Stopover Kathmandu

The last time I went to Kathmandu, I was on a same-day ticket I was forced to buy in Kabul, Afghanistan after I missed my flight out. Kabul is not a city you want to get stuck in, so making it to Kathmandu was the best feeling I´ve ever had landing in an anonymous city. I traveled around Nepal last time, but this visit was a transit stop to finally get to Bhutan.

Tihar festival of lights

Kathmandu is a great stopover city, although my least favourite airport in the world. For being the country´s main international entry and exit point, the most basic things don´t work. The visa on arrival system takes 3 different line ups, and includes kiosks, a cashier, pen and paper, and an immigration officer with the final stamp. It took an hour and a half to get out of there,  and even longer to leave. Our flight to Bhutan was delayed 3 hours, in a terminal that had squat toilets, no duty free, and no souvenir shops.

My travel buddies to Bhutan

The traffic is okay during holidays and we were there during the Tihar lights festival, unless you get stuck behind a marching band and their parade… then the roads slow down to walking speed. I was meeting two Icelandic friends who had just finished their yoga teacher training in Pokhara, so we split a hotel in Thamel to do some cheap shopping and dining. I have a Nepalese friend who lives in Iceland, but managed to overlap with him in Kathmandu at the same time he was in town.

luxury in Thamel

We didn´t have much say in our Bhutan planning, since we had a guide and itinerary pre-booked and fully paid before hand. Planning a night on either side of Bhutan was our only project, and deciding which trekking shoes our outdoor clothes to buy. We treated ourselves to infinity pools, massages and pedicures because we could afford to do so, and just tried to drink the jetlag off. Nepal was the perfect launching point for Bhutan, with just enough similarity in weather, people, food and culture to feel familiarized with what was to come.

Escape to Nepal

I wasn’t planning on going to Nepal before Pakistan, since Pakistan is right beside Afghanistan, but the overroad routes between the two were unsafe and my fake husband Michael from Germany couldn’t get a visa. For whatever random reason, Icelanders don’t need a visa to Pakistan (which was a problem in itself, since every hotel and customs guy asked for my visa and I nearly couldn’t leave the country). But yeah, visa-free entry, not visa on arrival, for me and not German Michael. So, in Kabul, when it was time to leave Afghanistan, we had to go to the airport and find a way out by air.

lots of stupas and prayer flags in Kathmandu

lots of stupas and prayer flags in Kathmandu

We had preemptivley booked the cheapest flight to New Delhi but missed it after our flight from Bamyan was delayed. So we bought another, much more expensive flight at the airport, to New Delhi, and instead of stopping there went onwards to Kathmandu because… well, why not, we had both never been there (and its hard to breathe in New Delhi). The trip was last minute and very unplanned, but after more than a month in Iran and Afghanistan, it was a breath of fresh air to arrive in a country where I didn’t have to be covered, and alcohol and pork were legally sold.

Boudhanath stupa

Boudhanath stupa

Kathmandu was smaller than I expected, but not as crowded as I feared. Its squashed between China (slash Tibet) and India and the mixture of Buddhist and Hindu religions all nestled under the Himalayas, making the most beautiful backdrop for a cultural mixture of faces and features.

Phewa Lake in Pokhara

Phewa Lake in Pokhara

I felt as if I had escaped to a colourful place, full of freedom and spiritual enlightenment. In Pokhara, I took a 2 day course of yoga and meditation, and in Kathmandu, I managed to socialize in cafes and public places as a solo woman. Strangely enough both of those things were equally enlightening. I also jumped off a bridge 70m down to a woman herding her livestock home, but luckily the bungee line bounced me back up.

bungee jumping

bungee jumping

Nepal is a place to travel to for more than just an unplanned week. And escaping to Nepal in my tshirt and skirt after a month covered from head to toe in black clothes was a form of travel therapy. But a week in Nepal is better than no time in Nepal, and I sent Michael on his way to Germany and had to go back west to Pakistan. The road can get tiring sometimes, but the best thing about traveling is change. And Nepal was a pleasant break from the Silk Road.