Nepal…to visit or not to visit?
March 23, 2017
Visit to Nepal
Before getting ready to head back to Canada we took a last holiday from our holiday. We decided on Nepal for a few reasons
- Peter had wanted to go there for 40 years.
- It was much less expensive to fly to Kathmandu from Thailand than from Canada
- We needed to leave the country one more time before our visa expired
- Tourism is down in Nepal since the earthquakes 3 years ago. We wanted our tourism dollars to help make a difference.
- We thought it would be a good place to escape the burning season of bad air in Chiang Mai.
Four of the five reasons were good reasons. The last one proved false as the air in Nepal is even more polluted than when we left Thailand. Fortunately, we had bought Vogmasks to filter out the most dangerous particles and wore them most of the time we were away.
Reasons to visit
- The people of this country are happy and kind. They work very hard to make a living. Even before the earthquake though, 1/3 of the economy is from local efforts, 1/3 comes from money sent home by those who leave to make a living, and 1/3 is from tourism.
- There is a wonderful energy here. I am glad we had time in Thailand to have some experience with city living or this might have overwhelmed us.
- Our hotel, The Tibet Peace Inn, was very good value at about $35/night. They could not have been more helpful. They picked us up at the airport, provided a hot breakfast for $3 a day and arranged our itinerary for the time we were there. The manager booked our flight and driver for our trip to fly by Everest. He also booked a driver and hotel for our trip to Pokhara for 2 nights and even let us leave some of our things in our room in Kathmandu when we were gone. And not only that, but they had the best hot, high-pressured shower we have had since we left Canada.
- You can hire a private guide and driver for a whole day of touring the villages near the city for about $80. We had a great day with Ranjan Mishra, our guide.
- You can buy any knock off clothing gear that you want, all made in Nepal. I got a mid-weight down jacket for $20 and waterproof duffel bags for our camping gear for $35.
- We stayed in the Thamel area. It is the tourist area and has lots of restaurants serving food from every country, including Nepal. Local beer is also cheap. $4 for 620 ml.
- The country is primarily Hindu with many Buddhist and some Muslim. They have a strong influence from India which we could see in the women’s dress. Having heard many Hindu stories at Angkor Wat was a big help to understanding the culture here.
- There is a very strong sense of community here. Children hold hands as they walk to school. They play in the streets with whatever they can find. People smile and welcome you. Parents play with their children and laugh with them. I saw lots of dads carrying their children around
Reasons you might not want to visit
- Air quality. It is not only very dusty, but the skies register over 150 ppm of 2.5 micron particles which is above the dangerous level.
- Traffic-There is too much traffic for the roads. There are no traffic lights at all in the Kathmandu valley. Many streets are not paved due to mismanagement or because of the earthquake. These roads are full of holes. If a mudslide occurs in the mountains, the traffic must drive around it. The unpaved roads also result in lots of the dust.
- There are many people who walk here, especially compared to Thailand although are almost no sidewalks in our neighborhood. 40% of traffic fatalities are pedestrians.
- There is not a central government that knows how to help its citizens. Although building techniques must be adhered to when rebuilding homes after the earthquake, money that was promised has not arrived. They dig up roads to add someone to a water line, but don’t replace the road. There are power poles that are half a meter into the road because roads people and and power peope don’t work together.
- Local people we talked to feel that too much of the country’s money goes to corrupt officials. If you want a certificate stating you are a trained plumber, you can just buy one.
- It is hard to see so many poor people living in tents and shelters. Children say to visitors, “Give me a chocolate.” Many people in the smaller villages share a community water well or spigot.
- Garbage is often dumped into the river or pushed down a hill or piled up in a yard. Infrastructure is very limited
- Public school is only free up to grade 5. The children look great in their uniforms of skirts or pants and sweaters with ties, but their education is very much like ours was in the 50’s. Punishment for creativity and very much rote learning with workbooks of homework.
Hope for Nepal
We met a couple of locals who want a better future for Nepal. Our guide wanted to share what he loved about his land, but wants a government that is accountable to the people.
Our driver lived in a village that was mostly destroyed. He left his brother behind to look after their old father and moved to Kathmandu with his and his brother’s children so they could continue to go to school.
A young man running a nightly movie on the upper level of an Irish pub, Cinema under the moon, has many ideas for Nepal. He wants a trades school that is accountable to the employers that the students will have needed skills. He wants to use the hydroelectric power available in Nepal for electric cars and has read up on Elon Musk’s Tesla battery. Depak lets tourists message him on Facebook if they feel they are being taken advantage of by anyone in Kathmandu.
These thinkers make me feel positive. They also get me thinking much more about, “What should I be doing? What is my role as a citizen of the world? We are here for a few more days. I will continue to ponder my responsibility as we see and learn more about Nepal.
I will include some more pictures of the devastation and rebuilding from the earthquake in a travel subheading in the next couple of days , as well as some photos from our flight by Everest. Check back.