What a beautiful sight from the plane! I really miss Kathmandu. Definitely coming back again 😀
My long overdue entry. My recent trip to Kathmandu from 25th September to 3rd October was definitely an eye opener and perhaps the best highlight of my travels for 2018 so far. Initially, I was slightly skeptical, feeling a bit fearful, being in a country too foreign and a country recovering for the devastating earthquake back in 2015. I even worry to the point of internet connection (the lack of it) and such (Yea, you can tell that I’m quite addicted to the world of internet).
Being a CI holder, meaning a Certificate of Identity “passport” holder, I wasn’t sure if my travel document will be accepted in Nepali waters. I only knew my fate at the Nepal Embassy in Kuala Lumpur where I waited patiently for 3 hours before my travel document reached the Chargé d’Affaires level as the First Secretary couldn’t give me a definite answer. Finally, it was a YES and I was too excited that I would be able to fly to Kathmandu with ease. So ladies and gentlemen, for those with CI “passport”, it will only take one day to process and you collect your passport the following day. For 15 day visa, it’s RM 100, 30 day visa for RM 160 and 90 day visa for RM 400. I applied the 15 day visa.
For those wondering on catching a flight to Kathmandu, there are many airlines that fly to Kathmandu via Singapore/Kuala Lumpur. My preference would be through Kuala Lumpur and I believe that one of those legs, you have might have to sacrifice one night in Kuala Lumpur. The average flight fares are at BND 800ish so it’s something for you to plan in advance to save up for the fares. My preference would be taking Malaysian Airlines because of the comfort as compared to AirAsia. The flight from KL to Kathmandu is roughly 4 hours 30 mins.
A 4 hour 30 mins flight on business class is worth it. I was surprised that the online fare on Malaysia Airlines offered me BND 600 from Kuala Lumpur to Kathmandu return with one sector of business class!!! Now that was an awesome deal. AirAsia then was selling BND 1,000 return. The decision was simple 😉
Kathmandu, ah yes, it was surreal when I landed at Tribhuvan International Airport. The immigration process was quite efficient and you can actually apply visa on arrival but that would mean longer queue and waiting time. The baggage claim area was pretty small and it can get overwhelming. I was waiting for sometime only to realize that my bag was shifted to the floor from the belt. So do be aware of that.
Ohh yeah, do get your SIM card, once you reach the small arrival hall. There are only two telcos and I would recommend Ncell. I took the higher tier one with 8GB for around BND 15 which is 1,200 Nepalese Rupee. I was quite impressed that their network is quite fast at times. I also ended up not using the whole data after a week stay in Nepal. There are times when network can be frustrating but overall, I am still impressed with their 4G network. So choose Ncell if you are in Nepal. The only downside is when you apply for the SIM card, you have to fill in a form and also produce a passport size photo.
The Tribhuvan International Airport is kinda small and we caught the shuttle bus before reaching the immigration
Interesting to see this on the arrival card
Oh yeah, every subscriber have to fill in a form when you sign up for a SIM card. Good thing I brought my photo.
Now Taxis are pretty cheap. They are everywhere once you step out of the small airport. Drivers will be hunting for tourists and for a reasonable price to Thamel (the city area) will be roughly BND 8 (700 Nepalese Rupee). There are no meters on most taxis so you can start bargaining with the drivers. So try to negotiate to 700 NR and if they question you, just say that’s what you paid for on your last visit. The airport to Thamel area wasn’t that far. Even with traffic, it would take tops 40 mins or so. Kinda nearby if you ask me.
Hotels. Well, there are pretty cheap and affordable. I chose a 3 star hotel and a 4 star hotel and both were pretty good. Of course, the latter was better. The first hotel I chose was Aryatara Kathmandu Hotel (3 stars) and it’s only around BND 60 per night. It could have been cheaper depending which dates you are flying in. There are even some hotels with great ratings as low as BND 30 per night. So it’s the choices are up to you. I made all my bookings on booking.com and so far, no complains. As for the second hotel I stayed was the Royal Penguin Boutique Hotel which was more of a pleasant stay.
