It always amazes me how one day of travel by plane can transport you to a completely different world. We left Singapore Changi Airport at eight in the morning and after six hours of travel, including a very brief layover in Bangkok where we barely made our connecting flight and one hour circling over Nepal, we finally touched down in Kathmandu. As we walked down the tarmac towards the airport the girls looked at each other and said, “This airport is different.” I suppose starting out in Singapore at the world’s fanciest airport and landing in a very small virtually open air airport made of bricks is enough to make one take notice. I said, “Oh, didn’t I mention that Nepal is one the poorest countries in the world and I chose it not only because I’ve always wanted to come here, but also because our Malaysian lifestyle is spoiling you.”
Kathmandu is truly a different world, an assault on the senses that causes immediate overload. After many different counters and figuring out how to get Nepal visas we finally walked outside and were smacked in the face with loud noises, pollution, and interesting smells. It was a flashback to India all over again. We found our hotel driver and as he honked his way through horrendous traffic I quickly accepted that this trip would be like playing Russian roulette with life and death. All I could see were scooters, motorcycles, cars, busses, rickshaws, bicycles, and pedestrians all competing to make their way in both directions down incredibly narrow shop-filled streets with no sidewalks. We finally made it to our hotel, a five-story brick building tucked into an alley off of a skinny street like the one described above. The hotel is old and filled with Buddhist art and artifacts. It is quite charming, but my initial reaction was that of a very tall cave… cold, dark, and dank. We opened the door to our family suite that consists of two rooms and a living area. I was wondering why it was so cold when I noticed that some of the ornate latticed window coverings actually had no glass behind them and were in fact open air. Things were beginning to look more bleak when I discovered that the cold metal bathtub only had a hose with luke-warm water and although one room had a modern AC unit with heat, the other room only had a dodgy space heater that could very well catch something on fire before our trip ends. Forget in-room entertainment, someone on the street apparently cut the TV wires, and for a touch of nature… there are large amounts of pigeons outside our windows that would like to come in and join us. But apart from that… it is great. (Perhaps I now know why my 4 flights and 9 night hotel stay was a mere $1500 total. :))
I have been traveling for thirty years and I will admit that at first I found myself wondering if I could do this. I told my daughters they were getting too spoiled, but in reality, I think I was too. I climbed into the springy, lumpy bed and buried myself under the blankets for a nap. After two hours of letting the heaters do their thing, I woke up rested and with a happy new outlook. How great that it only takes a couple of hours to leave behind normal comforts and embrace living in the moment.
We decided it was time to venture out and get the lay of the land. We bundled up (the weather now is about 49*/40*) and we headed out in search of food. We almost got hit several times by scooters, rickshaws, cars, and people, but we finally made it to a famous pizza place for dinner. (Don’t judge… one must ease in slowly!) Despite the real danger of getting hit by some form of transportation at any given moment, you quickly get used to the flow of things and begin to instinctively get the hell out of the way at the right time. After 24 hours, we now actually feel quite safe. Weird. Kathmandu has such an amazing energy: ancient ruins, temples, shops, the nicest people. It is hard not to fall in love with it straight away.
We woke up this morning loving our new hotel room and made our way a few feet down the street for an amazing breakfast at a hole in the wall diner where it appears only locals frequent. We then took a two-hour walk from the tourist/trekker area of Thamel to the famed UNESCO World Heritage site of Durbar Square. It was raining, cold, and incredibly stimulating in every way. We took a nice two hour break at a coffee shop to make some art and then meandered our way back to the hotel. We are having a wonderful time so far stopping off at various temples to pray for our friends and families and enjoying our time together. There are truly so many things to be thankful for. Namaste.