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Monday, December 08, 2003

Short Transit in Bangkok
Bangkok, Thailand

Today, we went to drop off our passports at the Vietnamese embassy (visa for next month). They will be ready for us to pick up on Monday, after we get back from Phuket. Walking along the streets of Thailand, we saw many food vendors, selling fruits, drinks, and hot food. Winston got a bag of siu mai (pork dumplings) on our way to the embassy, and we stopped for fried rice noodles with vegetables during lunch time. It was fun to eat with the locals. Tables and chairs were set up all over the sidewalk, and you just wait till someone leave and grab a table. We pointed to what others were eating since we didn't know what they were called; we had 3 plates of noodles and 2 drinks for $2. It was wonderful.

I also bought banana fritters (very sweet) and a kilo of excellent longans. I think 1kilo is too much for one person to eat in a day, but yikes, I did it. I shared one with Winston.. will have to buy more to share with him next time. Hehehe.. He's not as a big a fan as I am. We will stay at the Marriott again tonight (it was too much work to move) but we will be staying at the Asia Airport Hotel tomorrow night. One, it is closer to the airport as we have to fly to Phuket on Wednesday, and two, we want to go see the E-Expo (Digital technology for life) which is being held at a Convention Center near the airport.

The internet cafe is closing down soon so I'm going to wrap this up now. We'll probably write again from Phuket (we'll be there from 10-15th of December with our friends Lisa and Simon, staying at the Club Bamboo Resort). Till then... sawutdee .

A Glimpse of Bhutan
Bangkok, Thailand

We arrived in Thailand last night, and have been just hanging out, taking care of a few errands, and enjoying being pampered somewhat by the impeccable service of the Bangkok JW Marriott. We weren't planning on going so high scale upon reaching here, but after having our bags broken into in transit from Bhutan to Thailand (we don't think anything was stolen,) we decided to unwind in a bit more comfort.

But more on that later (see Jen's blog); for the last 24 hours I've been trying to figure out how to best describe our three-day visit to Bhutan. There's just so much to talk about, I don't really know where to begin.

For those who don't know, Bhutan is a tiny mountain kingdom in the Eastern Himalayas, sandwiched between two giant neighbours, India and Tibet (China). The Bhutanese way of life is strongly influenced by religion, as over 95% of the 700,000 Bhutanese citizens practise Mahayana Buddhism.

As it turns out, getting to Bhutan is an adventure in itself. Putting an airport in the Himalayas gives rise to the challenge of finding a decent flight path from which to land and take off. Paro Airport is located about an hour and a half (by car) from Bhutan's capital and only city, Thimphu, and is in one of Bhutan's only valleys long and flat enough to accomodate a runway. Put it this way, the Druk Air pilot even came online to calmly say, "If you look outside the aircraft window and see mountains closer than you have ever seen before, please don't be frightened, just realize that this is standard operating procedure." As we descended through the clouds, the pilot deftly navigated the plane in between mountain ranges, dramatically slowing the plane down as we dropped over a ridge, and banking sharply to the right just over treetops as we came in for a smooth landing. It was a totally awesome flight; it reminded me of flying into Hong Kong's old airport, where you could once see people hanging out their laundry in the apartment buildings just off the plane's wingtips.

Incidentally, we got clear views of Everest and the whole Himalayan range on the flight to and from Paro. We didn't get up close like I would have had I been on the mountain flight, but it was still pretty neat to be able to see the highest point on Earth with our own eyes, even through an airplane window. Also interesting is the fact that, Druk Air, Bhutan's only airline, owns only two planes, and only flies into Paro, Bhutan's only airport.

We were met by our tour guide Sonam and driver Laal, who accompanied us for our entire four-day, three night visit (it was really just three days, as we flew out early in the morning on the last day). Now, tourism in Bhutan operates a little differently than it does in most places. The government is incredibly protective of Bhutan's culture and somewhat tries to limit exposure to Western influences. The King and the Bhutanese government have been taking conscious steps to manage growth and development in Bhutan... more on this later, it's a fascinating topic.

