Departing Kathmandu

Kathmandu’s international airport has been described with many words. Efficiency, speed or cleanliness are never among them.

My flight is scheduled for 7:40 and I wanted to be at the airport at least two hours prior to that.

Asking at my guest house about transportation, the first guy told me the airport wouldn’t open before 6:00. Another source said it would be open around the clock. The airport’s website didn’t make any statement at all.

Finally I had arranged for a taxi for just past five in the morning, not knowing whether I’d arrive at an airport in full motion or still locked down.

The driver showed up according to plan and I squeezed myself and my bags into the tiny cab. 800cc, my last bike had 650…

It’s 5:05 when we pull off the curb and drive down the deserted streets of Thamel. For a second, but really just a second, the narrow lanes remind me of Cádiz.

Traffic is all but non-existent at this time of the day and it’s not even 5:20 when the driver drops me off at the international terminal.

It is still closed but people have already queued outside. Only minutes later, the terminal is opened and passengers start to trickle in.

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The guy at check in crushes my hopes of an exit row window seat, pointing out that I already have a reservation for bulkhead. I’m spoiled.

The airport is grinding into motion ever so slowly and immigration hasn’t even opened. They do so at six and I’m the first client of the day.

So far Kathmandu international has been better than it’s reputation. That being said I’m not keen to find out how they perform mid-day, with a bunch of flights about to depart and not just a handful.

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Watching the tiny domestic flights take off now. Buddha Air, Yeti Airlines – you’ve got to believe in reincarnation to board those.

Update 1:
The two year old A330 is spotless and you could eat off the floor.

Seated next two me is a young family, the usual risk when sitting bulkhead. The 18 month old boy is noisy already. It’s going to be a long flight.

Yes! Just after take off, the family is moved to four empty seats farther back. Leaves me with plenty of space.

Despite having gotten only a few hours of sleep, I’m feeling reasonably fit. Kinda expected to be a drooling wreck.

Flight is long and quiet. For the final touch, TK treats us to a 20 minute bumpy crosswind landing with a 270 degree turn around Istanbul.

Five minutes before touchdown the first kid starts throwing up. People left and right follow suit and the sound of retching is filling the cabin. I’m bored, I think I might be flying too much.

Update 2:
Woah, when did IST get free wifi? Last time I came through here, in 2015, they were asking hard cash for it. If they manage to make their staff friendly, this could become a decent airport.

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Second flight of the day left on time and reached Bremen in something like three hours.

Man, Germany is clean. Not a single chewing gum wrapper littering the side of the road.

I’m staying at my family’s place now and it feels like paradise. Everything is so clean, the bathroom doesn’t have a single stain. Did the plane crash? Am I in heaven?

Pokhara


To get from Kathmandu to Pokhara, the adventurous traveller has several options. A short hop on a domestic airline is the fastest and most expensive. Given that this country had two plane crashes in the short time that I’ve been here, it’s not an option I’d seriously consider.

Which leaves road transportation (or walking). There aren’t many things I dread as much as bus journeys in Asia. It’s not that I’m overly concerned about safety, it’s just that I’m way too tall for… well any kind of vehicle around here.

Fortunately for me, so-called tourist buses ply the road between the two cities and on these buses one actually gets a designated seat. Or two, in my case. It was in Myanmar that I decided to simply purchase two adjacent seats and then be able to park my legs at whatever weird angle pleases. Twice the price but three times the comfort.

Thusly prepared, I rocked up at the tourist bus station (the side of the road) well in time for the 7:00 departure. Vendors offer last minute refreshments but I’d raided the local corner store the previous night and was well set with water, cookies and bananas.

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Once we’ve driven off, it quickly becomes apparent that the bus doesn’t have any suspension worth talking of. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.

Slowly we make our way out of the capital and after about an hour and a half, the landscape opens up to show Nepal’s beauty. The vista remains mostly unchanged while the bus descends from the capital and into the valley.
IMG_0599We make three stops on the way, two at roadside restaurants. I find 350 NPR for a plate of rice and mystery-meat curry a bit steep, paid 100 the day before.

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In the early afternoon, 8h and about 200km later, we pull into the Pokhara tourist bus station. A swarm of touts and taxi drivers preys on the fresh meat that climbs out of the vehicle – feels almost like Thailand!

Pokhara looks nice so far. Lake side is very touristy but it seems easy enough to get away from that.

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