Saturday, 21 January 2012

Where's my car? Where's my keys? Where's my clothes?

Couples of days after I’ll be leaving Dubai my friend Daniela goes back home to. She has organized a goodbye party at the desert to celebrate it, together with her birthday.
It was overnight party and bearing that in mind and being aware of how the temperature can decrease in the night at the desert I’ve realized, that I did not take enough warm clothes from Poland. How smart of me! But that was a good excuse for last shopping in Dubai. And as it was shopping for sport/casual clothes it was even fun. I’ve found some useful stuff.
In the afternoon Daniela together with Diti picked me from the hotel (they were about an hour late, but that was actually ok for me), we went to the meeting place where everyone (about 20 people) was already waiting only for us.
After quick shopping (just in case if there is not enough meat) we finally drove towards Hatta, where the party spot is. It took us of course some time to find it, as everyone had their own idea. Try to coordinate 10 cars…
In the end, we’ve made it. And even people arriving later were able to find us. No clue how. We’ve set up all gear. Most of it was brought by Daniela’s local friend with big pimp-my-ride car. He had everything there starting from power generators, through tents and finishing with cushions. Sweet.
We had great fun there, even though I was not allowed to drink anything I had so much fun. Grilling, chatting, dancing and taking pictures was basically our occupation during the whole time. Except when we were driving a quad and flipping over on the steep dune. Too many people on one machine.
I was supposed to stay for a night in a tent, but actually I got a chance to go back home the same night which I took. I did not want to spend half of Saturday on the desert waiting for everyone to get up and get sober enough to drive. I wanted to use the day as it was supposed to be my last day off in UAE.

Let's the party begin.
Somewhere there among all those bags, there is a lot of booze. Even in UAE there are the ways to drink not only in a bar.

Fire, BBQ, sitting mats, chairs. This is called good organization.


Dubai Girls

Daniela got a cool poster with Dubai landmarks. That poster was enhanced with small pics of her and her friends sticked in the cool Dubai spots.

Dubai Girls

Let's go dancing

Russia, Uruguay, UAE, Germany - so international

This is that vehicle that we had an accident on

Get yourself together

That was my injury

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Stomp my boots before I go back in

Typical Polish Christmas Tree decorated with everything. Not only with red or silver

We had tons of gifts under the Christmas Tree this year

Like three years ago (this took us some time to figure out how long ago it was) I’ve spent New Year’s Eve with my best friend and her new family in Switzerland. In fact three years ago they were her family in a different way than now, but that’s not that significant fact.
We’ve left Gliwice in the early (very early) morning on 27th of December and took train to Warsaw. I went home to pack and complete some activities. She and Jonas had some tasks to do in the down town so we decided to meet at the airport.
Everything was going smooth until I went to pick up my skis from the service. It was about 40 minutes before I was planning to take a cab. I went there, relaxed, asked for my equipment and what did I see? My skis are not there. They have not picked it from the store where the servicing actually takes place (what a process by the way). Damn it! When I was giving them my skis about 2 weeks before I told when I need them back. The guy even wrote it down on the receipt that he gave me.
I’ve made them to bring the ski back, especially that I gave them also my new boots (Lange World Cup 120) that I wanted to try during this trip.  They told me to come back at 1.
I went there by cab on the way to the airport. Skis were there, they’ve managed to collect it and bring back. But in the mean time one of them mentioned that they were to be ready only for the 31st which was bollocks. Even on that receipt I had 27th written down.
We flew to Zurich where Dorota and Jonas had to repack. Next we took a train to Luzern and changed there to Schüpfheim. Here we were picked by Wilhard.
View from my room
My room ;-)

All together I had 5 days of skiing planned, but skied only 4. One day it was raining cats and dogs all day which is not the best weather for skiing. It can be snowing, it can be cold, it can be windy, but rain is definitely not what you want. Although the other 4 days were not perfect I had fun.
1st day was fabulous: sun, perfect slopes, maybe just a little bit too many people, but I guess that Soerenberg is getting more and more popular even though it’s rather small and family dedicated area.
Also the other days were good and I did not mind when I had to go on my own as not everyone wanted to ski everyday and others were allowed to ski at all. Actually it was fun too. I was going where I wanted, having rests when I wanted (my new boots are great in terms of holding my leg very hard, but that causes some pain to my broad feet so I had to open them every time when I was reaching bottom of the slope and just rest sometimes in the cottage) and just doing what I wanted. It was like traveling on my own.
Even the day after that heavy rain was not very tragic at the slope. Snow was heavy and wet, but it was pretty much ok.
Almost every day after skiing I was going swimming (swimming pool access is included in the skipass) or running. That was very sporty time.

