new hotel in town and located just next to our Kasthamandap Boutique Hotel. It was easy to take our left luggage at the hotel by just walking. We had earlier planned to have a stay in Patan but we thought it is best to stay in Thamel instead. We had cancelled booked hotel in Patan when we were in Pokhara and booked this Hotel Jay Suites which offered a good promotion price for a well-off hotel.

Day 11: Kathmandu
Kshitij came today to meet us and we discussed of the overall trip as closure. We thank him for his good service as our ground agent & said farewell. For 1 whole day in Kathmandu, plan to shop more books and souvenirs. We found out that books in Pokhara are cheaper than Thamel instead. But able to buy a small 'Kukiri' for a good price. We had good Briyani lunch at another halal restaurant, Anatolia.

 

BK's place
BK's menus
 
Day 12: Back to Malaysia
Our flight depart at 9 pm so we spent more strolling around Thamel again. We had lunch at the famous B.K's Place restaurant which their menus are more like fast food restaurant; burgers, fries, and also local snack such as Mo Mo, samosa, etc...

The hotel allowed us to stay in the hotel until 3 pm for check out. Kshitij has arranged for Nima to fetch us around 7 pm to the airport.

Upon reaching the Tribhuvan airport and had gone through the smooth custom process, we found out our flight had delayed...again for 1/2 an hour. We just sat down waiting for our plane to arrive, watching the crowds packed at the waiting area. We didn't talk much but kept flashing back of our memories in Kathmandu & Himalayan trekking. I have set in my heart with a determination to come again and continue set a trekking plan to another different experience in Himalayas...Both of us just smiled...