May 21, 2017

Visiting Kathmandu

 The names of some destinations have a magical draw for me such as Katmandu and Timbuktu. I will probably never get to Timbuktu but I decided if I was ever going to Kathmandu I better go while I still can. 

When John and I arrived at Nepal’s Tribhuvan International Airport it was very busy with
several planes arriving about the same time. We decided to get a visa on arrival but so did most of the other passengers so it was very hectic.  One of the airport security guards came to the rescue (I sure TSA& airport security in the US would do the same – maybe, maybe not).  He motioned for us to sit and said if we gave him the money for the visas ($25 pp for a 15-day visa) he would do it for us.  We gave him the money and our passports and after a few minutes he returned with all the necessary paperwork, led us to the desk where visas are issued and with a nod to the people standing in line we went ahead of everyone and received our visas.  It was much appreciated.  

Our hotel, Hotel Shanker, provided complimentary airport
transfers. I try to book hotels with complimentary transport because we find dealing with airport taxis frustrating.  The ride into the city was interesting.  The city seemed chaotic. Vendors had their wares displayed along the roadway. The traffic was intense. Katmandu has over one
million people and no stoplights or stop signs. There are a few policemen at critical intersections but basically traffic, which is heavy most of the time, operates on drivers taking turns giving way to other drivers. I was told that some foreign organizations had installed traffic lights but it caused more confusion because Kathmandu does not have reliable electricity 24 hours. 

Our hotel, the Shanker, was, like many other high end hotels,
located down a private side road from the main highway making it an oasis in the midst of a pulsating city. The Shanker is a family owner hotel and offered great deals because the hotel suffered some damage to the lobby during the earthquake and while they are repairing the damage they decided to upgrade some parts of the hotel.  It didn’t impact our stay. For a reasonable price we were able to book a suite. 

John and I enjoy cultural shows.  The concierge at the hotel booked dinner for us at Bhojan Girha with transportation. It was much better than I thought it would be. I imaged tour buses dropping of dozens of people.  Not so.  The restaurant is in an history building in neo-classic design that was once the residence of the royal priest and  is over 150 years old. It was on the verge of collapse when it was skillfully restored using
traditional methods to become a place that promotes culture and local cuisine.   They have several restaurants to meet the needs of various groups.  Our room was perfect.  Quite intimate.  Seating is traditional – on the floor but they had special low chairs for those of us who were not accustomed to
sitting comfortably on the floor. 
The festive folk music was representative of some of the over 100 Nepali ethnic groups. The many course meal was delicious from the Momocha (meat filled dumplings) to Kukhura Ko Masu (chicken curry) to Sikarni (sweetened yogurt Cream).  A wonderful way to learn about Napali culture.