Writing Inspiration from Tribhuvan International Airport

<—-Previous Story

Time was so fast. Yesterday afternoon I was still exploring Basantapur area. But now it was four in the morning. I had just soaked myself under a warm shower of Shangrila Butique Hotel. After making sure that nothing was left behind, I immediately went to reception desk to check-out and a step later I was down on the streets of Thamel. Dark, empty and full of worries.

I continued down the street and hoping to found a taxi soon, while from behind in the dark I heard footsteps of several people accompanied by Nepalese chants that made my heart beat faster. I dared to look back, five young men quickly walked after me. I couldn’t seem to walk any faster because my backpack was weighing me down on my back. I seemed resigned if something happened when they actually caught up with me.

Plakk“, the hand of one of them tightly patted my right shoulder. “Oh, God“, I quickly thought responded.

Good morning, Brothers. Are you happy in Nepal?”, he said while accompanying my steps which were already slowing down in fear.

Hi….Yeaaa, nice country”, I said louder than usual just to show courage.

Good….Be careful, bro”, he quickly passed me while the other four friends looked at me with a light smile and simultaneously said “Hi”.

Oh, God thank you for still sending good people to greet me in the dark of the morning.

Arriving at an intersection, there were rows of taxis queuing up to transport passengers. The leading taxi flashed a flash of light at me and I raised my hand in response that I would use his services.

Airport, sir….How much?”, I curtly asked.

Seven hundreds Rupees“, he answered as he grabbed my backpack which closed my intention to bid.

Ok“, there was no other answer I can come up with.

The taxi was speeding fast without a barrier in Pashupati Road which of course was still quiet. Less than 20 minutes, the taxi arrived to Tribhuvan International Airport.

At half past six in the morning, the airport was still closed and quiet.

There wasn’t much I could do, I just waited at the airport police desk which looked empty while still staring at the international gate and hoping that its door would open soon because it was very cold outside.

Slowly the passengers arrived.

Do you Indonesian, brother?“, the joke came from behind. I looked left and right, there was no one beside me. The voice was clearly asking me. I looked back and saw a woman in her 30s smiling at me.

 “Hi Mam, how do you know I’m from Indonesia?“, I replied smiling back.

That’s it, Sir“, she pointed to one of my backpack pockets which wasn’t completely closed and slightly revealed the red and white flag which I had worn four days ago at Sarangkot.

As a result we talked to each other while waiting for the gate to open. It turned out that she was a graduate of a well-known university in Indonesia and a senior worker at an oil exploration company in Bangladesh. After traveling to Nepal, she would return to his hometown via New Delhi.

On the plane with me to New Delhi, she continued to fly with Singapore Airlines which transiting Singapore. Meanwhile I would explore New Delhi and Agra first.

The gate had been opened, I immediately went to check-in counter. The process took a little longer, I overheard the whispers between them and said the word “internet connection“. No wonder my online check-in process failed last night.

First time flying with Jet Airways.

Then in another row of immigration counters, I saw her having a warm conversation with the immigration officer. Her english was very fluent. Shee briefly explained to me in the waiting room that immigration officers in Asia tend to be more flexible than officers in Europe and America. Of course I believed that.

Waiting Room in Tribhuvan International Airport.
She treated me to a cup of chiya until the plane arrived.

I could say, she who disn’t want to be named was a person who inspired me to write and share every travel experience which I did so that I could support every traveler with information. She herself was never able to write because she was very busy, even though she had extraordinary stories. One was when she was able to survive a desert storm which hit her in Kuwait.

Jet Airways flying 9W 0263 was ready. I came out of the waiting room to apron. There was one uniqueness that I have never experienced before, namely when there was an inspection of each passenger’s cabin baggage in the extension area right in front of the plane door. Hilarious and fun experience.

OK, it was time to fly.

See you later Nepal. Welcome India.

Goodbye Basantapur

<—-Previous Story

Stepping away from Kumari Ghar, I was still thinking. When Kumari retires later, how does she live in society after only leaving Kumari Ghar once a year for a dozen years, how does she work until which man who is lucky to marry her…. Hmmhh.

