Upper Crust @ Krishna Villa

The spectacular and paranomic view of Kathmandu Valley was undeniably the most alluring and breathtaking one that Upper Crust attendees must have seen in a long time. All the houses and buildings lit with vibrant lights made it look like this city is still breathing and alive despite being the confluence of politics, pollution and population. Like a wise man once said, ‘There’s heaven everywhere. You just need to be in the right spot to see it…’ Well the wise man is justified at Krishna villa that rests in the heart of Budanilkantha. The Upper Crust event that entertained and kept the crowd on a jolly beat was surely one of those events that featured some very creative and acclaimed musicians in a boutique resort where luxury and recreation becomes a state of mind.

The band Outrage Us (Mahesh Tandukar, Ian Eustis and Kismat D. Shrestha) did some jazz and funk numbers followed by Kristina Allen , backed up by Sunny Tuladhar, Abhisekh Bhadra and Kiran Shahi. They played Allens poputlar song like Pani Paryo and Walk Away from her new debut album- ‘Nabadhana’ and also did some cover songs.  The members of Monkey Temple covered some good numbers like Joker and the thief. Space Cake Break, who enticed the crowd with their original numbers like ‘This Box’, ‘Facing West’, ‘Maggots Dream’, ‘Donna’, and May be Bay.

Krishna Villa represents fine food, luxury and lifestyle at its best. Gone are the days when only the privileged had the opportunity to wine and dine in luxury. Krishna Villa is open for anyone and everyone who likes living life king size and with a swag. The only downside being the fact that reservation should be taken beforehand. It is an ethereal hideaway for people searching for paradise on earth accompanied by gastronomically pleasant food, wine and a marvelous stay. The restaurant (La Vally View Restro & Bar) at Krishna Villa Resort serves mainly fusion gourmet French and Italian food. This year Krishna villa introduces premium caviar, foie gras, escargot, turkey, lime sorbet, Italian artisan ice creams, macaroons and several out door packages to entice your senses. It also presents wide ranges of menus from standard to V.I.P. The services become more personalised and the cutleries refined as you upgrade the menus. When you dine at Krishna villa, it’s the special treatment you get that makes the dining experience so much worthwhile. However, there are only three different themed rooms open for stay, the villa’s forte being quality rather than quantity. Each room has been detailed, customised and designed keeping in mind the taste and choice of varied customers. It’s these little details and extra effort that make the customer’s stay and dining experience memorable for a lifetime. Visit the resort once, you won’t regret it.

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The Busy Road Less Travelled

A tussle to create jam free roads

Traffic jams! K-town dwellers are truly saturated with this phenomenon and it’s almost correct to assume that they don’t care anymore. The ship of nagging, complaining and hoping for a clearer street has sailed. However, the presence of Shekhar Chandra Rai, better known as Mr. Ravi Rai has always made me feel that I can still make it to my destination on time. He is not traffic personnel by profession nor is he carrying out a specific assignment to help clear the seemingly awful traffic jams in and around the streets of Kathmandu. He is just another layman like you and I. The only difference between him and us is precisely his decision to take a different path, unrestricted and unrestrained by anything or anyone. He is a volunteer working with traffic personnel during peak hours.

Rai has been controlling the traffic over four consecutive years, and still continues to devote six to seven hours of his time every day to the busy streets. Does he get paid? He certainly does not. It is Rai’s desire to create less congested roads that keep him coming back to the traffic hot spots of Thapathali, Gaushala, Chabahil, New Baneshwor, and possibly anywhere there is a jam. In addition to alleviating jams, Rai hopes to encourage respect for traffic rules among restless and undisciplined local bus drivers, micro and tempo drivers and pedestrians alike, should they not abide the law.

On a personal note, his work requires him to be strong and perseverant. But despite the hectic rush of controlling the daily traffic Mr. Rai remains an equally joyful person in his every day life. Manjil Shrestha had a tete-a-tete with Mr. Rai and shares with you the joys he has had over the years as a self-motivated traffic controller.

Excerpt:

Tell us about yourself.

I was born in 2029 B.S. in Beldangi, Jhoda of Jhapa district. I came to Kathmandu in 2053 B.S. in the search of better job opportunities and opened a lodge in Gaushala. I have a joint family of 20 members. And it’s been almost half a decade since I started volunteering as a traffic controller.

How did you get inspired to volunteer as a traffic jam controller?

I run a hotel in Gaushala. Being one of those parts of the Ring Road that is densely overloaded with big buses, trucks and micros, traffic jams had always been a sad thing to see while working in my hotel. The frustrated honking, hyper tensed faces of the drivers and the despair of a solitary traffic policeman trying to control the difficult scenario, really made me contemplate the situation a lot. I guess that inspired me to volunteer in the first place. I initially participated in a Traffic Awareness Program and, as time passed, I started to enjoy what I did. It became a part of who I am today.

How many hours do you volunteer in a day?

Usually 6 to 7 hours a day, depending on the traffic jam. Normal jams can be cleared in less than two hours but traffic in Thapathali can take as long as 3 hours to clear.

