Last Wednesday, the official word finally came down about how many days off people in my shop were getting for Eid al-Fitr. It was a toss-up between Thailand, India and Nepal. Thailand was apparently on a lot of people’s minds. All the weekend vacation packages were sold out, and the tickets were high as giraffe balls. India was a close second to Nepal, but honestly… the tickets to Nepal were cheaper, and I had to get out of the U.A.E. I compared prices with Expedia, Kayak and some others and ended up with a $499 ticket from Abu Dhabi to Kathmandu the next morning at 10 with 3 nights stay at a 4 star hotel.
There was a slight drizzle out when we arrived. After being in the sun since August of last year, it was a nice thing to fly into. Rain is always welcome. The temperature was around 80 degrees F. It was a beautiful day in my eyes. We went in and began the customs checkpoint process which was confusing to say the least. First of all, there was the paperwork in which I was to fill out to apply for the VISA; it allows for three different check boxes for gender. The third being “other”.
After that, I was in line to pay for my VISA. The accepted currencies for this were USD, AED, YEN, … well, basically ANYTHING but Nepalese Rupees. The national currency. Which really blew my mind. In order to get into their country, you had to buy a VISA, with ANYONES money but there’s. Sounds fishy to me, but whatever. Outside there was the shuttle from the hotel waiting on us… I’d later learn that not only was this “shuttle” the hotel managers personal little 7 seater van, but also this airport shuttle was only free for coming FROM the airport. They meant to charge me another 600 Rupees for returning me to the airport at the end of my stay.
Nicely done, Basu. Nicely done.
Driving in Nepal… hell, I could write a blog about that alone! I for one am a fluent, unsafe driver. By that I mean, I drive a little fast, and I usually try not to stop or slow down unless I absolutely have to. It involves a lot of lane changing and quick decisions. I’ve driven in South Korea, The Philippines and The UAE, all of which are renowned for extremely dangerous drivers…. but so far Nepal takes the cake. Never have I searched for an “Oh Shit!” bar so feverishly! Motorcycles reign supreme as far as modes of transport. And when I say motorcycles, I mean the kind I wouldn’t be caught dead on. 50-200cc motorbikes which put along, releasing just as much black exhaust as a 44 passenger bus. Though they normally wear helmets, and don’t really get up to high speeds, I fear for everyone on the roads in Nepal. Driving on the left hand side was already a shock for me, but even if that weren’t the case, the way they merge overtake and turn is nerve-racking to say the least! Honking is the main form of communication and signaling during driving there. You honk when approaching an intersection. You honk when you want to pass. You honk when you think you see a waiting pedestrian. You honk over and over when you want to pass. Taxi honk when they want to offer a ride. No one seems to have road rage though, they just drive as if there’s some force field around them and they won’t be hurt if struck by a vehicle. They all come dangerously close to one another at stop signs and the gentlemen who stand in the middle of the road directing traffic at busy intersections… may GOD please them.
We made it to the hotel, and I was pleased. Checking in was seamless. We were admitted along with a couple of ladies coming from the UAE in support of a charity function fo Nepal. We went up to our rooms and found they were quite nice. MY room didn’t have a bath tub though nd that was unacceptable. My flat in the UAE doesn’t have one, so whenever I spend the night somewhere else, it must have a bathtub, and I WILL use it.
First order of business was dinner. We had inquired on the way to Nepal, which were the top-rated cuisines of the nation. The only one I remembered was Momo. Not only was it an easy word to remember, but the lady said it could come in either veggie or chicken or… blah blah blah. I’m all about some chicken.
I’m always restless on a trip. Life in general actually, I don’t like to waste time, days, and opportunities. At that point, I had the opportunity to explore Nepal, for only 3 days; I needed to get on it, no matter what time it was. We head out to walk the streets of Themal. It was pretty late so Don and I went to see what was open. Tons of go-go bars and dance clubs. They love to dance and party just as much as anyone, if not more so. The one and only bad part of my trip was that night when somehow some old Nepalese guys neck ended up in my hands. Other than that, we had a blast! Oh, and just for fun, I counted about 11 ladyboys on the walk home. We talked and joked with some of the local guys about it. If you’re a young straight guy in this part of Kathmandu, and you’re not in a dance club, you’re out on the street with your motorcycle, talking and cutting up. It was a pretty simple way to spend an evening. And like I said, it was late and there wasn’t anything else to do. It was nice to experience what they do for fun.
