Monday, November 29, 2010

38.5 hours a week and rising...

That's how many hours a week of Bhatti chhaina (power cut) we now have. What fun. This is a pic of Robin's BIG map of Nepal that he has spent 2 years trying to get made - it's being checked by our crack inspection team who are all making sure they can find their village on it!
As you can see it is a terrifically popular thing to look at. We have just spent most of today designing map covers - you have NO IDEA how much that makes your brain hurt.

So what else is happening? Well it's wedding season AGAIN. And what electricity there is in town is clearly not safe.....
click to read

click to read
And as for the passport office - what a disaster. There is only one place in all of Nepal to issue passports (around a thousand people or so a day apply) and they have installed ONE toilet. It is so charming going past the office and seeing the pee dribbles along the outer walls of the office - which used to be the Royal Palace. Not so many trekkers around now and for a few days we were even able to see the mountains from the 'du, which is a rare thing these days.
Time for a hot shower before the cold sets in.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Mainly fine throughout the country

or so the weather report invariably states. 'with occasional rain showers in some parts'. Very useful.

So I now have the sinus disease that's going round town, and spent yesterday in bed watching High Grant movies - that made me feel MUCH better.

Robin is trying to get the world's largest map of Nepal printed today for our do at the embassy tonight. We thought it was just a small dinner party but it has now turned into a huge occasion where there isn't enough room for us all inside, so warm clothing is the order of the day (or night) since it now gets below 10 after dark.
Love it!
All the angry trekkers have been airlifted from Lukla now, and Katty has quietened down considerably since they have all gone home. The trekking season is now pretty much over except for the few diehards who love the cold clear air of December, when you get probably the best views of the mountains and nowhere is crowded.

Ooh I forgot to tell you that last Friday night the caretaker treasurer was trying to table to budget which is about 3 months late, and as he made his way to the table with the red ribbon wrapped briefcase some Maoist parliamentarians 'manhandled' him, punches were thrown and the briefcase was wrecked. What a dignified performance.

Got a few more weeks here before we head for home and the joys of Xmas cooking. Hopefully we can avoid most of the poxy xmas tunes in the supermarket...I think next year we'll xmas here to avoid it completely. And I can save my pennies to come back next year to get the other eye done...

Monday, November 22, 2010

my goodness liquid meals are BAD for you

must try solids one day.

Since we last met I have received the all clear from the eye doctor - which was nice! I just have to come back next year and get the other eye done which I knew was going to happen anyway. Shame I can't manage it now but he is running out of time as he is off to some conferences next week. It's a good reason to come back though...

Thought you might like to know the state of crime and punishment in this krazy place. Click to enlarge and enjoy.
 I think I would have to be really busting big time to consider going in there....
So yesterday we attended an exhibition of Balgo art from Australia thanks to my new BFF the Aussie ambassador. Lovely paintings, wine and snacks followed by an outing to Sams with her and her entourage. Oh dear. Probably the funniest thing was as she was leaving our friend Uttam (who is 65 and very old school) bowed to her (and almost fell over) swept his arm and said 'Excellency'. Ha ha too funny. Felt a little tired this morning. I wonder why.

I wandered down to Basantapur Durbar Square for a meeting with the map guys, and took an artistic black and white shot for you. They really do have the most wonderful wood carvings in this town. Shame they now prefer cement.
The weather is starting to turn quite cold now, so I have been head down bum up in the clothing stash finding nice warm things to wear. We have a dinner at the embassy on Wednesday which has a dress code of 'warm and casual' since we might be outside. Brrr.

We're now back to powercuts every day except Sunday (although we didn't have any on Saturday when we should have), and the fires are going in the restaurants and in Sams. We also have Thankgsgiving dinner turkey buffet on Thursday night, and I believe on Friday we are meeting a French glacial cave explorer for wine. For the life of me I can't recall what happens on Saturday but I know there is something.

See how busy and glam our life is here?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

back to the busy social whirl

Kathmandu - where the phone never stops! At least it means people are thinking of us....

Right now though Robin has the Katty Koff which is doing a great job of keeping us awake.

Now that winter has officially arrived - on the Nepali calendar it is now Mangsir, the first month of winter - the fire at the famous Chimney restaurant at the Yak and Yeti has been lit, and the load shedding has ramped up to 29 hours a week for the moment. That will of course increase over the next few months.

