Memories of Nepal

The beautiful land of Nepal has been in the press an incredible amount since Saturday due to the horrific earthquake that struck. This has been the worse quake in over 80 years and has caused awful damage throughout the country and an incredibly loss of life. The current death toll is over 5,500 people but this will only continue to go up as they clear the rubble and slowly get to the communities outside the capital. I know for friends and myself who have traveled there and have worked with the Nepalese for years it has been shocking to see the images flash across the tv and media. Luckily everyone we know out there is ok but with infrastructure damaged its going to be a long road to recovery for the country.

I visited Nepal for the first time in 2008 as part of a trip that went through North India and into Nepal. When I crossed that border it was an odd experience, leaving the chaos and mayhem of India behind and entering the tranquil world of peaceful Nepal. The first stop was Lumbini, the birth place of Buddha so of course there was an air of peace around the place. We then headed to Chitwan, onto Pokhara and explored the Annapurna region and then onto crazy Kathmandu. I have such great memories of the country, so great that I am supposed to be going back in October to trek up to Everest Base Camp. With the devastation going on at the moment I have found it hard not to think about my time there, the country I have worked with for so long and a place I desperately want to return to as its such a welcoming country with wonderful people.

With all this in mind I thought I would share some of my favourite images and memories to remind people of the country it was and how the people need help to get back on their feet and recover. It will be hard, it’s a poor country who cannot simply snap their fingers and quickly rebuild everything. The world community will have to help!!

Leaving the chaos if India behind for the peaceful boarders of Nepal

Leaving the chaos of India behind for the peaceful boarders of Nepal

Lumbini - the birth place of Buddha - this is one of the most tranquil spots I have ever been. Prayer flags coat the trees and on a sunny day it is all just rather lovely to sit under a tree and listen to them gentle rustle in the wind!

Lumbini – the birth place of Buddha – this is one of the most tranquil spots I have ever been. Prayer flags coat the trees and on a sunny day it is all just rather lovely to sit under a tree and listen to them gentle rustle in the wind!

What a way to commute to work!

What a way to commute to work!

The humble tuk tuk!

The humble tuk tuk!

A family who live within Chitwan National Park, we visited their village and their farm while we were on safari there. They were so welcoming.

A family who live within Chitwan National Park, we visited their village and their farm while we were on safari there. They were so welcoming. It is not only the people initially effected by the earthquake that will suffer. Those that escaped the damage will have the knock on effect of tourism stopping, supplies not getting where they should.  They may not have lost their home or a loved one but they may be loosing their lively hood as so many people in Nepal rely on tourism to put food on the table.

The beautiful Pokhara Lake

The beautiful Pokhara Lake

Pashupatinath Temple, dedicated to Shiva, it is where Hindu's come to say good by to their dead. On the banks of the river funeral pires are lit and the bodies washed away with the river.

Pashupatinath Temple, dedicated to Shiva, it is where Hindu’s come to say good-bye to their dead. On the banks of the river funeral pyres are lit and the bodies washed away with the river.

boudhanath stupa - the eyes on this stupa are synonymous with Kathmandu, they seem to watch you from wherever you are standing, it is a wonderful structure

Boudhanath stupa – the eyes on this stupa are synonymous with Kathmandu, they seem to watch you from wherever you are standing, it is a wonderful structure

I like this image as it shows old Kathmandu against new Kathmandu. The stunning architecture of Kathmandu's past against a modern building in the background. This is like much of the city, and is part of the problem they have now as so many buildings are old and they just were not able to withstand the earthquake.

I like this image as it shows old Kathmandu against new Kathmandu. The stunning architecture of Kathmandu’s past against a modern building in the background. This is like much of the city, and is part of the problem they have now as so many buildings are old and they just were not able to withstand the earthquake.

The narrow chaotic streets of Kathmandu, shops pouring out onto the streets, people selling things from everywhere. It can feel a little chlostraphobic but you get used to it - this is a way of life that has not changed, the warren of streets that spread through the city.

The narrow chaotic streets of Kathmandu, shops pouring out onto the streets, people selling things from everywhere. It can feel a little claustrophobic but you get used to it – this is a way of life that has not changed, the warren of streets that spread through the city.