The next morning I woke up extremely early with the same thing in mind… get out there and see whats going on. Even though I had planned events for us from 10-5 for the next two days, it was only 7 and I wasn’t just going to go sit in bed.
I had breakfast, which was free at the hotel and went on out for a walk.
After I got done walking around that morning, realizing that there would be a pattern of being yelled at by taxi drivers, followed by adult and child beggars, and loudly summoned by shop-keepers to buy anything from prayers beads and pashminas to artwork and ‘fresh’ fruits;
I got back to the hotel and boarded the hotel ‘shuttle’ once more which I’d hired for a stupid $130. They were to take us around to see some landmarks in the city.
After again seeing my life flash before my eyes in the traffic of the city, I’d have to say my highlight after all the beautiful temples and buildings though some lay in ruin, were the monkeys.
Afterwards Ren and I split up from Don and head to the Garden of Dreams, which was coincidentally right next to our hotel. It cost 50 rupees to get in which is basically… $.50. It was somewhat disheveled from the earthquake, but still a nice place to go, eat and chill. Lots of lovers were there, so I found it a little uncomfortable lol. Just joking. It was very serene.
That evening we had dinner at a place called “The Ship” . It sucked ass, they don’t deserve any pictures.
That night I went out with Ren to a night club called The Factory. It was a decent venue with some pretty bad ass DJ’s. On top of a 10% sales tax and 13% VAT on every rupee I spent this weekend, I also contributed to the countries awareness of proper twerking techniques. You’re welcome, Nepal.
The next day we got up, did free breakfast at the hotel and did a little walking before getting in my ‘shuttle’ to head to Nagarkot to see the Himalayan mountains. Nagarkot is an area of mountainous terrain where people, farm live and visit. Visible from the summits of these mountains are the entire Kathmandu valley, and the Himalayan mountains.
Out there we had a disappointment in the form of heavy cloud cover. Luckily we got there early enough to try and wait them out, so we went to grab a bite to eat at a nearby cluster of shops near the summit.
We then head back up to climb up the tower which was on top of the highest summit in Nagarkot and take pictures. It wasn’t in our fortune to enjoy a clear sky that day, but it was still beautiful.
That evening we decided that we’d figure out what that divine hint of cheese and bread was. Across the street from the alley our hotel was tucked into was a pizzeria called “Fire and Ice”. THIS place was awesome. Great pizza, great pasta and even better ice cream. Service was a little slow [as was every restaurant actually] but well worth it.
That was when I met the trekkers coming in from Tibet with their unforgettable shirts which they said they’d just had made IN Tibet lol.
We tried going out again that night, but it seemed as though not many people were interested in being out on a Saturday. We caught some live music which was pretty decent then went back to the hotel to get ready for a gleefully uneventful last day.
When we got up the next morning it was breakfast as usual. Then we decided to just meander around the town, taking in the sites, the smog, and fooling around with the locals. They’re very friendly people for the most part and always willing to tae part in a humourous prank or just talk and joke around. Here are some sights from around the town that last day in Kathmandu.
Then again, there was plenty to see that would bring a damper to anyone’s day.
Nepal was already a poverty-stricken nation before April of this year. From what I remember, the country was struck with 2 massive earthquakes and suffered many losses of life and property. The government doesn’t seem to be helping much whether they’re able to or not, and many of the locals are depending on tourism which used to be 12% of the GNP. Seeing these people and the ones who I decided not to picture out of taste [due to missing limbs and whatnot] makes me want to do something, just like when I was in the Philippines. Raising awareness is one thing, but honestly going there and helping with the labor effort would be the biggest contribution anyone like me [someone who is not rich] can make.
You know I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t mention the ladies. They were wonderful. Well, the real ones anyway. I can’t really compliment them enough. It was refreshing to see such polite and well/soft-spoken females everywhere. On top of their affable mannerisms, they were just so freakin pretty! This was achieved with or without make-up. The mixture of eastern Asian and middle eastern makes for some very unique natural beauty! Had my matrimonial fate not already been predetermined, I would’ve tried my best to bring one of these beauties home to mommy!!!
Minus the altercation at the club the first night, and the harsh reality of the state of the country’s condition… well, also including that matter-of-factly, it was a fun, inspiring and eye-opening trip! I would highly recommend Nepal to anyone looking at travel.