Monday, February 28, 2005

nepal - my first impressions...

Having totally failed to upload my intial posting in the departure lounge, i looked up at the board to discover my flight was "final calling" - they don't have anouncements in the loungeso i hadn't noticed before....

Ho hum, just about caught it!

My advice to anyone visiting Nepal is not to pre-arrange your visa this end as the "no visa" queue is miles shorter!! Filled out the form, attached my passport photo, paid my money... and bingo! 2 month visa all mine!

Security in Tribhuvan Airport is relaxed to say the least: as normal, bags go through x-ray machine, though noone is stationed at the monitor; and people go through the metal detector, which beeps for everyone and the single (armed) guard just shrugs and waves you through. :)

Eventually my bags came through on the belt, though was more than half expecting them to go missing as I had booked in about 5 hours early at the airport!

As I leave the building another cursory examination of my baggage (quick grope) is performed. The (armed) guard asks what this specific lump is on the right back side of my bag - I can't remember because I packed it three days ago... "erm... a roll-mat I think?".

"What is the purpose of your visit... trekking?". On agreement I get a big smile and waved through. Seems you could get anything into this country!

I wander out into the sunlight. It is only about 10:00am, but already feels warmer than the 12 degrees the pilot quoted...

have to go more later...


dubai... from the gold departure lounge, abu dhabi!

this is cutand paste from my first email... sorry about the formatting; i did spend abut an hour going throughit and changing misspellings and bad grammar, but htenlost everything when it didn't upload properly and i can't be arse to do it again (almost missed myflight the first time!)

