Sunday, December 30, 2012

Sigur Ros, Urbanscapes 2012

Urbanscapes, Padang Astaka, PJ
Sun, 25 Nov 2012

We booked our tickets way before the show, in August when we first heard Sigur Ros were coming. The ticket cost RM 190 (including booking fee) for a weekend pass for Urbanscapes. We couldn't buy just for Sunday as the tickets were sold either for Saturday only (which cost way cheaper at about RM35 if I'm not mistaken) and the weekend pass (for Saturday and Sunday).

Urbancapes is an art and music festival where local and international artistes perform at 4 different stages ( Volkswagen (Main stage), Green Stage, Next Stage and The Decks) and there are also stalls selling artsy stuff, paraphernalia, clothes, shoes and etc. Foods and drinks are also sold, of course. The festival runs for 2 days, Sat 24 Nov - Sunday 25 Nov 2012. This is their 10th anniversary, and my first time. The previous Urbanscapes were held at some different locations.

Anyway, back to Sigur Ros. They are a band from Iceland,  I don't understand a single thing they sing about - because they are either in Icelandic or gibberish - something they just created to suit the melody of their songs. Really. They have an album titled ( ). Doesn't matter, as their melody are really haunting, many of their songs were used in movie soundtracks.

5 of us went to the fest - myself, Faz, Miele, her husband Ridfan and Liz. Well Liz, working for BFM, she got herself a media pass. But she insisted to stick with us although she could have access to be at the media area, nearer to the stage. Me, Faz and Liz arrived just before the show started at 9pm, it has just stopped raining (more like drizzling), but the field was already muddy. Some brought tents and mats, plonked / layed themselves down, getting high with Sigur Ros under the sky. Brilliant! Since we didn't bring any of those, we just stood, but of course it was really no big deal as we were engrossed with their live performance.

They came complete with the string and brass section - there were 11 of them performing. Of course it would have been more brilliant if they could have performed at the Dewan Filharmonik Petronas where the sound system is excellent. But anyway, they brought Padang Astaka down - it was insanely high decibel - especially the thumping drums - you could feel your heart could burst in euphoria. The backdrop graphics were a great accompaniment to the visceral songs. 

Overall, they played a set of 11 epic long ethereal songs (their trademark). I got the setlist from here. Check out the review too there

Í Gær
Með Blóðnasir
Olsen Olsen

Enjoy the pcitures, snapped by the always very enthusiastic Faz.

the aftermath!
I found more great pictures here

Goodbye Nepal

It's departure day today. Our flight back to KL is at 3.30pm. So we still had time to kill. Breakfast was simple - just whatever we had brought from KL - 3-in-1 nestum / milo, biscuits and instant noodles (we wanted to finish everything up anyway), plus breakfast is not included. After breakfast, we ventured out again for last minute souvenir shopping and planned to have lunch after we check out at noon. Unfortunately, Anatolia was closed today and we didn't see any nice restaurants along the way. So we decided to have lunch at our hotel at the rooftop restaurant before our taxi arrives at 1pm. It would only take about 30 minutes to reach the airport so we thought 1pm would be just enough time.

We had a very yummy but very quick (walloped everything in about 15 minutes) lunch of vege Nepali set (rice lightly fried with spices, vege curry, milk curd, pickles and pappadom) with a pot of tea which cost us only Nepali rupees 280!

Nepali vege set

Our taxi arrived at 1pm, and we were whisked to the airport in no time. Taxi fare costs us 500 Nepali rupees per taxi per way. At the airport, we were shocked to see a very very long queue - there was a group of Nepalis wearing the same uniform and prayer blessings on their forehead - most probably going under manpower companies which have secured jobs for them - I suspect in Malaysia.

There were so many queues to adhere to - first queue was before we could enter the terminal building where the officer checked our passport and boarding pass. Although we already had our boarding pass, we still had to check in at the flight counter, so this was another queue - but thankfully it was swift. Third queue was Immigration check to stamp our passports - it was a really long queue and it was already about 45 mins to departure time. The PA system had already announced our flight was ready for boarding when we were still in the immigration queue. I asked an officer there asking for assistance but he told us not to worry. 

