What To Do When in Asia

Although we can divide our trip thus far into roughly four parts (Europe, South Asia, South East Asia, and East Asia), we’ve spent the vast majority of our time in Asia. We’ve had the time of our lives and I think everyone should visit Asia (if not travel it extensively). It truly has something to offer everyone, so I’ve made the following guide and tribute to the great continent.


India: just show up and something exciting WILL happen


Maldives: go sailing and snorkeling on remote atolls


Nepal: go trekking


Thailand: explore the entire country


Laos: travel and live on the Mekong


Cambodia: yes its cliche, but you HAVE to explore Angkor


Malaysia: take in the diverse cultures and food


Brunei: meet characters at the Pusat Belia (not pictured)


Singapore: visit the Botanical Gardens


Indonesia: DIVE!!!


Vietnam: eat!


China: meet the friendliest people on earth


Korea: go to a baseball game


Japan: once again, EAT! (especially the seafood :) )

Political Economics

164_6445-4.JPGWhile I was on my trek, Thailand held much-anticipated national elections. The elections were very important and highly publicized as they were the first since the military’s coup in 2006. I’m not sure if they do this for all elections, but Joylani said that no one was able to sell alcohol on the day of the election. Anyways, the electorate voted overwhelming for the PPP, which was the party that was sacked during the coup. The results look pretty good with the exception of three PPP members who were caught by the election commission with large amounts of cash and lists of registered voters. Unsurprisingly, with his party back in power, ousted former PM Thaksin Sinawatra immediately announced he would now return to Thailand to face the military’s corruption charges.

Regardless of the Thaksin fiasco, free elections to install a civilian government and the military’s promise to respect the result is good for Thailand. Personally, as an investor and an international traveler, I have been disappointed in the failure of the generals’ economic policies. Their coup pummeled the Thai stock market and their inept policies further battered it, all this in addition to the volatility that results from military rule. Their monetary policy was a failure and they let the baht rise out of control, which has wreaked havoc on Thai exporters. The baht has risen to 30/dollar from the mid forties! It has risen so much that the military government regulates domestic exchange rates, setting the (current) ceiling at around 33.6/dollar, about a 10% premium international spot rate! As a traveler, the baht’s appreciation has increased our Thailand expenses by about a third, although the fixed domestic forex rate presents some interesting arbitrage ideas… The rise of the baht has, of course, benefited Thai importers and ultimately Thai consumers who have become significantly richer, so to speak. I think this partly explains why there seems to be so many brand new cars in Thailand.

I was going to keep this post solely on Thailand, but I cannot help but draw comparisons to Nepal. On paper, they look somewhat similar; medium sized nations (25m and 45m people, respectively), tourism is the number one industry in each, and both are engulfed in the latest of a long history of political turmoil. Yet things could not be more different in reality. Besides superficialities like Nepalis hate their king and Thais practically worship theirs, its two different worlds. Despite having undergone a dozen coups and just as many constitutions, Thailand is a growing economy. And when there is a political hiccup (which Thai coups have become), the country continues to function. Contrast that to Nepal, where a single party of ignorant ideologues can jerk the nation around. They use a guerilla war to get every single one of their demands met, including elections. When they realize they’ll lose any such election, they cancel it and make more demands (accompanied, of course, with threats of “renewed armed struggle”). And even in times of peace, they enjoy calling arbitrary transportation strikes, shutting the entire country down for days on end. I would say the Nepalis should take some plays from the Thai military’s playbook, but since Nepal is a poor country the military and law enforcement is ripe for bribes and corruption. Anyways, I just think its interesting to compare the differences in these two states that are in somewhat comparable situations.

Goodbye Nepal



joylani 130pxWe left Nepal yesterday afternoon on an 18-hour overnight bus to the Nepal/India border.  Let’s just say the trek was cool, but we were both ready to leave. 

