I had finally arrived in a country I had dreamed of visiting for I don’t know how many years. I was exhausted after almost 20hrs of travel and since I knew the line for visas would be long I wanted off the plane ASAP. Lonely planet had warned it could take 2-5 hrs to get your visa if you had not organised it prior to arrival.
We had been circling for 20min due to the number of planes landing and that should have given me a clue as to what awaited me in the immigration hall. I line of tourists three wide and running the length of the hall in a snake like pattern. Everyone who entered all did the same thing, just in different languages:
“Is this the visa line??”
We were all incredulous at the fact that there was only one booth open for all these people. Add to that the mad scramble to the little photo booth to get 2 pics and to exchange money at the 1 money exchange, they only accepted US$, Euros or Pounds. So my Malaysian Ringit weren’t cutting it. There was one ATM but thank heavens I had enough ringit, as it took me 6 different ATM’s in town to find one that liked my card enough to give me money.
So asking my new best friends in line to hold my place I went over to the exchange and managed to to scrape together enough ringit (just as well I didn’t buy food at the KL airport) to change some into US$ for the visa and some into a few 1000 nepali rupees to get me by for the first day.
The one couple standing with us finally decided to use their Diplomat Passports, not sure why it took them 45min to decide that, I asked if I could be their daughter for an hour… but unfortunately that ruse would not work. No harm in asking right.
After a further hour, there was a sudden surge in the line and we all dashed forward to what appeared to be a new booth opening. You had a split to decide if you wanted to take the chance of losing your place in the line that had moved 2m (just over 5ft) in and hour and half or stick with it. By this point I had lost most of my sense so what the hell and I joined the dash.
It turned out to be the right move. It still took another hour before I finally reached the first of 3 men that processed your passport. But it was faster than others who continued to wait 2-3hrs.
Visa Process… Nepal Style
After making close friends with all the surrounding tourists I finally made it to the window and man number one. He processed the payment, it cost me $40 (US) for a 30day visa. He handed you 2 pieces of yellow paper and motioned you to move, or rather stand as the line wasn’t moving, to the next guy who processed your little yellow pieces of paper. But they all had a great sense of humor and so it made the wait worth it, almost.
Finally, drum roll please, I get to the 3rd guy. He is the more professional one and doesn’t joke around with the rest of us, his job is to double check the visa and then stamp it!
So after over two and a half hours Ta Da! Welcome to Nepal!
Hotel Silver Home
From immigration I was able to stumble my way through to pick up my bags, then go through what I think was a form of customs and then after getting lost trying to find the exit, was accosted by hundreds of taxi drivers and tour guides. I already had a booking at a hotel and it included airport pickup, all I hoped is that they were still there after my long wait immigration.
It was rather amusing because even with all the insistent shouting of “taxi, taxi, lady you need taxi???”, the minute I said I have a pick up and hotel they would smile and welcome me, rather than convince me they were better. In fact I almost felt like I was crowd surfing, just on my own two feet, as most of them would ask what hotel and then point out the way where the driver should be. As I exited the airport the sheer volume of the waiting taxi drivers all with signs and posters made me stop in my tracks. I was too tired for this. The scene proceeded something like this:
-walk outside and have lost look on face
-“what hotel you want what hotel?”
-“Hotel Silver Home”
-“over there he is over there”
-find my name (correctly spelled, a first time for everything), throw up my hands and go that’s me! With a big grin.
I am fairly certain I got a round of applause, they seemed genuinely happy that I had united with my taxi driver. Or maybe it was the exhaustion… I was just excited my name was spelled right, that doesn’t even happen in English speaking countries.
I was lucky enough to have Hotel Silver Home recommended to me by great friend and fellow travel enthusiast. He also answers to the titles of my writing guru and my personal shrink during travel related crisis! Since the hotel had airport pickup, a decent website and a private room with bathroom for $8 a night, it sounded down right perfect. I could have got a dorm for around $2, but sometimes its good to “splurge”!
We squeezed two other travelers and all of our bags into a very small car and hurtled on down towards the hotel, located in the Thamel (aka tourist) district. When I say hurtled I am not kidding, at least he would have except for the fact that traffic barely moved and road rules were merely a suggestion, or maybe only an afterthought. Taking the matters into his own hands we simply slipped off the road and drove along the rutted ground, barely missing dogs, people, lamp posts, trenches and the such. I tried really hard to figure out the route but we went on such a convoluted course, where if I had been paying I would have accused the driver of doubling back, that by the time we arrived I was completely lost.
Hotel Silver Home appeared like a godsend out of the shadows of an alley right off the main drag, and after introductions and paperwork I found myself in my room. It was huge with a double bed, a small balcony and a bathroom. I was so tired that I couldn’t even managed the thought of dinner. So I just had a quick shower and crawled into bed. Despite the blaring rendition of 60’s music and the drip drip from my bathroom, I was soon blissfully unaware. Ahhh is there any sleep better than that after one hell of a long day of travel.