Regular readers of our blog will not be surprised to learn that I was a bit nervous to be flying to Nepal. They might recognize by now that traveling from country to country is anxiety-provoking for me, as I always imagine the worse-case scenario of what could go wrong. And this time was no exception.
But I felt that for this specific flight, I was justified in my stress because we were flying Qatar Airways. We had chosen Qatar Airways back last January or so, not just because of the price of the flight, but because of its reputation and record as a top airline company.
Yes, I know that there are controversies surrounding both Qatar and Qatar Airways, but after years of flying no-frills, budget airlines, I wanted to feel what it was like to fly the old-fashioned way, or the expensive way, with a little bit of frills.
Unfortunately, since the time when we had made the reservation, Qatar has been embroiled in political controversy, and has had an embargo placed on it by its neighbors, blocking the airline from flying in their airspace. This meant for us that we would be flying to Doha and then on to Kathmandu over Iran. I imagined that if there was a problem with the plane, Jay and I would end up in an Iranian prison, talking to Hasan Rouhani, and trying to explain to him that we had not voted for Trump, and that we were not responsible for his actions.
Happily for us, I can report that the flight was flawless, and we arrived safely in Kathmandu.
The Qatar Airways flight was wonderful. The flight crew was so pleasant and polite, they served us wine with dinner, and we had many movies to watch during the flight, and we had LOTS of legroom. Having a short layover in Doha was very cool, but it was night so we couldn’t take advantage of the free tour of the city the airline offers layover passengers. The airport though, was very big and very impressive and we enjoyed the Priority Pass Lounge.
When we approached Kathmandu, we flew by the Annapurna mountain range. That was our introduction to the beauty and stunning landscape of Nepal. Here was the view out the window of the plane:
Landing at the airport, and finally being immersed into the country felt like the beginning of a brand-new adventure.
Other bloggers and authors often describe one’s first impressions of Kathmandu as sensory overload. So I am not going to use that phrase. It’s just too trite. What I will say is that Kathmandu is stunning. Some might find it overwhelming.
The first thing you notice is how people drive. Here is a video Jay took. This is one of the very few roundabouts we saw, and there are no traffic lights anywhere (at least as far as we could see). Upon doing a bit of research, I did find out that there are traffic lights in Kathmandu, but they mostly don’t work.
The second thing you notice is how many people there are - 1.2 million people in the city. It’s big. And crowded. It’s very spread out. I read it’s close to 50 square kilometers.
We stayed in a hotel in the Thamel neighborhood, which is known as the “backpackers neighborhood”. Really just the place where most of the tourists stay. And in the three days we were there, we didn’t leave this neighborhood. We had to get outfitted for our trek, buying things that we couldn’t carry with us in our minimalist packing. And boy, did Jay have a wonderful three days! We got to know the winding streets and alleys, and were able to navigate nicely back to our hotel each evening.
For those of you that love shopping, you are in for a treat. Jay is going to write a blog post all about how it was to shop in Thamel for trekking gear. He learned a lot and absolutely loved it. This will be coming soon.
After three days in Thamel, we were ready to go to Pokhara and then start our 8 day trek.
(next blog post coming soon)