The bus ride from Kathmandu was awful as expected in that it was really uncomfortable (as Matt put it, “like sitting on a board”) and bumpy.  Our bus had two drivers, and two assistants who, like on many of the other bus rides we’ve take, spent a fair amount of time hanging out the door and pointing at people while shouting the destination of the bus just in case anyone standing on the road wants to get on.  The assistants are also the ones who collect money/tickets, get luggage off the roof, etc.  The good part was that the people on board were very nice, one of the bus guys (a tall skinny goofy Nepali wearing a beanie with a yarn ball on top adding to his already towering height) saw me stretching my legs out in the aisle and decided I would probably like my seat reclined, so (probably to the chagrin of the guy behind me) I had my seat back for most of the ride.  By 5am however, as they were blaring annoying Nepali music from a speaker just next to Matt and I, I gave up on sleeping and tried a few times (unsuccessfully) to raise my seat again.  Instead of a lever there is a little knob under the seat that you twist and the seat gradually raise or reclines.  I couldn’t quite figure out how to do it, but after my third time trying the guy sitting across the aisle from me must have noticed and asked if I wanted help.  He summoned another one of the bus assistants and with the help of the guy behind me, they put my seat up.  There were also some friendly teens in the very front of the bus who let us know what was going on a couple of times when everyone was talking all crazy in Nepali.  So even though trying to sleep on a bumpy bus with essentially a board for a seat cushion all while listening to ear piercing nepali and Indian music most of the night (try to imagine the bus equivalent of the crazy boat rice in willy wonka), and despite the board falling on my head from the shelf above my seat…it was a successful and good bus ride in that the Nepalis on the bus were nice and helpful, and we safely made it to India. 


The food.

While there is a decent selection of foreign foods here and there (Indian, Japanese, Chinese, Italian, etc.) neither of us felt Nepali food was that great.  Dal baat is what most Nepalis eat for lunch and dinner, which generally consists of rice, dal, vegetable curry, pickled radish, and spinach. It’s good for refueling after a long day of trekking, but we found it hard to eat everyday (much less twice a day as most Nepalis do), so we didn’t. Sure, we were able to try some new dishes like yak steak, apple momos, dried buff meat, and Tibetan bread, most of which we liked, but overall remarkableness of the food was lacking in Nepal.


The people. 

We met some good Nepalis: guides along the trek, friendly villagers greeting us with “Namaste,” and a kind silversmith who happily sold us a couple of rings (I’d been wearing a glass band for the last few months and it was time to upgrade).  Unfortunately, because we are tourists and therefore have lots of money we want to just throw around… many of our initial interactions with Nepalis were unpleasant.  It started with the first hotel we stayed at.  (Hotel Sakura in Pokhara.  Do NOT stay there.)  The owner seemed friendly enough at first, telling us how he was born in India but grew up in Japan, and how he met his wife when he was traveling in Nepal.  How sweet.  Things started getting weird when we decided not to go with him for a trekking guide after he tried to sell the service to us using scare tactics about how we couldn’t trust the other agencies.  He confronted me saying that we didn’t trust him.  I tried to explain freedom of choice and choosing an agency we thought was competent (obviously not him) and that we didn’t not trust him…not yet.  Ironically his accusations about how we felt about him came true when we found out later from another person in town that the hotel owner learned his Japanese at a language school, and was born and raised just outside of Pokhara.  It was really upsetting to have been lied to about something completely pointless and it made me wonder what more important thing he would have lied about had we gone with him for other services besides just a hotel room.  Shady hotel guy was just the beginning of our bad interactions.  They continued with a unscrupulous trekking agency, a guide who lied to us in hopes of getting us to spend more money (who knows what the trek would have been like if we hadn’t switched agencies!), a shop owner outside of Ghorepani trying to see just how much money he could get out of me for a candy bar rather than quoting a fair price in the first place, the greedy lady trying to sell me oranges for 100rs a kilo (it should be 20 or 30rs), and of course being charged a foreigner price for everything from food to entrance fees—even for places that for a Nepali is just a public area.  To end this section on a good point though, we really loved our guides and were very thankful to spend the 18 days of our trek with them.  Technically only Udaya was our guide, but Binod helped out as well.  Between the two of them we gleaned cultural information, learned about farming (I know what millet looks like now!), describing the next day’s section of the trail, had assistance crossing shaky bridges, and a look-out for falling rocks (much appreciated).  On top of all that, we had fun hanging out, conquering the trail, and laughing together at the guys’ new favorite pastime—impersonating other trekkers.  The other fun thing about the people was meeting other foreigners along the trek.  Because you go along the trail with the same general group of people for most of the trek, you start to recognize them and have conversations along the way.  I never really thought I’d meet people from so many different places while trekking (Ireland, New Zealand, Holland, Belgium, Germany, France, Switzerland, Canada…even a couple from San Francisco!).  To sum it up, the people we met in Nepal were memorable.


