Friday, June 22, 2012

Cambodia Excursion - Final Thoughts

Today is the last day. There is not much to do except wait around to go to the airport. No more shopping to do, so I just took a nap. Checked out of the hotel at 11:30 am for the airport. We were in Singapore in no time. We were meeting our cousin at the airport for a couple hours before heading back to Delhi. So this time did not get to see the rest of the Changi airport :-(

Overall the trip to Cambodia was wonderful. I was just too tired at the end because of the heat.  There was the walking too, but the heat made it worse.  Siem Reap was very tourist friendly. So many people spoke english or at least tried to communicate. The city was clean and well maintained, better than so many cities in India. A lot of the temples were alike but I am sure to a trained eye they might be different.  Most temples were in derelict condition becuase of lack of funding and also because of thier age. A number of them were hundreds of years old. Angkor Wat is maintained well because it is a UNESCO world heritage site. I am sure the weather also makes a difference in the maintenance of these lovely buildings.

I did not try any of the street food, but the two lunches we had (at the same location), were good and affordable. The Indian restaurants left a lot to be desired.

Shopping was quite affordable there. Clothes, shoes and fruits were all good quality. Some bargaining required. Mangoes and lychees were the two fruits we ate - both were just delicious. Some precious stone jewelry was also available - very pretty.  And the best thing is that most vendors accept American dollars (for us citizens that is a nice boon).

The dance show we went to was an added bonus to all the other beautiful sights we had seen. And not to forget the massages. No one should leave Cambodia without a fish massage!!

So my lasting impression was that of apsaras....too many and too beautiful!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Cambodia Excursion - Day 4

Got up with a fantastic cold today! My body must be getting tired or maybe its the AC-humidity that is causing the cold.

After breakfast we took a taxi to Phnom Kulen mountain. There is a water fall there and also some other interesting touring spots. First we took a little stop to see how they make palm sugar - which is kind of like making gur, but from palm not sugar cane. It was yum!

Then we went to Banteay Srey temple. This is famous for the fact that women were in charge here. There were beautiful carvings here (little more beautiful than the other temples). A good stop.

All the way to the mountain, I took small naps. The cold was getting to me. The first stop after we reached the mountain was the river that had more than 1000 shivling. Wow! What an amazing sight. The water was flowing on them (just like we pour water over shivlings in India), so the size had decreased over time. Very beautiful to see.

Then we climbed up a bunch of beautiful stairs to see the sleeping Buddha - a monolith. Another wow! Just beautiful. The general area was also pretty - green and flowers. Very peaceful and it smelled great there.

Then the walk to the waterfall.  The first one was small, kind of cute. But that led to the main one, which still needed some walking. The climb down to the waterfall was a little challenging since the wooden stairs were a little scary, some were missing, and all I could think of was - I have to come up these stairs!!  The climb down was very rewarding! The waterfalls were beautiful, amazing and just full of water. So many people were playing in the fresh water. Just a lovely place to be on a hot, humid, summer day like today. Sadly, I was not in my swim suit :-(

We skipped lunch so we could see the last temple of our tour - Banteay Sam Re. This was a nice peaceful stop after all the days touring. There were not many people there, the layout was slightly different.I was drenched in sweat by now, but we saw it all.

On the way back, stopped again at the local market, Phar Le. Did not really buy anything because I did not need anything and then Sam was walking too fast to see if I wanted to buy anything. We were back at the hotel by 4:30 pm. Took a nap and then we went for dinner - Curry wala - another Indian restaurant (Sam was looking for chole bhature). The food was terrible.

The last thing to do here was to get the fish massage. This is uniquely Cambodian thing. You put your feet in a tank of water of fish and they clean up and eat all the "stuff" on your feet.It is ticklish, relaxing and therapeutic at the same time.  Really enjoyed it. For $1 I got the massage and a coke!! Who can beat that?

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Cambodia Excursion - Day 3

Today is also another long day of touring. Breakfast was okay (included in the hotel) - bread and omelette. Left at 8 am for the grand tour of temples today.

We passed by a local market so took a quick stop to see how it was. And it was interesting - very congested and one can get lost! Did end up buying some nice slippers!

First stop Pre Rup. Was unique as there as a cremation place in it.

Neak Pean was unique. Very quite and peaceful place. The center of the temple was unique as it had two snakes with tails entwined and a statue of a horse saving a man. Interesting!

Preah Khan. After a while these temples merge into one another. Unless there is something different about them, they can start blending into one another.

