Booking the flight for Kathmandu:
It was our last day in Paro, Bhutan, and the plan was to show up at the Bus station the next morning and travel to Sikkim in India via Phuentsholing and Siliguri. We bought two non-refundable tickets to Phuentsholing from Paro. In the evening, while sipping our last coffee in Bhutan, the thought of visiting Nepal, being so close to it, occurred to us, and we could not resist! It will not be an exaggeration if we call it, “The Call of the Himalayas.”
We checked the flights, the weather in Kathmandu for the next two days, a few clicks on the browser, and we made another booking; two tickets for the next day from Paro to Kathmandu with DrukAir- The Royal Bhutan Airlines. About our bus tickets to India, we had no hopes for refund, but with the help of a local, we got a partial refund for our non-refundable tickets.
Flying past Everest:
Paro is a gorgeous town in Bhutan, and its airport is unique. A runway of 1964 meters, surrounded by the steep Himalayan mountains, this airport comes in the list of the most dangerous airports in the world.
Having requested the window seat, we could not help but stick to the view of piercing peaks through sheets of clouds against a clear sky. The flight from Paro to Kathmandu runs parallel to the Himalayan ranges, and we were very fortunate to have a clear blue sky.
It was an early morning, post sunrise flight, and a few minutes after taking off, we saw Mt. Jumolhari, which is the third highest peak of Bhutan. Just when Jai could not stop admiring the Jomolhari peak, I diverted his attention to a breathtakingly vast expanse of nothingness, which was The Land of Tibet.
Glacial mountains covered up for most of the flight duration, but we truly had a thumping heart when we could see the epic Mt. Everest and Mt. Lhotse from up there. Glowing with sunshine and adorned by white-silver snow, this was a never before experience for both of us. It’s an otherworldly charm to see Mt. Everest from the skies above.
The flight was undoubtedly the best one hour spent in air EVER.
Landing in Kathmandu:
After one hour, it was landing time, and Kathmandu looked like a deck of matchboxes from the flight. Floors stacked one upon another and tiny roads joining the pieces of the puzzle. We could see a layer of smog over Kathmandu, and as soon as we landed, we could breathe it in air.
The immigration was smooth in Nepal as the Visa policies are very lenient in this part of the world. Nepal welcomes tourists with open arms, and almost all tourists can obtain a VISA on arrival. For tourists coming from SAARC nations, there is no Visa fee and, other foreigners can pay the fees on arrival. But ours was an exception as Nepal and India mutually enjoy a free movement of people across nations, so that means No visa for us.
At the immigration section, there was a separate queue for Indians tourists, which was a relief as the queue was not log. As I was ahead of Jai, I went to the Immigration officer first, with my passport and arrival card.
“Is this your first time visiting Nepal?”
“How long are you planning to stay?”
“1 month” (I didn’t have a clue about our length of stay)
“Where all are you planning to go?”
“Apart from Kathmandu and the nearby cities, we are planning to stay in Pokhara.”
He smiled back and said, “I’m from Pokhara.”
For Jai, it was even easier as he said that we were together. It took us less than a minute, and we got our passport stamped.
Then comes the real bummer! There was a long disorderly queue at the security check. We patiently waited for the next twenty minutes and cleared that too. After Bhutan, the landing in Kathmandu was a little overwhelming owing to its chaos against the amazingly organized Bhutan.
Communication in Nepal
There are two major telecoms run in Nepal, the Nepal Telecom and the Ncell. The SIM was free of cost for Nepal Telecom and about 100 NPR for Ncell. We bought both the SIM cards; if one doesn’t work, we can have a backup. Since the top-up plans at the airport were a bit inflated, we decided to recharge our sim cards later.
Getting a taxi to Thamel:
It gets tricky with insane bargaining here in Nepal. Whereas the first Taxi driver outside the exit gate wanted us to pay 1000 NPR for a 6 km ride to Thamel, the prepaid taxis were charging 700 NPR for it. We still gave it a chance and started walking towards the exit. After walking 50 meters, a guy offered us to drop for 500 NPR, and we agreed.
At the exit gate, a police guy in civilian clothes came near to our Taxi and asked us if we are going by the meter or not. If we would have said NO, this might lead to a fine for our driver, so we lied in his favor.
Kathmandu’s traffic is overwhelming, and it’s streets are crowded, but there is something about Nepal that feels like home.