The sites.

Hopefully you can tell from our trekking posts that we found the mountains and landscape amazingly impressive.  That’s why we came to Nepal.  We didn’t really come for the sites, but once we got to Katmandu we decided to check some out anyways which left us pretty disappointed.  One example is Swayambhnath temple, also known as the Monkey Temple.  After paying the entry fee (free for Nepalis of course) we hoped to enjoy the old architecture and view from the temple and dozens of surrounding stupas.  As we climbed the last of the stairs and the top of the hill came into view, we were disgustedly disappointed to find that a religious site with so much potential beauty was marred with dozens of souvenir stands selling the same junk and music you can find anywhere else in town.  Why did they have to set up shop in the temple area?  Oh yeh, that’s right: temple attracts tourists, tourist= ATM.  Hopefully you are beginning to understand our frustrations with Nepal.  Its not that we hoped to get through this country without spending too much money, we knew it would cost something, but it’s the general way we can feel we are being treated differently than in the other countries we’ve visited.  A way of being treated that makes us think Nepalis are greedy, even though I know they aren’t all that way.  It’s just unfortunate that many of the people we interacted with were.



Kathmandu and Nepal Review



164_6445-4.JPGIts been a week since we’ve returned from the trek and since I’ve written. After a day in Pokhara, we took a “microbus” (a large van in the US) to Kathmandu. Microbuses generally take 4-5 hours (since they don’t stop), but our trip lasted 9 hours thanks to tons of traffic. It was a bad start to our stay in Kathmandu.

As much as I looked forward to this city, I’m pretty disappointed. That kind of sums up my feelings about Nepal too, minus the trek. But Joylani points out to me that we came to Nepal to trek and that experience far exceeded our expectations. And for that I’m grateful and happy. On the other hand, Kathmandu has greatly fallen short of my expectations. Perhaps my expectations were too high. Istanbul was an incredible city, so I assumed that perhaps the other end of the so-called “Hippie Overland Trail,” of 60’s and 70’s fame, would be equally enthralling. Instead, I found one of the most polluted and touristy places I’ve ever been. Although relatively small with only 750,000 inhabitants, it was one of the most polluted cities I’ve ever visited. The fumes from traffic-choked alleys and constant road construction left me consistently coughing and nauseous. The other thing was that its overly touristy. I’m not just referring to the tourist district of Thamel, but the entire city. The main attraction in town is Durbar Square, a collection of buildings several hundred years old set in the middle of the city. Despite being a major thoroughfare and a public square for Nepalis, foreigners are charged to enter or even transit through the square. Not to see anything, just to be in the square. I was trying to imagine tourist police patrolling for foreigners in NY’s Times Square or SF’s Union Square, trying to make them pay. We were also asked to pay at the nicknamed “Monkey Temple,” despite the fact that it’s a religious site and Nepali’s can enter freely. Not only that, but the temple was filled with stalls selling the same junk you can buy in town. Even walking around in non-touristy areas, we couldn’t even buy fruit as Joylani was quoted ridiculous prices (higher than the US even). I don’t mind paying or paying a little more than locals, but Nepal’s really rubbed us both the wrong way. Why should we pay to transit through a public space? Why should we pay ten times the regular price for fruit? Why should we pay for things that are free for Nepalis? Again, it’s the seemingly widespread mentality of “lets leech off the foreigners” that bothers me. The thought of ‘lets provide good product/service and profit from it’ is substituted with “the foreigners are coming for the mountains, lets leech off them as much as possible while they’re here.”


