Nepal – Goodbye, Farewell, So Long….

Pokhara, Nepal, June 2017:  After 3 weeks of teaching mathematics and English spellings to the local kids, its time to say goodbye for another season and head home to England where hopefully the summer will have arrived. Its always hard to say goodbye to Nepal and especially to those here in Pokhara. But goodbye it is as the long road ahead beckons. First its that 7-8 hour bus ride to Kathmandu for a night stop. A late afternoon flight to Abu Dhabi the next day to connect with a red eye flight to London in the early hours of day three!

Its off season so the airport queues are somewhat less than they otherwise would be. The security queue is nice and short which enables me to grab some time for a little plane spotting before jetting off to Abu Dhabi.

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These poor Air India passengers are made to wait in the rain for transport to the terminal.  Below, a selection of the operators arriving and departing TIA, Kathmandu Airport.

At last its time to leave Nepal and head towards London via Abu Dhabi on this Etihad Airbus. The plane is practically empty, surprising since these Middle Eastern flights are usually packed with migrant workers. A seat on the right, by the window should provide some nice views leaving the Kathmandu Valley….

This flight circles the airport as it climbs up out of the valley before setting course towards Abu Dhabi following the Himalayan Mountain range – and what a view!

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Goodbye Nepal, nice to have been here once again….

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Nepal – Mountains And More Mountains

Pokhara, Nepal, June 2017:  well, I’ve made it to June in one piece. Having started out in January flying from London to Nepal and onward to various points in Southeast Asia this years trip is almost at an end. Just over 3 weeks and I’ll be jetting off back to London, but before then I’m going to enjoy just a little bit more of the Himalayas and some of the Nepali local life.

Despite June being on the cusp of the rainy season, there are thankfully still enough gaps in the weather to grab some rather nice images of the Annapurna mountains, especially early morning and after a spell of rain.

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June is also a good time for other forms of nature, especially bugs, snakes and lizards. The Bananas start to ripen, sweet and delicious with no added chemicals! Here’s a few of my latest Nepal natural history shots…

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June is also when the mosquito’s get hungry and have a special desire for white skin! The good news is that mosquito’s in Nepal are big and you can usually see them coming during daylight. The big black and white striped variety can be dangerous so watch out!

I’ve written plenty about Nepal, including my earthquake experience. Rather than have me write repetitively, please feel free to use the search box for my previous Nepal posts where you will find an interesting insight into local life.

 

Nepal – Landslide on the Prithivi Highway

Kathmandu, Nepal, June 2017:  Kuala Lumpur, Kathmandu and Pokhara – yes, after having recovered from a nasty lingering virus I’m ready to tackle the now infamous Prithivi highway to Pokhara once again. It’s a journey not for those with a nervous disposition or the unadventurous  – for you, I’d recommend taking a flight, about £80 one way and 25 minutes. By bus, £6 and upto 8 hours, more during the rainy season.

you can see photos from a previous post here, but be warned – not if your the nervous type 🙂   Read Post now…

A broken down truck, usually with a flat tyre is enough to bring the Prithivi highway to a grinding halt. This time its a landslide, well that’s the word on the bus as it comes to a gentle stop behind a thousand other vehicles. An estimated 2 hour delay is going to make this a very long day! So, stuck miles away from any town or village, the only thing to do is stroll up and down in the stifling heat of the day. Actually its not that bad since the natives work up courage to say a few words and then as if by magic a truck appears with ice-creams and frozen lollies. Oh and the nearby monkeys provide some acrobatics for a while!

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And so some 4 hours late, with raging thunderstorms all around, the bus pulls into Pokhara bus park – at least here in one piece with sanity still intact.

 

Nepal – Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Kathmandu and a Virus

Bangkok, Thailand, May 2017: Back to Nepal via Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur but any thoughts of sightseeing inbetween have been somewhat curtailed. A nasty, debilitating virus has hit with its ugly symptoms manifesting on my first night in Bangkok beginning with the odd sensation that I needed to occasionally stretch then tighten my leg muscles. By morning I was quite feeling of nausea with ebbing energy levels. Thereafter sickness kicked in until around 3 in the afternoon by which time I had zero energy. Yes, its hard to even get out of bed and head for the toilet pan! Any thoughts of getting out are completely out of the question for today and probably tomorrow.

