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 deilema, how far could we actually get? After many converstaions 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 dissappointment. 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 beecause 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 eqiupment. 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 haveing 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.
We decided to do our trek with Ghale Treks because they offered the best price, and overall we were extremely happy with them, and especially our guide, Ras. They picked us up from the airport and arranged a night in Kathmandu for us on both sides of the trek, and then when we were in the mountains all arrangements for accommodation and food were secured by either or porters, or Ras.
Yes, in this edition of the lowdown, even the airline we flew on gets a mention because, well, to put it nicely, it was awful, and I don’t reccomend it. Because we were fliying 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 (pleasent 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.