The way that Bhutan limits the number of tourists to the country is by imposing a high fee on foreign tourists, and requiring visitors to book a tour through a government approved agency (of which there seem to be very many). There is no actual quota on tourists per se; it's simply that the high daily cost is quite prohibitive. As a result of being signed up with a tour, our guide Sonam was with us pretty much every single moment of our visit, except when we were in the hotel rooms. This was somewhat restrictive, and made me think that we kind of had a "handler" of sorts... however, we were well aware of this beforehand. Because of the high cost and method of tour, I think that visiting Bhutan might not be everybody's cup of tea if you're overly concerned about getting the most bang for your buck.

Now, having said that, I want to point out that we could ask to do almost anything we wanted, and Sonam would strive to take care of any requests we had. There are only a few districts that are restricted to tourists, and these are apparently due to unwanted "social elements" in those areas. Less than 7000 visitors came to Bhutan last year alone; there are at least 7000 people who enter Nepal in a week. It was incredibly refreshing (and quite selfish) to be able to get a glimpse of a country without throngs of other tourists milling about. We definitely felt privileged by having the opportunity.

We didn't have many pre-conceived expectations for our visit to Bhutan, as we didn't get a guidebook or do much prior reading on the country. I wanted to try to experience the country with as blank a mind as possible, then do any reading up on it after getting a glimpse of the country with clear eyes. However, I did start reading an excellent book written by a Canadian lady who went to Bhutan to teach; her name is Jamie Zeppa and her book is called, "Beyond the Sky and the Earth, A Journey into Bhutan." For anyone who is interested in the country, I recommend this read; it provided all kinds of insight into the country and the Bhutanese people, as well as gave me a basic framework of Bhutan to think about while visiting. I think one particular review sums it up: "A beautiful account of Zeppa's gradual transition from a preoccupied Canadian, questioning the direction of her life by immersing herself in an alien environment, to a woman reinvigorated by the warmth of the Bhutanese culture." I know, I might be sounding a bit like Oprah right now, but really, it's a good book.

The national traditional language is called Dzongka, and all Bhutanese people are supposed to be able to speak it. Dzongka sounds incredibly difficult, actually. Interestingly though, the education system has been heavily influenced by the King's desire to have children learn material in English. Aided by a Canadian Jesuit named Father Mackey, the education system started teaching children math, sciences, and social studies in English about 30 years ago. The result is that many young Bhutanese people now speak three languages, Dzonka, English, and their local village dialect (which difers from one valley to another). We read a recent article about how Bhutanese history was now to be taught in Dzongka, which out guide, a former teacher himself, thinks is going to be very difficult.

I must admit that I was not expecting the city of Thimphu to be developed as it was. It's still a little town by most North American standards, there are fewer than 60,000 people who live there and there are only two main streets with no traffic lights, but there were many things we saw that took me slightly by surprise. (Hmm, I guess my mind wasn't completely devoid of some expectations after all.) The internet cafe we briefly used had newer computers than anything we had seen in Nepal or India, there were no electricity or plumbing issues (at least in the places that we were allowed to see), and the roads in and around the city were very well maintained. Television and Internet access are relatively new to Bhutan, but definitely open up all kinds of possibilities with respect to exposure to technology. In fact, the cell phone network was just launched three weeks prior to our visit on November 11th (the King's birthday). It was rather amusing to see a Bhuddist monk walk by jabbering into his phone.

