Thursday, 28 January 2016

Random Jottings Asia 2016 - Kathmandu January 6th


The visa formalities are made easy with the new computer booths - just answer a few questions, scan passport and pay the fee. Even the immigration lines are short  - one doesn't often find this kind of efficiency in Nepal. As usual a big welcoming crowd loitering at the terminal entrance, eager to relieve a weary traveller of a little cash. That initial " Hello sir, welcome to Nepal" is going to cost, and any currency will do. 1 guy holds up your name while his friend shows you to the ATM and as if by magic, another friend pops up to take you the few steps to a taxi, oh and there's a fourth guy wanting to take your baggage and they all want your cash - yes, welcome to Nepal indeed. Personally, I don't need the ATM and I'm keeping hold of my bags thank you. And as for the guy holding up my name, perhaps he'd like to make better arrangements with the guesthouse!

Noticeably less traffic on the road to Thamel this time, not quite as much pollution even though it's rush hour! Just as well because I forgot to bring my pollution mask! Apparently there's trouble at the Indian border crossings where supply lines to Nepal are severely restricted. What fuel there is has to be obtained on the black market at hyper inflated prices explains the driver - yes, I feel this ride from the airport is going to be pricy.  On a more positive note, rubble from last years earthquake has been cleared and a few less tents on the street. The atmosphere though is as colourful and vibrant as ever, folks huddled around little bonfires as the winter sun sets and the cold Himalayan air begins to bite.

Tomorrow, it's that 6 hour bus ride to Pokhara and hopefully the guesthouse has secured me a ticket - but there's just a certain degree of anxiety as to how much I have to pay this time - I've only been in the country less than 2 hours and already I'm hearing about black market racketeering. Well, let's worry about that tomorrow, right now I have to eat, pay the guesthouse and sleep!

A quick rundown of the expense account thus far then comprises:

1. £486.66 Oman Air Return London to Kathmandu
2. £10 train ticket Norwich London
3. £1.50 2 pies from Morrisons
4. £2.20 Costa-lot-Coffee
5. £11.70 London Underground train to Heathrow via Tottenham Court Rd.
6. £2.75 Sainsbury's cheese salad roll
7. £2.50 Costa-lot-Coffee Heathrow Terminal
8. £3 (approx) Costa-lot-coffee Muscat Airport
9. £8 Private transport to the guesthouse, 25 minutes.
10. £1.50 veg curry, Nepali tea, Kantipath, Kathmandu.
11. £5.33 Double room, Stupa Guesthouse.
12. £5.33 Bus ticket to Pokhara

£540.47, yikes!

Here, a sequence of images as the plane descends into the Kathmandu Valley before landing at the international airport.

Sunday, 24 January 2016

Random Jottings Asia 2016 - Oman Air January 6th

Oman Air

Thankfully Oman Air hasn't been discovered by the masses yet unlike it's rivals Qater Airways and Emirates so a few spare seats on tonight's 6 1/2 hour flight to Muscat. Dropping a strong hint to my seat mate that once were on our way he should quickly grab that seat and we can all stretch out and sleep like a baby!

Dinner is good, very good actually as it always is with Oman Air only bettered by Turkish Air in my, slightly subjective opinion of course. Other Middle Eastern carriers and one Indian carrier fall pretty short on taste when it comes to cuisine in cattle class. So, with all this extra legroom and a full belly, time a grab some sleep before sunrise in a few hours.

Another successful transition from our transcontinental plane to the much smaller regional Boeing 737. The terminal here in Muscat is pretty small, easy to navigate and with plenty of views outside. So, With a couple of hours to kill let's enjoy another Costa-lot-coffee - needed just to keep awake!

 Thankfully Costa-lot-coffee did the admirable job of keeping me awake and along with what seems an endless trail of Nepali migrant workers it's another session of pushing and shoving ones way onto the transfer bus. Nepal calls then as the planes sets course across Pakistan, India and on towards the Tribhuvan Airport, Kathmandu. Oh look, the mountains, majestically punctuating the horizon with those pristine white peaks as the planes nears our destination. Descending into the valley and of course the ever present haze and pollution - yes, Kathmandu at last.

Terminal 3 Departure Hall

The M4 Motorway

Passing Windsor

Over Dubai

Early morning arrival Muscat, Oman

Muscat-Seeb, Oman

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Random Jottings from across Asia 2016 - Going to Kathmandu

London January 5th 2016

Another marathon journey to Pokhara has begun. I've lost count the number of times but to arrive in Pokhara unscathed can be a challenge. The journey is pretty routine until one arrives in Kathmandu where the fun part really kicks in!

The train pulls away from Norwich station under an overcast sky with drizzle in the wind, freezing cold and it's almost dark again, fairly typical English mid-winter weather. In a few hours though, I shall be jetting out of London bound for Oman - the first stage of this three part journey to Pokhara, over two days.

Oh, what's this? An outbreak of sunshine as the train speeds past Chelmsford. A sign of optimism from above perhaps that I shall have a trouble free journey - no, I don't think so either but nonetheless, it's good to see some English sunshine with a few patches of blue sky as the sun begins to set. Just enough time for a wander around London before dark - I don't have to be at the airport for a while yet.

I quick wander along the Tottenham Court road and then down to Green Park for a look at the Queens house. I don't even have to buy a ticket - just tap the debit card on the gate and off we go, hey ho!

Heathrow terminal 3 at 5pm on the Tuesday after New Year's Day is insanely busy I can tell you! People of all races pushing and shoving their way to check-in laden with about 20 suitcases each. Security - which, thanks to Islamic insanity, means a partial strip down. All belts, coats, jackets, belts and shoes into x-ray. All ones gadgets separated and X-rayed and your toiletries separated into a clear plastic bag and again x-rayed. Oh, and then there's the chemical test - they swipe a cotton wool ball around the hands and stick it into a machine. Plenty of scope for things to go wrong at this stage!

Thankfully, no interrogation and time to relax with a Costa-Lot-Coffee in the somewhat horrible terminal 3 departures hall. I'd say the place resembles a mess with far too much walking involved!

So with time to spare here are a few snaps while mooching around London on whats turns out to be a pretty pleasant winters afternoon.
Tottenham Court Road, London


Sunset from Green Park

Decorations on Buckingham Palace

London Sunset

Statue near the palace

Flying over Buckingham Palace

Buckingham Palace

Road leading to Buckingham Palace

Statue outside Buckingham Palace

London Eye

Queen's Guard

Big Ben