Let’s talk about Aryatara Hotel. I love the service. The front desk people are quite polite and even the manager on duty. He took time to greet those who dined in for breakfast and I thought that was a nice gesture to have. My room was quite spacious and the bed was not bad. I had a spare twin bed where I dumped my other things for convenience. The hotel has good access to the market area too. Breakfast wise, it wasn’t too bad, it wasn’t too good. Just average because of its limited choices. TV channels are limited. Then again BND 60 is a great deal. Ain’t complaining. You can have airport transfer from the hotel too. There’s a Korean restaurant next to Aryatara. As for laundry, there’s a laundry outlet nearby and they go by the kilo. Quite cheap too.
As for Royal Penguin Boutique Hotel, I am in love with this hotel. For BND 100 per night, I didn’t expect such good service and furthermore, the room was pretty awesome!! I didn’t expect this in Nepal and according to my friend who works at Agoda, this is one of the top hotels in Thamel, Kathmandu. The service is top-notch and they treat guest like god. What I am impressed with the designs of the room. So much thought being invested in RP rooms. It has even stuff animals and fresh plants inside the room. The TV channels are endless. I could just stay in and watch TV all day long. Even Premier League matches are available.
The room service is 24 hours too. The unique thing is the breakfast deal. Since it’s a set breakfast, you can have it anytime of the day and not only limited to breakfast hours. Cool, huh? The only beef I had was the wifi. My Ncell 4G line is much faster than the in-house wifi. Other than that, it’s great. A safe box, a weighing scale and even provided an extension with multiple sockets. Clean and modern looking, I would guarantee you that you will enjoy your stay at Royal Penguin and it’s located at the smackdown area of Thamel city. I shall visit this hotel again on my next trip.
The first few days, I stayed at Aryatara Kathmandu Hotel and I enjoyed their service. Only problem was my room was on the fifth floor and there were no lifts :/
I was in love with Royal Penguin Boutique Hotel for so many reasons. Highly recommended.
The good thing is that you pay in your preferred currency though they don’t accept Brunei notes. I had my Singapore dollars then. US dollars is also widely accepted.
Kathmandu. Now this is one interesting city. Despite the hustle and bustle of Thamel, I felt a sense of calm and it took me a few days to get warmed up. Of course, my travel buddy, Pranika Lama, guided me on tips and such for me to be familiar around the city from walking to grabbing a “tempo” to a taxi. I even had an opportunity to hop on the public bus. Google maps was also my saviour. The only one that I didn’t experience was hoping on a van. Apparently the van ride was much more risky as compared to the rest according to Pranika. The “Tempo” was an interesting ride. It costs roughly 10-20 cents only. It’s like their version of Tuk Tuk but bigger. It’s shared for the public and you can hop on anytime you want and just pay the driver the fee after being dropped off. I was wondering the mechanics of the Tempo but it was pretty simplified. It was able to carry at least 10-12 people, depending on your sizes. When you think it’s full, don’t be surprised if one or two person can still squeeze in. To cue the driver for the next stop, just simply use ur hand to bang on the metal roof. The cheapest means of transport but the only problem was the language barrier if you want to ask the driver for directions. I was fortunate enough to have Pranika guided me on which number Tempo to hop on.
I love Nepalese people too. Not all can speak English by the way but most shops in Thamel have some command of English as this is a tourist zone. There are many occasions I was mistaken for a Nepali. Too make it even obvious, I wore their type of clothings to blend in more. Some of the shop attendants would take pictures with me because of my foreign status with a Nepali vibe *lol*
My first photo at Thamel Street
The Tempo I was talking about. It’s operated on batteries and not petrol.
You can see the skeleton of the Tempo at the driver area. I can even notice the ground from this view.
After my 3rd day in Thamel, my love for Nepal grew and I became more adaptive to the environment. Yea, you may have noticed me sporting a face mask and that was because Thamel can be very dusty as constructions were still ongoing for the restorations of building and temples after the 2015 earthquake. So yea, my advice is to buy a mask, just in case and it is also a good fashion accessory 😉 Walking 3-5 kilometers was my daily routine and Thamel was such a crowded zone with tons of shops, selling handicrafts, boutiques, clothes and even electronics. I did spent a handful on clothes for souvenirs and plenty more on accessories. I ended flying back with a 35 kilo load which was an unusual practice when I travel abroad.
