Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Shangrila Village Hotel, Pokhara, Nepal

Modest but beautiful, wide and spacious, tranquil and relaxing, nice view of Mt. Annapurna and the Himalayas. That is Shangrila Village Hotel in Pokhara. I enjoyed my stay there last January 11-12, 2015. Below, a view of the Himalayas from my room, noon time of January 11.

Same view, same day, around 5:30pm.

Before the Sun set in, it sparkles dimming light on the ice in the mountains, while slowly depriving the lowlands of sunlight. Simply beautiful.

The swimming pool and the mountains.

The hotel's main entrance. Very modest and simple.

The lobby. Only one efficient staff attends to incoming and outgoing guests.

We went to Pokhara sponsored by Media 9 and Business 360, Nepal's brave and hot publications speaking about fair entrepreneurship and economic freedom. From left: David Shakya and Razan Bhattarai of Media 9, me and Prof. Cris Lingle. I and Cris would give a short lecture to some university students the next day in Pokhara city proper.

Cool walkway to the guest rooms.

Nice and tranquil garden.

Yes, just short trees. Tall trees will block the guests' view of the Himalayas.

The main restaurant, ground floor. The second floor is a function room with balcony.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Kathmandu to Pokhara by Plane

After the 3rd Asia Liberty Forum, Media 9 and Business 360 sponsored me and Prof. Cris Lingle for a trip to Pokhara, Nepal's 2nd or 3rd biggest city known mainly for tourism. So last January 11, Media 9's David Shakya picked me and Cris from our respective hotels and we headed to Kathmandu Tribhuvan domestic airport. Another Media 9 staff, Razan Bhattarai followed us. We boarded this Yeti Airlines, 30-seater plane.

Pokhara is about 30 minutes by plane from Kathmandu, it's on the north-west of KTM while Mt. Everest is on  the north-east of KTM.

At the Kathmandu domestic airport departure lounge. From left: Cris Lingle, Razan Bhattarai, me and David Shakya.

This is our plane. Small but fast enough. They serve candies then  a cup of coffee to passengers. I was seated on  the right, where the Himalayas are visible.

At first, the ice-covered mountains are far from  the plane's path. Maybe on the 4th or 5th row of mountains. The mountain below near the plane showed forest clearing, meaning  there are human settlements already there, so the forest cover is removed and replaced by agricultural crops and houses.

Then "white mountains" become clearer and nearer. A carpet of clouds are resting on a plateau.

A wider, bigger carpet of clouds in  another plateau.

Friday, January 16, 2015

My Great Friend in Kathmandu, Charu Chadha

I arrived in Manila yesterday noon. 7D/7N in Nepal, stayed in three hotels, Grand Hotel Kathmandu (4 nights) during the 3rd Asia Liberty Forum, Shangrila Village Hotel (1 night) in Pokhara, then Royal Singi Hotel (2 nights) in Kathmandu. My 8th night was at Kathmandu airport then on a plane above China airspace, Kathmandu-HK flight.

My great friend way back in 2005, Charu Chadha, editor of a dynamic publication Media 9 in Kathmandu, hosted my extended stay from Jan. 11 to 14, including my hotels in Pokhara and Royal Singi in Kathmandu.

In late September or early October 2005, I and Charu were among the 20 Asian participants who attended a one day roundtable discussion on "The Constitution of Liberty in Asia" where we discussed Friedrich Hayek's book, "The Constitution of Liberty" (1960). It was sponsored by the Atlas Economic Research Foundation and the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom (FNF). Then we attended the bigger forum the next day, same hotel, the Economic Freedom Network (EFN) Asia 2005 conference.

From left: Simon Lee (HK), Mr. ____(Turkey), Chung-ho Kim (S. Korea), Colleen Dyble (Atlas then, US), Mr. You (Japan), Charu Chadha, me, Hiroshi Yoshida (Japan).

Another photo, Leon Louw (S. Africa, holding a camera) and Mohit Satyanand (India, rightmost) joined us.

I have been contributing for Media 9's Business 360 magazine for two years under the column "Free Market". When I told Charu that I wanted to attend the 3rd ALF in Kathmandu, she gladly prepared things for me, including a visit to Pokhara (flight with Yeti Airlines) and a night stay at Shangrila. Our photo at the start of ALF, January 8 evening.

