A Travellerspoint blog

April 2009


semi-overcast 30 °C
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We left the hustle bustle of Kathmandu on friday evening and retreated a long way further up the hill to a tiny place called Nagarkot (7000ft up) . There is nothing to do in Nagarkot apart from sit around and soak up the glorious views of the mountains. Unfortunatly the weather was not great when we were there so the views didnt really appear, but we had a great time just relaxing! Our hotel turned out to be a little wooden cabin set on top of the hill, so it was a nice place to sit and watch the world go by! We have come back down the hill today and returned to Kathmandu. P1050236.jpgP1050232.jpgP1050227.jpg
We arrived back at the hotel in good spirits after a relaxing weekend to find out that our bus we would be getting the next day to the border has been cancelled due to a road blockade. Sigh. Since then we have been running around Kathmandu trying to simultaneously get our money back from the bus tickets and find another way out of the country. The only way we can do it is to fly, as we cannot miss our flight from Varanasi back to Mumbai. We have forked out a small fortune, but the plan has now been remoulded. We get a flight tomorrow afternoon from Kathmandu to Varanasi, where we will spend the night before getting our next flight the following morning to Mumbai. It has all come together, if a little haphazardly! So much for having a relaxing weekend eh?

I shall write a quick entry when we get to Mumbai, just to let you all know. After that the next entry will be from Bangkok!

Missing you all lots and lots,

Chris and Alex xxx

Posted by chrisalex 05:16 Archived in Nepal Tagged backpacking Comments (1)

Kathmandu and Everest!

The top of the world!

sunny 30 °C
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The trip to Nepal was a long and tiring one. Firstly our train was 3 hours late from Varanasi, meaning we arrived in the heat of the day in Gorakhpur. We got a very cramped bus to the border town of Sunali, where we passed through the immigration barriers, which were laughable to say the least! We got a taxi from the border straight to Kathmandu, which the taxi driver said would take 6 hours, but it ended up taking nearly 8! The road to Kathmandu was in a very bad state, and the pollution was the worst we have ever seen! We arrived late a night and passed out straight away, after a journey which took over 48 hours!

Our hotel is really nice, set away from the road, with a beautiful secluded garden, a very nice retreat! We spent the first day walking around Kathmandu, which we both really enjoy. It has a very relaxed vibe, and despite being full of tourists, it seems to have retained quite a lot of the Nepalese traditions. The Nepalese are really friendly people, and a lot less intrusive than Indians. On the second day we took a trip to Durbur Square, which is a large collection of temples gathered in an old square in the heart of the old city. The 3 main cities in Nepal – Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur each have their own Durbur Square, as the Kings at the time each tried to out do each other. The following day we took a day trip to visit the nearby cities of Patan and Bhaktapur, and discovered their Durbur Square's to be of similar style but the quality differed greatly. Bhaktapur was by far the most impressive and well restored P1050020.jpg, followed by Patan P1040945.jpg, which was smaller but the quality of the temples were remarkable!P1050086.jpg Kathmandu's Durbur Square is the largest but due to traffic and years of pollution, it has lost its former glory unfortunately.

Today we got up very early (4am) to get ready and get a taxi to the airport for our Everest flight. I don’t think words can really do it justice, but it was absolutely amazing! It was an hour flight and it took us in a loop right over the Himalayan Range, during which each passenger (there were only 16 of us – tiny plane!) got to go up to the cockpit. P1050119.jpg Chris obviously got very excited at this point, and ended up going in twice! The photos we got are pretty good, but seeing it for ourselves was the most amazing thing ever. Totally worth every single penny! P1050141.jpgP1050160.jpg100_2662.jpg100_2668.jpg100_2669.jpg100_2670.jpg100_2676.jpg100_2678.jpgP1050180.jpg

We got back to the hotel before 9am and had breakfast in the garden. We spent the rest of the afternoon lazing in the garden and then we went up to Swayambhunath, which is a famous stupa sitting on top of the hill above Kathmandu. P1050206.jpgP1050201.jpg We sat up there and watched the sunset before walking back down the hill for a cheap steak dinner! P1050218.jpg I don’t think this day could be anymore perfect! Plus we get a lie in tomorrow before we make a move to Nagarkot, which is supposed to have stunning views of the Himalayan range, if the weather is good!

