Monday, October 06, 2014


Leaving Hong Kong, the waiting area for our flight to Kathmandu was dominated by trekking types - outdoor clothes, backpacks, water bottles, etc. Some people had obviously been in transit for a while - sprawled out trying to catch up on their sleep.

It was dark so there wasn't much to see on the flight. The highlight was a big lightning storm off to the side. Almost continuous flashes lighting up huge towering thunderheads. We were far enough away that we didn't even get any turbulence.

I wondered if Kathmandu would have a newer airport terminal but it was the same old arrivals area. The change was that they had computerized kiosks for visa applications. Which was a good thing because the paper application required a passport photo and the ones I had brought were packed in our luggage. Oops! The touch screens on the kiosks didn't work very well and, as usual, made you supply way too much information. Shelley cursed and swore at the machine. Despite the long lines, I could see one customs official on Facebook and another playing a game on their computer. Welcome to Kathmandu!

This time it was Shelley's bag that came out early and mine that took forever. Unlike Shelley and I, they don't seem to like traveling together :-) Finally we made it outside to the sea of people. Luckily our trekking company was holding up a colored sign so it was easy to pick out from all the white ones. They took us to our hotel where all was well with our reservation and we were glad to head to bed.

If you've never been to a "third world" country before the drive in from the airport can be a bit of a culture shock. The dirt and garbage, the poor people, the cows and dogs, the traffic. It was after dark so we didn't see all this. But the taxi windows were open to the smells of Kathmandu. They say memory is linked to smell and this was one of those times. It's a unique warm humid blend of dust and diesel and rotting garbage.

We're staying at the Nirvana Garden Hotel. We haven't stayed here before our trekking agent suggested it when I asked for one with a garden. The rooms are nothing special, but it's great to have the garden to relax in. There are flowers and butterflies and birds. And the hotel is off the main streets enough to be quiet.


For our first day in Kathmandu we decided to head to one of the standard sights, Swayambhunath, aka the monkey temple. It's a bit of a walk but it's good to get out of the Thamel tourist area. There were more monkeys than ever. The young ones are cute, but when the adults fight they are quite scary. You have to be a little cautious because they will jump on you if you get too close or have food.

Swayambhunath (monkey temple)


It isn't quite as hot as Hong Kong, but it was still a sunny 28c and we're glad of shade and cold drinks.

In the afternoon we wandered around Thamel seeing what was the same as we remembered and what was different. It was 2006 when I was here last and 2001 for Shelley. Lots has changed over the years. Hard to believe that on our first Himalayan trips (starting in 1999) we had no cell phones and no email or internet. Later there were Internet cafes with rows of desktop computers where we could struggle to send the odd email before the power or the Internet or the computer failed. The Internet cafes have pretty much disappeared. Instead, every restaurant offers wifi (albeit mostly crappy) and everyone is glued to their phones. Thankfully Shelley and I draw the line at Internet while eating!

Decent coffee has also become ubiquitous here. It used to be all you could find was instant. Now there are lots of coffee shops with espresso machines.

Some things remain the same - the narrow twisting streets with no sidewalks, lots of crazy tourists, bicycle rickshaws and taxis and motorcycles all honking and threatening to run you over. Garbage and pollution everywhere. The rivers especially, are used as garbage dumps.

See all 19 photos as a slideshow or overview

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