I did my research ahead of time and was able to find a hotel with Wi-Fi in Kathmandu for $5/night. In the middle of the world famous Thamel backpackers area, it was quite a relief after the previous places I’ve stayed. The only downsides were daily brown outs and no heat.
The Thamel area had a lot of restaurants and shops in addition to the guest houses. It seems the popular foods here are Thukpa (noodle soup) and Momos (dumplings; buffalo is the most common filling). I ended up staying 5 nights in Kathmandu.
As for sightseeing, I visited the crowded Durbar Square. It is strange here, you pay for admission, but all the local people can drive their cars and motorcycles through the square for free. Kind of crowded and chaotic. (photos)
After Durbar Square, I climbed the hill up to Swayambhunath, an important stupa. (photos)
A couple days later, I made a trip out to the old town of Bhaktapur. (photos)
Then I made a stop a Bodnath. If I ever come back to Kathmandu, I think this would be a good area to find a guest house. (photos)
Nepal to India
Leaving the city was not so easy. I wanted to get back to the Indian boarder, so I needed a bus to Bhairawa. I asked at some of the travel agencies, and they said there were night buses and day buses. I wanted a day bus and I bought one ticket for a 6:30AM bus. I went to the biggest, most professional looking office. The travel agent said there are big slow buses and fast mini buses. This ticket is for the fast one.
The next day, I checked out at 5:30AM, took a taxi (used the meter), and got to the dark long distance bus station. I was going to walk but I wasn’t confident enough to walk that many kilometers down some dark unknown streets. After a while the electricity turned on at the bus station, but it was cold since everything was outdoors. There were some people huddled around a fire inside a barrel. My receipt said to go to ticket window number 24, but no one was there. I waited until the departure time of the bus, still no one was there. I wait an hour more, and still no one to help me. Finally, another bus company talks to me and makes a call and says get on a different bus. When I see the bus, it looks like one of the big slow ones. It finally leaves at about 9:30AM. I think I remember saying I’d never use a travel agency again after going to Vietnam, but I did again here and it seemed I got ripped off.
According to the map, it doesn’t look like it is too far to the border. But the bus doesn’t go this way. It makes a loop around half the country first. And of course there is a lot of waiting. About three-quarters of the way through the trip, everyone was kicked off the bus and forced into another bus like a herd of cattle. So much for even a slow direct bus. I got stuck next to a woman and her two children. All three of them were in one seat. And I was squeezed between them and another westerner for a couple hours. I was thinking this is a nightmare, it is bad enough in a crowded bus, but kids bothering me too. In total, it was about 11 or 12 hours on both buses.
After this experience, I think I’d have to say Nepal has the worst bus system in the world. Even most parts of India is better because they have a state run systems. It is always trouble when you’re forced to choose between a few private bus companies that are all trying to rip you off and treat you like animals.
At the border town, the other westerners on the bus headed for the Indian boarder. I decided to stay on the Nepal side and wait for the morning.