Touchdown Nepal: Kathmandu Airport

This is not an airport, this is a bus station from 1950s England. Just who is responsible for cruelly transposing it onto Nepal? It is a mean practical joke to play on a developing country and not in the least bit funny.

It is pandemonium. With every step – pandemonium.

I crack ribs, splatter toes, scrape shins, feel the fleshy slugs of penises against me as I squeeze through spaces too small in order to join a queue. A queue that eventually leads to a desk where I place my passport down so that it can be issued with a visa. A cockroach scuttles across the counter, dances on my passport, and disappears down a crack. Another man at a smaller desk but with a larger beard takes my passport and makes me fill in another form. I get the impression that if the cockroach hadn’t danced his dance this form would not have been necessary.

The baggage claim area below acts as three different levels of security check, a waiting room, departure lounge, arrivals hall, quarantine, shopping centre, tout-hangout and general circus for those bored of sitting at home or so mentally deranged as to enjoy this grade of chaos. It is as if someone has been given a pack of cards with all the essential components of an international airport and sprayed them into the air like an arthritic octogenarian magician.

I make my way through a security scanner – it’s not even plugged in. Occasionally a man with a uniform will come and feel me up, pat me down – I am certain at least one of these men was just a frisky cleaner looking for a break from his sweeping. Four conveyor belts chug slowly and noisily along the back wall, every now and again stopping altogether in a hiss of black smoke. There is no hint as to which belt belongs to which flight or which airline. Occasionally a bag from any one of several flights will emerge at random from one of them. You have to be alert because when this happens and it is your bag chugged out into the madness, you have approximately 12 seconds to make your way through 200 people, grab it, clutch it to you. If you fail, it disappears into the bowels of this sorry excuse for an airport, never to be seen again.

Outside, an army of futuristic Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles wait in blue padded armour, with shields, helmets, and machine guns. Not because of political tension or terrorism but as a first line of defence against the unbridled chaos of the airport. Their job is to contain it, stop it from spilling out into the real world. I will soon learn that they failed, miserably.

kathmandu airport

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Tom Spooner

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