The day I arrived in Kathmandu, I observed men holding a bundle of rupees in one hand and yelling out something with an open door of the moving bus. I was curious to know what that was all about.
The three types of public transport buses in Kathmandu valley, the big public bus, a mini van and a tuk tuk, operate all day almost until 9pm and then there is a ‘Ratri Seva’ a night service bus until 11pm. Tuk tuk’s normally operate within shorter distances, while the buses and mini vans cover longer distance. So far my experiences using the public transport in Kathmandu have been quite peculiar. The first time I took a bus was from outside the New Road. I was headed to New Baneshwar, but none of the buses were going in that direction. One after the other, I asked every bus conductor, and they denied. Finally, I asked them to drop me off at a place where I could get my bus. They dropped me at the next stop, without charging any fare, which was the main bus station. This time I found my bus.
It was an interesting experience. I sat there observing every single person in the bus while hearing an old Bollywood song playing on the radio. After the seats were almost full, the bus conductor hopped on with that bundle of rupees in his hand. The bus conductor would hang by the door shouting out the destination the bus was heading to just the way I had seen on the day of my arrival. The bus would stop anywhere they could pick up and drop off passengers.
No matter how full the bus would be they always take in passengers, as long as the passengers find space for themselves, even if it is hanging on the ladder behind the bus. I had one of those experiences as well, when I boarded a bus from outside the airport. Or shall I say, when I managed to find some space in an overflowing bus as I was pushed by the people behind me. Once you find a spot to stand, you cannot move from that position until there is some free space around you.
Now, let me detour a little and take you behind when I read on my arrival at the airport in bold letters “THINGS IN NEPAL HAPPEN AT ITS OWN PACE, SO BE PATIENT.”
I am reminded of this line every single day. But this day in the bus made me understand the level of patience these people had. After I got on the bus, an old lady who was seated on the first seat by the door had to alight. So every person standing in her way had to alight as well. I was amongst those people. When she moved out, she walked to the window of the last seat in the bus and took a baby through it from a woman, which seemed to be her daughter. After which the daughter, who was seated on the last seat, had to alight. So all the people who were standing in her way, either had to make some space or alight as well. This whole process took over 10 minutes. I was shocked and amused at the same time. At this pace, it took me over 45 minutes to complete my brief journey from the airport to New Baneshwar.
However, this was by far my most memorable bus experience in Kathmandu. There are two benefits of conveying by buses in Kathmandu, they are as cheap as 15 Nepali Rupees and they make for an interesting experience every time you use it.
You know what they say, ‘If you truly want to travel a country, you must use local transportation, eat by the street and interact with locals as much as possible.’ So here is your chance. Go ahead and try out the public transport in Kathmandu. It is worth the experience. Enjoy the ride!
Text & Images: Mithila Jariwala