Maybe this in not the best picture, but the only that I have of the slopes. Day was not sunny enought for good picture with my monkey camera.

Lange World Cup 120 + Atomic SL9

On the chairlift

On one of the chairlifts there was stuffed aminal on each chair

For the NYE party we were invited to Rossweid Hutte. At first I was excited, as I’ve never been to the NYE Party in the cottage on the slope. And the event was interesting but now I’m not entirely sure if I’d like to do there again. Basically because I did not understand very well what the MC is saying (I can speak only German – and not even amazing and he was talking Swiss-German which is a mix of German and French and God knows what yet, so it’s obvious that it is not understood by me) and the Edelweiss Duo was playing only Swiss songs. When they were not playing the MC was singing Swiss songs to the background music played from the CD.
That was definitely mind widening night with a lot of good food, very few dances that I was dancing, attendants much older than myself. The night did not bring hang over and shadows under my eyes, not even any internal doubts. It was something new and original.
On the 1st of Jan I had some time to ski (in that heavy after rain snow) and in the late afternoon we had to go back to Zurich. Last walk in Zurich, early night (at least it was supposed to be) and very early morning. I had to catch plane at 7.00a.m. to Warsaw, as in I had to repack and catch evening connection to Dubai via Munich.
I have to say here great ‘Thank You’ to Jonas who got up with me, at 5.20 and helped me with all my bags. Otherwise I would not make it to the Oerlikon Railway Station. I had 4 bags to carry but three out of them were drop off luggage (big bag, boots’ bag and skis). And I love Swiss Airline for the fact that they did not charge me for any of those. I’m not sure if it’s their policy or my Frequent Traveler, but I’m quite sure it’s the policy.
And the guy at the drop off counter was from Tibet and recognized luck shawl that I got in Kagbeni in Nepal, which I still have tied to my bag. I think that it made him happy.

MC. And in the background Duo Edelweiss

With my best friend Dorota

One of the events was a snake play

Sometimes we were dancing too. I mean others were and I was watching.

Gluing spoons to forehead or nose was something we were doing to kill some time I believe

New style: red long johns and wellingtons

Monday, 9 January 2012

I'm waiting for the world to stop

I got definitely better today. I’ve managed to eat two toasts with jam and honey for breakfast and drink some ginger tea, but still I feel like I’ve eaten dal bhat with triple refills.
After breakfast we’ve separated as everyone wanted to do some shopping and just have some time on their own, but at 1p.m. we’ve again together taken cab to the airport as we were flying to Delhi – visible sign that our trip is coming to an end.
Everything went smooth until we’ve boarded. When we were about to take off, technical problems were announced and in the end after it was repaired we had almost hour and a half delay so we reached Delhi by night.
As we arrived to New Delhi Railway station all the fun has begun. We’ve found guest house, but of course we were fished by one of those guys who tell you that their place is the best, they have everything and it’s the cheapest place we can imagine. He told us 600 rupees, but by the time when we got there it was 900, and I said NO. That was too much; I just hate how they cheat. I’ve just walked out and they started to call me back and in the end we got 600, but room was ugly. Cockroaches, smelly with cigarettes and loud.
They’ve also tried to scam us on the way from station to Main Bazaar (Delhi Khao San road). Some drivers were trying to convince us that we need some kind of permission to rent a room, and we can get it in the tourist center which is situated somewhere and they will drive us and so one. At one point we’ve almost believed it as it was not only one guy stating that, but in the end we decided that we don’t care and we will think about it when we are not allowed into any hotel.
But there were also good cab drivers and one of them showed us the way to Main Bazaar via the railway station (we just had to jump over the fence as the way was blocked, but as everyone was going like that we’ve joined them). And it was maybe 5 minutes walk. But in fact I hated that part. It was crowded, loud, everyone was pushing you. Just like in Beijing. It’s so similar here. The same smells, the same habits, as much smog as there. Just different food, people and language.
By the time we organized ourselves, got food (we’ve found guide books in GH, so that we knew where to go) and returned it was 11. We were so shattered that the only thing that we wanted to do was to go to sleep, and so we did.
Himalaya from the Kathmandu - Delhi flight

