Posted by: benphia | November 26, 2008

Sleepy and delayed in San Francisco.

We are so happy to be almost home. But we are so sleepy this is really all we have the energy to write.

See you all very soon,

Benjamin + Sophia

Posted by: benphia | November 25, 2008

Singapore Airport… best airport ever… period

Ah!

After a relaxing six hours of sleep in the transit hotel here in Changi (the Singapore Airport), we feel refreshed, awake and ready to take on our eighteen hour flight back to the U.S.A. Our stop in this airport was mixed with an ache-inducing attempt at sleeping on our way to Nepal a month ago, so Ben insisted on a good nights rest this time. It was worth it.

This morning we were feeling hungry. Last time in Changi, we had some coffee and muffins, but we were not so impressed by the quality. This morning we opted for a good old American breakfast at the Hard Rock Cafe in Terminal 3. Orange juice, coffee, yogurt (no gelatin, yay!), toast, eggs and hashbrowns. Not too bad, even though the coffee seemed Nescafe-ish and the hashbrowns were those oval shapes you take out of the freezer and throw on the grill. And Ben even tolerated (e.g., made fun of only slightly) the music.

(Ben speaking) One of the greatest things about this airport is the charging stations (which we may have noted earlier in the blog). Both the phone and the iPod were dead and now we have nearly charged devices for entertainment on the long flight home. Totally awesome.

(Sophia speaking) The most interesting thing about this airport is that I feel like I’m in a city I can’t leave (city-prison?). We checked into a hotel (fanciest hotel on our journey, with a granite sink and huge bed with golden bedspread), had food at a couple of restaurants, walked by the gardens and ponds/waterfall features, and took the Sky Train between terminals (like taking a bus or taxi!). There’s even an Apple store here for Ben (iStudio). Basically, we don’t need to leave. At the same time, I feel locked in by the immigration terminals. I feel like I have to get out of here, even though the way out is an 18 hour flight to SanFran and then another layover before our final flight home. At least the food on the airplane has been good, and we get pillows, blankets and socks for the flight (free airline socks to anyone when we get home!).

Benjamin + Sophia

Posted by: benphia | November 24, 2008

Kathmandu insanity is nearly over.

Hello friends,

Yesterday Sophia and I had yet another whirlwind experience here in Kathmandu.

Early yesterday morning we met with Karma (Babu) the head of our guiding company. He bought us fancy coffee (as opposed to the Nescafe available around and on our trek) and we talked over an hour about our trek and American and Nepali politics.

After coffee we talked with our taxi driver and negotiated a price with Karma for a trip to Bhaktapur. We arrived in this ancient city and took a tour with a guide the driver had contracted with. Bhaktapur was a refreshing tourist destination that felt clean and less populated. The architecture there was different, with brick buildings and pathways, and detailed wood carvings for windows, doors, pillars, etc. Though it was impressive to look at, Bhaktapur felt like a tourist destination and not a holy place. As I (Ben) have written about before, the ritualistic Hinduism practiced here felt different from how I relate to eastern religion.

When we got back we wandered the streets of Thamel a bit, Ben (unwittingly) trying his barganing skills by trying to leave a shop without buying a certain item we’d been looking at. (Wow, the price really goes down, but it’s a very tiring experience. We still prefer shops where prices are marked.)

In the evening we had dinner at our favorite restaurant in Thamel (coincidentally, it is co-owned by Karma’s wife, Manila). We usually get dal bhat, but this time we opted for Tibetan noodle soup (thakpa), veggie momos (like dumplings), and some drinks. Karma told us to try tongba (an alcoholic drink made of millet). I (Sophia) really liked the tongba (like a kind of sweet, kind of syrupy, just ever so slightly beerish warm drink). It is made by putting millet into a metal glass with a lid and metal straw. Then you add hot water and let it sit for a while. It’s only about 2% alcohol, but it was enough since we haven’t had any alcohol for a while. 🙂 Ben had “Nepali brandy” (which on the label said rum)… quite a bit. Karma’s friend and cousin were also there, so a few little bottles came out.

We had a great (long) evening chatting about Nepal, our trek, America, Karma and Manila’s children, motorcycles/scooters, traditional Nepali music versus rock and roll, etc. Both Karma and Manila are great people, and it’s sad we won’t have more fun conversations with them.

Random quote of the day: “By bravely facing it’s past and learning from it, in a spirit of cooperation, there is a good chance that the human rights of all Nepalis will be respected.” -Richard Bennett, Rising Nepal newspaper; November 24, 2008

We sure hope so.

Dandebat (thank you in Nepali) to Nepal, Mountain Tribes and all the boiled/filtered water we’ve been drinking. It’s been fun.

Benjamin + Sophia

Posted by: benphia | November 23, 2008

Waking up in Kathmandu… again.

Today we began our first of two tourist adventures through Kathmandu and the surrounding areas. We contracted a taxi driver for pretty much the whole day to take us to Boudanath and Swyamboudinath (excuse the spelling), and to sit in some crazy long traffic/people jams.

(Ben talking)
It was a difficult day as I found myself wrapped in the pressure of “sight seeing” and unable to really grasp an appreciation for my surroundings. Unlike the wilderness, where each day was sight seeing adventure that felt relaxed and I could soak in all the beauty and culture, these locations were hard to appreciate with all of the bustling of the city.

(Sophia talking)
There is an interesting juxtaposition in Kathmandu where commerce comes right up to religious sites and surrounds them (sometimes people set up shop right on the stupas). These spiritual sites are unlike what I normally think of as a quiet place away from the chaotic world of everyday life. The sounds and traffic and everyday life is right there. As are the tourists. Thankfully, we had several peaceful experiences on the trek visiting monasteries and sitting in on a puja. That definitely felt like a world away from Kathmandu.

It’s been a whirlwind day, and we’ll go back out again tomorrow for another one. Maybe we’ll get some relaxing done on some of the 40 hours of travel we have in store for us in a couple of days?

Benjamin + Sophia

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