My steps arrived at a wide plaza. Elongated white buildings with European architecture flanking the wide courtyard on the left and right, while in the middle, souvenir traders place their stalls.

Basantapur Dabali is a must-visit historical landmark.

Playing a role as the heart of Kathmandu, Basantapur had indeed been a meeting place for people from all over for politics and trading since Nepal was still a kingdom. Therefore Basantapur is always crowded until now.

For you as millennials, Basantapur provides many modern cafes to just hang out. Himalayan tea is also easy to find in this area. You can feel the deliciousness of Chiya (tea mixed with milk) in the cold air of Kathmandu.

Hunting for Himalayan Tea at one of the stalls.

Freak Street was a lane which looks quite busy with the existence of this iconic plaza. The charm of Basantapur Dabali hypnotized anyone to last a long time enjoying it. But the sun had slipped far, it was time for me to leave Basantapur to return to Thamel.

Sinha Swan Khala, a fairly busy religious institution in Freak Street.

Enjoying Kathmandu can’t be done by taking a taxi, make sure you keep going and enjoy the authentic Newar culture and architecture which is in every side of the city.

Now I was back in the streets of Layaku Marg. “Layaku” is another word for “Durbar Square”, while “Durbar Square” itself means “Palace Square”. It is true as it is, this Layaku Marg divides Basantapur and places the Royal Palace of Malla on its a side.

Layaku Marg towards Bishal Bazaar area.

Bishal Bazaar or Vishal Bazaar is a very famous shopping area in Kathmandu. Characterized by the existence of an old mall and Chinese Market. Bishal Bazaar may be the right place for fans of jewelry knick-knacks.

The Basantapur and Bishal Bazaar areas are bordered by the Sukra Path that begins with the Juddha Statue, a statue at the crossroads in honor of Nepal’s King Juddha Shamsher Jang Bahadur Rana who played a major role in rebuilding his country from the severe damage caused by the Nepal earthquake in 1934.

Juddha Statue.
One side of the Sukra Path.

Before actually completing the trip to Thamel, I tried to enjoy the busy activities of local residents by entering a restaurant in the Sukra Path number

Vegetable Chow Mien for 150 Rupee.

That afternoon was my last evening in enjoying Kathmandu because the next day I would fly using Jet Airways 9W 0263 to the capital of India. Maybe tonight I won’t wander around much because I have to get ready to leave for Tribhuvan International Airport in the dark of the morning.

I arrived in Thamel and immediately checked-in online for my flight, tonight I’m only going out for a while to enjoy dinner.

Wow… Look that beautiful woman in the shampoo commercial.

Next Story—->

Inspirasi Menulis dari Tribhuvan International Airport.

Waktu begitu cepat. Sore kemarin aku masih mengeksplore area Basantapur. Tetapi kini sudah pukul empat pagi. Aku sudah saja mengguyur diri di bawah hangatnya shower Shangrila Butique Hotel. Setelah memastikan tak ada barang yang tertinggal, aku segera menuju resepsionis untuk check-out dan selangkah kemudian aku sudah turun di jalanan Thamel. Gelap, kosong dan penuh kekhawatiran.

Aku terus menyusuri jalanan dan berharap segera menemukan taksi, sementara dari arah belakang yang gelap terdengar suara derap langkah beberapa orang diiringi nyanyian Nepal yang membuat jantungku berdegup lebih kencang.  Kuberanikan diri menoleh ke belakang, lima pemuda tanggung melangkah cepat menyusulku. Sepertinya aku tak bisa lebih cepat lagi karena backpack membebaniku di punggung. Aku seakan pasrah jika terjadi sesuatu saat mereka benar-banar telah menyusulku.

Plakk”, tangan salah satu dari mereka menepuk pundak kananku kencang. “Ah, alamat”, batinku cepat merespon.

Good morning, Brother. Are you happy in Nepal?”, dia berucap sambil mengiringi langkahku yang terlanjur melambat ketakutan.

Hi….Yeaaa, nice country”, aku berkata lebih keras dari biasanya untuk menunjukkan keberanian saja.