Now, once again, having said that, the situation in the west (where Thimphu is) is quite different from the rest of the country. The majority of the population lives outside the city and survives on subsistence farming. In most valleys, you can see a dozen or so traditional Bhutanese houses spaced widely apart, with nothing but virgin forest and terraced farmland in between them. Because of the mountainous terrain, there are very few roads that people can use to access most villages (many places can take a few days to reach by walking), and electricity is unavailable to many people in the eastern parts of the country. It was rather enlightening to read an article in the relatively rudimentary weekly newspaper that quoted a villager saying how please he was that there was electricity running into his village, as he would no longer have to spend hours each day collecting firewood. Also, even though there is now a cell phone network, there are only a handful of towers, and you can't call places too far away from Thimphu at this point.

There is a concept in Bhutan that is called "driglam namzha", which describes a way of life that the Bhutanese live, as dictated by the government. One explanation given to us is that having few natural resources (except for lumber, one would expect, and hydroelectric power, which Bhutan sells to India), the country has little to offer its neighbours economically let alone the rest of the world. Therefore, in an effort to preserve itself and its culture, the government took steps to describe how Bhutanese people are to behave, with rules and guidelines ranging from how low to bow when the King comes by to how high you can wear your sleeves on your traditional outfit. In fact, we were amazed at how few people were wearing jeans and t-shirts, but were instead wearing the traditional gho for men, and kira for women. We later learned that due to driglam namzha, it is required for all Bhutanese citizens to wear national dress during the day. Apparently you can be fined if you are caught by police out of national dress; as a result, we often felt like we had stepped back a couple of centuries in some areas, where all we saw were ghos and kiras. Perhaps it would be like visiting Japan and seeing every one in kimonos. Hopefully the pictures will do a better job of painting this image than I can describe here.

Heh, one image I can describe reasonably well is Bhutan's "national dish": chili and cheese. It was really good, actually... quite spicy and lots of flavour. Apparently this is consumed with rice for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I
lasted two days eating it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, before the chilis ended up wreaking too much havoc for my digestive system to continue. Chilis are taken as vegetables here; apparently all Bhutanese who travel abroad (and there aren't many) develop a longing homesickness for chili and cheese when they are gone.

There is a strange Bhutanese sexual practice that I have to mention. We got the impression that attitudes of people in general are essentially relaxed, there are friendly exchanges and a very matter-of-fact outlook among the people we encountered. However, there is a unique attitude towards to sexual practices, which includes the concept of "night hunting", when young men climb through windows at night to reach sometimes unsuspecting suitors. Should they be together in the morning it is assumed that they are married. Just like that. This is apparently very common in villages; our guide gave us fairly colourful descriptions of how it's done. When he goes back to his village in the tourist off-season, he apparently has to be very careful of which window he climbs into, because he has many female cousins who live there; it would be bad news if he "hunted" one of them! It's a bizarre world.

Speaking of less bizarre but very interesting experiences though, the archery competition was a neat highlight for me. It was like stepping into a medieval archery match; there was all kinds of pomp and ceremony and traditional outfits--we really stuck out in the crowd. What was somewhat odd was seeing all the modern imported compound bows that the archers were using. Archery is Bhutan's national sport, and the traditional bow is made out of two pieces of bamboo spliced together (we saw some available for purchase in the market). Although the archers were using compound bows, the competition itself didn't seem to be modern at all, with the two teams of archers singing traditional songs when the target was hit, and then shouting traditional mocking cat-calls when their opponents missed targets. The fact that they were hitting targets that were 175 yards away was amazing to me... I hope the pictures of this turn out too!

Incidentally, there were dozens of dogs lying around on the archery field while arrows were flying back and forth above them. In fact, there were dogs everywhere... packs of them in the streets of Thimpu, at the airport, in the villages, in the mountains, in monestaries, you name it. Apparently it is becoming a bit of a problem; Zappa tells one story of how villagers paid a man to take all the stray dogs to another village far away. The next day he returns with his truckful of dogs still and a big smile on his face; the other villagers paid him double to take them all back. Our guide Sonam told us that the dogs couldn't be euthanized, because it was against Bhuddist beliefs. Although, he didn't really have a very good answer for me when I asked how cows were killed for the butcher. Oh well, can't have all the questions answered.

