Breaking conventions with my posts so far, I'll group together two cities (capitals, even!) in different countries in one post. Mostly because I didn't spend a whole lot of time in either, and writing these posts requires some discipline ;)
When I left Dulan, I first headed for Tainan. An arduous 7 hour journey by car, train, and bus. Tainan used to be the capital of Taiwan, until it was moved to Taipei. A quick lesson in Chinese: 北 (bei/pei) means north, 南 (nan) means south, and 东 (dong/tung) means east. A lot of cities in both China and Taiwan have their position in the country come back in their names!
Tainan was first settled by Dutch colonialists, and some buildings of this era still remains. Although the Japanese had little regard for history, and removed or modified a lot of the buildings, some forts and houses were still distinguishably European. Besides this little dive into history, I had little to see in Tainan so I headed for Taipei by bus the day after.
I went to see some more sights in Taipei, like the Chiang Kai Shek memorial, and a nearby village. But it was raining most of the time, and as such I spent most of my time inside little cafes, planning my next moves and looking into ways to make some money while travelling. Unfortunately, my treasury is running dangerously low...
Then came the long journey to Kathmandu. During my last day in Taipei I almost completely ran out of cash, which was convenient in some ways (no need to exchange money for bad rates!), but inconvenient in others as I couldn't buy any dinner in the city. Despite being such a technologically forward country, Taiwan seems fond of cash.
I decided to skip dinner for now and get to the airport first. Surely I could pay with card there. When I left the metro however, there was a problem. My public transport card didn't have enough money on it to pay the fare of the trip I just made. A lady at the help desk informed me I was 90 yuan short. I had 80 in my wallet. Luckily she let the remaining 10 yuan (28 eurocents) slide. Now I was truly out of money.
Fortunately, I could buy some classic airport food with my credit card. After a little wait, I took my first flight, from Taipei to Kuala Lumpur. This took about 4 hours, and I landed at 4am local time. On the airport, I had to go through customs and pick up my bag as my transfer was with a different airline. However, when I tried to figure out where to check in, I discovered that I had to go to a different airport. A short panic followed, but I was quickly informed that it would only take 10 minutes by train. In hindsight, I would have actually enjoyed a longer trainride, as now I just had to wait for my next flight in this next airport... My flight for Kathmandu was at 8.30 in the morning. About 30 minutes before landing, the Himalayas came into sight. Unfortunately I didn't have a window seat, but regardless it was a sight to behold!
Once in Kathmandu, my final leg of the journey was trying to get from the airport to my hostel without being ripped off. An army of touts trying to get you in their taxi bombards you as soon as you leave the airport. After a while, I managed to get a fair price for my ride. Then it turned out I shared the taxi with two other backpackers who both paid the same fair price as well. We let it slide. The taxi ride offered a good taste of what was to come in Kathmandu: Crazy traffic, small streets and a lot of dust. Although this might not appeal to most, I was actually very happy to have chosen Nepal over Vietnam: it was completely different from the Asia I've seen so far.
In the hostel I met Jack, a Wallonian who was fed up with his life back in Belgium and decided to go to Nepal for a month. He had been here for 2 months now, with plans to go to India. Besides bumming around Kathmandu, he was busy finding jobs, selling his apartment back home and informing his parents that he;ll be gone for some time to come. We spend the days hanging around at the hostel or wandering through Kathmandu.
One day we escaped the smog and dust together with an employee at the hostel on his day off. It was refreshing to be away from the noise for a while, and we could actually see the Himalayas!
After a few days, I decided it was time to give Kathmandu a break and go to Pokhara, the tourist capital of Nepal. Since Kathmandu is the hub of Nepal, and has the only International airport, I'll be back for sure.