Good….Be careful, bro”, dia melewatiku dengan cepat sementara keempat teman lainnya menatapku dengan senyum ringan dan serempak berucap “Hi”.

Oh, Tuhan terimakasih engkau masih mengirimkan orang-orang baik untuk menyapaku di gelapnya pagi.

Sampai pada sebuah perempatan, tampak deretan taksi mengantri untuk mengangkut penumpang. Taksi terdepan memancarkan lampu tembak ke arahku dan aku mengangkat tangan sebagai jawaban bahwa aku akan menggunakan jasanya.

Airport, Sir….How much?”, aku bertanya singkat.

Seven hundreds Rupee”, jawabnya sambil meraih backpackku yang menutup niatku untuk menawar.

“Ok”, tak ada jawaban lain yang bisa kulontarkan.

Taksi dengan cepat melaju kencang tanpa penghalang di Pashupati Road yang tentu masih senyap. Tak sampai 20 menit, taksi perlahan merapat ke Tribhuvan International Airport.

Pukul setengah enam pagi, airport masih tutup dan senyap.

Tak banyak yang bisa kulakukan, aku hanya menunggu di meja milik polisi bandara yang tampak kosong sambil terus menatap international gate dan berharap pintu itu segera dibuka karena udara sangat dingin diluar.

Perlahan penumpang berdatangan.

Orang Indonesia, mas?”, celetukan itu berasal dari arah belakang.  Aku menoleh ke kiri dan ke kanan, tak ada siapapun di sampingku. Suara itu jelas menanyakanku. Aku menoleh kebelakang dan terlihat seorang perempuan berusia 30 an tersenyum ke arahku.

Loh, kok ibu tahu saya dari Indonesia?”, sahutku membalas senyumnya.

Itu mas”, Si ibu menunjuk salah satu kantong backpack yang tak tertutup sempurna dan sedikit menyingkap bendera merah putih yang sempat kukenakan  empat hari lalu di Sarangkot.

Alhasil kami saling bercakap sembari menunggu gate dibuka. Ternyata beliau ini adalah lulusan kampus ternama di Indonesia dan pekerja senior pada perusahaan eksplorasi minyak di Bangladesh. Setelah berwisata ke Nepal, dia akan kembali ke tanah air melalui New Delhi.

Sepesawat denganku ke New Delhi, dia bersambung terbang bersama Singapore Airlines yang transit di Singapura. Sementara aku akan mengeksplorasi New Delhi dan Agra terlebih dahulu.

Gate sudah dibuka, aku segera menuju konter check-in. Sedikit agak lama berproses, aku menguping bisikan antar mereka dan terucap kata internet connection.  Pantas proses online check-in ku gagal semalam.

Pertama kali terbang bersama Jet Airways.

Kemudian di deret lain konter imigrasi, kulihat Si Ibu berbincang hangat dengan petugas imigrasi. Bahasa Inggrisnya sangat fasih. Dia sempat menjelaskan kepadaku di waiting room bahwa petugas imigrasi di Asia cenderung lebih luwes daripada petugas di Eropa dan Amerika. Tentu aku mengamini itu.

Waiting Room Tribhuvan International Airport.
Si ibu mentraktirku secangkir chiya hingga pesawat tiba.

Boleh dibilang, Si Ibu yang tak mau disebutkan namanya inilah yang menginspirasiku untuk menulis dan membagikan setiap pengalaman perjalanan yang kulakukan sehingga bisa mensupport setiap traveler dengan informasi. Si Ibu sendiri tak pernah kesampaian menulis karena kesibukannya yang teramat sangat, padahal dia memiliki kisah-kisah yang luar biasa. Salah satunya ketika dia bisa selamat dari badai gurun yang menghantamnya di Kuwait.

Jet Airways bernomor terbang 9W 0263 telah siap. Aku keluar dari waiting room menuju parking lot. Ada satu keunikan yang tak pernah kualami sebelumnya, yaitu ketika ada pemerikasaan cabin baggage setiap penumpang di area extension tepat di depan pintu pesawat. Pengalaman yang menggelikan dan menyenangkan.

OK, saatnya terbang.

