into Nepal

Kathmandu Travel Blog

 › entry 17 of 24 › view all entries
waiting for the border customs office in Zhangmu, looking back at the hill town, and lines of cars waiting to go through customs
The Chinese border immigration and customs was to open about 10am, so we got there early and queued up. We walked down there while our cars and luggage went separately. The real border is actually still another 5km away, so our car would pick us up after we went through immigration and customs on the Chinese side, and take us to the real border. While waiting in line, a big group of young women from Croatia were just behind us. Some of them were very sunburned, and one especially severe. She was however in good spirits probably because it turned out she and 4 other women had summitted Cho Oyo a few days ago! We passed the time talking to others waiting in line, and one French guy said he had skiied down from Cho Oyo! We can't verify his claim, but he did have ski poles and he said the snow was not that good for skiing.
View of Zhangmu as we were leaving
It's a pretty wild thing to say and to do for sure.

It took perhaps 15-20 minutes for us to all go through immigration where they stamped our passports, and customs where they ran our hand luggage through some scanners. We met our drivers and the rest of our luggage and drove down to the border. This part of the road was sometime closed, and one was supposed to walk down to the border, while some porters would carry the luggage! Luckily in the car it was a relative short ride. What was amazing was we had to be facing some trucks which were backing up this narrow road, since there was no place to turn, and we had no idea why this truck had come way up maybe thinking he could go further? Anyway, Joel counted 280 parked trucks on the side of the road while this truck (which turned out to be 2 or 3 trucks) backing its way all the way til the end of the parked trucks!

At the border, we said goodbye to our Tibetan drivers who were going to have to spend the day in Zhangmu and wait til 1am before they could go back to Lhasa.
At the border with our drivers, where they turned around and head back to Lhasa
It was supposed to take about 12 hours if they drove straight back! Oh, I forgot to mention that in some parts of the road, was it between Xegar and Xigatze? where there were many potholes in the road, and there would be some rocks places around the hole to mark them. It would be pretty exciting to drive that at night for sure. And they had to do the 30km amazing road under construction in the dark. But they had done this many times before, we wished them a safe trip back.

Our contact from Nepal came to meet us at the border and had several porters to carry our luggage. Because we had to now walk across the "friendship bridge" which was the real border, and go through Nepalese immigrations on the other side, before we would have any cars again. Well, I was sure these porters do this for a living and it's nothing to them, but one of the ports was what looked like a very old woman, who was carrying our big suitcase on her back (weighing about 45lbs at least), and it just felt really wierd.
View back into Tibet as we were leaving Zhangmu
We got our 3 day free transit visa at the immigration office in a short time, and we then wound our way through some narrow streets to our Nepalese rides. We had three 4WD's this time, since we had one additional guide from Nepal. Each couple rode in one 4WD, and Puhdon our Tibetan guide who was escorting us all the way to Kathmandu til the end of our group tour, and the Nepalese contact were off on our way to Kathmandu, which was about 3 hours drive away.

Ah, now we had to change our watches, Nepal was 2 hours 15 minutes ealier than the time we had in China, (where on earth did they get the 15 minutes difference?) so as we stepped into Nepal, we stepped back in time, at a time before we went through immigration in Zham! Anyway, the drivers and guide had to come from Kathmandu very early, in the dark, and they had not had any breakfast! Although we were not hungry for lunch, we stopped about an hour later at a small village restaurant so they could get something to eat.
Panorama view of Zhangmu with the waterfall running through town, you can see how high the cliff was.


The road from Zham to Kathmandu was downhill, and still mostly along the river. But the vegetation was lush and green, and small Nepalese kids would be running naked. That would not have been possible in Tibet where it was much colder. The scenery was very beautiful and spectacular too, but in a different way from yesterday's drive. The sky was blue with some whilte clouds, the mountains were green, the river was rushing below. There would be many villages on the mountainside, and terraced fields for farming. The valley started out narrow with steep cliffs where there were several "resorts" advertising bungee jumping! One of them was named "Last Resort", cute name. We did not stop to bungee jump though. Then the valley would open up and the mountains would be less steep with terraced fields and farm villages.
View from Friendship bridge, the border between Tibet and Nepal
There were also an occasiional stupa and prayer flags visible on some high locations on the mountain. Looking back, sometimes we could still see the tall Himalayans, with some snow on top. We would also see some Tata trucks and busses, whose roof was obviously prime real estate for seats, as they were also packed with people! What's also amazing on this road was the "road blocks". We were stopped several times by what looked like kids, some waving pads of tickets and apparently demanding some fee to pass. Our drivers would talk to them, and show them the ticket stubs they got previously, and all but one time was able to just go through without paying more. Later we asked our guide in Kathmandu whether these were legitmate toll fees, and apparently they were not, but it was common.
Another view from the Friendship bridge