Hope you are all well, missing you all lots!
Lots of Love
Chris and Alex xxx

Posted by chrisalex 08:02 Archived in Nepal Tagged backpacking Comments (1)


sunny 38 °C

We got an overnight train from Darjeeling, which was overcrowded and we were glad to be off it the next morning! Varanasi is not what either of us were expecting. For starters its full of small little streets which are full with people, market stalls and cows. We took a stroll down to the river last night where the banks have been converted into ghats (steps leading down to the river). P1040904.jpgP1040912.jpgP1040915.jpg
We wandered slightly too far and stumbled upon the famous 'burning ghat' where Hindus cremate their dead, after they have been submerged in the Ganges. It wasn't as graphic as we both thought, but we didnt go any further once we had seen a few dead bodies being carried up the steps. P1040910.jpg Tour guides were offering boat rides down the river, which basically stop right at the foot of the 'burning' steps so you can watch the funeral ceremony. Slightly too far I think. Further along the river is where normal prayers take place , so we lingered a while to watch the sunset puja (prayer ceremony). P1040916.jpg
Today we have been walking around Varanasi. It is much like any other pilgrim town, lots of people and bustling markets. Very hot here as well, about 38 degrees today, which is far to hot to be walking around in! Tomorrow we head off to Nepal, which we are both excited about. It will be a long journey, but we are hoping that seeing Mt. Everest will make it all worth it. After just over a week in Nepal we are coming back down to Varanasi where we are getting a flight back to Mumbai, which is where we will be for our last few days in India.

Missing you all lots,

Chris and Alex xxx

Posted by chrisalex 04:20 Archived in India Tagged backpacking Comments (2)


sunny 24 °C

We got an overnight train from Calcutta to Darjeeling, the land of tea! Our hotel is just out of the main hustle bustle of the town, so we get an amazing view over the whole valley. P1040881.jpg Unfortunately the weather hasn’t been great since we have been here; there is a lot of low lying cloud which has gathered in the valley. It has cheered up a bit today though! Darjeeling is very hilly indeed, more so than Shimla, luckily it’s not that hot here as well or we would be suffering!P1040885.jpg

We wanted to go on the little toy train which takes you on a 2 hour trip through the valley, but when we arrived this morning we were told that it was fully booked, and as we are leaving tomorrow we don’t have enough time left! A shame really, as we would both liked to have done it! Instead we took a trip to the Happy Valley Tea Plantation, which is the plantation who supplies the finest tea in the world to their main customer, Harrods of Knightsbridge. P1040899.jpgP1040887.jpgP1040888.jpg We got a tour around the factory and learnt all about the fascinating world of tea, a lot goes into that one little cup. P1040889.jpgP1040892.jpg Chris and I were shocked to learn that the tea pickers (all women), work 8 hours a day for 60 rupees (about 90p). Clearly they are not seeing any of the profits of their labour! After our tour we got dragged to the cafe, where we drank a cup of harrods tea for about 35p each! The finest tea is brewed in 5 seconds and you only add milk to lower quality tea apprently. There are 3 grades of tea, the highest being the most expensive (the property of Harrods). Tea bags are a mix of leaves and the shoots which are ground down into 'dust', therefore making them cheaper! Here ends the tea lesson. P1040886.jpg

We have spent the rest of the day walking around Darjeeling, watching the various inhabitants carry large loads on their backs all the way up the hills! Rather them than me!

We leave tomorrow afternoon to go to Varanasi, which is famous for where they cremate human bodies by the side of the Ganges. Could be interesting…

Hope everyone is well, missing you all lots

Chris and Alex xxx

Posted by chrisalex 02:18 Archived in India Tagged backpacking Comments (1)

Colombo, Chennai and Calcutta!

sunny 37 °C

Wow did we have a tiring journey to get back to India. We spent the last 2 days of Sri Lanka in Colombo, which was nice enough but there is not much on offer really. Its just a city like any other, but it was good to catch up on ourselves a bit. Times are hard in Sri Lanka, so the guesthouse we stayed at we ended up having it to ourselves! We got caught in a rather heavy thunder storm on the last afternoon (alas, we forgot umbrellas). We ended up getting completely soaked and trying in vain to dry out our clothes all afternoon, as we were flying that evening! We dried them enough to pack in the end, and head off to the airport at 11pm (we got up at 8am, and the flight is at 3.20am). The airport was a complete farce, we had to wait for 2 hours just for a check-in gate, and when we finally did manage to check-in, it was about 3am! We rushed through the various checks, all of which seem to achieve little, but still! When we finally got to the departure lounge, there was a final call for our plane to board, which was silly as there were at least another 50 people behind us in the queue! We were so flustered and tired at this point we just ran straight to the gate, on to the plane, to find out that it was about 30% full. Sigh! We couldn’t get off either as customs is conveniently placed right at the edge of the gateway! So we ended up sitting on the plane for another hour, watching all the various Indians climb on board with bags full of duty free! Either way, we were very tired by the time we set off, and hour later, at about 4.30am.