Day two arrives with energy at zero having had a disturbed night, but at least the vomiting has ceased. Zero energy and zero appetite but I can just about drag myself towards the kettle and make some tea. So, one more day in this Bangkok hotel before my flight to Kuala Lumpur. Sleeping better now but with a very sore back – like sleeping with a sunburn.

Day three, still with energy well below par I ‘m able to drag myself onto 2 buses and make my way across town to the airport for my flight to Kuala Lumpur. A freezing cold bus and still with that sore skin sensation its not a great journey! An odd mix of hunger and nausea prevents me from eating any quantities of food. I have an appetite back but then when faced with food I can’t eat that much of it. Kuala Lumpur late afternoon with energy back down to almost zero. Still no real appetite.

Day four with no real energy. All I can do is drag myself around the guesthouse here in Kuala Lumpur. That hunger with nausea sensation is still here spoiling what should be the best food experience in all of Asia. That soreness of the skin hasn’t subsided any either.

Day five with a little more energy. Its a real effort but I did make it out to the street and across to the shopping mall ATM. Still unable to eat in any quantity. Stll sleeping with that sunburn sensation.

Day 6, the same as day five! With a flight to Kathmandu tomorrow I’m seriously considering seeking medical attention – thankfully I have insurance! There’s a pharmacy across the street in the NU Mall. A very nice Chinese gives me about half a dozen white pills and is confident they’ll fix everything! These Chinese pills are making me feel rather light headed and well, after that I don’t know what happened since presumably I was sound asleep.

Day 7 and a miracle -yes, those Chinese pills have fixed everything. No more soreness, energy levels back to almost normal. After almost a week of sufferance, I’m ready for the challenges of road travel in Nepal.

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Thailand – The Old Town, Phuket

Nai Yang, Phuket, Thailand, May 2017:  About an hour South is Phuket town, the principle settlement and administrative capital of the island. On -line references to the old town, a preserved quarter, should make for an interesting few hours away from the beach. A local bus leaves the airport every hour, costs 100 Baht one way with various stops along the way. With the bust station just a few streets away from the old town, just a 10 minute stomp and one finds streets with character and steeped in colonial history.

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The area is limited to a few streets of shop houses turned quaint and quirky coffee shops that seem to be springing up all over Thailand. The odd villa and exquisite mansion can be spotted on the edges as can the local temple. Here’s a round up of what the old town looks like….

Temples are always good for few moments of escapism – escape from the hustle and bustle of the outside streets and relax in the peace and calm of a Buddhist temple complex. If the timing is right you can get lunch too!

On the edge of the old town…

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Here’s some useful Google links….

Bus Station for local bus towards the airport – Google Map

The Old Town – Google Map

Airport Bus Stop – Google Map

Thailand – Mysterious Sunrise and Magical Sunset, Phuket

Nai Yang, Phuket, Thailand, May 2017: Online research will often reveal references to Phuket’s magical sunsets but very little about the sunrise. So lets put that right – right now. Being non-alcoholic it must follow then that I don’t have hangovers and thus can arise at silly hours of the morning. Like today for example, up at 4.30 am for an hours drive North to catch the Sunrise at 6.  No i haven’t hired a car, or scooter but thanks to the generosity of the guesthouse owner, 2 of us are being driven to a view point somewhere on the Northeastern coastline just across the islands bridge with the mainland (Google Map) .

Sunrise: Once across the bridge ,a route meanders through rustic villages situated between jungle clad hills – its almost a step back in time. Narrow concreted roads, deserted this time of the morning as twilight breaks in the distance. Eventually a sign indicating the way up. Up into the hillsides to a viewpoint, and just in time to witness the mysterious, magical sunrise – quiet, not a breath of air, not even the birds have woken yet!

What do you make of this? Worth the effort? Comment with your descriptions, thanks.

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Sunset: Sunsets on Phuket are a whole lot easier to catch once those hangovers are done with, or not as the case maybe. Just stumble over to a west facing beach and wait.

Wait for the magical sunsets like this one captured at Nai Yang.

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Thailand – 200 Baht and a Dirty Beach, Phuket

Nai Yang, Phuket, Thailand, May 2017:  I hate to do this, but since I’m not being paid to write nice things, I can! I have to dispel the myth that Thailand’s beaches are pristine – the Beach here in Nai Yang on Phuket Island is filthy. Adding insult to injury the authorities here are demanding a 200 baht payment from Whites before even stepping foot near to the so called pristine white sands Thailand is famous for. Since its my first Thai beach experience, this is a huge disappointment, not a great start to the week.

