Istanbul, Turkey

During our very short stay in Istanbul, Sherri and I stayed in the old Part of the city….here….


From our hotel, we had a view to the Gulhane Park

Where we also saw those Alexandrine Parakeets.  They were having an argument.  Married for a few years, maybe?

We visited the Hagia Sophia, formerly a church….then a mosque… now a museum 

And visited the Topkapi palace… now also a museum.  Being Sultan Mehmet II came with huge responsibilities.  Among so many other things, he maintained a harem of more than 300 concubines.  

On our second day, we left the European side of Istanbul and took a ferry to the Asian side.   Cool huh?

There, I would recommend a meal at the Ciya (pronounced chia). 


Don’t be fooled by the emptiness.   This is a must go to place for the Turks and tourists.  

Tonight, we treated ourselves to an authentic Turkish dinner…a testi kebap….lamb baked in a sealed clay jar….and served in a flamboyant manner…


Tomorrow, we leave for home.  All good things must come to an end.  

Marc

Dubai, UAE

Sherri and i left Nepal and its many natural wonders behind…..for a world of man made wonders.  

Welcome to Dubai. 

In Dubai, it is now Winter.  The temperature was sunny with no clouds and a steady 32c.  This was therapeutic to my bones…. and a relief to locals as it was 50c not so long ago.  

During our stay, we lived a stone throw from the Dubai Marina…..

….and just a 5 minutes walk from the beach.  …with all iTs beautiful boutiques, walkways and restaurants.  FYI, I gained the weight I had lost on Everest…and some more….

On our first night, we were treated to views of Dubai from the 148th floor of the Burj (tower) Khalifa….the tallest man made structure in the world.  

This is the Burj…..

….some views from above….

…. and views of the dancing fountains from the comfort of a nice Arabic restaurant.  I will have to show you videos when I’m back in Canada. 

So many beautiful creations.  Look at this cool highway…. supported by trees….


….no worries….the support is reinforced concrete….with a tree appearance for the show. 

​The Dubai Mall was AMAZINGGG….over 120 stores….also comes with an Olympic size skating rink….and so many other nice features.  

However, we did shopping “old Dubai” style ie in its souks (markets)…textile, gold, etc.    My favorite was the spice souk…

On Day 3…..and we had already seen and done soooo many other things ….we toured the old Dubai, financial district and beaches areas….we went for dune buggy rides in the desert… just an hour away from the city 


We then embarked 4 x 4s, deflated our tires to 15psi and headed for some dune bashing…. not got the faint of heart



We went for a camel ride

After sunrise on day 4…


…we headed for a desert safari….and saw Arabian gazelles…..

…. oryx

….and a falcon…although the picture of that one was from a falcon show

Signing off for now…..so we can enjoy the company of our Dubai friends to the max….

Might as well mix with the locals…and join them in my new Ferrari….

Namaste Nepal

I came to Nepal for the mountains, the wildlife and fun adventures.  

Along the way, I discovered a beautiful people.  

A people kind in heart…. not only to the rupeees paying tourists, but most importantly to their fellow countrymen. 

I noticed this over and over again… from the harsh environment of the mountains to the gentle and much more fertile environment of the Chitwan.  

A very recent example sticks to my mind.  

On our way back from rafting, there was a fatality on the road far ahead.  We learned that the traffic had already been stopped for hours, waiting for the police to arrive on the scene.  

Our driver decided to take a back road….a narrow and steep dirt road hugging cliffs on both sides.   A near spinal injury causing condition type of road ….just wide enough to fit the width of a Jeep plus a quarter of another Jeep.  

Soon, we encountered other vehicles ( buses, cargo trucks, etc) heading in the opposite direction… not to mention the predictable vehicle breakdowns blocking all further movement.   

This required some cooperation.   Somebody had to back up.  

Imagine backing up dangerously close to cliffs and trying to find an area wide enough to allow for the other vehicle ( typically a bus or cargo truck) to carry on

Being a Westerner, I expected tempers to flare….perhaps even bullies forcing their way ahead of every one else through intimidation.   

Instead, I saw amazing cooperative work…. laughter….re-positioning…and more laughter.  

No road rage like we see at home for much much less stressful situations.   

What a beautiful people.  

I explained to a Nepali woman that CAnada has had its share of conflicts between English and French. 

