Day 1 ---Flying to A Mountainous Nation --- Nepal (Feb. 6) 9
Day 2 ---Chitwan National Park --- A World Heritage of Nature (Feb. 7) 11
Day 3 ---A Day for Wonderful Nature and Wild Life Exploration (Feb. 8) 15
Day 4 ---Overlooking Himalayan Range from Pokhara (Feb. 9) 22
Day 5 ---Feeling the Top of the World (Feb. 10) 26
Day 6 ---Getting Close to the Roof of the World (Feb. 11) 30
Day 7 ---Back to Ancient Time of Nepal Kingdoms (Feb. 12) 35
Day 8 ---Visiting More of the Glory Past of Nepal (Feb. 13) 41
Day 9 ---On Way Home and Some thoughts (Feb. 14) 45
(Cover picture: Durbar Square at Patan, Kathmandu, Nepal)
1.1 Taipei Taoyuan Airport 1.2 Flying to Nepal (via Hong Kong Airport and Dhaka Airport) 1.3 Soaltee Crown Plaza Hotel, Kathmandu
2.1 Crown Plaza Hotel 2.2 Flying to Bharatpur Airport 2.3 Baghmara Wildlife Resort (near Chitwan National Park) 2.4 Ox cart ride 2.5 Sunset at Rapti River side 2.6 Folk dance show night
3.1 Elephant ride 3.2 Downtown Sauraha strolling 3.3 Rest at Baghmara Wildlife Resort 3.4 Canoe ride on Rapti River 3.5 Wild forest exploration 3.6 Sauraha Elephant Breeding Center Way back to the resort
4.1 Way to Pokhara (by bus) 4.2 Check-in at Pokhara Grande Hotel (Chih-Hua got sick and stayed in the hotel) 4.3 Tashi Ling Tibetan Village 4.4 Gupteswor Cave nearby 4.5 Devi’s Fall
5.1 Sunrise at Sarangkot Top 5.2 Boating in Fewa Lake 5.3 Varahi Mandir (Barahi Temple) for God Ganesh at the lake center 5.4 Ratna Mandir (royal summer palace) 5.5 Shopping in Baidam Street at the lakeside
6.1 Flying to Kathmandu again 6.2 Bodhnath Stupa (largest Buddha tower) 6.3 Pashupatinath (the largest temple for worshiping God Shiva) 6.4 Way to Nagarkot (a high-land village near Kathmandu) 6.5 Hotel Country Villa 6.6 Sunset at Nagarkot
7.1 Sunrise at Nagarkot 7.2 Blocking roads to get rewards (allowed only in Today’s Shiva festival) 7.3 Bhaktapur (visiting city streets and four squares --- 7.3.1 Streets, 7.3.2 Dattatraya, 7.3.3 Traumadhi, 7.3.4 Pottery, and 7.3.5 Durbar Squares) 7.4 Soaltee Crown Plaza Hotel 7.5 Hanuman-dhoka Durbar Square at Kathmandu (7.5.1 Kasthamandap, 7.5.2 Kamuri, 7.5.3 Square Buikdings) 7.6 Local-meal dinner and folk dance
8.1 Swayambhunath (2nd largest Buddha tower) 8.2 Patan City 8.3 Mahabuddha (thousand-Buddha tower) 8.4 Durbar Square in Patan 8.5 Shopping in Thamel 8.6 Lunar New Year Eve Dinner
Government type: republic (the monarchy 君主 just overthrown in 2008)
Currency: Rupee (NPR)
Car drives: on the left
GDP per capita: US$470.759 (from 2009)
Lowest salary: 4700 Nepali rupees ( 2750 NT dollars) per month (mentioned by the local guide Ready)
Unified as a kingdom on December 21, 1768, and declared as a republic on May 28, 2008.
