Took a few weeks off in the summer of 2010 to visit family, and spend a family vacation in Tibet. The initial plan was to fly into Kathmandu, NP (Nepali: काठमांडौ) and then onward into Lhasa, TAR, PRC to start our journey by road/trek into the Northern and North Western regions of the Himalayas.

Kathmandu is Nepal's capital and it's biggest city, and is only slightly smaller than Singapore in terms of footprint. Even though the city appears to be more modern and polluted each time I visit, it has managed to retain its cultural allure and blend it successfully with urbanization. The city is nestled in Katmandu Valley in the lower southern ranges of the Himalayan mountains, bordered by Patan south of the Bagmati River, and Bhaktapur near Eastern foothills.

I think a quote from 1960s book by Lionel Terray "At Grips With Jannu" sums it up nicely.

"There Buddhism and the Hindu religion met and mingled. The civilization of India rubbed shoulders with that of Tibet without completely snuffing out the traditional customs of the country. All these cultures had thrown up a host of temples, pagodas, palaces and monuments, most of them profusely ornamental in style, a few of beautiful and elegant simplicity.

Noisy cars fill its streets, modern stores display the bad taste of their luxury goods, and amazing networks of every kind of metal wire envelope the delicate traceries of the temples like gigantic spiders' webs. Fortunately the place has not lost all its charm in spite of this swift transformation. The temples and palaces still stand; the inhabitants still wear their gay apparel and their smiles. Strange music is always to be heard at every street cornet. In the old quarters, in the Bazaar, where dwells a pungent odour of spices and urine, and where the sacred cows wander ceaselessly, the dark alleys are still lit up by the same colourful and rumbling swarm of men and women of all races.

I love Kathmandu and its valley, as I love all of Nepal."

Upon arrival in Kathmandu city (1400m, 4593ft), issues with the Tibetan entry pass, and a sporadic flight schedule connecting Tibet from Kathmandu forced us to spend an additional two and half days in Kathmandu (this would be the start of many hindrances we encountered over the next two weeks). This seriously raised concerns as we had allocated an additional two days in our trekking schedule to allow complete acclimatization and this change would require us to push on at a much quicker pace. Given my previous episode with High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE) in 2008, I was aware that this posed considerable risk that cannot be underestimated, esp. for my parents. Nevertheless, we decided to make the best of it by taking in the local sights, some familiar from previous travels to this beautiful valley.

The Emerald valley has a high density of UNESCO World Heritage Monument Sites, totaling seven including Stupas that date back to early 460 AD. Visited six of these seven Heritage sites during our brief stay, and opted to miss visiting Bhaktapur in lieu of taking a "mountain flight" ride.

Pictures from my preceding trip to India can be found here - India
Pictures from my onward trip to Tibet can be found here - in progress

Camera: Canon EOS 5D II, Canon EOS 1D III, Canon Powershot G9 (Dad)
Optics: Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8 II L USM, Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 L USM, Canon EF 50 f/1.8 II, Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS USM, Canon EF 1.4x TC II
Filters: Hoya Pro 1D UV & CPL, Cokin Z-Pro GND Kit (ND2-121L, ND4-121M & ND8-121S), Cokin Grad Tobacco T2 Light (125L)
Lighting: Ambient, Speedlite 580EX II (bounced off White Card), Off-camera Flash Cable OC3
Support: Feisol 3402-CN + Manfrotto 488RC2 Ball-head
Digital Film: Sandisk Exterme Pro 16GB (2x), Extreme Pro 8GB, & Extreme 4GB
In-field Backup: HyperDrive Album w/640GB drive
GPS: Columbus V-900 & Garmin 400t Colorado