Check-in

Patan, Nepal -- 04 September 2011 | Permalink

"Want a handiwipe," said M., "so you can clean yourself up before we check in to a nice hotel?"

"It's going to take more than a handiwipe," I muttered, scrubbing at my palms. The taxi driver stared inscrutably forward at the chaos of the Kathmandu ring-road.

The reception area of the nice hotel was tiled in dignified marble and paneled with dark wood. The two receptionists, impeccable in crisp white shirts and black ties, looked at us with polite disapproval as we entered. As I walked towards the desk, I could sense them taking in the dried jungle mud on my boots and the faint patina of sunscreen, sweat and bug spray on my skin. I probably smelled of sweat and diesel fumes; I just hoped that there wasn't a faint lingering scent of elephant as well.

"Where have you come from today, sir?" the male receptionist asked as I filled out the registration form.

"Chitwan." I said.

"And are you working in Nepal, sir?"

"My wife is ... has been." I could see the direction that the questions were leading.

"And who does your wife work for, sir?"

"She's a consultant for the UN," I said, knowing it was the right answer. Abruptly, our disheveled appearance no longer mattered.

"In that case, I believe we can offer you the UN rate. And a larger room." the receptionist said smoothly, as if he were talking to Ban Ki-Moon rather than a grubby backpacker.

M. chose this moment to return from her inspection of the room.

"Hey, we can get the UN rate," I told her. "But he needs to see your contract."

M. pulled her laptop out of its traveling case.

"It's on my computer," she explained, slapping her battered MacBook down on the desk. As she opened it up, something small and many-legged emerged from the interior of the machine and began to creep across the desk.

"Sorry about the bug," said M. brightly.

"He probably came from Chitwan today too." I suggested helpfully.

The receptionist studied the insect carefully for a moment, weighing up whether it was likely to be either venomous, or in possession of a UN contract. Apparently satisfied that neither possibility was likely, he placed his thumb over the creature and crushed it against the immaculately-polished hardwood of the desk.