The flight in itself was fine and we arrived in Chennai just over an hour later. We tried not to sleep on the plane, as it only make you more tired, and we needed to keep our wits about us for arrival in Chennai. We got a taxi from airport to hotel and pretty much passed out straight away for the rest of the day, after being awake for about 25 hours! We had a lazy day in Chennai and got an early train the following morning to Calcutta. The train took 30 hours, and was very tiring. We ended up being about an hour late, which for a train that takes that long, is quite impressive!

We have only had yesterday afternoon and the whole of today in Calcutta, as we leave tonight on an overnight train. Calcutta is really nice, but very hot indeed. The old colonial buildings are really well preserved and seem not to look out of place here. The city is also cleaner than we thought it would be (its still obviously dirty, but by Indian standards its immaculate!). Yesterday afternoon we walked to the Victoria Memorial, which is a large building, similar in style to the Taj Mahal and Capitol Hill in America. We went to see it just before sunset, but were not allowed entry as it had closed early for easter, and would also be closed for the following day. Apparently it houses various statues of our royal family, but your not allowed to take photos so we couldn’t have shared it anyway! P1040835.jpgP1040836.jpgP1040846.jpg

After dinner we went back to the Victoria Memorial to see the sound and light show. P1040856.jpg This seems to be an Indian thing, which they basically tell you the history of the place or building, with various coloured lights and sounds! It was the funniest thing I have ever been to. It basically detailed the history of Calcutta in the cheesiest way we have ever seen, needless to say we felt like we got our money’s worth! After standing up for the national anthem at the end, we had to run out in laughter!

Today we have been walking around the city, madness in this heat, but you get a better feel for it! We saw various churches, the old post office, and all the other colonial buildings scattered in between the yellow-taxi lined streets. P1040859.jpgP1040860.jpgP1040870.jpgP1040874.jpgP1040872.jpg Amongst these was the relocated memorial to the black hole of Calcutta, which was basically shoved in a corner of St Johns Church, charming! P1040862.jpg We also went down to the river to get some photos and stare for a while at the Howrah Bridge, supposedly the busiest bridge in the world! P1040876.jpgP1040878.jpg Its hard to describe Calcutta, everyone imagines it to the stereotypically Indian (big, loud, poor and dirty), which it is, but the remaining architecture gives the city a really strange sense that your in London a long time ago. Along with yellow taxis everywhere (no rickshaws allowed), there are rickshaws which are still pulled along by men. Looks like tiring work, and seems to look very out of place now amongst all the cars and buses! Calcutta, thankfully, is the only city left in India with these types of Rickshaws!

We leave Calcutta tonight at 10pm on an overnight train heading for Darjeeling, which is where we will be for the next 2 days! The land of tea…here we come!

Missing you all lots,
Hope everyone is well,
Lots of Love
Chris and Alex xxx

Posted by chrisalex 04:48 Archived in India Tagged backpacking Comments (1)

Unawatuna and Galle

sunny 33 °C

We got a train to Colombo, which was possibly the most rickety thing we have traveled in so far. We did actually think at some point that the train was going to fall off the tracks! It was a tiny old train, and coupled with the tracks not being well maintained and going far too fast it meant the train was rocking side to side for the whole journey there! The only bonus was that we paid a little bit more and upgraded to first class, which basically means you get a bit more padding on your seat and air con. We were going to get another train from Colombo to Galle, but we decided against it after our first experience! We ended up getting an air con bus to Galle, which took another 3 or 4 hours. From there we got a short bus journey to Unawatuna, which is 10 minutes down the coast, and has the most beautiful beaches we have ever seen. P1040797.jpg Unawatuna also got badly destroyed by the tsunami in 2004, you cant really tell now, but there are lots of graveyards by the sea and some buildings were not rebuilt leaving only the foundations. Its an eerie thought that it was destroyed only 5 years ago. Unawatuna had a lot of aid during the crisis and was consequently rebuilt faster than other resorts! The shop keepers did not learn however, as they rebuilt their wooden huts back on the beach. We had dinner the other night with sand between our toes!

We spent the first day catching up on sleep, as we have had some very early starts in Sri Lanka. In the afternoon we went to the beach and decided that the sea and beach looked so clean that we should have a swim! We spent the rest of the day swimming in the sea, which was great fun, and something which neither of us have done in a long time! Unfortunately, we both managed to get rather sun burnt, something which we are both regretting now I can tell you! P1040801.jpgP1040803.jpg

The following day we got a rickshaw back to Galle to have a proper look around the town. Its a old fort city which was built by the Dutch, and as such is a strange mix of colonial Dutch and Sri Lanka architecture. There is not much in the way of specific sights in Galle, more just walking around the place to get a feel for it. P1040813.jpgP1040815.jpgP1040818.jpgP1040820.jpg We walked all around the fort and then got back in a rickshaw (called tuk tuks here) to Unawatuna and watched the sunset on the beach!

