Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Glorious Food in Nepal

People have asked me before about the type of food available in Nepal, and especially on long treks in the remote mountains.

In this post I'll share with you photos of food in Nepal that I've had the experience of tasting during my three trips to that country.

(1) DHAL BHAT

The most common dish in Nepal is the dhal bhat:

This is dhal bhat with chicken curry that I ate in the mountains.



Dhal bhat served on heavy bronze cutlery in a fancy restaurant in Kathmandu.


The dhal bhat consist of steamed rice, lentil soup, vegetables and papad. You can also order chicken curry to go with it.

The local people eat dhal bhat for brunch, lunch and throughout the day. I daresay that the dhal bhat can be considered as the national dish of Nepal, if there's such a title.

The guides and porters in the mountain eat dhal bhat for ALL their meals. They claim that dhal bhat gives them energy to trek for hours on end. There's even a poem that goes like this:

Dhal bhat power, 
24-hour, 
No sleep, no shower

Apart from the dhal bhat, there're also other rice dishes like this simple meal of steamed rice and vegetable curry:


There's no fresh meat in the mountains, so I requested for a fried egg instead.


Fried rice is also another rice dish which is widely available:

Ate this mixed fried rice in the Langtang region. I love that they sprinkled cheese all over it.


(2) MOMO

The second food that I would like to introduce to you is the momo:

Momo skins are like the skin of Chinese dumplings. However momos can have various fillings like chicken, vegetable, cheese or even a combination of all. Momos are served with a dip which is usually tomato based.


During my recent trip to Nepal I had momos in soup for the first time:


Momos in tomato based soup.


(3) THUKPA

Third item on the list is thukpa:

Thukpa is a Tibetan noodle soup.


Not many people would know what a thukpa is when hearing it for the first time. Even I didn't know what it was but got acquainted with it soon after my first trip to Nepal in 2012. 


(4) TIBETAN BREAD

During my recent trip to Nepal, the Tibetan bread that I had in the Langtang region was flat and round like a chapati. It was different from the Tibetan bread found in the Annapurna region where it's puffed out like this:

Tibetan bread found in the Annapurna region is shaped like a colon (couldn't think of any other way to describe it) and puffed out.


Our guide, Sujan explained that Tibetan bread is prepared differently in different parts of Nepal which explains its different shapes.


(5) SOUP

If you would like to have a light meal, you can try the soup like this mushroom soup served and an egg omelette.



Sujan informed that ginger soup or tea is a good for attitude sickness and I drank it few times during the trek:

I told myself that I must finish reading Kiss the Girls during this recent 2 week trip to Nepal. Indeed, I finished reading the book and left it at Hotel Yambu for other travellers.


(6) NEWARI FOOD

According to Wikipedia, the Newar people are historical inhabitants of Kathmandu. Here are some Newari food:

Nobita wanted to try catamari (top left) which looks like a pizza. Raj ended up ordering another 3 items for the three of us which you can see in the photo. 


(7) OTHER TYPES OF FOOD

Pasta is also widely available:

I had this mixed pasta for breakfast during my stay in Dhunche.


And here's a collage of food that we ate in one of the restaurants in Kathmandu:
Clockwise from top left: Momo in tomato soup, chowmein (yes you read it right, they call it chowmein too like in Cantonese), briyani and briyani with papad.



Just to give you an idea of the choices of food (and prices) available at the teahouses in Nepal, here's the menu at one of the guesthouse in Thulo Shrapu:



All prices are in Nepali Rupee and as at September 2016.


So that's my pictoral introduction of food in Nepal. I hope you enjoyed looking at the photos as much as I enjoyed eating the food in the photos :-)


Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Why We Couldn't Do Everest Base Camp

Our first attempt to do Everest Base Camp (EBC) was unsuccessful - all because we couldn't fly into Lukla which is the starting point of the trek.

Here's a recap of what happened:

We flew Malindo Air from Kuala Lumpur and landed in Kathmandu on 16 September 2016 at around 9.30pm.

