Friday, September 12, 2008

Load shedding, strikes, non-taxi transport, and cell phone

Quissential to Nepal, the following four terms:

1) Load shedding. Load shedding is a euphamism for scheduled power cuts. This occurs in Nepal to meet power supply and demand. During the monsoon season, the power cuts are less than during the dry season. Most of Nepal is used to this, and nice facilities will have generators which will kick in during the load shedding hours. Although there is a schedule for different sections of town - today, for example, load shedding occured during 14:00 - 18:00 - this schedule is not followed percisely. Account for your portable electronics to be fully charged, and that services which require two sections of town (eg. television, communicatons) to be down twice the load schedding schedule, on average. The current load shedding schedule, as of 9/11/2008, is 31.5 hrs/wk; however, this is subject to rapid change, as from mid-August to mid-September the schedule was set at 16 hrs/wk.

2) Strikes. Strikes in Kathmandu are frequent, and can bring the whole capital to a standstill. It is part of the Nepali political process, and probably occur for good reason. When a strike is called, notice is usually passed from public word-of-mouth. By the time one sees a strike article in the newspaper, such as the Kathmandu Post or (a good website for Nepali news!), it is probably many hours already in effect. During a strike, transportation screeches to a halt, as well as the sector in question (markets, hospitals, shops, etc...) and police are stationed to prevent massive protests. The positive side effect of this is that the air becomes wonderful to breathe! During a strike, many governments do not advise their nationals to travel outside; the Korean goverment, for example, calls its citizens to inform them to stay home. However, I found my trip outside fine; just avoid the protesters one meets, if any, and obey the strike rules.

3) Non-taxi transport. Other transport in Nepal occurs by walking, bike, motorbike, tempo, mini-bus, or bus. Tempos, mini-buses, and buses are hard to navigate without knowing Nepali, but they usually stick to the main roads (there are few in Kathmandu and Patan). One can rent a bike for use, or travel like the Nepalis do - on motorbike. However, walking will be the transport of choice for most. Get a map, as there are literally no road signs in Nepal and most roads are unmarked. With the map, one can at least match hotel and restaurant names to locations and triangulate a position. This is particularly handy in Thamel.

4) Cell phone. A rudimentary GSM cell phone network, with no EDGE/GPRS data service, exists. I am unsure about CDMA. Mobi mobile sells SIM cards for 510 Rp, incuding 490 Rp credit, through stores. One can add more credit through recharge cards. The reception in Kathmandu is excellent; however call-service is poor. I am not sure if this is due to an analog network, or VOIP. It is very cheap to call nepal, 35 Rp/ min for international, and free to recieve calls, as of September 2008.

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