Kathmandu, Nepal

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May 3rd 2014
Published: May 3rd 2014
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Wedding ProcessionsWedding ProcessionsWedding Processions

I saw four processions pass by my hotel. Groom is delivered to the bride in this quaint, horse-drawn carriage. Leading the way is a marching band and dancing guests. It was a trip to see and hear.
Kathmandu is one of the finest places that I have ever visited and coming from a guy that's been traveling for over 40 years, that's saying a lot.

Flew to New Delhi from Bangkok on Jet Airways which is an Indian discount carrier. Very good airline. Changed planes in New Delhi. Be advised that there is a heavy, Indian military security presence in the airport. After deplaning you will have to go through another security check-point. X-ray luggage, pat down, the whole nine yards. I was happily surprised to see that my U.S. passport got me fast-tracked through the entire ordeal. The soldiers were quite friendly to me and seem genuinely interested in where I came from. When I told them that I had grown up in Chicago they immediately started rattling off the names of all the great lakes, each soldier trying to outdo the others. I announced the winner who jumped into the air while the others groaned aloud. I skedaddled.

The gate for the Kathmandu flight is all the way across the airport. I had an hour before my departure which I thought would have been plenty of time so I dilly-dallied in the
Betsie; My First Buddhist NunBetsie; My First Buddhist NunBetsie; My First Buddhist Nun

Betsie is from Thailand. She left the monastery 9 months ago. She was on her way to Dubai. When I told her I was going to Nepal she was very excited for me as she had just been there last month.
duty free shops. Not a wise move as I still had quite a distance to go. The New Delhi airport is a beautiful terminal. One of the best airports I have been in. A girl I had met on the Bangkok flight cruised along with me as she was leaving from the same gate, albeit 8 hours later for Dubai. Her name is Betsie and she was a Buddhist nun until 9 months ago. I didn't ask. When I told her I was going to Nepal she got all teary-eyed and told me that I was going to have a remarkable time. She had been there just a month ago and had done many of the things I was dreaming of doing like seeing Annapurna. She pulled out her i-Phone and showed me her trip photos. An i-Phone, by the way, holds a voluminous quantity of photographs. After swapping e-mails and promising her that I would put her on my Blog list she finally let me go. She's a great girl and probably the best traveled Thai that I've ever met.

The flight to Kathmandu from Delhi is just over an hour long but Jet Airways, somehow, managed to
Came In For Dinner And Stayed For The FunCame In For Dinner And Stayed For The FunCame In For Dinner And Stayed For The Fun

Met a super bunch of locals at the 'Funky Buddha' restaurant and bar when I went in for dinner. Trance music and a very mellow crowd.
serve drinks, snacks and a very good Indian meal. An elderly American woman sitting next to me kept leaning over to peer through the window as we landed. "Can you see it?", she asked me. "See what?", I replied. "Well, Everest of course!", she snapped. I had to inform her that we were highly unlikely to see Everest given the haze-diminished visibility and our distance from the mountain. She was only going to be in Kathmandu for 3 days and had been counting on seeing the World's tallest peak. So sad. And yes, I know that many folks think that K2 is taller but I'm going with the conventional belief.

Kathmandu is surrounded by steep, conical mountains draped in narrow agricultural terraces. From above, they look like giant thumb-prints. We got off the plane and the weather was.... Fabulous. Temps in the low 80' at four in the afternoon. Nepal; Where have you been for the last three months? I was ecstatic. I couldn't wait for frosty evening. I could wear jeans again.

