Monday, May 13, 2013

Bhaktapur City left me at a loss for words

Bhaktapur City. It's one of the places that I was truly excited to see while I was planning our trip to Nepal so when I finally saw the place in person, I was lost for words. I don't know how to describe the place. Beautiful? Breath-taking? To me, those words are understatements. 

I don't know if it's because of my fascination with architecture/engineering that I feel this way about Bhaktapur City. Not everyone probably feels the same way as I did. 

The Ancient City of Bhaktapur is one of the seven monument zones that comprise the Kathmandu Valley World Heritage Site. It is located around 12 kilometers away from Kathmandu City.

We paid NPR1100 (around PhP550) to enter. It's quite a lot but I think it's worth it. Those who come from countries that are SAARC members pay a lot less.

From Thamel, we took the taxi to Bhaktapur which cost us NPR1200. It took around an hour to reach Bhaktapur (the traffic was a bit bad in Kathmandu.) While going down the taxi, the driver offered to wait for us and bring us back to Thamel for the same price and we took his offer. (We could have bargained but we just didn't.) He said we can pay him when we get back to Thamel. We're totally not used to that kind of arrangement in the Philippines. I mean, come on, a dishonest person could have gotten away from Bhaktapur (as there are other exits) and not pay the driver but I guess that's not the way things run in Nepal. It was probably the other way around. He didn't take our fare immediately because he wanted to make sure we'd come back to him to drive us back to Kathmandu. Coming from the Philippines, I'm truly amazed at how strangers can trust others and be trusted as well.

You can also take the bus from Kathmandu City to Bhaktapur (which is a lot cheaper).

Aside from motorcycles and some vehicles, there aren't many vehicles around Bhaktapur. It's easy to walk around as the city is not too big and there is less pollution and less honking.

Anyway, I'll let these photos do the talking.

Bhaktapur Durbar Square

Vatsala Durga Temple

Golden Gate which leads to the Taleju Temple (which is only accessible to Hindus)

Pashupatinath Temple

Siddhi Laxmi Temple

Nyatapola Temple in Taumadhi Square

Taumadhi Square as seen from the Nyatapola Temple

Dattetraya Square (quite underwhelming compared to the Durbar and Taumadhi Squares)

Despite the heat that we had to bear (which is a lot more bearable compared to the humid Manila heat), I think Bhaktapur is my favorite place in Nepal. :)

Monday, May 6, 2013

Garden of Dreams: An Oasis in Kathmandu

In the middle of the hustle and bustle of Kathmandu is a European-style garden called the Garden of Dreams. It was created in year 1920 and then renovated in year 2000 with the help of the Austrian Government.

Garden of Dreams is a good walking distance from Thamel (the tourist hub of Kathmandu where a lot of hostels and B&B's are located). However, since we were carrying a lot of stuff that time, we took the taxi for NPR200.

Entrance fee is 200 rupees for foreigners. I think it's worth it if you're going to stay inside for a while. Unfortunately, we didn't have such luxury because we were headed to Nagarkot that day as well. 

It's like an oasis in the middle of a busy city. It's not very big and you can hear vehicles outside honking most of the time though the sounds are already toned down. There's also a number of noisy crows around but it's a good place to rest and to breathe (as Kathmandu is pretty polluted). It also makes for an ideal spot to read, to meditate, or for couples to cuddle. 

This vine-covered building reminds me a lot of one of my postcards from France

You can lie on the cushions.

There are many flowers around because it's spring.

Flowers floating in water on a singing bowl-- you will see them a lot in Nepal

A rose

Before leaving, we had some dessert in Kaiser cafe inside the garden. Cost me 260 rupees.

Lime yogurt cheesecake

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Namaste, Nepal!

I just got back from a trip to Nepal-- something I had planned since December 2012.

"Why Nepal?", you might ask as did everyone who learned about my travel plans. Well, I initially wanted to go to a country in another continent (like USA or Australia) but I wasn't confident about getting a VISA in those countries. I didn't want to risk it (I'm pertaining to the expensive VISA fees) so after scanning the world map a couple of times, I settled with Nepal where I can get a VISA on arrival. I met some Nepalese friends during the Summer Course 2012 so I got pretty interested with their country. Thankfully, three classmates from high school were also up to the "non-mainstream" idea.

There are no direct flights from Manila to Kathmandu so what we did was to fly from Manila to Kuala Lumpur via Cebu Pacific and then fly from KL to Kathmandu via Air Asia. The total airfare is quite expensive but that's  pretty much what I spent for the most-- airfare, since everything is pretty cheap in Nepal (yes, even cheaper than the Philippines!)

We had a 10-hour stopover from 2am to 12nn at Kuala Lumpur which was spent sleeping at the airport and visiting the Petronas Towers. Come to think of it, it was my first time going to a South East Asian country (other than the Philippines, of course). All of my travels prior were to East Asia!

Honestly always wanted to see these towers.

I never reserve seats for my flights (yeah, cheapskate, I know) but the seat I got from KL to Kathmandu was very lucky for a couple of reasons: (1) I got a window seat. (2) I got a seat beside my friend even though we didn't book our flights together. (3) Right in front of my seat was a lavatory so I had A LOT of legroom. (4) I was able to see the Himalayas from my window (I was seated at the left side if you're facing the cockpit).

We arrived at the Tribhuvan International Airport and had to endure the looooong lines at the Immigration (which included getting a VISA on arrival). Our baggage were already off the carousel by the time we finished our Immigration business. While getting our luggage, we met two Filipino flight attendants who were equally surprised to hear us speaking in Tagalog! I actually thought that we won't be meeting any Filipinos there like we usually do in other countries. It was then that I realized "Oh, Filipinos really are everywhere."

It was afternoon when we finally settled at our Bed&Breakfast (which I'll write about later on). We took some rest first (because we were really tired from the loooooong journey) and then proceeded to dinner.

Kathmandu sunset as seen from our B&B's rooftop. 

We went to a place called Revolution Cafe. We ordered Dal Bhat, a famous Nepali cuisine. It was full of spices but not the hot kind. I do love curry but I really just hate cilantro.

We also had buff momo (buffalo dumplings) which came with some curry sauce. I think it's better with soy sauce and lime (or calamansi) but maybe I'm only thinking that because I'm Filipino.

I wanted to have some dessert (to wash away all the spices in my mouth). My friend and I shared an apple pie (110 Nepal rupees, around PhP55, told you stuff is cheap in Nepal!) The serving was big and it was pretty good. It's not exactly among the best apple pies I've had but compared to other desserts I ate in Nepal, this is a lot better.

Now pardon the bad lighting. Kathmandu gets very frequent power cuts (brownouts, as we call them in the Philippines) so candlelit dinners are the "in" thing there.

That's pretty much my short stopover in Kuala Lumpur and my first day in Kathmandu. I'll post more about my trip (and the beauty of Nepal) in the coming days (or weeks). :)