Thursday, October 31, 2013

School Halloween Parties and Trick or Treating!

In the week leading up to Halloween both kids schools had a Halloween Parade and Party. First up was Graham's preschool. They had a parade outside to a park nearby and then had a small party afterwards. As we were pulling Halloween costume options out I started to realize we were running low on costumes for his size but we had a couple and he decided he wanted to be a cowboy this year. 

And he was a pretty adorable cowboy!

Next up was Peyton's school Halloween parade. The school does a really big one for all the students from Kindergarten to Fourth grade which she will be in next year but this year was a practice run with just the K4 classes. Despite all my encouraging and asking about being anything else or using any of the other many costumes we had, she insisted for weeks on being the ghost like last year. My daughter is for sure her own person and does things her way!

Her class had some games and then snacks and Peyton was just so excited to have me there with her. I always love going to her classroom and seeing how she interacts with her friends and with her teacher. It brings so much comfort to see her being so confident and such a leader in those situations. 

A fun couple of days hanging out with the kids classes and celebrating Halloween! And then we got to do trick or treating with friends! Peyton decided at the last minute to be a veterinarian which was a welcomed change! We met up with our Saudi family (a group of five other families) at one of our houses and did some trick or treating together. Graham got more into it this year and Peyton was a pro. Even when we were "done" she wasn't and so John took her and a friend and kept going. They loaded up and had a great time!

After we all finished up our trick or treating together we finished up at one of our houses for some yummy chicken tortilla soup. It was a fun evening going around and visiting everyone on camp and then hanging out with friends at the end! Happy Halloween!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Last two days in Nepal - Bhakatapur

Unfortunately we only had two nights in Pokhara and had to head back to the Kathmandu valley. My sister and I both agreed we could easily spend close to a month exploring Pokhara and all the activities around and we loved the feel of the area and the relaxation and peace it brought.

Before heading back to Kathmandu we walked around the Peace Pagoda.

Thankfully our flight back to Kathmandu was easy and without any issues. And our hotel was actually there to pick us up! We spent our last night in Nepal in a village called Bhakatapur. It is known for maintaining it historic charm and feel. When we arrived and drove down the cobblestone streets and came into this square with so many authentic buildings we certainly felt more like authentic Nepal. Our hotel was our favorite of the trip and was so charming and full of wood work and so unique.

After getting settled in our hotel we went for lunch across the square which was a perfect spot for people watching. There was this group of kids who kept trying to pick up these baby goats which was hilarious to watch. After lunch we wandered around the streets and to the various squares just soaking it all up.

The next morning we wandered around a little more and picked up some last minute souvenirs and then headed out to the airport. I was sad to be leaving and wished I could be spending more time in Nepal but I was so thankful for the time that I was able to have and for the chance to be able to go to a country I have dreamed about going to and I was ready to see my kiddos!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Hiking around Pokhara

Our first full day in Pokhara, we set our alarm clocks to get up and watch the sunrise because the hotel owner said on a clear day it was amazing and you could see five of the tallest peaks and it would be worth it. We were excited. It started out as a possibly good experience....

And then the fog wouldn't lift :( And it never really did the entire time we were in Pokhara. We were able to see some of the tallest peaks but some of them were hidden by clouds the entire time. October is supposed to be the best time to visit, no clouds and no rain but unfortunately it was an off week when we were there and we had both.

We had arranged with our hotel to have a guide for the day to do an easy hike around a village. We said we wanted to be gone for about five hours and nothing too strenuous. turned out to be a little more challenging especially going up in the beginning than we thought but it was great and so worth it to get out and explore the villages around where we were.

We started out at the World Peace Pagoda which was near our hotel.

And hiked up to a viewing can see the World Peace Pagoda very faintly in the left side of the picture below to give you an idea of height and distance.

We then walked up to another platform area from the second mound that is in the picture below to give you some perspective of our route and how far we had gone.

Then we stopped at another village the second picture you can no longer see our starting point.

We walked through some villages and encountered some kids along the way but mostly were able to see people doing their day to day living and just experience a different side of Nepal.

We hiked to this viewing platform/museum but it was closed :( we were going to stop for lunch there but since it wasn't open we had to hike back. Thankfully the hike back was easier! But we didn't factor in that we both forgot sunscreen and our necks were super burnt!

It was a long but great day hike! We went back to the hotel for lunch, showers and a nice long nap. We woke up that night with the idea to go into the main town/shopping area and explore. We didn't want to deal with taxis again so we found out we could walk down from the Peace Pagoda to the lake and hire a boat to take us across BUT we needed to get down before dark and before the rain storm came. So we started hiking down and down and down and realized it was taking us much longer than we expected. Thankfully we made it down in time and got a boat to take us across . It started sprinkling on the ride over but it wasn't too bad. 

We explored the shopping areas and then a DOWNPOUR hit and we were soaked. We for some reason didn't bring any of our rain gear with us shopping so we had to buy some ponchos and then started shopping again. The streets became pretty flooded and hard to cross so we decided to eat and wait out the rain. We enjoyed a delicious dinner and a restaurant we found and then finished up our shopping and then we realized we had to find a taxi to get us back to the hotel. Problem was dark and it had just flooded the streets and we had to go up dirt roads up a mountain to our hotel. We were scared that we wouldn't find someone willing and would have to get a hotel in town for the night. We asked a shop keeper if he had any ideas and he was so helpful and found us a guy, talked him down to a reasonable price and helped arrange this for us....and all we bought from him was two bracelets for $3 total. The people of Nepal were so generous, welcoming and warm and this was just another example of it. 

