1st Impressions of Nepal
I wasn’t sure what my impressions of Nepal would be after my 35 hour 3 legged trip (CLT-JFK-AUH-KTM). I have traveled all over in N. India so I felt the culture shock would be minimum. I arrive after 8 pm and I am lucky someone is coming to retrive me from the airport. I have come to Nepal to help out a mentor with a documentary on life here vs. the United States as well as blog about his solar panel installation in a remote corner of the country.
I arrived on a holiday which was evident by the glittering lights on each building, it’s the Nepali New Year. Yes, it just turned 2071 here and I was scanning the horizon for a flaying car but sadly saw none. The Kathmandu airport is a relic of the 70’s and resembles an episode of Three’s Company. The one highlight of technology to hit the place is visa kiosks. Get there before the massive queue and you can fill out the application and get a photo taken in less than 2 minutes (not separate photos required). Pop into another queue, pay the visa fee, then another queue for the visa stamp and you are on your way to collect luggage. If timed right, process from visa to bags is less than 15 minutes.
The best part of Nepal (so far) is it is like India but a lot less pushy. There are taxi’s and hotels picking up passengers but I felt a lot less harassed than I did when I arrived solo in Delhi. I waited about 5 minutes and spotted my escorts and we were off to find a hotel.
My 1st night was spent in Thamel mainly for it’s cheapness. Thamel is the backpacking/foreign district of town and the area is littered with foreigners gauging themselves on cheap eats and even cheaper beer. We stopped at the Chill Out Resort which I had to translate what that meant in English to my new escorts/friends. We found 2 rooms for a 1000 ($10) rupee each, both with their own bathroom. As an added bonus, there was wifi in the room and the bathroom was pretty clean and had plenty of hot water. I can’t say the room was on par with the bathroom, it was pretty nasty but compared to some of the hovels I have stayed in India, it might have well as been the Ritz Carlton.
My new purchase of a sleep sack came in real handy, after dinner I slid into my cocoon for the night and deftly avoided any contact with the sheets and the Hep C they probably carried.
We popped out for a Thamel dinner and being a holiday, most had closed, but we did find the Momo Hut and enjoyed some buffalo and cheese/spinach dumplings. Meal number 1 went down and I am happy to report that it has behaved itself.
Walking around Thamel wasn’t any different than I imagined. Lots of cars and motorbikes and people competing for unpotholed pavement. The buildings all look like they went up in a booze fueled weekend and the next stiff breeze would likely topple them. Plus got to love the electric grid of a 3rd world country, some of the most creative wiring in the world.
There was a surprising lack of farm animals on the streets. Having been to India, I was expecting more cows and goats but all the streets of Kathmandu have to offer are limping dogs.
Being in a touristy area, I saw many westerners in very western attire (shorts and tank tops), I realized soon in my India travels that knees and ankles should be hidden as often as possible.
So far my impressions of Nepal and Kathmandu are in line with what I thought, I would recommend bringing a pollution mask, there is a litany of soviet era busses and taxis spewing some putrid junk out of their tail pipes and you will be wearing eau de diesel for your entire stay.
Apparently Angeline Jolie owns a club in Kathmandu, her almost naked image is used for advertising at a Kathmandu hotspot. Nothing is sacred here (save for cows) and the most unlikely celebrities advertise the most unlikely things.