Nepali roads, mountains, elephants and mice

When winter hits Kathmandu, the last thing you want to do is stick around in the freezing cold. So this winter Mr.B and I decided to do a road trip around Nepal with friends. We thought it would be fun (and it was). We thought driving through Nepal would be awesome (and it wasn’t).

We started off in Kathmandu, obviously, that’s where we live, and then made our way to Pokhara. Road to Pokhara can be a bit scary if you’re on it for the first time, and if you’re coming from a country where roads are wide, straight and divided into lanes. You see, this road is called “the highway”, but don’t be fooled – the only reason for that is that it’s really high up. It’s literally a high way. Other than that, there’s nothing highway-like about it. It’s narrow, filled with potholes and very winding. However, it is sadly one of the best roads in Nepal, outside of Kathmandu. The drive to Pokhara is about 210 kilometers, and in a private vehicle, it usually takes 5-6 hours. I’ve heard that on a bus it can take up to 12 hours. Gasp! The views are nice so I suppose you can enjoy that, and there are plenty of rest stops where you can utilize the squatty potty and buy some water and snacks. Arriving to Pokhara is bumpy, to say the least. The road is wavy and by the time you reach your hotel you are frantically checking whether your kidneys are in place. Although, the view that was waiting for us in Pokhara made up for the whole excruciating drive. I mean, the mountains were spectacular. There is no photo in this world that could describe how close and majestic mountains are. Yes, photos always looks nice, this and that, but seriously, seeing it up close, with peaks higher than the clouds is an indescribable feeling.

Just speechless.

Just speechless.

Pokhara is a fun place if you like to party and hang out in bars and restaurants. There are about a million of those. Well, not exactly a million, but you get my drift.

Lakeside if the happening place

Lakeside is the happening place

We had our share of fun for a couple of days and then in the car again it was. We were driving from Pokhara to Lumbini via Tansen. It would be a special experience, we thought. It would be something different, we thought. And it was. And not in a good way. The distance between the two is about 160 kilometers. Not a big deal, you’d think. It took us 7 hours. Yes, 7 full hours. It was probably the most winding road I’ve ever been on, giving you a roller coaster experience. I felt so sorry for the people on buses that we passed on the road because they must’ve been having an awful time. It was fun driving through small villages, through gorges and canyons.

Good place for a nature call

Good place for a nature call

It was just something different. Though, fun ended when bladders went into overdrive and there were no bathrooms in sight. We stopped several time for a bathroom break and it was always at the bushiest part of the road where we could be hidden from traffic and villagers. I was happy it was winter time knowing that snakes are probably asleep. Anyhow, reaching Tarai, lowlands of Nepal where Lumbini is situated is like entering a new realm. Suddenly mountains and hills become flat lands extending as far as you can see. A sight I never thought possible in Nepal. It was quite refreshing. And you know what, everyone rides a bicycle in Tarai. So fun!

Seeing flat land reminded me of home. How can this fertile land house so much poverty???

Seeing flat land reminded me of home. How can this fertile land house so much poverty???

Loved the bicycles!

Loved the bicycles!

One advice I can give you if you ever find yourself in Tarai, heading for Lumbini – don’t trust your GPS. That lady might have a seducing voice, but she will lead you in some pretty shady areas, trust me. We ended up on a terrible dirt road for about 20 kilometers with nothing but flat land in sight and many extremely poor villages. That sight was so shocking for me. Such poverty I never thought I would witness with my own eyes. People living in mud huts, without anything, literally. It’s something I cannot get out of my head since then. Finally, though, after a long bumpy ride we reached our hotel. We were exhausted, and the place was kind of depressing, so we didn’t really care that dinner was pretty miserable and that we had to change our bed sheets ourselves because reception was too busy. We just wanted to sleep. The next day we took a rickshaw ride around Lumbini Development Trust to see different temples and the birthplace of Buddha. Piece of advice, Sri Lankan temple is not really worth seeing. There’s hardly anything there and I found it ridiculous that we had to take off our shoes when the whole temple was terribly dirty. Maybe they do it so we clean it with our socks!?

Anyhow, rickshaw ride was fun, but looking at the skinny guy driving our rickshaw, working really hard, made me sad. All I could think of was whether he lived in one of those mud huts we passed yesterday. I wanted to give him 10 000 Rupees for a two hour tour. My review of Lumbini: not a place I would go back to. Unless you are a devoted buddhist, there’s not much to do there. The place is kind of depressing, and quite boring. We left in less than 20 hours since arrival.

Off to Chitwan we went. I think we were all the most excited about that part of our roadtrip. The road from Lumbini to Chitwan was straightforward and straight. It was a really lovely wide road, and we all enjoyed the road and views.

On the way to Chitwan

On the way to Chitwan

Until we got off the main road to reach our jungle resort. It was back to the dirt and we all wondered whether our car can handle all the terrible roads it’s been on since we started our trip. It did survive and we reached our final destination. Our resort was wonderful. It was right by the river, in a jungle. Nothing and no one in sight. It was absolutely lovely. Until the mouse incident, that is. We were given rooms in straw roof bungalows, and when Mr.B. and I got into our box-sized room, there was a mouse sitting leisurely on the curtain. The outdoorsy and fearless person that I am (NOT), I began hyperventilating as an intro to my panic attack. Somehow I managed to run outside and wait while the resort staff, with lots of giggles, took care of the mouse situation. That night, I did not sleep. It was a night straight from hell as I waited for mice to flock into our room from all possible crevasses. Of course, such grim scenario did not happen, but just to be on the safe side, we switched rooms the next morning. This time, no straw roof for us. The rest of the stay was just awesome. Elephant ride, canoe ride, jungle safari… it was perfect.

