Three countries in two days

Kathmandu Travel Blog

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Indian version of Nicole

Contrary to widely held belief, I am still alive and well.  I’m currently at an internet café in Kathmandu paying an outrageous 50 cents an hour for internet access.  But here’s the story leading up to now:

On Friday I was able to switch to a 9am flight to Newark which gave me a 7 hour layover.  I’m very happy I did this, because later I found out my original flight was late as I had feared and I would have missed my flight to Delhi.  Plus, thanks to a computer glitch they didn’t charge me the rebooking fee, so I was very pleased.

First view of Kathmandu
  The flight to Delhi was 16 hours but went by extremely fast due to the individual TV screen for each seat.  There were something like 400 movies, 300 TV shows, music, and video games you could do at whim, something like having TIVO on the flight.  So I spent the trip watching CSI, King of Queens, Gandhi, and the Princess Bride and suddenly I was in Delhi. 

On the plane I was sitting next to a medical resident who was with a group who’d be touring hospitals and administering polio vaccines around India.  In front of me was a girl who was spending the next month volunteering at an orphanage in Delhi.  Then there was me, who plans to spend the next month as a completely selfish hedonist and doing nothing that will benefit the world in any shape or form.

Traffic jam in Thamel
  Sure made me feel good in comparison!

When I landed my taxi guy was there with a placard with my name on it, thankfully because that place is a zoo.  The taxi driver was great and completely unfazed by the fact that we nearly got in 30+ accidents on the 20 minute drive to my hotel.  I, on the other hand, had completely white knuckles waiting for the next car, rickshaw, motorcycle or cow to quickly put an end to my trip.  Surprisingly we got to Hotel Cottage Yes Please (yes, that is the actual name) intact and I was able to check in without incident.  The taxi driver very nicely called the airline and verified my flight for the next day without me even asking.  Meanwhile I was able to admire the Christmas tree sitting between Ganesh and Buddha statues in the lobby.

My room was very nice for the very cheap price that I paid and I was happy to find my own toilet and shower.  At least I think it was a shower, I’m still confused by the bucket underneath it.  The bed was very comfortable and it was completely silent throughout the night in the hotel so I slept very well.

This morning I woke up and tried to use the internet with little success.  I then walked outside my hotel and bought a banana for breakfast.   I’m sure I overpaid by spending 15 cents on it, but I’ll have to make up for it in my budget.  I was taking some pictures when this nice Indian man came up and asked if I was lost.  I asked if he knew where I could throw away the banana peel and he very kindly pointed to the curb which was littered with trash.  I threw it down feeling guilty but thinking the nearby cow or stray dogs might eat it, but he explained that street sweepers come by to remove the trash.  He walked with me for a few blocks and was very informative giving me the history of the city and pointing out different sights along the way.  He spoke the best English of any of the local people I’d met thus far so it was nice to be able to have a long conversation with someone.  We stopped by a large shop that sold clothing and the shopkeeper explained the different styles of clothing.  He even put a sari on me (see blurry picture) so I could see how they are put on.  It’s essentially one long sheet of fabric that you knot, tuck, and wrap around in a way that you are fully clothed.  Since I am attending a wedding later on the trip, I may need to buy one later so I was happy for the demonstration.  He also explained that many Westerners will buy the saris, wear them in India, and then make the fabric into a dress, curtains, or pillowcases later so I felt like maybe it wouldn't be too crazy if I need to buy a cheap one later for the wedding.  By then, it was getting close to the time for my taxi so Raju had us take a hair-raising cycle rickshaw ride back to the hotel.  I didn't have any small bills, so he paid for the rickshaw and wished me well.

