I managed to get a reasonable amount of sleep in the mother’s room, but tried to be respectful so when flights with potential real mothers started landing in the morning, I vacated the space.
Fortunately, the lounge opened early and I was able to checkin to shower, eat breakfast and rest a little more before boarding the final leg to Kathmandu, Nepal.
I was definitely out of place on the airplane, which appeared to be filled with South Asian migrant workers, many of whom were flying for the first time. It was an interesting experience watching the scramble.
Once I landed, I saw a tourist information office and picked up some maps, but was told to walk outside the airport to find an ATM, which was very surprising given the relatively sized airport. I was glad most people spoke English.
I found a bank nearby, withdrew some money then went inside to trade for smaller denominations so I could catch the local bus without needing to flash large bills. I hopped on a blue bus that was conveniently waiting nearby. The driver explained that it would circle around the ring road and that I should get off halfway through. It seemed a little round about, but I prefer taking one longer bus than trying to transfer between buses because of uncertain wait times and other possible complications. Also, I like that it was a flat fare to get a “tour” of the city.
I was struck by the overall levels of poverty, especially compared to Kuala Lumpur and Hong Kong. One of the first things that caught my attention was a customer picking through roasted corn cobs with his hand, examining each, then putting them back, one rolls to the ground, which he casually brushes with his hand and puts back. The vendor does a second brushing to keep his goods looking clean. This immediately eliminated all street vending food from my to-do list :(.
Shortly after departure, it began to pour rain, soaking the ground and jamming traffic, which turned an hour trip into many. Everyone seemed used to it and continued business as usual, walking on stone walls instead of mud and laying merchandise on mats instead of ground, seemingly unaware and under appreciating the breathtaking backdrop of clouds over the Himalayan mountains.
I finally saw the opportunity to get off near Balaju Chowk and walked to the tourist area. The mud made it difficult to walk at a fast pace, a strategy I use to spot if people are following me, but I eventually made it, only to find mud all the way up to the entrance of my hostel.
I had to change into sandals and shorts, then walked around, thankful that mosquitoes don’t live at this elevation. I looked around for a tour operator to help me book a tour to Bhutan as I explored the neighborhood. Almost all the operators charged unreasonable rates or didn’t know how to book the tour even though they displayed Bhutan alongside a bunch of other tour options.
I finally found a very sincere and honest guy at Metro Everest Travel & Treks who knew what to do and was super helpful. He even invited me to diner at his family operated hostel where I tried some moonshine liquor and talked to him about life in Nepal.
Ring roads are major streets which form a circular route around the city center. Not all cities have them and not all buses utilize them because they can get congested, but it’s an effective way to get to different corners of a city if you can figure out the hub and spoke relationship between the different routes.