Sunday 1st January 2006.
I am finally in Kathmandu.
I can hardly believe it.
This morning I had an early breakfast just after 6 oâ€™clock. By seven I was packed and ready to leave Bangkok.I went down to check out and settle my account. I had to pay for the meals that I had booked up during my stay. My driver was waiting for me just as I finished the paperwork. There were no other passengers in the car with me. It being a holiday in Thailand there was very little traffic on the freeway to the airport, and so we made very good time. Check-in took only a few minutes and so did immigration. As a consequence I had two hours to fill in before my plane was due to leave.
Off to Kathmandu
I found a very cheap internet cafÃ© and spent about 45 minutes writing emails home and also replying to emails sent to me. It was good to hear what was happening at home. I boarded the plane at just before 10:30am and only a few minutes later we were in flight. The three hour flight went well â€“ except for the poor stewardess who tipped over a drinks trolley in the aisle. Drinks, glasses, bottles and ice went everywhere. She was so embarrassed. Apart from that the flight was very smooth, even over the ranges near Kathmandu.
I was very excited watching the Himalaya ranges getting closer and closer as we approached Kathmandu. I could clearly see the snow-capped mountains for about 45 minutes. The view from my seat was really fantastic with great views of Mt. Everest. The view disappeared as we landed. The pollution in the Kathmandu Valley is usually quite bad and there was no view of the surrounding hills, let alone the mountains further off.
Kathmandu airport is very third world. It is certainly not in the same league as Melbourne or Bangkok. As the plane taxis one is aware of the wrecks of planes and helicopters scattered along the perimeter. Then there was a five minute walk to the terminal. Customs and immigration was very quick taking only a few minutes. The big hold-up came when I went to collect my suitcase. This took nearly forty minutes to appear. Most other people had a similar wait. I also had no trouble seeing the driver who came to collect me. In fact, he saw me before I saw him.
Driving in Kathmandu
The drive to the Shangri La Hotel was very interesting. The mini-van was about 20 years old and had seen much better days. The roads we took would give goat tracks a bad name! And then there was the traffic â€“ there seem to be no rules. Well, perhaps one rule: he who barges the most aggressively gets right of way. Dodge â€˜em cars are positively sedate in comparison. And the chief driving aid used is the horn. I heard more toots in the first minute here than I did in the four days in Bangkok. The drivers here have to be very skilful, dodging cars, trucks, buses, tuk-tuks, bicycles, motor bikes, pedestrians, dogs, cows, ducks, more dogs and maybe even the occasional monkey. Despite the chaos we arrived safely. The only other passenger was Kath from Melbourne. She is also going on the trek.
I was quite surprised to see monkeys in the streets. I hadnâ€™t anticipated seeing monkeys here. There were also large numbers of dogs wandering around everywhere, quite oblivious to the traffic all around. I saw a small flock of 8 â€“ 10 ducks just standing in the middle of the road with the traffic veering all around them! The section of the city we drove through was very run down and slum like, nothing like life here in Australia.
It was great to see our daughter Rose at the hotel. It had been just over a year since we said farewell to her on Boxing Day 2004. She has been on a teaching exchange in the UK. We spent a few minutes filling in various forms for the hotel and Peregrine Travel, our trekking company. We also met Ananta, our guide for the trek. After that we went up to the room we were sharing. We spent the afternoon catching up. I did most of the talking. I had so much to share regarding my experiences in Thailand.