Major Impressions about Nepal
A country with people kind and friendly
A country with many peoples with no majority and all living together peacefully
A country with people having low incomes but living happily
A country with very many Hindu and Buddhist temples
A country where shopping needs annoying bargaining
A capital city with three old kingdom palaces --- Durbar Squares
Sunday different from other countries --- Saturday
World-heritage relics hundreds years old and constructed with mixtures of woods and bricks
People following religious regulations in daily life before going to works
Country sides and city areas seeming to have better houses both in than India and Egypt
A capital city (Kathmandu) whose streets need more cleaning works just like those of India and Egypt (New Delhi and Cairo, respectively)
Flying to A Mountainous Nation --- Nepal (Feb. 6)
A long way with two stops at Hong Kong and Dhaka
Today (Saturday, Feb. 6), with a happy mood after completing the tedious works for the IEEE fellow nomination and being accompanied by my family, I started a trip to Nepal. My last trip around the world was in last summer, a tour to middle Japan.
We took two airplanes and stopped three times before reaching the capital of Nepal, Kathmandu. The first plane was of the Dragon Air, starting its flight on about 2:30 pm. It took about two hours to arrive at Hong Kong Airport (on about 4.30 pm).
We then transferred to another flight also by Dragon Air. An unhappy event occurred at the security check counter at Hong Kong Airport. Our leader, Tony, was out of date about the transfer process there, I think. He told us to buy bottled water (two bottles for each person) after entering Taoyuang Airport in Taiwan because in Nepal the water is not trustworthy. But everybody’s the water was confiscated during the security check!
The flight started at about 5:30 pm. It had a brief stop at Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh. We did not have to get out of the plane. It started to fly again to Kathmandu after about half an hour.
It was late when we reached the destination, on about 12 am local time which is 2 hours 15 minutes later than Taiwan time. Totally, it took about 15 hours from leaving home to arriving at Kathmandu Airport, including 12 hours of flight.
Getting visas locally at midnight
We had to get visas at Kathmandu Airport, and it took about two hours for all the 20 members of our group to finish the process. Really slow and inefficient! Everything was done manually with no help of computers. The carbon paper, which is almost unseen in Taiwan now, was used for making copies of visa fee receipts. Also, the process was divided into three parts which were carried out at three counters located at three spots! What a poor and inefficient country!
I wonder why nobody noticed this unreasonable process and tried to improve it. On the other hand, this was also a good experience of observing what happens right at the first encounter with an undeveloped country. Chih-Hua recalled what happened at the Russia immigration office about 10 years ago when we visited Moscow, where we also waited for a couple of hours for seemingly unreasonable visa checks. I also recalled what happened in our first visit to Cambodia for a sightseeing tour in Ankor Wat, where we encountered a female office at the customs office that seemed to hint us to do something, by delaying the approval of our entry permission.
The facility of Kathmandu Airport is bare. Even though it is an international airport, there was no bridge structure connecting airplanes and the gates of the airport; we just walked down the plane, stepped on the airport ground, and entered a long corridor before reaching the customs and immigration hall. The hall was also bare with few decorations, and it was not easy to find a good spot for taking a memento picture there.
Nevertheless, the customs officials were friendly and patient. I asked them if they worked so late every day. The answer was yes.
Arriving at the hotel late and slept in cold air conditioning
Our local guide was Ready, a very friendly and humble guy of the local people, Newars, of Kathmandu, as said by him one day later. He was young and could speak Mandarin well almost with no Nepali or Mainland China accent. A good thing, at least, so far!
When we arrived at the hotel, Soaltee Crowne Plaza, it was about two o’clock am, very late in the morning of the next day.
Before I went to bed on about 3:00 am, two more unhappy events happened! One was that the water in the bathroom was not hot enough for taking a shower, as Meimei told me by phone (Meimei and Chih-Hua stayed in a room and I was in another). The other was: the air conditioner was not supplying air warm enough.
For the first, I called the room service. A man came in a friendly manner with an air-warmer! Was my English so poor? What I told them when I called was that the water was not hot enough for taking a bath, not that the room was not warm! He called his manager immediately, and the latter told me that the water would be hot enough after 4:00 am. I told Meimei so and just went to bed without bathing.
