"We are now crossing the border at Rajshahi and are about to enter Indian airspace. Passengers sitting on the right can enjoy the sight of Kanchenjunga and the world's tallest mountain, Mount Everest," was the gentle and anticipation-inducing announcement from Enam from the cockpit over the Bangladesh Biman aircraft's PA system 30 minutes after taking off from Dhaka.
I, along with two other journalists travelling from Dhaka to Nepal to cover the SAFF Women's Championships, were lucky enough to sit on the 'right side' in more ways than one. We were excitedly awaiting the treat of gazing upon -- with the unspoken intent of pressing our noses against the window if need be -- the peak of one mountain that I had read about in textbooks and another to which I have become emotionally attached through the song of Indian singer Anjan Datta.
We were cruising amid blue skies 30,000 feet above sea level, and the few wisps of white cloud punctuating the horizon fooled us into thinking that we had finally spotted the main attractions of the flight. Anjan's Kanchenjunga could not be identified but soon some snow-covered peaks appeared, before the gentle PA broke its silence and informed us that it would take 25 to 30 minutes to land because of heavy air traffic at the Tribhuvan International Airport. That was possibly the only time that a delay was taken as good news as the six laps over the airport gave passengers an extended opportunity to look upon the tremendous beauty of the Himalayas.
The end of a two-hour flight finally arrived as we descended amid green hills -- pretty enough but paling by comparison to the Himalayas left behind -- and a zigzag waterway. The appreciation of the surrounding scenery was however tempered by a real and dark fear as I suddenly remembered the US Bangla crash a day short of a year ago on March 12, 2018 that claimed 51 lives, including three who I knew very well.
However, Enam landed the aircraft very smoothly at Tribhuvan but once inside, Biman's service and general presence was a poor one compared to other airline companies. From unclean trays behind the front chairs, torn chair covers and magazines that paint a poor image of our national flag carrier.
Kathmandu, Nepal's capital, has so far been a mid or low budget tourist attraction for those who generally gather at Thamel, where one can find many Euporean visitors. The most pleasing aspect of the city is that the sky is not interrupted by high-rise buildings as it is in Dhaka. The five- or six-storied buildings do not block the beauty of the small and medium hills that can be seen from the heart of town.
The town however is still bearing the wounds from the wreckage wrought by nature when Nepal was hit by a devastating earthquake in April 2015 as you could still see the ruined state of centuries-old buildings like Darbar Square and Ganesh Temple, although those are taking new shape gradually.
After a night's stay in Kathmandu, we started the journey to Biratnagar -- an Industrial area 600 km away -- on a hired microbus in a bid to save time on what would have been a 14-hour bus journey, which proved to be a picturesque one for nature lovers. The single-lane was flanked by mountains on both sides and dotted with a stunning collection of tiny houses on hills.
Then there were some more nerves as the microbus, at a speed of around 50 kmph, went zigzagging upward through the hills. It felt like it could be the last journey of our lives as it seemed that one miscalculation would cause us to go over the edge. The superb view was scant consolation, and the police stopping us at seven different checkpoints did not help.