Exciting times over here in Nepal. I got out of the house! I had some errands to run and some meetings to attend in the city, and while Mr.B. was able to give me a ride to the city, he was not able to take me home afterwards. I was left to find my way around on my own. I was scared, and nervous, but at the same time I knew I had no choice but to summon all my courage and go with the flow. In preparation for this little adventure I studied the map of the area before getting out, but, truth be told, once I was out there, the map meant nothing. Streets of Kathmandu are confusing! I was preparing a strategy on how to approach a taxi driver and I even had my little pocket dictionary safely tucked into my purse, but in all honesty, I was hoping the guy would speak enough English so that he can successfully take me from point A to point B.
Now, I’ve heard many stories. Ugly stories. About foreigners getting ripped off in taxis, and that the only way not to get ripped off would be to speak Nepali and be confident, projecting the attitude as if you know what the heck is going on. Obviously, I speak no word of Nepali, so the possibility of projecting confident attitude went down the drain. However, I did get an inside tip that I might fare better if I stop a taxi driving by rather than taking the one that’s stopped at the taxi stop. That sounded like a good tip, so I quickly decided to adopt that plan, and on my merry way I was! I walked by the guys at the taxi stop, showing no interest in their services, and continued down the street, looking, what I thought was confident, but I’m pretty sure I had deer-in-the-headlight eyes. Constantly turning around to try and spot any taxis coming my way, I successfully avoided water-filled potholes, cow dung, and stray dogs. One taxi went by, the second one, the third one… They all had customers in it! Will I be able to get a taxi this way? How long will I have to walk? I saw a taxi approaching, strained my eyes and saw he’s got no customers inside, and automatically my hand went up signaling him to stop. For a moment there, I felt like I was in New York City, but that moment was gone in a flash when I looked around.
In the taxi I went, feeling relieved I got this hurdle down. My driver, a young guy with long hair tied up in a small pony tail, turned around and asked: Where? Oh good, I thought, he speaks English! Thamel, I said (where else could a foreigner go!?). And then it occurred to me I need to set the price. So, as if I know what the heck I’m doing, I said: how much? The guy looked at me, thought for a little bit and then said: 300. That took me by surprise! After hearing all the stories of how foreigners are being overcharged, I expected him to say some crazy sum like 2000 Rs. But 300, only 300!? Quick calculation in my head – that’s 18 kuna, that’s 3 dollars… OK! To Thamel we go! I do realize that a Nepali person would probably pay barely a 100 for that distance, but hey, you live you learn, no?
Taxi itself was this tiny beaten up Suzuki Maruti that jumped around like there was no tomorrow. I’m pretty sure it had not been serviced since the 70s. Every time we would stop due to traffic, or an occasional traffic light, poor little taxi would die. I was sitting there wondering whether a lower price of the ride entails pushing the taxi through the intersection if it stalls. But, lo and behold, the taxi would each time start up again and I reached my destination a little sweaty, but alive and happy!