Security gates at Delhi Airport

Main Bazaar by night

Next day in Delhi, after breakfast we had to make decision if we want to go to Taj Mahal. There was no point in going there today s it was Friday and on Friday s it was closed, so the only option was to go there for Saturday and hope that we will make it for the return flight on Sunday at 5 in the morning.
In the end after about 1,5h what we spent at the Railway Tourist Center (also when you want to get here you have to be careful with the scams. On the board with opening times there is huge information that indeed this office exist and you should not listen to anyone trying to point you to another direction or stating that it’s closed or under renovation or anything) Doris bought ticket for the afternoon train to Agra and Jacek and myself decided to stay in Delhi and do sightseeing there.
So the 1st thing that we saw was Red Fort. It is not only military building as the name might suggest but most of all it is show off residency build by Shah Jahan in 1638-1648. It must have been really impressive at the time when it was in full blossom. Even now it looked good enough, even though it was lacking that splendor.
After that we headed to see Jama Masjid Mosque, as it was in vicinity. It’s the largest mosque in India and the one where they would not let us in. We’ve tried two different entrances but each time we were stopped and our pockets and bags were checked for cameras. It is forbidden to take photos there (unless you pay extra, which I was not going to do) and even though we were saying that we are not gonna to take out cameras out they would not believe us. That pissed me of in fact. I was very disappointed how untrustful they are. What for religion is that if they don’t trust people. I think it is very sad…
In the end we’ve just walked around, next we got into some bazaars where we got lost as we were not following any map, but we had a lot of fun. We were just wandering around, observing, taking photos and we got local tea (very strong and very sweet and very milky tea) and some samosas, although I’m not sure if it was good for my stomach as it is still not as it used to be.
After the dinner I’ve decided to give a chance to the local barber and got a hair cut for 2$. Next I also got gratis facial massage and invitation for the free full facial massage tomorrow. That was a little bit dodgy and I did not know what to expect, especially that it was situated in very tiny line that was also leading to our hotel. Also one of the guys there was trying to invite me for a date, but I’ve clearly told him to forget it. Whole situation and place were strange.
Indian tuk-tuks

Red Fort

Red Fort

Red Fort

Jama Masjid Mosque. The one where we were not alllowed to get in, due to the fact that we had photo cameras with us. At least I took one picture.

Muslim district. We've tried tea with milk here. Delicious, indeed.

This Goat must have been really cold as it is wearing a jacket ;-)

Muslim sweets. But they were not tempting at all, especially because of all the flies sourrounding them.

Public writting. The man sitting at the typing machine is paid by illiterate people to write official documents for them.

Our second day in Delhi was as busy as the first one. In the morning we’ve arranged everything for the departure, i.e. we’ve extended for one more night in hotel, booked a cab to the airport. It cost 250Rs whereas Airport Express costs 80Rs each and last train is about 11p.m. so it made more sense to pay 250 for the three of us and be flexible and avoid spending a night at the airport (our flight was at 5a.m.).
After we’ve arranged everything we went to see Akshardham Temple which is built very recently (2000-2005) and dedicated to Bhagwan Swaminarayan. It’s made from pink sand stone and white marble and it’s impressive. This is probably how Red Fort must have looked like in the times of its splendor. All ornaments, carvings, sculptures were so detailed. It was breathtaking.
Unfortunately we were not allowed to take in anything, no camera, no handy, no food, no baby toys, nothing. Just wallet with money (which you may spend in one of plenty souvenir shops) and transparent water bottle. We had to leave all our belongings in the cloak room, but before they took it from us they took picture of you with all valuables – high-tech security system. And personal control was more detailed than at the airport I would say.
Next we took tube to the Humayun’s Tomb (together with Red Fort it is registered at the UNESCO Heritage list) which was built in the middle of 16th century by the Persian born widow of the second Mughal Emperor – Humayun. That tomb was used as inspiration for Agra’s Taj Mahal, so no need to go to Agra.
After that we’ve separated. Jacek went to see some other monuments or old buildings and I went towards Khan Market which is favored by expats and Delhi’s elite. You can get there basically anything, any gourmet groceries and a cup of good coffee what I was doing at the time of writing this chapter.
Entrance to Humayun’s Tomb

Humayun’s Tomb is inside this building

Humayun’s Tomb

From inside of the Humayun’s Tomb


Humayun’s Tomb

Men at work

Tube station

Main Bazaar by night
Last Dinner in Delhi. Dosa - Southern Indian dish.

Going home was said as it always is, but on the other hand I was very happy to leave loud, smelly, dirty and smoggy Delhi behind. Of course it would be too easy if on our way home we would not encounter any problems. First it took much longer than we’ve expected to get through all airport rituals. Were it not for the delayed flight we would have barely made it. Were it also not for the delayed flight that we would catch our plane from Moscow to Warsaw. Even though there were about 10 people taking this flight it did not wait for us and we had to take next one. But Russian style no one knew anything, poor English of customer service did not help much, but in the end we’ve managed to sort it out and we’ve arrived home in the noon.

