Nepal – Flying Home With Buddha Air, Turkish Airlines and KLM, Sector 3

Istanbul, Turkey, July 2018: In a couple of hours flight number 3, but first we have to navigate Istanbul Airports international terminal which can best be described as organised chaos! The place is clearly to small for the number of passengers here on this Friday afternoon. Big queues at the transit security check but at least its moving -about 30 minutes here, in a slow shuffle towards the screening belt and metal detector booth. Once through the formalities one is free to roam around the place and figure out directions to the next departure gate and Turkish Airlines flight 1953. Regular flyers to Istanbul may be pleased to know that a new airport will open in October, theoretically making the Istanbul transit a somewhat more pleasant experience, but for now one will just have to suffer with the congestion – in the terminal and on the tarmac.

IMG_7433

A Congested Istanbul Airport, little room to spare on the taxi way!

Sector 3 is just a short flight, about 2 hours and 50 minutes to Amsterdam. The aircraft slowly inches towards the runway joining the long Friday afternoon departures queue –  40 minutes before the plane actually reaches the number one spot for take off. So, as this penultimate flight to Norwich England lifts off Ataturk’s runway seventeen left, one gets the sense that in a few hours trip 2018 will really all be over.

Sadly solid cloud cover prevents any good photos of the Central European landscape as the plane sets course for Amsterdam’s Schipol airport, so lets just eat delicious pasta, take a nap and wake up near our destination in about 2 hours.

IMG_7658

Building storms over Greece

Clipboard04

Approaching Amsterdam from Lelystad

Passing around the Northern tip of Amsterdam, a city easily recognisable from its plethora of canals and waterways, and of course windmills. So, as the aircraft twists and turns its way onto the final approach here’s the view from a left side window seat.

IMG_7694

Welcome to Amsterdam Schipol Airport, Netherlands, Europe.

The last sector, a short 35 minute hop across the North sea in  about 2 hours. For now we leave Turkish Airlines for this trip and transfer to KLM for the flight to Norwich and home! Yes, after leaving Kathmandu about 13 hours ago, the end is almost upon us. First grab my boarding pass from the self -check-in kiosk then its another round of security checks. No queuing this time since I’m the only one present in the giant security hall! I’ve traveled through Schipol plenty of times over the years and its always been a pleasurable experience. Quick and easy formalities every time, plenty to eat from a huge choice of foods and of course good coffee – but its not cheap. However, they will take credit cards so one can forget about the cost. for a month at least.

 

 

 

Nepal – Flying Home With Buddha Air, Turkish Airlines and KLM, Sector 2

Kathmandu, Nepal July 2018: Tribhuvan International Airport, Kathmandu is definitely old school – queuing for a boarding pass is mandatory and the queues are long. No automated check-in kiosks, no pre-printed boarding passes accepted here and with around 270 passengers each taking up to 6 minutes to process its a very long wait for those of us near the back!

If one is to get ahead of the queues, arrive at the airport around 4 AM and camp out at the door since the place is closed until around 5.30 AM. I arrived at 5.15 AM, the airport was closed and I was pretty much back of the queue! Right now its hard to see how my Turkish Airlines flight to Istanbul will depart on schedule at 7.35 AM.

IMG_6974

Turkish Airlines Check-in at Kathmandu, mandatory and takes a very long time (90 minutes)

Well, its taken 90 minutes to get to the check-in desk and obtain my boarding pass, lets hope the immigration and security process is much quicker! Yes, the immigration line for foreigners is empty, i’m through in 2 minutes with a polite nod and a smile to the officer. Equally, the security line is pretty empty too, and another 5 minutes for the necessary bag scan and body frisk gets one into departure hall with just enough time to grab a 300 NRP cup of coffee before boarding the Turkish Airlines A330 to Istanbul.

IMG_6989

Turkish Airlines Airbus A330 early morning at Kathmandu Airport

Its a full flight today, something I didn’t expect with Nepal being in the grips of the rainy season. Perhaps this is the week all those brave rainy season trekkers chose to leave today! Climbing out of the airport and those sitting on the right by a window get to see a pretty good view of the city as the plane circles to gain altitude before setting course to Istanbul. A 7 hour flight over northern Pakistan, central Afghanistan, Iran and on into Turkish airspace. So, as we say good bye to Nepal for another season, here’s a final look at the Kathmandu and the Himalayas from seat 32K  as the plane climbs to 38,000 feet.

IMG_7050

Circling the city of Kathmandu before setting course to Europe

IMG_7061

Himalayas between the clouds

So, what’s it like flying Turkish Airlines in economy class? well, in short, same as any other economy class cabin. Similar seat space, if one is unlucky enough to have an obese seat mate then rubbing shoulders isn’t uncommon! The in-flight entertainment system is pretty average with the same American movies and comedy shows popping up here as they do on the Middle Eastern carriers. Unfortunately the earphones supplied only work in one ear – a technical hitch! This is my fourth sector with Turkish though and what sets them apart from other economy class cabins is their food menu’s. Food offerings are consistently tasty and appealing, especially when one hasn’t eaten since last night! Today is no exception and breakfast on Turkish Airlines from Kathmandu consists of –

IMG_7199

A kind of Egg and flaky pastry flan, green vegetable and toasted sandwich with a cheesy ham filling – very tasty, good coffee to!