After immigration check, we had to go through the last queue for security check - x-ray and body check, separated by gender. Luckily for us, the female queue was relatively short.We got into the plane just in time phew! Since we were seated on the left, we got another final view of the mountains. Goodbye Nepal, we certainly enjoyed our stay there and we will see you again for trekking hopefully :)

Bye Thamel

Bye Kathmandu & Nepal

Last view of mountain from flight


Nepal : Pokhara - Kathmandu

No plans really today. Just going back to Kathmandu, this time via flight at 2.45pm. Journey would take only 30 minutes! We took the Yeti Airlines which cost us USD 80 per way. We booked it online via Smile Adventure and paid via Western Union. Transfer fee charges apply.

Since we didn't have any plans for today, we decided to just chill and relax. We walked  to the beautiful Lake Phewa to catch the sunrise (that was the plan, but we came quite late haha), then went back to the hotel to have outdoor breakfast in their lawn. After breakfast, again we walked back to the lake and had mint tea while just enjoying the view and talked.

enjoying our last view of Lake Phewa

breakfast included in room rate. nice!

our lovely hotel garden

our lovely little inn - Silver Oaks Inn

We went back to the hotel at 11am to get ready for check out at noon, then had another round of tea in their garden while waiting for the taxi to fetch us at 1pm. Taxi to the Pokhara airport costs 250 Nepali rupees per taxi per way. It was just a short journey, about 15 mins.

The Pokhara airport is small and the flight check in counters are very simple. Ours wasn't opened yet until 1 hour before departure. No wonder the hotel manager recommended us to only go the airport at 1.30pm. Plus our flight was delayed to 3.15pm. We had to pay for airport tax separately for Nepali rupees 200 per person at a designated counter prior to flight check in.

check in counters

weighing scale

After check in, we still had time so the airport staff asked us if we wanted to have a drink first at the first floor restaurant where we could sit at the verandah and watch planes taking off and landing up close. It was really cool! When it was time for boarding, the airport staff signaled us and we proceeded back to the ground floor to the departure hall where we had a body check which was separated by gender.


airport verandah cafe

runway view from airport verandah
departure gate

Our plane was a small turboprop - I think it was a 30 seater. 1 seat on the left row and 2 seats on the right row. I remembered this time to sit on the left side of the plane to view the mountains. While I was busy enjoying and taking pictures of the view, a German guy beside me on the right row asked me to snap some pictures for him. I happily obliged. :) As for refreshments, we were served a soft fizzy drink and a packet of peanuts. Not bad :)

mountain view from our flight
approaching Kathmandu

Arriving at Kathmandu, we were transported to the domestic arrival by bus, but it was not in a building where we the baggage claim was. It was just a simple roofed structure. We love Nepal!

yes, that's the baggage claim area. no conveyer belts, heck no building!

Our lodging in Kathmandu this time was at Rosebud Hotel and airport transfer is provided. We were surprised to see the person greeting us was wearing a helmet - he's not going to bring us to the hotel on his bike is he? Luckily he was just there to greet us, transportation was via a van. Lol! As per Khangsar Guest House, this isn't really a hotel, it is just a 1 star guest house with basic amenities and attached bathroom. Room rate is 15 USD per room per night. No luxuries here. It's a bit cheaper than Khangsar as it's a bit further from Thamel - the centre of the tourist main attraction. But still within walking distance to Anatolia - our halal food eatery - and that's the most important thing to us at this point of time - we were famished!

