The Hike – Informational Meeting

I was planning on blogging every night but was just informed that Internet is not gonna happen for me so that’s out. Going back to old school journal and will hopefully be able to capture it.

We leave in about 2 hours to drive into the Himalayas to start our ascent. Here’s some other things I learned in today’s informational meeting:

* Hiking up to Anna Purna Base Camp 13,580 feet. This is lower than I thought so that’s good.

* Temp will be somewhere between 15-20 degrees at the top. This is MUCH COLDER than I thought.

* We will be hiking about 8-10 hours per day EVERY DAY for 9 DAYS. This is much MORE hiking than i thought.

*Our main food will be something they call Daal which is a lentil bean and rice mixture. Since I don’t do lentil beans my food for the next 10 days will most likely be rice. That sucks.

*We will be hard pressed to find clean water for the 4 days we ascend to the top so we are packing in a ton of bottled water.

I think that’s it. My friend Annie & I just kept looking at each other the entire meeting. Since she’s one of my best friends I could read her mind. We were both thinking “We signed up for this as our vacation?”.

Yes, oh yes we did. Off we go.

A Day of Firsts…

You know how I said there wasn’t alot going on in Nepal? Well, that’s b/c my Aunt Connie hadn’t gotten here yet.

So, today went down a little different than expected. While walking the streets we met a guy named John (his name was NOT John but I don’t have a prayer of spelling or saying his correct name even though he told me about 5 times).  I blame Connie for bringing John into our lives b/c on my own I would have just kept on walking when this guy approached us. But, oh no, little miss adventure herself wanted to see what a “local guy” could show us. And show us he did.

B/c of John I did alot of things for the first time today. Mainly i went in areas of the city I would have never gone on my own, ducking through alleys and into areas that looked shady.

Side note for my MOM: You should never worry about me travelling unless i’m with your sister. She is dangerous!

To start with, I went to something called a Monkey Temple for the first time. And there I saw a few monkeys including this guy:

Head Monkey at Monkey Temple

And I saw this little monkey family.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LWiuIKBr2WY

Love how they take care of each other.

Unlike other monkey encounters. These monkeys were non-agressive.

Throughout the day,  I did the following for “luck” (all firsts for me)

1. Walked around a variety of Hindu and Buddha temples clockwise. Meet “John”. This is a short video of him taking us around a temple clockwise for “luck”. And the woman is my Aunt Connie. (PS – I promise to get better, more compelling video in the future).

2. Spun about a million (give or take 999, 975) prayer wheels in various monasteries.

I did NOT put a red dot on my forehead for luck even though I was “offered” it no less than a dozen times. For some reason, that makes me uneasy.

To be honest, I’m glad we met John even though at the end of the day he first tried to get us to buy his “art” and then just tried to scam us for any money we had. (We did end up tipping him for his time as it was great to see the city through a local’s eyes and we definitely went to some off the path places).

That’s it. Now that we are back safely i can say its a good day. Leaving for the hike in the morning.

CapeTown – Mugged

I was mugged. Or robbed. Whatever you want to call it. One minute i’m sitting at lunch with my 3 new Australian friends and the next minute a theif grabs my sandwich and my IPHONE and takes off running. Granted, the theif was a BABOON. But, still that sucker took my IPHONE. Well, if you know how I feel about my iphone you know, i took off running & screaming at the top of my lungs after that Baboon. And apparently although the iphone ranks in my personal top 5 items I need to live; it’s not very valuable to a Baboon. so the little hooker gave it back. And by gave, i mean threw it at my head.

But, I lost my sandwich forever. And I didn’t care one bit b/c I got my phone back.

Day One – Kathmandu

First, a time mystery update. Thanks to my very smart friends Molly & Tom, I got an answer about 5 minutes after I posted my blog. Check out this link:

http://www.nepalitimes.com.np/issue/155/Heritage/10013

So, as G.I. Joe would say “Now you know and knowing is half the battle”.

Back to the blog:

Toto, We’re not in Kanasas anymore!

Hard to describe Kathmandu so I’m just gonna show you pictures and know it won’t do it justice.

First, it’s really busy here. Was awoken at 5am with sounds of the city. Tons of people, bikes, carts, cars, cows all over the street. Street vendors beckoning you from all angles and just overall chaos.

Unlike Hong Kong there’s trash everywhere.

And people everywhere! Everywhere. Too many people. And not much to do/see except for shops/shopping.

One mistake I made today was I wore a skirt. It was a LONG travel skirt. Just for clarification. Not short at all. Nor inappropriate.

But, apparently you don’t do that here. Well, you can do it. I mean it’s not illegal or anything. At least not illegal that i know of. But, If you wear a skirt everyone will look at your legs and guys will cat call you. And one guy tried to lick me. Yes, I said lick me.  At least that’s the conclusion i came to. He stuck out his tongue and started to approach me. I didn’t stick around to see if he would actually lick me.

Trust me, it was weird.

