By Leona Thomas
My choice of fancy hotel for my first Himalayan Christmas had not been successful so, of course, the trekking agency now took over.
The office manager announced, "I'll take you to Hotel Radisson."
Unfortunately, he decided I should ride on the back of his motorbike. There was little room for me to sit as his bike was old and had a bar at the back of my seat. And I was wearing a fancy tight skirt.
There was no way I could sit comfortably. I had to ride side saddle and cling on to him for dear life
It is warm in Kathmandu during the day in December but when you are traveling on a motorbike it is a chilly experience. My see-through lacy sleeves were no help in keeping me warm!
Luckily, this Lazimpat hotel was a short ride away. I dismounted and eagerly entered this second hotel.
But there wasn't much sign of Christmas in the lobby. From a distance the restaurant seemed not to be offering any Christmas fare. I was simultaneously wrong and right! The Nepali style Christmas was about to reveal itself...
I joined a line of about 10 people. All was well until an old man near the front of the line started shouting,
"I want turkey!"
He stamped his feet like a petulant child.
"I WANT TURKEY!"
'Definitely not British...' I thought.
We're too polite to shout in public in a foreign country. The British way is to politely seethe behind a pleasant happy face.
I soon discovered there was something to seethe about, although it wasn't the food.
Having already managed to arrive at one 5-star hotel and check in my little bag... only to discover they were closed and on strike... I was impressed that Hotel Radisson had any food at all!
When I finally arrived at the front of our line I discovered the problem. Our Christmas turkey was actually some kind of sausage meat lump covered in thin slices of cooked chicken.
I didn't have the energy to demand turkey loud enough that the folks back in the UK would have heard me and taken pity and sent a food parcel...
Instead, my British reserve allowed silent resignation to settle inside me.
With slices of the sausage meat and chicken lump nicely displayed on my plate, I then discovered the next part of the meal was more challenging. There were covered silver platters but when I lifted the lids I discovered an assortment of curries!
'But at least I have food' I thought and sat alone at a table.
Then it all went downhill fast.
Father Christmas (Santa) arrived!
I don't know what happened to old shouting man. Maybe he had already collapsed in a disappointed heap in one of the corners of the restaurant. I don't believe he would just sit meekly with this latest development but maybe Nepal had finally defeated him....
In the lobby, a very skinny Nepali man was dressed in a red Father Christmas (Santa) outfit, complete with a white beard. He had a huge pillow stuffed down the front of his outfit.
But that was ok.
I could have coped if it was just his costume...
The problem was that he also had a bell.
And it was big. He walked up and down that lobby vigorously ringing his puja bell, all the while yelling, "HO! HO! HO! Merry Christmas!"
It went on for so long that I began muttering under my breath. British reserve be damned! I was scowling and being sarcastic at my table for one.
I begged all the Gods (the Christian one and all 3,000,000 Hindu Gods too) to please find him a little child from somewhere. Surely then he would sit down and stop ringing that bell?
Alas, there were no children wanting to hug Santa. After all, lunchtime on Christmas day is too late to tell Santa you've been a good girl. Everybody knows he comes down the chimney with his presents on Christmas Eve!
My first Christmas in Nepal turned out to be an unforgettable experience and not a brussel sprout to be found anywhere in Kathmandu!
I never did get any Nepali Christmas Cake but a friend in the UK sent a small Christmas parcel by UPS so I did have Tesco Christmas Cake at the office later that same day...