I have travelled a lot. i don’t dispute that. I have travelled extensively within Nepal – possibly been to more than 70% of the country. And then since 1999 travelled many parts of the World. But it was in 2003 that I did rather large amount of International travels, and eventually got my Frequent Flier Gold status by May 2003.

One of the most interesting trip I did that year didn’t include any Star Alliance carrier until I was on my way home. This was possibly one of the longer trips I had taken at that point, almost three weeks. Destinations wise I went to Kampala, Uganda; Nairobi, Kenya; and Kabul, Afghanistan.

The first segment of the trip was on Gulf Air. I distinctly remember this flight. It was what they called ‘Gulf Traveller’ aircraft. So, there was no business class, but they had the front section empty and only few passengers in that segment. I think given my ticket was in a higher booking class, I was in the front section. While I was treated well enough, I was appalled by the treatment meted to the other passengers though. The majority of the passengers were people headed to the Gulf region to work, and clearly for them this was possibly their first time on an aircraft. Their English was non existent. And clearly, the Flight attendants were not interested in helping the passengers, but more inclined to despise them. I thought I’d not be flying Gulf Traveller ever in Future.

The second segment was rather unique, now that I think of it. It was from Abudhabi to Dubai in Gulf Air proper. I didn’t realize until we were airborne and landed that the flight lasted like 20 minutes, and the two airports were 116 KM apart. There was also a special bus service between the two airports, but since I couldn’t figure out the visa regulations, whether the airport to airport bus was airside or landside, I had asked the travel agent to put me on a plane. This flight was good for what lasted. There wasn’t anything to report. The flight took off and then landed. Must be one of the shortest scheduled flights anywhere.

Third segment was also my first flight on Emirates. I flew Dubai (DXB) to Entebbe (EBB). The plane stopped in Nairobi, where they cleaned the plane with all the continuing passengers onboard. This was my first trip to an AFNOG. AFNOG was in Kampala. The airport to the city drive is about an hour or more, and at the airport you can clearly see signs of the civil war that had ruined Uganda for many years. It was also at Entebbe Airport that Israeli Commandos had stormed a hijacked plane and rescued its citizens. So there was history. Interestingly, the laptop i was carrying drew attention of the customs officials there, and so I resorted to flashing my UN identification, which was still valid. That cleared all ways automagically. I do have to add that I got visa on arrival, though a month earlier I had spent time and effort and lost about INR 2200.00 in trying to get a visa for Uganda in New Delhi.

But otherwise, Uganda was good. Kampala had nice variety of foody joints, and we even managed to find time to go and watch the 2nd installment of the Matrix Series. I think the Indian Restaurant at the Mall was rather good and we went there a few times. Later, a group of us went on a tour of Lake Victoria – the source of the Nile River. We went to the exact source, and also stopped by in the town of Jinja. Jinja is a interesting place. It used be a major trading hub dominated by businessmen of Indian Origin. But Idi Amin one day in 1972 decided to throw them all out. They all left, most went to UK, I am told. The town somewhat reminded of the older houses in semi-urban India – definitely there was Indian influences in those houses. Interestingly, during our trip there we also found out that MTN- the pan-African Telco was laying fiber from Kampala towards Kenya. So on the road to Jinja, we could see the progress being made. During the conference different groups of people were going to Lake Victoria each day, and so we even measure progress per day on the laying of fiber.
We all went to the source of the Nile river.
After Kampala, the next stop was Nairobi. Flew on Kenya Airways. First time to Kenya for me as well. Given that I had been advised that Nairobi was better known as Nairobbery, I was cautious. But then I had good company. We were 3 people who flew from Entebbe, and Bill Woodcock and I were in the same hotel, it was smooth. Apart from visiting the KENIC, KIXP and bunch of other ISPs, we took one day off to go visit the National Park. It was great experience in the open Jeep. And of course, when in Nairobi, you are eventually taken to the ‘Carnivore’. It’s a restaurant near the National Park, where game meat is served alongs side regular meat. If you don’t eat meat, this is probably not the place to go. Though, in later visits, I realized that they did have non-meat items of the menu.

From Kenya, I flew Kenya Airways to Dubai. I think some aspects of service was better on Kenya Airways was better then Emirates. In Dubai, I had a bit of a tricky time trying to find out where my United Nations (UN) flight to Kabul departed from. Finally, found out that it went from the other terminal. Found the bus that took me across, and then spend the time in the small terminal. It was in this terminal, I found a Nepali Guy working the counter at the Sandwich shop. In the past, I had rarely seen any Nepali worker in a position dealing with customers. Generally, it’s the Filipino in the customer facing roles, Indians in mid-management/supervisory roles and Nepalis/Bangladeshis and the rest in the backroom. While this probably still the overwhelming case, as more experienced Nepali workers go abroad due to domestic conflict, I have seen more and more in front office roles. A few years later, checking-in to hotel in Qatar – everyone from the hotel security, checkin to bellboy were Nepalis.

I’ll write about the visit to Kabul some other time. But, two weeks after departing Dubai, I was back there again heading towards Kathmandu. I was flying Thai through bangkok. I had just attained Gold Status with Thai the previous month. But I didn’t have the card, so I brought a print out of the site. This was going to be my first visit to the lounge. This was a small lufthansa lounge. I had arrived quite early around Four in the afternoon, for a flight that departed almost around mid-night. I went to the lounge, talked to the guy at the counter. He was indeed very friendly, and called up Thai to verify that I was indeed Gold. Once verified he let me in and I was happy. Later around eight, I went out and got my boarding pass. And was back home the next day in the afternoon, after about a month.