The next day, our other co-participant in the Phuket roundtable on Hayek's book, Cong Minh Nguyen, now editor of doimoi.org, came from Vietnam. There were only three of us from the Phuket conference who attended the ALF in Soaltee Crowne Plaza.

Really nice Pokhara's ice covered mountains, seen from  Shangrila Village Hotel.

One day before I left Kathmandu, I visited Media 9 office. Two of their new staff interviewed me on many things, from free trade vs. protectionism, free market vs. forced collectivism and socialism, migration and brain drain vs. brain gain, etc.

Then lunch, then a tour of the Durbar Square and its fantastic Buddhist structures, like this one.

Few hours before I  would go the airport last January 14, Charu brought me and her friend Alice to Boudha, another famous Buddhist area in another side of Kathmandu. So many people there, both locals and foreigners.

Then Charu brought us to their house, where I met her mother, her sister and her dog. Nice  place in a good neighborhood.

I also met Charu's partner for six years now, Sandesh. Sandesh is a cool guy, a multi martial arts (MMA) fighter and athlete, he can do karate-taekwondo-boxing-wrestling all in one. We talked on many things, I should blog those things that we discussed soon.

From left, Charu's friend Alice; Zaihani Mohd Zain, owner of the nice restaurant where we had dinner, and Shanti Chada, Charu's cool mom.

What a memorable stay in Nepal after the conference. Thanks a lot Charu, Sandesh and Media 9 staff. You are all very friendly, you simply rock n roll. Cheers.

* See also, Business 360 and Media 9 People in Kathmandu, They Rock, January 14, 2015

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Business 360 and Media 9 People in Kathmandu, They Rock

Tonight, I will leave Kathmandu, 11pm flight of Dragon Air to Hong Kong, then I  will get a Cathay Air connecting flight to Manila and I should be home around noon tomorrow. I just feel so privileged, so pampered, to be sponsored and hosted by Media 9 and its editor, good friend way back in 2005, Charu Chadha, editor of the publication, seated in the middle. This was taken yesterday at their office here in Kathmandu.

I came to Kathmandu to attend the 3rd Asia Liberty Forum (ALF) held at Soaltee Crowne Plaza, January 8-10 last week. I stayed at the nearby Grand Hotel though. After the conference, Media 9 arranged a trip for me and Prof. Christopher Lingle, accompanied by two Media 9 staff, David Shakya and Razan Bhattarai. From left: Cris, me, David and Razan, walking the streets of Pokhara, Nepal.

Cris and I were the speakers in a small group forum with some university students of Pokhara. Nice experience to interact with the young people of that  cool city.

Pokhara is the tourism city of Nepal, about 30 minutes by plane from Kathmandu. Long ridge of ice-covered mountains are visible from a distance. We stayed at Shangrila Village Hotel, very nice place.

Then we went back to Kathmandu last Monday, Jan. 12. I stayed at Royal Singi Hotel. Yesterday, after a visit at Media 9 office, Charu and her partner Sandesh treated me to late lunch. Sandesh is a cool guy, grew up in Australia, he does multi-martial arts (MMA), so he does boxing, wrestling, karate, etc. all-in-one.

Then Charu brought me to the Kathmandu Durbar Square. Lots of fascinating structures there. This is after we entered the market.

Basantapor area, near the Hanuman Dhoka.

I don't like taking my photos in my travels, I prefer to take photos of places, not myself in them, but Charu insisted that I should have at least one in this area, so here it is. Thanks Charu.
This morning, two other Media 9 staff, Sushil Dhungana and Sanchit Lamichhane, toured me to Swoyambhu temple, it's on top of a big hill in Kathmandu. The big Buddha at the top.

The main tower at the top.

One side of Kathmandu from this temple. The city is expanding fast.

After that, Sanchit invited me to visit his place. Nice, beautiful house, three storeys, and he has an organic vegetable plot at the back of his house. We ate broccoli freshly harvested, fresh and crispy. Plus bread and coffee, yum. Below from right: Sanchit, Sushil, and Sanchit's mama. She's a late 60s cool woman and yet look so energetic and cheerful.

