The journey from Kathmandu to Kodari was quite pleasant, as a group of us from our office made our way to Zhangmu, the border town of Tibet on 1st Sept ’08. There were many marvelous sights on the way, waterfalls cascading down the mountainside wreathing the green mountains like white ribbons, the rivers gurgling by the roadside. Apart from some minor landslides at one or two places, it was an altogether smooth ride. We had been expecting worse, as we had heard about the bad condition of the road that leads to Kodari. But it was not that bad. In fact it was quite smooth sailing. On the way we passed by ‘The Last Resort’ and saw the famous metal suspension bridge over the Bhote Kosi river.It took nearly four hours to reach Kodari. By that time it was raining heavily. We needed to get a pass to cross over to the Chinese side.
The Nepalese immigration office issues passes to Nepalese nationals on producing the citizenship card. This pass is valid to let you enter the Chinese side. For other nationals, a Chinese visa is required. After getting the pass from the Nepalese immigration office (a small office with few chairs that is situated beside the road), we crossed the Friendship Bridge and entered the Chinese side. There is a red mark on the middle of the bridge that divides the Chinese and the Nepalese side. The Chinese guard stationed at the gate, checked our bags very thoroughly. From there, the town of Zhangmu is about 8kms uphill. Vans and taxis ply regularly. We got into a van which charged NRs 100/- each per person. The road on the Chinese side was quite different from Nepal’s. In Nepal the roads are tarred and pitched while the Chinese pave their roads with concrete. Another difference is, the Chinese driver sits on the left side.
The road (the white strip) that leads to Zhangmu. The hills on the right hand side is Nepal
The inhabitants of Zhangmu are a mix of Nepalese (mostly Sherpas), Tibetan and Han Chinese. Though the currency is RMB they accept Nepalese currency too. If you are a Nepali you won’t get lost as most of the shopkeepers speak and understand Nepali. It took about half an hour to reach the town. By the time we reach Zhangmu it was already getting dark and cold. We made a beeline for the Base Camp restaurant. The restaurant is a haunt of expedition members and foreigners in general. It is decorated with snow boots, crampons, trekking sticks, ice axes and various national flags. We were told by the Nepalese cook who worked there that during peak season the restaurant remains so packed that it is impossible to get seats. But while we were there, the restaurant was not full yet it was not empty either. There were a few Australians and Americans.
The border town of Zhangmu (Tibet)
The Chinese time is ahead to the Nepali time by 2 hrs 15mins. So even though it was only 7pm Nepali time, in Zhangmu was 9:15pm. Maybe it was a psychological effect, I was yawing already! For dinner we decided to have authentic Chinese and thus made our way to a Chinese restaurant located just a few steps up and across the Base Camp restaurant. Though our order was for five people, the food served was enough to feed ten! Rice, chicken soup and a variety of chicken side dishes, we had a sumptuous dinner: not bad for NRs1500! Since we were planning to leave early the next day, some of us wanted to go shopping. It was close to 10pm (according to the local time) and most of the shops were closed .But luckily we found a departmental store that was still open. Most of the stuff that is available in Zhangmu is readily available in the khasa market of Ason in Kathmandu and there’s not much of a price difference (that’s what I discovered). While going through the stuff at the store’s rack, I came across a ‘never- seen / tasted-before’ candy: chicken and duck’s candied feet .Wrapped in a transparent plastic bag, the legs looked weird and scary, placed one over the other, like shriveled human hands. The lady at the store explained to me that it tasted sweet and was prepared using sugar and molasses. According to her the kids over there loved it. By the time we got back to the hotel, it was raining cats and dogs.
We were spending the night at Sherpa Hotel. We booked double rooms with twin beds. The room was quite clean, the beds were comfortable, the sheets were clean and there was hot & cold running water in the attached bathroom. A discotheque/ nightclub that was located right next to the hotel blared Chinese pop music at full volume. I drifted off to sleep, listening to loud Chinese techno music competing with the sound of rain and the roar of the thundering Bhote Koshi river.
Morning dawned, and we were ready to make our return journey. After a quick breakfast at the hotel’s café, we drove down to the immigration office through hairpin bends and finally crossed the Friendship Bridge to the Nepal side.