All of this happened within 10 minutes b/c that’s how long it took me to turn around, go back to the hotel and put on pants.

Anyway, there’s not alot going on here. I think it’s just a resting stop for trekkers. So, food, shops, etc. Here’s another photo.

We leave for our trek tommorrow.

Kathmandu – The Interrogation

So, In & Out of Nepalese Immigration in 10 minutes. WOO HOO!

But, it was not without drama. Fortunately, I got my luggage first and was at the front of the line. But, I’m chalking it up to their only being 2 immigration agents for about 500 people and no Chinese GodFather in some secret back room but here’s how it went down.

Nepalese Immigration guy: Your passport expires soon.

Me: Yes, In December.

Him: (insert scary voice here) Do not be here in December.

Me: Yes sir!

That is all. I made it 🙂

Kathmandu – The Great Time Mystery

Oh what a difference 24 hours makes. Nepal is shocking. Nepal is broken. Nepal is poor.

On the cab (if you can call some guys car a cab) ride over we alternated dodging cows (there are tons of cows wondering free) and potholes on a one lane semi paved road to get to the hotel.

I’m assuming in the morning I’ll see the Himalayas and will witness their beauty but for now it’s dark, & there are way too many people trying to get me to help me with various things I don’t need help with. I’m now concerned with a variety of things but I can’t get my mind off 1 thing:

The time. Check this out.

I know it’s in Chinese but notice how the top one is 15 min behind the other two. At first I chalked it up to a glitch on the airline computer. But, NO: all of the clocks in Nepal are 15 minutes off any other clock. When you look at the wall of world clocks they have everywhere Nepal is always 15 min behind (give or take). See example B:

The front clock is Nepal. It’s 11:05 here. The other clocks are Toyko & London . They say 2:20 and 5:20 respectively. Everything is on a :20 except Nepal 15 minutes behind.

Not sure why this is completely occupying all my attention but I can’t get my mind off of it. I’ve never seen anything like it and I travel all the time. It’s the strangest thing ever and I have no idea why. I’ve asked 3 people now 2 couldn’t understand me and one was my friend who looked at me and said “Why do you care?”

Fair point but for some reason I do.

I’m too tired now but I will get to the bottom of this in the morning, so don’t you worry your pretty little heads about it. Leave the worrying to me. I’m great at it.

However, I will give 2 free High 5’s to the 1st person who can give me a good answer why the clocks are off by 15 minutes in Nepal. Get to work people.

Hong Kong – Random Observations

Here are some random and not-so-random observations about this city.

1. It is clean. Like, super duper clean. Yesterday, when i got off the Gondola someone actually disinfected the sidewalk and mopped after we walked out. I have never EVER seen someplace so clean. There is no trash ANYWHERE. Not a spec. You aren’t even allowed food/drink anywhere in public.

2. Anyone under the age of 40 looks like this chick to my left. Headphones in ears and some kind of electronic device in hand. You see them everywhere you go. People barely make eye contact here. It’s like it’s rude to look at people or something so everyone just has their earphones in and are in their own little world. Also, everyone has iphones and ipads and nanos.

3. I am larger than everyone I’ve met both in weight and in height. Again, I’m attributing this to the rice and the hills. Apparently it stunts growth and weight gain.

4. There is good transportation and bad transportation. Good transportation is the train and red taxis. See below. These taxis are everywhere and they are super clean.

Bad transportation is the glass bottom gondola (see Hong Kong – Day 1),   & any kind of bus and the trolley. The bus and trolley drivers must kill a few 100 people a year with their driving. I don’t have an official death toll – that’s just a guess 🙂 Here’s a pick of the trolley:

All i know is getting across the trolley tracks made me feel like Frogger.

5. They respect the elderly. If an older person is anywhere and there are no seats, the younger peeps get up and give them their chairs. I love this. Wish my grandparents lived in Hong Kong as you rarely see this in the US.

6. They love to practice Kung Fu, Tai Chi or some other kind of martial arts in their parks in public view. Everytime I’ve been in a park there are a variety of people like this guy below.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_-BDhXmLxJY

I think I found Hong Kong Phooey 🙂

Macau

Well, i would love to give you a big old blog on Macau and how great it is. But, I can’t. I can’t  b/c I didn’t make it there. Here are the 2 reasons I didn’t make it to Macau:

1. Apparently you need a Chinese visa to get to that place and I don’t have one.

2. Read Hong Kong – the Interrogation. When i realized more customs/immigration people were involved and I might have to meet up with the Chinese GodFather again, I bailed out quickly. The way I’m going, I’ll be lucky to actually make it to Nepal.

So, for now the best I can do is this picture of Macau I got from Google.

Looks amazing right? Kinda like Vegas which we all know I love. I’m a little ticked I’m scared of the Chinese GodFather and didn’t risk it. Gonna have to come back to China I guess. Sorry people I know this is the lamest blog ever but that’s all I got. I don’t know much in this life but I do know you don’t mess with the Chinese GodFather.

