Thursday, March 17, 2011

Everest Panorama Trek ~ Day 1. Singapore to Kathmandu, and Swayambunath Temple.

Travellogue: Kathmandu welcomed us...

Day 1 - Singapore to Kathmandu

The day started off just like many other SgTrekker trips with an inhumanely early reporting at Changi Airport at 6am.
Just like any other SgTrekker trips. It was a meeting of friends - old and new - with a single unified passion in photography. The only difference is, this time this pack of enthusiastic travellers included a group of young and not so young trekkers... Real true-blue super-fit trekkers who were there really for the trekking.

Of course, hiccups were inevitable. And SgTrekker's Melvin and Adrian were not only veterans in encountering these hiccups, but also in handling them.

Some of our team members have started flexing their posing muscles way before the walking actually even started....

Hmmm.... Adrian's worry was certainly not unfounded.
Unknown to him, we all will be drinking him and SgTrekker Pok-Kai simply by ordering hot lemon after hot lemon after hot chocolates after coffee with milk after ginger tea high high up there...

And my good mate Dinosaur has already got himself readied with an iPhone GPS Apps that could do something no one has ever been able to do - calculate the horizontal distance of travel for cimbers on the trek!
... and as for Wind, I will forever lose out to him because with that special box he has, he runs like the Wind!

Our flight took us to Bangkok Suvanabhumi Airport for a short one hour transit before another 2hr plus flight to Kathmandu.

I am but merely the record shooter and my job serves nothing more than simply documenting the events of our trip.
My sincere apologies if many of my photos suffer from poor compositions, exposures, slow shutter speed resulting in movement blur and other technical deficiencies, for in some of the pictures, I hope the moment captured would be precious enough to make them worth while more so as a form of memory, rather than any art form for appreciation.


Day 1 - Flying off from Bangkok Suvanabumi Airport

Well, we finally boarded our TG402 flight inbound to Kathmandu.
And the KB KB began even before the trip has really started...


Day 1 - Kathmandu: Arriving at Tribhuvan Airport & En Route to Vaishali Hotel

On this day, Kathmandu was not terribly hot. The crowd in the airport, the sight of many a van, car, trucks, pickups thronging the crisscrosses of roads, and the sound of unending choruses of vehicular horns greeted us as we made our way to the Hotel Vaishali near the Thamel area.

We landed right next to the entrance of this Tribhuvan Airport. Here is a record shot of how the airport looks like for memory sake...

And it wasn't too soon before we learned that fast-twitch muscles for quick actions weren't particularly in fashion in this land where an atmosphere of medieval times still permeates.
Crowds, jams, long queues, long waits.... all were common place occurrences.

To all who have not visited Kathmandu before, one has to apply for a Visa On Arrival with two passport photos and US$25 (for a visa of not more than 14 days duration).
This process, though sounded simple enough, was one of the many factors that resulted in a protracted wait in line at the customs.
A practice that we would all get very used to in days to come.
But here we were, finally having cleared the customs, and struggling to find our way out of the airport.
As can be seen in the picture, some of us were still holding on to the Declaration form (Nothing to Declare) when we walked through out of the airport.... apparently no official actually cared about that piece of paper.
Either that, or they were too busy flexing their slow-twitch muscles...

Finally! Out of the Airport!

... and into our Minivan/Bus... en route to Vaishali Hotel...

Distributing the keys...

Apologies for the slow shutter speed... 

On the ClubSNAP thread, I replied to Chi Loong:
"AlexK! Thank you very much for the warm welcome!
You know, AlexK... this was the toughest and most siong SgTrekker trek that SereneXMM and I have ever joined.
Of course there were many in the team like vngks, Wind, Dinosaur, Ah Wong, wkcheah, Stevewhy and more who were very fit and well-prepared for the climb.
But I am quite sure that there were some who were suffering like SereneXMM and I.  But all of us, agreed on one thing - that if you were here on this trek, you would have made it up to the top with no problem. "
SereneXMM #1
Here's my record shots.
We are staying at Hotel Vaishali, Kathmandu.
Husband and wife team. Getting ready for Swayambunath...

SereneXMM #2

An account of Kathmandu by Cheah Wai Kit on the ClubSNAP thread [click]

 And Francis Chia posted this picture he shot in Kathmandu:


Day 1 Afternoon - Swayambunath Temple (Monkey Temple)

It was already past 3 pm. And as per scheduled, we had enough time to visit our first destination, the Swayambunath Temple, one of the two big Buddhist temples listed under UNESCO protected site. Swayambunath was also known as the Monkey Temple for many of the primates roamed freely within its compound.
Our guide for the next couple of days was Mr Nepal. (yupe, you've got it correct. Mr Nepal is his name.) A very well spoken gentlemen who used to be a guide in the Himalaya.

It took us a while but soon we got used to his accent.

Mr Nepal gave us an account:
There are altogether, in Nepal, 7 Unesco listed sites:

  • The individual Durbar squares of Patan, Baktapur & Kathmandu.
  • (Durbar- means palace). Built from 15-16th century.
  • The two big Buddhist stupa- Swayambunath and Boudnath.
  • The two old Hindu temples- Pashupathinath and Changunarayan.