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Its not all bad news though. Before 8.30 Am and after £.30 PM the payment booth is unattended and when the booth is manned there are ways to navigate around it requiring a little bit of jungle trekking.

Thailand – Phuket via Bangkok and the Phoenix

Bangkok. Thailand, May 2017:  Its a 5 1/2 hour flight with Air Asia X from Seoul to Bangkok’s Don Meuang International Airport. 10 days in Thailand, mostly on Phuket Island and in the vicinity of Nai Yang (Google Map).  With an 11.30 AM departure plenty of time to grab a few airplane photos. Quite a lot of photos as it happens – there’s a 90 minute delay on this Air Asia X Airbus 330 flight.

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Bangkok Don Meuang is an easy airport to get through because there aren’t that many international flights thus immigration queues are relatively short. If one is travelling light with only cabin baggage then plane seat to bus stop is about 40 minutes. Now I need to get across to the Phoenix Hotel located in the Lat Krabang area, right next to Bangkok’s main gateway airport – Suvarnabhumi.

So here’s how to get across to the Phoenix hotel, for a night stop prior to the next flight leaving Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport:

Don Meuang bus stop (Google Map), local public bus 29 or 25 to the Sky Train station of Mo Chit (Google Map) Around 30 minutes and about 35p for the ride.

BTS Sky Train from Mo Chit to Phaya Thai – transfer to the airport line. Journey time of about 20 minutes costing 80p.

Phaya Thai (Google Map) airport line to Lat Krabang (Google Map), one stop before the airport, 97p and 40 minutes.

From Lat Krabang station, the Phoenix hotel is about 15-20 minutes of stomping along some rather menacing looking streets – yes its dark, almost 10 pm, prime time for the plethora of guard dogs eyeing up the situation of a lone tourist weighed down with a backpack! Thankfully they’r all behind bars, or at least tied up as they snarl, snap and bark in unison. I’m glad to finally reach the Phoenix and crash (Google Map)

Next Stop, Phuket….

 

 

South Korea – The Last Word

Seoul. South Korea, May 2017: I arrived here some 4 weeks ago with the pre-conceived idea the country is full of glitzy shopping malls, Americanisation to the hilt and people like robots. While its true that developed Asian nations have largely followed the Manhattan path and its people have an addiction to all things digital, in Korea there is still enough culture among modernity that one can easily forget the plethora of American influence around the place. So here’s a summery of the ‘Good, the Bad and the Ugly’ of South Korea.

The Good: Seoul is a wonderful, vibrant and very modern city. Clean and organised for its 3 million inhabitants.  Getting around Seoul and Korea in general is easy, cheap and overall a great experience on local transport. Andong, a great little town oozing with culture. and then there’s Busan. Another wonderfully vibrant city. Blue sea, clean beaches and not too much Americanization there, yet! Getting around is equally a great experience.

The Bad: The culinary experience is tricky to navigate. The local Food scene can be bland and expensive – meat eaters, fish lovers pay the heaviest price. Vegetarians can find their food options limited – Tofu and noodles, soups – nothing much under £4 – £5 for a dish. Koreans have an addiction to all things digital – even at the supermarket checkout leading to a degree of arrogance. Purchasing single and small quantities of items in shops is a frustrating task. I found it near impossible to buy a single tube of toothpaste, a small box of tea bags or a single banana. Groceries are outrageously expensive – Lipton’s Black Tea Bags, £6!

The Ugly: choking then Spitting in Public.

Costs: Cheap accommodation is hard to find in Seoul and Korea in general. Seoul, I stayed in a small box type room for £11 per night in Mokdong, someway from the city, found on Air BnB. In Andong the cheapest I could find was £15 per night to sleep on the floor in someones house. In Busan, I had to resort to a hostel, near the beach at £15 per night. 4 weeks accommodation came to £415.

I managed to average the food and groceries expense to around £7.50 per day thanks to free rice at the guesthouse in Seoul and I still managed to taste traditional Korean delights like Kim Bap! Food expense then came to £210.

With getting around on public transport and the DMZ trip costing another £90 my trip to South Korea, excluding flights came to around £715 for 4 weeks, £178.75 average for a week.

And so here’s the last word from South Korea – Awesome!

Next Stop: Phuket Thailand