The 3+ hour flight from Kunming, China to Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu, Nepal, is a friggin’ walk in the park compared to the itinerary of the past few days. After a 14 hour flight followed by a 4 hour layover followed by another 4 hour flight and a 14 hour layover, I’m spent. 3 hours is nothing.
It’s the middle of the afternoon and a beautiful day to fly. We soar above the clouds, streams of sunlight caressing the plane wing’s crusted paint job. In the distance, enormous, whipped clouds stretch up towards the heavens, their tufts forming mountainlike peaks that almost remind me of…
Wait just a dang second.
Those aren’t clouds….those aren’t clouds at all! Those are actual mountains peeking up through the clouds, with one mountain in particular stretching her pointy head what seems to be just a few inches higher than her jealous, slightly inferior neighbors.
I don’t know it at the time, but I’m staring Mt. Everest in the eye. We haven’t even begun our descent, which means we’re flying at around 30,000 feet. And I’m just about eye level with the Earth’s most enormous offering. She’s beautiful.
I hadn’t planned on climbing Mt Everest in Nepal. Instead, I suddenly and unexpectedly find myself approaching her from above. Every cell in my body sings as a single thought courses through me: “This is God. God made this.”
I’m forced to tear my eyes away as the plane slices through thick pillows of cloud and suddenly hovers above the ancient city of Shangri-La.
Kathmandu pulsates lazily beneath me, its bright pinks and yellows lining a mysterious valley that looks at once unearthly and inviting.
Each building bursts with its own personality, balconies and rooftops reaching in every direction like teeth in an unfortunate mouth.
A warm haze seems to cling over everything like the top of a sheer circus tent. Mountains stand stark and majestic, protecting the bustling warmth below from outside invaders.
And yet we invade, we descend, and I step off the plane into another world.
One of the most disappointing feelings for me when traveling is that “just like home” feeling. If I travel for 48 hours, I expect to not only see and smell some insanity; I expect to feel like I’m on the other side of the earth.
Kathmandu does not disappoint. We deplane outside and are bused to the terminal. The air is warm and carries an intoxicating scent-cocktail of incense, burning garbage and fragrant spices. The sun shines brightly and I can’t help thinking something along the lines of “I’m in Kathman-fucking-du.”
When you first enter Tribhuvan Airport, you immediately know you’re in Nepal. The entryway into the terminal is filled with hilarious signs that simultaneously welcome you to – and warn you about – the country:
“You’re in Nepal now. Things take longer here”
“Be patient and relax, we do things our way.”
“Welcome to Nepal. Namaste and get over it!”
I’m instantly in love.
This post is an excerpt from My Week With Deepak: A memoir of Nepal, available February 2015 from THP Publishing. To pre-order your copy, click here!
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1. Do everything humanly possible to fly into Kathmandu during the day - ideally, a clear day. You can and will soar above Mt Everest and see a breathtaking view from the plane.
2. Have your camera out when you enter the KTM airport - the hilarious signs posted everywhere are definitely worth snapping.
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