Today we got a bus from Galle to Colombo, which is where we are now! There's not much to do in Colombo, so I think we are just going to chill and get everything in order for when we fly back to Chennai, India, which is at 3.30am on 10th April. We shall write next when we are back in India. It may not be for a few days, because we are going straight through Chennai to get a 30 hour train up to Calcutta. So that will probably be where we next write from!

Hope you are all well,
Miss you all lots,
Chris and Alex xxx

Posted by chrisalex 06:02 Archived in Sri Lanka Tagged backpacking Comments (2)


sunny 33 °C

We got a 2 hours bus from Dambulla to Anuradhapura, which is one of the ancient cities in Sri Lanka. We hired a car for the day due to the distance in between the ruins and also the blistering heat. Despite the fact we had a car, we still set off really early so we could try and fit everything in before midday! The ancient site basically compromises of various Dagobas and buildings, all of which are in various states of repair. P1040772.jpg

Along the way we also got to see the Bodhi tree, which was taken from a cutting of the original tree which Buddha gained enlightenment whilst being sat under it. P1040781.jpg This particular tree is officially the oldest tree in the world, having been tended for 2000 years! We managed to finish seeing all the sights at 11am (we started at 6am), and then retreated for the rest of the day to avoid the heat. P1040785.jpgP1040788.jpgP1040793.jpg

We are now in Unawatuna, which is a lovely beachy spot just near Galle, at the south of the island. We will be here for the next 3 days, with a day trip to Galle, so we shall write again soon!

Lots of Love

Chris and Alex xxx

p.s. internet is scarce in Sri Lanka, so don’t be worried if the blogs are not as regular! x

Posted by chrisalex 04:23 Archived in Sri Lanka Tagged backpacking Comments (1)

Dambulla, Sigiriya and Polonnaruwa

sunny 35 °C
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From Kandy we got a bus slightly further north to Dambulla, which is a small town famous for its caves up in the hills. We arrived late at night, so just went straight to bed (after chris removed a frog from under the bed!). The next morning, at about 6am we left and got a rickshaw to the nearby town of Sigiriya, which is a famous large rock, which ancient civilisations once inhabited. P1040735.jpgP1040642.jpg We set off early in order to avoid the heat, it was a half hour journey to get there and then we started the long climb up. It took us over an hour to climb to the very top, it was rather steep and getting gradually hotter all the time. P1040688.jpg Just towards the base of the summit, there are a famous pair of lions paws which have been carved into the rock, the clever people say that some kind of civilisation once lived there and this was possibly a temple or gateway. P1040645.jpg We managed to make it to the top, and the views were stunning, we had the whole top of the rock to ourselves as well, which was an added bonus. P1040649.jpgP1040653.jpg All the way up the guides tell people to not go to the very summit of the rock as there are swarms of hornets up there, its all scare tactics. Most people climbed halfway up and then got scared of the hornet warning. The ticket to get in cost us $25, so we marched dutifully to the top to get our moneys worth. Surprisingly there were no hornets at the top. There were foundations of old buildings up there, but other than that it was just us two and a very green valley ahead of us! P1040657.jpg

Then we climb down, always annoyingly quicker, and passed some tourists who were just starting the climb then. Chris and I doubt they made it, it was nearly 35 degrees at that time. After that we headed back for a shower and a rest to avoid the midday sun. In the evening we climbed the hill in Dambulla, which was just up the road, in order to see the famous Dambulla caves, which contain many statues of Buddha, carved into the rock. P1040724.jpg The climb was tiring, but we made it all the way to the top. The caves were amazing, in very good condition due to lack of sun exposure, and the first cave (there were 5) was a huge reclining Buddha, 15 metres long! P1040695.jpg We stayed up there and watched sunset before plodding back down to bed! P1040717.jpgP1040727.jpg

Today we got a local bus 2 hours down the road to Polonnaruwa, which is an old acient city. It's spread out over a large area and they suggest getting a bicycle or a rickshaw in order to see it all in a day, but Chris and I decided to walk it instead, which we managed well I must say! Very hot work though and we are both now the colour of raspberries, as sun tan lotion is useless in this heat, you just sweat it off straight away! The ancient city contains lots of old temples and palaces, most of which have unfortunatly collapsed, but some remain pretty well intact! As expected, we saw a hell of a lot of Buddhas, but also many Dagobas, which are the big round temple things! P1040743.jpgP1040744.jpgP1040763.jpgP1040766.jpgP1040771.jpg

We are getting the bus back to Dambulla this afternoon, and then will pack up for our journey tomorrow to Anuradhapura, which is also Chris' birthday!!

Miss you all lots,
Lots of Love
Chris and Alex xxx

Posted by chrisalex 00:31 Archived in Sri Lanka Tagged backpacking Comments (2)

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