My taxi was already there so I ran up to get my things and check out.  The hotel owner tried to charge extra for the room, but I produced an email listing the price and he switched it with an angry look on his face.  The ride to the airport was interesting since it was daytime and I could actually see.  India reminds me a lot of Serbia or Bosnia due to the general style of buildings and general disrepair.  I was told Delhi smelled so I had pictured the stench of New York with its sewers and garbage.  Actually, it's not a bad odor and smells more industrial which is probably a sign of the pollution.  I often feel like I need to sneeze and have a slight headache, but I'm not sure if this is due to the fumes or just being tired. 

I don't know why they have the painted traffic lanes because they seem to be meaningless here.  Roads generally combine or cross diagonally with no stop signs or traffic lights.  I've yet to see someone use a turn signal, but they are very proficient at their horns.  Generally the rule seems to be that you drive as fast as possible whipping across multiple lanes of traffic to switch roads.  Then throw in the occasional road block, parked car in the middle of the street, rickshaw, pedestrian and cow and you've got traffic in Delhi.  Plus they drive on the other side of the road which is just wrong.  I think the drivers here are much more skilled then the US, because I would not last 5 minutes driving in this city.

I got to the airport in plenty of time and met Annalieke from Holland who just graduated high school and will be volunterring at a children's hospital in a smaller city in Nepal for the next several months.  I was surprised that the Jet Airways plane for the one hour trip to Kathmandu also had the "TIVO" system, so I enjoyed watching the Office on my short trip. I also couldn't believe they had a beverage service three times and a full meal.  I had the veg meal which was some type of potatoes, a cheese curry, rice, cucumbers, flavored yogurt, and this milky dessert.  I had this bright green drink with it that tasted like salty lemonade.  They were also giving away free Heineken, but I ddin't feel like drinking.

Just before landing in Nepal I got my first glimpse of the Himalayas.  By the way, all photos from this entry on are taken by me, so yes that is what I saw.  It's just incredible.  I fell in love with Nepal completely before even hitting the ground.  I then really whipped through customs.  Literally, I went from disembarking on the plane, the arrivals desk, baggage claim, declaration, security scan, money exchange, and pre-paid taxi stand in less than 10 minutes.  I took the taxi directly to the travel agency in Thamel (neighborhood in Kathmandu).  They recognized me right away from the passport photo I'd emailed for my ticket reservation and had a nice packet with everything for me.  They even threw in a free meal at their restaurant in Pokhara.  I was amazed how quickly and organized it was.  I was then on my own in Thamel. 

It's a crazy area, as this is the center of the backpacking scene and is where most tourists stay.  Consequently, it is filled with shops upon shops upon restaurants upon hotels, touts (people trying to sell you things like treks or hotel stays), and tourists. 

The streets are very narrow like in Europe, but cars and motorcycles have no issue plowing through the hundreds of people in their way.  You literally are within inches of everything passing by, but you learn quickly how to manage.  I went to the Kathmandu Guest House which is the backpacker place to be.  I have a lovely room overlooking the garden.  It’s definitely aimed at tourists, but is like it’s own village with shops, restaurants, and a bank just for the people staying at the hotel.  There are also two policemen working at all times and preventing non-guests from getting through the gates so it feels rather safe.

            After checking in, I did some walking down the streets and had dinner at a rooftop restaurant across the street.  I had the best chicken I can recall ever eating and window-shopped for several hours.  Now I’m headed back to the hotel so I can sleep before my flight tomorrow.

princessbride029 says:
It was fun to live vicariously through your trip so far - I look forward to reading the rest!
Posted on: Feb 03, 2008
mimmee says:
I enjoyed reading your blog. Your sense of humour shows!!! I will be visiting many of the same locations in October this year. I look forward to reading about the remainder of your trip. Enjoy!!
Posted on: Jan 09, 2008
TravelingShannon says:
India sounds great! I can't believe you turned down free beer. I have to wonder if we are related.
Posted on: Jan 07, 2008
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Indian version of Nicole
Indian version of Nicole
First view of Kathmandu
First view of Kathmandu
Traffic jam in Thamel
Traffic jam in Thamel
photo by: sharonburgher