We saw rhinos up close

We saw rhinos up close

We made friends with deer

We made friends with deer

We contemplated having this guy for dinner but decided to pass. After all, he was in a National Park.

We contemplated having this guy for dinner but decided to pass. After all, he was in a National Park.

Views from the resort were spectacular and calming.

Views from the resort were spectacular and calming.

Our canoe was just like this. It was super fun. Luckily we saw no crocodiles in the water.

Our canoe was just like this. It was super fun. Luckily we saw no crocodiles in the water.

We rode on these elephants and later on got to feed them and pet them.

We rode on these elephants and later on got to feed them and pet them.

Before we could say hippopotamus, it was time to drive back to Kathmandu. That drive was completely uneventful. It rained, on a terribly winding and narrow road filled with buses and trucks. You know, the usual Nepali traffic. But we made it to Kathmandu safely filled with emotions, experiences, and impressions. Good road trip. Would definitely recommend, but make sure you take an SUV if you plan on driving. It will save your kidneys.

Croatia is beautiful too

Ha! Look at me; I’m jealous. Nepal is getting all the attention with its beautiful sights and I thought it should only be fair for me to show off some of the beauties of my own country. I guess I can say I’m proud of all that my country has to offer. Croatia is very diverse, with the coast, beautiful sea, and a 1000 islands; some mountains (nowhere close to Himalayas though); lakes; and miles and miles of beautiful flat fields with picturesque towns and villages.

In the very south of the country there’s a staple of Croatian tourism, Dubrovnik, which is pretty much the only thing people mention to me when I say I’m from Croatia (except for, of course, certain soccer, basketball and tennis players). Dubrovnik is amazing with its city walls and all the great historical sites.

Dubrovnik

Dubrovnik

There’s a whole bunch of islands that are worth visiting, like Vis, Hvar, Brač or Cres (and many many others), and Istria is a place that shouldn’t be missed either. If you like the 4S: summer, sun, sea and swimming, then Adriatic sea is the place to be.

Opatija, so called Pearl of the Adriatic, is one of the oldest vacation spots in Croatia. Austro-hungarian emperors, back in the day, spent their winters in Opatija, enjoying the mild climate, sea views and a nice promenade. Some of the hotels from the 19th century are still up and running! If you ever decide to visit, make sure you go to Volosko and stay with my family, here and here. They’re awesome and they’ll pamper you!

Tell me you don't wanna go here - Volosko

Tell me you don’t wanna go here – Volosko

In the continental part of Croatia there is, obviously, Zagreb, as the capital of Croatia, and I find Zagreb charming. Especially the Upper town with a wonderful view and old cobblestone streets. Mr.B. and I got married in the Upper town and I loved it. It was romantic and it looked a little bit like a movie set (it so happened that on that exact day there was some sort of fair over there and there were people walking around in costumes from the early 20th century. Cute!).

Zagreb

Zagreb

Going east from Zagreb you can reach Slavonia and visit Osijek, Vinkovci and Vukovar as main attractions. North from Zagreb there are Varaždin and Čakovec, cities with wonderful people and amazing sites.

Somewhere in the heart of Croatia

Somewhere in the heart of Croatia

One thing that should definitely not be missed is Plitvice lakes. Amazing place with amazing scenery – very likable, in any season.

Plitvice lakes

Plitvice lakes

When Mr.B. was coming to Croatia for the first couple of times I couldn’t decide where to take him. I wanted him to see everything and be amazed. Every time he comes over to Croatia I try to take him to a different place and show him something new so he can go back to Nepal and talk about “this wonderful place called Croatia”. I’m not sure if he does that (probably not), but I do know he likes Croatia regardless. So I’m dedicating this post to Mr.B. And also wishing him a very happy Birthday!

I am moving to Nepal

I cannot see a more fitting time to officially open this blog than the day I gave in my resignation at work. In a little bit over a month I will be on a flight to Kathmandu to (semi)permanently settle there. I still remember being in 7th grade and bringing home a copy of a magazine called Croatian geography which, that month, featured a huge story on Nepal and Tibet. I knew nothing about those countries, but I was so mesmerized by the article that I must’ve read it at least 10 times. I knew it by heart and I thought that traveling in that exotic part of the world is a dream that would never come true for me. I never even considered it twice.

Boudhanath

In one of those crazy twists and turns of life I, not only ended up traveling there several times, but even married a Nepali guy, Mr.B. Whenever I retell the story of my fascination with a magazine article about Nepal I like to stress out to Mr.B. that I did not marry him just because he was from Nepal. In fact, when I met him and liked him I didn’t even know he was Nepali. I thought he was Canadian. Because why else would this American-looking, perfect accent guy attend an international student orientation at the US university. The only logical explanation for me at the moment was that he is Canadian. Well, it turned out he was not Canadian. It also turned out that he lived across the parking lot from me, and that he liked me enough to take me out for coffee more than once. Not only that, but he was also hilarious and had me laughing all the time which made me fall head over heels for him and marry him 7 years later.

We have been married for almost a year now, and for the past four years we have lived apart, dealing with all the struggles of a long distance relationship. In some ways we are grateful for the distance because we learned so much about each other, and ourselves through the separation. However, it’s now time to finally be together and start our life as a married couple. Dice have been cast and I am to pack my suitcases and head over to Nepal. It is an exciting moment of my life and I cannot wait to see how it will unfold. The Roofs of Kathmandu will follow me on my adventures through the married life in a land of yaks, yeti, rhododendrons and Himalayas.