After checking in, we went to Anatolia straightaway and had early dinner of Nepali vege curry set (yummy!), butter naan, mutton korma (yummy!), mint tea and jasmine tea - all for Nepalese rupee 810. After dinner, it's time for souvenir shopping which we had yet to do to minimize the items in our bags and leave it until just before departing back, so today was just nice. There are many souvenir shops around Thamel - and all are within walking distance, mostly selling t-shirts, key chains, Nepali caps (like colourful songkoks), trinkets, wool woven (from yak) made items like bags blouses and decorations, and prayer materials (for Buddhists and Hindus). There are also many shops selling trekking items such as shoes, windbreakers, jackets, thermal garments, backpacks, hiking sticks etc; and bookshops selling Lonely Planet / travel guide, religious, historical  books and fridge magnets. Yes, fridge magnets are sold at bookshops. That's where you'd find them.

Since it was Deepavali day, there was a lot of singing and dancing at the streets with kolam decorations t a few places. Tourists were seen enjoying themselves with the performers. After souvenir hunting, we then went back to our hotel to rest for the day. Btw, there are many channels on the TV - mostly Nepali and Indian, and also satellite channels tailored for the Indian market - such as Fox/HBO/Star Channels India and Cricket channel.

Kolam at Thamel

Deepavali lights at Thamel

Singing and dancing continues...


Saturday, December 29, 2012

Nepal : Sarangkot, Pokhara

Rise and....well it's still dark actually. We woke up at 4.30 to set off from our hotel at 5am to catch the sunrise at Sarangkot. We arrived at the car park at around 5.30am. Entrance per person is 25 Nepalese rupees. It would take about 30 mins to hike (stepped path) to reach the observation point. There was no lights so we used our iphone's flashlight. We didn't take a guide too as we thought the route was simple enough. There were signages, but they were few and far between. But we managed to reach the view point before sunrise.

the trek

We could not really see much as it was still dark. But I could see glimpses of white coloured mountain tops. Once the sun came over the horizon, we saw the majestic peaks of the Annapurna ranges: Annapurna I, II, III, IV, Machhapuchhre and Hiunchuli. The view was breathtaking.  Weather was just right, not too cold.

There were not too many tourists there, perhaps most of them preferred the more 'real' mountain hiking. There was a group of Koreans, some locals, 3 fellow Malaysians and 2 Mat Salleh couples.We took our time soaking in the view and taking pictures of the beautiful Annapurna mountain. 

glimpse of the peaks before sunrise


Annapurna peaks

We decided to have some tea at one of the stalls on the way down. It was perfect, having tea and toast with the Annapurna mountain as the backdrop. We were asked by the stall owner if we wanted to do paragliding. The take off point was nearb, about 500m above the Phewa Lake where the paragliders would land (not in the lake though, but nearby the lake). It would cost us USD 70 for 30 min glide (not flight, because there's no engine, you will navigate based on the wind direction). Actually, you don't have to worry about navigating, as this would be a tandem flight -your flight instructor will navigate, you just enjoy the view! As long as the weather is fine, paragliding is a go!

bfast by the mountain ahhhhh

mountain flight

However, we declined the offer, as the paragliding will only start at 10am (it was still 8am) and our driver is waiting for us at the car park and we had some sightseeing to do in Pokhara. So we left after having tea and decided to proceed with our sightseeing straightaway.

We were first brought to a temple - just at the foot of the Sarangkot hill - (I think it's the Bindhyabasini temple - based on google). The temple site offers a great view of the city and the snow capped Annapurna ranges. Devotees were seen offering their prayers - it was after all Deepavali day. The temple is dedicated to the Goddess Bhagwati, another form of Goddess Durga. Info here

the temple

view of city and mountain from the temple

Next we were taken to the K I Singh pool of the Seti river, which is nearby to the temple.  Entrance is 20 Nepalese rupees per person. Nothing much here, just a small pool where the water is sourced from the wight coloured Seti River. No bathing here, we could only scoop the water to freshen up. The river is deep down a narrow gorge. We would be seeing more of this at Devi's Fall later.

narrow gorge

the white coloured seti river

Our driver then took us to the old Pokhara town. We didn't stop here, just passed by to take some pictures of the architecture and design of the old buildings which are made of red bricks. 

old Pokhara

In town already, we were then taken to Devi's Fall. Entrance fee is 20 Nepalese rupees per person. Devi's Falls flows from the Seti river and it vanishes underground into the gorge. Quite eerie. But a nature's wonder. It's not a really big area so we finished covering it in about 30 mins.