IMG_7299

And after breakfast theses amenity kits are handed out for those that need a nap. The socks are quite handy for those that need to take off their shoes and replace their old socks with these nice new fresh ones!

IMG_7245

Its always fascinating to watch the scenery pass down below! An exceptionally clear day over Iran allows for some wow photos of the countries terrain. Here, scenery from the Iranian/Turkish border region where one can see villages nestled within valleys.

About 2 hours from Istanbul now and its time to eat again! yes, just a snack this time but quite a substantial few mouthfuls, and the coffee’s good too – a different brand of Nescafe than i’m used to, or perhaps its my imagination! Unlike the appalling offerings from Etihad last year, this snack is something I’m already looking forward to.

IMG_7243

Cheese and salad roll, roasted vegetables and a chunk of cake, lovely – well done Turkish Airlines!

So as this flight closes in on our destination of Istanbul, time to pack up the laptop, check passport and onward boarding pass in preparation for sector 3 to Amsterdam and snap some photo’s as the plane appears to be meandering around the eastern edge of Istanbul. giving one a fabulous aerial tour of the area.

Clipboard02

An unexpected aerial tour of Istanbul

IMG_7323

Passing Sile on the Turkish northern coastline

 

IMG_7340

On the fringes of Istanbul

IMG_20180727_122619458_HDR

About to touchdown on runway 23 at Istanbul Ataturk Airport

In a couple of hours, sector 3 will take flight…hopefully!

Nepal – Flying Home With Buddha Air, Turkish Airlines and KLM, Sector 1

Kathmandu, Nepal, July 2018: Today begins the flight home – Nepal to Norwich, 4 sectors across 2 days with a night stop in Kathmandu. I’m sitting on the roof of the small passenger terminal here in Pokhara watching the clouds roll in and the drizzle turning to steady rain. If the clouds get any lower than this then flight’s will get cancelled, I’ll miss my connection to Europe in the morning costing me the price of another air ticket out of Kathmandu! Yes, flying around Nepal in the rainy season is not without its risks. I’m waiting for a Buddha Air flight to Kathmandu, the information screen indicates ‘Delayed’! Backup plan is to ditch the flying and take the overnight bus which should just about get me to the check-in desk at Tribhuvan International Airport by 5AM.

1 flight cancelled, another waiting on the ramp for the rain to ease, but thankfully routes to Kathmandu are operating more or less as normal with one exception, my flight Buddha flight 606, but it’s on the way according to Mr. Airline representative. So, with little else to do but keep a listen out for boarding call, lets grab some expensive coffee and take some photo’s.

IMG_6386

Waiting game, the Jomsom Plane

IMG_6475

Going Nowhere

 

IMG_6444

On the move!

At last, Buddha 606 has arrived and will shortly leave again, with me on board. The rain has stopped, even some chinks of blue to be seen, easing ones anxieties of either that 10 hours of bumping along the Prithivi Highway or having to buy a whole new set of air tickets. As the flight is called, passengers slowly drift towards the plane, stopping for selfies much to the annoyance of the police. Its a new ATR72, clean and with reasonably good visual quality out of the windows – no mountain views today though, still too cloudy. A 25 minute flight between clouds, no drinks, no snacks even – Buddha have nothing to offer its passengers. Rival carrier Yeti will offer water, squash and a packet of snacks!

IMG_6510

Lets fly to Kathmandu

The scene here at the baggage pick-up building can be described at best as organised chaos as hundreds of passengers jostle for space at the small table while officials insist on matching up baggage tags. Since I’m in no hurry the thing to do is wait until the dust settles and hopefully my bags will still be awaiting collection!

IMG_6572

Collecting baggage the old school way in Kathamndu’s domestic terminal

So, having made it from Pokhara to Kathmandu in one piece. time to find the hotel and some lunch. While most foreigners arriving here head straight for the tourist ghetto of Thamel, I’m heading to the OYO Baltic hotel, found on Booking.com and situated just across from the airport. £10 for a pretty nice room and with air-conditioning, fast wifi and a flat screen TV – I’d say, bargain of the day for an airport hotel.

And so with a few hours to kill before night fall, i’m going to grab some aloo paratha, a cup of milk tea then hop on a bus towards the end of the runway for a little airplane sightseeing. I’m looking for a shopping centre somewhere close to the end of the runway and from there one should have a scenic view across the airport and beyond. Yes, after searching for a while, there is a complex of sorts extending up about 3 or 4 floors. the views from there are pretty good I have to say…

IMG_6594

Views across the airport from the shopping centre at the end of the runway

IMG_6701

Looking across the Kathmandu Valley from the end of the runway at Kathmandu Airport

And here’s a few of the planes arriving and departing Kathmandu airport…