In November 2009, I set out on my dream of trekking the Himalayas in Nepal. Like most travelers, my journey to Nepal started with a flight to Kathmandu. The flight from Brisbane, Australia took around 16 hours including a 4 hour lay over in Singapore. As I can hardly ever get any sleep on planes, I arrived in the early afternoon feeling a bit like a zombie. Tribhuvan Airport gives a good first impression of Nepal’s poor economy, especially in comparison with Changi Airport in Singapore. The terminal itself is tiny and looks as though it hasn’t seen a coat of paint in 20 years. There were no shops or services apart from one money exchange counter. (3 weeks later when departing Kathmandu, I found that the departure terminal was a lot nicer and had plenty of shops and comfortable seating areas).
After getting my passport stamped, I realised that the airport’s security leaves a lot to be desired. I was expecting to go through the usual customs process of declaring/luggage inspection etc, however all I came across was one x-ray conveyor. I was told to put my main bag through, however I was allowed to walk straight past with my carry on bag. The two security officers were extremely busy in conversation and didn’t take one look at the screen as several people’s bags went through. After collecting my bag I was moved along to suddenly find my self outside of the terminal. It seems that if for some reason I wanted to bring a bag of AK-47s into the country, I could have!
My appearance outside of the terminal seemed to be a magnet for taxi drivers and I was instantly surrounded by about a dozen of them, each one promising to give me the best price to what ever hotel I was going to. After escaping the crowd I finally managed to locate the driver that was organised by my hotel. He held an A4 sized piece of paper with my name written on it in about size 12 font.
The drive through Kathmandu was exciting if not terrifying. I found the lack of road rules and excessive use of horns to be quite amazing. Even more amazing was how the complete chaos of too many vehicles going too fast through streets that were too narrow, seems to somehow all flow almost perfectly and not create any accidents. Once I was able to pry my fingers from the car seat, I was pleased to have finally made it to my hotel.
As with most situations like this, as soon as I was able to slow down, relax and let the city absorb me, I was able to appreciate Kathmandu for what it really is. And though my first impression of Nepal was kind of crazy, I wouldn’t have it any other way. In the following weeks I would fall in love with an amazing country.