Nepal is the perfect balance of adventure and sleepy villages, with sides of food, prayer flags, snow, pastries, and yaks – it's magical.
I'm sitting in a cafe in Kep in April and I’ve honestly never been so hot in my life.
I’m boiling just sitting here, doing nothing. I want to melt. Cold drinks are warm in five-minutes, ice melts in two, and you’re hot again in one. It’s inescapable. Kep in April is kind of horrible. So to console myself, I’ve decided to post about some of the coldest places we’ve been so far: Nepal.
Chris seemed to have this idyllic notion that we’d step across the border from India to Nepal, and birds would instantaneously start chirping amid a picturesque backdrop of snow-capped mountains, prayer flags, butterflies, and fawns. So we got our Nepalese visas and hovered on the Indian side of the border, prepared for the scene to majestically transform from its dusty, loud, uninviting, garbage-laden façade in to a vision of beauty in a Narnia-esque kind of way.
Suffice to say, the two-meters between India and Nepal look somewhat similar.
I would actually go as far as to say they look exactly the same.
At that point, we’d been traveling for so long and still looked like prehistoric rainbows from our Holi festivities, so that was a bit of a blow, and we pottered on to the bus to Lumbini.
Lumbini was interesting purely because it was the birthplace of Buddha, other than that, it was a generically hot and dusty town selling fairly ordinary curry, and a butt-load of alcohol, so we moved on to Pokhara the next evening in a government bus. The trip was supposed to take six-hours, and we got on at 9pm. After making a series of stops to pick up various steel poles, ropes, and tin from dingy alleyways so the driver could make some extra cash on the side, we arrived in Pokhara at three in the morning with no Lonely Planet guide, no map of the area, no general idea of where we were, no idea of where we wanted to go, no way of researching any of these things, and not surprisingly, nothing was open.
Luckily, there were three super-annoying dudes on the bus with us who clearly weren’t tired, laughed relentlessly, and were ready to walk the 5km to the town centre. At 3am. There was no way on Earth I was going to do that walk. When they realised I wanted to catch a taxi, they shrugged and decided to come. So half-an-hour later we're driving around all the closed hotels, until we stumble upon some cops who decided to demand a hotel open early and give us a room. We went to sleep at 4am and woke up at 8am to a very vibrant town.
After two-months of solid travel around a lot of very traditional Indian towns, the touristy town of Pokhara was fantastic. There were about a million coffee shops, bars, and overpriced tourist crap you want but don’t need – it was great. We could have stayed there for a week, but the constant fear of running out of time was too stressful, so we caught one of the 20 tourist buses the next day to Kathmandu.
We kind of expected the Pokhara bus station to be somewhat like Indian bus stations – full of food vendors carrying baskets full of deep fried curry balls, angrily yelling SAMOSA, CHAPATTI, CHAI, COFFEE ,CHAI, CHAI around a mass of open grills. Pokhara still had food vendors walking around with baskets of food, but to cater to the western masses, they were yelling things like CINNAMON SCROLL, CROISSANT, CHOCOLATE – something that would never happen in India.
It was seven in the morning, I was exhausted, and found it hysterical. The poor guy with the basket I bought my pastry from couldn’t work out why – he looked a little afraid.
Kathmandu is where the fawns and butterflies popped up. The cool temperatures made it everything you think Nepal should be, and more. Still loving tourist dens, we walked all over the western stomping grounds to cozy restaurants, bars, and cafes, selling everything from burgers, to mojitos, to pancakes, to Tibetan thukpa.
It. Was. Bliss.
There were thunderstorms and everything. We bought a little wooden magnetic chessboard and played it in cafes while the thunder and lightening raged outside. The great thing about chess and beer is that, if you’re losing, all you have to do is lift your hand and mash the board. That way you don’t lose, and everyone’s too beer'd to do anything about it. Win.
So Chris got sick of playing chess with me and we moved on to Nargarkot for three-days to see some Himalayas. Sadly, there was too much mist to see any mountains, but we liked it up there anyway. It reminded us a bit of Dharamsala (which we loved), so it was kind of ok – apparently it’s really clear in November.
So we frolicked around there to celebrate Chris putting up with my chess antics for three-years, before going back to Kathmandu for a night and having beers at the Hookah lounge with our new Japanese friend, Kei (who, due to a translation error, we accidentally sent to a hooker lounge…sorry, Kei). And that pretty much sums up our two-weeks in Nepal.
Even after explaining all that, I haven’t forgotten that I’m stifling.
I hope that wherever you are, you are cold. If you're thinking of heading to Kep in April, I advise against it.