Saturday, December 17, 2011

Asian Adventure Days 1 to 3: Going to Kathmandu

Like any good travel adventure, our trip began with an eternity in airports and airplanes. Four planes, five airports and 35 hours to be exact.

The almost twelve hour flight to Beijing went surprisingly fast considering neither of us were able to figure out the video-on-demand system on our Air China plane and ended up watching Mr. Popper's Penguins over and over again.

The view from the Beijing Airport
Landing in Delhi, we proceeded to the International Transfer Desk to ask about getting checked straight through to our flight to Kathmandu which had been booked on a separate ticket. The agent informed us it would take 2 hours for Air China to release our bags to Spice Jet and for Spice Jet to issue our boarding passes. I remembered reading about 2 hours turning into 17 hours on the same connection for Jeremy and Kathleen and neither of us felt like dealing with Indian bureaucracy at 2 AM in the morning - so we chose to collect our bags, clear customs, find some comfy lounge chairs in the departures hall and get some sleep while waiting for the check in for our flight to open at 6 AM. Surprisingly, the Indira Ghandi Airport is one of the better airports I have ever had to sleep in.

On the flight to Kathmandu, we unfortunately ended up sitting on the wrong side of the airplane and were only able to catch our first excited glimpses of the Himalayan mountains through the passengers on the opposite side of the plane.

View taking off from the Delhi Airport
We landed in Kathmandu and followed the crowd towards the customs hall. We chose to find the bathroom before joining the line up. Big mistake. We ended up standing in line for almost 90 minutes before we finally reached the front of the line where we quickly realized why it was taking so long - you had to pay the $40 visa fee to a first guy who issued you a receipt, then you passed your receipt, passport, forms and photos to the next guy who stapled everything together, which got passed on to a third guy who pasted the visa into your passport and then onto a fourth guy who entered the information into the ledger by hand.

Thankfully when it takes that long to clear customs, it means you don't have to wait for luggage so we quickly collected our bags, found the driver from our hotel in the masses of taxi drivers swarming the exit and headed out into the chaos that is Kathmandu.

After six months of anticipation, we had arrived in Nepal.

We checked in to the Thorong Peak Guesthouse, and after a much anticipated shower, we eagerly headed out in to the maze of alleyways that is Kathmandu.

A calmer Kathmandu street
Cycle rickshaw stand
The streets were jammed full of people, cars,  motorbikes, dogs, cows, goats... you-name-it. We were fortunate enough to arrive at the start of Diwali festival season. All of the streets were being decorated with tinsel, lights and flags. The street vendors were out in full force selling florescent tikka powder and fragrant garlands of orange marigolds and purple daisies.

Decorating the streets for Diwali
Tikka powder vendor
Flower garlands
We waded our way through the crowds to Durbar Square, the historical centre of town with the old royal palace and an eclectic collection of Hindu and Buddhist temples. We spent the afternoon absorbing the energy of the busy plaza and exploring the narrow lanes that radiated out from it. We were too tired/overwhelmed to bring our selves to tour the palace but we did visit the temple of Kumari, a living child goddess believed to be possessed with goddess Durga.

Buddhist statue with tikka blessings

Buddhist stupa

Pagoda-style temples

Royal Palace
Royal Palace
Kumari Ghar
 By 5 PM we were absolutely exhausted so we returned to our hotel for a short (2 1/2 hour) nap before dinner. It had been a long three days.


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