Friday, July 01, 2016

Last days of Nepal

Our last few days in Pokhara were uneventful. We wiled away the time wandering the town shops and stopping here and there for coffee and bites. At 1 stop at a little street cafe, the young proprietor explained that Pokhara was a part-time home and his other enterprise was guiding on Mount Everest. He had summitted twice and when we asked him if he knew Tenzing Norgay, he said "Oh yeah, he was my neighbour up there." (Tenzing Norgay: With Sir Edmund Hillary, he was 1 of the first 2 to reach the summit.)

It was the looming wet and overcast that kept us close to our hotel and the "Delhi Belly" even closer to it. After a day of expelling fluids, and with our departure date looming, I checked into the small tourist hospital for some intravenous rehydrating, tests, and the prescribed remedy meds. Judy stayed at my side, waiting for my recuperation. I was barely stabilized in time for the return to Kathmandu.

Hydrating in the hospital

It was unfortunate that the weather didn't cooperate to expose the dramatic mountain scene that is the highlight of this place, however we did get some glimpses on our bus ride back to Kathmandu.

The first half of our last day in Nepal had us wandering the back alley shops in Kathmandu.

Crowded street-alley

Pallet of bright wool colours

The last and most pleasant venue was our juxtaposed visit to the Garden of Dreams. Here, stepping through the entry gates was like travelling through a portal from 1 extreme world to an opposite extreme.

Outside the Garden walls was Kathmandu's chaotic street scene complete with the din of honking, jostling traffic of all sorts, incessant horn blaring, barking dogs, fumes from exhaust and who knows what else, and hemmed in by buildings lacking any architectural merit let alone any code compliance!

But stepping into the serene Gardens, it was as if time slowed down. One could easily imagine royals of days gone by, lounging in the tranquil setting.

Garden of Dreams

Serene lotus pond

The meticulously maintained grounds featured cloistered walks, lotus ponds, tastefully planted greenery, terraces, and benches that invited quiet contemplation. There was a chic little cafe set in 1 of the Garden's classical buildings where on the raised veranda we lazed over a light lunch welcoming a respite from the world outside.

Most peaceful terraced cafe

There were extremes in Nepal to be sure, and it's good to experience all types, but it was nice to get back to Sea Turtle in Phuket Thailand where our real life and story continues.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Pokhara

The 3rd day in Nepal had us heading from Kathmandu to Pokhara (Nepal) by bus on June 24th. The trip there was soooo crazy. How crazy you ask? Well, in Celtic logic, it could be described as a 200-km journey that took 400 km!

At first, it was a horn blaring, bumper to bumper, stop and go, bumpy narrow road as we climbed out of Kathmandu to a high pass.

Colourful transports

Then back down again along a road cut into the steep side slopes with no let up in congestion. The scenery after the pass was beautiful. We were tracing our way through foot mountains of the Himalayas. Verdant steep slopes covered terraced paddies and grow plots along with the humble tenant shacks that speckled the mountain walls as far as you could see.

Traffic block a kilometre ahead

Once down in the valley, the going got faster and the traffic eased a bit as we flew through little towns and settlements and along the streams and rivers, some raging with churning rapids.

Arriving in Pokhara after about 7 hours, we again were met with hotel pickup, and 5 minutes later, we were checked in (Hotel Family Home) with the same effusive manner as in Kathmandu. We had time to clean up and take a late afternoon/evening stroll along the lakeside path where we dined till dark to the enjoyable sounds of a local band.

Tranquil lakeside twilight

Overnight, we heard it rain and the next day began by threatening us with more of the stuff but by noon it mostly cleared. So we rented a classic Royal Enfield motorcycle and headed for some adventure riding in higher elevation with the hope of seeing that part of the Himalayas known as the Annapurna Mountain range.

We climbed out of Pokhara into the thinning air along a rough narrow road, through mud and over boulders, looking for a view point. At the best high vantage point, the majestic Annapurna range kept itself almost totally cloaked in clouds teasing us with only glimpses of its mighty peaks here and there.

Peaking peaks

We continued past peaceful villages where the children were playing, farmers were busy with their water buffalo plowing the rice paddies in the shadows of their meek homes, and men and women were packing large backloads of greenery in bamboo baskets.

Heavy load

With waning light, we reluctantly descended on switchbacks that would bring us back to civilization.

Mountain village

Thursday, June 23, 2016

NEPAL

After 6 weeks of somewhat major refinishing to pretty up Sea Turtle, we stood back to admire her new do. That was when out of the corner of our eye we noticed a red blemish. It was on the calendar though, and it was on June 22nd, marking a deadline. Want to make 3 months of rainy season move fast? Put a dot on the calendar 3 months away!

The date marked our Thai Visa expiry. It required a "Visa run". So, where to go? We could either make a quick 1-day run to a border and return, or make it a more worthwhile venture. For the latter, we revisited our land travel bucket list and chose Nepal, hoping to beat the monsoon season for that area.

Checking online flight options, we splurged and went for "cattle class". It would be Phuket to Kathmandu via Kuala Lumpur for an 8-day adventure into the bosoms of the Himalayas.

Upon evening arrival, our pre-booked hotel (De Hotel Veda) had a cab waiting and whooshed us off through the frenetic traffic as Bob Seager's song rang through my head "...K-K-K-K-K, Katmandu, I think it's really where I'm going to, If I ever get out of here, I'm goin' to Katmandu..."