One of the very interesting things about Bhutan that I had many questions about was the reigning monarch. There is a great deal of pride and admiration for the current King, it seems. From all accounts, the King is a remarkable man, a leader who truly has the best interests of the people in mind. He came to power at a very young age, at 1years old, he was the youngest monarch in the world. Now in his late 40's, there are pictures of him all over the country of course; like most monarchs, his image is on the currency and in every store, house, and office that can be found. However, unlike many monarchs, it seems that Bhutan's King is playing a very active role in the development and direction of the country. Amazingly, the King apparently gave up his powers five years ago to Ministers, with the belief that a hereditary monarchy would not benefit the people of Bhutan. The slow introduction of democracy to this country (it's not a democracy yet, but taking baby steps in that direction) has many people somewhat disturbed; they have never before elected their own political representation. It has always been a top-down system, where you did what you were told because the King said so. When you were in trouble, when the monsoons wiped out your crops, the King would pay you a visit and come to your aid (and this King apparently does just that). The King is someone to be feared and respected; in this country the King is someone who is clearly loved. Even though there is a prime minister who is now the official head of state, nobody seems to care much about him; they all want their King to continue running the country. It will be interesting to see how the policitics of this dynamic evolve over the next few years.

We had a lot of exposure to Bhuddism and the way that it was practiced in Bhutan. It will be interesting to compare what we've seen there to the types of Buddism that are practiced in Thailand and Vietnam and the rest of SE Asia. We saw stupas built of Nepali, Tibetan, and Bhutanese design; there were all kinds of religious influences from various areas of the country. Everywhere we could see were prayer flags that had the mantra written on them to be carried by the wind up to heaven. We often saw elderly people sitting a prayer wheels turning them and chanting to achieve more merit; apparently spinning prayer wheels will comprise the bulk of their day. We had a very interesting conversation with Dawa Penjore, the owner of Yodsel Travel, our tour agency, about religion, among other things. He had a very interesting point of view on Bhuddism and the Chinese invasion of Tibet. Because the Tibetan monks were driven out of the country, he said, Bhuddism has now spread the world over and has become almost popular in the West. If there was any benefit to be seen in the Chinese action, it was to see the result of having the teachings of Tibetan monks spread all over the world. In Bhutan, Bhuddism is being practiced in traditional ways by traditional methods, but nobody questions these methods. He felt hat Bhutanese Bhuddists could learn from the questions being asked and the theories being developed by Western Bhuddists; as times change so do the religious pulse of the country.

This is another reflection of the unique state of affairs that Bhutan is currently in. The country definitely has one hand on the past, with many traditional values, religious customs, and historical ways of life being practiced and honoured today. However, the other hand has a firm grip on modern development, new technology, and Western thinking. The government is taking steps to gradulally increase tourism in Bhutan (without turning it into another Nepal); things will be cheaper, there is talk of another airport, and the roads will be improved. We're glad that we had the opportunity to experience Bhutan now, however briefly, because things are changing, and in many ways, changing very rapidly.

Well, I want to close this long blog with an excerpt from Zappa's "Beyond the Sky and the Earth," that I think really struck a chord with us. The last line is especially appropriate. "A poster in a travel agency announces that Bhutan is the Last Shangri-La. There seem to be more tourists in Thimphu this winter, and we scoff at their heavy camcorders and expensive travel clothes. Thinking about it later, I hear the ugly arrogant tone in our voices. Ugh--foreigners! As if we were not. Bhutan is so difficult to get into, such an unusual and desirable location, that I have become swollen with pride, as if my being in Bhutan were a great personal achievement and not simply a matter of luck. It is one of the dangers of being associated with Bhutan. At first you cannot believe your good fortune, and then you begin to think it has something to do with you. Look at me, look at where I am! Bhutan is special, and I am in Bhutan, therefore I must be special too. Travel should make us more humble, not more proud. We are all tourists, I think. Whether we stay for two weeks or two years, we are still outsiders, passing through."

