This is my first vlog, so be kind! In March, I took my very first trip to Nepal with High Elevation Lives Project. I have traveled to many places in the United States and Central America, but I have never once gone to Asia — or even the Eastern Hemisphere. This was a big eye-opener and learning experience for me, and I want to share it with you.
As you will see with future vlogs, I will be very short with the written content and just share the bullets, literally! You can find many of the sites I highlight below on my Trip Advisor reviews.
· Sunglasses, handkerchief or face mask (poor air quality in some areas), trail snacks, comfortable shoes, and hand sanitizer. Remember to just include the basics, and obviously pack according to your plans.
· Shop for the best flights! When flying to Asia from North America, be prepared for big prices, as you will be paying a lot either way due to the long flight. Utilize major airports to lower costs and look into park-and-fly options to save on airport parking.
· There are nearly 31 hours between airport time, transfers, and flight hours. Definitely pay the extra money for Delta Premium Select if you can manage, as you won’t regret the extra comfort on your 17-hour flight from Detroit to Seoul.
· After your flight, get some Nepali rupees at the airport currency exchange for the taxi. The current exchange rate is about 1 USD for 128 NPR, see here for current rates. Try to keep some smaller bills on you at all times, as 100-500 NPR are typical prices for taxis, buses, meals, and more. Larger bills are sometimes hard to break.
· Sleep: We stayed at the Summer Hill House, which you can find on booking.com. This place is close to a small grocery store and a taxi cab lot, and some decent food is only a short walk away. It was nice, quiet, and the staff does a great job taking care of you. Breakfast is included!
· Transport: Traveling around Nepal’s urban areas is not extremely complicated. There are countless microbuses that will quickly take you from point A to B. The challenge with a microbus or a taxi is simply agreeing with the drivers on price. Like many developing countries, there are countless individuals trying to make an extra rupee off of westerners. More often than not, you can take a few hundred rupees off of the starting price for anything — if you play your cards right.
· Food: Man, if you enjoy curry-based or spicy rice dishes, you will love Nepali cuisine. Check out some restaurants like Thakali Kitchen for some of the more authentic dishes. Just like any restaurant, if you walk in and have major concerns with the cleanliness, don’t eat there. Always make sure to get your food cooked because you never know how raw food is handled. If you are really worried, there are plenty of western-style restaurants where you can feel completely safe, such as Fire and Ice in Thamel or B.K.’s Place. If you can’t handle extremely spicy food, don’t get the Nawari set meal!
· Caffeine: If you are anything like I am, you need caffeine. If you are in some of the more populated areas you can find some quality coffee shops such as a Himalayan Java. Otherwise, stick to Nepali Black tea. It is delicious! If you trust the shop get it with milk and they will add some cardamom for a special kick.
· Shopping: Thamel is a cool marketplace where you can find just about anything. If they don’t have what you’re looking for, they might just make it for you. I purchased some knock-off outdoor gear, including a sleeping bag, hiking pants, shirts, some thermals. You can also find all sorts of trinkets or odds-and-ends that will look good on a shelf at home.
· Get out: Regardless of what you are doing in Nepal, make sure you don’t just hangout in Kathmandu. I was never a big fan of the microbuses, so I would charter a 4×4 vehicle to take for out-of-city excursions and drive the entire time. It might cost 90 USD each day for a decent vehicle, but you will not regret the added comfort, flexibility, and safety. There are many different beautiful rural areas to visit outside the city. We went to Gorkah and met with local medical professionals to discuss their most dire needs. I encourage you to make sure you go somewhere that satisfies your desired adventuring needs. Go trekking!
· We had a quick 1.5 day stay in Bangkok on the way back, so I took a river boat tour and ate delicious authentic Thai food.
For the river boat tour, I will be honest — I simply went down stairs at the Holiday Inn Silom and went to the tour guide’s desk. They set me up with the tour and it only cost about 35 USD. It was about 2 hours long and included fresh fruit and alcoholic drinks — well worth the price.
For food, Trip Advisor again led me to a very good spot: Tealicious Bangkok. I was so impressed that I wrote this review on Trip Advisor.