LEAVING NEPAL – A LASTING IMPRESSION

After 9 days in Nepal, we are now sitting in departures waiting to board our plane to Kolkata, India. I thought it may be a good time to reflect on our experiences and thoughts of Nepal.

Our tour was with Earthbound Expeditions and was booked through Rajan, who did a great job and made sure we felt welcome and at ease for our entire stay here and was incredibly flexible when we wanted to change our plans. Moreover, he also gave us better prices on hotels and flights than we could get directly, which I felt was refreshing as typically agencies charge more! If you are looking for a tour company in Nepal, these guys are a great choice!

In general, Nepal is a wonderful place to visit; the people are very friendly and respectful, they are gentle in their approach and you don’t feel harassed when walking through the streets, even in the tourist areas such as Thamel and Pokhara. Prices are fair, but you have to barter to get what you want. There is a great choice of things to buy, including hand painted Tibetan Thangkas (Buddhist paintings), local art, wood carvings, local and Tibetan handmade jewellery and hippie fare galore!

Nepal is still one of the worlds poorest countries and following years of political unrest and civil war, it suffers greatly from a massive pull on resources and bad infrastructure, which unfortunately has an impact on tourists. The power is cut for most of the day and at unsuitable times. As a result, everyone relies heavily on liquid gas, which is in short supply and the are long queues all over the country to refill canisters. Hot water is scarce and in the cooler months, due to no heating, rooms are cold and can lead to sleepless nights.

There is only one road from the Indian border to Kathmandu and another heading north. The roads are in disrepair, single lane and incredibly dangerous. Most of their resources come in and go out by these roads on ancient TATA trucks speed limited to 40mph. Tourist buses, cars and motorbikes torpedo themselves around the trucks to get from A to B. We, like many, chose to fly back to Kathmandu rather than run the 7 hour gauntlet from Pokhara.

Nepal also has issues with waste disposal and the growing population of Kathmandu leaves the city covered in Rubbish, particularly plastic bottles and food packaging. Signs and warnings to tourists are everywhere, but the reality is that it is the Nepalis themselves that need to take heed, but more so their government. Sadly, many Nepali’s believed things would improve after the abdication of their king and when the Maoists took power. Their government is currently a coalition where there is no majority and they struggle to pass bills and implement policies.

Apparently only approximately 800,000 tourists visited Nepal last year, but they want to increase this as tourism brings a much needed boost to their economy. Traditionally a favourite on the backpacker and hippie trail, Nepal is eager to attract a more affluent demographic, hence tourist agencies want to advertise 4 & 5 star hotels and offer heavy discounts on their rates. They also want the Tourist Board to advertise more aggressively, but until there is more focus and budget for this, Nepal has to rely on word of mouth, visitor generated reviews and popular websites and publications such as Trip Advisor and Lonely Planet.

From my perspective, Nepal has a lot to offer in the way of history and culture on top of it’s sightseeing attractions, trekking and adventure activities, but most of all, the attraction is it’s people. I have travelled extensively and have not felt so safe and welcome in any other country. The service has been second to none (in fact, too much at times) and despite being an utterly chaotic place, things do, surprisingly run according to plan, you just need to have a little patience! The one thing I would have changed is the time of year to visit. February is still low season, meaning things can be cheaper, but it is still on the chilly side when there is no electricity, heating or hot water! We are planning to return to do a trek to either Everest or Annapurna Base Camp and are told the best time to go is September/ October.

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http://enepaltrekking.com/

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  1. Great post and love the photos! Nepal is a country I’m dying to go to.

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