Airport, people, and the first impression
Nepal is a strange country, but it shouldn’t be understood as a negative critic. There were things I liked, was charmed, and inspired by. There were also things that made me feel bad, sad, and even terrified. Even though I’ve been to 46 countries so far I’ve never visited a place like Kathmandu.
We arrived at Tribhuvan International Airport (KTM) before 7 pm and quickly made our way to the immigration hall. I did my research beforehand and found information that the immigration process is quite chaotic the same as the way out.
Determined to avoid queuing and frustration I grab my friend and got off the bus (from the aircraft) as soon as it reached the terminal, and the door opened. We walked quickly, some people ran into the building. It was raining so the surface was wet and slippery therefore one man slipped and fell down. I stopped and turned to help him. No one else reacted. The man stood up, swayed and walked away to the opposite direction than he, and everyone else was heading to.
Once we got to the immigration hall we went straight to Automated Passport Control Kiosks. We didn’t get landing cards and/or visa forms on the plane to fill out and we didn’t need any. We just scanned our passports, gave details regarding our stay and needed visas, and took photos as an identity confirmation using the machines.
As a next step, we proceeded to a visa application counter where we paid a visa fee (25 USD for a 15 days visa; payment with a credit/debit card costs an additional 1 USD, but at least it’s possible; they accept also other currencies).
Several minutes later, after we finished the third and last step, which was a quick stop by a customs counter, a customs officer checked my passport, the visa fee payment slip, I got at the previous counter, and placed an adequate visa in my passport, we entered the country.
It’s worth mentioning here that (according to uncle Google) KTM airport was ranked (in 2017) the 2nd worst airport in Asia and the 13th in the world. I’m not sure if we were lucky but in our case, the whole process went relatively smooth.
A few minutes later (after our bags were scanned) we went outside and immediately got surrounded by taxi drivers and tour guides trying to sell us the ride. We ignored them and walked further to the main road. I knew that someone, either from the drivers gathered at the exit from the terminal or a cab driver waiting in his car, will come to get us. They wouldn’t give up such an opportunity. It was easier to get a better price for the ride when a taxi driver was separated from his colleagues and potential clients. 😉
According to my research, ride to the city (we stayed in Thamel – a “commercial neighborhood” and center “of the tourist industry” [Wikipedia]) should cost approximately 500 Nepalese Rupee (a good price for tourists, especially so obvious like white chicks like us 😂) but I was trying to get it for 400. Because I had only US Dollars on me I was trying to bargain in dollars. Finally, after swift but intense haggling in rain, we agreed on 5 USD. The next day I stopped being so proud of my bargaining skills when I discovered that 1 USD = 111 NPR, so I didn’t get that good price 😅 (well, it wasn’t expensive anyway but I just didn’t want to get ripped off).
Our hotel was located in an area where car traffic was restricted. The taxi driver wanted to call the hotel as he wasn’t able to drop us off at the door. We tanked for his effort and decided to walk to the hotel. It wasn’t far and we’re very curious about the city.
I’ve quickly realized that it was the nature of the local people. Maybe Nepalis wanted to rip tourists off but they were also very kind and worthy. If they agreed to do something they did their best to do it.
We made our way to the hotel in dark rainy streets. I knew that the next day when I get up, I’ll love the streets. I was right. I enjoyed wandering noisy market streets of Thamel very much.
People in Kathmandu are polite and cheerful. Once we finally reached our hotel we were greeted with Namaste, big smiles, warmth, and welcome drinks. Although people of Kathmandu were polite they weren’t overpolite. As soon as we got into our room, changed quickly, we went out to have dinner. We were starving and wanted to try local food so ordered three appetizers to share and a bowl of soup each. My friend was considering trying a dessert aloud, but the waiter discouraged her to do so. We looked at him puzzled. Normally it works the opposite way. Only 30 minutes left until he could close the restaurant so maybe he was afraid that one more dish and we will stay too long.
A good thing to know is that you need to have cash on you. Payment by credit cards is barely accepted (we managed to use it at the airport and hotel only), however in it’s easy to find ATM in Thamal to withdraw money. It’s possible to pay with US dollars and Euros but it’s not worth it in the long run.
As I mentioned before, Nepalis are kind people but they can be also dangerous. I’ve observed an incredible tendency to violence that, I believe is acceptable in society. A man beat a boy on Amideva Buddha Park, the boy sobbed, cried but no one reacted. I stood there observing the scene, clues. What should I do? Should I say something, try to save this little human? Would it even matter? I didn’t know what was the crime of this boy but hiding, in general, wasn’t a good act.
Not even about 2h later we saw another act of violence. Standing in the streets, we were approached by a woman carrying an infant. The baby was sleeping just like all the babies when mothers beg for alms. Her outstretched hand didn’t need to be supported by words. I spotted a taxi, and we walked away. When we got inside, we saw a man beating this woman. Was it a punishment for asking us for money or not succeeding in getting them, or maybe just a whim of the man?
To be continued