At Durbar Square where buildings are being restored and renovated after the 2015 earthquake
Tons of souvenirs, handicrafts being sold at Durbar Square
Thanks Pranika for being my unofficial tour guide 😀
Halal restaurants were easy to locate and I believe they have roughly 5-6 within Thamel. You can simply google Thamel Halal. I tried Shafqat Halal Food Restaurant, Anatolia Restaurant (Turkish and Indian cuisine) and Third Eye Restaurant, maybe favourite of the lot. Please do try the Nepalese dish – Momo and Dal Bhat. Dal bhat is a traditional meal from the Indian subcontinent, popular in many areas of Nepal, Bangladesh and India. It consists of steamed rice and a cooked lentil soup called dal. I actually enjoyed the dish but it can be very filling for me. Momos, according to Pranika, aren’t as authentic as they added more flavor which loses the authenticity of the taste of a real Momo. Well, if you are keen, you can try out a Momo restaurant in Kuala Belait where the Momos are cooked in a traditional way. Just another advice if you are in Kathmandu, do order water bottles rather than a glass of water. Sometimes, you don’t want to take the risk of not acclimatizing to the boiled water in Kathmandu. So to be safe, order water bottles instead.
One of the halal restaurants I tried at Thamel.
Culture. Interestingly enough, this is a city that has high tolerance on religion. Both Hindu and Buddhism are very common and when you visit the temples and Stupas, most of them will share histories of their gods. It was no surprise that there are tons of arts and sculptures in the Kathmandu valley. If you are into history, there is an abundant of historical sources in Kathmandu. You can visit the museums, temples and so on. Of course, the popular ones which made a name of itself were Durbar Square, Pashupatinath Temple and along the streets of Thamel because Dr. Strage was being filmed there. I only managed to enter Durbar Square and took some shots and of course, Thamel street is also quite accessible and convenient to visit.
Human traffic is quite high especially at the tourist zone with a mixture of foreigns and locals. Even on narrow streets, all types of vehicles can still drive thru the congestion and there were times when they can get stuck for a little while. Some cars would even step on the gas in tighter streets. The usage of horns were quite high and it was pretty common. One of my Nepali friends told me that one of the highest cause of death were accidents. Ironically, I only came across one accident, on the final day of my stay in Nepal. I would have to say that on average, the Nepalese people are quite hardworking in earning a living. There were even little children, carrying huge sacks on their back to deliver items to his/her clients.
At Durbar Square
At Durbar Square
Pranika all smiles
One of the historical chariots being displayed at Durbar Square
It can get pretty colourful at night at the streets of Thamel
Safe. Well, I was well informed by a local person and also Pranika to watch out whenever I roamed around Thamel area. Somehow, I found the area quite safe and it was ok to take precaution measures just in case. I was recommended not to look too touristy and be mindful of pickpockets around Thamel area. The shops closed around 9pm and the night life wasn’t as entertaining at certain joints. I was also told not to wonder around being solo after 10pm or so. I never tried but I noticed uniform personnel stationed outside hotels during evening time. So maybe that’s a reason why I felt safe walking alone if I had to. Just don’t flaunt your richness or make it too obvious 🙂
Dusty. I remembered two years ago when Pranika was wearing her face mask because the air pollution was quite moderate. Most of the areas in Thamel were dusty due to the ongoing constructions and restoring of roads and buildings. I masked myself almost 80% of the time as I could sense the dust. You will see shop attendants planting water to the flooring area outside their shops so the dusts will settle down when people walking or cars driving past. When shops closed after business hours, some would clear off the dust and sand from their products that were displayed outside the shop. Be mentally prepared for these kind of situations.
Stay tune for my second part!!
This is their version of music entertainment
This is the mood after 9pm. Most shops will be closed by then.
Yes, this is my shoes that got pretty dusty during my 7 day visit in Nepal
Mask on 😀