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VOL. 2 | ISSUE 10
yourtravelcompanion AFFILIATED TO NEPAL TOURISM BOARD
budi gandakiâ€™s soliloquy The 20 day long trek to Manaslu Base Camp, alongside the Buri Gandaki River, reveals all that the area has to offer as an amazing tourist destination with something for everyone.
ITALY tHE MISTRESS OF TEMPTATIONS
on GOOD FOOD
on FESTIVAL WATCH
TIMES november 2010
Editorial Dear Readers,
We hope you had a wonderful Dashain and got to spend some quality time with your family and friends, whether it was at home or away- traveling and experiencing new things. It is a great time to be outdoors right now; the weather is just perfect for traveling and photography.
Publisher: Travel Times Media Pvt. Ltd. Kupondole, Lalitpur, Nepal P.O. Box 24206, Kathmandu, Nepal DAO Lalitpur Regd No : 63/065/66 Tel.: +977 1 553 6733 /209 3290 Fax: +977 1 553 6733 E-mail: email@example.com URL: www.traveltimes-mag.com editorial team Chairman Deepak Bhatta Managing Director / Editor aasha Ram Tandukar Associate Editor Shambhu Tandukar Creative Head Mahesh Tandukar Director Sales & Marketing Tilak Khatri Asst. Marketing Manager LABIN MANANDHAR Copy Editor Utsav Shakya Layout Supervisor Suman Maharjan Inhouse Writer NISHA SHAKYA Photographer Suresh Maharjan rOCKY PRAJAPATI Advisors anand rungta Sushil Bhatta Upendra Hirawat Abhishek Anand Deepak Jain Ramon Shrestha Partners China Southern Airlines Gorkha Travels Craft Garden Dakshinkali Hill Resort nextyatra.com eticketnepal.com Color Separation: CTP Nepal Pvt. Ltd Hattiban, 5250466, 5250468 Printing: Jagadamba Press, Hattiban, 5250017 distribution: R. B. Newspapers - traders Travel Times is published by Travel Times Media Pvt. Ltd. All rights reserved in respect of articles, illustrations, photographs, etc. published in Travel Times magazine. The contents of this publication may not be reproduced in whole or in part in any form without the written consent of the publisher. The opinions expressed by contributors are not necessarily those of the publisher and the publisher cannot accept responsibility for any errors or omissions. We welcome your feedback. Please send us comments, suggestions or ideas for improvements at firstname.lastname@example.org Writers are encouraged to be part of Travel Times by sending their stories along with relevant pictures and contact address at email@example.com
Nepal is a great destination for travel around the year. The country and its people have a lot to offer for tourists; a great deal of which still remains unexplored and for which the potential is promising to put it modestly. Amongst the avenues of travel that Nepal is best known for today is of course trekking in the land of the Himalayas. Every year thousands of trekkers hit some of the most amazing trekking trails in the world and bring back memories to last a lifetime. Most of these trails are not what you would call comfortable or leisurely. Many of the wayward villages that trekkers will move through are reeling under acute poverty and the little that they earn through their teahouses is their only source of income. Even so, these people have kept their unique culture and traditions alive; something that trekkers will revel in. In this issue, our affable in-house photographer Suresh Maharjan and regular contributing writer Kapil Bisht, put up with the late monsoon
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Tihar brings to mind the rich delicacies that the valley folk gorge on during the festival. While Dashain was all about the meat, Tihar is about the sweets. Find out more about Tihar and about the traditional Newari sweets. We also talk to the gregarious Mingma Dorji Sherpa of Last Frontiers Trekking and get his views on the state of Nepal’s tourism and his innovative travel ideas. While most of Nepal closed for the holidays, we at Travel Times were busy working into the night to bring to you this issue of the magazine. Just to make sure your travel companion is always with you, whenever, wherever. Happy Traveling! The Editorial Team
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this year to trek through Gorkha’s Manaslu trail. The stories they brought back make up our cover story. It tells of life in the mountains, of the importance of religion and culture in such remote places, of hardships faced by the locals and about the relatively untouched charms of the circuit. For our Nature & Wildlife section, Kapil writes about some fascinating discoveries regarding new species of animals and birds in the country. Our suggestion? Take off if you have a few days leading up to Tihar and keep your eyes open to spot a new species!