It is such a beautiful and charming country, if you are able to help then please do through the many charities and organisations raising money!

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Japan – a food awakening!

As has been established on this blog I love food! I love trying new food and love exploring local products and dishes when away. Japan for me was one of the most eye-opening experiences for food that I have ever had, the array of things that were on offer, the seafood I have never seen or heard of, it was crazy!!

The food is so varied, from the small traditional local hotspots serving udon noodle soups, tempura everything and gyoza, to the more exerimental and up market like Ninja restaurant in Tokyo – decked out like an ancient castle and the waiters dressed as Ninjas – http://www.ninjaakasaka.com/. The prices of food vary like the cuisine, and you can spend a few pounds on a hearty meal or spend hundreds, sometimes by mistake like we did on our first night – note to self figure out the exchange rate before heading to Ninja restaurant again! Totally worth a visit though! There were different set menus and each course got more interesting and bizarre – one dish had dry ice in it, oh yes! and our cocktails had gold in them! Throughout the trip we tried as many different things as possible, and gained amazing chopstick skills – trying to cut the head off a little fish with them was a challenge to say the least. Some of the best food we had was the simplest, heading into a little Izakaya ( a bit like a pub) you get casual simple food that tastes great. Of course there are the restaurants that specialise, like sushi or gyoza restaurants. Some of the best meals we had were just in simple gyoza restaurants, gyoza, dipping sauce and a beer, yum! The best gyoza we had was in Kyoto – Senmonten, definitely worth a visit. It’s a tiny door way on a street lined with shops and restaurants, we walked past it twice and almost gave up looking for it, but then we found the door and were in a dumpling heaven!

If you are hungry then you can always find something to eat in Japan, for a nation that travel by train a lot, the food stalls and shops in the stations are packed to the brim with different food, the more well established cookies, bento, or perhaps you fancy snacking on dried fish or octopus on your journey?! Yes that’s right, the Japanese love their fish and snacking on the dried kind when travelling is not an uncommon sight… not really for me, we tended to stick with the more traditional Poki sticks! One thing that will always stick in mind about Japan are their vending machines, they are everywhere and usually in groups. You can get pretty much everything for a vending machine in Japan, and trust me the novelty does not ware off…. best find…. the beer vending machine, always a great idea when heading back to your hostel after the bar has closed!

Other than amazing and in some cases very odd food, Japan is an amazing country. It has so much history and stunning natural beauty it was hard to leave, and its most definitely on the list to return to as I only scratched the surface in my first trip. Our itinerary was based around a standard tour of Hikkado ( the main island). Starting in Tokyo we used and abused the Japanese train system with our rail passes, and headed to the Japanese Alps as my friend wanted to ski. We based ourselves in Hakuba, and from there headed south to Kyoto and Osaka, taking a day trip down to Hiroshima. On the way back to Tokyo we stopped off in the Alps again at Takayama.

TOKYO!

The Tokyo skyline from the Imperial Palace

The Tokyo skyline from the Imperial Palace

The Imperial Palace in Tokyo, hidden from prying eyes.

The Imperial Palace in Tokyo, hidden from prying eyes.

Sushi from Ninja restaurant - one of the most expensive and bizarre meals ever!

Sushi from Ninja restaurant – one of the most expensive and bizarre meals ever!

Outside Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo. Home to all the weird and wonderful creatures of the deep blue sea!

Outside Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo. Home to all the weird and wonderful creatures of the deep blue sea!

Inside Tsukiji Fish market - get their early and its busy, later in the morning and its quieter, great time to wander.

Inside Tsukiji Fish market – get their early and its busy, later in the morning and its quieter, great time to wander.

To the ALPS!

Heading into Jigokundani Monkey Park. In february its very snowy and quiet, great time to visit.

Heading into Jigokundani Monkey Park. In february its very snowy and quiet, great time to visit.

The Monkeys roam free and have fun in the snow. They are like children play fighting with each other

The Monkeys roam free and have fun in the snow. They are like children play fighting with each other

Ok, I may have taken quite a few monkey photos by this point but they just sit their posing for you!

Ok, I may have taken quite a few monkey photos by this point but they just sit their posing for you!

The snow monkeys chill out in the hot springs to stay warm - I was slightly jealous as it was freezing!

