My flight to Nepal entailed a one night layover in Bangladesh. Jesus, what an experience that was…
A quick hint: Never fly Biman Air (Bangladesh Airlines). I have never seen such and inefficient and chaotic business in my life. I am sure they only stay alive because they are subsidized by the state. After several hours of delays, we finally got to board the airplane. Then we waited around for another hour. The chairs were soooo small that my knees smashed into the chair in front of me. There was no movie – only cheesy Bangladesh karaoke shows and people started yelling and getting irate because we weren’t leaving and they wouldn’t tell us why. When we finally arrived, I got into the terminal and had no idea where to go – and neither did any of the staff. I finally made it to the transfer desk where they took my ticket, gave me a token and told me to wait. They forgot about me and after 30 minutes I asked them if they were going to take me to the hotel. They then rushed me to the passport officials where they confiscated my passport and gave me a coupon. They then whisked me away to the outside where they left me. I had to walk around and show my token to a bunch of guys and finally one told me to get in a van with a bunch of Indians. We waited around for nearly 2 hours and then were finally taken to the hotel. The ride over was insane – it was 10:00PM and the streets were still packed with thousands of rickshaws, taxis, vans, buses, people and everything else you could imagine. We spent 45 minutes zipping through, slamming on the brakes, randomly accelerating and nearly rolling over a few times. Some old middle eastern guy next to me was flipping out and I thought he was about to lose it. He kept running his hands through his hair and stomping his feet.
Once I was at the hotel, I was forced to share a room with some weird Indian guy who later told me that he didn’t like being alone (ooookay…) and so he was happy he was with me, and dinner wasn’t ready until around midnight. In the morning, they brought me from the hotel late, but no matter, because they flight was delayed a few hours. I was abandoned at the airport by the hotel staff and I walked in and showed my token. They made me wait for 30 minutes while they got my ticket and then I had to wait another 30 minutes while they looked for the key to the box where my passport was. I had to wait another 2 hours for the flight to leave and the food was ice cold when they finally served lunch after boarding.
What an experience that was!
So I’m in Nepal now. After arriving, I made my way to the town and checked into a hotel. I then met up with my buddy Zach with whom I’ll do the “Around Annapurna” track – which is around 18 days long. We met in Laos and decided to do the trek together. I spent yesterday wandering around Kathmandu and am now pretty settled. Tomorrow we will catch the bus to Pokhara where we will start the trek. Nepal seems pretty quiet and as usual, it reminds me a whole lot of Cuzco, Peru in that it is kind of in the mountains and is made up of a bunch of winding alley ways with touts and beggers everywhere. It’s not anything like Bangladesh, though. As you walk through the narrow alleys, old buildings tower above you on either side and the store owners stand outside with big smiles asking you to take a look at their wares. Guys sit on rickshaws and ask you where you want to go. Cars and motorcycles zip by and nearly run you over as you walk down the narrow roads, but it’s not nearly as bad as I imagine India would be. It’s quite cool, especially at night – which is a welcome respite from the unbearable heat and humidity of Southeast Asia.
As you walk through the streets, the aroma of smokey and musty incense fills your nose. Ahhhh, Kathmandu.
All the news reports of mass protests and civil unrest are blown out of proportion. I’m sure there were a few protests in isolated regions of Nepal, but they were short lived. There are probably more anti-Bush demonstrations in LA.
I will, however, ensure that I take only tourist buses. The Maoists target government entities, so I’ll have to be careful about that. Other than that, I’ll be in the mountains for the next few weeks.
I’m a bit frustrated that I may end up missing out on India. I did a calculation of my schedule and it seems that I’ll make it to India in the middle of the Summer monsoon. India would be a challenge in cool climate and I don’t know if I want to be walking around in 120 degree heat and 100% humidity while beggars and touts attack me everywhere I go. Would you? That frees up a few months so I’ll have to decide what I want to do. Maybe I can add a bit of Europe onto my trip. I can zip through a few countries and meet up with some friends. Or maybe I can drive across the US on my motorcycle for a month or two. We’ll see. I guess I can do India during subsequent vacations from work. After all, I have to leave some of the world for the future!