The plane touched down at the International Tribhuvan Airport just outside Kathmandu. This was the first red brick airport have ever seen and the atmosphere was laid back to say the least, we had finally arrived in Nepal.
Quieter than expected
Entering the arrivals area, the place was deserted. There were a few podiums for filling in the visa forms and a photo booth with some bright lights and an actual photographer, for those who forgot to bring passport photos with them. Immigration was a breeze, the guy at the counter was so happy and easy-going it was a welcome change from the usual grim-faced passport police we were used to meeting. We disembarked and went into the airport expecting the usual delays with baggage collection and immigration but we were in for a pleasant surprise.
We organised a price for a pre-paid taxi and were escorted to our transport. It was now that it hit home that we were not in Korea anymore. Instead of the typical, overly clean, polished, shiny Korean taxi we were looking at something quite different. What stood before us was like a mini mini-van with a seat thrown in the back, holes in the floor, a gear stick that had to be rammed from gear to gear and a serious lack of suspension. We drove towards Paknajol just North of Kathmandu’s tourist area, Thamel, the country already making an impression on us.
Bouncing, swerving, braking and squeezing our way into Kathmandu was an adventure in itself. The roads were dusty and there was rubbish everywhere but even that couldn’t distract from the bright colours which the women were wearing walking along the crumbling footpaths. Children played freely along the road edge, cows lay undisturbed in the shade and people were going about their daily business, which generally seemed to involve carrying something.
Something to see in every direction
Everywhere we looked there was something unusual to see. With trucks, vans, motorbikes, bicycles, buses , pedestrians and livestock all fighting for space on the road and pathways We couldn’t believe it when we spotted a guy free-wheeling down the inside lane, undertaking traffic at speed….in a wheelchair! It was all out madness.
Thirty minutes or so later and we arrived at our guesthouse. It was clean, simple and good value had a great view of Kathmandu from the roof garden. We looked over the array of rooftops and prayer flags across Kathmandu, all the way to the monkey temple on the other side of town and the hazy Himalayas in the not so distant distance beyond. Kathmandu was certainly very different to anywhere we had been so far and came across as an extremely busy yet, welcoming and friendly place with an apparently simple way of doing things. We put our bags in our room and took a walk out into the town to get a better idea of what Kathmandu was all about.