It's really been a while since I've written yes? Well, the truth is, I've had some tech issues, goon issues, and all other issues arising from those major 2. I'm sure many can relate to these issues, so I'll not mention them here. I'll just go straight to the latest thing I've been doing with the brood, and that ladies and gentleman, was Nepal!
Darling husband had received an AirAsia voucher at one of his teambuilding activities, and we thought why not go to Kathmandu? The first time I remember ever coming across the name Kathmandu was from Tintin in the issue entitled "Tintin in Tibet", which I read when I was about 6 or 7; they had landed in Kathmandu and spent some time there before heading for Tibet. For some reason, the name Kathmandu has always intrigued me. I imagined an exciting and vibrant land with lots of colours, scents and sounds :)
So we flew to Kathmandu and caught the Himalayan view!
We travelled budget. To begin with, the heavily subsidised ticket from the Airasia voucher was what drove us towards our destination, else our family's enrichment program this year would have been local. So I started studying reviews for budget accommodations, and all things related. The most expensive item in our groundwork was actually the Nepal book by Lonely Planet which cost RM106.40. It turns out that that is THE book to read about travelling in Nepal, because that's what all the other travellers we met referred to.
We knew that it was going to be cold in Nepal in November, and our friends who had been there earlier advised us to bring warm clothing, or opt to buy them upon arriving in Nepal. I didn't want to risk the goons turning into popsicles upon arrival and thus not be able to do anything we've planned. So I dug out my old winter coats in storage and sadly, only the long trench still fit me well, Aaaaaaaaa!!! The long coat wasn't suitable for the this travel as I anticipated we'd be doing lots of walking and climbing. The kids didn't have any coats as they've never been anywhere that cold. So we went to our favourite Family Bundle store, where we got really cool winter wear from RM2-10 each :) We also bought mitts at Daiso for RM5 a pair.
Then we had to think of shoes. Outdoor shoes would be best and the boys didn't have any. We found really cool ones for the boys at Bata (Power brand Outdoor shoes) which were only RM20-30 per pair, darling husband bought his pair of Karrimor for less than RM150 at Aeon's sale, and I settled with the pair of trainers I'd just bought at a recent sale. Our Nepal book advised that while warm attire is fabulous in Nepal even though they are mostly knock offs, but we should not buy their shoes unless we are prepared to tolerate blisters.
The other thing that concerned me was the health and medical facilities in Nepal, in case any of us, especially the boys, fell ill. So I referred to the boys paed, who has been to Nepal himself, and he advised that we should be careful with the food we eat there, to make sure that all water is boiled (or bottled water) and food prepared hygienically. Since the boys shots are all intact and up to date, he didn't have much concern, but he did stock us up on probiotics, familiar antibiotics, and the basic flu and fever meds. I cross checked all this to what's advised in the Nepal book and we were on the right track. A few weeks before we set off for Nepal, I did load up the boys with a daily dose of probiotics too, just to prep their tummies for new things. I also packed dozens of antibacterial wet wipes, facial wipes and hand sanitiser gel. As it turned out, about a third of our luggage was the kids' meds! But, I'd rather be prepared than sorry, coz we hadn't been to Nepal before and didn't know what to expect, and the boys' health is not something I would risk.
Now back to accommodation in Nepal. I spent plenty of hours on the internet, reading all the reviews on Tripadvisor and Agoda. Our plan was to spend a few days in the Kathmandu Valley and a few days in Pokhara. The Pokhara part was easy as our friend Priscilla had given us a fab recommendation which was The Mountain House. But as for Kathmandu we had to decide that ourselves. So, after many rounds, we finally chose Krishna House in Bhaktapur as it had the most favourable reviews. I had also read that Bhaktapur is the oldest and best preserved medieval city in Nepal and our friends were telling us how dusty and busy Kathmandu is, so Bhaktapur it was. I had also initially planned to make a 1 night stay at one of the Yeti Mountain Homes on the Everest trail, where we could wake up to the clearest view of Everest. But that had to be scratched as there were serious concerns about altitude sickness on the boys, and the journey to the hotel from the nearest airport in Lukla may not be comfortable for them. I also planned to do the Mountain Flights, but that too we scratched for the same reason. As this was mainly an enrichment program for the boys, they held priority.