The Lukla flights have once again failed to fly for 3 or 4 days - which means that loads of p'd off people are stuck in the mountains after their Everest treks, unable to make their connections home.  Because they never leave enough days in the itinerary in case of bad weather. Which is what we have at the moment. And hilariously, on Tuesday, a Saudi prince was leaving here after a 3 day visit in his private jet. Which meant that 50 domestic flights were cancelled and international flights got redirected to Delhi. How stupid. Don't ask me how this place plans to accommodate the million tourists it wants to attract next year. Or fly them around. Or feed them. Or anything.

Here's a delightful item from the paper:
I'm not sure I understand.....     
 Click to read it in all its glory.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Back from the jungle

Buddha mandala from tihar festival

And what an interesting time it was. The night before I was leaving I had a pizza for dinner - same pizza I've had for ages here - and about 2am I realised I needed NOT to be in bed, but in the loo, where I spent the next few hours. For some reason I didn't have any Cipro in my room, so I had to send one of the hotel boys to the hospital round the corner to get some before I headed to the airport. The one hour plane trip and the 2 hour bouncy jeep drive were sensational with the runs!!!

And poor brave Sir Robin and the boys did have to fly to Surkhet then 5 hr drive in a falling apart bus to get to me in the jungle - not happy.

Didn't see any tiger, but had a fun elephant ride and a bit of a jungle walk. 
The rhino that used to live in the army camp next door

Here's our accommodation at Bardia Jungle Cottage. Very relaxing. And right next to the park entrance. Geoff and the boys really enjoyed it, and they flew home yesterday after 4 weeks of fun and frolic. And Luke never wants to get on a horse again. Elephants are a different matter.

Monday, November 8, 2010

off to the jungle

Now the festivals have finished for a while, and I am off to Nepalganj tomorrow to meet the boys and go to Bardia National Park in the far west of Nepal. It should be hot in the day and cold at night which makes packing a nightmare. Oh well.
I got a lovely pashmina and some money from my bhai Puru yesterday on the occasion of bhai tikka. Can never have too many pashminas - or earrings.
Meanwhile we are having problems with the flights from Simikot to Nepalganj for the lads - the word today is that the pilot/airline whoever wants to take the flight to Surkhet instead. Which isn't the same place. And isn't where I will be arriving. Nor is it where we are going....
I am heartily sick and tired of the way the airlines here just redirect flights at the last minute. I just heard that the 'issue' today is because the World Food Program (don't get me started!!!@#@) have their rice stores at Surkhet and the airline doesn't want to fly to 2 destinations. But surely, I hear you scream they charge WFP for the cost? And it is a fully ticketed scheduled flight!!!! Like I said, DON'T GET ME STARTED.
So now I have 2 phones ringing and a man banging on the door with my tray tea as I have missed lunch as I am too busy trying to find someone to shout at.
In view of the fact (laughable as it may seem) that Nepal is hoping to attract a million tourists next year, and get some of them to remote destinations, I can see a few letters to the editor etc on this one from 'Ticked off of Thamel' (that's me BTW). How wonderful that Robin is doing a series of newspaper interviews next week. Mmmwaaahaahaa!
And I didn't mention that all the hotels are full to overflowing right now, and restaurants are taking an hour some nights to get meals out because they are so crowded. What also hinders efficiency is that unlike 15 or so years ago, most tourists here are in groups - often 12 or more - and it is much ore difficult for the kitchen to get 12 meals all ready at the same time instead of individual or 2 meals. Which can be good for me as I am easy to serve and get out the door again, but I sure get some nasty stares from large groups from certain European countries who didn't do so well in WW1 WW2. If you know what I mean. But I really dislike hearing the staff being yelled at when they are doing their utmost - especially recently when it is festival time and many places have only half or so of their staff - just like Xmas people like to be with their family for the festivals here as well. Chill out you lot and have another drink!
In fact I should try chilling out as there is nothing much I can do about this stupid plane situation - except that Robin keeps ringing me up and telling me to ring this that and the other person and get something happening - afraid that it's seeming impossible right now but the travel agent bless him is having a go.
Right now there isn't enough internet juice to post a pic I had for you, but hopefully I can manage it when we get back from the jungle. So you won't see me till the weekend.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Happy Diwali!