Land of the Thunder Dragon
Bangkok, Thailand

We landed Paro airport at 12:45pm on Thursday, 7th of December. We immediately head for the visa paying table as we had read that EVERY tourist needs to do this; lucky for us, we were only second in line so did not have to wait too long. After leaving immigration and customs, we were met by Sonam and Lal who drove us into Paro town for a quick lunch, before starting our whirlwind sightseeing tour. The food in the restaurants wasn't much to get excited about; it was good, but relatively unexciting tourist fare. What was good was the typical Bhutanese dish of chili and cheese -"ema dachi"; apparently this is consumed with rice for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Winston showed so much enthusiasm for this national dish that our guide made sure we received a serving at every meal! Ha! Poor Winston... I tried some, and boy, was it spicy. It didn't help either that it was made with cheese since I'm now lactose-intolerant, so Winston had to eat a good portion to show that we appreciated it.

Our first stop was at the National Museum, which was located in a large watch tower above Paro Dzong (fortress). There were all kinds of national treasures in there, including examples of traditional clothing, crafts, Bhuddist thangkas (religious paintings), examples of wildlife, Bhutanese geographical regions, armaments, and many Bhuddist icons and figures. We then went down the hill to the paro Dzong, which is this massive fortress perched on the side of the mountain that commands a clear view up and down the valley. Built in the 16th century, this dzong is still being used by the district's administrative body, and still houses several hundred Bhuddist monks. We were allowed to visit inside and watch the monks go about their daily prayers as they completely ignored our presence.

Leaving the dzong, we saw a young monk walk by taking on a cell phone. Apparently this technology was just introduced in the country on the King's birthday (11th November); they were given unlimited calling within the country the first 2 weeks!! It was definitely an unexpected sight.

We were then taken to our hotel for the night. Tiger Nest Resort was very cozy indeed. It is currently low season in Bhutan, so we were the only tourist at the entire resort. In our room were 2 twin beds, with heavy blankets and down comforters. The beds were decorated with drawings of tigers, and the walls were also completely adorned with embossed drawings and a variety of colours, all in Bhutanese and Buddhist symbols. In addition to the electric oil heater, the ones we buy from home depot, there was also a wood burning stove, which was already burning. Ah.. it was so nice. We got to relax a little before heading down for dinner.

One thing about meals here in Bhutan; it didn't matter which restaurant we were at, we were always served between 4-7 dishes, and we could never finish them! We always had rice (sometimes red, sometimes brown, sometimes white), chowmein, and buttered vegetables. Bhutanese cuisine seems to be a mixture of Chinese, Tibetan, Nepali and Indian.

The hotel was positioned with a view of Tiger Nest Monastery, or Takshang, one of the most important monastery in Bhutan. Sonam told us that he would take us on a trek up there on our last day. It was warm and toasty when we woke up the next morning (that is before we got up from under the covers). I quickly started a fire in the wood stove and that warmed up the room quite quickly. We had breakfast and then headed off to see a ruined dzong at the far western end of Paro. It was interesting getting to this dzong, as it was situated at the end of the paved road, and the villagers were all up and going about with their daily routine. In Bhutan, it is examination time for the older kids, so the younger one were all at home for their winter holidays. The weather is quite cold in Bhutan at this time of the year; at over 2500m high, they received snow every winter.

The children all had red rosy cheeks from the cold air. There were many men and women waiting for buses and taxis with bags of goods on the side of the road. Most of them were chewing bettlenut (which they combine with limejuice and wrap around a banana leaf) and had very red lips and teeth. We weren't brave enough to try any. We hiked up to the ruined dzong only to find that the gate was locked. Oh well, no matter. It was still very nice to see the structure from the outside; Sonam told us that reconstruction has already begun on this building and that next time we came back, it would be complete.