Her laughter was precious.  

120 languages are spoken in Nepal.   Countless religious beliefs are there to be found.  

And yet,…mutual respect appears to be the normal response to such differences.   

I have much to learn from my Nepali brothers and sisters.  

It is with mixed emotions that I am leaving Nepal soon to be reunited with our dear friends in Dubai. 

Marc

White water rafting on the Bhote Koshi River, Nepal

Sherri and I went white water rafting on the Bhote Koshi River, which is sourced in Tibet…

The area we picked was a Class III rafting area….which was sufficient fun for beginners like us.  

The area becomes a Class IV and V during the monsoon season.  Perhaps we’ll try next time.  

After a short briefing about what to do….we did not have a clue….we were ready to go….or so we thought….

Luckily, our guide and his assistant did most of the steering.  This allowed us to avoid most boulders along the way….


Sometimes, we disappeared under the water….I’m kidding….this is just an illusion…

You’ll note the kayaker.  His role was to rescue us should we end up in the Bhote Kosi.  
Calm before a storm was the pattern….


As it turned out, I ended up in the river…. fed by glaciers….frigid….on only two occasions.  

On both occasions, I managed to hold on to the ropes on the raft.  

With retrospect, I wished I had let go to see how the kayak rescue would have turned out.  

I have to admit however that it did not cross my mind when I fell in the water.  I held to the ropes as if my life were dependent upon it….

Our team:

A must do if you come to Nepal….

Marc 

Dwarika Das Shrestha 

Dwarika Das is the founder of Dwarikas hotel in Kathmandu…. and a man who devoted time and resources to preserving Newari art.   

Newari civilization flourished in the Kathmandu Valley during the reign of the Malla kings from the 12th to 18th centuries.  

The Kathmandu Valley was nicely located to benefit from the trade between India and Tibet.  

Under the reign of the kings….. and unlike today…the city of Kathmandu was meticulously planned….

….widths of the streets commensurate with the height of the buildings, intricate network of water taps to ensure every family had a public sprout within walking distance, palatial complexes (Durbar squares), sacred courtyards, etc

The kings were also the patrons of Newari arts, which was heavily influenced by their beliefs.  The Newari  follow both Hinduism and Buddhism.  

In the 1950s, Nepal was changing. All around, centuries old mud, brick and wood houses were making way to concrete structures.   

One day, Dwarika Das noticed carpenters sawing off intricate carvings on an old wooden pillar and using it to keep a fire going.  

Dwarika Das decided to act.  He hired three master carvers who still recalled the ancient knowledge and techniques of traditional Newari carving…..and hired young apprentices to ensure the knowledge was passed down. 

Dwarika Das preservation works are evident at his hotel in Kathmandu….also aimed at reviving the architectural splendour of the valley.  





Marc

Chitwan National Park, Nepal

In Chitwan, we went on walking safaris….. boat safaris…..and Land Rover safaris…. all unique experiences….

On our walking safaris, we were accompanied by elephants…..whose job was to keep us safe….don’t mess with that one….

….. and saw one-horn rhinoceros lying in mud flats to stay cool 

During our boat safaris, we saw some gharial crocodiles

During our Land Rover safaris….we saw many mammals…..

This family of elephants…

Monkeys…. rarely still to allow for picture taking

Although that one took over an uninhabited house and would not be scared away

More one-horn rhinos, including this mother and her 2 years old

Many different sorts of deers


Wild hogs

Over 125 types of birds


As for the elusive tigers….. 125 of them in the park….a 2% chance of sighting…..no luck this time….

Chitwan is south of Nepal bordering India.   And yet We could still see tha Annapurna range from here

The sunsets were amazing


Next: white water rafting the Bhote Kosi river (sourced in Tibet) and a few days around Kathmandu…..

Marc

Pokhara, Nepal

A Sunday afternoon on tranquil Phewa Tal (ie Phewa lake)

The World Peace Stupa towering over Pokhara….across from Phewa Tal and lakeside Pakhora….a 45 minutes hike up from the lake

When we explained to the locals that in Canada, we buy these….then they die off in the cold….and then we buy some more, there is incredulity in the air….

Hot Pokhara is a nice break from the cold Everest Base Camp trek….. just need a little siesta every now and then….

Devil’s Falls

Next: Chitwan National Park……