I was a little curious about how the process of flying out of Kathmandu's airport would go so I looked online for any help. One man had written a long blog post giving advice on flying out of the airport a year ago. This post gave advice such as arriving at the airport four hours before flying out, preparing for checkpoints on the road, and having receipts for any souvenirs in carry on luggage because we would have to completely unpack everything before getting on the plane.
We used the tip of getting our tickets printed out for the checkpoints, but did not ultimately get receipts for anything. At the checkpoint on the road, the guard didn't seem to care about us because of our nice car from the car service so he waved us on. We exchanged money and went through security to get into the airport pretty easily. We were looking around and a man working in the airport brought us to the Air India desk then asked for a tip...a tip of Nepali money we no longer had... additionally he did not actually help us with anything because the desk was not open yet (nor would it be for about an hour) nor he did not help us with our bags. Regardless, he felt cheated and walked away.
We were told the Air India desk would not be open until 1pm, so we waited a bit with our eye on the roped off line area. A group of three Chinese men stood in line ten minutes to one, all of their checked baggage at their feet, anxiously waiting. Around 1:00pm, the people who work for Air India started to gather along the luggage conveyor belt and chatted. My fiance got worried that we would end up stuck behind a lot of people and it would take a long time to get through the line so we got behind the Chinese tourists. We watched with a little amusement as the Chinese tourists tried containing their frustrations as the Air India employees were delivered a platter of tea to drink before work, slowly sipping and chatting until 1:30pm. The planes might run on time but the employees still run on India/Nepali time. A half an hour late the same as on time in Nepal.
We had no problems checking our luggage, I let them know our final destination airport code so they did not have to figure it out themselves. It's a good thing the Phoenix Suns sometimes where the airport code PHX on their uniforms so that we never forget it. At the end of the journey, this seemed to work out just fine and our checked through baggage would greet us in the US. We went from the check in desk up the escalator to customs where we had our passport stamped for leaving the country, then into another round of security where we had our tickets stamped and got a bit of a patdown. My fiance did not have a line for this round of security as it was split up male/female and she was the only lady in the line at that time.
We waited a couple of hours in the terminal before our flight was called. The four hour time seemed to be an exaggeration. When our flight was called we got onto busses that took us to the airplane on the tarmac. Getting on the bus our tickets and passports were checked yet again and when we got off we had another line for our most extensive round of security just before getting on the plane. We had to open all carry ons, ours included our large suitcase sized backpacks with clothes and souvenirs, emptied them out, showed the insides of boxes of the "tokens of love" from the school, then had one more quick pat down before getting on the plane.
As we waited in line a young Nepali man behind me seemed to notice our address tags on our bags and said that he too was headed to Arizona. He was going to start school at ASU and had never been outside of Nepal before. I told him it would be very different but that he would probably find it interesting. He said he was told Arizona was like living on the Moon or Mars. I told him that wasn't untrue and that he should get used to not seeing the color green. At this point I was called for my last trip through Nepali security. Our first flight was short, we got a meal, but it was the start of about 40 straight hours of traveling. I thought I might see the young Nepali man again during our long travels but I never did.
We arrived in the Delhi Airport yet again, and this time we knew to head right to the transfer desk for our next boarding passes and to make sure our bags were in the right place. It was about 6pm when we spoke to a representative at the desk who informed us that we would need to wait for a representative from British Airways to transfer our bags and print out our tickets in this airline change. He said it would not be until 10pm that a representative would be able to come.
We hunkered down near the only food available on our side of security, near a little coffee stand that supplied us with chips, soda and masala tea. We set up our portable DVD player and watched a movie while playing on ipads. We were lucky that closer to 9pm the representative we talked to approached us and had us come to the desk. We were not ready to pack up so we rather frantically stashed things away quickly. The representative from British Airways helped us transfer everything and went through security with us. Frantically repacking might not have been the best idea because of the trip through security after getting our boarding passes, but we didn't end up losing any baggage along the way.
The Delhi Airport is very fancy but incredibly spread out in the terminal. The main concourse has an enormous duty free area with high end stores and a large food court. On the way to finding our gate we saw a sports bar that was selling cricket themed light jackets. They looked perfect to keep me warm for our next long flight, seeing as I had had shiver fits in the middle of the night for our last couple of flights. After we found our gate, I said I was going to go for a walk to look for something to wear and my fiance said she would stay with the bags and hang out for the time being as we had until almost 2am for our flight.
I went to the sports bar that I had seen the jackets and found there was no way to get service to buy any merchandise at that time. I looked around at the other stores and found only one other sweatshirt in the whole large retail area. It was at a designer store and I wasn't entirely sure about the value of the currency it was priced at but it seemed to be over $100. I would ask for an extra blanket on the plane.
I realized I was a little hungry and I checked out the food court. There was a McDonald's and Domino's among many other fast food restaurants, and both had some very interesting vegetarian options. I ended up choosing a pizza from Domino's that had mushrooms, peppers, gherkins, onions, and paneer. The wait for this pizza felt like an eternity and I pictured my fiance waiting with the bags worrying about where I could possibly be. After waiting at least 20 minutes for the pizza and cutting down the 15 minute walk to the gate to under ten minutes, I got back to our gate to see she was waiting with the nervous mystery of where I had been that I was picturing. She enjoyed the pizza I brought back, so much so that she treked out to get another soon after we scarfed it down.
We made it back to the US. We had another 9 hour layover in London after our 8 hour flight from India and an 11 or 12 hour flight to Phoenix. In London our bags started to feel heavier on our backs, we got through another round of security faster than ever, and we struggled to find good food and our actual gate in London. Before our flight to the US we were stuck in the proximity of two or three groups of Phoenix area college students yucking it up about their trips around Europe and their plans for happy hour back in Phoenix. "No, we're serious about happy hour, we're going after we land!" We could not get away from them until we were firmly in our seats.
We had both fallen asleep on the plane when customs cards were handed out and we got worried when we landed that we did not get one to fill out. We were not certain about whether we really needed one until we passed through the final customs checkpoint. We were okay. We had no trouble getting back to the apartment with our bags and the cats, one more enthusiastically than the other, were happy to see us. We seemed fine the day we got back, maybe falling asleep a little early, but the next day we both felt like zombies from the nearly 12 hour time difference. I awoke at 2am and listened to podcasts for a few hours before stumbling through the next day. Our lives in Arizona slowly restarted over the next few days and we got back into the groove of things. It is taking me longer than I expected to feel comfortable again with American food after a month of enjoying the food in Nepal.