Next, we visited a 7th century monastery. In this monastery, there were two areas of the temple that was being used; one by lay persons, the other by monks, all chanting the mantra. You can definitely hear the difference between the two groups. The monks' chants were much softer and uniform, and sound like music. Then it was a 90 minute drive to Thimphu. There is only one road connecting the two cities, and this road was only constructed as a one lane road. One has to be very alert while driving on this curvy road as you never know when there is a truck or car coming from the opposite direction. We got off to stretch our legs and walked across the bridge at the junction of the Paro and Thimphu rivers. As a very mountainous country, the road had to be constructed along the curves of the river. It was certainly a very beautiful drive.

Thimphu, the capitol city, has about 60,000 inhabitants, still very small by western standards but is the largest and most developed Bhutanese town. We were taken to the Yeedzin hotel (apparently Prince Charles stayed here when he visited) and then out to lunch at the Plum Cafe in town. Funny enough, we saw a group of tourists that were also on our flight from KTM-Paro the previous day. I guess there aren't that many tourist restaurants around. After lunch, we went to a view point of the city. We could see most of the Thimphu Valley from there, though it was quite hazy so not sure how the pictures look. We were being conservative with our digital cameras since we didn't have the right plug to charge our batteries nor did we have any opportunity to download those pictures (broken laptop, for those who didn't know).

There was a small 'zoo' - basically a fenced area - where we saw takins, Bhutan's national animal. It looks like a cross between a yak and goat.. really. Quite funny looking, actually. Sonam made some funny noises and they approached us. He got some leaves and branches off a nearby tree and fed them through the wire. They actually enjoyed it! Apparently this animal is only found in Bhutan. You'll have to wait for the pictures to see what they look like.

Our visit to the nunnery was memorable; Winston got a bunch of them to laugh as he took pictures of them studying outside in the garden. The temple was much smaller than the ones we had seen at monasteries; when we walked inside, there were two older nuns chanting, and one had a cat in her lap. Then the phone rings in the midst of the chanting.. hm, somehow it is difficult picturing modern technology in the mix of something traditional like this.

We had a very interesting visit to the Folklife Museum. Here a restored farm house taught us how many of the villagers still lived. A three storey building, the first floor and courtyard was used to shelter the animals, the second for storage, the third for living and cooking, while the attic for drying of fruits, vegetables and skin. Most farmers in Bhutan can sustain themselves, from pressing oil, to grain to growing all kinds of fruits and vegetables. They also weaved their own fabrics and made their own clothes and shoes. We certainly feel humbled by the fact that we have to go to the store if we need anything.

The Textile Museum was closed, so we headed off for a quick walk through the weekend market, knowing that we would visit again the following morning when more vendors would be around. By now it was getting close to 5pm, and the sun sets very early here. I wasn't quite prepared for the sight of so much red meat being hung around, as well as being carried on men's backs. The yak meat is especially red, from the blood, according to Sonam. There were also some heads and skin around. It certainly isn't something we see often.

Before heading back to the hotel, we made a quick stop to check our emails. Back at the hotel, we were joined by Dawa, the fellow who arranged our tour, for dinner. He is an absolute golfer.. hehe.. quite funny. He reminds us of several friends we have at home who are totally addicted to the game. It was a very pleasant evening as we exchanged stories and discussed the development of the country and religion.

Saturday morning, we had breakfast, then headed out at 9am to visit the Textile Museum. It was a great place to learn about the different weaving techniques and to see many beautiful samples, including the costumes of the Royal family. There was a public library next door, so we went to visit. It was a lending library, though you need to pay for your library card. Each card entitles you to one book, so you would need to purchase multiple memberships for more items. The cost is only 50 nu, which is about $1.25 annually. According to the librarian there, this is considered a social service provided by the government. We saw many tattered paperback fictions, and old versions of non fiction. The annual budget for new books is quite small, so most of the items were donations (from expats and volunteer teachers, no doubt).

