I reviewed Hyatt Regency Kathmandu Review almost a year ago. Last time I had booked suite room for 3 days at a total cost of 24k but this time around it was standard room booking at a rate of 5k points per day. I will try to not repeat the same content.
This is the PART 2 of Nepal is Beautiful.
In the previous post I avoided sharing pictures from Sudur Pashchim (Far-West) Nepal because I wanted to post Sundar Surur Pashchim (Beautiful Far-West) as a separate post. The main reason for doing so is because most of the places listed in this post aren’t even googlable. In fact, some of these places are so obscure most folks living in Far-West Nepal have never heard of these places. Anyway, I wanted to put something out there for those 10 people that eventually end up googling stuff like “the swing at Tirpura” or “Bhamkeshwar in Daijee”.
Before I forget Far-West Nepal (wiki link) is essentially 1/5 Developmental Region in Nepal. It comprises of 2/14 zones of Nepal or 9/75 district in Nepal.
IMGUR IMAGE DUMP
1. Abandoned Nest
This is a picture of me holding an abandoned nest. I was told that the bird had long abandoned the nest after laying these eggs.
2. In the middle of nowhere
This picture was taken while travelling south from Baitadi on a bus. For all I know this could be Doti but I can’t say for sure.
3. The Mahakali river
The river you see is above picture is the Mahakali (literally translates to Great Kali) river. Everything you see across the river (top part of the picture) is India while the rest (bottom part of the picture) is Nepal. The town seen in bottom right is called Sheera. Now to get to Sheera we had to descend a hill known as saat bisauni (literally means seven resting place). Let’s just say we made wayyy more than 7 stops while climbing back up. But the locals do it with ease, or at least they struggle far less than we did. As we were descending through a steep shortcut of saat bisauni a local women was climbing through this very steep shortcut with a ton of weight in her namlo (bamboo basket like doko but has a head strap)…
4. The Swing of Tirpura Sundari
Tirpura Sundari is the most renowned temple in Baitadi district and is located in a beautiful hilltop about 15 minutes away from Dasharathchand, headquater of Baitadi. Legends have it that the Tirpura devi herself ocassionally plays in the swing displayed above.
5. Pine Forest
Ghotlapani is the last bus stop to Baitadi. Afterward we slowly descended down to eventually meet the Mahakali river.
This picture was taken in a small town (consists of around 10 houses) called Kurala located in Thaligada of Baitadi district.
I previously said Tirpura is the most recognized temple in Baitadi and I will add that pilgrims from neighboring Indian village come to worship Tirpura….and yet it does not have a wikipedia page. Naturally Bhamkeshwar temple, which lies in Daijee village development committee with less than 7k population, is going to be near impossible to google.
That said, I’ve been told that not long ago (10-15 years max) this used to be a junglish place. It still is located in the middle of nowhere. People come here to worship, swim, and take a bath. Oh and that is spring water.
8. Holi Hooooo
Holi, a Hindu festival of colors, falls in spring season. Here you see a group of men passing through the field as they go to neighboring houses to play Holi in their yard.
9. Wheat Field
Very similar pic to the one right above but I what can I say I like fields.
10. Suspended Bridge
I’ve a soft spot for jhulangai puul (suspended bridge) so you get two of them. Now just a FYI the Dodhara Chadani bridge (length 496.5 m) is a actually googlable.
11. Friendly Neighborhood Peacock
This peakcock (or peahen or peachick?) was found in Chatakpur of Dhangadhi. Me and my bud were travelling in a bike to a friends house and out of the blue this little fella comes to greet us in the road. I later learned that this fella comes around the neighborhood very often and locals tend to feed it.
12. Shiva Puri Dham
I’ve witnessed construction of this site for over a year and yet it still baffles me that someone spent so much money to create a (relatively) large yet new religious site in a city like Dhangadhi. I guess s/he will be find considering the fact that religious investment in Nepal rarely fail.
