[note: I wasn't able to post this on Thursday, but I wanted to post it before I left Nepal, so I'm making an exception. just pretend it's still Thursday as you read it :)]
As my time in Nepal comes to a close [Delhi-bound on Sunday morning!], I wanted to share 30 thoughts / observations / quirks about Nepal. It's a random compilation of my 2 months in the country, and hopefully you may learn something you didn't already know about this wonderful place.
30 things to know about Nepal:
- Nepali guys love their Angry Birds t-shirts. As someone who didn't even know what Angry Birds was until I started sitting for the Erbach girls last fall, it was quite amusing to roam the streets of Kathmandu and Pokhara and see at least 5 guys a day wearing a shirt inspired by the game.
- I wish I'd packed a pair of shorts. It's a lot hotter in Nepal than I expected it to be, and a pair or two of shorts would have been much more handy than that North Face fleece that's taken up permanent residence in my rucksack.
- Be prepared for bandhs [strikes] on a regular basis, and make sure you have a backup plan if you need to go out and about.
- For my money, the easiest and fastest way to get around Kathmandu is on foot. For being a small-ish city, Kathmandu sure does have a lot of traffic [when there are not bandhs, that is].
- I was surprised to discover that Nepal is more expensive than India, even adjusting for the exchange rate [if you're curious, it's 10 INR = 16 NPR].
- There are few experiences like watching the sun rise over the Annapurna range from the top of Sarangkot.
- Kukri is a poor man's Old Monk [except it's more expensive] but is acceptable when the latter is not available.
- I have yet to figure out the method to the madness that is the microbus system in Kathmandu, but it somehow manages to work.
- If you're cool and stealth like me and my Jackalope, you too can enter Basantapur Durbar Square, Patan Durbar Square, Boudhanath, and Pashupatinath without paying the entrance fee. But only if you're cool and stealth like we are.
- The best decision I made during my time in Nepal was to spend 5 days staying with the Rajbhandari family in the Lamachaur area north of Pokhara. After 2 months of haunting hotels and guest houses, it was so nice to be in a real house with a wonderful family and amazing home-cooked meals. If you're ever in the area, go and stay with them [their website is currently not working, but if you're actually interested, I can put you in touch with them].
- If you prefer sticking by the Lakeside in Pokhara, stay at The North Face Inn. Also a very sweet family, and a more convenient location if you want to go out and about in the town.
- Even if I described how small and quirky the domestic airports are, you'd never believe me. That's how small and quirky they are. The Nepalgunj airport doesn't even have an x-ray machine for carry-on bags.
- Make friends with a local who will drive you outside the city at 1am to see the lights of the Valley [I promise it's not as sketchy as it sounds. I've known Gaurav for over 3 years, so it was legit].
- If the music festival says it's going to start at "12pm", that usually means roughly 2.30pm. Nepali Standard Time is a lot like Indian Standard Time.
- If you're in Kathmandu, spend a morning in the Mondo Bizarro cafe on Freak Street. You'll meet some very interesting people, Nepali and foreigner alike. And in all reality, you'll probably run into Jack, drinking his milk tea and eating his muesli, fruit, and curd, because I'm convinced he's never going to leave. Oh, and it's also one of the few places that serves brown bread. You won't realize how much you appreciate brown bread until only white bread is available to you.
- Go bungee jumping with the Last Resort. I promise you won't regret it [my connection is too slow at the moment to take the time to link to my post about our jump, but it was sometime in early August].
- Those "buff" momos? No, they're not named so because they're particularly macho. They're buffalo meat. And they're delicious. And oddly enough, cheaper than chicken momos. Go figure.
- Another go figure. Nepal is a whopping 15 minutes ahead of India. For a time zone nerd like myself, it's fascinating.
- Be forewarned: free wi-fi in coffee shops will likely turn you into a chain-chai-drinker. Scout out the ones with poor service, and you can sit in one place sponging Internet for 3 hours while spending only NPR 40. Stick with me, young Jedi, and I will teach you my ways.
- Dr Pepper is more readily available in Kathmandu than in Bangalore. Best - and most dangerous - discovery ever.
- Be prepared for power cuts. About 9 hours a day in Kathmandu, about 11 hours a day in Pokhara, and about 14 hours a day in Bardiya. Don't say I didn't warn you.
- Nepali women love to break out the umbrellas on sunny days. For an umbrella-phobe such as myself, it can be terrifying. And I've seen at least 5 people almost get their eyes poked out by these umbrellas, so don't tell me my fears are misplaced. Umbrellas are deadly.
- If you go to the stupa in Boudha, make sure you walk around it clockwise. I don't know why, but I am certainly not one to tempt fate.
- The caste system is still in existence in Nepal, but it doesn't carry the negative connotations that it does in India.
- My favourite tradition is the "Namaste" greeting you receive everywhere you go. There's just something to be said for good manners.
- In Kathmandu, pedestrians actually use the zebra crossings. Granted, there are not very many, so in most places people cross haphazardly, but where they exist, they're used. Indians could take a few lessons.
- Why no, good friend on the street, I do not smoke up, I have no need for that fake-sandalwood box, and I am certainly not going to pay that much for a bag I can get for less than half that in India. In other words, strolling through Thamel [the tourist area in Kathmandu] is much like strolling through Jew Town in Fort Kochi or the bazaar in Hampi.
- Sadly, sports is not high on the list of priorities in Nepal. I followed New Zealand's tour of India on cricinfo while I was in Bardiya, and I've watched most of the World T20 matches alone. I'm not ashamed to admit that more than once the highlight of my day was listening to my ESPN podcasts while sorting through data spreadsheets [because let's not forget, the primary reason for my visit to Nepal was a research project. sometimes I'm a diligent student].
- If you get the chance to see Albatross play live, take it. They have an amazing energy on the stage, and you can tell how much they love and appreciate music.
- Nepal is a wonderful country full of beautiful people, breathtaking sights, great food, and a million little quirks that make it unlike any other place. It's like India in some ways but is also its own unique country, and you'll really only understand that if you see it for yourself.
And so wraps up my time in Nepal. I've had my ups-and-downs [the heat was a lot to take while I was in Bardiya], but overall I've had a great time, and I look forward to returning one day in the future.