Mr Nepal went on to explain that the Swayambunath temple had its beginning thousands of years ago, but there was plenty of rebuilding over the dynasties by the various Kings. This current structure was built in the 4th century.

Here was an account of 'The Legend of Swayambunath" by Cheah Wai Kit [Click]

Here was the Main Stupa at Swayambunath Temple. Our good francis chia and SereneXMM were surveying for the best angles to capture the big stupa...

Like many Buddhist stupas in Nepal, its walls face 4 directions, and it has 13 steps from the base to the top symbolizing the steps to reach nirvana.
 Here is a picture of Stevewhy, Ah Hawk and Melvin relaxing by the main stupa.

We could see, at the background, a stupa that is being scaffolded and being repaired.

Mr Nepal had a very interesting story about this stupa:

"The umbrella stupa under repair besides the main stupa at Swayambunath had little story behind it. It had been said that if there were to be any damage to it, some disastrous event would befall the nation of Nepal.
And indeed in 2001, a fire broke out in that very stupa and in the process of watering down this fire, the seepage of huge quantity of water caused the stupa to crumble.
Not long after that, the Royal massacre of King Birendra and his Queen by the crown prince Dipendra took place.
The brother of the slain king, Gyanendra then took over the throne, with his son Paras by his side. Apparently this new King and his son were not too popular with the people, and he found himself left with no choice but to rescind control of the country to a democratic coalition in 2007.
He now lives in a house 10km out of Kathmandu."

Here are just some of my record shots of The Swayambunath Temple.
When we arrived at the Temple, the sky was a little gloomy and we didn't have too much good light.
Thus the dynamic ranges were a challenge.

I know many of you guys out there have great shots of Swayambunath. So let me just share some of my humble side-shots and leave the main ones to you all.

The small stupa on the left side of the entrance where SereneXMM, Acpical and I roamed to first, while the rest of the team went over to the right side which was the main Stupa.

Right at the top of the steps was another small little stupa.

My humble share of the big prayer wheels.

Here was a shot by our good member Steve Wong of the Kathmandu City from the top of Swayambunath, which I found very nice.
Kathmandu City from Swayambunath. Photo: Steve Wong

As we walked down from the main stupa, we came across this seated Buddha.
What was interesting that I found was, the little monkey just jumped all over the Buddha! Haha....

SereneXMM #3
Afew monkeys were picking fleas with their companions. One of their companions snarled at me. I quickly ran away...

SereneXMM #4
Caught this monkey sleeping. It 'bo chap' me even I went near him.

SereneXMM #5
The prayer wheels and the mani stones.

SereneXMM #6
The prayer wheels.

Here, Kai Sing posted a few of his very memorable shots of Swayambunath [click]

And here was a shot of Serene taken by Kai Sing that I really loved very much:
[Photo: Ng Kai Sing]
And KC Tng posted his very memorable shot of the monkey drinking water:
[Click on the photo below to bring you to Kc Tng's post on the thread]
Photo: KC Tng
And this is Cheah Wai Kit's shot of his monkey:
[Click on the photo below to bring you to Wai Kit's post on the thread]
Photo: Cheah Wai Kit


Day 1 - Dinner at Bamboo Club, Thamel, Kathmandu

Allow me to just bring the travel account to dinner on the first night for now, as we wait for the rest of the team members to get ready their pictures.

Kathmandu is a constant stream of flowing vehicles and humans.
And its buildings are erected very close to one other, leaving literally only enough spaces for narrow little driveways in between these buildings, often times at odd and acute angles with each other.
Every one of us marvelled at the skills with which the drivers maneuvre their minibuses, vans or cars in making that hard-to-accomplish turn into even smaller lanes, only to blare their horns at passers-by who occupy a good part of the road, walking leisurely with nary a worry for the approaching mobile behind them.

Our dinner destination for the night was at a nice restaurant called Bamboo Club, located only minutes away from our hotel by foot, along the Bhagwoti Marg (Bhagwoti Road).

Here, Leong and wkcheah were just walking behind me as I turned back and snapped a shop of the sign board...

Classic Nepali style presentation.

Great dinner always come with a price - and Adrian made no bones about the impending event the next morning...

And here was a post by Kai Sing: 'How can we forget.... Everest Beer!!!!"
[Photo: Courtesy of Ng Kai Sing]

But of course, some one found that the shops around the area sell trek pants, trekking poles, outer shell jackets all at very good prices, and we all ended up in one of these shops and hum-tum the shop owner to get trekking sticks at 300rp (S$5.40), light trek pants at 600rp (S$10.80).
Goose became the shop keeper by standing at the counter and bargaining the prices with us, and bringing the prices down even more in the process.
We had a great time that evening. And the shop found itself lightened of more trekking sticks and cold wear.

[Picture noisy and slightly Out of Focus. But just for the memory of the moment.]

And Melvin took a snap shot of me in the shop:
[Click on the Photo below to go to Melvin's post on the thread]
Photo:  Melvin Tan

Honestly, I have never thought that I would come to Kathmandu to buy these items, despite SgTrekker's repeated assurance that this was a good idea.
I now agree, because although the products are almost all non-original North Faces and such, for that fraction of the price, they would do a more than enough good job for most of the treks up the mountains.

Day 2 - Our Attempt at Flying to Lukla Airport...