And another Happy New Year (Newari Sambhat this time).Nepal has 5 New Years: The 'western' one on Jan 1, Lhosar (Tibetan) on about 14 Feb, Nepali on about 15 April, this one today and another that we can't remember. All the non western ones are ruled by the phases of the moon so are a little hard to predict. So now it is either: 2010, 2137, 2067, or 1130. So I am either very old, the same age, or not born yet.

 Last night was Lakshmi puja, so everyone washed their shops/houses, hung malas (garlands) of marigolds and made mandala and offerings out the front at dusk with a line of coloured powder and tiny clay lamps or candles to guide the goddess Lakshmi into their houses to bring wealth and happiness for the next year. Here's some pics to demonstrate.
And just like Christmas lights on houses at home, everyone wanders around to see what everyone else has done.
And although this is a shop which sells Tibetan Buddhist paintings, they don't take the chance of ignoring the Hindu goddess and missing out on good luck and business. i like that.
Tomorrow is Bhai tikka, when I go to my brothers house and get the powder on my forehead, maybe a present and then lunch. Just like Christmas without the turkey.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

more festival fotos

This man is smiling because I bought 2 bangles from him for Rs100. Everyone likes to have some shiny new jewellery for the festival, and I'm no exception!
This is yet another jewellery emporium tizzied up for the festival. I certainly can't afford to shop in these places, but like they say over here, looking is free!
Here's the powder we'll be sticking on each other's foreheads on Sunday. A colour to go with every outfit. I just have to make sure I don't get any in my eyes. And yes, it is hard to wash off.

And what, I hear you ask, of brave Sir Robin and co? Well they endured 2 days of horseriding to get to the pass camp, but they did get to enjoy a cultural evening in the village which hopefully took their minds off their sore bums. They should have made it over the pass by now and will be headed down to Simikot and a reunion next week in Nepalganj airport, followed by jungle hijinks and lost of yummy things transported by yours truly.

I have NO idea...

I just love it when people think that using lots of big words makes them sound intelligent. Click on the pic to make it large enough to decipher - I promise you it's worth it!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Tihar Time

 Today is the first day of the 5 day celebration Diwali/Tihar. The animal worshipped today is the crow, but I'm not having any of that caper. I did however go to Asan, the famous local market for a wander around and bought a few things - everyone has to shop in this festival. I took a lot of pics for those of you who haven't experienced the festival - all the shops gaily decorated and every shopkeeper has branched out into the flashing light business. Funny when the country has powercuts but anyway... My hotel has the lights hanging for 5 floors so it will look lovely at night.

And here is a flashing picture of the great goddess herself. If you are all very good I'll post the movie of it another day.
Jewellery shops are especially OTT 
Stay tuned there will be more photos tomorrow - the connection here is a little off and on - well more off than on actually!

Monday, November 1, 2010

time for festival shopping

Yesterday morning I went to Tilganga again for another check up and  got the thumbs up. I am now seeing better out of my left eye than I have for decades and I am now back to roaming the streets as carelessly as ever.This is a pic of some of the shoes of people who were waiting for attention while I was there - another pile was further up the stairs.

Tihar is coming in a few days so I have been busy buying myself a present - well I'm worth it! This time of year everyone also does work on their house to make it pleasing for the goddess Lakshmi to enter. In honour of this I purchased a new shower curtain for the hotel room - how glamorous is that for only Rs350! I also need to start thinking about a present for my bhai for the bhai tikka day on Sunday - we have to exchange gifts and eat lots of sweets - I think I can manage that one OK.

Meanwhile Kathmandu has been swamped by tourists in the last few days - all the hotels were full and people were being sent out of town to get rooms. How crazy. And yet the government (if you could call it that) is hoping a million tourists will come next year. God help us. The airport won't cope, there aren't enough hotels, and we already have rations of electricity and water. So I don't think it will be a grand success. But I could be wrong - I was once before!

Robin and the boys are now in the Limi Valley and heading for a pass to get back to Simikot - they've had fine weather and all is well. Their menagerie of horses, donkeys, dzopkios and yaks is also doing well.

Today I went shoe shopping and had to take some photos for you girls - just tell me which ones you want!