 touristy Thamel


Durbar Square 

I understand bargaining and all that, but lying to us is another thing. People have lied to us about everything from the weight of our laundry to lying about transportation options. We’ve met a few honest people, but the majority of people we’ve dealt with have been dishonest. And some people have been honest with us about some things, but then try to shamelessly rip us off later. We’ve traveled all over the world, both on this trip and previously, and Nepal is the first place where there seems to be so much widespread dishonesty. Nepal has really left a sour taste in my mouth. I usually try to skirt my negative thoughts on places and not to really write too many negative posts, but the preceeding paragraph is a testament to my disappointment. I truly hope that our bad experiences were anomalies and/or that the way we were treated is limited to the few places we visited.


Nepal had its positive aspects too. The trek was amazing. Trekking in Nepal is even worth dealing with all the other crap I’ve just written about. Kathmandu even had its redeeming qualities. Despite having a relatively short history, Kathmandu looks like an old city with lots of old buildings and antiquated (in a good way) architecture and artwork. Going back to my Istanbul allusion, Istanbul has about 1500 years on Kathmandu as a major city, but Kathmandu looks older is many respects. Lastly, many travelers we’ve met on this trip have commented on how Nepal is like India, but nicer. I can see what they mean- there’s less litter everywhere, most buildings have toilets, its not as crazy, and people seem pretty friendly. And its touristyness has resulted in plenty of good restaurants offering international fare. Those things have been nice, but I’ll have to end this somewhat negative meandering post by saying I’m not too sad that we’ll be leaving Kathmandu tonight.


Nepali Development


164_6445-4.JPGThird-world countries are sometimes referred to as developing countries. Nepal definitely isn’t one of those places. Unlike my other posts on Nepal, this isn’t meant to be negative; I mean Nepal is one of the most beautiful countries I’ve visited and development might mar its natural beauty. Back to my main point though, comparing Nepal even to third-world India makes India look like a fully industrialized western nation; developed infrastructure, a functioning economy, and a stable political situation. Nepal’s development (or lack thereof) was evident from our first day in the country. Our bus from the border to Pokhara passed through hours and hours of fields- not villages and small towns, but fields of grain. It was later that I learned that 80% of Nepalis are farmers. The majority of these 20 million farmers are sustenance farmers, as very few grow any surplus to sell. A majority of the farmers are sharecroppers though, with most farms owned by zaminders. It is these landowners who are the Maoists secondary target, as their propaganda always speaks of “the royalists and the feualists.” I’ll get back to the Maoists in a moment, but 10% of the population works in tourism while the other 10% works in everything else. Understandably, there is very little industry in Nepal and most raw and finished products are imported. The peanut butter that Joylani carried the entire trek was from Belize, while the national Nepali beer (Everest) that I tried had an Everest label, but had Tuborg stamped on the bottle (a Danish beer). Surprisingly, Nepal does have a stock market and it daily statistics are reported in the Nepali papers. Not once did I see the number of daily trades exceed 500 and although I didn’t do the rupee-to-dollar FX conversions, I’m pretty sure the volume and market caps are unfathomably low too. By every measure, Nepal is an undeveloped country.

Nepal is not developing either though. Here are just a few of the challenges that need to be overcome. One, Nepalis are chronically undereducated. Only 70% of children ever attend school and only 30% ever complete secondary classes. This is probably due to Nepal being an agrarian society, which is also why its so poor; even the average non-farming Nepali makes only $210 per month. Secondly, poverty usually goes hand-in-hand with a lack of rule of law. The police are just as poor as everyone else, so conflicts of interest and corruption is rampant. We’ve gone to a lot of corrupt places, but Nepali cops are some of the most useless I’ve ever encountered. And lastly, there’s no political stability. Why develop if the government and laws are going to change and tear down what you build? The king is widely unpopular and several political parties are vying for power. The most notorious, of course, are the Maoists who are jerking the political system around at will. With their recent threats to take up arms again and resume their People’s War, things are looking dire. In the US, war bolsters the economy, but a Nepali civil war is sure to destroy what little there is.