Due to the second case (air conditioner not working), I woke up in the midnight to wear more clothes to avoid catching a cold. One day later, I was told that actually there was no air conditioning at all at that time. Is the hotel really a 5-star hotel? But the local guide said so (actually, it was a 4-star one according to my later survey using Google at following IP: hotels-nepal.net/.../map.html).
In short, I did not sleep enough at all, maybe just three hours only, in that night.
Chitwan National Park --- A World Heritage of Nature (Feb. 7)
About the hotel
Except what I mentioned about last night, the hotel in general was good. It was one of the chain hotels of Crowne Plaza. Many foreigners stayed overnight there, as seen from the people we met in the morning. I said hello to many of them and asked where they were from. I met two ladies from Canada, and one probably from Italy who could not speak English.
The breakfast was satisfactory, and the service was good. I told a boy that he was handsome when he served us coffee and tea. That guy was of the majority people, Tharu, with a high nose, according to a criterion which the local guide Reddy told us later today for classifying people you saw in the street.
The garden of the hotel also seemed good, but I did not have time to have a good look at it. Fortunately, we would come back before the last day of the trip, and at that time hopefully we would have more leisure time for looking around the hotel’s environment and facilities.
Another long way to visit Chitwan National Park
We went to Kathmandu Airport (named Tribhuban) again to fly locally to Chitwan National park which is a UNESCO-approved world heritage of the natural type, but a big fog condition stopped the fight supposed to be on 9:00 am, and we waited for a long time in the airport until about 1:00 pm, totally for four hours (including about one hour sitting in the plane), before we got an approval for taking off. Besides the weather condition, the delay was caused partially by the numerous planes waiting in line for taking off between the time gaps of the airplane landings in that morning.
In the airport hall, we saw many kinds of peoples. Theoretically, the guys there must be rich enough, being affording taking airplanes to travel within the country. Some did wear formally or gracefully.
The plane we took was from Yeti Air. It was so small that no overhead baggage compartment was available, so I just sit in the front row right behind the pilots and left my bag on the floor of the aisle. It could only accept 20 persons, including a crew who was a female. The pilots were two handsome guys who talked to us occasionally during the boring waiting time.
The plane finally began to take off, in the middle of a line of waiting airplanes. The fight time was about 20 minutes only, but the guide told us that about six hours would be required if instead a bus was used as the traveling vehicle.
Surprisingly, both the taking-off and landing performed by the two pilots were very smooth, causing no vibration or instability. I was a little bit nervous before taking off, recalling my last suffering long time ago in 1988 of taking a little plane from Phoenix to Flagstaff in Arizona with my son, Hsin-Mu, to meet Chih-Hua who was there, participating a summer language camp held by the University of Arizona at Flagstaff. Both of us got sick of vomiting in the flight.
During the flight, we saw city buildings at a low height, and then farm lands and mountains in clouds at a larger one. I was wondering how the pilots, in the clouds with no sight of the ground, kept the flight along the right path until I saw a flight map appearing in a small LED screen on the flight control panel. Shown on the screen was the flight route drawn as connected lines and curves, together with the current altitude and the direction of the plane. The correct flight direction was also shown for comparison.
Another event interesting and worth for a recall is the stuff served by the lady steward. Just water, candies, and cotton balls! The last was served for ear stuffing during the flight to reduce discomfort in the ear caused by plane engine noise and sudden flight altitude changes. I did not know this and ignored the served cotton until being directed by a group member. This was just the second time I took a small airplane! Another good experience!
Unclean countryside scenes seen along the way
After landing, we took limousines carrying our luggages over the tops and travelled for half an hour before we arrived at a resort, named Baghmara Wildlife, at Baghmara, Sauraha, which is located in the northern outskirt area of Royal Chitwan National Park (See Fig. 3). No houses are now allowed within the park, as said by the local guide. Actually, it was said also that there are tigers in the park, indicating further that it was improper to live within the park area.
The countryside roads were dirty with lots of garbage dumped along the road sides, just like what we saw in the countryside in India or Egypt. However, the environment we saw in more populated areas was comparatively much cleaner. We saw later in this afternoon that people swept trashes around their houses, and burned them to keep the neighborhood clean. As the local guide told us several days later in the trip, Nepali people do already have the idea of maintaining clean environment in the proximity around them; however, their education level did not yet enlighten them not to pollute farther neighborhoods.
