Zhangmu is the Chinese border cross town for entry into Nepal, and was built in the 1970's when the border post was moved from Nyall. The town is built on a slope, with narrow roads and is approximately 10km from the border crossing and the Freindship Bridge, which is the actual crossing point. The hotel we stayed at in Zhangmou was not the usual hotel used by Wendy Wu tours, as that was fully booked for a delegation. Instead we stayed in another hotel which was not supposed to take foreigners. As a result we were not encouraged to loiter in the foyer, or use the restaurant. Dinner and breakfast were therefore taken in a nearby restaurant. Breakfast was omelete and toast and honey or jam, a pleasant change after some recent meals.
Left the hotel at 7:30am even though the border doesn't open until 10:00 am, as our guide wanted to beat the crowd, All foreigners have to leave China (including Tibet) by end of today so that the country can close its borders for a week (It appears that there are elections taken place). The timing of this tour just fitted in with the closure, as the following tour had to be cancelled because off this closure of borders.
The drive to the border crossing was incredible, and took an hour (for 10km). The road is steep and winding, with room for 2 vehicles only. However, many trucks were parked along the road, with their drivers asleep in the cabins, waiting for customs to open. Therefore the bus had to wind its way down this winding road with only inches to spare between the parked trucks and the edge of the road (which dropped into the valley). At one stage a truck driver had to be woken to move his truck forward to allow us to pass. Suffice to say we were the first group to arrive at the Customs point. Our driver dropped us off and returned up the road, How we was going to cope with any oncoming traffic is unknown. By 10:00 am the customs area was full of tour groups waiting to leave. Photos in the customs area are not encouraged, although everyone was taking them. However, I was approached by a soldier unhappy that I had taken a photo of the entry to the Freindship Bridge. Passed through Customs, although my copy of the Lonely Planet Guide to Tibet was confiscated as an inflammatory publication. Apparently early editions used to contain a photo of the Dalai Lhama, which is forbiden in China. Although mine was a new edition which did not include the Dalai Lhama, they still took it and thoroughly searched my luggage. Our tour escort said I was unlucky as she and others had copies of the same Lonely Planet book, and they were not taken.
The walk across the Freindship bridge was another experince. Nepalase porters including old ladies and ladies with children carry our luggage on their backs using head ropes. Couldn't take photos because as we were still in Chinese customs area, and soldiers lined the bridge. I wasn't going to push my luck any more. Arrived in Nepal where customs and immigration are a formality, then met by our new tour guide and taken to our new bus, where the bags were waiting.
Nepal border town is just as chaotic as Zhangmu in Tibet.
The drive from the border to Bhaktapur is 150km, but would take about 5 hours, The road is rough, potholed, and twists and turns, and passes through many small villages which are entertaing to see. Stopped for a toilet break which involved crossing a very long swinging bridge (although made of metal), with a steep drop to the river below. The bridge is used for bungee jumping. Lunch was at a resort lodge in the town of Dhulikel. Tables out on a balcony with views over the valley (and apprently of the Himalaya on a clear day, which today wasn't), with a buffet lunch and a bottle of Everest beer. After lunch, a short walk through the town of Dhulikel before continuing on to our hotel at Dhulkhel where we will stay for two nights.
The hotel is superb. Very large rooms, comfortable, hot water, everything you can wish for. We are going to enjoy these two nights.
A leisurely start oday at 9:30am with drive to the Changu Narayan, a World Heritage listed sites, as a Hindu temple has existed on this site since the 3rd century AD. Entry into the main temple is restricted to Hindus, but the buildings and surrounding village are stunning.
After the Hindu temple we returned to Bhaktapur for a walking tour of the Durbar Square. This is one of 3 Durbar Squares, the other 2 being in Pokhara and Kathmandu. The Durbar Square is the original area occupied the city ruling King, and containing the palace. The Durbar covers many blocks and is home to people and shops and stalls and monuments as well as the palace. Stuuning buildings and monuments. Had lunch in a restaurant that is a converted temple. After linch a walk around the streets of the Durbar. The street hawkers don't take No for an answer and will follow a person forever until you back down and buy, or they find a more prospective victim. Returned to the hotel mid afternoon for a rest.
Afternoon drinks with a few fellow travellers followed by dinner in the hotel restaurant.