We landed in Delhi airport excited to be surrounded by the smells, the hustle and bustle of the place. We made our way to the small prayer room which was already occupied with several guys sat eating.
They started talking to us explaining they were on their way back to Saudi Arabia and Libya after spending time in Delhi. We were offered savoury snacks they were eating, another guy passed around attar (perfume), then took a mirror out checking his face and headgear making everyone laugh. They were friendly and full of character. We did our prayers in congregation with them and went our separate ways.
After going through security in Delhi airport and whilst waiting outside the departure gate we had already identified some more people in our group. We met German, Jamie, Richard and his daughter Jess. I also noticed Vanessa and Corrine although I hadn’t been introduced to them yet.
We arrived at Kathmandu airport and with Ebrahim’s meticulous planning our visa forms were already completed in advance, most of the passengers were completing theirs once they landed. We were through immigration and on our way to the baggage carousel, James was already there and kindly offered to share his trolley for our bags.
When we went through the exit our guide was there with the company sign. He directed us to the waiting area to join our group. The airport was full of locals hanging out, touts, taxi drivers, security personnel, backpackers and adventure groups.
Once the whole group was together we introduced ourselves to each other and headed to the coach. We had been waiting for Jamie as he needed a photo and had problems exchanging his Scottish notes. They refused to accept them so he had to borrow money to sort the visa out.
We had the usual scenario with our walk to the coach when local guys wanted to help with our baggage for payment. One of our guys (Scott) got collared thinking the porter was with our guide. It turned out he wasn’t so Scott told him he had no money and quickly got on the coach!The coach ride was excellent taking in the sights and smells of Kathmandu on the way to the hotel. The hustle, bustle, noise of the traffic, the chaos and vibrant colours were very similar to India. Tibet Hotel was very impressive with a lot of character, detailed wood carvings and the warm layout of the reception. Everything was styled with Tibetan design and it was well looked after, busy and popular hotel for group adventures.
Once we were checked in and did our prayers we went to the meeting room for a group briefing. We were introduced to the others who had come on separate flights; Kevin, Thelma and Claire.
Our guide Prakash went through the itinerary going over most of the information we had been supplied and answered any questions. With the lack of sleep I was getting a headache. I took turns with Ebrahim to do our Magrib prayers, we both prayed in the dark in our room thinking lights had gone out in Kathmandu. I only found out later we had to flick a switch before we entered our room, oh well!
After the briefing I took an Ibuprofen and we went out in search of some Halal food and a Masjid for our Isha prayers. We exchanged some money and discussed our plans with the guys, Jamie decided to join us as no one would accept his Scottish money and he needed to find an ATM.
Walking in Kathmandu on a night is an experience with no lighting so we had to adjust our eyes and rely on headlights of cars and motorcycles. We faced a lot of potholes and uneven surfaces, lucky for us paths were clean!
By the time we located a Masjid it was late and we had missed congregation. We did our own whilst Jamie watched from the courtyard. This was Jamie’s first experience and we explained our obligation as Muslims; he was delighted with the experience!
We ventured in the dark through small alleyways looking for a Halal restaurant. The names of restaurants given to us by passing Muslims were shut. Chances of finding a place open for business were slim, we decided to head back to the hotel for some food. Jamie found the whole experience very fascinating, the first time he had done something like this and appreciated the opportunity to venture into the unknown. We even followed locals dressed to eat out only to find out they were going to a private function!
On the way back to the hotel Ebrahim started chatting to a Muslim shopkeeper to get information for Halal restaurants. He even invited us to his family house to eat.
When we got to the hotel and opened the menu everything was overpriced for the tourists and I couldn’t believe the prices, we have to find a cheaper place to eat a Thali meal tomorrow!
I was starving and I ended up ordering the Thali. The food was disappointing and the service charge was on top. Never mind I was shattered and ready for some sleep.