Fig. 3 Map of Sauraha in which Maghmara Wildlife Resort where we stayed two nights is located.
We also saw quite a few buildings which were modern, constructed with bricks and having two or three floors. But most were just houses with walls made of reed stems inside and mud outside. I wondered how long they could resist erosion caused by rain, but this seemed not a big problem, I thought, because repair of it is easy just paste mud again over eroded parts. On the other hand, an earthquake obviously will destruct most of them, I also thought. Several days later in the tour, I learned from the guide that the material pasted on the wall house was not just mud only, but a mixture of mud and ox shit, the latter having the function of increasing the stickiness of the resulting material. This point was further confirmed, after I returned to Taiwan, by a driver of Asia University, Mr. Lai, who gives me rides to that school every two weeks to fulfill my work as a consultant to the university affair there. I was the president of that university for three years before (from 2004 till 2007).
By the way, I would like to say that this kind of house was exactly what I lived in when I was 4 to 5 years old in the suburban area of the Tainan City in Taiwan around 1955. Almost no such house exists in Taiwan now.
A bare resort where we stayed overnight for two days
Because of the prosperity of sightseeing, the outskirt of Royal Chitwan National Park was seen to be full of resorts, hotels, lodges, and so on.
We finally arrived at a resort on about 3:00 pm where we would stay overnight for two days. We then had a lunch served with very plain dishes. I was sure that Chih-Hua could cook dishes with much better tastes than theirs.
After entering the room, it was found that the facilities were surprisingly bare, to such a degree that I had never encountered in my tours in nearly 30 countries. There was no TV set, phone, cloth closet, coffee/tea bag, cleaning kit, shampoo, slippers, and so on. Even the air conditioner was not working. It got so cold in the midnight that I could not sleep, and got up early on 4:00 am to write this part of diary about our activities of yesterday. I simply could not get used to this kind of coldness. But Chih-Hua told me in the morning that this was just what the tour book mentioned about the conditions of all the resorts in this area, not specific to the Baghmara Resort where we stayed. So I adjusted my mind to accept the condition --- no TV set simply means that we can be more relaxed without disturbance from the civilization, doesn’t it?
After a short rest, we started the first planned activity in the park --- riding ox carts to a Rapti River side to watch sunset (see Fig. 4 for the map).
With seven persons on a cart towed by two oxen, we went slowly through downtown Sauruha to a riverside where we saw a lot of bars. Many foreign tourists were already there, enjoying beer and snacks and waiting for the sunset moment to come.
I felt sorry at the beginning of the cart ride because the two oxen seemed to be quite laborious in towing the cart with a total of seven people of us on it. I told the group leader this was definitely not allowed in India because oxen are respected as sacred animals by Buddhists. But after a more precise calculation of the weight the two oxen could bear, I felt better because it definitely was larger than the total weight of the seven people of us.
The sun was seen just over the tree tops of the forest along the other river side when we arrived. The river was clean with lots of lotus-like plants, called cotton rose (水芙蓉), floating on it. Some canoes which we would ride the next day also appeared in the river, loaded with people.
It took no more than half an hour before the sunset was gone. Meimei took some pictures before that moment. We then rode the ox cart again back to the resort. Along the way, several children appeared to ask for something, and some of our members gave them candies. They increased in number and ran with our carts dangerously along a river shore until it got dark.
Fig. 4 Another map of Sauraha where we had elephant rides, canoe rides, sunset watching, etc.
The next program was a folk dance show around a fire while enjoying some food. The dance performed by local young people was mighty and excellent, including mainly actions of handing wood sticks skillfully, hitting one another’s stick in groups, and dancing round and round around the fire vividly in rhythm with loud fold songs and drum hitting. The show ended with inviting tourists to join their dances in a happy and exciting atmosphere.
After having a dinner with meals not much different from we had as lunch in the same dining hall in this afternoon, I went to bed early after taking pills for relieving my nose congestion and urine problems.