7th Jan, Hotel Encounter Nepal, Thamel, Kathmandu, Nepal
And so we are here!
Dirty, messy, authentic. ‘It looks real’ I whispered to Poonam on the taxi ride here earlier. I love this place. I love that it’s dirty and raw and busy and kinda chilled at the same time.
We are sat in the hotel having just got in and I thought I’d update on the day so far.
I should really mention waking up on the flight just as we were landing. Impressive just doesn’t cut it. Looming out from the clouds were a bunch of brown and green mountains, dramatically dominating the view (a little like those I’d seen in southern Spain, albeit far more cloud covered and intense-looking). It was a few second later I had my first genuine moment of ‘I’m actually here ohmygodohmygod!’ As I saw a bunch of snow capped mountains in the distance, dwarfing the brown and green ones below. That would, of course, be the Himalayas…just the everyday, usual mountains you always see…
Visas, customs etc were pretty easy in the small and friendly seeming airport, then came the bit which I’d been both intrigued and nervous about, dealing with haggling and pestering, a little intimidating, from everyone wanting to drive us somewhere. Stood taking stock outside the airport, and having told 3 people to leave us alone while we just caught our breath a little, 5 separate people edged closer and closer to us, all very friendly and ‘5 quid to your hotel miss?’ It’s hard not to smile back and be friendly, but it’s something I guess I’ll have to learn, it’s no different than some of the sales tactics I’ve seen in retail before, only perhaps a little more full-on (and less fashionable!)
Eventually we decided on a $3 can ride for the 40-minute drive into Thamel, the main backpacker/touristy part of Kathmandu, not too bad a start. The guy who took us there has connections to the place we are staying and organised us a 2-bed room with modern, western en-suite and oh yes, the holy grail that is free wifi!
After a quick freshen up and a feverish catch up with the worlds of Facebook, Twitter, email, WhatsApp etc, the pair of us wandered out into Thamel.
The thing about this town within the city, which I’d read about but not really taken in, is the lack of electricity at night. Walking around pitch black streets in a busy city at 9pm is a little disconcerting, but also oddly peaceful. The odd street fire and torch hung up high above a still-open market shop helped to see our way a little, as locals passed us on bikes, motorcycles, cars and on foot, us just meandering through. A few drinks in the hotel later (hot rum, lemon and honey for the win – $2.50) and a chat with a couple of american guys (who were doing the ‘active Nepal’ bit, Everest base camp etc, and we are now chilling in our room listening to Dizzee Rascal and having a quick planning session for tomorrow. Surprised and pleased we are awake at midnight after 2 days with very little sleep and a bit of jetlag.
Temperature here a nice mild 15 degrees in the day, and much colder at night, comparable to maybe early March in the UK, but with no heating.
Blankets on all round and off to sleep…