Project 88. Motorbike trip in Nepal. Day 5. Around Pokhara, road to Panchance.

Date: 04/04/2017

Last night it was raining and weather forecast for mountains shows minus temperatures. So we had to entertain ourselves with some riding around Pokhara.

The weather was foggy early in the morning, but get better by 8 am and after breakfast we’ve driven the road, that continues from Lakeside to the East, guessing what we would find there.

The ride was great, despite the road conditions (another off road test drive). We’ve enjoyed riding along rice fields, small villages, water buffalos and, my favorite, goats. We found there were few lovely villages with little traffic full of authentic and natural life. People were working in fields, taking care of corn, tomatoes, cabbages. Men were sitting in local tea houses discussing some very important business (my guess), women were taking care of the houses and kids were running to school and playing on the streets. Kind of Idyll. Plus amazing scenic views towards the lake, fields and mountains. Beautiful ride. While our backs were quite stressed after couple hours of off road driving, but all the emotions that we’ve got covered it tons of times.

Project 88. Motorbike trip in Nepal. Day 4. Pokhara – Sarangot view point

Date: 03/04/2017

Doing nothing we decided to start from a short ride up to Sarangot view point. The morning was quite nice, and we hoped for some views of Annapurna (7937) and Fish Tale (Machhapuchhare (6997). We got the lovely view, but before that we have to ride up the quite rough road. Thanks to early start we’ve avoided traffic on the way up, but got it on the way down. Sarangot is popular with paragliding companies, so dozens of minivans and jeeps carrying tourists and gear climb up the hill every couple minutes, brr. However our bike passed a second test drive this time on the dirt steep road.

Short drive to the Tourist Office to get our ACAP permits and TIMS cards, and we finished the riding as in afternoon the rain started again and continued all night.

We can recommended the turkish restaurant for dinner, yumy yumy.

Project 88. Motorbike trip in Nepal. Day 3. Bandipur – Pokhara

Date: 02/04/2017

In the morning the weather was better, so we walked once again to the view point. The sky was still foggy, but Dhaulagiri (8167), Machhapuchhare (6997), Langtang Lirung (7246) Manaslu (8162) and Ganesh Himal (7406) were out there.

After a quick lunch, around 8 am, we got on our bike and drove back down to the main highway, from where there was around 60 km left to Pokhara.

The road did not improved much, trucks, busses, jeeps were still there. Closer to Pokhara the traffic became hazardous, but we did not care much, because we get amazing views toward Annapurna range during the ride.

Pokhara is a paradise for tourists, but even more for trekkers who arrive here after treks. It is never a question where to stay in Pokhara, there are hundreds, if not thousands of places to stay, sleep, eat, dine, shop etc in the Lakeside area. Getting the guest house with parking is not a big deal, but can be an issue if the guest house is located up on the hill on steep and narrow road.

We have chosen a little family run guest house with 6 room, just on the lake and got a nice in suite room with lake view for 8 dollars. There are a lot of things to enjoy and do in Pokhara. We were planning to stay there for a couple of days, waiting for the good weather, before heading up to mountains.

Pokhara changed a lot since we’ve been here 5 years ago and much more since 2007, when we’ve been here for the first time. But good thing is that our old favorite local café is still where it was, though it changed the name and owners… Food is still delicious there.

Despite the clear morning and sunny day, around 3 pm clouds came, and in evening heavy rain with hailstone disappointed our plans a bit. Rain and hailstone in Pokhara means snow and below zero temperatures up in the mountains. We had to wait.

Project 88. Motorbike trip in Nepal. Day 2. Kathmandu – Bandipur

Date: 01/04/2017
Today is fools day, and people say that fools are lucky. Asking for all the luck we can get, even agreed to be a bit crazy people, early morning on the 1st of April we have started to drive narrow streets of Thamel, out of the city towards main highway to Pokhara.

The total trip from Kathmandu to Pokhara, being only something like 200 km, can easily take 7 hours, and sometimes even more (back in 2007 we have spent 12 hours on a bus). The road is partly winding with only two lanes, packed with trucks, buses, tractors, jeeps and bikes. Driving through all this villages, rice fields, stone, cement and bricks factories, there is no chance to go faster then 50 km/h. Trucks sometimes drive with a speed of 20 km/h, driving car or bus on such a narrow road you can wait for a long time to pass them. For bikes things are different, but you can go only slightly faster. Even on the bike you can still stuck in traffic and wait for tens of minutes.