The key thing is that a number of these were either Shiva or Vishnu temples that are presently Buddhist temples now.  One can see remnants of the shivling in many of these temples.

After a coconut water break it was Sras Srong temple - also very pretty - still had a lot of apsaras and carvings and the trees growing in the temples.

The last one for the day was the walk a mountain, the Phnom Bakheng mountain, to see Angkor Wat from high up. It took about 20 mins to get up. It was humid and I was exhausted. The view was amazing. It would have been even more amazing if we had been able to see the sunset; but as usual the clouds interfered. There was a also a nice temple on the top with Buddha's foot - 6 ft foot! How?

Was not really capable to doing anything else after such a touring day. On the way back to the hotel saw some lovely elephants dressed up for tourists :-) Also bought some lychees which were just too sweet!

Sam went out for shopping, whereas I stayed back at the hotel to get my free massage. And then Sam got his. Then it was time for dinner - which was pizza today - excellent pizza!

I can see that the Cambodia postings are becoming more of a picture show....but really I did not write down everything that the guide was saying. Some temples had some interesting history, but otherwise they are just different temples built at different times, some by kings, some by priests and some for specific purpose etc...

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Cambodia Excursion - Day 2

Really early day today! Was out of the door by 5 am to see the sunrise. Pratna, our guide was on time as was Paul, the tuk tuk driver.We rode out to Angkor Wat, but 1 km from the temple, the gas in the tuk tuk finished. What?? Really? Luckily it was a cloudy day so we were not going to see the sunrise - that is also the sad part, but if we had missed it because of the gas, I would have been ticked off. There were many other tourists on the way. Our driver got another tuk tuk driver to take us to the temple.

The temple is just an awe inspiring sight. But the immensity of it cannot be imagined from the front. We yet have to go in; we waited outside for the sun to come up. The reflection of the temple in the little lake in the front was graceful. Waited for 30 mins - but no sun. Had a cup of tea and then started the tour. The entire tour took 3 hrs (and ate up all my camera battery!). We were in no rush. There were a lot of carvings on the wall. No doubt that anyone can enjoy it, but it really helps to be a Hindu. 90% of the carvings were Hindu mythology.

There were apsaras everywhere - 1008 all in all. Really gracious! The humidity was high so I felt a little tired, but otherwise really good tour. The temple was Vishnu temple but kept going back and forth to Buddha. We could have spent more than 3 hrs, but the heat was too much and we had other temples to see.

There were some stairs that went up and gave some excellent views of the temple campus. It is huge!

Next on the list was Angkor Thom - which is a complex of 3-4 temples. Below is the entrance to the complex. Most of these temples are Buddhist temples

The first one was Bayon - amazing! There are more than 50 Buddha heads in the temple. Really something else!

The second one was Baphuon.

Second temple was Pimenaka

Then third - Elephentress

The last place was not really a temple but a place built by the king dedicated to people with leprosy. It was a spread out place with little towers.

It was only lunch time by now!! 12 pm. Lunch was at an appointed place by the touring agency - but it was good. The vegetable curry was good. Vegetable rolls - not so good... But it was a lot of food.

The next temple we went to TaProhm. This was the most interesting of all the temples. Angkor Wat is big, but this one had completely different character! It was so picturesque. Trees were growing everywhere.

I was beat after this last temple. We were supposed to go to a mountain to see some waterfalls, but decided to see the floating village instead.  It was only 3:30 pm at this point. This was a 30-40 min ride out of Siem Reap. Then we took a boat ride out on Tulisap Lake. The floating village was a lot of people living on boats, different sizes. The school was on the lake, there was grocery shopping going on on the lake via boats, taxi service. Amazing! From what our guide told us, these are all Vietnamese immigrants, mostly poor.

We sat in one of the floating restaurants until sunset, which really did not happen because of the clouds. We went back on the boat, and then by tuk tuk back to the hotel. It was time for dinner and shopping. We went for Indian food at Taste of India, it was good. then during shopping we got food massages for $5. Felt really good after the entire day of walking and touring.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Cambodia Excursion - Day 1

From Singapore to Cambodia is not a long flight - about 2 hrs. We got in by late afternoon. No problem in immigrations.

Siem Reap is a small town, very homey. There were a lot of "tuk tuk", kind of motorized rikshaw outside the airport. Our guide was there to pick us up. Took us straight to Mekong Hotel. The ride was nice. Such a nice little town. The hotel was very nice - such a huge room and so comfortable. We got to know our manager, Sutheerath, as we have three more days ahead of us. Since there was not much planned for today, we found a place where we could see a dance show. It also included dinner.

