1998: Nepal/Tibet


Tibet was an after-thought after I arrived in Nepal and completed my trek in the Annapurnas. Well, maybe not quite… Actually, there was a funny incident when I tried to apply for visa for Tibet. As preparation for the trip to Nepal, I had originally tried to apply for a visa into Tibet by going directly to the Chinese embassy right there in Canberra. It was rejected. Instead, I was asked to obtain a ‘letter of invitation’ from the Tibetan Cultural Society (or some such name) first, which as I found out later was located at Lhasa, the capital of Tibet! I can’t really understand the logic but maybe you can?? After all, it’s quite difficult to request for an invitation if I was not already there?

Getting back to the story, I went back to the embassy on the same morning and easily got a visa to go into China anyway – this time citing that I wanted to go to Hong Kong. By the way, it was the same person at the reception. :-) As a result, I had more or less given up on going to Tibet. However, as it turned out, I did not need a visa for Tibet anyway.

To be continued…

1998: Nepal/Tibet


Map of Nepal

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While in the air above Nepal, I could not help but have a tingling sensation of a mixture of anticipation and also apprehension. It was a total unknown. Perhaps partly due to my own imagination, but the horizon seemed more curvy than usual, i.e. the curvature of the earth was probably more pronounced at such height.

The Katmandu airport was quite run down, and about the same size as Canberra airport. Everything was done manually, of course. However, my biggest worry was that the X-ray machine for the luggage explicitly said “NOT film safe”!?!? One can only hope that that referred to a previous incarnation of the same machine!?!? However, I had no choice by allow my MacPac to pass through the scan. Fortunately, the films seemed fine afterwards, although there were other problems when I had them processed in Katmandu, but that is anther story…

Stepping out from the airport, the scene that greeted me was not totally unexpected but nevertheless a big culture shock!

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1998: Nepal/Tibet

Intro: Nepal

Upon return from my trip to Europe in 1997, I decided that if I had the chance, the next destination would be somewhere more ‘primitive’. Less civilised technology and big cities, but with some mystique in the culture. In my mind, I had settled on either Nepal or the Andes in South America: Incas, City of Gold and so on. In the end, I settled on the safer option, since Nepal was probably safer compared to South American jungles because I intended to travel alone – as long as it was practical.

In 1998, I decided to take the plunge and embark on an journey where I really did not know what to expect. In fact, I had planned to leave for Nepal in January or February of 1998, when it’s cooler and more suitable for trekking. It was pushed back because I was trying to solve a rather tough problem for my PhD but had been stuck for a few months. Seeing there was no telling when I would actually solve it, so, rather impulsively, I decided to drop everything on hand and went on this trip anyway. Looking back, I think this was the best decision because there were going to be more and more things getting in the way if I delayed further.

The decision was made around March, all arrangements made in the month, and I was off in April. By the way, this was already a bit late for trekking since the annual Monsoons start in May. By this stage, the weather can get quite warm, and there are generally heavy rains in the mountains. One comment about environmental hazards while trekking in Nepal: in winter, avalanches, and in summer, floods and mud slides and also bandits.