Friday, August 17, 2018

Nepal - Our First Week in Kathmandu

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Our flight out of Lhasa, Tibet was interesting.  It was a full hour's drive out of the city, through many tunnels and across many rivers before reaching the international airport.  We remarked over and over again as to why it was so far away when there appeared to be plenty of land closer to the capitol.

Our immigration exit process was effortless and we found ourselves waiting at the gate in no time.  We met a couple of southern Missouri, Jerry and Ecky, who make our travel history pale in comparison.  To date they have been to 113 countries.  We enjoyed our chat and eventually boarded our Sichuan Airlines flight to Kathmandu.  After flying over the Himalayas, and minutes from landing in Kathmandu, our pilot announced that weather has turned treacherous and that we were turning back to Lhasa.  Ninety minutes later we were back on the ground in Tibet to refuel and await a break in the weather.  On board a group of Spanish tourists got out an accordion and a flute and we enjoyed an impromptu concert.  And hour later we were back in the air.  This time the clouds had parted and we enjoyed an amazing view of Mt. Everest.
Landing was perfect and we were met on the tarmac with a landing stair and transfer bus.  One in the terminal the process was a bit involved but in no way complicated.
The terminals keep going off line...there were several power surges and two outages.  We were able to use both Chinese and Australian currency to purchase our 90 day visas.
The lines were short and the immirgation officers were about as pleasant as one could imagine.  The whole process was quick and efficient and we found ourselves at baggage claim and out on the curb for a taxi within an hour of landing. 
The airport now has a pre-paid taxi desk and that makes life SOOOOOO much nicer.  There was no horde of hungry taxi and transfer drivers clamoring for our business.  A currency exchange and SIM card desk right at the arrival gate made that part of our standard arrival plan even easier.   The taxi driver spoke perfect English and knew exactly where to take us.  Within 30 minutes we were in front of our apartment building on a small alleyway just off of the main street through the Thamel District and right in the middle of ' tourist town."  Our landlord met us within a few minutes and introduced us to our apartment.  We needed to stay in a different unit for our first night due to a scheduling snafu and the next day we were checked in to what would be our home for the next month.  Our bedroom unit is on the top floor with a private sun terrace and is perfect.  Away from the busy street is is quiet, super clean, and has all of the comforts of home...stellar Wifi and a cable TV system with Cinemax, HBO, STARS, sports channels, CNN, BBC, and many English language channels.

Our first few days in KTM were devoted to getting our India visa in order.  We are the last of our group to get it together and we are racing to the finish line with Carol Ross who just this week submitted her application.  The India Embassy is a 10 minute walk from our place and we found it with little trouble only to find it closed due to an Indian holiday.  Next door we found a private service office who agreed to do all of the legwork for us for an additional $30 USD.  We certainly didn't turn down that offer.  So our visas should be ready on the 27th for pickup.  Since our process began four days ago and we have not received a call, we can only surmise that all is going according to plan.

We found supplies at a small convenience store that carried some necessities, wandered the streets for fresh veggies and fruit, and found a frozen meat market (don't think we will be buying anything fresh) a bit further down the alleyway.  Our first few meals were all about comfort food and trying to establish some roots.
Pasta with Water Buffalo and Tomato Sauce.  Sorta like home.
Homemade chapati.  Never done this before and they were AMAZING.  Again sorta not like home. 
 Banana Walnut pancakes.  Getting closer.
Chicken enchiladas, rice and beans...homemade corn tortillas...just like HOME.
We met up with our local tour agency for the BIG TRIP and confirmed our group plans for September.  Amrit from Great Nepal Treks and Tours is a professional through and through and the nicest fellow you would want to meet.  He confirmed all of our group plans, laid out some ideas for when Ken and Denise arrive and offered us a free half-day tour to a neighboring village.  So nice.  Here is their company information.  Take a moment to consider them for your next visit to KTM.

We spent the rest of our first week wandering the streets, taking photos, and getting our bearings.  Next week we will extend our boundaries a bit and see a bit more.  We have a full month and are in the center of the there are many choices.  Here is a small video our our first long walk in the city.  The smells, colors, sounds, and images are vivid. The people are kind, polite, and curious. The vendors and shop keepers are what you would expect. The food is AMAZING. The prices are ridiculously low. There is garbage everywhere. There is still a lot of visible damage from the big quake. It is warm and getting hotter daily as we near the end of the monsoon season. The humidity is overwhelming at times. It is a way of life. The way local people say "thank you" is both charming and heart-warming. The little ones are adorable. We LOVE this place!!!!!

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