Winter's been over here in the Du for a few months now, we've been Shiva'd and Holi'd and are now into the wild dust storms and thundery skies or pre-summer. The last few months have been incredibly busy for me with lots of work, a few mini-adventures and some cheeky nights out with Bryan Adams and the whole adventure K-K-K-K- Kathmandu! Remember the old Bob Seger song? That was the opener to Bryan Adams making it a night to remember in the middle of February. The old crooner gave Nepalese the first ever Western gig in the entire history of the country. Personally I'm not a fan of the ageing rockster but had to go along for curiosities sake. In the weeks before the gig the media was filled with ads and stories of how it would all end in tears (brought on by gas of the same name when the riots started) or no one would go (a music bhande?) or there'd be no lekky and he'd have to sing solo in the dark. Every public space was overlooked by a huge looming billboard of the man in black with various bottles of local alcohols to entice us along. Tickets weren't cheap, but they weren't outrageously expensive either and there are plenty of people here with a lot of cash. Getting hold of tickets was a bit of a trail in true Nepali style:
"Can I have three tickets for Bryan Adams please?"
"Oh yes madam"
"How much is that then?"
"Go to next desk madam for price"
I trot along to the next desk: "Can I have three tickets for Bryan Adams please?"
"Certainly, go to next desk madam"
"But I've just come from there and he sent me here"
Confused silence! Using some initiative:
"So how much are they?"
"What price do you want?"
"Well, I don't know. Is there a choice?"
"So how much are they then?"
"Can you tell me?"
"Three types madam"
Taking a guess: "Aha - well I'll have the middle ones please"
"Give me 9000rps madam"
"But you don't have them"
"But I should pay you"
"Ok and where do I get the tickets?"
Now looking at me like I'm very, very stupid: "Go to next desk madam"
On the day of the event 5000 riot police had been called in to ‘manage' the queues, thousands more skinny youths volunteered to do the same and we all got in on time with no fighting and not too much confusion. Despite my cynicism it was a crackin' evening - I was mildly shocked at how many tunes I knew, but then again he has been at it for a very long time. The crowd went wild, then stood politely, then went wild again - no one knew the age old rituals of stadium gigs: the band going off at ‘the end', the bit where the crowd calls for ‘more' ..........except that no one knew that bit and there was a polite clap and then deathly silence. Not sure what the band made of it but Kathmandu was dead chuffed!
Being Bhanued - overwhelming Newari hospitality
One of our KE team got a right royal welcome when she visited last month. In fact, it sounded pretty overwhelming all in all. The local agents' schmoozers were very keen to show her exactly how VIP she is i.e. not let her out of their sight just in case another agent should weasel their way in. She wasn't just met at the airport, she was met at the plane itself - feet barely touching tarmac before being whisked off to an endless evening of ‘cultural' shows and ever increasing quantities of food: plate after plate after plate of Newari delicacies that turned out just to be the starters to a mountain of dhal bhaat and jugs of very fizzy beer. Escape to the hotel was short lived as our big bellied boys turned up the next morning for breakfast. And again for dinner. And again, and again and again.........We finally smuggled her out to Thamel to the simple niceties of Sam's Bar and beer.
VIP treatment at YMH - chopper, lodges and all
I was lucky enough to get some VIP treatment myself a few weeks ago. Having an idea to go up to the sherpa capital of Namche Bazaare to celebrate Losar (New Year) with some friends but having not a lot of time for organising tickets and permits and all I called in a few favours with some well connected friends. With massive thanks to my lovely amigos my plans for a cheap flight to Lukla transformed into a chopper ride direct to Namche! I was properly excited given my only previous experience with whirly birds was bundling poorly people off the sides of mountains. It was ace! My plans for stopping in cheap n cheerful teahouses were dashed with an offer of four nights in some of the most luxurious, welcoming lodges in the Khumbu (probably Nepal). For full on VIP treatment on the hill - toasty lounges, hot showers, top fodder and lovely, smiley staff I can thoroughly recommend Yeti Mountain Homes! These are not just lodges, these are YMH lodges (sorry M&S)! Find out for yourself on our Everest Luxury Lodge trip for a very relaxing, truly amazing wander through some of the highest mountains on earth. They really know how to make a girl feel special ....................
Sadly not all VIPs are YMH VIPs. There are some less wonderful takes on being a VIP. In my humble view as a frequent flyer round the roads of Kathmandu the worst sort are the Very Ignorant Peepers..............Yes, I'm going to have another whinge about the traffic! It's a constant battle of life n death out there in the fume choked, hole infested mean streets of the capital. And what I've noticed over the last few months of multiple near-death-incidents is that most folk at the helm of a vehicle (bicycles, trucks, microbuses, tractors included) have the road sense of demented tadpoles hurtling blindly along in a personal one-way universe. My theory is that some weird sort of hypnosis overtakes local folk when they hit the tarmac relieving them of any sensory input and replacing this with an addictive compulsion for horn blowing - it's a kind of oral OCD and it's melting my head! One day some huge figure with bulging eyes and roll-neck jumper will fill the skies and with a simple ‘open your eyes, open your eyes, come back into the room' type command return the poor lost souls of driver-dom to humanity. Maybe it's a new form of Maoist mind control?
The traffic situation is made even more troublesome for us wimpy Westeners by another local VIP phenomenon: Very Irritating Police. There is one thing that can be guaranteed on the city streets - where there are cops, there are jams. The more cops the bigger and gnarlier the jam. How does that work?
A VIP leaving.....
And there was one very sad VIP event in February: Chris Dale , Guide, leader, wild man of the hills and even wilder party fiend, adventurer, philosopher and above all a great friend lost his short battle with cancer. The world is a less sparkly place without him - he'll be missed.