I got to the airport and got the bus to the terminal and then had to sort out the visa situation. I had spoken to a girl in Goa who said she had to go outside to the cash machine to get cash to come back in to get the visa which is exactly what I had to do. So I had to walk past the counter, leave my passport etc, go down to the outside bit with the cash machine avoiding various taxi men on the way. I managed to get some cash out which was in Nepali rupees. Went back upstairs and queued up and met a guy from the Isle of Wight called Lee in the queue and got chatting
. I got to the paying counter after queuing for a while only to be told I could only pay in one of the currencies on the sign above like Euros, pounds, dollars etc. I thought this meant they would accept them aswell as their own currencies. Apparently I should have read the Lonely Planet a little more thoroughly as it does say in there so I had to go to the bureau de change which is right by it to change their own bloody currency into dollars in order to pay their bloody visa. A bit of a pullover to start with but I got it sorted eventually as was literally the last one to get the visa after all the faffing. I had to get a 30 day visa as I was staying 16 days but they do a 15 day visa which would have been about $20 cheaper but numb nuts here managed to book myself the one extra day which cost me extra. Anyhow Lee was waiting downstairs to go and get a taxi. We avoided one of the taxi men I met on my money run who was quoting me 200 rupees and to take me to a nice hotel. Now he didn't say where this was and we decided it was safer to book a proper taxi from the stand and we went off to Thamel to get a hotel. A guy was in with the taxi driver who was proper sound. Really nice called Pramod who chatted about various things to do with Nepal, Kathmandu, trekking and he runs a golfing company so we said about getting a round in before I go. He sorted us a hotel which was about $10 a night which was probably more than we wanted to pay and could probably get but we couldn't be bothered and we got in and got sorted
. Pramod took us to another sister hotel just round the corner for some tea and chatted about what we wanted to do trekking wise etc. He took us to a restaurant to get some food aswell and I treated myself to a steak. Then me and Lee went off to go get some beer and we went to book his bus to Pokhara for the next day from the other hotel and we had to go get some cash for him. He had a bit of a nightmare as his card didn't work in the cash machines so he had to call his bank who told him his new card wouldn't work so he had to go get his other one. After money was procured we had a wander through Thamel and found an Irish pub with a live band on and went for a beer. It's pretty hectic in Thamel. Quite a few narrow streets with loads of people running round, cars, bikes etc. The usual. We had a beer and then went to look for another bar and found a really cool chilled out bar with cushion seating and low tables, some chilled out tunes on etc and sorted another beer. Had a good chat about various stuff then Lee asked a couple to take a photo and we got chatting to them. One guy Elie I would later meet in Pokhara too and he had spent 4-5 days stuck in this small town while doing some trekking because of the weather. I later found out it was on the news and a friend of his ended up paying a helicopter about $600 or something to take them home but they ended up being dropped in this 2 house 'village' and left. They had to knock on the door and ask to stay so about 6-8 of them crammed into these houses leaving the families in the other small room and then eventually they got back via some more walking I think but actually ended up back later than the people who just stayed and waited
! So they paid $600 for an extra nightmare day or two for nothing. Wounder. So things generally wind down at about 10.30-11pm here so we got booted out and went to bed. Elie and his mate told us it would probably be best to just get to Pokhara to sort trekking etc so I decided to go in a couple of days. A few people said 2 days in Kathmandu is enough anyway.
Next day Lee had gone so I decided to go on the walks from the Lonely Planet which take you through the main bits of Kathmandu and then into some of the more residential areas. I got the hotel guy to take me to the start and started the trundle. The streets were lined with shops as per and there were loads of people shuffling round. Again pretty hectic. I met a guy on the square when I was trying to figure out which way to go. He was friendly and then started to show me round the route. He guided me through the various streets showing me the various Hindu, Buddhist etc temples so it was pretty cool. About 3/4 of the way round the guy mentioned about how work was a little shy and usually when he shows people round he gets recompensed. I thought 'Here we go...' first it's all wanting to be friendly and help you out then the money card gets played. Then we got to Durbar Square which was where then first walk ends which is a kind of World Heritage site with loads of old temples etc. The guy asked me for some cash to which I pulled out 100 rupees for him. He said 'What am I supposed to do with 100 rupees?' to which my answer in my head might have sounded a little harsh especially when he asked me for 500 ruppes instead! But I just said that I hadn't asked him to show me round and that was all I was giving and wandered down to Durbar Square. I walked past the barrier and got accosted by the security man who informed me I had to pay an entrance fee. After a little deliberation I decided to go in and at least see it and get the photos
. It was about 300 rupees or something. There is some really nice temples (check the pics) and I sat and had a drink and took it all in. I decided to wander past the square and into the further reaches of Kathmandu for a greater authentic feel. I ended up walking for about 10-15 minutes through the streets seeing fewer and fewer tourists as I went. It was cool to see it a little bit more in depth. I used my inner compass took a left then another left and hoped I'd end up back towards Durbar Square. My semi-unconscious homing instinct had kicked in again though as I ended up on what appeared to be Freak Street which is one of the main sights to go and see and is so named as it is where all the hippies used to live about 30-40 years ago and these were indeed all of the 'freaks' that used to frequent this part of Kathmandu. It was like when me and Blaise went down to Birmingham a few years ago to go to Hard to Find Records. We had an idea of where it was sort of but then found ourselves a bit lost, went up this street then turned up this side street to turn back around and lo and behold there was Hard to Find Records. We thought 'It's not that hard to find!'. But I seem to be able to just stumble across places I need to or want to be. Anyway I wandered back up towards Durbar Square and went for a wander up one of the main streets then the back of the square and headed back towards Thamel. I kind of worked my way backwards but tried to take a slightly different route through all the madness to see some other stuff
. I ended up walking quite a bit out of the main part and thought the road I was down should lead to Thamel but it seemingly didn't. I asked this guy for directions and popped out up the top end of Thamel which I hadn't been to yet so eventually after more wandering I found some bars/restaurants I recognised and made it back to the hotel. That night I just had a hunt for a cheap restaurant and then chilled in the bar opposite watching the footy.
Impressions of Kathmandu are that it's a little bit hectic in parts, seemingly a little uncoordinated but there seems to be method in all the madness. It's quite similar to some cities in India in a way but anyway you can check the photos. Next day is off to Pokhara for trekking.....
This one's going to be pretty short and sweet. I flew from Mumbai to Delhi and then onto Kathmandu. The approach to the airport is really something flying through some of the mountains. At one point I did think that we may end up flying into one as some of them reach pretty high up towards the plane and I was just hoping the pilot hadn't missed one. Or in fact missed all of them.