Guess what?! I had another visitor here!!
Ariana was my first travel buddy outside of my parents/brother/family in general or groups, so it was exciting to be able to get to explore another country together!
So the story goes like this…
Both of us attended Blue Mountain Academy in Pennsylvania and even though we were in different grades (she was a grade ahead of me even though she was only 2 months older than me…can you say SMARTY PANTS?!), we became friends because we were both in the “select” string ensemble. Basically, that just meant that we were music nerds and got to tour around all of the Northeastern region of the US with the ensemble and choir.
Fast forward to the end of the school year. Wait – just so you know Ariana has this annoying habit of asking me to do things really last minute or really out of the blue. (Her: “Hey, I have to play a piece today at assembly, wanna do a duet?” Me: “Uh…sure.”) This was no exception. She came up to me in one of the halls and casually asked me, “Hey, wanna got to China with me this summer for a music workshop?” I wasn’t actually sure if she was joking or low-key serious, but I replied, “Sure!” After a bunch of paperwork, auditions, visa applications, and travel plans, we jetted off by ourselves (yes, sans parentals) to China for 3 weeks. Oh, did I mention we were only 16 years old at the time?
To this day, I still don’t actually know why our parents allowed us to travel by ourselves at such an early age. I mean, yes, we were with a large group for the first 2 weeks b/c of the music workshop in Shanghai, but the last week, we went to Beijing and were by ourselves for half of the time. (This is also when I found out that even though she’s quiet, she’s SUPER ambitious….)
Anyway, we got to experience super cool things, like climb the Great Wall of China and see the Olympic “Bird’s Nest” dome while it was still being constructed. (Fun fact! The China trip was when I first started blogging!)
Since that fateful trip, we have traveled to Hong Kong, Macau, Malaysia (2x), and Fiji together, and now, Nepal!
Why do I call us the “Lost Travelers?” Mainly, because while we were in Hong Kong, we had a really hard time figuring out where we were half of the time and how to get to where we wanted to go. It was mildly hilarious being lost the whole time we were there. There are a TON of others stories I could tell about our adventures together (like that time we were low-key stranded in Macau), but we’d be here for a loooooong time.
Getting to the Peak in HK (below), was harder than it should have been…lol.
Ok, getting back to the here and now.
Oh wait, another backstory. Remember how I said Ariana is a smarty pants? This is a true FACT as she is doctor and is finishing up her first year as a resident in Kettering Hospital.
What does this have to do with anything? Well, her supervisor allowed her to do an international rotation. And yupp, you guessed it, she decided to come to Nepal! (Duh, obvious choice.)
In true fashion, we managed to make the most of our time together and got to experience some super fun things!
Ariana hit the ground running and our first event was attending a Coldplay Tribute concert. The band that performed, Audio Ignition, did an great job at covering all the popular songs.
The next day, we went on a day hike from Boudha, Nagi Gompa, to Shivapuri National Park. We had a fantastic time hiking up to the monastery and having lunch there (even though I’m very much out of shape and almost died the last hour going up….lol). Ariana, however, even though she had only been at this altitude for less than 48 hours handled it like a champ. (Did I mention she’s always in shape even though she doesn’t try? She ran the Nike Women’s Half Marathon in San Francisco the same year she had MCL surgery!)
(somehow we found ourselves sharing the trail with a herd of goats and a monkey!)
That week, she went to Schreer Memorial Hospital in Banepa to observe and the following weekend, she came back to Kathmandu.
We managed to do a cooking class and learned how to cook dal bhat and momos (both staples in the diets of the Nepali!)
The next morning we woke up super early and jumped on a bus headed to The Last Resort, a four hour freezing and bumpy drive to the north, close to the Tibetan border.
The Last Resort is known for their adventure activities such as bungee jumping, canyon swinging, white water rafting, etc. We opted to go canyoning as it has been something I’ve been super curious about and wanting to try out every since I heard it was a thing. Canyoning [in our case] involved abseiling down waterfalls. Since it was technically dry season, the waterfalls weren’t gushing with water, but we managed to get pretty wet. Even though it was January, the day turned out to be gorgeous, not to mention the scenery was beautiful, and we didn’t feel too cold, thanks to our wet suits.
We had two guides with us that made sure we knew what to do [safely] and were really patient with us.
The resort itself is quite lovely and would be a great getaway in the middle of nowhere (which isn’t really hard to do once you get out of the city…).
The next week, Ariana came to volunteer at my office…and she quickly realized that NGO work consists of sitting at a desk for long periods of time. Hahaha. A lot of people assume we are always in the field, which is true for some project officers, but they forget that there are a ton of people that stay at the office to do all the background work, i.e. research and grant proposal writing!!
We did, however, get to visit a leper colony to do an assessment, which was quite interesting, as it was both of our first times to actually observe people with leprosy.
The last weekend of our time together, we packed in a pretty tight schedule.
We managed to attend a rad concert that the Kathmandu Jazz Conservatory put on.
So, remember how I said Ariana is super ambitious? She also likes to convince me to do things I normally wouldn’t do. Like, go on a yoga retreat.
Let’s face it. I’m not a yoga person. I’ve done yoga before…and only because my dear friend Stella (more about her in another blog!) convinced me to buy a Groupon deal that a local hot yoga studio had. Three months of torture. Never again. Except when Ariana persuades me to go on a yoga retreat, apparently. (Can you tell I was not amused? Haha)
We traveled to Pokhara by private car…tell me how this chick, in the first 15 mins of the journey, puts on her eye mask and ear plugs and proceeds to knock out. Meanwhile, I am silently enduring the 6 hours of bumpy roads, without any luck of falling asleep like I usually do on car rides. (Totally not bitter…much…)
We managed to go to the World Peace Pagoda and chilled at a cafe before heading to the yoga retreat center.
Ok, to be honest, I’m not sure what I was expecting, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that the retreat center was away from Lakeside area (on the north side of the lake) – aka, away from all the noise and tourists – and it was half way up the hill.
The center has a few basic, but comfortable rooms, a nice little area for meals (they focus on simple, non-spicy, healthy meals), a beautiful garden patio that you can relax and see the lake, and a very nice yoga studio.
They have a very detailed schedule that everyone adheres to, waking up at an ungodly hour of 6am – although they believe in waking everyone up with a singing bowls instead of a gong or alarm. Very zen, I must say.
We participated in different activities besides yoga, such as meditation, sound immersion, and a relaxing foot bath. By the end of the day, even though it was super relaxing, I was exhausted from all the activities. (Not to mention, my body was SO sore the next day from all that yoga….my body is NOT used to contorting in those shapes.)
Ariana got to work on her headstand…with a little help. Haha.
We headed back to Kathmandu early the next day and I went straight to work afterwards while Ariana went temple hopping. It was definitely a packed weekend!
All in all, we had a great time exploring and I was super glad to have an adventure buddy with me to try new things and to broaden my horizons (yes, yoga retreat and all…).
Thanks, Ariana, for coming to visit and I can’t wait to see where our next adventure will be!