This turned out to be very good! We had dinner first, which was buffet style. Tried a lot of things, hard to vegetarian food, but nothing stood out. Dessert was good. And then the classical Cambodian dance!! Such beautiful dress, beautiful expression and gestures. Very nice story telling in the dances. The girls were gorgeous and the guys were very good dancers too.

After the dance we went out for little shopping. The best part is that in Cambodia, they all accept American dollars - very convenient. Bargaining is big in Cambodia. It was not very crowded and lovely to walk around. The weather was fine - not too hot or cold. A little humid. There were a lot of massage places around. I have to get one later as part of the hotel package. Came back early as we have to get up at 4 am tomorrow to see the sunrise at Angkor Wat.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Cambodia Excursion - PreTravel

I went to Cambodia in June 2012 with my brother, Sam. We decided to go from Delhi, India to Singapore to Cambodia. In Singapore we had a one night stop so we could do a little touring and shopping.

Sam had made all the booking for Siem Reap, Cambodia through a touring agency. It included hotel stay and tour around for 4 days. Siem Reap had all the main attractions including Angkor Wat - the biggest Hindu temple.

The best airlines to get to Cambodia was Singapore Airlines, which is also one of the best airlines to fly on. And it was! The cushions were silky, all the silverware for food was actually metal and not plastic. Very comfortable and good experience.

Singapore airport is also a tourist destination. One can easily spend 4-5 hours just touring around. We would do that later....We landed early afternoon and had the whole day to tour around. We took the hopping bus which goes around Singapore and stops at all the key points like the Singapore flyer, the hifi market street etc. This shuttle is sponsored by the Singapore airport.

So first we took the shuttle to Little India on Serangoon St. There are Indian shops everywhere; all people look like from South India; the temples are South Indian style and almost all the restaurants are also South Indian. We reached on a Sunday and the little India was crowded!! After checking into our hotel (Broadway), we went off to find the stop for the airport tour bus. It was a little tough, but eventually we found it. Oh and the vegetable shops we passed by were amazing! Such fresh vegetable.
We hopped on the tour bus and we were in business. Our first stop was the Singapore flyer - the huge ride that goes really slowly. The next bus would come in an hour so we had plenty of time to go on the ride. One capsule could hold 28 people. We got on! It was quite the ride. it went up slowly and one could see the entire city. And since the ride was so slow, we saw the night lights too. We caught the bus and rode through the city - the botanical garden, the bazaar on Orchard St. (all the glitzy shops were there!), Chinatown, the city....all beautiful.

Once we got back to Little India, it was dinner time. All restaurants were south Indian food and full! It turns out that all the people (mostly young men) were blue collar workers imported from India. We ate south Indian food also - very good! And then for shopping we found Mustafa - a bigger than Walmart kind of store. Oh my God, it was amazing!! There were so many things all of such good quality. Amazing! I was exhausted by now, but we still managed to see the whole store. Sadly, we did not have to buy much, but looking was entertaining! Came back by 11:30pm.

Next day we went a little shopping and then off to the airport. The route is lovely! Singapore is a pretty city. This time we also walked around the airport (Changi airport) - beautiful! There was the orchid garden, the bamboos, a place for just relaxation...lovely.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Tips and Packing for Kailash

