By Leona Thomas
My first Christmas in Kathmandu was as a newly arrived tourist, so I had yet to learn that life in the (then) Himalayan Kingdom of Nepal was nothing like being in a Western country.
No matter how hard they try to do Christmas, somehow, they never quite get it right. After all these years I now suspect they gave up trying years ago!
I had looked through all the fancy adverts in the two English language newspapers in Kathmandu and had chosen The Yak and Yeti Hotel because of its promise of home-made Christmas cake.
Despite the unseasonable warm weather, I was still in full Christmas mindset so when the big day arrived I put on my best clothes and even applied a little makeup to my face. I had an invitation for a motorbike ride after lunch so I was carrying a small day pack filled with warmer everyday clothes too.
The taxi rattled its way to the entrance of the hotel and drove off the moment I was standing on the pavement. A concierge showed me where to go and, upon entering the building I discovered a check-in desk.
It seemed like a good idea to give my day pack to the man rather than sit with it on the floor by my table. This was Christmas Day, so I wanted to do things properly...
The man took my bag from me and put it in a cubby hole space on the shelf behind him. He logged me into his little book.
I looked around me as I waited for him to finish what he was doing. I saw 3 chefs dressed in modern white clothes with the tall white chef’s hat. It looked impressive.
When the man was ready, I asked where I should go for the Christmas dinner.
"There is no Christmas dinner," he replied.
I wasn't sure we had heard each other properly but then he added,
"The hotel is closed. We are on strike!"
My mind was reeling. Why did he take my bag if they are closed? Why did they even let me in the building?!
Then I saw a television crew filming for the news channel. This was obviously big news.
I left the building with my bag but there were no taxis waiting by the car park. The concierge sent a boy out to Durbar Marg to get a taxi for me. As we waited he explained that the hotel had been on strike for 2 days now and they had had to send all their customers to other 5-star hotels in the city.
At some point during this conversation the film crew showed up outside and began filming us. It crossed my mind that I would be seen on television by millions of Nepalis. Thank goodness I had dressed up for the occasion!
Finally, a taxi arrived and I sped towards the trekking office in Tredevi Marg.
"How was your Christmas dinner?"
"There wasn't one. The hotel is on strike."
The guys there refused to believe my story saying they hadn't heard anything about this. The managing director rang the hotel.
After a brief conversation he turned to me.
"You're right! " he exclaimed.
The staff set about deciding where I should now go for my Christmas dinner....
In Himalayan Christmas part 2.. A Christmas Surprise!
Did Leona get any Christmas dinner?
The surprises kept coming...!