This post contains 11 pictures from 7 major travel destinations in Nepal namely Kathmandu, Pokhara, Mustang, Chitwan, Lumbini, Ilam, and Dharan. For most part, I’m purposely avoiding sharing pictures of stuff that would popup when you search “Nepal”, “Nepal nature”, or something similar in google. In other words, minimal or no picture of mount Everest, Swayambhunath, Mayadevi temple, or something of that nature.
Mustang, a northern district of Nepal, is one of the most beautiful place in Nepal. It is distant from rest of the Nepal that it is often called himal pari ko desh (literally means kingdom beyond the Himalayas). Yet most tourists, foreign or domestic, focus on visiting Kathmandu or Pokhara more than they do Mustang. Well there’s a reason for it – this place is hard on your body and wallet alike 😉
Okay, this topic barely has anything to do with churning but the reality is you could read about usual churning stuff in 5,000 other blogs. I make it a habit to (mostly) not report on the big and glorious headlines of churning. Instead I cover smaller things that most other bloggers tend to miss.
Also recently made I made it a habit of reviewing all international hotel brands in Nepal. Now I’m taking it a step further and reviewing both cell service provider in Nepal, namely Nepal Telecom (NTC) and Ncell. Needless to say both companies are huge in Nepal and folks write piece on them all the time. So the question you might be thinking is – why do you feel the need to write one for yourself? Well, because I feel that the information on net isn’t provided in simple and elegant manner as I would like it to be presented.
Tip #1: Dual SIM is a must in Nepal
I can’t stress this enough – you want both of these networks in Nepal. One of them will have better coverage in one place while other will have better coverage somewhere else. In some places you will only find coverage by one network. Additionally, calling within this provider (say NTC to NTC or Ncell to Ncell) is way cheaper than calling across provider (NTC to Ncell or vice versa). Furthermore calling abroad to certain country can be significantly cheaper in one network than other. Last but not least, you may find data pack on one provider to be significantly better than another.
Tip #2: Buy SIMs at airport or even local shops
Ideally you probably want to buy SIMs at airport, if not there are plenty of local shops where you can fill out form (yes you need your passport) and get a new SIM activated in a few hours. It generally costs Rs 100 for a SIM and it comes preloaded with Rs 50 balance.
Tip #3: Use NTC to make budget calls to USA
Normal call to USA via NTC costs Rs 30/min but you can make budget call at Rs 1.75/min. In order to make this budget call, you want to enter 1424 before country code. For example, 1424-1-773-1234567 where 1424 is budget call code, 1 (or rather 001) is country code for USA, 773 is area code, and 1234567 is the phone number.
This rate is actually cheaper than budget call rate for the neighboring country India ( Rs 2.90)…go figure. Oh and be sure not to mistype 1425 or 1445 because that budget call will cost you Rs 8/min. You may read more about NTC budget calls here and here. Information provided in above link is particularly helpful if you wish to call somewhere beside USA. For instance in some cases it may be cost efficient to use a different budget code than 1424.
Do note that Ncell charges a mere Rs 1.99/min for calls to US and Canada.
All above prices are exclusive of taxes.
Tip 4: Activate NTC Friend and Family (FNF) Rate
You can add 5 NTC numbers as your FTF and you’ll be charged a mere rate of 70 paisa/min (1 Rs = 100 paisa).
In order to add a phone number, you want to text FNFSUB*NTN to 1415 where NTN is your friend’s NTC phone number. For example to add 0123456789 as FTF, you want to text FTNSUB*0123456789 to 1415.
Tip 5: (Almost) never use Internet without a Data Pack!
If you use internet without a data pack then it may cost as high as Rs 3.99 on Ncell.
Tip 6: Use Ncell for Data Pack
Ncell provides a wide variety of cheap data packs and one or more is bound to be suitable to you. In order to see and buy current data plan dial *123#
You can find complete info on current data plans in Ncell’s official page.