Tips for Kailash Yatra
  1. Get everything in writing. The program, the charges, and payment receipt. The flight itinerary, program itinerary, the fact that you will be given a land cruiser. Everything that you can think of – get it in writing if you can.
  2. Keep calling to make sure all permits are in order.
  3. Ask about yak and porter prices upfront, so you know how much money to take.
  4. Ask all sorts of questions….even if they seem silly. And make sure you get a definite answer for them – not just, “Everything will be okay once you are there.”
  5. Nyalam is very high and one can start feeling altitude sickness from there onwards, so be prepared from Kathmandu with medications.
  6. There are no restrooms anywhere on the road. Be ready to go anywhere. Don’t hesitate to tell the driver to stop if you need to go.
  7. Keep extra batteries. You can find electrical outlets everywhere but since there are so many people, you may not get a turn.
  8. Travel with family or good friends. Someone who understands you completely and will not divorce you after this trip is over. We lucked out and had the company of really good strangers who then became good friends. But it is easy to lose your cool after 4-5 days of close proximity.
  9. If you are a non resident of India, then it is better you make your own group of travelers. Check the policies of China regarding non Indians before you make your journey. If it does not suit you, then don’t go. We found out the hard way that this policy of having 5 non Indians travel together ruined our trip.
  10. The group you travel with is key. We traveled with south Indians and we got all south Indian food for 9 days.  The sherpas are amazing cooks, they are trained in a variety of cuisines.  They will cook your kind of food provided there is a majority.
  11. Going to Mansarovar on Poornima is not the most important thing, unless it is a religious thing for you, but I will say the lake looks amazing in full moon. But the crowd is also the highest during those times.
  12. If you are able to then get up at night to see two stars come down to Mansarovar at night.  Apparently they come down every night, some say they come only on Poornmasi. I don't know. The time is also not very clear - but people see them between 3-4 am. If you can camp out from 1-4 am then more power to you!!
  13. Do not dismiss your health. Listen to your body.  There will be no doctor or hospital on route, so if you have high/low BP, diabetes, heart disease, then be careful of your health. Don't exert yourself.
  14. You have the option of not doing the parikrama. You stay in Mansarovar for the two nights while the trekkers finish their parikrama.
  15. Be an informed traveller.  Sadly I did not find much information about travelling to Kailash, which is why I was met with disappointment. I wish people would share information so that everyone's journey is fruitful.
Things to take on the trip

  1. Warm clothes: really all sorts of warm clothes – don’t skimp on it, especially if you don’t like cold. Warm socks, gloves, cap, monkey cap, 2-3 layers of warm shirts. All travel agencies provide a good winter jacket, but if you think you have a different size then bring your own.
  2. Medicines: pain pills are a must, antacids, energy pills, altitude sickness, any stomach/digestive issue pills, ginger candy (for nausea), vicks for stuffy nose, Halls or any kind of lozenges.
  3. Personal hygiene items: in addition to what you use daily e.g. soap, toothpaste etc. you will need wet wipes – both disinfectant kind and just the wet kinds (plenty!!), hand sanitizer, deodorant.
  4. Eatables: chocolates, mixed nuts, hard candies, health bars. All meals are given in plenty and it is usually quite okay; the only time you will need these is if the meals are delayed or during the parikrama, or in between meal time snack.
  5. Equipment: camera is a must, flashlight (torch) is a must, extra batteries, pocket knife, walking stick, an insulated water bottle (in the cold temperature the water gets cold really fast), some personal entertainment (mp3 player, kindle etc. for the long drives).
  6. Attitude: you have to do this journey with an open mind and adventurous spirit. Every day is unpredictable, you will get food that you don’t really care for, you will feel miserable because of high altitude and low oxygen and because you have not taken a shower for four days….for all these matter of fact incidents, you have to keep your spirits high yourself and keep positive. It is best to travel with good friends or family. The 10-14 day journey is spent is really close proximity to other people and unless you keep positive they all start getting on that one nerve that was doing well.

Problems With Satyam Travels

  1. The biggest problem I had with Satyam travel company is that they transferred us to another company and separated us from our original group. That should have never happened. They should have either sold the entire group to the other company or taken non Indians from the other company. That being said all other problems may not have happened that happened during this journey.
  2. We did not get to do parikrama of Kailash because our Chinese guide gave us a whole bunch of lies (I really want to say BS) about Chinese government not letting visitors through Darchen, and then changed their story that oh they are allowing only if you get in Darchen by 7am. Then suddenly that got changed into – that is also not happening. And then it was no way to get our guides to take us for parikrama. It was as if they just did not want to take us. We felt so cheated at this point.
  3. We never got the land cruisers as promised. The terrain is not meant for buses and vans; there are too many highs and lows and dirt roads. Land cruisers would have made the journey more comfortable.
  4. Communication was bad all the way through. We never knew who was really in charge and making the decisions during this trip. We did not know who our Nepali or Tibetian/Chinese guides were until the last couple days of the trip.
  5. In the end when we wanted our Tibetian/Chinese leader to take us back to Darchen (from Nyalam) for parikrama he wanted to charge us unbelievable amount of money. It was as if that is what he wanted all along.
  6. There was no doctor in the group as promised by the travel company. There would have been no way to treat a person with hypoxia or other altitude symptoms.
  7. I did not see any oxygen tanks in the vehicle.
  8. Everyone was told there would be a Sherpa travelling with them, but what is the point of this Sherpa if he does not English or Hindi or Nepali etc. The sherpas were really just the cooks, not guides by any means.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Kailash Yatra – Day 9

7 June – Wednesday: Nyalam to Kathmandu

Got up at 6 am, since someone knocked on the door by mistake.  One of our group guys got up then and got ready and just sat with the lights on.  Dang!! Two more got up and got ready and just sat and slept so I got up and turned the light off and went right back to sleep.

