Thursday, August 22, 2013

Karachi to Kathmandu via Infamous PK-268



This is Day 1 of Nepal Travelogue (May 13, 2013)
Day 11 Day 10 Day 9 Day 8  Day 7  Day 6  Day 5  Day 4  Day 3  Day 2


PK-268: PIA runs Karachi – Kathmandu every Monday at 6:30 am
Politics in the Departure Lounge
In the departure lounge, there was a discussion going on about Pakistan Elections, which were held just a couple of days back. An Imran Khan fan was unhappy about rigging at Karachi’s NA-250. Later on in Nepal also, people were aware about the political change in Pakistan and kept asking us about the return of Nawaz Sharif!

Before that, I checked airport’s currency exchange counters for Nepali Rupees, only to find rip-off rates so postponed the ‘transaction’ until we would reach the destination.

Gorgeously Deadly: Landing at Kathmandu Airport
Soon, at ~10am Nepal time, the plane was steadily landing at Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan International, one of the world’s deadliest airports. As if it was not enough that we were aboard the same flight # PK-268 which crashed at the same venue back in 1992 I spotted an unfortunate plane along the runway! At the same time, the lush green surrounding was reassuring that this crazy airport is indeed a gateway to the paradise!

Facilities-wise, we found the airport very basic with causal looking staff. We also checked the medical room but for no use. Currency counter was also half open and almost a rip-off so we exchanged only a petty amount and rushed outside to negotiate with taxis in the parking lot.

On a positive side, there is a silver lining amid all the immigration hassle: Nepal gives Pakistani travelers visa-on-arrival and that too free of cost! So my fellow countrymen don’t let this opportunity go wasted! Just ready your passport and buy a ticket, and you are good to go!
Surrounding Hills of Kathmandu Airport
It was like flying from flat Karachi and then landing directly on Nathiagali hills!
Alhamdolillah we Landed Eventlessly
Carcasses of an Unfortunate Aircraft
PK-268: the Same Flight Which Crashed Here Back in 1992!
The Flight to Kathmandu was an Experience in its Own

Green Inside of the Kathmandu's Tribhuvan Aiport


Ditching Thamel and the First Surprise
Almost everybody in Nepal could understand and speak Urdu which was a welcome surprise for us especially when we were in the improvisation mood.

That encouraged us ditching the inevitable Thamel – a touristy and chaotic Kathmandu district where every incoming tourist is supposed to go first mostly to arrange onward travels. Breaking this ritual, we instead dared heading directly to our first dugout, Budhanilkantha, where Urooba had to attend yoga sessions in the coming days. 

Surrounded by green hills, we found this neighborhood a nicer place with an authentic local ambiance and yummy street food: Samosay, Jalaibi, Paani Poori, and even Halwa-Poori! On the flipside, tourist accommodation was not abundant, however, with the help of friendly locals, we explored an inexpensive clean room at a family run restaurant-cum-guesthouse: Budhanilkantha Family Kitchen, aka BFK, near the happening Temple of Sleeping Vishnu (NPR 600 per night for the double room)!

After settling down, I strolled around town for errands and luckily found a good dairy for kids supplies! 

Bird's-Eye-View: Kathmandu Valley is Visible from Budhanilkantha
Budhanilkantha Family Kitchen, aka BFK: Stayed Here for 4-5 Days
BFK: Small But Full of Character and Great Food
A View from the Rooftop Restaurant
Another View of Budhanilkantha
The Expert Chef Duo: Ganesh and Urqen Sherpa
And an Evidence of their Dexterity
Hungry Us!

Today's Bills - in Nepali Rupees


750
Logistics
Taxi to Karachi Airport + Tip
150
Logistics
Luggage Wrap
1500
Gifts
Pakistani gifts for friends in Nepal
700
Logistics
Taxi - KTM Airport to Budhanilkantha
1000
Accommodation
Hotel Room Charges - Advance
110
Telephony
NCELL Mobile SIM
90
Food
Samosay, Jalaibee, etc!
330
Food
Milk, bread, snakcs, etc
100
Food
Fruits: 1 dozen Banana!
40
Telephony
Calling back home
4770
Total for May 13, 2013


Traveler’s Tip # 1: Currency Exchange
Buying local currency is very easy in Nepal and on good rates, though there are few reports of rip-offs also. Exchange shops are rampant around Kathmandu, however, I preferred banks except for the first time, because they offer reasonable rates, are more reliable, and then you also get a legitimate receipt which will be useful, for the reverse transaction, at the end of the trip. Do take your passport as they need to make a photocopy of some pages.

Taking a major currency, like USD, Euro, etc is advisable but the Indian currency, INR, especially the smaller denominations, are widely accepted – to the extent that some shopkeepers quoted us INR thinking that we might be from India!

ATMs are also common around the urban localities but bringing cash will save from bank commission, either charged directly or incorporated in the exchange rate.

There is no need to change all the currency in one go but do take enough if you are going for excursion, e.g. around Chitwan National Park or the Everest Area.

In May, we got ~87 NPR for 1 USD while now (August 2013) one can get ~100!

Traveler's Tip # 2: Mobile SIM
Buying a local mobile SIM is also very easy in Nepal and highly recommend. Again, take your passport in addition to a photograph to any of the mobile shops around to buy an inexpensive pre-paid package which can be recharged easily as per the need. Local SIM is handy for contacting hotels, taxis, and even for calling abroad. It took the SIM 5-6 hours to get activated so we used a nearby PCO for calling back home.

For data, we used handy Wifi at hotels and restaurants, included in the cost.


Passport and Photograph are Required to Buy a Nepali Mobile SIM
Traveler's Tip # 3: PIA Awards
For PIA Frequent Flyers, Karachi-Kathmandu return ticket is a great value for 20,000 miles only - translating into a decent saving of ~Rs. 20,000!


3 comments:

  1. Wow. I like your style of writing man. Very informative and spot on. Daily expenses report is definitely going to help the fellow travelers. Looking forward to read rest of the stuff :)

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    Replies
    1. Thank your for liking it. Rest of the stuff is also in the making with Day 2 just posted:
      http://mozumbus.blogspot.com/2013/08/yoga-and-cultural-shock-in-nepal.html

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  2. Lots of useful information here. Keep up the good work.

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