Teaching in Thailand comes with certain perks like long breaks and having easy access to other Asian countries. These two factors helped me and a group of friends decide to spend our two week October break in 2008 visiting Nepal and hiking the fabled Everest Trail.
Now, the original plan with our trek was of course to make it to Everest Base Camp and the amazing viewpoint on Kala Patar. However, after talking to several trekking companies we realized in our two week time frame it just wouldn’t be possible. Our next dilemma, how far could we actually get? After many conversations we all agreed we would attempt to make it to Dingboche, the last “large” settlement on the trail before base camp. In reality though, we didn’t even make it that far, which was I must say, a disappointment. While our group was in Tengboche a couple members began to suffer pretty badly from altitude sickness so instead we decided to turn around and head back down the trail.
Hiking on the Everest trail was one of the hardest things I have ever done. I must admit this was partially due to several factors. The first being that we had spent the last 5 months in Bangkok at sea level so the altitude effected us pretty hard. Also because there are no real mountains to climb in Thailand so we had done NO training beforehand, save for climbing the stairs at school and working out at the gym. I must stress, if you want to hike the Everest trail attempt a good number of several mile hikes over rocky terrain beforehand. You will not regret it. Another thing that hindered our ability to hike was our equipment. There are no stores like REI in Thailand and the little bit of hiking items you can find come at a price so we found ourselves having to come up with our best alternatives for needed items. While you don’t necessarily need the best of everything for this trip, definitely invest in quality. There is a difference.
Day 1: Fly from Bangkok to Dhaka (overnight in Bangladesh)
Day 2: Fly from Dhaka to Kathmandu.
Day 3: Fly from Kathmandu to Lukla. Begin Everest Trail trek. Hike from Lukla to Phakding.
Day 4: Hike from Phakding to Namche Bazaar.
Day 5: Day in Namche Bazaar to acclimatize. Short hike to Everest View.
Day 6. Hike from Namche Bazaar to Tengboche.
Day 7: Hike from Tengboche to near Phunki Tenga. *
Day 8: Hike from near Phunki Tenga To Namche Bazaar
Day 9: Hike from Namche Bazaar to Phakding
Day 10: Hike from Phakding to Lukla
Day 11: Fly from Lukla to Kathmandu
Day 12: KAthmandu
Day 13: Kathmandu/Pattan
Day 14: Kathmandu/Pattan
Day 15: Kathmandu/ Pattan
Day 16: Fly from Kathmandu to Dhaka (overnight in Bangladesh)
Day 17: Fly from Dhaka to Bangkok
*This is where we were forced to alter the itinerary. Originally it was supposed to be
Day 7: Hike from Tengboche to Dingboche
Day 8: Hike from Dingboche to near Phunki Tenga
Day 9: Hike from near Phunki Tenga to Phakding
The airline we flew on also deserves a mention because, well, I don’t recommend it. Because we were flying from Bangkok and not America we had assumed a flight from Bangkok to Kathmandu would be much cheaper. As we searched and searched the cheapest ticket we were able to find was $1000. Instead of shelling out that much cash we decided to visit a travel agent to see if she could find us anything. She came back to us with a flight for 16,000 Baht (about $550) on Biman Bangladesh airline. My immediate thought I’m going to die if I fly on this airline (pleasant right?), we bought the tickets anyway.
After buying the ticket I decided to do some research on Biman. I learned that their airplanes hadn’t crashed with fatalities in 30 years, but they had crashed somewhat recently. Comforting. There was a particular video on youtube of a Biman Jet ramming right into the terminal in Dubai that seemed to get a lot of plays. I also found NO reports where the travelers had recommended flying Biman. You may now count this report among their ranks.
This was my Biman Experience: Our flight was supposed to leave Bangkok at 9:30 pm. The plane came in late from Singapore (It flies from Dhaka to Singapore to Bangkok and back to Dhaka) so we didn’t leave Bangkok until after 11. The ambiance inside the plane was like nothing I’d ever seen before, like my grandmas couch had thrown up. There was floral wall paper and loud green 60′s print floral seats with bright pink pillows. In the front of the cabin where there would usually be a screen was a large faded photo of women working in a field somewhere in Bangladesh. Can I also mention that I was one of maybe 6 women on the entire plane?