Rules and Instructions The only rules that we have is you are writing about a trip you have undertaken by yourself, that you have a good selection of photos and that you are very passionate about what you are writing. The final article should be no more than a 1000 words. Tell about where you went, what that interested you about the place, and why you want to tell people about it. Also include a few details about yourself - your age, profession, the companions you traveled with and let us know how we can reach you.
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TIMES november 2010
For more details, refer to page no. 98 or simply dial
Budi Gandaki’s Soliloquy trekking in the lap of Mount Manaslu
on COVER STORY
The monsoon can make for a great trekking season too, proves Kapil Bisht with his cover story on trekking in the lap of Mount Manaslu; the snow capped peak of which remain hidden to the trekking group.
THE MISTRESS OF TEMPTATIONS
Regular contributor Charlie Das writes of an amazing few weeks in Italy and about the good things from that side of the world.
on Good Food
Newar sweet shops are ubiquitous in the valley. Find out more about what makes having these traditional sweetshops so special.
in the Abode of Snow on Nature and wildlife
on Global Treasure
Need proof that Nepal is full of surprises? Read on about the amazing, recent discoveries of several new species of birds and animals in Nepal’s forests.
The city of the sun and the moon – Teotihuacan, northeast of Mexico City is famous as the birthplace of gods.
Festival of sun on festival watch
A celebration of purity and devotion, Chatt is the festival of sun.
76 a photographic journey to
haadigaun on photologue
In-house writer Nisha Shakya and our photographers Suresh Maharjan and Rocky Prajapati traveled to Haadigaun and learned the uniqueness of the place.
Start traveling....with Travel Times 12 photo of the month
Reveal the best photography of the month.
14-16 Travel News
Get with the latest news and events in Nepal and around the globe.
18 Airlines info
SpiceJet, an award winning budget airline of India, spreaded its wing to Nepal.
54 Health Times
68 Recommended resturants
60 The Hyatt Regency
Trekking or just traveling in Nepal? Carrying a simple medical kit might make all the difference.
on HOTELS & CASINOS
The Hyatt Regency Kathmandu has set the bar high for others in the country. Yesha Malla finds out what makes the Hyatt so amazing.
A guide to the most happening resturants in town
on perfect takeaways
Used by Lord Krishna to woo his many gopinis, the bamboo flute can make for a perfect souvenir too.
TIMES november 2010
photomonth of the
by: suresh maharjan
The evening sky of the Patan Durbar Square at the time to offer the evening prayers at the Krishna Mandir.
news in brief
Nepal Pavilion popular at World Expo
More than seven million people have observed the Nepal Pavilion at the World Expo that is underway in the Chinese industrial city of Shanghai within five months. Nepal Pavilion is among the top ten popular pavilions at the World Expo. Nepal Pavilion, besides promoting the art and culture of Nepal, has publicized the Nepal Tourism Year 2011 and the five day long trade fair of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) to be held in Kathmandu in December.
Taleju festival concluded
The Taleju festival concluded on 17th October Sunday after the idol of Goddess Taleju, taken away from the Devagriha on the day of Phulpati was brought back to the Devagriha on the auspicious hour prescribed by Panchanga Nirnayak Samiti. Prayers were offered in the temple from Ghatasthapana for national welfare and Prasad of worship were offered to Kumari and Taleju.
Nepal Participates in New York Adventure Travel Show
Mandala Street Fiesta 2010 held
Homestay popular in Bhadaure
The annual Mandala Street Festival 2010 organized by the Sagarmatha Bazaar, Thamel was held from 22nd to 24th October.
The ‘homestay’ concept is fast becoming popular in Bhadaure Tamagi village in Kaski district. The concept that started with a few houses about a year ago has now expanded to 77 houses. Each home in the village can host two to eight tourists every day.
