I know it’s been over a month since I returned home from Nepal, my apologies for the delay but lo and behold I’m finally getting around to putting these posts up! Thing is, upon returning home I discovered that my laptop (which I didn’t bring along with me on my travels) had decided to go into some kind of a technological coma. It did not want to boot up, not even in safe mode, and so I had to get into troubleshooting mode and try to restore it back to life. As much as I try not to get too overly attached to material and digital possessions (and yet I name them, for instance I call my laptop Newton, my external disks are named Gunther, Tweedledee and Tweedledum, my iPad is Rico Newton Jr., my iPod is Mannga Manggo, etc), I still wanted to try my best at salvaging the files I had in the computer before declaring its death. So my days were occupied with slowly taking apart my laptop, getting the startup disk out, attempting disk recovery, picking at any files I can restore, backing up again, performing diagnostics and nursing it all back to health. I know I could have just blogged from my iPad or borrowed someone else’s computer in the mean time, but I didn’t like the hassle of transferring my blog notes and pictures back and forth between new machines. I still wanted the comfort and ease of syncing it all straight via my Newton.
Good news is I managed to get Newton up and running again, and did not have to declare official time of death, phew! I did give it a new disk drive, just in case the old one acts up again. But the good thing is most of my files and settings are restored, and I have my laptop back to normal. Woot!
And with that, I copy here for you my first day in Nepal. Happy reading!
Wednesday, 31 Oct 2012, 22:37hrs (Nepal time)
We had a good day today, going around the city on a bit of a sightseeing tour. We’re now back in our hotel after having dinner with Raj, who runs the agency that we got in touch with to handle our trekking arrangements for us. Tomorrow morning my dad and I fly on to Lukla to begin our trek, and since I’d just finished repacking my things for tomorrow’s trip I thought I’d sit and catch up with writing.
Where do I begin?
Ah yes, since I rambled an entire post away about the aeroplane view on the flight in, maybe I’ll pick up from the point of arrival 🙂
The landing in Kathmandu was uneventful, we arrived to a very cool, clear and sunny day. Everyone disembarked the plane and on to one of the shuttle buses that took us from the tarmac and into the terminal. A short walk down the corridors leading into the immigration hall, and we were immediately hit by the long lines that filled the area. For visitors from most countries of the world, a tourist visa is required for entry into Nepal. These can be applied upon arrival, with clear signage leading you to where the visa application forms are located along one corner of the hall. Aside from the visa application form, you will also need one copy of your passport-sized photograph, a disembarkation form, as well as cash payment in order to get your visa processed. Currently the prices for a tourist visa into Nepal are USD25 for a 15-day visa, USD40 for 30 days, or USD100 for 90 days. The visas are valid for multiple-entry, and aside from paying in US dollars they also accept Euros, Pound Sterling and Australian Dollars. You can get more information regarding Nepali visas here and here.
Once we’d filled up our forms we joined the queue, saving ourselves a little bit of time by not having to get our photographs taken at the photo booth as we had come prepared with copies of our passport photos. We still had to wait in line for quite a while, however – all the visa and immigration processing were pretty much done on a manual basis. Each processing counter had two or three men sitting in it and they would each verify our forms, pass it along to the next officer, hand-write in the countless necessary official fields, issue us more handwritten receipts and stubs, and slap a final visa into our passports at the end. In an age where many processes are computerized and automated I found the entire paper trail and manual workload interesting and fascinating to watch! And with the large amount of travelers arriving I thought they did it fairly well and kept things organized, actually. Baba, however, being someone who gets anxious just SEEING a long line (let alone be amongst many many long lines stretching across the hall), had to constantly be reminded to be patient ;p
Visas and passports in hand, we trudged along with the crowds of passengers and claimed our luggage. It’s also worthy to note that it’s best to keep your check-in luggage barcode tags handy, because the airport security & customs will want to verify your tags against the bags you take before they let you leave the hall. It’s a good measure, really, in case someone accidentally or purposely runs off with the wrong bag – but it does create a bit of a congestion when you get a few people who’d absentmindedly stuffed their tags deep in the recesses of their carry-ons or scrunched them up with other junk papers in their jeans pockets, then have to stand there in the middle of the throngs of people, scrambling around trying to look for the tiny tags in order to claim their luggage, whilst fighting off porters trying to make a living by offering to carry your things or push your trolley for you.
Upon successful maneuvering out of the crowds of people and trolleys we emerged outside, and I officially make it to my 32nd country visited! Woohoo!
As soon as we were out we were greeted by Raj, who owns and operates Good Karma Trekking, the agency that my dad had selected to handle our travel and trekking arrangements. Since this was amongst Baba’s dream trips I’d left it all up to him to plan and choose the logistics of it all, and his research brought him into contact with Good Karma Trekking. They were highly efficient, pleasant and clear when it comes to responding to his email queries, and so despite there being many other bigger agencies that handle trekking arrangements in Kathmandu, dad decided to go with Raj’s services. We were then highly appreciative when he made the time to meet us at the airport himself, providing us with a car and driver to take us to our hotel. I was impressed by the young man too – talking and chatting with him in the car ride, I gathered that he was a very honest, intelligent, dedicated and hardworking guy passionate about travel and tourism, and eager to build the small business that he’d started up himself (whilst juggling doing a part-time masters degree, too!). Despite us not even beginning our trekking trip yet, and only having been here 2 days, I would say I’d recommend you getting in touch with Raj if you ever consider traveling to Nepal and require the services of a local travel agent. His sincerity and helpfulness might be hard to find amongst the bigger agencies.
Raj took us to Hotel Moonlight, situated within the popular touristy area of Thamel. It’s a nice and moderate hotel, not sitting smack in the middle of the noise and bustle of Thamel’s crowded streets packed with restaurants and bars, which makes it a slightly quieter place to stay in. We checked in, had a quick freshening up and then followed Raj to his office, a mere 5-minutes’ walk away, where we were given a full briefing on the necessary arrangements and what to expect of our trekking days ahead. Afterwards, with a couple of hours of daylight left Baba and I walked around Thamel to explore, have some coffee and snacks, as well as get currency exchange. Thamel is filled with rows upon rows of shops selling goods and services that cater to the thousands of tourists walking its streets. Money changers are everywhere, there are restaurants and bars that turn lively at night with live bands, and shops sell everything from books to local crafts and goods that make popular souvenirs, as well as a huge variety of trekking, hiking and camping equipment. Mind you, not all the popular outdoor brands you see are originals. Some are fakes (of varying qualities) whilst some shops do carry certain originals. You can generally tell from the material quality and pricing, and I found that the best way to know for sure is just to ask. Majority of the shopkeepers are honest. Also if you’re shopping, remember to bargain!
Later in the night Baba, being particular with his food, wanted to eat something familiar for dinner so we settled on a Thai restaurant we found nestled in one of Thamel’s many tiny buildings. Had our fill of spicy seafood tom yam and vegetarian pad thai, which left us very satisfied :D. And that, was the end of our first day in Kathmandu!
Will write about Day 2 (today) in a new post.
Visit my Razzi page for more pictures!
Soundtrack: Little Comets – Worry
Location: Room, Hotel Moonlight, Kathmandu, Nepal
Random thought: Watching TV adverts in foreign countries are fun