Friday, 6 January 2012

Go get some sleep on bare stones

Pokhara - Kathmandu
I was not expecting it at all. I got stacked in Pokhara at the airport. Somehow it did not cross my mind that there can be fog and that airports will be closed. There was even a risk that flights will be cancelled. Damn it! I should have taken the bus with the others.
Even when I got to the airport I was still unaware that it’s closed. Only when I was dropping off my luggage I’ve found it out, that Kathmandu and Pokhara are closed.
There were more and more people coming and waiting for their flights, but nothing was changing. People were organizing jeep transport to Kathmandu. I could not decide if I should cancel my flight and join someone or naively hope that we’ll fly. Maybe it was not even that naïve as after some time Kathmandu airport got opened for departures and there was a chance that soon they will open it for arrivals as they might do with Pokhara. But still it was hazardous.
Just before 1p.m. I went down to ask at the counter how it’s going and I was told that just now they’ve opened Pokhara, so the plane is boarding in Kathmandu and it should arrive here very soon and as soon as it arrives here we will fly.
There was Slovakian girl going nuts because she had her flight to Delhi at 5 and stupidly she did not consider flying the day before just in case like today. I went to tell her good news too.
Shortly after that we got through security and we saw the plane landing and people getting off.
In all this bad luck I was lucky enough that I’ve bought ticket with Agni Air and that was the 1st plane to arrive in Pokhara and actually the only one that I saw landing. I’m not sure if people from other flights flew that day. There was FIFO rule at the airport.
When we were queuing at the gate we were told that that we have to wait more. Kathmandu airport is very busy and we cannot fly. We have to wait at least 1h until traffic gets less heavy. Luckily after 20 minutes we could board the plane and we flew and safely for to Kathmandu.
I got there the same time as Jacek and Doris even though I was supposed to be there long before them. We were staying there in Kathmandu Guest House which is the oldest hotel in the city. We’ve only dropped luggage and went to see Swayambhunath Stupa – the smiley Buddha eyes. This is the first thing that comes to my mind when I think about Kathmandu. But it was not that impressive at all. Rubbish, knick-knacks, monkeys everywhere. In fact it was ugly there.
We went there by cab but walked back and as we were crossing the river we’ve noticed dead cow lying there. It was surrounded by tons of rubbish. Whole river looked like rubbish deposit.
For dinner we went to the place where they were serving tongba – hot millet beer. It is served in bamboo tube, but it’s definitely not my favorite alcoholic drink. It was too smelly and tasted too much with yeast.
On the plane from Pokhara to Kathmandu. My camera was still not working very well. Colors are very strange.

Swayambhunath Temple - Smiley eyes of Buddha

Swayambhunath Temple - Smiley eyes of Buddha

Swayambhunath Temple - Smiley eyes of Buddha

Swayambhunath Temple - Smiley eyes of Cela and Buddha

Tongba - millet beer

Day after we’ve arrived in Kathamndu we’ve decided to take local bus and go to Bhaktapur which is situated 13 km east of Kathmandu and used to be capital of Nepal, It dates back to 7th century and is famous for its traffic free center with plenty of pagoda and temples.
Unfortunately for me on the way to the bus station I’ve started to feel sick. My stomach was getting worst and worst. By the time we’ve arrived in Bhaktapur I was really weak and sick. It was not only my stomach I had overall feeling of weakness. It was just terrible. I’ve barely managed to get to Taumadhi Square where we had tea in one of the guest houses. In the mean time Doris mentioned that I’m feeling weak and she’s also asked if I can lie down in that guest house somewhere. Surprisingly they allowed me to lie down in the lobby.  When I was sleeping there, Doris and Jacek were sightseeing.
That rest has definitely helped me, gave me some king of relief but still I was not fit enough. On the way to taxi (as we decided to take taxi instead of bus, as I was fearing that I will not be able to make it y bus), in fact just before getting in I’ve almost threw up and next when we left it in Thamel. It was such a challenge to walk that 200m from taxi to hotel that when I think about it now it just seems impossible.
I was on the cloud nine when I could go to bed and stay there and sleep. It was basically my only occupation for the rest of the day. Lying down and sleeping. And I’ve even used hand warmer that I got from the Israeli girl. My feet were so cold that I was not able to fall asleep until I’ve made them warm with that thingy.
One of very few pictures taken by me in Bhaptapur. I even don't know where that is.

Here it feels like I'm dying

Golden Gate in Bhaktapur