The roads have been widened in a lot of busy places, and yet that hasn’t been able to reduce the traffic jams. What’s your say on that?

I don’t think wider roads will make a difference until a positive attitude towards traffic rules is shown by all drivers as well as pedestrians. The new spaces will only be neutralizing the pressure of new vehicles on the road. The traffic jams will still be the same.

The bus, micro and tempo drivers and also pedestrians seem to be agitated by your presence. Does that bother you?

I really don’t care what they think about me. But I do want my presence to pinch the soul of all the careless, sly, misbehaved and disobedient drivers and pedestrians. I am contributing to society as an unpaid volunteer. They should realize that fact and appreciate it. I may appear harsh and mean to them but that’s how I must be for a better result and their own safety.

 Is there a remark that you remember in particular that someone made to you while you were volunteering on a busy street?

(Smiles) I get a lot of that but one incident which moved me was when I was volunteering in Maitidevi Chowk three years ago. Some young college boys looked at me and I overheard them saying, ‘Who is this guy? Why is he here? Why is there always a Jam when he is there?’ But I took this remark positively. People were acknowledging my presence and my being there made sure that drivers did not stop in an undesignated place.  And, I would like to add (chuckling) that it’s not my presence that causes the Jam. I am there because there is one.

What does the traffic system of Kathmandu lack?

A lot of things, actually – traffic lights aren’t much use during peak hours. Many times when we manually manage the busy traffic light areas, we have to violate the rules of the traffic light and regulate the flow of traffic based on the situation and time. The penalty charges for local transportation stopping and picking up passengers at the wrong spots must be properly implemented. Even today, a driver will pull over at the wrong spot, take as many passengers, bargain with the traffic police, disturb an entire lane for about ten minutes, pay the penalty of Rs.60 and still be on a profit. The cunning drivers pass through the same road dozens of times. They know the psyche of every traffic person in charge there. They know who is strict and who is liberal. Also, the pedestrians must abide by the traffic rules. It’s for their safety.

What can make the traffic flow more relaxed and easy?

Overhead Bridges on the busy intersection of Thapathali, New Baneshwor, Chabahil and Maharajgunj could be a good step to begin with. Small micro buses shouldn’t be added to the existing number and instead mini buses that can carry more passengers must be given priority. Bottle neck road structures should be widened for a better traffic flow on peak hours. Traffic personnel must be stricter. An irrational habit of charging motorbikes with Rs. 200 penalty and micro buses with Rs.60 for stopping on the wrong place must be stopped.

Do you still want to continue volunteering?

Managing traffic during peak hours has become an addiction for me. It gives me pleasure and complete satisfaction. That’s where I find happiness now.  The moments I feel true satisfaction in what I am doing is when I see systematic traffic flow with no obstructions. That’s actually all I have ever wanted to get from volunteering. It will be a long time before I retire from this.

How has your personal life been affected by your volunteering service?

The drawbacks and negative impacts of every action can always be minimized by perceiving it in a positive way. Had I not been volunteering, I would have more time for my joint family of 18 members and my hotel business. I could have earned some more money in these four and a half years. But I wouldn’t be as satisfied as I am today. And with the support I get from my family, I think I have been able to balance everything that I am doing. I once went to Banepa to attend Barha Barse Mela (a twelve year festival) where there was a tremendous jam. I came out of the bus and started easing the traffic and got us through along with all the others in the queue. I still remember the faces of my family members then. They were proud of what I did.

Any embarrassing moments?

Believe me, it is an awkward moment to be offered money or presents when you are volunteering for a social cause just for personal satisfaction. Once a man on a motorbike came to me in Gaushala chowk and tried to give me some money as a note of appreciation and also a foreigner who did the same when I helped him steer out of busy traffic. I felt embarrassed and uneasy about it.

Do you have any words of advice for the readers or should I say the riders?

Speeding and overtaking will not make you reach your destination any faster. The vehicles that you have left behind will surely catch up with you in the jam at the next stop. Therefore, I request people to be considerate of fellow drivers, and abide by traffic rules. And if you are a pedestrian, respect the presence of a traffic person who is there for your safety. Yes, they may seem mean and tense but standing under the scorching sun and whistling back to all the horns and managing the jam is quite an arduous task, which people do not always realise.

 

Hitchhiking!!!!!

We knew it was almost impossible but our belief was injected with a tremendous amount of hope and courage to have one of the best hitch-hiking trips ever. So despite the strike, scorching sun and the thirst, we went on. Travelling on public transport and motorbikes had completely ruined our reasoning power of distance. We expected a familiar place to arrive after a certain bends but it was only after dozen similar bends that we finally would come to the resting point. The stereotypical Nepal actually begins after we farewell Kathmandu and her two sister cities.

The strong rumours that Kathmandu Valley would be closed for the day had ignited this plan in our head. We wanted to do something that was much productive than just staying idle in Freak Street. It was only after arriving at the border of Dhading and Kathmandu that we found out it was a strike in Dhading, not in Kathmandu. But what could stop a heart that has been craving for something adventurous and exciting? We looked at each other and we knew right away that no one wanted to go back to the unplanned and chaotic civilization. We had one tent, and only one sleeping bag since Sarah forgot hers in a shop at Kalanki), a small guitar, a bottle of water, a battery operated Lantern, and clothes to change. Prabin, with his Nikon D80, captured the entire trip.