please forward to anyone who might be interested, and sorry its long (there probably wont be many like these, but i have some time to kill !) well i have completed my dubai leg of the trip... stopped off for two nights and three whole days in dubai. the first day was spent finding the hotel - opted for a cheapo one, so in the middle of nowhere and the cabbie from abu dhabi airport (an "hour's drive" actually turned into two and a bit what with "stopping to pick up a police permit" and hunting for the hotel at the other end!); and some general wnadering around the area. v dissapointed with dubai after first day, dirty ramshackle place with hotel being pretty manky - paid extra for a double, cos is nice to have a big bed, but turned out to be a twin anyway... grr. for some reason couldn't pluck up the courage to go and ask for food anywhere - no sleep on the flight and being rather hungry didn't help... so after about 5 hours of wandering, i ended back at the hotel and fell asleep! woke up again at aroun ten absolutely ravenous, so headed out to find somehwere to eat. first place i cam across looking vaguely resauranty was called "south indian restaurant", so in i wander in full american tourist mode: shorts and t-shirt, "isn't this all sooo #quaint#" expression, and fear in my eyes. a waiter approaches to take my order and runs away at the first sound of english - fetches someone who can speak it! waiter explains (in far better english than my arabic/urdu) that there is no menu and gave me the choice of two things i didn't understand, followed by two other things i didn't understand! i thought curry, rice and naan would be translatable anywhere (i do live in the east end of london so am not entirely naive about these things?)! eventually brought some food, turned out to be a rather spicy rojan josh (tomatoey dish made with chunks of fresh green chili...), easy on the tomato and meat, and generous on the chili! came with a funny chapati type thing, only obviouly cooked in oil rather than dry... no cutlery, but that's ok - accustomed to eating with hands - is the fashionable thing to do on brick lane - like using chopsticks for chinky! anyway, contrary to the usual brick lane escapades, this did not fill me up, but only cost me about 1.50 equivalent GBP... ho hum. back to hotel, read, sleep. aint this travelling malarky exciting ..!? next day i woke up v early cos had slept twice the previous night and so was showered, read and still downstairs an hour and a half before breakfast... interesting breakfast of funny boiled sausage things ( germans might call them bratwurst, i suppose) with hard boiled eggs and bread and "puck" which is a lot like dairylea, i imagine. so i did the typical british thing and made it all into sandwiches. i got some funny lookd from the locals, despite my best efforts at eating with my right hand only...! after breakfast i made my way to the tourist information place two minutes away to get myself a map and an idea of what to do. despite announcing opening times of 9am-10pm saturday to friday, i waited outside till almost quarter to ten, taking the odd photo for tourists .. apparently nowhere opens much before 2 on a friday, so i guess i was lucky. armed with this information, i decided against the obligatory cheap "shopping" and hunted down anamazing waterpark my friendly travel agent mentioned she had visited and insisted i went to... about an hour on the bus. after my culinary adventure the previous evening i even had the guts to get a "tea" from a dogy-looking "cafeteria' place - every one was wandering around with plastic cups of brownstuff and i craving caffeine! anywho - they make it with condesned milk!! yuk, but once you get used to it, is actually quite nice (in a sickly, gooey kind of way!) on the bus: dubai has the most amazing architecture: once you get out of the back of nowhere, it really is striking - no two buildings are the same, not even the same style. mostly very adventurous and extravagant in design, and abviously not short of space, or a bob or two... in fact, driving from the airport the previous day i saw lots, and so much more under construction! the map i picked up at tourist info was filled with attractions, about half of which, it said, were still under construction! perhaps the most impressive are two resorts called The Palm (look em up on t'web?) which are reclaimed land masses (from the sea) which look like palm trees from bird's eys view, and house massive hotel complexes. a new project, which is perhaps MORE impressive, is The World - a series of 300 islands reclaimed off-shore which combine to make a full world map! in fact, even without these new places, dubai apparently boatss the top 5 (or so) most luxurious hotels on the planet - and why am i staying in a dump again?! arrive at the wild wadi water park and buy some trunks in the shop ( the first thing i realise i have not packed - but did remember in the way to the airport - oh well i need new ones anyway!) wild wadi is truely amazing - 23 different water flumes (ie ride on a rubber ring type) a lot of which are uphill, so no need to keep climbing stairs! one amusing called jumeirah (the loaction, pronounced "jew-mare-ah") sceirah (presmuably pronounced "scarer"!) - four or five storey climb, to be hurtled almost vertically down, apparently "at speeds of 60-80 kmh - experience weightlessness! don't know about weightlessness, but i certainly experienced a pretty gruesome wedgey! perhaps something better to do with a group of friends, but great fun nonetheless. they even have two flurides (or something like that) which are basically surfing simulaters with the water being pumped at you with great force, so if you get it right, you stay stationary and the water travels beneath you. took me only 2 goes to get back into my woolacombe ways and then some people were quite impressed! :) one of the features i missed, but read in the brochure on the bus on the way home (:() was the 60,000L of water they drop down an artificail cliff face right at the entrance of the park, on the hour, every hour, drenching unsuspecting entrants! also of note are two of dubai's best (at the moment) hotels, both situated right next door to wild wadi. one was caled jumierah beach hotel, and the other one "al-somthing" (can't remeber), both of which are just fabulous architecturally - don't worry, i got photos... dinner a little better the next night, another restaurant just around the corner, but with a menu and good, filling food. today, having been woken at half five by the loud-speakered minister "singing" from the mosque down the road (there is no escaping them, they are EVERYWHERE), and breakfasted on cold fried eggs, chips and puck, i again headed to tourist information to find out how to get back to abu dhabi and to get some ideas for the rest of my day (flight doesn't leave till 0355, so have hours to lug my huge bag around town ..) decided i wanted to have a tour on dubai creek, which divides dubai down the middle (into deria and bur dubai) on an "abra" ancient looking wooden hulled boat thingamies. (am supprised one of the operators hasn't named a few of the boats "cadabra"...), and turns out the bus/taxi rank with departures ot abu dhabi is on t'other side of creek. try to combine the two by having a tour and ending on the opposite side of the creek, but takes a full 10mins to explain this request to the drivers! ho hum, perhaps i should have tried in urdu? spent an enjoyabe hour being fed tea from a flask (just concentrate on driving will you - there are other boats everywhere and they are bigger than us!!) and taking photos of architecture, and the startling contrast between the hugely expensive, massive buldings on the waterfront, and the dhow (bigger, mostly beautiful and obviously very old, traditional, wooden arabic boats) operators, clearly living in poverty. eventually arrive in dubai with 9 hours before i need to think aqbout going to the airport... what to do? weather was lovely, so decided to find a beach... taxi driver didn't really understand, so after 5mins of debating we decided on "marina beach" because that sounded like i might get to see some boats too... turns out to be a private beach for members only, so am i left in the middle of abu dhabi with a huge heavy bag to lug around. i wandered down a dirt track which looke dlike to might end up at the sea, and sat on some rocks on the waters edge for a bit. did some research (using internet on t'phone) and discovered the only public beach in dubai is way out on the western edge of the city with no transport back... gazing out at the sea here was quite nice and i decided that a quick dip was in order, until i saw a huge rat and then i got thinking of contracting weils disease through my fresh wouds from the waterpark yesteray (managed to fall out of the rings on one of the more violent rides and had the whole system shut down for a bit while i tried to regain my perch on the inner-tube-of-doom!) so i settled on trying to find some food and a " tea"! got reading my new book over lunch (managed to finsh the other in one and a half days (a record for me!)) and then decided i couldn't really do much else in abu dhabo, what with my huge luggage, and not knowing where to go or what to do. ho hum. sat reading my book on the pavement outside the mall in front of a taxi rank until it was too dark to read (about half past 6) and then got a taxi to the airport. another dup of tea, this time with the Ultra-Horrible-Taste milk instead of condensed (i prefer the condensed actually!) and got reading my book again - only 9 hours to kill before my flight! but then i was approached by a nice lady (from the airport) who asked when my flight was and where i was going. i explained i had a long time to wait, but that i was fine, thankyou. she asked to see my ticket and passport, and promptly marched off with them "i'll see what i can do!" - great, no tickets or passport and in the middle of bloody nowhere!! but she came back in about five minutes and said i could check in early (get rid of heavy bag) and go and wait in the lounge and duty free areas if i wanted! so i get ushered to the first gold "queue" - obviously noone in it! - and then whisked through customs on the basis that "he going climb everwest in nepaw!" (ok, so you try typing in a thick philipino accent - think kim jong il!). i am now sitting in a beautiful first class loung with complimentary everything, feeling very positive about dubai! i would love to come back here: there seems to be lots to do, the more expensive hotels certainly seem very impressive and the weather is always glorious. possibly a family holiday destination in years to come, and definitely the ideal long weekend or short break in the sun for things like stag trips (hurry up and get married someone!) ok, me signing off - have bored myself enough already so you all must be asleep by now. was really for the benefit of mum, who is determined i am going to get shot or fall of something or not write for months at a time (tried to persuade her there was less likelihood of any of these things than if i stayed in the east end... but you all know what mums are like...) ;) love to hear from you, but don't be surprised if i go quiet in nepal .. let me know who i have missed of the mailing list? or if you'd rather not hear my rantings... love to all. nick x