After a smooth flight on the 2nd of April we arrived at the airport of New Delhi at a little before midnight. It only took about half an hour to get our boarding passes for Jet Airways and after some security checks we took the elevator (I know, lazy) to the Duty Free Shopping area and restaurants. It was unclear to us whether or not we needed a transit visa, but you really don’t need one if you don’t leave the airport. Indira Ghandi Airport is way more modern than I’d expected! Carpets on the floor (which would come in handy later), luxurious lounges, good restaurants, coffee bars, advanced technologies and above all very very clean! Everything looks new and since we had to spend more than 7 hours on this airport, this was a welcome surprise.
At 2 am we got very tired and tried to sleep on the floor (unfortunately the couches are not suitable for sleeping, since most people sleep in a horizontal position and they’d put arm-rests everywhere). Sleeping at an airport is not that comfortable, since a) you have to find some way to protect your bag while you are sleeping and b) I’m used to a mattress and the place was devoid of mattresses obviously. The carpet made it a little bit better, but still… So no sleeping. At 5 am we also found out that our plane would leave 2 hours later, at 8.30 am. But oh well. Mental note for next time: fly during the night and wait for any transit flights during the day, because falling asleep on a plane is always a little more likely than falling asleep on the floor of an airport (for me it is at least).
During our second flight we were treated to delicious roti and enjoyed our view. Strangely enough, we were not that tired anymore when we arrived at Kathmandu Airport. Somehow your body switches to “everything is so new and exciting”-mode and you feel energetic again. Along with 300 other people we patiently waited in line to get our visa (bring at least 2 passport photos or you’ll have to wait even longer). Outside the airport was complete chaos. We were barely even through the doors, when no less than 20 people at once offered us a cab or a guest house or both. On the other side of the road there was a line of about 50 Nepalese people with signs of people’s names, hotels and organisations. We knew we needed to find our guy there, but how to get there when you have to get passed hundreds of other men, who obviously don’t take no for an answer. Aaarghh!!
And there he was! With a big sign that said Kathmandu Guest House! Such a relief. He guided us to our van, where another guy managed to take my backpack from me and place it in de car (he had to take 1 step with my bag). Apparently that little moment of losing your focus costs you 5 bucks. Like no… we gave him a dollar and he got angry. At that point I was beyond tired and didn’t feel intimidated at all, so he just left. It was a weird scenery there outside the airport. Nepalese people fighting over who would carry the bag of a particular tourist, chaos on the road (I was surprised no one got hit by a car) , intense heat and a lot of shouting.
All this was followed by a crazy car ride to Thamel with cows on the road, people everywhere also on the road, vans overtaking either right or left, just what was most convenient to them and the sound of car horns non-stop! I quickly learned that looking out through the front window is bad for your nervous system, so I started focussing on the surroundings. It’s so different… In Holland roads are structured, there are traffic lights everywhere and here you have to drive on the left side (although I was not completely sure of that yet at that moment) and just try to stay alive. With my driving skills I would probably have caused an accident in merely 5 seconds, so I was glad I was not the one driving :) We saw many little markets, small shops which looked a bit like garage sales, colourful outfits, decaying homes and children in uniform.
Our guest house was situated right in the centre of Thamel and even had an entrance gate. We checked in, closed the curtains and tried to sleep through the noise of the construction work next door (literally next door in the room behind our one…). After we woke up, we walked through the small streets of this area and had dinner at the guest house. They had this great Nepalese style courtyard restaurant with many local dishes on the menu. Don’t ask me the name of any of those dishes, but that night we ate some spicy chicken curry dish, rice, vegetable momo’s and toasted bread with cheese (the latter was listed under small dishes, but they served 8 cheese sandwiches :D). A very good meal! I would really recommend the Kathmandu Guest House for people who only stay a couple of days in this capital. The location is excellent, but I think after a week you would feel more comfortable a little outside of Thamel, since it’s always hectic and very touristy. But the rooms are good, the food is great and the staff is very nice. They even have their own ATM on the premises, a travel agency, a lovely garden, free computers with internet, just everything. It’s a good base for exploring the city. Our first day ended here and it had definitely been interesting!