The snow monkeys chill out in the hot springs to stay warm – I was slightly jealous as it was freezing!

The snow in Hakuba town, the ski resort we were staying at!

The snow in Hakuba town, the ski resort we were staying at!

OSAKA!

Inside the Osaka capsule hotel we were staying at. Such a novel way to spend a couple of nights!

Inside the Osaka capsule hotel we were staying at. Such a novel way to spend a couple of nights!

the door is closed and almost time for lights out in the capsule....

the door is closed and almost time for lights out in the capsule….

The bright lights of Osaka

The bright lights of Osaka

The famous bullet train of Japan. We spent a lot of time whizzing about in trains and they were great - efficient, comfy and clean!

The famous bullet train of Japan. We spent a lot of time whizzing about in trains and they were great – efficient, comfy and clean!

HIROSHIMA!

Hiroshima - the peace park a memorial to those who died when the Hiroshima nuclear bomb went off. Its an emotional place.

Hiroshima – the peace park a memorial to those who died when the Hiroshima nuclear bomb went off. Its an emotional place.

The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park.

The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park.

Hiroshima Castle. You can climb to the top and get amazing views of the city.

Hiroshima Castle. You can climb to the top and get amazing views of the city.

Miyajima Island, the famous gate that sits in the sea. The island is full of deer - random!

Miyajima Island, the famous gate that sits in the sea. The island is full of deer – random!

KYOTO!!

Exploring Kyoto and its many temple complexes

Exploring Kyoto and its many temple complexes – Kiyomizu-dera

Girls dressed in traditional Kimono

Girls dressed in traditional Kimono

The traditional buildings of Kyoto

The traditional buildings of Kyoto

Gardens around Kyoto. There is so much hidden and nestled away that Kyoto is a great place to explore on foot.

Gardens around Kyoto. There is so much hidden and nestled away that Kyoto is a great place to explore on foot.

Geisha hunting around Gion... only saw one and she was too quick for a photo!

Geisha hunting around Gion… only saw one and she was too quick for a photo!

These are the gardens at the Imperial Palace in Kyoto - stunning!

These are the gardens at the Imperial Palace in Kyoto – stunning!

Another part of the stunning and calming imperial garden - so tempting to settle down with a good book in there and just take it in.

Another part of the stunning and calming imperial garden – so tempting to settle down with a good book in there and just take it in.

NARA

We spent the day in Nara National Park - its amazing!

We spent the day in Nara National Park – its amazing!

Nara is a complex of temples and shrines in a beautiful natural setting and more deer!

Nara is a complex of temples and shrines in a beautiful natural setting and more deer!

Hanging out in Nara

Hanging out in Nara

My attempt at an arty shot!

My attempt at an arty shot!

TAKAYAMA!

Going traditional at a Ryokan in Takayama

Going traditional at a Ryokan in Takayama

Being in the mountains there was a fair bit of snow - this is the Takayama open air museum full of traditional built houses.

Being in the mountains there was a fair bit of snow – this is the Takayama open air museum full of traditional built houses.

Poking around in the museum houses

Poking around in the museum houses

Takayama town - a wonderful example of traditional architecture and much quieter than Kyoto

Takayama town – a wonderful example of traditional architecture and much quieter than Kyoto

back to TOKYO!

Leaving traditional behind we head back to Kyoto and a lush high rise hotel - this is the view

Leaving traditional behind we head back to Kyoto and a lush high rise hotel – this is the view

No trip to Japan is complete without a trip to the iconic Mt Fuji

No trip to Japan is complete without a trip to the iconic Mt Fuji

As we checked out of the hotel we got this view from reception - Mt Fuji and the Tokyo tower from the hotel - stunning! A great way to say good bye to Japan

As we checked out of the hotel we got this view from reception – Mt Fuji and the Tokyo tower from the hotel – stunning! A great way to say good bye to Japan

I hope that gives some idea of how beautiful and lovely Japan is! We only scrathced the surface and there is so much more to see. We were there in February so lots of snow in the Alps but not much in the cities. Most days were beautifully clear as you can see but cold. Most people head to Japan for Cherry Blossom season in the spring or Autumn colours in September/ October, but there was something nice about going out of season! I definitely want to head down to the southern islands next time for a touch of tropical paradise.