Arriving in Kathmandu

Previous page - Descending from Tiger's Nest

 

Sadly we leave Bhutan

We departed Bhutan’s Paro airport at 10.45a.m., with the plane being only 15 minutes late leaving.

It was very sad to leave both Kinga and Dorje behind and all three of us could tell both parties were upset. At the airport we were all given forms to fill in about our experiences in Bhutan.

Jeremy's jacket had an alternative use Jeremy wearing his handy work jacket

From a tourism point of view we thought that was so sensible and forward thinking.

Never ending stunning views Photo taken by Jeremy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We had a magnificent 50 minute flight to Kathmandu. The scenery was nothing short of amazing. We were lucky enough to sit on the right hand side of the plane, exactly one row back from where we were on the original flight to Bhutan, exactly the same plane as well. We had near constant views of snow capped Himalayan mountains and at one stage we are quite sure we saw Mount Everest. A lady from South America was sitting across the aisle from us and I was able to pass her camera over to Jeremy who took some fabulous photographs for her too.

Whilst on board we were presented with some sandwiches and a glass of drink of our choice. Little did we know at the time that the day would deteriorate from then on.

 

Kathmandu airport and meeting Birendra

Kathmandu airport is possibly the most dysfunctional and unorganized airport we have ever come across. Luggage was everywhere with airport staff and the general public seemingly having no idea which way was up. Luggage on the conveyor-belt was just being hurled onto the ground. We saw people kicking the luggage with their feet just to get it out of their way. Is there no common sense in this place at all?

Birendra played a huge role in our holiday Birendra in his office

Anyway, after a long time we eventually found our luggage and we trundled off through some extremely lax security checks and met our friend Birendra. We had “met” Birendra through the Couch Surfing community and had spoken to him on Skype several times not to mention about 5000 emails that had gone back and forth between us over the months. We instantly recognized him and it was really wonderful to actually see him in person rather than on a computer screen. Birendra had organized a car to take us and him back into the city to his work office. He has his own business called Adventure Club Treks and Expedition.

 

Complicated electrical wires Wonderfully complicated mass of wiring

Kathmandu shocks us

We obviously hadn’t done enough research and we must have been naïve because Kathmandu was very different to what we imagined. It is a huge, huge city – absolutely massive! The airport is very close to the city itself so we were instantly immersed in city life. We had never seen so many cars, motor bikes, buses and trucks in our lives. Almost without exception the buses and trucks were belching thick brown and black smoke. Because there is so much traffic, it is only capable of moving slowly so you soon get caught up behind large vehicles exuding pollution from every pore. Motor bikes snaked in and out of the vehicles, coming so close to us we were almost flinching in the car. As we looked past the vehicles all we seemed to see was garbage littering the road side. This was not what we thought Kathmandu would be like. Later we discovered that Kathmandu has approximately 1.7 million people living in the city and the whole country of Nepal has a total of around 24 million - more than Australia at an absolute fraction of the size of our country.

 

Paperwork needed for our Group Visa to enter Tibet

Birendra needed us to fill in the enormous quantity of paperwork necessary for us to obtain our Group Visas to enter Tibet. Although Tibet is part of China we didn’t need a Chinese Visa. If we had got one it would have been a waste of money. To enter the autonomous region of Tibet we had to have our Group Visa. Birendra, through his Nepali trekking company, was organizing our visa plus he had set the wheels in motion with our tour of Tibet too. A company in Tibet would take us on our tour through the region but Birendra was the middle man. Whilst sitting in his office we completed the lengthy paperwork for the visa. It was six pages long and we had to supply such information as careers, contacts, family members’ employment history and much more – some of them seemed quite ridiculous questions.

 

Lunch in Nepal

Birendra suggested we have lunch just down the road from his office. So we set off at a great rate of knots. Birendra leads many treks himself so he is very fit and walks quite fast. We enjoyed our lunch and conversation. It was early afternoon and Birendra really had to get back to work. As Couch Surfers, we were staying with him and his family for the next two nights. We needed to fill in time until he was ready to head home, taking us with him.  He suggested we head in the direction of Durbar Square as there was masses to see and we could easily fill in the four hours or so until he was able to stop work.

 

Finding Durbar Square

Heading off by ourselves was a tad confronting. We were being jostled every which way we turned. Everyone wanted to sell us something or other. Motor bikes were winding their way in between us with handlebars bumping us as they went. Cars were driving uncomfortably close to us. Every time a vehicle of either sort overtook anyone the driver found it necessary to toot several times. Plus it was darned hot! We never thought Kathmandu would be hot in mid October. We were expecting a comfortable maximum of 23 degrees Centigrade. We were sweltering and it wasn’t long before we all had headaches and short tempers. At the time it felt quite dangerous to be a pedestrian on those roads but I have to admit I never saw an accident anywhere.

We were in Durbar Square and didn't know it Durbar Square - we were there and didn't know it

We meandered along the dirty roads heading to where we thought Durbar Square was. We knew from what we had read that we needed to pay to enter the historic square but where was it? We mooched around getting hotter by the minute. Sadly there were no benches to sit down on to rest our weary legs. We were surrounded by some very old buildings so we thought we must surely be close to the square. They were very photographic buildings so we were clicking our cameras madly. We decided to ask where the square was. Several locals we asked said they didn’t know. So we asked a security guard. Suddenly we were in trouble! Where were our entry tickets? We tried to explain that we were looking for the square but couldn’t find it. Suddenly it dawned on us that we were in the actual square already and we hadn’t realized this. Worse than that, we hadn’t paid the 300 Nepalese rupees (about $4 AUD) to get in to the place. We hadn’t seen any ticket offices anywhere! We tried to explain ourselves but the guard was not happy with us. Ian was very angry at this stage and stormed off back across the square and we had to call him back as we didn't want him getting arrested or anything silly like that. We didn’t want any trouble with the guard so we quickly fled out of the square.

A couple of hours later we passed by the entrance where we should have paid. The entrance was several metres wide and I guess we must all have been looking left, looking above or looking straight ahead because none of us had seen the little ticket office located on the right side of the entry.

 

Next page - Finding our way to Birendra's house

 

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