Nepal is one of the first really undeveloped and not-developing countries I’ve been to. But, its shown me what I learn time and time again traveling- people are basically the same wherever you go. Every human has common needs, wants, and desires. The kids are happy, the teenagers care about the same things, and adults are concerned with the daily challenges of life and providing for themselves and families. Nepalis are generally happy, because like most people, they’re making the most of the life they’ve been given. And like I began with, Nepal’s lack of development isn’t so bad, for it’s a beautiful place. I don’t think anyone would want to see little Kathmandus popping up all over the countryside. As my guide Udaya said, as we looked at a deforested area on the trek a few weeks ago, “Development is the cause of destruction.”

Top Ten Things to Say to a Maoist

us 150pxAfter our last Maoist checkpoint, we came up with a top-10 list of things to say at a Maoist checkpoint. In no particular order:

1. I used my receipt as TP at high camp.

2. All the Annapurna Conservation Area Program literature says not to give to beggars.

3. My boss already passed.

4. I was born in the USSR.

5. We’re Polish. We were Communist too- can we get a discount?

6. I would like to pay you…I really would, but I can’t afford it.

7. F*#@ YOU!

8. [give them some food instead…dogs]

9. We’re American. We already pay taxes to support two wars.

10. no English…no English…

Day 18: Tikhedhunga back to Pokhara


164_6445-4.JPGDay eighteen and the final of this trek. It’s kind of sad for me, really. We walked for two hours generally down, but it a Nepali flat kind of way, before reaching our end point at Birenthanti. Again, the only thing to note is we passed another Maoist checkpoint. This time, they were busy with a large group and probably making a killing, so we walked right through unmolested. We didn’t glance at them as we walked past and they did not even say a word to us- greedy dogs. We grabbed a snack in Birenthanti before walking the final half-hour up to a main road at Nayapul. A bus was about to leave, so we climbed up to ride on the top, which was awesome. Driving back to Pokhara, we could see the valley we had just come from and had beautiful views of Phewa Tal and Pokhara on the way down the mountain. The views from atop the bus is infinitely better than looking out a little window, while being crammed between old men, fat women, and slobbery kids inside the bus.


            Back in Pokhara, we said our goodbyes. After finding a guesthouse, we showered, did some laundry and sent some out, and ate a good meal- all of which was awesome. It was great to be able to send our laundry out and not seeing one those generic trekking menus was equally gratifying. Unfortunately, Joylani felt sick all afternoon, so I spent the afternoon going through three weeks of photos. Browsing through them, I already miss the trek :( Especially the scenery between Lower Pisang and Kagbeni.


            Here are some preliminary “final thoughts” on the trek as well: Joylani said it was the hardest thing she’s ever done. It was a difficult three weeks in many ways and required tons of endurance, but it was one of the funnest and most rewarding activities I’ve ever done too. We walked for hours everyday, but we were traversing some of Earth’s most beautiful landscapes. Being outside, smelling the crisp mountain air in the mornings and enjoying the warm smell of woodstoves and fires at night. The trek was one of the coolest things I’ve ever done and I’m sad its over.


Day 17: Ghorepani to Tikhedhunga



164_6445-4.JPGWoke up at 5am this morning and hiked 45 minutes to the top of Poon Hill to see the Annapurna Range at sunrise. It was cool to see the morning light illuminate the majestic peaks, but it somehow didn’t live up to my expectations. That’s one of the ill effects of traveling this much. We’ve seen so many amazing things that beautiful sights like this morning lose their magnificence. Nonetheless, it was still a beautiful morning. We descended, ate breakfast, and took our time getting started.

