First Time in Thamel

Saying Goodbye to Korea

We had arrived yesterday in Kathmandu around 8:30 pm. Both of us were exhausted. Our goodbye party on Saturday night was full of tears, emotions, and well wishes; but we couldn’t rest that evening as we had a 3:30 am bus to catch.

After a 3 hour bus ride to Incheon airport with absolutely no traffic or problems, we said gooodbye to our Korean won and exchanged it all. Afterwards, we checked into our flight, went through customs (Incheon airport is so hassle and stress free; I love it), then immediately sought out a caffeine fix. We said goodbye to Paris Baguette raising our americanos in thanks for providing some of the tons of coffee we’d consumed during our time in South Korea.

Shortly after it was time to board our first flight to Kuala Lumpar. The journey took 6 hours and it felt like the longest flight time I have ever experienced. Maybe it was the extra lack of leg room, no free meals or alcohol, or zero tv screens to watch a movie. This is what a budget airline feels like with hours to kill and only what you brought with you to kill them. It is prohibited to bring your own food onto Asia Airline flights, but we couldn’t help ourselves and our hands would frequently disappear into one of our carry on’s where our hidden stash of nuts were. Luckily, we had those nuts, I had a good book to read, and we both had our exhaustion that helped us sleep the hours away.

We arrived in Kuala Lumpar, and all we could think of was ‘real’ food. We found a great cafe serving Malaysian food, so we shared a delicious coconut rice and beef dish as well as a curry with a nice warm roti. We spent the layover reading, and then it was onto the second and last flight for our final destination: Kathmandu.

Arriving in Kathmandu

The airport in Kathmandu stressed me out. Well, at least I expected it to be a stressful place and that acquiring our visa would be a long and difficult process. I was completely wrong. Most of the people on our flight were Nepalese citizens, so they simply went through immigration after filling out their arrival cards. Only maybe less than 20 people were in line for a Visa, and the line moved rather quickly. We simply had to fill out a form stating how long we planned to stay in Nepal and the address we were heading to, produce one passport sized photo, and pay the fee. It took under 2 minutes for both Jonny and I. Next we stood in the immigration line. The gentlemen who took us was so smiley and warm. He asked for our names as if he were simply meeting us to have a conversation. It was such a change from even our own countries immigration staff who all seem to be suspicious and cold towards everyone passing through.  Last, we had to put our bags through an x-ray machine. We asked if we needed to take our belts off or put our smaller bags through and the attendant just waved us to go through; he was not concerned at all! It all went so smoothly and I have to say that the Kathmandu airport was one of the chillest airports I have ever experienced.

Leaving Kathmandu’s Airport

Finally, we had stepped foot in Kathmandu. We had made a last minute decision before our first flight to have our guesthouse send a driver to pick us up. It was such a good decision. What a nice feeling it is to step out of an airport where tons of people are waiting, but also taxi drivers asking if you want a ride, yet you have someone standing there with YOUR NAME on a piece of paper to take you somewhere safe.

His name was Dorje and immediately I liked him. He gave us 2 white silk scarves as a welcome gift from the guesthouse then lead us to his vehicle. There we had to wait since he had one more person arriving to be picked up. The other guest was a young Australian man, named Travis, who had never traveled from his continent before. The moment he got into the truck, Dorje told him that he must go back out and follow him. We all looked at each other in confusion, but Travis obeyed and followed him. We realized that there was a car in our way with no driver inside, and Dorje wanted Travis to help him push it out of the way. Jonny hoped out to help while I sat and watched thinking, “This is Nepal, and it’s so cool”. The three men all got back into the vehicle.  Now we were set to embark towards the guesthouse, and boy was it an amazing experience.

Our vehicle moved quickly, weaving ahead of the slower cars. There were no traffic lights, and it seemed as though there were no rules either. I could barely see a line indicating our side of the road, and that of the oncoming traffic. Maybe I was too tired to be terrified, or maybe I just trusted Dorje’s driving who had jokingly said earlier that his name meant ‘thunderbolt.’

It was interesting to hear Travis’ reactions to everything we saw as well. This was only the second country he had been too, and it was so different. The brick and crumbling concrete buildings were closely clustered together. Lights lit up small convenient shops, restaurants, and tiny food stalls along the street, but the taller buildings behind them were dark and unlit.

Eventually, Dorje turned off the main secondary highway and into the streets of Thamel. He slowed down a lot more, because he had too. The roads are muddy and full of potholes. Motorists, taxis, cars, and pedestrians all share the same narrow roads in this area. There are no side walks, nor traffic lights. Everyone is honking, yet they don’t sound aggressive like back home. We could see tons of trekking shops, convenient stores, and souvenir shops. More than half appeared to be closed or shutting down, so it wasn’t the Thamel I had expected.

Stupa Guesthouse

We arrived at our guesthouse which was tucked away down a side street, and away from the traffic noise. The main reception was on the second floor. Ram, our host, was extremely welcoming, humble, and gracious. He had some bottled water brought to us and checked us in for our 2 night stay. His pug, Jack, was hanging out on the couch and I fell in love instantly.

Our room was big, simple and fairly clean. By the time we got there, all I cared about was to have a place to rest my sleepy head. We knew that if we fell asleep, we wouldn’t wake up until morning. But our tummies were grumbling for some Nepalese food, so we headed to a recommended restaurant called “Rosemary” to satisfy our hunger.

Rosemary Kitchen (Our First Meal in Thamel)

The restaurant is tucked away down a quieter alley off of Thamel Road. They had just begun closing however the guy we met outside who worked there ran in to ask the kitchen to stay open for us. The cooks agreed and our waiter guided us to a lovely eating area outside, with lights and a canopy overhead. We ordered two dishes, one with chicken and the other with tofu and vegetables. Both dishes came with basmati rice and a salad topped with a mandarin dressing. I would describe the food as delicious, delicate, and comforting. The flavors were soft and not overpowering. Jonny ordered a banana lassi as well which was lightly sweetened and nicely tart. Overall it was a great place which I would highly recommend. The staff there were so friendly and more than willing to serve us.

Afterwards we walked back down the street back to our guesthouse, excited for the next day to come. Sleep was on our minds, but so was Nepal and how good it had been so far. It is interesting how a place can already have such a positive impression on you that you feel as though you already love it, and that there has always been a special place in your heart, just waiting to be filled by it. I have a good feeling about Nepal and I cannot wait to experience more.

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Rachel Hanhart

I'm just a girl....a girl who likes wine and staring at...well..nothing! I zone out often, need coffee every 2 hours, and always forget how to spell girrafe, or is it giraffe?