Devi's fall

From Devi's Fall, we crossed the road to Gupteshwor Mahadev Cave where Devi's Fall flow into. It is also a sacred site for Hindus as there is the Lord Shiva's shrine in there. Entrance fee is a bit expensive here - 100 Nepalese rupees. The cave is not as extensive as the ones I've 'sperlunked' (is there such a word? lol) before (Gua Tempurung, Gua Batu Maloi, Halong Bay caves, Kunming caves), in just 30 minutes we've reached the end where we could see the stream flowing into the cave from Devi's fall just across the road. We had to turn back as there is only one point for entrance and exit.

cave entrance
inside the cave
Devi's fall flows into this cave

Last stop for our sightseeing tour today is the Tashi Palkhiel Tibetan Refugee Settlement. There is no entrance fee here. We saw some of the refugees weaving carpets which are also available for sale to raise funds for the refugees. We saw a poster of self immolation of Tibetans in their home country as a sign of protest to China's oppression on separatists who demanded for independence from China after the Chinese Civil War in 1950. There were terms of the incorporation of Tibet into China which were not agreed upon which resulted in the Dalai Lama being exiled. As of now, 95 people have self immolated and perished. Read more about the Self Immolation here and Tibet history here and here

refugee camp
Weaving carpet

We finished our tour at just about 11am and went back to our hotel. We were famished already by now. Luckily the hotel still saved the breakfast for us (which is included together with our room rate). Nice! We had toast with eggs and potatoes  and tea. 

After late breakfast, we plonked ourselves at the hotel common area at the top floor which has a view of the Sarangkot hill and the Annapurna mountains. It was really nice to just chill and relax in the cool but sunny weather watching the paragliders flying down the hill. Maybe I'll do it one day ;)

nice view from our hotel roof top

After chillaxing, we had our baths and then headed back out to the Phewa Lake which is just a 5 minute walking distance to take a boat ride. We wanted to kayak, but there wasn't any - only boats are available. It would be quite tiring to row the boat ourselves, so we took the boat with 'driver' (that's what they advertise it there ;) for 300 Nepalese rupees per person for an hour's ride. It was sunny (it was after all 2pm in the afternoon!) but the weather is cool, so it wasn't that bad. There's a temple at the middle of the lake (Barahi temple) but we didn't go there. We just went around the lake -not covering the whole lake as it is huuuge - about 6km2 and is the second largest lake in Nepal.

Barahi temple

That's Sarangkot hill where we viewed the sunrise. The mountains are blocked by clouds
see the reflection of the Sarangkot hill and mountain (blocked by clouds)

hotel by the lake where you have to take the boats to cross over

hotel by the lake accessible through roads

We had late lunch / very early dinner at the same Punjabi vegetarian restaurant from the day before. We had paneer kadai mushroom (quite spicy - I asked to tone it down), chama (chickpea) masala, naan bread, rice, tea and coke for 810 Nepalese rupees. Ah nice. 

We walked back by the lake to enjoy the view while waiting for the sunset. Then we walked around the shops- very touristy - ala Krabi and watched the local people preparing their kolam and ligthing up candles for Deepavali - it is after all the festival of lights.  Children especially were enjoying themselves the most - groups of them going from shop to shop, greeting the owner and asking for a treat (sort of like Halloween's treat or trick) and then singing together. There was a lot of singing and dancing where the tourists joined in as well. It was a jolly merry making occasion.

sunset by the lake

 After feeling tired, we walked back to our hotel and continued chillaxing at the hotel garden while sipping hot mint tea in the cool night climate. Awesome! We could still hear singing and dancing and fireworks. We then went back to retire for the day, but could still here people celebrating. From my room I could see a group making a bonfire and singing. Such a happy day. Shiny happy people :)

Deepavali lights

singing and dancing

our hotel deepavali lights


our hotel garden cafe