I am now going to explain the procedure for obtaining a Nepalese Visa On Arrival. I am doing this for Karen and Karlie who are
Shree Tibet Family Guesthouse  Room #406Shree Tibet Family Guesthouse  Room #406Shree Tibet Family Guesthouse Room #406

Sweet little place operated by a wonderful family from Tibet. Single room with bath cost me $13 per night.
coming here next week so forgive if I digress. When you enter the airport you will find yourself in a large room full of confused people because there really aren't any instruction as to what you are expected to do. If you are a Foreign visitor you must fill out the large, white, 8x10 visa application form. Bring a pen as none are provided. Also have your hotel address in Kathmandu with you. Do NOT fill out the brochure-sized form which is for Nepalese and Indians only. If you fill out the brochure-sized form, like I did, and then wait in line for 30-minutes to pay for your visa at the 'Visa Payment' desk, the bad man behind the counter will send you back to start all over again. When you finally fill out the correct form, which you will find at the round, 'Foreigners Only' table, you can then go back to see the bad man. You must have, in addition to the form, $40 in US currency for a 30-day visa or $25 for a 15-day visa, a passport and a passport photo. You only need one photo. If you do not have a photo you can have
Great Breakfast PlaceGreat Breakfast PlaceGreat Breakfast Place

Just down the street from my hotel. Breakfast of Naan and vegetable compote with tea cost me $1.50. Delicious food.
one taken there for a lot of money. If you have all of your documents in order the bad man will take the money and then give you a receipt so you can then get into the visa line. While you are standing in line, people will try to cut in front of you. When this happens, say, in a loud voice, "What do you think you're doing?" And while you say it, point to the back of the line. You may have to say it twice but it will work. I know. I did it three times. Eye contact is very important. I thought back to 'Christmas Story' and the mean man who told Ralphie that he had to wait longer to see Santa. Visualization is a great tool.

Now that you have your visa, which looks like a big postage stamp, make sure that the visa is in your passport and that it is for the correct number of days. They have been known to make mistakes regarding these important issues. You do not want to show up at the airport to leave Nepal and discover that either; You don't have a visa or that you have
Kathmandu Is Big On CyclosKathmandu Is Big On CyclosKathmandu Is Big On Cyclos

They are all over the place here and much used but remember to bargain hard before you get in one.
overstayed your visa. Gets real expensive, real fast.

Now for the fun part. After you get your visa you will want to collect your checked bags. The bags are downstairs. You go downstairs and discover that you have to go through security again. X-ray, pat down, etc. If I were Karlie and Karen I would leave one person outside to watch the little bags while the other person goes through security to collect the luggage. Make certain that you have your baggage claim tickets with you. They will check the bags against the claim tickets. Also be advised that by the time you get down there they will probably have already pulled your bags off of the belt, because it took so long to obtain your visa, and stacked them to the side where a policeman has been guarding them. Now that you have your bags you can go through customs which means standing in another line to put your stuff through another X-ray machine. This line is longer because all of the Nepalese passengers are bringing lots of appliances back home. Things like toasters and rice steamers and 42 inch, LCD televisions. I simply walked around the X-ray
My Hotel Is The Tall Building In The BackMy Hotel Is The Tall Building In The BackMy Hotel Is The Tall Building In The Back

Rated as a 'Best Value' by Tripadvisor.com
machine and out of the airport. Nobody seemed to care.

Now you're outside the airport where the taxis are. It's as if you're a wounded Wildbeast being stalked by a pack of Hyenas. Do not respond to their questions, do not make eye contact and more importantly DO NOT let anybody take your bags from you. If you do, you will have to pay a 'tip' to whoever has the luggage. The hotel is sending a driver to pick you up. He will be standing across the airport pickup lane behind a security fence. There will be a man standing next to him holding up a sign that has your name on it. The man holding the sign IS NOT your driver. He will, naturally, attempt to take your bags from you. Carry your bags to the car (it's a little, dusty black SUV) and put them inside the back. The driver will not carry your bags. When all of the passengers show up you'll be able to go. There will be two other flights arriving at the same time as yours.