My personal preference is to buy DAY-TIME pack (valid from 5 AM – 5 PM) and NIGHT-TIME pack (valid from 11 PM – 5 AM) to cover a huge chunk of day. Then for other time not covered by day and night pack ( i.e. 5 PM – 11 PM) I use ALL-TIME pack. This deal gets sweetened when you buy 30 DAY PACKS namely 30 day day-time pack, 30 day night-time pack, and 30 day all-time pack.
So why not just buy all-time pack and use it all the time? Because 30 day night-time pack costs and 30 day day-time pack costs 1/4 and 1/2 the price of 30 day all-time pack respectively.
These packs automatically get activated during their time slot so there isn’t much hassle in using them. For example, if I’ve all-time pack, day-time pack, and night-time pack then during day time (i.e. 5 AM – 5 PM) I’ll be consuming data from day-time pack, during night time (i.e. 11 PM – 5 AM) I’ll be consuming data from night-time pack, and my all-time pack will only kick in during hours of 5 PM – 11 PM.
In order to check your data balance dial *1901#
Note: As of few weeks ago Ncell used to provide 30 day packs for as low as Rs 9 but it seems they’ve removed low cost packs. For example, you could buy 200 MB 30 day night-time pack for Rs 20 but now such option does not exist. If you want to get a 30 day night-time pack then you’ve to spend Rs 100 and in return you’ll get 1200 MB. The older scheme used to be ideal for those of us who needed some data during night time but not a whole lot.
Tip 7: Don’t count NTC out for Data Packs
Up until few weeks ago Ncell dominated data packs by offering 1 day, 3 day, 7 day, 14 day, and 30 day packs. But now Ncell only seems to offer 3 day and 30 day packs. NTC on the other hand still offers a 1 day pack for a cost of Rs 9 for 10 MB. NTC’s data plan barely change so I’ll simply list them here.
|Data||Cost before tax (Rs)||Validity (month)|
In order to get these plans you should text Data xxMB to 1415. For example, to get 10 MB you would text Data 10MB and to get 200 MB you would text Data 200MB.
To check your data balance text VL to 1415.
Tip 8: Try eSewa to Recharge Online!
Normally if you want to recharge your balance you’ve to walk up to a store, buy a recharge card (Rs 50, 100, 200, 500, or 1000), scratch a code off the recharge card, and finally enter the code correctly in your phone.
However, you can try https://esewa.com.np to recharge your (or anyone else’s) mobile (be it NTC or Ncell) for as low as Rs 10. Now to make full use of the site you do need to submit Nepalese citizenship card info online. When you do that you’ll be able to transfer cash to esewa directly from your Nepalese bank account.
Now if you do not wish to do so or can’t do so then there is still an alternative. As usual you can create an esewa account with your email address. Once your esewa account is setup you go find a store with esewa service (it should not be terribly hard to find one in Kathmandu or Pokhara) or even a person who has some balance in their e-sewa account. Next you hand them the cash and request them to transfer said cash to your esewa account associated with your email address. Then with the cash available in your esewa account you can load cash in any mobile you like. This can be pretty handy if you don’t want to run to a store or if you’re travelling to remote areas where stores aren’t as readily available.
Oh and esewa will credit you back the tax amount that is normally charged when buying a reload card. For example, when you buy Rs 100 recharge card you only get Rs 98.03 worth of recharge in your mobile. However, when you attempt to load Rs 100 via esewa, you’ll still only get Rs 98.03 worth of recharge but the net difference of Rs 2 gets credited back to your esewa account.
I recently made two separate stays at Crown Plaza Kathmandu also known as “Soaltee” ( literally means sister’s husband’s brother) hotel. The first one was on occasion of Christmas 2016 and the second was on new year eve 2017. Overall I spend 6 days on Soaltee.
