It was in the year 2014 when I embarked on my first international trip. You may not count a SAARC country as an international trip, but technically I was still stepping across India’s border. Literally and metaphorically. A wedding had taken me and another dear friend and colleague to Gorakhpur in the state of Uttar Pradesh. I had no living relation with the bride or groom, but I was a happy plus one.
Post the wedding celebrations, we hired a cab from Gorakhpur to Sunauli border. It was a lovely two and a half hour drive, swishing past lush green fields and bouncing along the pockmarked road. We realised we were near the border when our car got stuck behind a long line of trucks. Yikes. After some excellent manoeuvering skills by our driver, we were pretty much deposited a few metres from the border gates. Actually, there were no gates, just a large archway manned by Indian guards. We picked up our luggage and heaved them across the border. It had just rained, and the area was squishy, but the sun shone down brightly on us. It took some time for us to get our bearings. We headed off to one of the many cab rental offices to book us a Kathmandu bound car.
We figured we could take a personal car just for the two of us, but we weren’t sure about the safety aspect. So we settled on a large minibus that seated fifteen passengers easily. It was a picturesque journey to Kathmandu, spanning almost seven hours. Zooming past cliffs, gorges, rivers with rafting groups in motion, cable car rides and even through misty mountaintops. It was enthralling. We stopped at a roadside dhaba where we got basic rice and curry dishes.
Kathmandu on the other hand turned out to be a disappointment. A lot of industrialisation had marred the landscape. We soon realised that the hotel we were supposed to have spent the night, had not taken our booking, and we were stuck at a roadside cyber cafe to figure out an easy place to crash. Sure enough, after frantically scouring through websites we settled on Buddha Garden Hotel in Thamel, and what luck. Akin to the Paharganj area in Delhi, Thamel has a vibrant ambience. Curio shops, book shops, apparels, accessories, mountain gear shop, it was a melting pot of cultures. And it even had dance bars. Sadly I missed the opportunity to visit one, but I’m hoping another trip to Kathmandu should correct this.