After catching a brutally early flight from Chiang Mai to Bangkok and putting Julia on her flight back to the UK, we settled in to wait for our flight at 5pm later that day. After about six hours waiting in Bangkok airport (landside, we might add) for bag drop to open, having checked in online, we made our way to the Royal Nepal Airlines desk to check our luggage. Only to be greeted with a dismayed 'oh, the flight was cancelled three days ago....we sent you an email...'. Having scoured my inbox since I am fairly sure this email was either never sent, or never arrived...in any case, we had spent the whole day in Bangkok airport with only an £18 Burger King meal for sustenance(!), and now we had to spend another night in Bangkok.
The airline put us up overnight in a very strange, very large hotel, which had nice enough rooms but was nevertheless deserted, eerie and slightly reminiscent of the Bates Motel. For dinner, the staff insisted on driving us in a golf cart to a coffee shop which couldn't have been more than 300m away down a deserted concrete road from the front door of the hotel; they got very upset when we tried to walk!
The next day we received, much to our chagrin, a creepy silent wakeup call at 5:30am for no apparent reason...wide awake now, we caught our flight and arrived in Kathmandu 3 hours later. After skirting a rather strange European man in the queue for immigration who was lurching around the airport with no appreciation for personal space boundaries and talking loudly about potentially having cigarettes confiscated, we found a guy holding a board with our names on that our hotel in Kathmandu had sent for us. The only problem was, although this gentleman strolled off confidently into the car park, the car was nowhere to be found, and we got the distinct feeling that our guide didn't actually know which car he was looking for...after being told that the driver had 'gone to the toilet', I can only feel sorry for the poor gentleman, as we must have waited at least 15 minutes in the dusty and crowded car park for him to arrive. We hope you get well soon, Mr taxi driver!
Driving through the crowded, dusty and heavily congested streets of Kathmandu, we were reminded strongly of India- the Nepali language is similar (I'm told) to Hindi, and even the script is the same. It sort of felt like coming full circle from the start of our trip.
We arrived at the hotel and headed out for a traditional Nepali meal of Dhal Bhat for dinner. This was delicious, and cost about £3 for both of us: this was more like it, we'd missed meals like this!
The following morning we embarked on a tour of the city booked through our hotel, with a jovial guide named Deepak who was to be with us for the rest of our activities on the trip. We visited Swayambhunath (the 'monkey temple'), Patan Durbar Square, Pashupatinath (where we saw funeral ceremonies with burning pyres- we chose not to photograph this) and the Boudhanath stupa.
After another day sampling more of the delicious food Kathmandu has to offer (including- yes, you've guessed it, a masala dosa or two), on Sunday we drove out to the Nagarkot hills, north of Kathmandu. Known for picturesque views of the Himalayas, at this time of year we had to settle for spectacular vistas of the Kathmandu Valley and lots of friendly people and domestic animals.
Along our 12km hike we were offered locally-brewed Raksi (rice wine home-brew, which Dev could describe only as 'different'!), met lots of local children (who unanimously greeted us with shouts of 'Namaste, CHOCOLATE?'), and encountered a goodly number of wild marijuana plants.
One more trip which bears mentioning during our time in Kathmandu is the trip to the Osho Tapoban International Commune. When we booked our trip, we were scheduled to be visiting the famous Koppan Monastery to learn to meditate with monks; unfortunately, the monastery was closed to visitors (luckily we'd asked them to check in advance!), and so we were told we'd be visiting another monastery. When we arrived, we were greeted with this grand title on the gates:
We were told that the information we'd been given was incorrect, and that instead of starting at 10am, the next meditation session was due to start at 11:30- two and a half hours away! To cut a long story short- the commune wasn't what we'd expected as we'd been led to believe we were visiting a monastery, and we ended up leaving before joining any of the meditation sessions as it just didn't feel right for us. Feel free to contact us for more details of our experience!
When we arrived back in the city, we spent time purchasing gifts to take home for friends and family, catching up with admin and - yes, you've guessed it - eating! This time we tried delicious momo, Nepali dumplings.
Our last day in Kathmandu, Nepal, and the last of our trip(!!) was a free day- which we used to blog, pack and organise our photos for the endless slideshows which we will be imposing on our friends and families on our return.
By now we've both decided that 6 months is long enough at a time for us to travel, and although we've enjoyed every stage of our trip, now feels like the right time for us to make our way homeward to spend time with famiy and friends...and get a good cup of tea ;)
The last 6 months have, if anything, opened our eyes to all the places we have left to go in the world. We've had the most amazing trip- but for now, we cannot WAIT to go home!