We decided to split the trip in two days. On the first day we have driven to Bandipur, a lovely small one street village with preserved Newari architecture. Which is located on a top of ridge, 1050 m above sea level.

The main challenge is to get out of Kathmandu to Prithvi highway to Pokhara. We decided to start early, 6-7 am, to avoid work traffic and heat. Planning the way out, we considered two options: the first one by the Ring Road, kind of high way around Kathmandu, and second one directly through the city. We have dismissed the first option, to avoid speedy trucks and cars, and, as we saw later, made a right choice. The Ring Road was partly under construction and traffic was forbidden on the part leading to Prithvi highway. For the first 20km the highway is also under an active construction of additional lanes, so we got all pleasure of bumpy road, crazy trucks speeding to deliver the next portion of stones to a construction site, dust, lots of dust, and noise. Happily it was over quite soon after Kathmandu and, totally covered in dust, we got into serpentine.

Bandipur is located around 120 km from Kathmandu, 10 km uphill from the main highway, you need to take a left turn after dusty town of Dumre.

We have been here 10 years ago, the village is still nice. Our lovely guest house, Heritage Guest House, is still there. It’s an old wood and stone building, soaked with traditional smell of milk, oil and fat, run by local family. Very basic but cozy rooms, with lovely views over the valley, are for the offer for 5-7 dollars.

There is only one issue with Bandipur – the main village, as well as nearly all guest houses, is located on a street surrounded by steps, so no vehicles can drive there. But there is a place just before steps that can offer an overnight parking for 100 Rs, they also have rooms if you decided to stay with them.

The village did not changed much in 10 years. Though it was quite close to the epicenter of destructive earthquake in 2015. Some houses were damaged and being restored now, the whole reconstruction is still under progress, but main street keeps it authentic looks and many houses survived the damage.

There are nice walks around Bandipur village, including Tundikhel view point where views towards Himalaya mountains suppose to be spectacular. But the weather were cloudy on that day, so we haven’t seen any mountains at all.

Soon after lunch time the sky got darker and storm arrived. For about 30 minutes we have witnessed a beautiful change of clouds in the storm sky, followed by a shower rain. As a result, electricity was down, so for the rest of the day the whole village became dark.

In the evening we got local meals from the restaurant beneath our room, and some local wine as well. It was kind of surprising experience – hot barley wine, with honey and, gee on top. Gee is a butter which is quite often used for cooking in Nepal and India. I’ve tasted the wine… and I would not want to repeat the experience – yayks.

Rain gave us sometime for evening promenade and after came back for the whole night.

Project 88. Motorbike trip in Nepal. Day 1. Test drive

Date: 31/03/2017
Driving around Kathmandu is a lot of fun. It’s not a kind of thing that would please you everyday. Commuting to work like this would be really awful. But for us, travelers who enjoy Asia, its lifestyle and bikes, especially Indian Royal Enfield, this was a great experience.

Today we took a bike for a short test drive. Yesterday we have chosen a bike, agreed to the rental price and asked mechanic to attach a luggage rack. After an early breakfast, we took it from the garage to ride across Kathmandu to Swayambhunath, down to Durbar square and then back to Thamel. The bike was good, streets were narrow, road was terrible, traffic was crazy – lots of fun. For experienced bikers only. For newbie it would be a disaster and quite dangerous.

Parking in Kathmandu is quite an issue, no bikes are left on the street after sunset and most of the day time parkings are locked up for the night. So we parked our bike in the parking lot of 5 star hotel nearby our modest guest house. We kindly asked permission from the hotel reception and security guy, they were happy to provide us with a space, they have lots of it. Next day when we departure, we tried to offer some payment for security guy, but he resisted, so we present him with couple of chocolates from Russia, a recent gift from our parents.

The owner of the rental shop, Ram, kindly provided us with an air pump and an extra tube, just in case. After packing our own gear and other stuff, we were ready to go.

Northern Vietnam – Sapa

Hi all,

Finally we get some time to travel and 31 of July landed in Hanoi (Vietnam). Couple of day in Hanoi we spent just walking around old city and because of the rain weather we travel from roof to roof, which was fun. We even visited Water Puppets show, hiding from heavy rain, surprisely for both of us, the show was not so bad.

