On the streets of Kathmandu
The Finnair flight from Helsinki has landed onto Delhi - airport 20 minutes late from the original schedule at half past five on the morning. We follow the Transfer sign, because we don't have Indian visas and therefore we can't pick our baggages and do our check-in for the following flight to Kathmandu. We face at the glass door the friendly guard, who don't let us enter the Transit area, but asks us to wait. After a while there's a long queue behind us mostly from the Finnish travellers from the same Finnair flight. When 20 minutes has gone, man will appears behind the desk, which is located at the corridor and he starts to call queuers one by one to him. He will check carefully passports, flight tickets and baggage claim tickets. We'll wait at corridor when he has finished to check all transit passengers and then he gives us a permit to enter transit area one by one.
We have a long wait in front of us, roughly 7 hours. From time to time there will be airport stuff walking on the transit area and calling passengers to the coming flights. At 11AM, one hour before Jet line flight to Kathmandu should depart, we finally get our boarding passes and we move to security check. My bag will be carefully checked, the camera and laptop removed and checked separately. I'll get approval stamp onto my checked cabin baggage ticket in my bag. At the gate the same checked cabin baggage ticket will be checked still two times, before I'm allowed to enter the plane.
We arrive at Kathmandu Tribhuvan airport at 2PM and fill out immigration and visa application forms. Nepalese visa for 30 days costs 40USD on the airport. When walking out from the terminal there is plenty of taxi drivers competing of passengers. Negotiations will decrease the amount of taxi drive from 450-500 rupees to 300 rupees.
We will manage to get a room from Kathmandu Guest House and immediately after checking in, the same taxi will drop us to trekking agency, from where we are able to get Annapurna trekking permit (2000 rupees) and the car ride tomorrow to Besisahar. Initially we thought to get bus ride to Besisahar, but we need to get TIMS (Trekker's Information Management System) permit (20 USD) before the trek and the office opens at 10AM next morning. Therefore we miss tomorrow's morning bus to Besisahar. At the same time we exchange Euros to Nepalese rupees and are ready to start the trek tomorrow.
Since last year there has been lot's of changes for doing the Annapurna trek: 1) Instead of one permit, you need to have two permits (Annapurna conservation fee and TIMS). This will increase the price of the trek and if you are not doing the trek with organised trekking agency, you need to apply TIMS personally at their office (like we need to do), 2) There are no anymore donations for the Maoists on the route, 3) The road has been built from Beni to Muktinath and when you are walking down the valley you can see buses and cars there. This eventually will destroy the Annapurna trek as a beautiful interesting trek. At the same time we were informed that next year it's not anymore possible to do this trek without porter. You need to get at least one porter from the trekking agency, before you can get permits. This will further increase the price for the trek. During the years 2000, 2006 and 2010 I have seen the change from undeveloped beautiful trek to trekking between the cars and buses on the dusty road :(
Kathmandu and Thamel itself seems to be unchanged. The only remarkable difference from the previous visits is the smaller amount of people (e.g. tourists) at Thamel. Walking and driving is easier today than earlier with fully packed streets.