We took a local bus from Kalanki that left us stranded two kilometers from Tribhuwan Park. By the time Sarah realised that she had left her sleeping bag in one of the shops of Kalanki, the bus came to a halt and going back to get it was simply out of the question. As we left Kathmandu, where one wouldn’t think twice to assist another in trouble, we encountered many people who were ready to help us just because we were there. We first hitched in a micro bus for a few kilometres, but were soon unceremoniously ejected. The truck drivers, who did not give us a lift, gave us an apologetic expression for not being able to help. The fresh water coming down from the mountains were viewed as no less than the Holy Grail to our dehydrated bodies.

Everyone on the outskirts acknowledged our presence and we never felt intruded or unaccepted. It was only Prabin, Shristy and I with flip-flops and after walking for a couple of kilometres, Yuskey and Sarah had to opt for the same since their shoes added to the heat of the sun. There were only speeding tourist buses and a couple of bikes owning the empty highway. We saw landscapes that could never be seen by travelling in a bus or car.

At one point, after walking for almost 30 kilometres, we were completely exhausted when all of a sudden a truck, on the way to Birgunj, stopped and gave us a ride on its back. That hitchhike lasted long enough for Yuskey to sing some folk Nepali songs on his guitar. The truck pulled over in a short while since there was a log of wood in the middle of the road with some protestors making the Banda effective. We stopped for a while and then started walking. Sarah and Shristy, were mistaken for foreigners by the locals when we heard one of them say ‘they have come to Nepal to walk around and see our village life. Strike is good for them.’

Well, strike was neither a good or new thing for Nepal but it surely became momentarily and exclusively for the five of us. A grey coloured Skoda with a tourist number plate, coming from Kathmandu, stopped next to us (you may not be that lucky) and offered a lift. One of the protestors who had seen us walking had requested the driver of the car to take us along if we paid some money. And we did, but very little. On the entire trip that lasted for about 45 minutes, we were smiling and feeling lucky. We knew some divine force was looking down on us and giving us free perks from time and again.

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We wanted to go to this waterfall that Yuskey was talking about but, as it had been a year he last visited, we could not find the way. Finally the driver who was listening to our conversation assured us that he knew of a similar waterfall on the way to Pokhara. And it really was the one we were looking for. We bid the driver goodbye and asked him to join us in Kathmandu whenever he was free. We climbed the hill that had the water fall but then there were some rowdy locals who made it really uncomfortable for us to have a good time so we gave up the idea and walked all the way to Abu Khaireni, where we bought noodles, water melon and an apple.

We had seen a lot of good river banks on the way where we could camp but we still wanted to look out for more. We started exploring Daraudi River from one point to another and, for almost an hour, searched for a good spot. We were searching for a narrower spot from where it would be safe to cross the river. A man in his early forties came to us and advised us not to cross the river since it was very risky. Instead he showed us a better place to camp and went away climbing the cliffs as if he was a lizard.

Though it was two nights before full moon, it looked almost like one of those nights were the moon was at its very best and one could stare endlessly at the beauty of the sky. And, to add to that spell binding night, we were camping by a river indulging in the perfect company of each other. The synergy of the songs Shristy and Yuskey sang on top of that splendid aura was so alchemic that it felt like the wind was drifting my soul away. The girls taught us to swim and we got so hooked with it that we were swimming till four in the morning.

The sunrise was very difficult to wake up to. The hangover of all the fun we had yesterday was filled with a tremendous amount of body ache. We packed our tents, cleaned the river bank, repacked our bags and started on the search of a hotel something to eat. The hotel we chose for our dinner happened to be owned by the same person who had advised us not to cross the river. We planned to swim for an hour before having our lunch but we ended up swimming for a couple. The local boys helped us cross the river, taught us swimming and also rescued us many a times.

‘Oi, ma dubey hai (hey I am drowning)’- With these words, Yuskey drowned as he courageously tried to cross the river alone. One of the locals rushed in for his rescue and brought him back safely. But after all that practice the night I’m pretty sure that Yuskey would have made out himself. An old suspension bridge with some of its ropes stretching down to the river became a good swinging sport for us.

Three chicken set dinner with Karela, and 2 vegetarian sets with 4 plates of Chana, two jumbo bottles of chilled water and a jumbo coke cost us around Rs.700. The lunch felt very replenishing. We started after a break of half hours. We climbed to the highway and, with the hitching hiking adventures over, took a bus back to Kathmandu.

Hitch hiking, unlike typical travelling, is getting to know a place like a local rather than normal travelers. Travelers get acquainted with spots that have been commercialized and altered for them. It helps you become open towards a life style and culture adhered in that place and is really worth it with all the things you get to explore that would normally be overlooked in normal travelling. For instance, local people are worried and concerned about your safety when you swim in the river near their houses. Try hitch hiking and you will know because no one will stop you from diving off a 12 foot rock by the river even if you don’t know how to swim.