From Hanoi we took a train to Lao Cai, small town near Chinese border, from there a 45 mins ride by windy roads and we arrived in Sapa – small hill station with scenic mountains are hill tribes villages around.
The minorities people are Hmong and Dzay mostly.

Cool weather with occasional rain, nice food, relaxed atmosphere and funny locals – can`t say that Sapa is the best place on Earth, but definitely worth to visit for couple of days.

North Vietnamese are not so aggressive and greedy like most people describe them. In Hanoi only motorbike taxi were offering their services, but even without enthusiasm. In Sapa minorities people from neighbor villages are selling hard their hand-made souvenirs. But again, if you do not want to buy anything, nobody will make you.

Tomorrow we are planning border crossing to China. Originally the plan was to go from Hekou (border city) to Yaunyang to see rice paddies, but we could not find the latest information about buses, so now we have plan B – ancient city of Jianshui. We will see what happened tomorrow 🙂

New Photos from Malaysia and Singapore

Sorry for being quite for a while.
Here is some new photos from Malaysia and Singapore:

Adorable Asian Bears, Melaka Zoo

Iguana, Melaka Zoo

Melaka a famosa, Malacca.

Night Melaka

Singapore buildings, Singapura Singapore

Singapore buildings, Singapura Singapore

Everything is big about Taman Negara

Preparing for trekking in Taman Negara with help of guidebooks, I was smiling reading “everything is big about Taman Negara”. Now, I can trust my guidebook with no doubt: giant trees, mutant bushes, even ant five times bigger that normal one, and there are also living big animals, like bears and elephants. Maybe it was good for us, that we did not meet them.

To reach national park (Taman Negara is simply mean national park from Malay language) we took an ordinary bus from KL to small town Jerantut (16,8 ringit, about 3 hours). From there, after 4 hours of waiting, we took a local, kind of city bus, to Kuala Tahan village (7 ringit, 1,5 hours).

We chose Durian Chalets as a place for living, and were right, there we got a simple, but lovely hut with twin beds and attached bathroom for reasonable 25 ringit. The owner were trying to aware as about dangerous fruits, pointing to the huge durian tree full of ripe fruits, dangling just on our roof. So, we had to ensure her, that we not afraid of falling durians, even more, we like durians, and would be happy if they will fall. And only after that, we got the key.

On the next morning, we went to the park, just for a day walk. After paying entrance fee (1 ringit for each and 5 ringit just for the camera, it is not fair I think) we asked the ranger who would he recommend us to spend out day. He gave us a map and pointed a very nice trekking trail: from headquarters to the Canopy Walking (nice local entertainment, tiny boards 5-7 meter from the ground, cost extra 5 ringit), after that passing Bukit Teresek hill (344 meters) finishing on the swimming spot Lubok Simpon. The whole trip is about 6-7 km and it took about 4 hours. Swimming in the river was great, especially after trekking in the hot and humid jungles.

After first day we got some good impression about trekking in Taman Negara – there is no sun in the jungles, the trees are so huge and shade is everywhere. And some very bad – fucking leeches!!! After three days I had 9! bites, one to the hand. I hate them!

On the second day we left all our stuff in the hotel, except tent, sleeping bags, some food and necessaries and took the trail heading to the Kuala Terengan, where we were planning to camp for the night.

From park headquarters there are two ways to Kuala Terengan, one is longer, another is shorter and going along the river bank. Of course we took the second one, and of course we regretted it the end of the day. The trail is passing the springs that falling to the river, and every time the trail is going down and up, like twenty time, of thirty, or even more. It took more than 5 hours for us to finish 10 km trek to Kuala Terengan. But it was a good trek, we saw new and interesting plants, some small animals, like squirrels, monkeys and varans. But the best about trekking in the Taman Negara is the sounds of the jungles, unbelievable sounds.

Kuala Terengan is a kind of resort, but without customers the resort is crushing, literally. The houses are destroying and absorbing by nature. The only people we could find in the resort were a park rangers who are taking care for the place. They showed us where we can camp and treated as a guest, sharing food and stories about the park.