At the market, I had a minor mishap. I was busy putting my camera away into my purse and ended up falling knee first into the ground. Oops. Luckily my pants were still in one piece, though I did have several bloody spots on my knee. We applied dependable polysporin and put a big band aid over the knee; I'm happy to say that it is now healing nicely. It was quite embarrassing at the time since EVERYBODY nearby was watching me; they were probably thinking "what a clumsy foreigner". We still enjoyed the market and bought fruits and a few souveniors. One thing we realized is that things are definitely not cheap in Bhutan; we were spoilt with the low price of Nepal and India.

We were in Thimphu during the Archery contest, so we spent about an hour watching the very interesting sport. Winston's talking about this in his blog so I won't go into any more details. One observation though; there were no women there watching other than the performers who danced and sang the entire time.

We had lunch and then drove back to Paro. Not sure whether it was the food, or the very curvy drive, but both of us felt a bit car sick all the way. We finally got to Paro and headed straight for our trek to Tiger Nest Monastery. I almost chickened out of going since I wasn't feeling well, but Winston encouraged me, saying that we would go slow. Walking in the fresh air was great for clearing out the nausea, though it was difficult flighting the altitude. We did make it though; the monastery was 800m up, and it is incredible how such a building was built on the side of a clift. Unfortunately there was a fire in 1998, so it is currently being repaired. It was already dark by the time we got back to the van.

We returned to our 'room' at the Tiger Nest Resort, and enjoyed our final dinner around the warm stove in the restaurant. The assistant manager/caretaker had a tiny ginger cat that slept right by the stove. He was quite cute. We slept well that night after our hike, and woke up early to catch our 9:30am flight back to Kathmandu. The flight back was full, so we were in business class (we had to fly business to confirm our ticket). We had a great view of the Himalayans all along as we sat on the right side of the plane.

Back in Kathmandu, we waited at the airport before boarding Thai Airways for our flight to Bangkok. The flight was quite full, but it was a Boeing 777 so was comfortable. Winston already told you about our bags being broken into.. we were quite upset by that though luckily nothing was taken. All they could see were backpacker clothes.. haha!

It is incredible to see how excited and giddy we were in our hotel room. 5 star service is definitely a luxury; we were not used to the marble bathroom with separate bath, robes, slippers, king bed with 6 pillows, etc. Hehe.. we also spoilt ourselves by ordering some of our favourite foods from room service: wonton noodle soup, hainanese chicken rice and sushi/sashimi. YUMMY!

Last day in Kathmandu
Bangkok, Thailand

Wednesday, Dec 6th, we said goodbye to Gabby and Ray who left for the airport with Winston (supposedly to go see Everest). I spent the rest of the day with Cindy and Jenn, the last of us remaining from our Intrepid tour. We had breakfast at the Northern Lights Cafe again (though service is slow we keep going back cause the food is pretty good), then went shopping for pashmina scarves and singing bowls. Cindy and I were wandering through the outskirts of Thamel when we ran into a little cafe in an alley serving momos, thukpas and chowmein for very cheap. Needless to say, hungry stomachs equalled to big eyes, and I ordered far too much food.

By the afternoon, we had both decided that we wanted a puffy wool jacket. These were sold in many shops throughout Thamel though we walked for hours trying to find the perfect one. In the end, we got the exact same acket. Hehehe.. with fleece lining and a hood, we were definitely warm and toasty that night. We met up with Winston and Jenn for dinner (pizza) and they were most embarrassed to be seen with us. We also ran into Ruki who had just returned to Kathmandu with her dad (they were in Chitwan) so it was a nice reunion.

Thursday morning, we enjoyed a final breakfast with Cindy and Jenn at the New Orleans. Breakfast was very yummy, especially muesli with yoghurt and fruit which I have really come to enjoy. Then it was off to the airport to catch our Druk Air flight to Bhutan.


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