            By 9am, we were on our way down the mountain and out of Ghorepani. Before we were even out of town, we ran into another Maoist checkpoint. This time, Joylani and I were well ahead of anyone else. As they told us to stop, we just kept walking saying, “We paid.” “Show receipt, show receipt!” they shouted, but we just kept walking and saying, “Paid, paid.” Feigning a weak understanding of English and walking briskly, we got through the checkpoint without payment or incident. Although we’ve gone through so many checkpoints, it still pisses me off. These ideologically-bankrupt bandits trying to extort money from us to pocket themselves. The other infuriating thing is that we passed Nepali police within five minutes before and after the checkpoint, but they do nothing because they get a cut of the Maoists illicit activities.

            The next four hours were a continuous downwards staircase. Apparently someone counted the step between Ghorepani and Tikhedhunga and came up with 3820 or 3280- I can’t remember. Anyways, it seemed like we were going deeper and deeper into the valley forever. The only thing more ridiculous than going down the thousands of steps was seeing people come up. I can’t even imagine attempting to climb so many steps in a day, for the steepness seems impossible. Arriving in Tikhedhunga, I took the new best shower of the trek and am now writing and chilling in shorts and a t-shirt in the warm sun.


joylani 130pxToday I tried something new without knowing it: buffalo curds. They came with my muesli as an afternoon snack. The appearance was a little bit thicker than normal curds and the taste was awful yet intriguing. It was part yogurt, part smoked salmonish flavor, part I have no idea what. My hunger and curiosity compelled me to finish them even though my mind told me “this is going to make you sick.” Much farting ensued. In other food news, we’ve been seeing lots of tomato trees. I don’t know if they’re actually tomatos, but what it looks like is a bunch of Roma tomatoes hanging off a fig tree. The tomato tree reminds me of a summer when my dad decided to grow tomatos. Instead of planting one or two, I think he planted seven or eight in the backyard. He watered them faithfully every day, which unfortunately led to their demise. The overwatering caused black fungus on the leaves. Fortunately, we were still able to eat some good tomatoes that summer, and Dad, those tomato trees reminded me of you. Back to the curds, they were homemade. How does one make curds you ask? Well, first the animal is milked; in this case, a buffalo. Then the milk is boiled for things such as tea, etc. (I learned this from the hotel owner’s son). The milk that’s left over is put in a pot, which is put on a shelf in the kitchen, where it curdifies at room temperature for a couple days until it is served to guests like me. I believe that most of the curd we’ve had on this trip is from cows, even though those have had a wide variety of tastes from your average plain yoghurt to a delicately sweet and icy tasting curd to more watery. And then there’s buffalo curd; thick, heavy, and with hints of smoked salmon- who knew? Buffalos.

Day 16: Sikha to Ghorepani



joylani 130pxI think I could snack on food for the whole afternoon.  I already had a mid-sized breakfast (2 boiled eggs, oatmeal and lots of tea), and Matt and I split a Tibetan bread, fried rice and little pizza for lunch, but I just topped it off with a bowl of muesli!  Now I guess I’m full, but it would be great to just sit here in this sunny lodge and snack on my mom’s chocolate chip cookies, or Sun Chips, or popcorn…Happily after the pass we’ve had some alright food (with the exception of the Florida Hotel where the food was terrible).  We’ve had a few Nepali “Mixican” burritos, pizzas, and apple crumbles (we’ve also stayed clear of the “Japanish” food on the menu).  Despite my stomach having more problems on this 2nd half of the trek, I’ve had a huge appetite and just try to eat as much as I can anyway, hoping I’ll digest some of it properly.  This afternoon has been wonderful.  Even though we’ve gained quite a bit of altitude again in the past few days (i.e. climbed hundreds of stairs), and the nights are getting cold again, right now there is clear blue sky and lots of sunshine.  I was able to take a hot shower and not be surrounded by freezing cold air.  The guys are all sprawled out on the lawn, asleep on straw mats.  Simone is laying across three chairs, also enjoying the sun.  One of the hotel ladies has just smiled over at me and we shared a laugh at the tired trekkers.  The last few days we’ve walked back into terraced farmland.  It is an interesting reminder to see where al the food we’ve been eating comes from—dried beans, corn, grains, spinach, etc.  I even saw a chicken laying eggs at the place we stayed last night.  There’s much more variety in the plants we’re seeing now from trees, ferns, moss, grass, etc, and even some peach trees in full blossom.  Going straight uphill the last two days hasn’t been ideal, but at least the landscape is peaceful and the sun is shinning.


