Instant mob

Since there was no way I was going to even try to climb up Mount Everest, or even Base Camp, I decided to take the easy way out. Several airlines offer mountain flights that take you over Everest and other mountains in the Himalayas. In one and a half hours, you get up close to the highest peaks in the world and the cost is only $100.

The one problem is flights in Nepal are extremely dangerous. Every year, there has been at least one major plane crash in which all passengers died. With unpredictable weather, fog and mountainous terrain, airline pilots have to be very well trained when flying in Nepal. Now, the authorities take more precautions and cancel flights if there is any chance of a mishap.

My Mountain Flight was scheduled for 6:45am. I got up very early and reached Kathmandu domestic airport, checked in, cleared security and reached my gate. Actually, the entire terminal is one large room with a few doors serving as gates. The airport seemed quite dead but a number of flights were scheduled as stated on the monitor. The announcement said “Due to bad weather, Kathmandu airport is closed. There are no flight flying in or out at this time. Mountain flight is now scheduled to depart at 7am.” This wasn’t bad, only a few minutes delay.

At 7am, the same announcement repeated stating a new time of 7:30, then 8:00, then 8:30, and so on. Meanwhile, more and more passengers started gathering inside the waiting hall. There were flights scheduled to Lukla (starting point for trekkers to Base Camp), Pokhra (a beautiful lakeside city), mountain and several other places. In a few hours, the entire place was packed with people with very little standing room left. Needless to say, all the seats were taken and the bathrooms were filthy. There is one book/ gift kiosk, a tea stall and an internet café at the airport. All of those were doing good business.

Suddenly a mob gathered and broke out into music and songs. Someone played the guitar while people from various nationalities sang Jingle Bells, It’s a wonderful world and other lyrics that were known to all. I could make out some of the singers were from China, Europe and Middle East. It was quite amazing to see how they had a common denominator of music and American pop culture.

Here is a video of the instant mob at Kathmandu airport looking to kill time by singing anything and everything!

As I would find out after a few mornings at the airport, Kathmandu airport typically does not operate before 10am. So even if you have a booking early in the morning, you will be spending at least a few hours waiting at the airport. My recommendation take a good book, learn a few songs, carry your laptop (they have WiFi for a fee) or best, don’t book a flight before 10am.

Where to eat at the airport?

A dear friend of mine from high school, who is now settled in Australia, sent me a note the other day saying “I am a picky eater and don’t know what to eat at the airport when I am travelling. Should I try a new cuisine while I have a layover in a foreign country?” I promised her that I will respond in detail, so here it is.

Airport is not the place to experiment with food or try a new cuisine that you are unfamiliar with. Generally, airport gourmet consists of fast food or sport bar like restaurants. Very rarely, would you find a palatable freshly cooked meal at an airport (with some exceptions). My recommendation is to stick to what you are familiar with. If there are certain brand names that you have tried and liked before, eat there.

Since an airport caters to people from different cultures, ages and preferences, the choices tend to be more international than local. You will tend to find pretty much the same categories of foods – American, Chinese, Italian, Coffee Shops, Bars, etc. at each airport without fail. There may be one or two restaurants that would offer regional fare based on the location. For example Mexican is quite common in Southwestern United States, steaks in the Midwest. Again, if you have eaten a stake before, go ahead and have one. But if you are a newbie, please don’t make the airport a place for your virgin foodie experience.

Frequent travelers often complain about not being able to eat healthy while on the road. Your choice of what you are consuming is perhaps the most important decision factor in picking an airport restaurant. I have found that if you do pay attention and look around, you can always find healthy options such as soups, salads and sandwiches at the very least. The hardest part is to control your mind that may be wandering off to the tempting smell of French fries and doughnuts.

Some common sense should also be used when picking from the menu. You don’t want to eat seafood in a fast food restaurant. A lot of people are conscious of where their meat comes from and I bet your airport restaurant will not be able to provide you this information. Best option is to stay vegetarian as much as you can, but go easy on the cheese and white flour. Eating too many carbohydrates can leave you feeling bloated in the sky.

I like to pack my own snacks before I leave home. Granola bars and dried fruits (almonds, raisins, etc.) are my favorites. That ways, I always have something on me in case of delays and I am not famished and reaching out to the first available food joint that I spot. These days, there are outlets for frozen yogurt and nuts everywhere, so you can forego the free peanuts, pretzels and cookies.

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