Over the Summer, we visited Nepal. Nepal is a gorgeous country full of really amazingly friendly, helpful people. As you probably know, they suffered from the Gorkha earthquake on April 25 of this year and several smaller earthquakes afterward. The Gorkha earthquake’s magnitude was between 7.8 and 8.1. This violent earthquake killed more than 9,000 people and injured 23,000 (you can read more about it on Wikipedia).
We booked our flight to Nepal in early April and Air Asia cancelled it for unknown reasons just before the earthquake. We counted ourselves lucky after the disaster when we got a full refund on our trip. A couple months later, part way into our Summer break, we found articles like this one saying Nepal is ok after the quake. This letter from the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation urges tourists to visit Nepal. The Nepal Tourism Board has created the Tourism Recovery Committee Nepal to show accounts of people safely visiting Nepal and other governments changing their travel advisories that previously said it was unsafe. They are doing everything they can to promote safe tourism in Nepal.
We booked a new flight and rearranged our trip to include Nepal again. I am so glad we did! It was one of my favorite places I’ve traveled and I definitely hope/plan to return one day. I also plan to post lots more about it so maybe you’ll consider visiting too!
Throughout our month-long journey, many people asked us if we were visiting to volunteer or just for tourism. We answered truthfully: just for tourism. People seemed slightly surprised, but not at all put off by it. Many Nepali people count on tourism for their income and are suffering greatly from the lack of tourists after the quakes.
The lack of tourists stood out the most for me in Pokhara where shops lined both sides of the streets for blocks and blocks and most had no customers inside. Some were closed waiting for business to return. We saw the same 10? foreign tourists day after day on the streets (and greeted a few familiar faces from the bus on the way). Pokhara has a beautiful lake and is the starting point for Annapurna treks. We trekked for 9 days and saw a handful of other tourists. Many of the guesthouses were empty apart from us.
Also the town of Chitwan was practically transformed to a ghost town. Restaurants took over an hour because they didn’t start making anything until customers showed up because of the possibility that no one would come. Many offered discounts to lour the few tourists into their restaurant rather than one of the 20 others (in spite of the fact that they were all hurting for business). I went on an awesome 4-hour jungle walk with 2 guides for
$35 with the Nepal Dynamic Eco Tours and Services. Just me and 2 guides. The guestbook register hadn’t had another entry in over a month. This kind of shop should have visitors every day! I asked the guides part way through my walk if they had another job to supplement this one and they said no. They were great guys with a good sense of humor and great knowledge of the animals and forest. I definitely recommend their services.
In Lumbini (Buddha’s birthplace), I got a hotel for $4. Seriously, $4. They aren’t having much business either! I rented a bicycle there for about 80 cents per hour.
We rafted along the Trishuli River and stayed at a resort there. It was clearly designed for massive groups of people. There were volleyball/badminton courts, a swimming pool, a full bar, cabins and hotel rooms, and lots of staff. Again, we were the only guests. They offered us food throughout the day and shared their experience from the earthquake: no damage except that the tourists weren’t coming.
Kathmandu Valley was struck the worst. Some buildings in Kathmandu and surrounding areas were reduced rubble. Workers are at every one, every day clearing away the bricks and rocks. While we were there, we felt a few small tremors. On our second to last day, there was a 5.1 earthquake with the epicenter about 10 minutes away. We were a bit scared, but figured if our hotel could withstand the bigger ones, it was unlikely to crumble now.
One day, I volunteered with All Hands repairing the leaky roof of a Temporary Learning Center. They also have many projects clearing rubble from individual homes. Their newest project is called 50 homes. The leader of my project was telling me about it on the way to our site. Apparently, at one location where they will build some of the homes, the volunteers went to remove rubble. This was expected to take a couple weeks. After 2 days, the community had removed all of the rubble themselves in preparation because they were so excited for their new homes. The homes they are building are made of stone and metal. They are temporary structures that can be moved or modified into permanent homes. The organization presently has over 50 volunteers staying in Nepal, working 6 days a week. The organization gives them meals and lodging. You can volunteer too! Or donate to their good cause.
We stayed at Andes House in Kathmandu. I also absolutely recommend it. The 2 owners, Babu and Deepak, were beyond friendly. It was like staying in their home, not their guesthouse. They also were hurting from the earthquake and asked us to please tell everyone what a wonderful place Nepal is and encourage our friends to visit. Please do! Everyone there is waiting for you with open arms.
Never Ending Peace And Love (Nepal)