This is the second part of my Nepal Chronicles. To see the first part, click here.
After a peaceful flight on “no-frills” IndiGo, I made my way through the customs and immigration processes in Nepal.
On my way out of the airport, I stopped to exchange my money. After waiting in a long line, the man at the counter swatted his hand and told me, “No, you don’t need to exchange. You can use Indian money.” Confused, I walked to the booth beside it to book a prepaid airport taxi. “That will be a thousand and fifty Nepali rupees.”
“Oh,” I said, “They didn’t let me exchange this money. I only have Indian rupees.”
The man pulled a stack of Nepali cash out of his back pocket and said, “How much you want to exchange?”
At first I was worried he would try to swindle me, but in the end he pulled out a calculator and gave me the exact exchange rate. I booked my taxi and began my journey to the hotel.
During the drive to the hotel, my eyes scanned every building, every street and every patch of land. I was searching for destruction, debris, any sign that things had changed for the worse. And for the first half of that drive, I found no sign.
Cars and scooters were zipping up and down the street, traffic police directing them at four-ways and roundabouts. Building still stood tall. People carried on, and foreigners poured in, usually in pairs. By the time I crossed the Bishnumati River, a polluted river near the Thamel district, I started to see small piles of brick and dust. The debris looked aged, but I couldn’t be sure if it was due to the Earthquake.
When I arrived at the hotel, I paid the taxi driver and jumped out. When signing in, I was welcomed with a tall glass of mango juice. Ahh… Refreshing! When I finished, a young man showed me to my room and excused himself.
I threw my backpack on the twin bed, closed and locked the door and plopped down on the opposite twin bed with a sigh. I opened the curtain and there it was… Everything I had been searching for…
Just in front of the hotel, beyond a tall green fence, was the site of a building’s collapse, complete with partial rusted steel framing and piles of rubble with pieces of cloth sticking out. Dust that had long since turned to mud with the rain. Just beside it, a new building was still under construction. Though it seemed the project had been abandoned long ago. The neighborhood surrounding it seemed to be intact, except for one home, which was visibly reconstructed using tin panels.
I rested for 30 minutes before going out. My first time really being alone while exploring another country, but I was ready for it. I knew Nepal, and I knew I could handle it. I left the hotel and programmed into my mind the directions I took as I walked. Right, left, right, left, and straight on. I passed dozens of interesting shops, as always. Shops with colorful handicrafts such as yak wool that had been crafted into felt pillows, wind chimes, decorations, and toys. Shawls and scarves seemed to be a tourist favorite.
This story is continued here: My Return to Nepal: Nepal’s Crisis