Dima finished his day swimming in the river, as he said it was the best of the whole day 🙂

As they said, they like very much their job, only one thing they are disappointed is they can not watch World Cup. Good for them that on the next day they are going back to the civilization. And they do not know, when new rangers will come, and seems they do not care 🙂

At night it was a rain, a huge tropical rain, we are still wondering how our old tent was able to hold it.

On the next morning we were along in the resort, and we had two options: going back to Kuala Tahan by longer trail by foot, or by boat, if we will be lucky enough.

Decided to let the fate make the choice, we sit on the river for the breakfast. First five boats were full with tourist and passed without any attention to us, The six boat had only boatman and one passenger, both malay man. They quickly agreed to give us a ride to Kuala Tahan, with no mention about the money.

It was a fast and sometimes frightening ride, for 30 minutes we cover the distance that we made for 5 hours!

In the end of the day we were completely satisfied of our trekking in Taman Negara, but I will hate the leeches till the end of my life!

Kuala Lumpur – sweet and sour megalopolis

We spent about a week in Malaysia Cameron Highlands – cooling and even freezing. Heading to Taman Negara national park we decided to go via Kuala Lumpur, with overnight stop. Seems that this way will be cheaper, the direct minivan from Tanah Rata to Taman Negara cost 85 ringit per person.

Ordinary bus from Cameron Highlands to KL cost Rm 22,5 per pax. Unfortunately Pudu Raya bus station is on renovation now, and all buses arriving to the Central bus stand (near central stadium), city bus from there to China town cost 2 ringit.

One of my friend recommended us Le Village Guest House as a budget guest house in Kuala Lumpur, now we are appreciated for this recommendation. This place is fricky, but nice and clean, with great facilities, like Wi-fi Internet, kitchen (free coffee and tea all day), laundry service and wonderful relaxing atmosphere.

Having kitchen facility and planning some simple spaghetti for a dinner, we went to a local supermarket to check the prices for food and other necessaries. I can say, that prices for food are very close to Thailands one, something a bit expensive (like Thai imported goods) and something is a bit cheaper (like western goods).

Kuala Lumpur can be called with no doubts as a city of contrasts, kind of cocktail of different nations, religions, times. Here is Chinese eatery and opposite the road is Hindu temple, and 15 meter away someone singing “Allah Akbar”. Here is Muslim woman, covered from head to the feet with black cloth waiting the train on the underground station, and next to her sitting young lady with red hair, piercing and tattoo, dressed in short skirt and sexy top. It is very difficult to find pork or beef in supermarkets or fast food restaurants, but very easy to find a whore of any nationality, size and sex.

Combined with modern infrastructure, skyscrapers, tropical hear and rains and you will get Kuala Lumpur – sweet and sour capital of Malaysia.

Evergreen jungles, tea plantation and strawberry madness – Cameron Highlands

From Georgetown to Tanah Rata (Cameron Highlands) we took a tourist minivan for 38 ringit. Probably we could save some money, if we would took a local transport (from Butterworth to Ipoh and from Ipoh to Tanah Rata), but unfortunately we overslept this opportunity (as far as we know the last bus from Ipoh depart at 11:30). We were «lucky» this week was a school holiday and Caneron Highlands are preferable destination for locals.

Cameron Highlands attract visitors cool temperature, tea plantations, jungle walks and strawberry farms. It seem that locals are really crazy about strawberry – fresh berries, ice creams, jams and all kinds of souvenirs — they buying it all in a huge amounts. Local vendors seems to be very happy.

Arrived in Tanah Rata we barely got the last room, all hotels and even cheap guest houses was full with locals and tourists. We got room in the attic in Twin Pines GH for a 20 ringit. Be honest what we got is hardly can be called a room — a mattress on the floor with four walls and small window.

After hot seaside on islands, the cool weather of Cameron Higlands is very pleasant, you want to put warm socks, shawl and sleep till the midday in the warm sleeping bag.

There are plenty numbers of jungle walks around Tanah Rata, from easy half hour trek a-la «forest walking» to the really hard jungle treks with dirt climbing. The real trekkers can stay in a camp site (half hour walk from Tanah Rata by the Path N4). The camp site is really good, with toilet/shower and even electric sockets, but during holidays it occupied by local families with music and BBQ.

Today and tomorrow we will check around for tea plantations and after that will go to Taman Negara national park