. We went to immigration to get our visas which was a total joke, we handed our passports and forms to our guide and he came back 5 minutes later with a stamp. No verification of identity or anything. If it wasn't for our guide we probably would have walked past the immigration building and not even noticing. Once through immigration you could tell right away you were in a completely different world than the one we came from. Things felt a lot busier and a lot less orderly. We found our transport, a big van for the three of us plus our guide and we hit the road. The road was very rough with lots of large transport trucks missing you by inches at times. The increase in traffic was very noticeable from the quiet highways of western Tibet. We continued driving downwards and the further down we went, the hotter and more humid things got. Is hard to believe that yesterday I was scraping the windshield of the land cruiser to remove the frost and today we are in tropical jungle only a few hundred kilometres away. After an hour of driving we stopped at a small tourist resort with a large suspension bridge over a gorge. There was an option to bungy jump off the bridge but we didn't have enough time. We went to the bar and had a beer instead. I don't care if it was 9:45 in Nepal, it felt like 12:00 to us so we had a beer and got back on the road. We continued driving for another hour, through a bunch of checkpoints, before hitting our lunch stop on the side of the road.
For lunch we had a buffet with rice, curried potatoes, greens, chicken and fried bread which was very good
. I also tested out more Nepali beer since I knew I'd have limited opportunity with our limited time in Nepal. From the lunch stop we continued our journey to Kathmandu. The road was very busy and traffic made no sense. It made the Chinese traffic look civilized. We passed numerous busses were you could not fit anymore people on of you tried, including people on the roof and hanging off the side. One bus even had a goat riding on the roof. The number of motorcycles on the road was crazy as well. I guess there was recently a festival so many people went home to spend time with their elders and now that it was over they were all returning to Kathmandu to go back to work. We stopped at a few spots along the way for pictures. One of the spots we stopped at had a giant swing, which was built out of bamboo for the festival so our guide made us try it out. I went first and got mocked by the girls because I had a hard time getting it going but then it was their turn and they quickly realized it wasn't as easy as it looked. We finally made it to Kathmandu very late into the afternoon and checked into our room at the hotel. Gina and I ended up with the penthouse suite which was pretty good compared to what we have gotten used to with the Tibetan guesthouses. Compared to the hotels at home it is pretty much a standard room with a view. The room is on the roof of the building with a large terrace surrounding it. There was also no power when we arrived. Apparently there are scheduled blackouts twice per day for a few hours in the city. This meant we had to take the stairs to our room instead of taking the elevator part way up. Once we dropped off our bags, we met our guide for an orientation walk in the neighbourhood around the hotel. As we started our walk the skies opened up and it poured completely soaking us. Our hotel is located in the Thamel neighbourhood which is the main tourist district of Kathmandu. The area is full of bars, restaurants and shops selling souvenirs and all kinds of counterfeit outdoors clothing
. Once our walk was completed, we said goodbye to our Nepal guide and headed out for supper at a nearby restaurant. We both had curry which was excellent and desert. We sort of underestimated how many Nepali rupees we would need so after supper we needed to make a trip to a nearby exchange house and get more so that we could pay for our cab ride in the morning to the airport. We want to make sure we have as few rupees as possible because we are here only for a short time and it is useless currency elsewhere in the world. We also stopped at a bakery to buy some bread for the morning and at a grocery store for some snacks. Afterwards we returned to our hotel where we took advantage of having Internet access once again. It was also a chance for us to say bye to Lan who is staying one more day in Kathmandu then flying back to Montreal.
We have an early morning relative to Nepal time, compared to Beijing time it is a sleep in. We apparently need to be at the airport 3 hours ahead of time as immigration is apparently a circus at times. Our time in Nepal has been short and right now we are still trying to get used to everything again. I don't think we are getting the most of our experience. The little things like traffic, sirens, hoards of people everywhere, other tourists and airplanes flying overhead are things that we haven't seen or heard for the past two weeks. You wouldn't think it would affect you but it is very noticeable when you are thrown back into that environment. Oh well, I'm sure it will be even more crazy in Malaysia tomorrow!
André and Gina
After a decent sleep on the rock hard beds at our hotel on Zhangmu, we woke up after a bit of a sleep in and packed our bags. We loaded up the land cruiser one last time and walked the short distance to the same restaurant we had supper at last night for breakfast. Two fried eggs with bread would only be appropriate as our last breakfast in Tibet. Tashi and Drukpa joined us for our last meal together and for a few more laughs. After settling the bill at the restaurant we hopped in the land cruiser to make the short drive to the Nepal border. We continued heading downhill until we reached the first of many checkpoints. The first checked permits and passports, the second stamped passports, the thirds checked bags, the fourth checks passports again, I'm sure I'm missing a few but I have never seen it so difficult to get out of a country. Usually it is the opposite where they are glad to punt you out. After the final check point we said goodbye to Drujal and Tashi and met our guide for the Nepali leg of the journey