It feels so luxurious to sit outside in the warm sun wearing a clean pair of pants and (relatively clean) tank top and fleece.  Adding to the luxury o my moment is my little tube of L’Occtaine hand cream I got from my friend Heide and that I’ve saved to use in a moment such as this—when a bit of luxury is needed in the midst of roughing it.  Thanks Heide!  Speaking of roughing it, we’ve been gone sixteen days now and have two more to go.  (I hear it’s all downhill form here though…literally.  Over 3000 stairs tomorrow.)  During that time we’ve had an attached bathroom just three times, only three showers that really felt warm enough (eleven in total), clean socks every few days because I’m too tired and lazy to wash a spare pair each night, hair washed four times, same pair of pants worn sixteen days in a row (plus an extra pair or two on the cold days), and the hair on my legs hasn’t been this long since I started shaving in jr. high!  I’ll spare you the rest of the details, but thankfully it hasn’t been as bad as it sounds reading that list right now.  I’ve definitely been grossed out (High Camp), tired, sore, and really cold.  I even considered going back a few days early and meeting Matt back in Pokhara, but I’m glad I stayed.  Overall this has been a good experience and Matt and I have made some good memories together as well as met some fun folks.  We’ve got two more days left until we get back to Pokhara, and I’m ready to be back but also glad to have come.


164_6445-4.JPGToday was day sixteen of the trek and day two of going up stairs nonstop. Four hours of going up stone steps. Like yesterday’s post, there’s really not too much to write because all I could think about was the next step. The only thing of note is that we did pass another Maoist checkpoint today. It was right before Ghorepani and Udaya told Joylani and I to just be silent and walk. So we did and when they told us to stop, we just kept walking and Udaya pretended to be a mere porter and replied, “I don’t know anything…my boss is up there,” referring to Binod, who was ahead of us and had to have passed the checkpoint already. And that was it. With no gang of adolescents to block the trail, there wasn’t anything they could do to stop us.We arrived in Ghorepani around noon and the first thing I did was take a shower- think how sweaty you’d be if you went up stairs for four hours straight. Not only did the place have a real shower instead of a bucket, but it had a gas heater too. By far the best shower of the whole trip. Afterwards, I went outside and laid down in the warm sunshine (warm sunshine has been a rarity on this trek) with Binod and Udaya. I quickly fell asleep, but moved my nap to our room when it got too hot out. It was a pretty lazy day- almost a rest day if it weren’t for the four hours of stairs. Nonetheless, it was nice to relax for an entire afternoon, since our rest day was ten days ago now. The night was pretty relaxing as well- drinking rakshi, meeting some other Dutch trekkers, and of course sitting around the fire. Joylani and I joked that its gonna be all downhill from here. Quite literally, as the next two days will consist purely of descending thousands and thousands of steps. 




Day 15: Tatopani to Sikha



164_6445-4.JPGWe walked three hours from Tatopani to Sikha, which was pretty much just thousands of stone steps going up. Not too much to write about today as the trek was just up. A few interesting sidenotes though. First, at dinner, we heard a man yelling from outside. Our guides said that he was announcing new rules decided upon by the village council. They said that whenever the leaders in their villages made new rules, someone would go to the highest place in the village and yell the news. They said the whole village stops and everyone’s quiet and listens, because no wants to be ignorant of the new rules and get fined. The other thing was we could see a fire burning near the top of a mountain across the valley. Our guides said that when winter comes and its too cold to take animals up the mountain to graze, the herders set the top parts of the mountain on fire, so that when spring comes and the animals can go up, the plants will be new instead of old. I’m learning a lot about rural life on this trek.