Ahh, Media 9 people, the publishers of Business 360 and World of Women (WOW) magazines, you simply rock!

Ok, another tour, then dinner, then Charu and team will bring me to the airport. Leaving Kathmandu soon with a joyful heart, lots of good memories with wonderful places seen and warm, friendly people met.

Soon, a blog post for each of those places. This is only an "intro" post about them. Lots of photos begging  to be seen and posted. cheers.

Thursday, January 08, 2015

Nepal Tribhuvan Airport and Immigration

Last night, my Dragon Air flight from Hong Kong landed at Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu, Nepal around 10:25 pm local time. There are no tubes that passengers can walk from the plane to the passengers terminal. People get off the plane, shuttle buses wait for them below and bring them to the terminal, a short drive.

All photos below I got from the web, not one came from my camera.

The immigration was a bit chaotic. I was filling up the form for foreigners, then I noticed an online application kiosk. The procedure requires filling up many boxes, I got confused. Luckily an airport personnel helped me, he ignored many of those boxes and just clicked "Next" to various pages, and I got a small stub printed by the machine. I thanked him.

Nepal issues visa upon arrival, convenient for  foreigners actually as they do not have to get a visa at a Nepal consulate or embassy in their home country. We were informed by the Asia Liberty Forum co- organizers to (a) prepare our invite letter to the conference, (b) have two copies of passport photos, and (c) prepare US$30 or its equivalent in  other  major currencies as visa fee.

Two lines  to queue, first to pay the visa fee, they ask how many days of stay,  I  said 8 days. They charge  only $25. After paying, they issue a receipt, then  I  went  to the immigration officer, who again  asked how many days of stay. They issue 15 days, 30 days, 90 days, etc. visa. Different fees for each. It was relatively easy.

So the immigration only asked  one question, "How many days of stay", they did not ask for the visitor's purpose in coming, did not ask for the passport photos, did  not ask for return flight itinerary. Cool.

The messy part of the airport is the baggage claim. Only 3 or 4 baggage carrel, our flight should be in #3. After some passengers got their bags, the engine stopped running, we waited what happened, then we were told to go to #2, meaning  bags from two international flights were mixed there.

This photo below, you multiply the number of people by 3x or 4x last night. 

Finally got out of the airport more than one hour upon entry. The taxi to the hotel would cost about $9, I changed some US$ to Nepalese Rupee (NR). Outside it should be around NR102/$, at the airport yesterday it was 99.2, not a big difference. Most of the airport taxi are the small ones, photo on the left. I got the medium one,  on the  right, NR 950. 

It was already past 12 midnight. Travel time was only about 15-18 minutes and I was at the hotel. I greeted the driver Happy New Year after paying, he smiled.

Kathmandu, Random Pics

Kathmandu (KTM) does not have tall skyscrapers, those buildings that are 25, 40, 70 storeys high. I think the tallest buildings here could be around 12-15 floors. So from my 7th floor room and hallway, these are the views I could see.

Below, three buildings being constructed and notice, no  cranes. Meaning the steel, cement and sand have to be brought up manually, or by a service elevator, if there is  one, wow. They could be around 12 floors already, and keep rising.  See some of the mountains behind. 

Lower photo, another tall building being constructed. About 13 floors already secured, the 14th and higher floors being added. Mt. Everest cannot be seen from here, it’s far from here but nonetheless, Kathmandu is already about 4,600 feet or about 1.4 kilometers above sea level.

More houses and other structures to the left of my hotel room.

Lower photo, the Platinum Hotel and spa.

Beside the hotel  are  red brick buildings, the national Red Cross headquarters, 

On the other side of the hotel, more houses and structures. Mountain ranges seen beyond.

Lower photo, those two red buildings could be a university perhaps is the Soaltee Crowne Plaza, the venue of the ALF 2015 conference that I will attend.

These photos below I got from the fb wall of a friend, Jadranco Brkic of LRI in Hong Kong. Thanks Jad.

KTM has one million residents, plus visitors from neighboring municipalities and provinces, plus short-staying foreign visitors, like me.

Tourism is the main economic activity in Nepal, KTM as the gateway because the international  airport is located here.

* See also Grand Hotel Kathmandu.