At the moment there are three major international chains with loyalty program in Nepal namely Hyatt, Club Carlson, and IHG. All three of them have a property in Kathmandu and I’ve recently visited and reviewed Hyatt Regency Kathmandu as well as Raddison Kathmandu. Even before I booked Soaltee I expected my experience to be somewhere in between of Hyatt and Raddison and after spending 6 days at Soaltee I can safely say that prediction was spot on.
Soaltee, one of the few 5 star hotels in Nepal Soaltee, is a 12 acre property located in Kalimati – one of the residential neighborhood of Kathmandu. As such there isn’t anything too exciting happening nearby. The only major nearby attraction (in walking distance) is Swayambhunath stupa, which is about 30 minutes away on foot. Do note that Swayambhu lies on a hilltop so you’ll have to climb some stairs but once that is done you’ll be greeted by a world heritage and a decent view of the Kathmandu city. Oh and there are lots of monkeys up there so don’t bring any food out in open.
This hotel, alike Hyatt and Raddison in Kathmandu, costs $100-145 per night. However, since this is a category 3 hotel it costs a whooping 25,000 IHG points. I was able to book each night for 5,000 points each, all thanks to the pointbreaks program.
First impression on arrival
Alike Hyatt hotel, it takes a nice 5 or minute walk to get to the hotel from the main entrance. Once I got to the lobby the very first thing I noticed was that they’ve plenty of help desks and staffs to help you.
While checking in we were served with a glass of juice and soon after the receptionist started to go over the benefits of my status and whatnot. During both my stays I was upgraded without even asking for one.
The benefits of Platinum status
The most noteworthy benefit was the free breakfast. I was verbally told of this and could not find it anywhere in writing.
Now almost every morning we went for a breakfast, a staff member would come over, and put a paper on our table saying “platinum member”. It seemed like platinum was a pretty big status around here.
As for the breakfast itself, it was definitely better than that of Radisson but not as good as that of Hyatt. By the end of both my stays I was tired of eating more or less same breakfast every morning. It didn’t help that they had limited options when it came to vegetarian food.
First impression of the room
It was a pretty clean room that had everything I had come to expect from a 5 star hotel in Kathmandu. There isn’t much to say here so I’ll let some picture do the talking.
The view from my room from either of my stay wasn’t particularly exciting but it wasn’t all that bad either.
Now to my surprise the content of complimentary fruit basket was different on both my visits. This came as a surprise because this hotel barely bother to change things up for breakfast.
A day before Christmas (or maybe the day of Christmas…I can’t remember), hotel staff were delivering these little fellas to every room.
Then they had couple of Christmas trees by the lobby. Unfortunately those gifts are empty and the tree was never lit up. Nevertheless this was a pretty cool thing considering less than 1.5% of Nepalese population is Christian.
On the contrary the hotel property was lit up pretty good on New Year Eve.
The hotel had events going on during both Christmas and new year eve. Unfortunately we felt that the ticket pricing for these events were too costly (roughly $50-100) and passed on them.
Last but not least the hotel staff were pretty cool. I had mentioned in IHG website that we were there for an occasion (which I will not disclose here) and they were rather quick to pick up on that. Soon after checking into the room a call came by inquiring if we will be celebrating the occasion by dining downstairs. Then I was told that they were baking a cake for us and that it would be “on the house”.
Is the booking cost worth it?
I will flat out say that paying $100+ for a hotel in Nepal isn’t of my taste. That $100 can do a ton of things for me in Nepal. Additionally I think 25k points per night is too high of a fee for award booking in this hotel. I was fairly pleased with my 5k pointbreaks redemption.
If you’re looking for a resort like experience in Kathmandu in this price range and if for some reason you can’t book Hyatt then this is the hotel to go with. Otherwise, points booking is too costly and the location isn’t all that exciting (compared to say Lazimpat of Raddison). But this is not to say that this isn’t a good property – after all this is where some foreign head of states, including Queen Elizabeth II and Princess Diana, have stayed during their visit of Nepal.