This trip to Nepal came up because Arke (now TUI) had a great offer – 10 day trip with return flight and first 2 nights accomodation in Kathmandu – remaining days you were on your own, but this is right up my alley as it sort of combines the freedom of a DIY trip with low “package deal” prices.
TUI doesnt have the best of reputations, especially in the UK (but this is probably because the planes are full of drunk Brits), so I must have been incredibly lucky the last 20 years or so in that I have never had any problems flying with them. (or maybe its because I never fly out of Britain hehe)
This time was no exception – all went well and after 11 hours or so, I arrived in Kathmandu. I had booked a room at Kathmandu Guest House and quickly got my first surprise. Although the city has a fairly decent daytime climate, it gets pretty damn cold at night, and there was no heating in the room – only place to warm up was by reception where they had a big fireplace. On top of that, electricy was on a strict timer so would be available in the room just a few hours in the morning and a again a few hours at night. To this day, this is stil quite common practice (probably not in 5 star resorts) but if you think you might be cold at night or you need 24/7 internet for some reason, check first with the hotel what they really offer. Some will publish they have heating and wifi – but they forget (conveniently) to mention that its only available for a couple of hours a day.
It looks like this particular hotel, at least to some extend, have fixed this by now, but if you go between October and May, you might be in for some cold nights.
The hotel is right in the center of Thamel which is a very lively area of Kathmandu.
Its very touristy, but there are still plenty of local markets and shops around, in addition to numerous bars and cafes – many with rooftop terraces.
The whole area is full of temples, stupas, markets etc so you can easily spend a day or 2 not even leaving the Thamel area.
After 2 (freezing) nights, I really wanted to see just a little bit of the Himalayas, so I had booked a couple of nights in Nagarkot, about 100 km or so from Kathmandu. Whenever travelling anywhere in Nepal, you cannot say oh its 100 km therefore it will take something like 2 hours – even shorter distances can take forever due to the roads (or lack of same).
I arrived at Club Himalaya and what a hotel!! It looked fantastic from the outside, and inside even better – lovely big room with a huge terrace and stunning views – but oh dear – just like in Kathmandu – no heating – and since I was now even higher (2000 m) than Kathmandu, it was even colder.
This is really a place for pure relaxation – there is very little to do other than going for walks in the lovely mountain air and just enjoy the stunning views. Mount Everest is supposed to be visible especially at sunrise and sunset, but you will need quite a bit of luck – just a tiny bit of pollution or fog in the air is enough to obscure the view – Everest is till something like 30 km away so….
Nevertheless, even without Everest, the views are stunning.
Back in Kathmandu, I wanted to explore more of the city and surroundings a little further away, but didnt really want to join a group, just to be herded around, so instead I found a great taxi driver and hired him for an entire day – a lot cheaper than going with a tour group and of course I could decide when to go and where.
Occasionally organised tours are actually OK with me (if it is just too much of a hassle to organize yourself) but I always do some reesearch on tour operators websites, just to get some inspiration.
Here is an example from getyourguide – OK for inspiration but dont you dare book anything! – many of the prices are totally ridicolous. A taxi for a day should set you back something like 30-40 euro – depending on your negotiation skills 🙂
Do not be late at the airport for your departing flight. On the day of my flight, security was the tightest I have ever seen – all passengers and all luggage was checked twice – airport was full of police and what looked to be military so prepare for a somewhat loooong check-in procedure.
All my photos can be found here