I remember one time many years ago, being in the back seat of a friend’s car when she accidentally hit a median and sent the car into an uncontrolled spin. My life flashed before my eyes, and I thought I was going to die. I promised God that I would be a good boy from now on if he would save me from this situation. The car ended up finishing it’s spin, facing the opposite direction on Crowchild Trail, with no other cars on the road. She had a scuff mark on the door and everyone in the car was fine.
That was #2 on the list of scariest things to happen to JBJ.
Landing in Kathmandu is now the new #2.
Looking out the window of the aircraft over Nepal, all I could see was fog or haze, no discernible features whatsoever. The captain came over the loudspeaker and said something in Nepalese, and then the plane went into a free fall and I experienced zero gravity. While this was happening, the captain finished his announcement in english “We are now beginning our descent into Kathmandu, please insure your seat-belts are fastened and your seat and table tray are in the upright positions”.
Looking around the plane, you could tell who had been to Kathmandu before. The gentleman who was calmly reading his newspaper while floating above his seat had obviously been here before, while the woman who was white knuckling her purse with a look of absolute terror on her face, might be a first timer. I think I heard her say “Dear God, I’ll be a good girl if you get me out of this”.
This went on for about five minutes with nothing but fog out the window and an air sickness bag floating by in the zero G. Then the plane slammed onto the runway and put it’s engines into full reverse, which forced my chin into my chest and compressed my spine, while the woman screamed and the gentleman yawned.
“Welcome to Tribhuvan Airport Kathmandu, the local time is now. Please feel free to roam around the cabin before the plane comes to a complete stop and smoke em if ya got em. Cheese will not be served”.
The Indira Gandhi airport in New Delhi is a very modern, clean, spacious airport with many modern conveniences, and even a few marvels (there is a shopping mall the size of the Eaton’s Centre after customs for one thing). The marvel of the Tribhuvan airport in Kathmandu, is that it is still standing. It has the architecture of a 1970s elementary school gymnasium that happens to have a runway attached to it.
In order to get your visa you need to fill out a form that asks the standard questions (and a few non standard ones, like “how much money do you have to support you”) then you enter a queue while a very grumpy gentleman takes $25 US from you and sticks a hand written sticker in your passport while muttering “Nameste, welcome to Kathmandu”.
There are a few tips that I read about entering Nepal before arriving that I decided to implement, some are obvious and some not so much. In fact there is one law in Nepal that I just happened to stumble upon on a website and would not have known it existed. Bringing 500 and 1000 Indian Rupee bills (approximately $10 and $20 respectively) into Nepal is illegal and can get you 3 years in a Nepalese jail. There was a woman ahead of me in line that obviously wasn’t aware of this, and pulled out a wad of Indian Rupee only to have it confiscated (and from the look of the passport clerk, she was lucky that was all that happened).
After getting my luggage that was unceremoniously left in the middle of the room, I ended up changing some US dollars into Nepalese Rupee (Npr) which exchanges for about 80 to the dollar, and then followed the signs to leave the airport.
One of the other tips that I read about, was to pre-book your hotel online with a place that has airport pickup… I now know why. Exiting the airport I was mobbed by a gaggle of “entrepreneurs” asking me if I wanted a taxi, and trying to grab my luggage. I had booked with a place called Peak Point Hotel and asked about it. They all started yelling “I take you! I take you!”, but luckily a gentleman nearby heard me and said “Peak Point? Yes he is over there, he is waiting long time” (my flight was late). Then the hoards followed us to that car.
While I talked to the driver and apologized for being late, one of the hoard grabbed my luggage and put it in the trunk.
“You have to pay him for loading your luggage, 1000 Rupee”.
Instead of getting into an argument, I just paid him.
Another one of them opened the door for me and I asked “Do I have to pay him?”
“Then tell him to close the door”.
Once they figured I was savvy to the scheme, they left me alone to go and prey on another tourist.
The drive to the hotel was something else. I’m going to do another post about vehicular traffic in Nepal later, but I’ll just say that roller coasters are passé for me now. Added to this was the fact that the seat belt in the back seat was missing the buckle piece, and instead, just had a piece of rope.
I arrived at Peak Point Hotel, safe and sound, checked in, and talked to the clerk about hiring a car to get to my final destination tomorrow. Panauti…
(By the way, the #1 scariest thing on JBJ’s list is still, and will always be, losing power while mixing a musical for Andrew Lloyd Webber).