In Transit – Lukla

After waiting for two hours as the fog is low in Kathmandu and no flights have arrived yet, we enter the departure area of Lukla airport and the first thing that springs to mind is KAOS. There are piles upon piles of baggage everywhere, some in orderly lines, others dumped in the middle of anywhere and there is barely room for people to stand. Mix that witha  whole bunch of waiting tourists waiting to get home and very disorganised flight desks and you have the picture. Lucky for us the lodge owner (a practicing monk and certified business man) takes care of everything for is while we wait. I call him Buddha man. He is the fattest Nepali we have seen to date, very tall and wears gold rimmed sun glasses, new boots and a top of the range down jacket. He looks the mafia king of Lukla. He’s is fabulous!

He has arranged everything by jumping the queue behind the desk because he knows the guy, gets us our tickets, we all say a very fast goodbye after receiving our farewell scarves and we are in the exit lounge. It is all very fast and after about 45mins we are on an aeroplane heading down the runway of death! The runway is short and on the exit flight we shoot off the end over the valley before anyone can say ‘ we are out of runway’, and surprisingly it is smooth.

In Nepal at the airports men and women are separated at security to be searched, men by men and women by women. It is all very proper. Although I don’t recall opening my bag once and after a frisk search (mainly of your pockets) as long as you say no to carrying a lighter, tape or matches, you are free to go. I can’t imagine why anyone would want to take down a plane here, they are all too polite. And I think they feel the same way, it is anything but formal. Brett has a different experience though and he must unpack his bag every time and pull everything out for examination. I guess women are the trustworthy ones?

We wait at Kathmandu airport for an hour before Dolpa arrives to take us to Thamel. I use a nice young strangers phone to call Pasang to check before though to make sure she has not forgotten us as they are usually punctual. He assures me she is on her way and that the traffic is very bad. Nonetheless it is nice to sit and wait and people watch – one of my favourite past-times. Back to the same hotel we head out for a lunch straight away as we are on the 3pm flight to Pokhara – the second biggest town in Nepal and one with topical weather – can’t wait! We eat lunch at Rum Doodle and have the most amazing pizza – wood fired oven baked and mixed with a tonne of cheese – so good. Pizza in the mountains is weird as no one has an oven. Don’t order the pizza until you are in Kathmandu.

Khao San Road

Bangkok: Arriving back in Bangkok and after the last rip off fest by most cabbies I am not looking forward to really being here. Although I am staying in a different place with different people and I have some different things on the itinerary – I am open. We arrive in the synonymous back packer area of Bangkok, a street running parallel to the infamous Khao San Road. In the day time KS is like any other street; vendors on the kurbside, traffic and lots of tourists. We walk with a local guide to the riverside and have a tour of the canals before disembarking at the dock near the reclining buddha. Wat Pho is one of four large reclinging Buddha’s in Thailand; it stretches out in its hall for over 50m and is gold. On the soles of his feet are etched symbols of life in paua shell and along one side are 180 pots where you deposit non-denominational coins for good luck. Each pot means something different so you can either put one coin in each pot or select certain pots for more coins for more luck. I choose the 180 option not knowing what thry mean, hope this has me covered.

After our tour of the complex we all decide to head to the MBK – a mega shopping mall set across seven floors and air coniditioned. I head out after a visit to the food court with one of the other ladies and we only get through three floors before our time is up and we must head home. I do however get that handbag I have been after and revel in my purchase. We go back to the hotel and get ready for dinner – our final night out together.

Dinner is at a nice restaurant overlooking the river so I take the opportunity to have a Pina Colada and try a lychee breezer – good choices. After dinner we head to Khao San Road. KS has been transformed into a crazy strip of street bars, hawkers, stalls and hundreds of tourists and locals. It is amazingly busy so we stop off for our first bucket on the sidewalk. A bucket is the equivalent of six standard drinks in, as it states, a bucket (a spade and bucket kind of bucket). I decide to share one with a friend and we have a Sansom – which is Thai whiskey, red bull and coca cola. Packed with ice it is actually pretty good. The night speeds up after this with another bar and our final resting spot at a local pub that is playing live music; but not before we sample some of the local tucker of meal worms and crickets. We dance, play pool and drink some more. The atmosphere here is fantastic and is my kind of place. I do however decide it is time to turn in, afterall I do turn into a pumpkin after midnight, and after having an awesome night think it is best to end on a high. So I walk the busy street (one block) back to my hotel room and crash at midnight. I am sure the many pictures will not do it justice. It has been an great day but I am so sleeping in tomorrow!

