After a couple of really busy days in Dubai we finally landed in Kathmandu, Nepal and have now been able to spend a couple of quiet-ish days getting a feel for the place.
First impressions are great. The city is absolutely buzzing. Everyone is trying to sell you stuff (from drugs to trekking trips), talk to you and take you to places. Our experience started with bargaining with taxi drivers at the airport as our hotel is located in Thamel, the central area of Kathmandu which is about 5km away from the airport. The table near the exit with a big blue sign “official airport taxi” seemed like a reasonable thing to have in an airport and we could see tourists lining up in an orderly manner with a person behind the table telling everyone how much their taxi would cost.
Now, there are two aspects here that need highlighting. First of all, queuing in this part of the world does not have the same meaning as back at home. Let’s say it is a lot more “target oriented” and people participating in the queuing process are a lot more “determined to achieve their goal or reach their destination”. In other words, don’t queue. And secondly, don’t take the first price you are offered because that’s the price that the other person wants to get, not how much it actually costs!
Long story short, after speaking to a couple of drivers outside, the “official” taxi guy ended up reducing his price by about 30% and we made a deal. I think we could have pushed it a bit further, but when you are asked to pay £3 for a 20min ride it’s difficult to ask for more. The only thing I can add about our ride from the airport is that the traffic is mental here. Everyone is going everywhere and it is almost impossible to understand whether people drive on the left or on the right hand side of the road*. It is important to know, however, that to drive in Nepal you need to beep a lot and repeatedly try to fit yourself into a space that does not have another car, motorcycle or a pedestrian in it. It’s probably not very efficient, but that’s just how it works.
*Based on the interaction between a woman-with-a-baby-in-a-plastic-box-on-a-trolley and a taxi driver as shown in the picture below, it is a left hand side drive. But then again, who knows and who the hell cares.
When our driver took us to our hotel, we found out it was not much of a hotel. It was this tiny place called Sweet Dreams in the heart of Kathmandu with around 5-6 guest rooms in total. We paid around £7 a night which is not too bad considering we got a room with a private bathroom. We are literally fifty meters away from all the restaurants and the central market and only about 15 minute walk away from the Durbar Square which is a UNESCO heritage site so location is fantastic. The only issue is that sleeping at night is a bit of a problem due to the proximity of all the fun happening outside. I’m glad I have my earplugs…
Despite all of the above we are loving Kathmandu. It is crazy and fun, it has all the history and culture for us to explore, it has the awesome food (we have already tried some – Momos in Chilly are awesome!) and eating out is really affordable. I can’t wait to get out and do some sightseeing.
That’s it for the first post from the crazy Kathmandu. More about our experience in Nepal in the following posts.