Saturday, December 25, 2010

Nepal 2: Merry Christmas and namaste from Kathmandu!!

Boudhananth Stupa panorama in Kathmandu Nepal.

Merry Christmas and namaste from Nepal!! Woke up at 6:45ish. How did I wake up? Well, Steve threw a book at me. My own book! I know, right?! Apparently he had yelled at me a few times but I didn't respond. Duh, I had earplugs in.

We had big plans for this morning. Our goal: video chat with our families. We scoped out a few places last night that said they had Skype. Niether of them were open yet so we wandered back and forth between the two. One of the Skype places finally opened but man I had some serious doubts from the looks of the place. 
The doubtful Skype place from the outside and Steve using the mad old school computers to talk to his mom. Notice half of the webcam lockbox thing in the top right.

The computer monitors were ginormous (in a bad way) like the kind you'd usually see in a dumpster or an attic. One of the 3 computers had a little lock box with a webcam in it. I didn't even think these monster machines were going to turn on, let alone function a video chat program. Well I'll be darned because sure enough the computer booted up, started Windows, I opened Skype and signed on. I called my Dad and after a few seconds I saw a blurrie figure and heard someone say "Maddie?? Can you hear us?? You got to hear this!!" Then I see Colleen (my 4 year old cousin) wearing her bright pink Dubai shirt, singing full voice every single word to Miley Cyrus's song Party in the USA. She got a karaoke machine for Christmas apparently. Not like she needs the lyrics though, she literally knows every single word by heart. 

On the left, Christmas Eve, on the right, Christmas morning.
Skype is the best thing ever!!

Side story: Mike Walsh went home to New York for Christmas. He lives in the same place as my relatives so he was going to be right near where my whole family (grandma, cousins, aunts, uncles, everybody) celebrates Christmas. I had this great idea to send all the cousins something from Dubai. A day before Mike left for the airport I went to Carrefour (the crazy everything grocery store that is huge and always busy in Dubai) and bought all my cousin's these funny Dubai shirts. Thanks to Mike they made it to the Burke Christmas celebration in time for gift opening. It was the best thing ever because they had jsut opened them when I called on Skype so everyone was wearing theirs. Even Grandma Burke had on her Dubai t-shirt!! 
Grandma Burke and the cousins reppin the Dubai shirts. Best picture ever.

Steve Skyped with his family and then we headed back to the hotel for breakfast. I got the Trekker's Breakfast, which was delicious and I would totally order that every morning if I could. We picked up Nepal sim cards for our phones from the front desk and went to talk to the travel guide of the hotel. 
Because basically we came to Nepal with:
1. our stuff
2. hotel reservation for the first two nights in Kathmandu
3. a plane ticket home at the end of the break
4. NO PLAN WHATSOEVER for the rest of the week
This travel agent guide guy was so helpful though. Nepal is apparently the perfect place to go if you're just kind of "winging it" plans wise. He helped us plan out our entire week. He arranged us bus tickets, hotels, trekking liscences, guides, transportation, food, equiptment and over all accomodations for every leg of the trip. We set the official plan, paid for everything right there, and just kind of crossed our fingers that this guy was legit, even though we were pretty sure.

This kid was a serious pigeon attacker. He would run after flocks of pigeons and wildly kick his legs around. Probably annoying for the pigeons but pretty entertaining to watch.

Hilariously large sweater jacket thing I tried on at one of the shops.
It was SO warm but also made me look SO much like a rainbow snowman.

We went out to the streets of Kathmandu to explore. Part of our plan for the week is trekking around the Anapurna mountains in Pokhara so we were looking for some stuff for that. Being in Dubai for the quarter, neither of us had brought trekking backpacks or winter jackets. Stuff was really cheap in Nepal though. There was all sorts of climbing and trekking gear sold everywhere. Annd honestly, even if the NorthFace jackets are knock offs, they're pretty darn good knock offs so I was fine with it haha

Our loot from shopping on Christmas day: trekking backpacks, thermals to stay warm, tea, stuff, jewelry stuff, winter coats (unfortunately matching coats, sooo embarassing). Not a bad haul for one day of browsing shops.

Bought some tea from the nicest little Nepalese man ever. Steve couldn't stand up in the shop because he was too tall. People in Nepal are kind of shorter, well a lot shorter than Steve for the most part. The tea shop was tiny but the shop keeper was so siked we were there. He was telling us about every kind of tea and Nepali tea and how he grows his own spices and all this stuff. 
One of the market stands in the streets of Kathmandu.

Around 4:30 we took another crazy taxi ride to the Boudhananth Stupa to meet Sonan and Thupten. The Boudhananth Stupa is the biggest one in Nepal. There were people and shops and birds all around it. Sonan interpretted for Thupten and they showed us around the area. Then Thupten took us up to a rooftop restaurant that had the best view of the Stupa. We sat there and had tea for a while. Sonan told us about Buddhism and what he was learning. Thupten told us a little about his family and where he's from. 

Sonan, Steve, Me and Thupten on the top of the restaurant near the Stupa.

It was only day two but Thupten and Sonan had helped us so much already. Their kindness level towards us (pretty much strangers) was off the charts and their knowledge of the area was really helpful. We finally convinced them to let us treat them to dinner as a thank you. Thupten picked a small Chinese restaurant with an outdoor patio. Sonan suggested the "momos" so we all got different kinds. Thupten told us it was good karma that we were spending time together on this day of Christmas. 

spicy momos

After dinner Steve and I took a taxi back to the hotel. It was rush hour and holy moley canoley was it insane. Motorcycles everywhere, EVERYWHERE. and each motorcyle had about 2 or 3 people on it. It's like they can somehow magically fit their entire family onto one motorcyle. insane.

On the left, Me and Steve on our taxi ride back to the hotel. 
And just a small glimpse of the motorcycle traffic craziness that was surrounding us.

We went to a new Skype place that night to catch our families on their Christmas morning. The new place had fast internet but no cameras so i could see my family perfectly but they could only hear me. It was still great to talk with them again though. Tessa even opened one of my Christmas presents for me by putting her arms around the back of the computer so it looked like I was opening it ha! 
It was weird not being home for Christmas but overall still a great day.

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