One way or another we were all ready to get back to Kathmandu.  Breakfast was chana-bhatura..good.  We packed up and left around 9 am.  Phinsu did not even look at us….idiot! It was a very quiet drive to the border.  There was a great deal of disillusionment and tiredness. There were a few check points on the way.  The scenery was quite nice; lots of mountains and waterfalls.

We passed the town where we had stopped for 2 hrs, but today there was sooo much more traffic.  All the shops were open and it was quite crowded.  What is surprising is that the road was two lane but one was used for parking, so only one was available for driving.  How terrible!  Because of this, it took a long time to get through the town.

We stopped about 1 mile from the border and had to walk to the border as the line of cars was too long.  Luckily we had our bag packs only with us otherwise it would have been quite a hard walk.  I noticed that my breathing was so much better already!

Border crossing was easy and quick.  Phinsu took us through for that one last time. I hope he is never a guide for anyone else.  As soon as we reached the Nepal side we started taking pictures of the border and there was a general feeling of relief. 

Lunch was in the same place as before.  The scenery was still as beautiful and lunch was as boring as before. 

We had the same screechy bus as we had before. As we started driving, it got hotter and yet again there was no fan or AC in the bus.  Damn this travel company.  The drive was as treacherous as before for about 2 hrs on part gravel road and on the edge of the deep gorge.  I listened to music for a while and then took short naps.  The Sherpa sitting next to me made it hard for me sleep comfortably.

As soon as we had come to Nepal Ramgopal took everyone’s passport to get it stamped for re-entry but did not give them back.  Once we got to Kathmandu and people started getting off the bus, they started asking for their passports.

Problem: Ramgopal would not give ours.  Bhaiya asked him why, but he would not tell.  Later we found out that Ramgopal had been told by Basu of Touch Kailash to not give the passports back because Satyam had not paid him for us. It was then confirmed for us that Nitesh transferred us from Satyam to Touch Kailash company!! Without asking for permission from us or bothering to tell us.  I was super mad at Nitesh.  I was a volcano ready to erupt.

All the Touch Kailash group was going to Moonlight hotel but we asked to be taken to Vaishali as we were with Satyam and Vaishali.  We got transferred to a smaller bus we were then driven to Vaishali. Good that they had a room for us.  Oh so nice to finally have proper bed and proper shower!!

Problem: We went to retrieve our luggage from the storage, and it turns out since we left with Touch Kailash our luggage went to Moonlight hotel!!

Luckily I had enough clothes to get cleaned up and did not really need my suitcase right away.  And boy was it nice to shower and wash the hair properly again! Bhaiya and I went out for some tea in Thamel and then rested. 

Suresh and Ria came over to see us.  We told them about the latest saga of the guides not taking us for parikrama deliberately.  But what can anyone really do now except hope to get some money back for services not rendered. 

Had great buffet dinner at Vaishali.  I slept like a log that night!!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Kailash Yatra - Day 8

6 June – Wednesday: Saga to Nyalam

Slept a lot better this night that any other night so far. I still have the cold,  the headache and my voice is still out.  Had bed tea, as usual, and Tibetian bread for breakfast.  Swami’s group  had already left at 5 am for Kathmandu.   We left Saga around 9:30 am. 

The drive to Nyalam was uneventful.  There was the about 2 hrs of gravel road again.  But this time for some reason the scenery was much more beautiful.  We stopped at the highest point again and one other place for taking pictures and to go to bathroom.   Very soon we were in Nyalam. 

Phinsu stopped at a place just before Nyalam to show everyone a meditation place.  Bhaiya and I did not go.  We reached Nyalam by lunch time.  This time we were given a room in the main building.  Lunch was beans and rice. 

As we were sitting outside, people started trickling in and they were all coming back from parikrama.  So now it was revealved to us that Darchen was not closed at all.  All groups were going for parikrama. Uncle’s group had also gone for parikrama. 

One thing was a common theme amongst all groups: that the touring agencies never true to their word.  They all promised one thing but never delivered.  Either the groups did not have water or they did were not given proper transportation or their residence was terrible something or the other.  Bhaiya was really mad about not being able to do parikrama.  He went to hunt for Phinsu but he was nowhere to be found.  Ramgopal called him and he said he would come in 1 hr, but did not come until 9 pm. 

