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Reflections: On not Feeling Lost in Kathmandu

It is our 3rd day in Nepal and it already feels like we have been here for so much longer. It’s interesting how we humans feel comfortable creating some sort of routine even in very unfamiliar places within a short period of time. By Friday (we had arrived on Wednesday) we already had our ‘local’ favourite cafe / restaurant to which we returned three times already. ‘Places’ in Kathmandu has such a cozy feel to it. I mean a huge room filled with pillows to lounge on, with free WIFI and delicious snacks and drinks to order in between. What more do you need?

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We admitted to having misconceptions flying with Air India before we boarded the plane. Somehow, we did not expect much and to be honest, we were both very pleasantly surprised. We were sat right at the back and somehow we had the impression the legroom was so much bigger than in the front. The 9 hours went by very quickly watching some really good movies and dozing off for a few hours at a time. The food…curry, curry and curry. And it was not very tasty. So…apart from the food, everything was great.

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We only had a 1 hour stop-over in Delhi which we became quickly concerned about as the queue at security was insanely long and things were just not moving forward. I could hear a group of Indian Londoners complain about the inefficiency of the airport security staff to which a local Indian responded from the other side ‘Well, don’t come to India then’. I thought this exchange to be rather amusing, considering both were Indians and yet you could clearly notice the difference in their thinking as both obviously had very different experiences which shaped their attitudes and perceptions in certain situations.

When we arrived in Nepal, everything went relatively smoothly: the Visa application process was incredibly fuss-free and the friendliness of the Nepali people made the arrival to our first destination satisfying. And then we stood waiting for our luggage. Until we only had Chinese people standing around us dragging their suitcases and backpacks off the conveyor belt and we realised that this must be the luggage of a different plane. An airport staff informed us “Delhi luggage finished. This is China. Your luggage come tomorrow maybe – or day after”.

Ben’s response: “We don’t want our luggage tomorrow, we want it now ideally”. I just chuckled to myself and thought: I did suggest to take at least fresh underwear with us in our hand luggage in case our luggage did not arrive… Somehow I did not give in to my gut instinct back in London and thought -he is right, we’ll be fine and our luggage WILL arrive. We proceeded to the information desk where they took note of our luggage identification numbers and off we went to Kathmandu not knowing if we’ll ever see our backpacks again.

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We were greeted by Ganesh our trekking guide who had offered to pick us up from the airport – which was very kind considering we would only start our 15-day Annapurna Circuit trek a few days later. We drove off into town and the hustle and bustle resembled what I had encountered on Bali already. Whereas Ben had been to Thailand before, it seemed like he was a bit overwhelmed with the traffic chaos and the almost compulsive ways of not sticking to any sort of traffic rules whatsoever. “What am I doing?” he asks grinning while looking at me – “Seeing the world, hunny, seeing the world”. And we both laughed.

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In a way I admired his naivety when it came to the stark contrasts of our countries we grew up in and the third world we are immersing ourselves in currently. Even though such moments can be rather scary, usually these are the moments that have the greatest impact on your evolution as a traveller. Ben has travelled a fair bit, however I have travelled a great deal more and also lived away from the luxuries of our own worlds.

I’m so used to it, that when I sat in the shabby car which had a thick rug on the backseat (the seats were worn out so much, a rug would make it possible to actually sit on them) or casually observed the chaos going on next to, in front of, to the right and left of us, I did not really feel anything to be honest. I was completely unfazed by it all. I was almost a bit surprised to see Ben’s slightly panicky face. And I immediately thought back of my first experience of Asian chaotic traffic and realised it does take a while to get used to it all. He smiled at me when he noticed my worried face and said ‘I’ll be fine, just takes me a while to get used to things. I’m well out of my comfort zone at the moment’ as he laughs out loud.

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A few hours later he was confidently navigating us through the streets of Kathmandu and boy am I glad to be travelling with this man! His sense of orientation is almost miraculous. To compare: I still get lost in my own home-town (I have lived there for 21 years). I remember when I spent a few days in Ubud (on Bali) and it took me a good three days to find my way around the town and find back to my guesthouse each evening which is a bit worrying as Ubud only really consists of one long road from which you can almost get to anything. It’s not really hard to navigate around Ubud. It is for me. My sense of orientation is catastrophic. Not only that, some friends call me ‘Dory’ (‘Finding Nemo’) as I also cannot recall when I have seen a street (or many other things for that matter, such as movies etc.) before. Well Dory is no longer lost. She has her own TOM TOM (Ben Ben) to guide her through the (repeated) unknown.

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Ganesh dropped us off at our guesthouse and we agreed to meet up the following day to finalise the details for our trek and help us with anything we might need help with (Sim card etc.). Our guesthouse is simple but comfortable and everything you need really. The garden setting in the guesthouse, but also within so many places in Kathmandu, reminds me of Bali a lot. At night, many fairy-lights illuminate the areas and all of a sudden everything looks enchanted (and usually way better than during the day). After settling in our new home for the next 5 nights, we wandered out to get some supplies (shower gel, shampoo, bottle of water etc.) and to find our first Nepalese meal.

 

How did you handle lost luggage? How is your sense of orientation? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below.

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Habit

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