The teahouses that we stay in are all very similar, there are anywhere from 8 – 20 motel-style rooms; there is a main kitchen and dinning hall and a sitting area typically overlooking a spectacular view. The rooms are Spartan-like, 12 x 12, two single beds with a mattress that is about three inches thick (although I must admit, fairly comfortable) and usually one electrical outlet that typically doesn’t work. We always get a room with bathroom, most rooms don’t have one, but the bathroom is also very Spartan-like. It is about the size of a small closet and consists of only a toilet and a spout coming out of the wall, which is the shower; no sink and no mirror (thank god) and a drain in the middle of the room. Because there is no separation, no curtain, no anything except the spout, you could actually take a shower while you’re going to the bathroom. (Nope, haven’t tried it yet). There is one light in the bedroom about the size of a golf ball and it doesn’t work during the day when the power is shut off. There is usually a clothesline outside your door so that you can wash and rinse out the cloths you wore all day and hang them out to dry. The ‘deluxe’ room, the one with the shower, also has a Spartan-like price; on average about $6.50 a nigh!. But you don’t get a mint on your pillow, in fact sometimes you don’t get a pillow.
Every food looked so foreign to us that we really couldn’t figure out what to try, so we’d order something that we thought looked good from the pictures on the menu. When our food came, Dom and Kirin’s food always looked better, so next time we’d order what they had at the last meal and they’d order something different . . . that looked better than ours. One of their favorites is Dal Bhat, a combination of rice, lentil soup, potatoes with curry, chili peppers, throw in some chicken or other meat and viola! What’s interesting is they eat it with their hands – remember they don’t attend too many black-tie dinners. There is virtually the same menu throughout the Himalayas and they try to do a little bit of everything, Italian, Korean, Mexican, Japanese, Indian and American – most of the Asian dishes are the best. Some of the unusual items on the menu include:
Porridge, I thought that word died with Goldie Locks and the Three Bears. Goat cheese and Yak cheese – Patrick says, with a smile and a twinkle in his eye (which means he’s bull shiting), that he can taste the difference. Curry everything, Momo (pot stickers), Chicken lasagna, I actually tried this one and it was pretty good, although it tasted nothing like lasagna or chicken for that matter. Another fine Italian dish I tried was Tuna Pizza; don’t hold your breath waiting for is one to come to the states! any time soon. I couldn’t bring myself to try the Himalayan burrito (who knows what’s in there?). Most of our meals, even breakfast, have some sort of noodles in them, and every place serves apple pie, although it looks nothing like apple pie – but very good. The most expense item on the menu is in the $4 range.
On the beverage side, you can get about 50 varieties of tea as well as Coke, Sprite and Orange Fanta in a bottle. Of course I had to try the local beers, two main brands, Nepal Ice, which has an alcohol content of 7%; combine that with the thin air and you’re buzzed before you’re half finished. The other beer, my favorite, is Everest, it taste really good, but what I really like is their they great marketing slogan: “Our beer is colder than your ex-wife”.
The Himalayan Cremation
When we reached Tolka I discovered that I was missing my prescription glasses. I looked all through my pockets and pack and they were nowhere to be found. I remember having them the night before while reading in bed and then setting them on the window ledge next to the bed. While reaching for my watch or flashlight during the night I must have knocked them off and they ended up under the bed and out of sight. In Tolka, the lady who owned the teahouse where we stayed, called back to the teahouse in Jhinu and asked if they found the glasses. Kirin had volunteered to go back early the next morning and get them – that’s just a quick 16 miles before breakfast! I think he has lungs that could breathe on Mars. Fortunately for Kirin, but unfortunately from me, when the lady hung up the phone, she said, “They found the glasses, but they were broken, they threw them in the trash and they have already burned the trash today.” So my glasses have been cremated and the ashes have been scattered in the Himalayas – so I guess I’ll always have that going for me.