Originally Posted On: 16 April 2014
I have been stuck for too long in Bangalore! Vietnam seems a long time ago. After a few failed attempts of going to Europe which led to a few more weeks of frustration towards travel in general, I figured, booking a one way ticket to Nepal would be ideal to be re-bitten by the travel bug. So, in true spirit of backpacking, I landed in Kathmandu with nothing planned. I mean nothing when I say nothing.
Landing at Tribhuvan International airport at 5.15 pm, the time had come to find a bed to sleep the night. But first, I had to go through the formalities of international travel. Usually this is how it works, in no particular order:
- Land in a new country; Obviously!
- Get Visa; Somehow!
- Clear Immigration; Fingers crossed!
- Change Currencies; How much do I get for 100 Rs?
- Clear Customs; There are two sets of clothes in my bag. and then woohoo! You are free to roam the country.
Well! Things are a bit different here in Nepal.
- Land in Nepal. Done! Next.
- Get Visa. No need. You are an Indian! This is one of the biggest reason I booked a ticket to Nepal. By the way. I had only one reason to book a ticket to Nepal.
- Clear Immigration. Things are usually very serious at this step. A horde of grumpy travellers standing in long lines only to meet strict looking officers behind counters, scanning you from head to toe as though looking for a reason send you back! But not in Nepal. After standing in a non existent line and a quick scan of the passport, the smiling officer (officer?) nodded at me. I was so surprised, I asked him, “Thats it?”.
- Change Currencies. No need. Indian Rupees is accepted everywhere. Well! Mostly everywhere. Until recently 1000/500 INR notes were not accepted. This is almost saying, we won’t accept INR in general as Indian ATM’s for all practical purposes don’t dispense any other denomination. Thanks to a recent high level meeting between the finance heads of the two countries, 1000/500 notes are a go. This grand agreement is yet to trickle down to the lower levels in the chain. The taxi guy wouldn’t accept it. But the hotels do.
- Clear Customs. Never had problems with this anywhere.
Now, with that out of the way, we are back to the question of “Where to stay?”. Actually, the next question would be “How to get a taxi without getting screwed?”. But let us leave it for some other time. The best thing to do when you don’t know where to stay, is head to a tourist area. In Kathmandu its Thamel. When I reached , the tiny, packed alleys of Thamel, the taxi guy asked, “Where to now?”. I directed him confidently to take the next left as though I knew my heading. I was following a thumb rule though. As long as you can see tourists (easily identifiable here as most of them are white) and street hawkers trying to sell them everything under the sun around, you are in the right direction. After a few blocks, a small board decorated with creepers caught my eye. It said Souvenir Guest House. Good enough!
Actually, It turns out to be very good. It is within my budget for a longish stay. It has a nice garden from which I am writing this, solar powered lights which are switched on only when their electrical compatriots lack power (which is usually the case) and yes! Free WiFi! It pays not to plan huh?
Finally, I have a bed to sleep. Everything else can wait for tomorrow. Lights out!