Thursday, 23 April 2015

Arriving in Kathmandu

Hello from Kathmandu!

I had the most extraordinary arrival ever. I didn't have a visa, which is no problem in Nepal, you just wait your turn, pay your $25 US and then wait some more and give the Immigration your photo and they stamp your passport and that's it. The process usually takes an hour at the very least.

Our plane was one of 6 arriving at the same time, so we started off by circling Kathmandu for half an hour and waiting our turn to land. The guy I was sitting next to (a Nepali United Nations official, who drank 2 glasses of champagne, 3 glasses of white wine, 2 glasses of red wine and a brandy on our 3.5 hour flight and watched the film Paddington Bear on his TV monitor, which I thought was rather a strange choice for a grown man... but then he was pissed) muttered something to me about it being typical of Nepal and it was going to be a nightmare going through Immigration and I thought then that the queues for No Visa Immigration were going to be a nightmare, so even though I was second off the plane I didn't hurry cos I thought there was no point. Imagine my surprise when I got to the No Visa point when I was 2nd in line and the queue for the Got Visa point was already queuing up and around. I wondered initially if I'd got the right place.

Just as I was called forward to pay my money one of the other passengers (ostensibly the 3rd in line) said to me 'Is this the No Visa queue?' I replied, 'I hope so, I'm just about to find out.' He was pretty shocked too. I paid my money to the official and then was pretty much immediately ushered forward to the Immigration Officer, who also, rather unusually, smiled at me. 'Photo?' he asked as I gave him my passport and proof I'd paid my $25. I searched everywhere but I couldn't find it and just as I was about to give up and go and get one done on the online kiosk, another passenger in the now building No Visa queue found my photo on the floor and waved it at me. Boy, was I relieved!

The Immigration Officer thought it was hysterical and then, while he was trying to stamp my passport, his phone went off. I think he was saying something along the lines of 'No I can't talk now, I'm at work at the Immigration Desk' and then put his phone down handed me back my passport and grinned and wished me a great stay and a lovely day. So nice.

As I went slowly downstairs to wait for my luggage I saw my suitcase coming round the carousel so dashed to get it.

The whole process from getting off the plane to picking up my suitcase must have taken about 20 minutes max. Absolutely unheard of, especially at Tribhuvan Airport!

The outcome of this was that Mountain Man and taxi driver were sitting having a chat in the lounge while waiting for me and I was already outside the airport looking for them. Luckily MM glanced up and saw my hair and The Beast (my suitcase, which is bright turquoise) and came running out with a 'What the hell? How did you manage to get out so quickly? We thought you be at least another hour to an hour and a half'. And that was my arrival in Kathmandu.

Yesterday afternoon we went to the Mountain Tea Shop in Thamel so say hi to my old friend Binod - and this bit is for Lizzie - he's getting married! Photos will be uploaded when he sends me them, because I didn't have my phone on me (there are some things that are still left over from Chiva Som) and so he took them on his phone.  Then in the evening we went to our usual hangout Or2K for dinner with our other friend Rabi.

Today we went to Boudhanath to see Santa, who's MM's singing bowl pal, have my photo taken with the nun at the bottom of the steps of the stupa (which I also did last time I was here in October 2012), who insisted I had to sit heads touching with hers (last time she grabbed my head, but this time she wanted to put her arm around me) and then after a wander about had a bit of lunch. It was all lovely as always.

October 2012 - having my head grabbed by the elderly nun

This time - arm round my shoulder and touching heads

The largest bowl of incense I've ever seen

The Boudhinath at it's best

Now I'm sitting back at the hotel (Holy Himalaya) which has the hardest bed I think I've ever slept in... though slept is a complete misnomer as it was so hard I hardly slept at all... and taking a load off while waiting a while before we go for dinner. And then tomorrow it's off to Pokhara and our dear friend Sonam's place.

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