The two hour flight went slowly but eventually we arrived in Dhaka at 1:30 am. For some reason Biman has no same day flights so you are forced to either spend the night in the airport or shell our $20 for a transit visa so you cans stay the night in a “complimentary” hotel room (although you are not allowed to leave the hotel). Both directions we opted for the room. On our way to Nepal our hotel was quite close to the airport, only about 5 minutes away. On the way back to Thailand however it took us well over an hour to get to our hotel which was, I assume, in the heart of Dhaka. These rooms were average. Not as bad as I imagined but not really nice either.
Another issue we encountered with Biman occurred when we attempted to leave Nepal directly as a result of not having paper tickets. We waited in a very long line at the airport. When we finally reached the front the woman could not find our tickets or any record of us. She pushed us off to the side and started helping others. We waited for maybe 45 minutes like this. By this time we were getting a little agitated. The woman called over what must have been a supervisor to help her with the situation. Instead of helping us this man yelled at us like for some reason this was our fault. He told us we would have to go to the Biman office in town to straighten it out (which meant we would have to leave the next day, after our visas ran out). Grasping at straws and attempting to hide my irritation I showed the woman the ticket stub from my flight to Bangkok. Through my passenger number on that she was able to find our passenger numbers for this flight. Thank goodness I found my ticket stub! Finally after an hour and a half we were done.
In My Bag
Packing for Nepal was a bit of a challenge. We came from Thailand where people love aerobics but they don’t hike much so we had to make due with what we could find. There were many changes I would have made if I had come from America and had the opportunity to buy the real deal. These differences were mainly in clothing and equipment (the big things on a trek right?)
Columbia fleece (this was amazing)
Long sleeve shirt (I would have liked to have one more, maybe underarmor)
t-shirts (workout style) (5)
nicer t-shirts (2) (I wore these in kathmandu)
tanktop (1) (I don’t know why I brought this)
shorts (1) ( I never wore these)
Khaki pants (1) ( I wore these in Katmandu)
North Face Zipper Pants (1) (I bought these in the Tamel district the night before our trek and I wore them almost everyday)
SIGG waterbottle ( I frequently ran out of water and really wished I had my camelpack)
Trekking poles ( I only had one and it worked well but 2 is better)
Heavy socks (4 pair)
Light socks (4 pair)
Flip flops (for in Kathmandu)
Sunglasses (2 pair)
Small bottles of Shampoo, Conditioner and Body Wash ( I only took 2 showers when hiking on the trail, not for lack of cleanliness, just for lack of options, no one else is showering either though, lol)
Sarong ( I used it as a towel but I recommend a trekking towel instead)
Canon Rebel XTI
2GB Memory cards (3)
extra Battery ( I wish I had brought my battery charger as well)
70-300 Telephoto lens
Fisheye lens extension
Cleaning cloth and UV filter
Point and Shoot Camera and Extra Battery
Book ( I took one on the trail with me and left the other in Katmandu. I finished that first book in 3 days and desperately wished I’d brought the other with me)
Thai debit card
Leggings (to use in place of long underwear, I don’t recommend this but I had no choice)
Sleeping Bag (rented in Thamel)
Down Jacket (rented in Thamel, came in very handy in Tengboche where it was FREEZING!)
1 roll of toilet paper ( I could have used 1 more)
small notebook to take notes in
Baseball hat ( I never wore)
Warm winter hat (I didn’t need, they sell much nicer ones in Nepal)
regular bras (2)
sports bras (2)
IPOD with arm strap
Flashlight ( a headlamp would have been awesome)
Sunscreen (small bottle)
Playing cards (used these everyday playing games with our guide and porters)
Travel insurance ( didn’t end up needing but it was comforting to have)
Minimal makeup (foundation w/ sunscreen)
Candy for kids (They loved it but I wish I had brought pipe cleaners instead. We could make them into shapes and the kids liked them. Bonus, it didn’t rot their teeth)
Chewable pepto bismal
Nail file with knife (was awesome but in the future I’ll get a Swiss army knife)
Nature valley bars (10) (Luna Bars would have been awesome)
Bag of trail mix
Travel sized facewash
100 Liter Deuter Backpack with detachable small pack (The porters carried this and used ropes so I could have just brought a duffel)
Smaller daypack (wish I had one with straps with better support)