One leg from here, one leg from here

The gang waiting for the hoards and their cameras

Elephant safari in Chitwan is invariably a morning affair. Or at least it is for me as both times I was engaged in such an activity I had to wake up around 6 am. There are safaris like this in the afternoon as well but I never seem to work with the right travel agency. Just a warning for the late sleepers.

All aboard and ready to rumble

Otherwise the ride in itself is quite entertaining. Five adults atop a pachyderm (four tourists and the mahout) taking a leisurely stroll in the jungle hoping to see all kinds of animals. If you are lucky, (I was the first time), you might see rhinoceros, deers, peacocks, wild pigs, crocodiles and all kinds of colorful birds. If you are not lucky as I (and 27 others from our group) was the other day you have to make do with deers, peacocks, crocs and the all kinds of colorful birds. You will never see a tiger. Though they say there are at least 250 left in Chitwan. Too lazy to show their faces for some tourists armed only with cameras. Really, now, do not hope for a tiger.

That is real. Someone said it moved. Simon said.

The gang getting wet

And the device that justifies the title of this post

Oh, but the thrill of riding an elephant is an experience in itself: usually it lasts one hour and a half but the mahout is cheating as he knows that after 45 minutes the tourists can hardly feel their butts so he finishes the ride early. Nepali jungle is ugly. It resembles in fact any forest on the outskirts of a big city (say Bucharest?) but here the wilderness is genuine. And it wasn’t only my opinion. It’s not that green, not that dense, not that dark and not that wild anyway. But it’s a great attraction and distraction for the tourists in Nepal, sick and tired (or maybe just tired) of trekking and shivering with cold in the mountain villages.

The wannabe jungle

There’s a certain fare of activities in Nepal and like it or not, most of them are included in your package (together with all the meals you take at the hotel you’re staying). Apart from the above safari, there’s jeep safari, a ride with the canoe on the river – 100% chance to see Gangetic crocs, jungle walking, a visit to the elephant breeding centre, a visit to the village and a dance and music evening with entertainment provided by local artists. Make the most of it and enjoy yourself. I did. Not sure if I’d do it all again for the third time but the experience is entertaining nevertheless.

Elephant down! Ram-pa-pa-pam, Rihanna.

Ever watched those scary beauty contests for little girls? Mums from Chitwan surely did...

The gang calling it a day

As the elephants looked bored munching on something, the mahouts were busy loading them with tourists in the haze of the early morning. Four to one elephant, each taking a corner of the improvised device attached to the upper back of the pachyderms. And in mahouts’ own words: “One leg from here, one leg from here”.

And the Waltzing Matilda, Chitwan style.


Time to move to another land that I haven’t seen before. Time for some guaranteed thrills. Will be there for eight days before returning to Kathmandu for a few days of relax and the flight home. Coming soon right here.


Sunrise over Himalaya

Sunrise approaching

When in Nepal jump at the chance to spend a night in Nagarkot. If only for the glorious sunrise over the Himalayas. Wake up at 5.30 am and wait for it. It’s spectacular. Other than that Nagarkot is a good place to spend a few days hiking and enjoying nature close to the capital city. Facilities are good and the food palatable.

Very early morning

PS They say that just before sunrise the sky turns a shade of pink. Didn’t see it but then again, I wasn’t fully awake.

Like totally


A thousand words

As today was a full day of sightseeing and I was in awe most of the time, no small talk just photos. As they say: a picture tells a thousand words! Word!

A place that rings a bell

Towards someone's courtyard

Nice entrance to a block of flats

My turn next

Glorious Patan

Kite down!

Love, actually

All brands, nice bottles

Cheap and healthy

Lady and rice

And that's a pig, my friends!

Durbar Square in Bakhtapur

Finally - the Himalayas from Nagarkot

Tomorrow – Chitwan: jungle, elephants and the elusive tiger. And to all a good night!




To keep the monkeys away

Somehow with a six month delay, Jennifer Lopez’s “On the Floor” seems to be the power play this side of Himalaya. Good. Second day in Nepal went smooth. Extended visit to Durbar square – Kumari didn’t show her face at the window as it was a holiday during which she’s suppose to stay hidden – and lots of photo opps. Saddhus (of course I paid them), beggars, temples, colors, pidgins, meat and vegetables for sale, mandalas, ladies neatly dressed in safaris and ricksha drivers, all popped up in front of my camera lenses.

Trinkets in Durbar

I am a foreigner

Looking for some drinks in Durbar


Had lunch at a Thai restaurant (tasty phad thai) and went back to the hotel. Done my jeans as I chickened out at the last minute about the monkeys at the temple and made my way, by bus, to Swayambunath together with the rest of the group.

The main stupa at Swayambunath. The top of it

At 3 in the afternoon when we got there the monkeys were surprisingly sedated. Probably taking their afternoon nap. The monastery itself never ceases to amaze anyone. It’s a puzzle of big and small stupas with a nice assortment of museums, altars and cafes. And restaurants with great rooftop views. A quaint mix of holiness and commercialism. Damn you, capitalism. A girl in our group developed a passion for dogs and monks. Buddhist monks. So she only photographed the two. I suggested she named the Facebook album when she would eventually upload the photos – “Of monks and dogs” . She said she would do so.

For sale, for sale

Where's mummy?