Now we learnt that our guide in this whole journey was Phinsu.  He was the one responsible for not taking us for the parikrama.  He was extremely rude to us in explaining what happened. He did not think he did anything wrong.  We all kept arguing for about 40 mins.  Both he and driver had been drinking but at least Phinsu was sober, the driver could not even speak clearly.

At one point Phinsu threatened us by saying he would take our passport and give to the police and have it stamped so we could never come again.  Then he said, why don’t you just come back next year for the parikrama.  OMG what does he think of himself!!  Bhaiya talked to Doga also on the phone but she could not answer even one question properly.  Both of them will never live in peace for what they have done to us. 

There was no point arguing.  We felt so dejected and disappointed with the whole situation.  Worse was this feeling of helplessness.  We have never taken a trip anywhere where what was promised was not delivered.  

We also found out then that our Nepali guide was TB.  He had been with us the whole time but we did not know he was in charge of anything.  In fact we never really knew who was in charge of what.  He told us that on the first day we reached Mansarover, the next day we could have gone for parikrama but he talked to Swamiji and they decided to cancel it! Wow! He did not bother to ask anyone else.  Swamiji decided all by himself for all us 52 people. Unbelievable!

It was all very tiring. Dinner was the same the same….boring.  This time we were 6 in a room. I feel like a hearded animal.  The sherpas decided that they did not want to bring the bags up! What the heck! Why did they not tell us before, we could have packed accordingly.  But I got Ramgopal to bring our bags for us. 

Today the feeling of helpless and disappointment was the highest because everyone had done parikrama except for us and all because we had bad guides.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Kailash Yatra - Day 7

5 June – Tuesday: Mansarovar to Saga

Got up early to get ready; did not want to run into a crowd anywhere.  My voice is completely gone.  Maybe its good. The sherpas were busy till late last night in the kitchen tent and now they have been up since early morning. 

There is no use being out, it is really cold.  It had snowed over the night and now everything was covered with thin film of snow.  The sky is still full of dark clouds.  I am so glad it was not like this yesterday and that it is time to go away from here.  Chai was brought in the tent. Breakfast was nice today – aaloo ka paratha!  Finally something north Indian – except the occasional grain of sand.

We packed up to go and by 9 am we were on the road. I was not feeling well at all today; the last few days of not sleeping well, waking up with a headache and a cold and now my throat; it was taking its toll on me. 

The first 2-3 hrs was all snow covered area, it was quite widespread.  The driver took it slow. Bhaiya was a little irritated but maybe it was better that he was going slow.  If anything happened there would be no one to take care of us.  Besides the entire group had to stay together. I slept most of the way.  We stopped at a town P…. to have lunch.  Lunch was chole-rice and noodles.  Someone in this group loves noodles! I ate little bit – I am not feeling too well.

Phinsu and Shorey (the driver) kept talking all the way like school girls.  I slept some more since the scenery is the same as last time and I am not feeling well.  Got up around 4 pm and listened to my music for a while.

We arrived at Saga at around 6:30 pm. It  was at the same place where we had lunch on the way to Mansarovar.  The Tourist Hotel seemed okay.  We were assigned three people to a room.  I asked Barbara (the other lone woman) to stay with us. I felt guilty for leaving her with the boys for one of the previous nights.

The room was like a normal hotel. Finally!!! Thank you!  The attached bathroom was great and beds were comfortable and there was tea in the room. Oh civilization!!! Hot water was to come from 8pm-12am and then in the morning at 7am.  So when the water came, we started cleaning up.  Oh God!! My scalp was hurting from not being washed for 6 days.  It was strange feeling not to have the silly cap on.

Our other friends came and told us that they were actually 6 to a room. Yikes! Meaning two people sleeping on a twin bed.  Oh God – what is wrong with this travel company???  The south Indian group was actually with a Swamiji and this Swamiji was apparently calling a lot of shots.  I am of sound belief that he was the one who stopped us from going for parikrama.

There is a group of people going back to Kathmandu directly from Saga, while the rest of us are going to Nyalam first and then to Kathmandu.  Apparently the south Indian group who went to take bath in the Mansarovar fell sick so they need to get back.  I feel it will be better for us to do the journey with a break so I did not want to go directly to Kathmandu.

This room made me wonder why the Chinese cannot make residences like this everywhere.  Charge the people some more money but at least provide for a comfortable journey.

Dinner at around 10 pm was as boring as ever.  Went to bed right after that!! A very good night!