Airasia flies to and from Kathmandu on Tuesdays and Thursdays only, and we wanted to make the most of this travel. So we decided on a 10 day 9 night holiday, and our final itinerary was as follows :
13-15 November : Bhaktapur
15-20 November : Pokhara
20-22 November : Bhaktapur
I confirmed our accommodation at Krishna House in Bhaktapur via Agoda and communicated via email with Stan of The Mountain House for our Pokhara leg. Priscilla had earlier prompted Stan of our holiday plans in Nepal, and bearing in mind we were travelling with young kids, Stan graciously recommended to us a free and easy plan during our stay in Pokhara, at very reasonable prices.
I read the Nepal book inside out, gathering as much information as possible on the uniqueness of Nepal, the people, cultures, norms, architecture and the most fascinating are of course, the highest peaks of the world and the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. I also studied about the crafts produced in Nepal, namely the wood works, brass ware, potteries, paper, fabrics, tea, coffee, the Pashmina scarf/shawl, yak wool and the Tibetan hand knotted carpets. I didn't quite understand at first why a Tibetan hand knotted carpet would be a proud product of Nepal, until I read about the refugee settlements in Pokhara.
I am aware that when we visit a certain country for our own personal gratification and self improvement, we should try to show our appreciation to that country and her people by giving back in a way that best suits us. The Nepal book also noted that when travellers purchase items and souvenirs, especially original products of Nepal from local Nepali proprietors, we are directly contributing to a significant number of Nepalis. So, inspired by Jeffrey Archer's "The Steal" from his compilation of shorts "A Twist In The Tale", I continued to read more about Nepal, trying to determine what would be my steal, or steals, from Nepal. This would of course have to match the very petite budget that we had :)
Talking about budget, we couldn't convert our Ringgit to Nepali Rupee here in Malaysia as the Nepali Rupee is not traded here. So we got USD and also brought some Ringgit with us. There are also ATM facilities throughout Nepal which could enable us to withdraw Rupees at the current exchange with our local ATM cards. Again, we referred to our Nepal book to plan our budget.
With regards to my boys, I wanted them to experience the nature and outdoors as much as possible in Nepal. In my younger days I had done quite a bit of travelling which taught me a lot, and the ones I appreciated most were nature and the outdoors. Darling husband and I try as best to show our kids as much as we can, especially outside their comfort zone, we also to teach them to become travellers, not tourists; we want the kids to travel and enrich themselves with knowledge and experience, like Tintin :) God is great, He created this entire world for all of us, and the majestic Himalayas is indeed one creation that I really want my boys to see with their own eyes, and the diverse people of Nepal is something quite fascinating. So apart from planning to visit all the main historical sights and local attractions, eg. lakes, caves, waterfalls, I also included white water rafting on the Trishuli River into our itinerary as it seemed the most feasible for my boys. As for trekking or hiking, the serious routes are not suitable for my boys now, but some of the sites themselves involve a fair bit of walking and climbing, so our plan was good.
Next is the matter of food. What can we eat in Nepal? Coincidentally, when darling husband and I stayed at a B&B in Ipoh recently, the person who attended to us happened to be a Nepali. When he said, "Welcome sir, madam, I am Guru, from Nepal", we went ting! And he works in a restaurant cum B&B here, so we should be able to ask him some basics about food in Nepal. Guru told us that there are Muslims in Nepal and that we will be able to find Muslim food, especially in the Kathmandu Valley. He also said that there are also many vegetarians in Nepal, hence many restaurants serving vegetarian food, so we should not have problems finding food that suits us. At the same time, I got some of my boys' favourite cookies and snacks and packed them into each boy's knapsack.
Last but not least, visa. We were told that we could do our visa upon arrival at the Tribhuvan Airport at USD25 per person. We could also have everything done here at the Nepal Embassy in Kuala Lumpur at USD30 per person. Since I couldn't find much time to go to the embassy, we decided to just have them done upon arrival.
I personally believe that knowledge is infinite, and we must see life, feel life, experience life in order to appreciate life, then hopefully we gain some wisdom, and then try to continue to make life more worthy and meaningful. I realise that while some people like us are happy travelling, others are at war, that's the reality of it life, but our faith should drive us to strive to do better things better, InsyaAllah...
To be continued... :)