Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Nepal: To Kathmandu

The roads on the way to the airport at 4.45am were almost empty which made the taxi driver’s sense of urgency all the more curious. At one point, the screen on the GPS console instructed the cabbie to ‘drive carefully’, which later changed to ‘slow down!’ in bold red letters once the speed exceeded 140 km an hour. We reached the terminal in 20 minutes rather than the usual half-an-hour.

The Malaysia Air flight to Kathmandu required a change of plane at Kuala Lumpur. Passengers with armfuls of carry-on luggage were squeezed into every possible space on both flights. The second leg was particularly memorable due to the most putrid smell that had emanated from someone’s digestive system, which was combated by a stewardess spraying liberal amounts of air freshener. I have recently mentioned that these sorts of people should be banned from flying
. In Kathmandu, it was not difficult to recognise my bag on the carousel as it was the only item not secured with string or cling film. Previous experience at this airport had me prepared for the swarm of taxi drivers outside arrivals but I was able to repel them with the confidence of a person with organised transport. Minutes later however, the organised transport, a one-year-old Land Rover Discovery broke down which required the use of a mangled taxi to reach the hotel.

Sleeping three-wheeled bicycle taxi driver - KathmanduAlthough a major earthquake is inevitable in Nepal, it was hard to believe in some areas that one had not already taken place. The road-widening project in the city has demolished hundreds of building, houses and walls - any illegal structure beyond the property boundary has been ruthlessly demolished by the authorities leaving piles of concrete, brick and dust all over the city. The mounds of rubble are often covered in teams of men hammering away with primitive tools to recycle bricks, wood and tiles.

After a settling in to the Druk Hotel, there was time for a bit of reconnaissance in the Thamel area. Many of the shops and alleys seemed familiar from a previous visit with Mrs M six years ago 

Flute salesman - Thamel, KathmanduThe people looked familiar too; monks in bright red robes, men selling fruit from bicycles, women cooking omelettes from small carts housing a gas bottle and a stack of eggs, a chap selling flutes arranged on the end of stick like a palm tree, men aggressively clearing their throats before spitting, tourists wearing adventure boots and trousers with pockets on the legs wandering around in couples fending off offers from pashmina salesmen and mature European hippy-chicks with matted hair that had probably stayed in Nepal a bit too long in an attempt to find themselves.

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