Koh Samui

Koh Samui: After catching a local bus, a ferry and a mini van, we finally arrive in Koh Samui, Thailand. I love Samui. I have been here before. All I am looking forward to is R&R. I have been here for three days and in that time I have been to the Marine Park and fetched myself a decent tan, been shopping at Chaweng, had a mega sundae ice cream, had a massage, went swimming, snorkelling, had a foot scrub, manicure and pedicure and plenty of sleep. Did I mention I love Koh Samui…

Bangkok

Bangkok: Although I have been to Bangkok before this time it feels different. The people are not as nice and there seems to be more of them trying to rip me off. After arriving at 6am we are taken by a man who gets lost along the way to our hotel where I spend the next two nights with Kate and her parents. The Chateau de Bangkok is not impressive in the foyer but this is a good thing because when you get to your room, you are more than impressed as your expectation is surpassed. Marble bathroom, bath sheets, roof top pool and steam bath (big fan as always). It’s not bad. :)

The entire day herein is spent at Chatuchuk – The Weekend Market. As with most markets you can buy almost anything here. The only difference is that is is the size of about ten football fields – massive! Most of the stalls divided up into logical categories, even the pet shops, and although I didn’t actually find these I am still feeling overwhelmed at the fact that I didn’t even see half of it. I buy some gifts and after many hours we head back to the hotel for a rest.

Similarly the following day is spent at more markets and at MBK – one of the biggest shopping centres in the city. It is a department store like establishment with air conditioning (bonus) and is set across seven levels. For some reason I am drawn to handbags and purses today and I find a reasonable Bally bum-bag and Mulberry purse. I guess because you don’t really travel with a lot of luxuries you tend to get excited at the prospect of seeing a whole store of them. Shopping in Bangkok is expensive compared to other places and because the exchange rate is giving a hiding at the moment I walk away feeling less than ordinary and know that this will hurt my bank balance. Funnliy enough I don’t spend as much as I thought and after a mishap with a taxi driver who proceeded to kick us out of his cab we end up at Patpong night market. There are three rows of the same stuff but it is all patronised by the girlie bars. This is the first time I have been offered a ‘pussy menu’. Not that I am surprised by this but they just don’t give up; and this is coming from a female point of view. I feel sorry for the male population being dragged to this part of town by their female partners, I can only imagine how you feel.  We all meet up at the corner and have a lovely Vietnamese dinner in a nice restaurant then catch a cab back to the hotel where I pack my bag. I bough a new pair of shoes tonight as one of my cheapy pairs from home has finally worn through. Farewell faithfuls.

I rise early in the morning to been farewelled by my lovely surrogates and head to the airport. I  buy a baguette for breakfast and a watch with an alarm as my phone has been stolen and my current $10 watch only tells time. It is a good bargain I think and possible the first useful thing I have found in duty free. ASia Air offers free seating so I shadow the priority seating guests and get on the plane third in line, window seat up the front thank you very much. The flight is quite good and only takes 1hr 50mins from Bangkok to Hanoi direct. Upon arrival at Hanoi airport I run into a fellow backpacker and we agree to share a cab, only to be accosted by a rude mini bus driver. But it is only $3 and he does drop me off where I have asked to be dropped off. Alas I have arrived.

Chiang Mai

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Chaing Mai in Northern Thailand is a bustling city full of tuk tuks and tour vans. After our dinner on arrival with a traditional Thai dance from some local ladies we head to the night market. There is nothing too impressive that I haven’t seen before and the five or six blocks and twisting alleyways show much of the same thing. I buy some shirts for the boys anyway and some small gifts and head back for another late night (midnight). As much as I am a night owl, I have nothing on these people.

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I only have one full day here so I decide to go and take a tour called Flight of the Gibbons. This activity is the most fun you can have on a high wire. It is a 2km stretch of cables and air bridges and platforms approximately 100m off the valley floor in a rainforest. Each person has a full body harness and pully system attached to them and the small groups of nine are guided by two leaders – one at the front and one at the rear. The longest wire is 150m across and the whole system is as safe as something we would do ourselves (probably safer). The company was set up by a bunch of Aussies and Kiwis so go figure. I would recommend this activity to anyone. The trip in the rainforest takes approximately three hours so you get as much fresh air as you can handle. It is pricey at 2080 baht but worth every penny. Your lunch and transfers are included as is your safety gear and your trusty brake – a V-shaped piece of bamboo on a string – priceless! Lunch wasn’t too bad either. I liked it so much I bought the T-shirt :)

Tonight Kate and I are heading to Bangkok on a sleeper bus as all the trains are booked up until next Tuesday. Lucky enough we have our tour guide is on the case for us and she has helped us secure our tickets departing Chiang Mai for a mammoth ten hour haul down south. So in the meantime we have four hours to kill; I think I hear a foot spa and salon calling my name…