On top of the world

And so to Kathmandu, where I have been for the past four days…

The capital of Nepal, and a city worthy of the much used phrase “a melting pot,” Kathmandu is breathtaking.  Breathtaking in every sense of the word.

The city has a population of 5 million, and is situated at the foot of the Himalayas, in a valley so enclosed by mountains that all flights coming in and going out are forced to perform spiralling ascents and descents, so as to successfully avoid giving their passengers too close a view of the snowy topped peaks.

There is no grass in Kathmandu.  That is, there are no parks and lawns.  In terms of other grass that one might smoke, there is plenty.  In fact on Monday when I arrived, it was the god Shiva’s most holy day of the year.  The temples were inundated, as were the local pot dealers, because Monday marked the one day of the year when smoking dope in Nepal is fully legal (I heard this from a colleague you understand, rather than from experience….ahem…) Continue reading

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Saigon by Vespa

We’ve had some friends in town recently – Sarah and Manjit – and took them out to experience the sights and sounds Saigon has to offer, on the back of vintage Vespas

 “Vietnam Vespa Adventures” is the brain child of Steve Mueller, a guy as equally fanatical with the bikes themselves as much as he is with the country in which he has now resided for thirteen years.  Steve’s website offers some useful history on the noble Vespa (the Italian word for “Wasp” – I’ll give you that one for free) and his company’s aim is to provide clients with a perspective on Vietnam otherwise unavailable to the average tourist. Continue reading

Scooters

There are heavy restrictions on foreigners driving cars in Vietnam, and my mode of transport since arriving here has been the taxi.  Longer term I may need to find more economical means.  For now, the relatively cheap cost of any of the different branded taxis is easy to swallow and, in the thick of rush hour traffic, it certainly feels the more secure option over and above riding a motorbike or a scooter.

Riding bikes in Saigon is a way of life for the 3 million or so owners who zig-zag across the city each day.  From the comfort of the backseat of a Vinasun taxi (our preferred choice at the moment) it is mesmerising watching the ebb and flow of traffic jostle for every last inch of space, in a bid to get from A to B as quick as possible.

Continue reading