Had a ginger tea on a rooftop at the monasteries and started our way down to Thamel on foot. Traffic in Katmandu manic as usual. In the middle of all the chaos some kids were swaying on a swing hang on a huge tree hunched over the street. Got photos to prove it.

Beer anyone?

Chiken breast! Nevermind the stench.

Dinner was a simple affair of huge portions of Tibetan food at a restaurant called Nepali Kitchen. And a San Miguel beer.

What I learned from today’s experience? That people love Kathmandu even if it’s dirty, polluted and it stinks. Because it’s colorful, lively and has a certain vibe.

While I write this post JLo played ten songs ago. Five songs ago again and now it’s four songs up and after another one “On the Floor” will hit me again. I hope that wasn’t too confusing. Fact is there’s a club just downstairs from my hotel window where the party goes on well into the night.

The flowers of KTM

And about the title of this entry: nothing special. I saw it on a poster advertising a jazz festival in the capital and I thought it sounded cool.


Suddenly Kathmandu

I would rename Doha International Airport – Doha Central Bus Station. Because they shuttle you between planes and terminals in tons of buses on seemingly never-ending distances. Not fun… only if you thrive on the thrill of always being on the verge of missing your connection. Otherwise, getting from Bucharest to Kathmandu seems such a breeze now that Qatar Airways connects the two cities in less than 10 hours with a stop over in the above mentioned bus station.

Where them touts at?

I found Kathmandu different. Less of that happy hippy glare to it as years go by. Unchanged was the slowness of the passport control/visa on arrival people who never stop to amaze me (and thick rows of other tourists) with their inadequacy for the job. Certainly the airport has been modernized since my last visit three years ago. But the touts outside were few and traffic on the way to Thamel really tamed. The fact that it was a Saturday morning maybe helped. Still it was the beginning of the high season and I counted no less than four just arrived planes at Tribhuvan.

Looking good

Towards Thamel

Restaurant with cabin?

And to fast forward it a bit: left the luggage at the hotel, went out for daal bhat and a white coffee, back at the hotel, shower and some two hours of rest. I’m back in Kathmandu expecting nothing. That’s just a strategy of mine thinking that when you don’t expect anything, surprising things happen. Namaste!

Ex-royal palace

Thamel, everyone


Later the same day

Slept the whole afternoon only to be brutally woken up by the guy from the agency who called my room to remind me of the official Nepali Traditional Dinner. Food was diversified, bad and little spiced but went perfectly with the lack of enthusiasm the dancers and singers in charge with entertainment displayed. Everest beer though was exactly how I remembered it. The first taste always makes me think that this beer is made with sour water.

On my way to the hotel I looked for some photocopied editions of Lonely Planet guide books. No luck – they say they don’t sell photo copies in Nepal. Anymore, I think. In Cambodia and Vietnam they are a big business, here you can find only original copies at original high prices.

In Thamel the bars were all there, The Bamboo, Tom and Jerry, Le Bistro, Sam’s Pub, Irish Pub. Tourists were few and by 9 o’clock shops were closing. Tour of the city tomorrow and my biggest dilemma tonight is should I or shouldn’t I wear shorts tomorrow in case we visit Swayambounath and the monkeys are in a playful mood.

Some guys from the group had their luggage lost by the airline. Still no sign of them but here’s hoping for tomorrow. I’ve been in that situation many times and not always I got it back. Damn you, Alitalia.

Always a pleasure watching Asian channels in my hotel room before the internal clock tells me it’s time to sleep in my country.

Morning update

Great breakfast at hotel Vaishali. Glorious sunny day. Re-reading the above… I must have been in a pretty bad mood yesterday after the sleepless night on the plane. Wearing shorts for the temple, folks. More photos when the internet connection allows it.


Shades for winter

Yours to enjoy

I spent the first week of 2011 in Vietnam. Actually I spent the second one there as well. But about the first one I want to talk now and a nice little hotel by the sea in Mui Ne.

It’s called Shades and it’s run by a friendly family of kiwis. I didn’t stay there but I spent a great deal of time chilling by their pool and having countless happy hour drinks at their bar.

Great rooms, clean and modern

Their story is an interesting one. While on holiday in Mui Ne, Sharon and Vaughan happened to meet the owner of Shades who was looking for someone to take over the management of the little hotel. As the conditions were great they didn’t hesitate and took the offer on the spot and now, almost two years later, they transformed the place in one of the most successful business in the resort. Their philosophy is simple: keep the place clean and talk to the tourists. And it works. When not busy sorting the administrative stuff in the office you can find them at the bar, preparing drinks, chatting to the clients and sharing travel stories. And as they are very well travelled they are the best company you could ever wish for.

The swimming pool for the times when the sea gets too rough

The sea is soothing

And the bar is always open

Have a look at their website. They say it’s people that make a place but in this case it’s a great combination of wonderful setting, excellent hotel facilities and the coolest hosts. You’ll like it. I did.


Everything you could wish for

PS Count on Sharon and Vaughan for restaurant tips, excursions and stories about life in Vietnam. And if you are looking to take over a place in Mui Ne (hotel, motel, bar, restaurant) they can give you invaluable advice and keep you up to date on the latest gossip from the village. Ah, and Vietnamese coffee number 5 – best ever, served with condensed milk and lots of ice.

Shades Resort Apartments
98A Nguyen Dinh Chieu, HamTien, Mui ne,
Phan Thiet, Binh Thuan, VietNam
84 (0) 623 743 237
84 (0) 623 743 236
[email protected]

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