Thursday, January 20, 2011

9,259 Miles to Kathmandu

I arrived safely in Kathmandu yesterday at about 11 am local time, which, for those of you good at arithmetic, is 11 hours and 45 minutes ahead of Eastern Time. I am still trying to confirm the reasoning behind this special little time zone, but I have heard that it is Nepal’s preciously stubborn way of differentiating itself from India, which is 11.5 hours ahead of Eastern Time.

But let me back up many hours to briefly recap my journey, which, all in all, was uneventful and fairly pleasant given that it took me 31 hours from start to finish. It began auspiciously at O’Hare, where I somehow squeaked by without paying for my extra piece of checked luggage (thank you, kind sir at the United ticket counter, for being either especially benevolent to me or simply indifferent about your job).

The next stroke of luck came with my flight from Chicago to London, which was half empty. After a brief layover at Heathrow, I boarded my Gulf Air flight to Bahrain, where I arrived around 7 PM local time. On the morning of my departure, my travel agent emailed me to say that she had arranged for me to get a hotel voucher because of my long layover in Bahrain. This last-minute offer ended up being really nice because I think I would have gone a bit crazy spending eight hours in the Bahrain airport. The Bahrain airport is fine and even a bit surprising in its suburban-ish offerings (Macaroni Grill coming soon), but it is not like nearby Doha, which is more slick and modern and oozing in oil money.

After getting my passport stamped by the Kingdom of Bahrain, I was dispatched to the Golden Tulip Hotel. Even in the dark, the ten-minute drive to the hotel gave me a little slice of Bahrain’s skyline, which has a few distinctly Middle Eastern skyscrapers that could be mistaken for Dubai’s flashy architecture.

I caught a few hours of sleep at the Golden Tulip before returning to the airport at 2 AM for my flight to Kathmandu, which was by far the best (and shortest) leg of my itinerary. I was lucky to have a window seat on the left side of the plane, so for the last half of the journey I gazed at a continuous ridge of massive, craggy, glacial mountains that stretch all the way to Kathmandu. The Himalayas never get old for me, and I even put down Freedom for a while to stare at them for a good hour. Nothing says “Welcome to Nepal” like the world’s highest mountain range.

Up next: my first hours in Kathmandu.

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