The effusive greeting by our hotel host, complete with the bow and head wiggle, had us wondering if we were in the remake of the movie "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel". With his help, we planned our next day for sites of Kathmandu.

Second day in Nepal: After a delicious early morning breakfast, our pre-arranged car and driver had us off to our first stop, the Monkey Temple, perched on a ridge on the hillside slopes overlooking the spiralling valley of the City of Kathmandu.

The site invited us up about 100 steps to the top and to a motley jumble of ancient buildings and shrines with their wafting incense, craft and souvenier vendors chorusing "Come, just look", and of course, scavenging monkeys, all under the ubiquitous prayer flags fluttering in the breeze.

Curios for the curious

Temple architecture

Here we saw the first up-close effects of the aggressive earthquake that rocked the area a little over a year ago. One of the old temple buildings had broken up and looked as if you took the bottom brick out, the whole thing would probably complete a total collapse.

Quake's result

The following 2 stops were very similar and both set in the mayhem of Kathmandu. They were ancient royal palace centers with their nucleus being the old royal brick buildings with intricately carved wood facets set amidst distinctly Buddhist or Hindu temples scattered around.

Royal city in Kathmandu

At 1 building, our guide ushered us into a dingy courtyard where we witnessed the spectacle of the living child goddess Kumari, where after being called, she was, in all seriousness, quietly presented for viewing for a few moments in an upper window. No pictures allowed - following was copied from our guidebook.

Child goddess

The status of Kumari is similar to the Dali Llama. Devout believers chose her at a young age through test rituals that, to them, showed she was a living goddess and from then on till the time of puberty, she would live a life almost exclusively within the residence tended to by devout caregivers at her beck and call. She could only leave for festivals, rituals, etc. at which time her feet would never touch the ground. A unique kind of "You're grounded!" After her term, she would return to her real family and normal life and remain totally celibate for the rest of her life.

It was here at these old royal sites that the most obvious and most severe earthquake damage was evident. The Buddhist pagodas fared the worst. Some had completely collapsed in utter ruins, the debris long since removed.

Our first days saw no sign of the monsoons. So far so good!

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Finishing up

Our stay at the Phuket Boat Lagoon was extended longer than originally planned due to frequent rain. The lightning storms were fascinating to watch and we were fortunate that Sea Turtle took no hits.

Once the interior refinishing of the boat was completed, we began to reload her when it wasn't raining. And the workmen continued to struggle trying to finish the exterior whenever it was dry enough out.

Poor planning or global warning - ankle-deep water on walkway!

We had some leisure time and visited a new floating market filled with all sorts of shops. The exterior grounds had an interesting display of several metre-high clay monks in sitting positions with their arms wrapped around growing trees. It will be even more impressive as the trees get large.


With work finally completed, we were able to depart from Boat Lagoon on June 15th and head back to Chalong Bay where we once again set anchor.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Marina bound for boat work

We departed Chalong Bay (southeast corner of Phuket) for the Boat Lagoon marina complex on May 1st for some overdue boat work. In windless conditions, we motored about a 20-nautical-mile-trip up the inside/east side of Phuket.

The 2.5 nautical mile dredged channel into the Marina has to be done at high tide so we planned our timing for that. We arrived outside before absolute high tide but with the meandering dredged channel well marked with pylons, rather than wait, we continued in slowly through the murky water, only touching the muddy bottom once. That is until we got about 200 metres from the wharves where we became stuck in the soft bottom.

By radio, the Marina was expecting us so the waiting wharf hands saw us stuck and quickly came to the rescue in their skiff. They simply nudged Sea Turtle's nose bow around while we motored off the shallows.

Looking back at shallow entry channel

The Boat Lagoon complex includes a resort hotel so we decided to rent an air conditioned suite to escape the intense heat and where we could see Sea Turtle down below while work was being done by a local crew.

We were having almost all of our interior teak wood refinished including some minor wood work done, so to give the workers free clear work space, we cleared almost everything out. It took us a couple of days in the sweltering heat and many, many trips the short distance and up 36 stairs. So our suite became a combined living and storage area.

In Sea Turtle, the workers covered and/or taped everything that they were not sanding and varnishing, even including the floor, stove, etc. They took our doors, drawers, and tables to be done in their shop.


The to-do list of work included finishing the build-up and installation of 8 new tempered glass windows (the old lexan had become almost impossible to see through). That job was Jordan's.

Taking off old lexan

Fibreglass buildup

Finished product!

I took advantage of this time to do major brass polishing and some sewing jobs. We set up the sewing machine in the room to do this as well as make a new, badly needed, dinghy cover.

Deteriorated chaps...

...new homemade chaps 

A little about Boat Lagoon...at first we were relegated to the working dock but it soon became apparent with each ebbing tide it left Sea Turtle deep in mud. So Jordan arranged to have it moved across to a deeper area.

Our room is above an esplanade of commercial shops, bars, and restaurants/cafes. Chandleries, laundry service, and an American-style supermarket are close walking distance away. We were excited about the king-sized swimming pool too, but we discovered the water was very warm and didn't give us the invigorating respite to the heat we wanted. Website: www.phuketboatlagoon.com

Another task for the crew was deck painting and exterior teak refinishing. But eventually the full effect of the southwest monsoon was felt, and even though it gave some relief to the heat, the downpours delayed exterior work...