The 42-hour journey to Kathmandu
It was quite a long trek to get to Kathmandu, as a matter of fact, it was the longest journey I’ve ever made with regards to travel time, 42 hours in all. I took the first flight out of Phoenix to San Francisco (SFO) and thankfully it was on time because I had to retrieve my luggage, check in to my long-haul flight from SFO to Delhi, India within 90 minutes. International flights typically board about an hour early, so that did not give ma a lot of time.
Delightfully, everything went like clockwork, even my bag was one of the first off of the baggage carousel. I quickly make my way to the international terminal and found there was no wait at the Air India counter and walked right up. While I was checking in I joyfully learned that I had been upgraded to Business Class. This was the very first time I had ever flown international business class and I was downright giddy. While the 777 was an older aircraft, it still provided a wonderful flying experience. The seats were lay-flat, with plenty of room to move around the cabin. The service was outstanding, which started with a rolling mini-bar where flight attendants prepared an array of cocktails or a choice of wine or beer. The three meals were presented in formal fashion, complete with white table clothes over our in-seat tray tables. It made me feel nostalgic, like what it must have been to fly back in the 40s and 50s during the heyday of air travel.
Beyond the scrumptious food, we were provided a slew of amenities to make the 15-hour long flight as enjoyable as possible. From a welcome pack that had a toothbrush, razor, lotions, lip balm and more, to a duvet, slippers and even a traveling garment similar to pajamas, if we really wanted to get comfortable. It was an entirely new experience for me and one I could quickly get used to, however the $8000 flight is obviously not for everyone, and well above my pay grade. I savored every moment, not even wanting to sleep and miss a moment, although I did try.
The flight to Delhi was absolutely wonderful, however I soon realized that my layover en route to my final destination of Kathmandu was not 4 hours, but rather 16. Most of the world does not use AM or PM and I did not notice that my flight didn’t leave that evening, but rather the next morning. Thankful once again to have been upgraded to business class because this gave me access to the Air India lounge, which is quite nice. And, unlike other lounges I’ve been in, this one was not packed to the gills people, but rather had plenty of space to find solace and get some work done.
In addition to food and drinks, they even had a few sleeping quarters so I was able to rest that evening. Unfortunately, I was unable to sleep as the rooms were not well insulated from outside sounds and I had forgotten my earplugs in my checked luggage, which I did not have access too as it was being held for my connecting flight. After passing the time by eating multiple times, and walking around the airport feeling like Tom Hanks in the movie Terminal, I finally took a shower to freshen up. The bathrooms were like a five-star resort, floor to ceiling marble, high-end shower with all the amenities to freshen up, such as a razor, toothbrush, shampoo, etc.
After getting freshened up, I went to have some breakfast before finally heading to the gate to catch my flight to Kathmandu. It was a short flight and I was sitting in first class next to an fairly young Indian man. Most people, myself include, breakout an iPad, phone or maybe a book, but this guy retrieved a sketch pad from his belongings and opened to a page in which he’d already begun. It was a nearly finished sketch of a woman, and it was stunning. The detail and realism were outstanding. I commented on his abilities and we eventually struck up a conversation. Interestingly, this guy was/is an analyst for Air India, he crunches numbers all day, yet he also has this artistic side. I also learned that while the gentlemen loves to travel, this was his very first trip outside of India. He was enthused by my travel career and was asking me all about my adventures, then sharing the places he really wanted to see. He was a charming young man and it was such a pleasure to meet him.
As we neared Nepal coming in for our approach, I noticed we were descending quite rapidly, which made me take notice. My seat mate was telling me that he had been reading about the landings at a couple of the airports in Nepal, that they are so tricky that the pilots had to be specially trained. As the landing gear was being deployed we quickly made an abrupt ascent, which I can only think has ever happened to me once before. We did not know what was going on, but clearly our plane was not cleared to land (or something). We spent over 30 minutes circling the airspace before finally coming in for a landing, which was noticeable hard, likely due to strong cross winds from the nearby mountain range I suspected.
My seat mate and I parted ways as he needed to stay on board as he was being greeted by airline personnel, so I exited the plane down a set of stairs onto the tarmac. I was the first one off the plane, which had also been a first for me. All the passengers boarded a bus that drove us a short distance to the modest Kathmandu airport. I was greeted by an awaiting staff from the tourism bureau who helped me get my visa and through customs, which was a breeze.
When I arrived into Kathmandu, it was like most third world big cities I’ve visited, lots of pollution, noise, crazy drivers, mismatched buildings (lack of building codes), rubble from a fairly recent earthquake, wild dogs roaming for scraps. Ultimately, the one word to describe the scene is poor. Every time I visit a place like this, I am reminded at just how lucky I am to be an American. With as many problems as we have, they simply do not compare to 3rd world plight. In my opinion, poor Americans have no idea how good they have it, often wallowing in their misery when the cable goes out or their wi-fi goes down. The people of developing countries have real problems, yet they don’t seem nearly as bothered as rich poor Americans.
Once I arrived at my hotel, the Maya Manor, it was a subtle and welcomed escape from the blight that one passes getting there. Located in the central financial district of Kathmandu, down a secluded alleyway, the hotel is nestled in a protected alcove within the city. Its bright yellow and white exterior make it an unmistakable piece of architecture within Katmandu, showcasing the grandeur of European colonial influence which was introduced in the 1800s. The hotel is an interesting combination of architectural styles, from neoclassical, Gothic to Victorian which manages to offer a timeless beauty of the elegant past.
For the next day and a half I went for a couple of walks, but mainly stayed close to the hotel and rested, often taking long naps trying to get acclimated to the 12:45 minute time zone change and jet lag that follows. This is the third country I’ve been to with a crazy time zone, the other two have been Newfoundland and India, both :30.
Today, I feel more rested and I await the arrival of my friend Archana with Travel See Write, she and I will go off and explore other parts of Kathmandu today. Tomorrow begins a cultural road trip around the central part of the country. Click the following links to read about various areas I visited in Nepal: Panauti Village Homestay, Chitwan Safari, Lumbini – Birthplace of Buddha, or the Pokhara pagoda hike and underground temple.