We stayed at the pleasant and cosy Hotel Yambu during our stay in Kathmandu.


The next morning (17 September 2016) we met up with Raj the owner of the tour agency and paid him the package fees for the entire EBC trek which covers accommodation, meals, return flights to Lukla, guide, porter, etc. In our conversation with him, he mentioned that the weather has not been good. However he confidently assured us that we will be able to fly to Lukla the next day.

With this assurance, we spent the rest of the day shopping for gear and clothing in Thamel. I managed to buy a nice stretchy trekking pants for NPR2,000.

There're various shops in Thamel selling all sorts of trekking gear and souvenirs too.


On the morning of 18 September 2016, we woke up to grey and gloomy skies. And then the heavens opened and it rained heavily. My heart sank - I knew we won't be able to make it. True enough, we didn't even need to go to the Tribhuvan International Airport (where flights to Lukla depart) as Raj just need to call up Lukla Airport to see whether it's opened.

In case you're wondering why the pilots are so poorly skilled that they can't land a plane at Lukla Airport in a little rain, let me share with you the reason. You see, Lukla Airport (also known as the Tenzing-Hillary Airport) is situated in a valley surrounded by mountains. According to Wikipedia, its runway is only 527m long! The History Channel, in a 2010 programme titled Most Extreme Airports, had rated Lukla Airport as THE most dangerous airport in the world!

Whenever it rains, the weather gets misty and foggy which makes it difficult for the pilot to fly the plane to Lukla, let alone land it at the airport. So to avoid hitting a mountain or something, they will just close the airport and cancel all flights in bad weather.

Raj was still hopeful that the weather will improve and that the Lukla Airport will reopen. So he told us to be on standby till 12 noon. Apparently flights to Lukla even go till 4pm if the weather improves. Kathmandu may be bright and sunny but if Lukla is misty and foggy, it's still a no go. So we kept our fingers crossed.

By 12 noon there was still no sign of Lukla Airport reopening and I was already losing hope.
After lunch Raj broke the bad news to us - that Lukla Airport will be closed for the whole day. He also informed us that he was unable to get tickets for us the following day, i.e. 19 September 2016. Apparently Lukla Airport was closed the entire week before we arrived in Kathmandu. So imagine the backlog of travellers who would have been waiting for their flight to Lukla.

Raj was able to get tickets for us on 20 September 2016. However there's still no assurance that the weather would be good on that day. Moreover flying out on 20 September would mean that we would have lost our 2 buffer days for acclamatisation in Namche Bazaar and Lobuche, which is relatively a big risk.

At that point we decided that instead of working with moving dates and with so many uncertainties, we decided it's best to let EBC go and do another trek instead.

Alas, all the training, planning and money invested in the past 2 years aiming for EBC have become wasted effort.

Honestly, if I had been travelling alone, I would have asked for a refund from Raj and return home to Kuala Lumpur earlier.

Why?

1) Because this was already my third time in Nepal (was here in 2012 and 2014) and I had already seen the majestic mountains that Nepal has to offer (eventually all mountains will begin to look the same, just like temples and churches); and

2) Because my main aim of going to Nepal in 2016 was to do EBC and nothing else. So since we couldn't fly to Lukla, might as well cut my loses and save the money to do EBC at another time, or save the money for another trip. I didn't want to spend money to do another trek just because I was already in Nepal.

But alas, there were 3 of us - one loves trekking and was really enthusiastic to do another trek despite being her third time in Nepal too. The other person was his first time in Nepal. I couldn't abandon them, it had to be a group decision and the group decided to trek to the Langtang region instead, which we did.

Will I attempt to do EBC again?

Well, the dream has been buried temporarily. If I decide to do EBC again, I'll attempt to do it via Tibet to eliminate the risk of not getting into Lukla Airport. And also because I've never been to Tibet.

In my next posts, I'll share with you how to time and plan your EBC trek. Stay tuned ...


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