Sunday, October 10, 2010
This is the closest I will ever get to Everest. Flying over it and looking out of a window of a plane is the only way I'll ever get to see Everest...f
Lhasa airport was a doosey. To get their, we drove for one hour through the mountains of Lhasa. Literally, through the mountains. It was quite interesting as we approached the base of the mountain and saw the entrance to the tunnel. That was when i realized the ingenuity and work this 3rd world country has endured to get to where it is today. The roads are new but a part of it was still dirt and unfinished. The cab went through it all the same.
During the flight, the captain announced that we could see Mt Everest and everyone went into a hoopla over it. As soon as he said "it's on the left," the whole place shifted left of the plane to see it. Ok maybe not shift. It was more of a leap, similar to a white water guide calling out "LEFT!" and everyone leaps a hard left as told. A million telefoto lenses came out, vying for the window and right then, the captain said "it's on the right". I saw in slow motion as 100 people on the aisle turned their attention to my window. Thank god I was wingside so I only got trampled for about a minute.
We got off the plane from gorgeous Tibetan weather, to a very hot humid frantic and chaotic Kathmandu.
Katmandu airport was also a doosey, but differently so. A favorite Nepalese phrase is "same same but different" and it's applied everywhere! We heard it in Thailand, Cambodia, and even Vietnam ... but we were shocked to hear it outside of Southeast Asia. We stepped out of the terminal and the taxi drivers attacked us. When I asked how much it would cost to get into Thamel, they said oh it's all same same price, but different. I was so shocked to hear that phrase again, I just stood their laughing and didn't even bother to respond. [Taxi drivers bombard you the minute you get out of the airport and will tell you the ATM was broken when it was not so that they could get you in their cab faster and stop at the ATM later.]
We met a nice backpacker named Tori at the taxi stand and shared a cab with her into the city. The driver wove in and out of traffic, in a maniac like manner, jarring us out of our zen like mood from Tibet. We are pretty accustomed to taxi drivers in southeast Asia, but this one was a little excessive. He drove over dirt roads that are not even roads at all, avoided ox / yaks [just barely], and then worked his way through the narrowist streets I've ever been on in my life...and I've seen some NARROW streets in my life.
We found our hotel and negotiated the room down from $20 a night to $7.50. That's $3.50 person!!! The people are amazingly sweet here and we are so happy to have found a place in the heart of Thamel. The staff is exceptional and we are very lucky to have found a place with a really cute garden terrace to lounge in as well.
My friend recommended a place to eat some amazing pizza in Thamel [Fire and Ice is featured in Lonely Planet as well] and since we have refrained from any American food except for spicy tom yum chicken wings at a Thai McDonald's, we went for it. The splurge was quite substantial for our travel budget but it was worth it. We got an amazingly thin crusted Italian pizza with ham, artichokes, mozzarella and olives. The salad was not green as expected, but was a combination of tuna, tomatoes, capers, olives, and the sweetest onions I've ever tasted. We also got a bottle of Australian Shiraz to share and I was quite buzzed by the end of the meal. Dessert was ice cream with raspberry syrup and I ate it all by myself. We walked home from the restaurant and played cards till late, knowing we could sleep in the next day although the sun rises at 5 am.
That was our first night in Kathmandu, and it was a very very good start to Nepal.