We arrived in Kathmandu in the early afternoon.  The traffic around and in Kathmandu was something to be seen to be believed. There were so many cars, trucks, tuk tuks and anything you can imagine on the road (not as many cows as in India though) And it was supposedly just a normal day with the congestion. And there were lots of people, there are probably more prople here in Kathmandu than all of Tibet!

We checked into the very nice Yak & Yeti Hotel, which was definitely a huge step up from the tent at base camp. It had a beautiful garden, pool, tennis courts. We had a delicous lunch buffet at the hotel restaurant (had to remember not to eat everything you saw),
relaxed a bit and went for a walk to the Thamel district of Kathmandu.
In Nepal, welcomed by 2 goats on a rock
It was a place with lots of local color and lots of tourists, and therefore lots of vendors. Here in Kathmandu, we noticed that vendors would be very insistent, coming to you on the street, and trying to get your attention. The most common way was for them to say "Excuse me," or something similar, and if you were a normal person, you might have looked at them, or said something polite. That would be a big mistake, since you then opened the door for them to talk to you forever and to follow you around. We quickly learned to just completely ignore any such approaches. It was a very unnatural thing to do, but it seemed to be necessary here.

There were lots of stores in Thamel, the map stores and photos of the Himalayans were interesting to browse through. There were many stores selling thangkas, Tibetan lamp shades, Nepalese clothing, pashmina shawls or scarves (good bargin, but do remember to examine the merchandise in detail before buying, some appear to have slight imperfections, and could be rejects from exports), jewelry, and mountain climbing gear! It was very interesting to walk around and see the people and things around you, the traffic there was super busy too.
The river continues into Nepal


Our hotel had (free) happy hours from 5:30pm to 7pm at our floor, and there were lots of goodies to eat, since we had a late lunch, I decided to just snack at happy hour and skipped dinner.

Old blog entry while we were in Kathmandu: BTW, I called David and Eric on the cell phone from this viewpoint looking at sunrise over Mt Everest the other day. China is way past USA in terms of cell phone coverage! We had 5 bars on the cell phone most of the time driving through the vast Tibetan plateau! Even at the base camp where they had no electricity (other than solar) or running water, they had cell phone coverage!
David says:
The call came in loud and clear.
Posted on: Oct 07, 2007
Join TravBuddy to leave comments, meet new friends and share travel tips!
waiting for the border customs off…
waiting for the border customs of…
View of Zhangmu as we were leaving
View of Zhangmu as we were leaving
At the border with our drivers, wh…
At the border with our drivers, w…
View back into Tibet as we were le…
View back into Tibet as we were l…
Panorama view of Zhangmu with the …
Panorama view of Zhangmu with the…
View from Friendship bridge, the b…
View from Friendship bridge, the …
Another view from the Friendship b…
Another view from the Friendship …
In Nepal, welcomed by 2 goats on a…
In Nepal, welcomed by 2 goats on …
The river continues into Nepal
The river continues into Nepal
View of river and the road along i…
View of river and the road along …
Roadside water supply in Nepal, on…
Roadside water supply in Nepal, o…
Hmm, maybe not a very good sign on…
Hmm, maybe not a very good sign o…
Nepalese bus with people riding on…
Nepalese bus with people riding o…
View of valley on the way to Kathm…
View of valley on the way to Kath…
View of river on the way to Kathma…
View of river on the way to Kathm…
View of mountain and villages on t…
View of mountain and villages on …
on the way to Kathmandu from the N…
on the way to Kathmandu from the …
Thamel district in Kathmandu
Thamel district in Kathmandu
Thamel district in Kathmandu, note…
Thamel district in Kathmandu, not…
Thamel district in Kathmandu
Thamel district in Kathmandu
street scene on the way to Thamel …
street scene on the way to Thamel…
Kathmandu
photo by: sharonburgher