Sampai jumpa lagi Nepal. Selamat datang India.

Selamat Tinggal Basantapur

Melangkah meninggalkan Kumari Ghar, aku masih berfikir. Apabila Sang Kumar nanti telah pensiun, bagaimana dia bermasyarakat setelah selama belasan tahun hanya sekali setiap tahun keluar dari tempat tinggalnya, bagaimana dia bekerja hingga lelaki mana yang beruntung memiliki Sang Kumari itu….Ah sudahlah.

Langkahku sampai pada sebuah plaza nan luas. Bangunan putih memanjang berarsitektur Eropa mengapit pelataran luas itu di kiri dan kanan, sementara ditengahnya para pedagang souvenir meletakkan lapak-lapaknya.

Basantapur Dabali adalah landmark bersejarah yang wajib dikunjungi.

Memainkan peran sebagai  jantungnya Kathmandu, Basantapur memang menjadi tempat bertemunya khalayak dari berbagai penjuru untuk berpolitik dan berdagang sejak zaman Nepal masih berbentuk kerajaan. Oleh karenanya Basantapur selalu ramai hingga kini.

Untuk kamu millennial, Basantapur menyediakan banyak cafe modern untuk sekedar berhang out. Teh khas Himalaya pun mudah ditemukan di area ini. Kamu bisa merasakan nikmatnya Chiya (teh bercampur susu) di dinginnya udara Kathmandu.

Berburu Himalayan Tea di salah satu kedai.

Freak Street menjadi jalur yang terlihat cukup sibuk dengan keberadaan plaza ikonik ini. Pesona Basantapur Dabali menghinoptis siapa saja untuk bertahan berlama-lama menikmatinya. Tapi surya sudah jauh tergelincir, sudah saatnya aku meninggalkan Basantapur untuk kembali menuju Thamel.

Sinha Swan Khala, lembaga keagamaan yang cukup ramai di Freak Street.

Menikmati Kathmandu tak bisa dilakukan dengan menunggang taksi, pastikan kamu terus melangkah dan menikmati keotentikan budaya dan arsitekur Newar yang ada di setiap sisi kota.

Kini aku sudah kembali di jalanan Layaku Marg. “Layaku” adalah kata lain untuk “Durbar Square”, sedangkan “Durbar Square” sendiri berarti “Alun-alun Istana”. Memang benar apa adanya, Layaku Marg ini membelah Basantapur dan menempatkan istana Kerajaan Malla di salah satu sisinya.

Layaku Marg menuju ke area Bishal Bazaar.

Bishal Bazaar atau Vishal Bazaar merupakan area berbelanja yang dahulu cukup terkenal di Kathmandu. Ditandai dengan keberadaan mall tua dan China Market . Bishal Bazaar mungkin menjadi tempat yang tepat bagi para penggemar pernak-pernik perhiasan.

Area Basantapur dan Bishal Bazaar dibatasi oleh Jalan Sukra Path yang berawal dari Juddha Statue, sebuah patung di bundaran perempatan untuk menghormati Raja Nepal Juddha Shamsher Jang Bahadur Rana yang berperan besar dalam membangun negerinya dari kerusakan cukup parah akibat gempa Nepal pada tahun 1934.

Juddha Statue.
Salah satu sisi Sukra Path.

Sebelum benar-benar menyelesaikan perjalanan hingga ke Thamel, aku berusaha menikmati sibuknya aktivitas penduduk lokal dengan  memasuki sebuah resto di bilangan Sukra Path

Vegetable Chow mien seharga Rp. 15.000.

Sore itu adalah petang terakhirku menikmati kota Kathmandu karena keesokan harinya aku akan terbang menggunakan Jet Airways 9W 0263 menuju ibukota India. Mungkin malam nanti aku tak akan banyak keluyuran karena harus bersiap diri untuk berangkat ke Tribhuvan International Airport di gelapnya pagi.

Aku sampai di Thamel dan segera melakukan check-in online, malam nanti aku hanya keluar sebentar untuk menikmati santap malam saja.

Duh…cantiknya perempuan dalam iklan shampoo itu.