Here in Kalimati!
Landed in Kathmandu this afternoon, and it was smooooth sailing through customs. The Nepalis have got their process down. $25, two forms, and a passport photo later, I now have a Nepal visa for 15 days!
We’re staying in the Kalimati area, which wasn’t affected too badly by the earthquake. The Amar Hotel is wonderfully quaint and comfortable. But I got my first taste of the reality of the devastation.
Krishna, the sweet gentleman who has worked at the hotel for 22 years, lost his mother in the quake. Every person in Kathmandu was somehow directly affected by the disaster. But he still has the most cheerful demeanor. When I arrived at the airport, he had the biggest grin on his face and could not have been more gracious.
As I chatted with him for quite a while this evening, I got the sense he genuinely loves his job. When he’s not at the front desk of the hotel or picking up people from the airport, he actually leads multi-week treks throughout the Nepal area, even up to Tibet and Bhutan. Definitely another reason to come back to Nepal!
Tonight was a wonderful welcome: I got to meet up with Kevin’s friend Yoshiha, who is living in nearby Pokhara and has been a Japan Overseas Cooperations Volunteer for the past year and a half (kind of like our Peace Corps). Baller, right?
She and I explored Thamel, which is in the center of the city. It’s an incredibly lively place with all sorts of stalls plus restaurants serving Italian, Mexican, Chinese, Korean, and of course, local cuisine. Yoshiha said Thamel used to be even more packed before the earthquake, and I could see this reflected in the numerous stalls that were closed before we even sat to eat dinner.
But Thakali Bhanchha (Bhanchha means kitchen, Thakali is an ethnic group here in Nepal) was packed. And I could see why: we ordered the Thakali set, which came with a colorful assortment of vegetables, curd, potatoes, and your choice of meat (or veg) in a ring-around-the-rosy dance circling a heaping scoop of rice. The kicker? It was unlimited refills. A group of 10 guys next to us were slurping down the food so fast, the waitresses could barely keep up with the refills.
And with a full belly, I await tomorrow’s adventures as the full group arrives. We’ll head back to Thamel and to other parts of Kathmandu to get a feel for the city as well as see more damaged areas.