A long, fun and adventurous day and we slept very well that night!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Travel Day to Pokhara

Day two was a travel day into the mountain village of Pokhara. This is where a large amount of the tea house treks start off from and is a big trek/hiking stop. We had a mid morning flight with the hopes of getting to Pokhara early afternoon and having some time to explore. Well, as we learned....transportation in Nepal can be very hit or miss!

We headed to the domestic terminal at the airport which was an experience itself (we were not allowed to take pictures) and found the Buddha Air ticket office who confirmed that we had tickets and just needed to go into the main hall and wait. We went through security and waited in this large room with so many other nationals and tourists heading off to different parts of Nepal to trek. We waited and waited and finally our ticket counter opened up, it was all done by hand with paper so it took awhile and our bags were then loaded onto wagons and pulled away. We then went through another security gate and waited to board....and waited....and waited....and waited. Turns out that although we kept hearing other flights leaving for Pokhara, ours wasn't. What we determined is that Buddha Air does so many runs back and forth and they got delayed in the morning and never caught up so we waited close to four hours to finally leave!

We headed out to the tarmac on a bus and then boarded our really small airplane to Pokhara. At that point I got a little nervous about taking a domestic Nepal flight but said a prayer and remembered all the research I did on which airline had better safety ratings and off we went.

The views were beautiful! It was such a quick flight and I wish we could have just kept flying around to see the mountains.

We landed in a small airport, walked into a small room to collect our bags which essentially two guys behind a desk and them lifting each bag up one by one until someone claims one....very inefficient.

And we headed out to find our driver.....who was not there. We figured as much since we were four hours plus late but we had hoped someone would be there. No problem, we will find a taxi. Found one, asked several times if they knew our hotel, yes, no problem, are you sure, yes, no was a problem because they had no idea where our hotel was! We drove around and around and around. Finally we stopped and begged to use a hotels internet and figured out where it was only to find out it was way up on top of a hill/mountain and now had to argue with the taxi driver to take us without charging us a whole lot more. We negotiated a price and off we went. We had no idea where we were going, and was going up this random hill with very rough and not safe looking roads and we had no idea if this was even the right way....not comforting. Finally we get to a parking lot and some guys are there to meet us and carry our bags to the hotel which is another five minute walk. We finally arrive and it is dark so we have no idea the view we would see in the morning. We decided to eat dinner by candle light and then talked to the hotel owner about arranging a trek for the next day and then headed to bed after a long travel day!


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Exploring Kathmandu

Our first day in Kathmandu was a full day! When I was planning for the trip I would only have one or two things planned for a day and then would remember that I wasn't traveling with kids and that I could be gone all day if we wanted and didn't have to plan for naps or breaks or anything! So we made the most of the one day we had in Kathmandu and saw a ton!

This is a picture in the courtyard of our hotel. I loved seeing all the prayer flags all over the city.  

Our first stop was a five minute walk from our hotel and was the Boudhanath Stupa which is one of the holiest Buddhist sites in Nepal. The Stupa is one of the largest in the world. There are prayer wheels surrounding the perimeter that people spin as they walk by.

Once inside there were more prayer wheels. When walking around the stupa or any Buddhist temple you are to walk clockwise. 

The whole area around the Stupa was fascinating with adorable buildings that all were different colors and designs. Boudhanath is a large Tibetan refuge community and it was wonderful to walk around an soak it all in. We wandered around the shops some and visited a Thanka painting school where they take cloth, rub river rock and clay on it to harden the cloth and then hand paint Buddhist symbols and teachings. They were so nice in explaining all the symbols and each piece to us and then my sister and I purchases a pice each. I am looking forward to when I can go and get mine framed and hung up!

Following Boudhanath we took a taxi to Patan and its Durbur Sqaure. It has many temples, a former royal palace and was built in the 1600's. There are both Buddhist and Hindu influences which was interesting. We wandered around, read about the temples and then had lunch at a cafe overlooking the square. 

The wood work and carvings all around Nepal were fascinating! They were so intricate and amazing! I wished I could have brought back a piece of furniture or something! What surprised me was how prevalent the intricate pieces were beyond temples and palaces and on regular buildings. 

Following lunch we walked around the city and found a man selling Tibetan Healing and Meditation Bowls and he explained them to us, demonstrated them and we ended up each picking out one to take home. The bowl was the one thing I wanted to bring home from Nepal and I loved looking through them and learning more about their uses beyond meditation. I have had some problems since leaving the store though recreating some of the techniques so I apparently need some more lessons!


We then took a taxi to the Monkey Temple where you are supposed to have amazing view over the valley and the mountains. Unfortunately the week we were there had clouds and rain which was unusual for this time of the year. But the views were still great and it allowed us to see the business of Kathmandu below us. 

When we walked to the top of the temple we didn't see any monkeys and wondered why it was called that. We decided to walk down a different way and found all of them. They were much calmer than the ones in Bali which was nice and they just minded their own business.

We then headed to the central of Kathmandu and its Durbur Square which was crazy! It was so busy, and overwhelmg. We were not there long and instead decided to take a walk to Thamel to get some dinner and a traditional Nepali food restaurant. Our favorite food from Nepal was momos which are like dumplings but not really. They were so good!


After dinner we took a taxi and asked several time to make sure he knew were our hotel was. Well he apparently had no idea where our hotel was and it was a pretty frustrating two hours finding our way home when it should have taken around 30 minutes. He asked time after time for directions and it was so frustrating. The only thing I hated about our trip to Nepal was the taxis. They would constantly try to rip us off, tell us they knew where they were going and then get lost and ask for more money. It was such a battle BUT I was so thankful to have my sister with me....she is tough! She takes no nonsense and she puts them in their place. It was good since I hate confrontation! We FINALLY made it back to our hotel and were exhausted from the day and bouncing around in taxis all day. We had a somewhat hot shower and got to bed so we could go to the airport the next day for our flight into the mountain town of Pokhara.