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.
I wanted to fly directly to Armenia from Minsk, but then I needed a transit visa just to connect in Russia – all flights to Armenia go first to Moscow and Belarus and Russia have no border formalities between their countries so I would essentially be sneaking illegally into Russia, if only for 3 hours. Instead I flew to Kiev, only one hour away. I could have taken a cozy overnight sleeper train for next to nothing, but paying 100 euros for a flight and spending the extra time in Kiev seemed worth it.
St Andrew’s cathedral
I arrived late at night and kind of hitchiked another persons taxi into town. I checked into a hostel and walked around the empty streets on a Sunday night. On Monday it was 24 degrees Celsius and I probably walked 15 km around town that day. I saw churches and churches and more churches (6 out of the 7 top sights to see in Kiev are churches!), and I think the only things recommended to me to see besides churches were parks around the churches.
Pechersk Lavra was the most interesting, an entire complex of beautiful churches, monasteries, golden topped buildings, and an intricate underground cave system full of dead saints. To enter you had to wrap yourself in a green skirt and cover your head, light your way with wax candles, and politely avoid walking into the people kissing coffins in the narrow passageways.
yet another beautiful church
I ran into some strange people, and I must have been radiating some form of inviting energy to welcome their approaches because it can’t possible be that I looked like a local. The crazy pigeon lady in the park tried to talk to me, the homeless asked me for money and cigarettes, a business man asked me for directions, a guy dressed as a bear walked me across a square, and a street performer put his monkey on my head when I tried to pass him by. At least I can say it was a memorable 24 hours in Kiev.