It's now around 5 PM. Rush hour in Kathmandu. It is worst than Saigon because; at
Coming Into ThamelComing Into ThamelComing Into Thamel

Thamel is the oldest neighborhood in Kathmandu.
least Saigon has real streets. It will be dusty and dirty and very strange looking. Women dressed in Saris crossing the roads carrying baby girls who wear eye liner. Painted holy-men, hawkers, kids and lots of dogs and you'll be wondering, 'What the hell am I doing here?', which may make you sad inside. You'll pass the temple of Shiva where there are four cremations going simultaneously 24/7. Don't worry. It smells like wood. The traffic is managed by policemen who stand under Pagoda umbrellas and orchestrate the chaos. Then you'll start seeing some old buildings. Really old buildings with other tourists like yourselves walking around them and these other tourists will be smiling of all things. You'll turn onto a narrow street full of people and cars and scooters and cyclos and the driver will point at a narrow door and say "Hotel there." So then you'll race to get your stuff out of the back so the driver can move the dusty black SUV, which by now has stopped all traffic from moving in the narrow street and every mother's son is laying on his horn. Congratulations; You are in Nepal.

Get a shower. It's getting dark

The hamburger of Nepal. Basically a plate of steamed dumplings filled with vegetables, chicken or Yak. The chili sauce in the middle is a spicy wake-up call.
out and the shops have turned their lights on and magically; This place you thought dusty and dreary comes alive inside you with the smells of exotic food and the sounds of laughter and the natives are looking at you and chattering because you learned to say hello in Nepalese so that now you can smile at them all and say; 'Nah-Ma-Stay'. And with that you've found friends that you never knew about until now.

After a bit of shopping you'll feel hungry so you go to the 'Funky Buddha' across the street from your room. You order up some Momos 'cause that's what they eat here and while you're waiting on the food you sip your drink. The place starts filling up fast and there's a shortage of tables so you offer your free seats to a couple of people who just came inside. From a party of three you grow into one of six then seven then eight and conversation flows in Nepalese and English and French and German and Spanish and when that fails you all laugh. The one language we all know but never hear enough of. Welcome to Nepal.

I have one more night here and then I'm off to trek near Annapurna. I plan to cruise the Himalaya foothills for a while. I haven't felt this ecstatically overwhelmed by a country since my time in Ethiopia with Rick Stites and I'm kicking myself for not having done it sooner. But I'm at the table now and I will eat much.

Happy Birthday Noah. All of my love and hope for your continued success in all you choose to do in your life. I could not be prouder of you.

Additional photos below
Photos: 15, Displayed: 15


Trekking Supplies AboundTrekking Supplies Abound
Trekking Supplies Abound

Do not buy any gear before you get here. Dozens of shops selling top-line gear at a fraction of U.S. costs.
Heading To Bangkok From Chiang Mai On The Night TrainHeading To Bangkok From Chiang Mai On The Night Train
Heading To Bangkok From Chiang Mai On The Night Train

There's nothing quite like the feeling of waking up on the train and watching the countryside roll past your bedroom window.
The VisaThe Visa
The Visa

After all of the rigamarole you end up with this large postage stamp-sized visa. $40 for thirty days or $25 for fifteen days.
Rahid And The BoysRahid And The Boys
Rahid And The Boys

Rahid (on the right) is from New Delhi. Spent 2 years studying in the States. When he found out I was American I was immediately admitted to his club of friends. Guy in the middle is Binod; He's a Nepalese business type who spend a lot of time in Japan.

4th May 2014

Mike, you did it again! Great, entertaining, and oh, so enlightening blog! So glad that you love Nepal and that the Happy Pants girls are going also. Please encourage Karlie to write a blog of her impressions and experiences. You are a lucky man and I hope your adventures continue to be good ones! Lisa
5th May 2014

Hi from Germany
Hi you travelers, always nice to read your blog! We just came back from a wonderful trip to Florida, where we were sorry not to have a chance to see you there. We had great two weeks, mostly on the east coast and the Keys visiting friends and relatives and we of course went to Disneyland with the kids! All the best, I hope we'll have a chance to travel in Kathmandu one day! Take care of yourselves! Enjoy your traveling! best wishes from Isa and Marcus PS: I did start with guitar lessons! :-)

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