What I Learned About Buddha today…

Now I’m the first to admit i know very little about any religion other than Christianity.

So, going into today here’s what I thought about Buddha. He is a big, fat golden bald guy and you rub his tummy for luck. Kinda like this guy to the left.

Yeah, not so much.

Here’s what I learned today. And yes, I’m giving you the serious cliff notes version.

Buddha was a guy named Siddhartha who grew up in a wealthy family. Even though he was rich he was unfulfilled so he went off to “find himself”. He sat under a Bodhi Tree (see reenactment left) known as the “Tree of Awakening” and medidated on “Who am I and why am i here?” After much meditation he was enlightened enough to become Buddha (again, before any theologists freak out, cliff notes version people. Cliff notes.)

Buddha believes in 4 Noble Truths. They are as follows:

1. There is suffering in the World

2. Suffering arises from cravings & attachment

3. Suffering can be eliminated

4. Right views & the Middle Way are the Keys to eliminating suffering.

If you want more google it or better yet, come to Hong Kong. To be honest, there was more to each of those truths but it was dark in there and I can’t read Chinese or remember long sentences so this is what you get.

Now, as a Christian I don’t buy any of this but don’t shoot the messenger. I’m just telling you guys what I learned.

However, there are some other principles that I thought were great. Like this one:

Or this one:

I also learned that when you go to visit the big Buddha in Hong Kong at the monastery, you are going to see alot of statues. Lots, and lots of statues. Like these that kind of look like 3 wise men:

So, interesting as it was I will not be becoming a Buddhist anytime soon. Statue worship is not really my thing.

However, the whole experience got me thinking b/c I’m sure lots of people view Christianity the same way I view Buddhism. Like a nice little story about a guy named Jesus. Which is sad really b/c it’s so much more than a story.

I need some more time to process it all. Hopefully, will blog more later if I can get my thoughts around the concept.

Hong Kong – Day 1

People, I lied to you. Not on purpose of course but I did lie. When I said Hong Kong was like New York on steroids what I meant was Hong Kong is like New York on steroids if New York was in San Francisco.

Holy Hills Batman. Yep, apparently when it’s dark out you don’t see the hills around this place. And by hills I mean small mountains. I now know why the Chinese are so freaking tiny as a people. All they eat is rice and then they climb massive hills all day walking around town. If I stay here much longer I swear I will be 5’2″ and weigh 100 lbs. Could be a new diet plan.

Great day so far in Hong Kong. My friend is working so I’m on my own. Woke up at 4am wide awake (still getting used to the whole 12 hours ahead thing).

Did the Peak which is basically a trolley car up to the mountain. Not this trolley car you see to the left but A trolley car. I couldn’t take the picture of the actual trolley car b/c the Peak is also known as the World’s Steepest Trolley car and I was too busy trying to not slide to the back of the trolley to be bothered with things like pictures. 

At 1 point i was at a 90 degree angle. Wasn’t scary but not exactly a relaxing ride up either and hard to take pics from that angle.

Other than the steepness; I was pretty unimpressed but then again it was overcast so you couldn’t see much. On a clear day, I’m sure views are amazing. On today, the view is like this

Still not bad. No complaints here. I’m digging Hong Kong.

Next stop. Po Lin Monastary. Via cable car. Cable cars in general make me nervous. Why? B/c let’s face it if they fall of the cable you are most likely dead. I usually approach cable cars with a “close my eyes until we get there” type of approach.

While in line, I met 2 friends Steve and Brian. They are pilots on Alaska Airlines. Not sure why they wanted to become BFF’s with me but BFF’s we did become. I only mention them b/c it’s because of them I chose the Crystal gondola aka glass bottom. Glass. Bottom. Normally, i’d just take the one with a solid floor b/c i’m slightly afraid of heights but oh no, they wanted to glass bottom ones and I wanted these random guys approval for some reason, so that’s what we took.

Here is a picture of our feet:

Trust me when I say it was a long way down. And it was windy. And I felt a little sick to my stomach. And it’s not a short trip to a monastery. Apparently, they like to build monasteries in secluded places.

I was in that glass bottom gondola of death for over 30 min. I was not a super big fan of Steve & Brian at this point. In additon to their bad choice of gondolas they also have no photography skills. When we finally found Buddha (enter sarcasm here as this HUMONGOUS statue is a little hard to miss. You can see it for miles away) this is the photo Steve got of me with the Buddha.

Um, he was literally standing like 30 feet away from me. And the statue is GINORMOUS. How could you not get both me & it in the same frame?  And did he purposely zoom in and blur my face? I think he did. Anyway, i had to ask some Chinamen to get a real photo I could actually show to people.

In addition to the Giant Buddha, the Monastery is home to some giant incense as well.

Have you ever in your life seen incense this big? I think not. Again, everything on steroids on top of a hill.

Well, Day 1 is about done. There’s only so much giant incense and Buddha statues a girl can handle in one day. Off to meet my friend for dinner and then heading to Macau.