The non-profit efforts of the three-day festival was organized to support the Nepal Tourism Year 2011 and promote Thamel as a tourist hub. This annual festival after the success and appreciation it received last year is being hosted to promote the uniqueness of the privately owned pedestrian street - Mandala Street. The festival showcased different specialties of different cultures of Nepal. It included fun fair and various activities.
Abacus International Conference 2010, a Resounding Success
Abacus International Conference 2010 was a resounding success, well attended by some 500 delegates in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam from 13th to 16th October 2010.
The 8th edition of Jazzmandu-2010, one of the foremost International Jazz Festivals in Nepal was held from 29th October to 3rd November in the capital. This annual “biggest Jazz party in the Himalayas” was organized by Upstairs Ideas Pvt. Ltd. which jazzed up the Himalayas for peace and compassion through famous acts such as Valley Jams, Jazz Bazaar, Jazz Master Classes and more.
8th Jazzmandu-2010 in the capital
The 900m long marathon reaches Jumla
The longest marathon of Nepal named ‘Himalaya race-2010’ has reached Jumla. The 890 meters long marathon was started from Kailash Parvat. According to Bruno Poiread, founder of the marathon and former French racer, the 34-day race will end at Annapurna Base Camp. Started from Kailash Parvat, the race track includes places like Simikot, Mugu, Jumla, Dolpa, Namdo, Shae, Manang and finally the Annapurna Base Camp. This high altitude marathon competition was initiated from Tibet and this one is a new route. The participants have to run at an altitude of 5000-5300 meters.
Tourists are showing a great liking to the homestay concept as it offers them an opportunity to understand our culture and tradition. Local villagers have also started investing on infrastructures like building advanced bathrooms to better serve the tourists.
New Malaysian Airlines in KTM
Nepal Tourism Board with five private sector travel companies-Cho-Oyu Trekking, Gorkh International Travels, Himal Sonam Treks and Expedition and Kapan Homestay Village successfully participated in the New York Adventure Travel Show held from 16th to 17th October at Meadowlands Exposition Centre in New Jersey, USA. Mr. Prachanda Man Shrestha, Mr. Kashi Raj Bhandari and Mr. Samir Bajracharya represented NTB at the show.
Malaysian Airlines is the national carrier of Malaysia and Air Asia is known as a low cost carrier. As Air Asia is a low cost carrier, the country is also anticipated to receive a good number of visitors from the South East Asian nations.
Nepalese Tourism is set to see more visitors next year with two Malaysian carriers - Malaysian Airlines and Air Asia which have scheduled flights to Kathmandu from December or early January.
With more than 7,000 Malaysian tourists visiting Nepal every year, the number is expected to double after the operation of the two airlines. As Nepal does not have direct flights from Europe and US, it is expected to do good focusing on the regional markets.
3G Service at Everest Very good news to all mountaineers heading to the Everest, now you can be in touch with your family and friends even from top of the world. Ncell, a private telecom firm has launched high speed internet facilities at the base camp of Everest on 28th October, giving visitors, climbers and people living in the Khumbu Valley the ability to make calls and wirelessly connect to the Internet. This has brought relief to the visitors who visit the Mount Everest region every year who depend on the expensive satellite phones. The facility provides fast surfing on the web, sending video clips and e-mails, as well as calls to friends and family back
home at far cheaper rates than the average satellite phone, the company said.
TIMES november 2010
Ticket prices for London 2012 Olympics revealed 15 years of Swarovsi Crystal Worlds ticketed sessions across the 26 sports durThe London 2012 Organizing Committee (LOCOG) has revealed the ticket pricing structure for the upcoming Olympic Games. Ticket prices will be per session, the length of which will vary from sport to sport. In total there will be 649 separate
ing the event.
A total of 8.8 million tickets will be available for the sessions, with two thirds of those priced at 50 or less. Some 2.5 million tickets will be available for 20 or under. According to LOCOG chairman Mr. Seb Coe, they have three clear principles, for ticketing strategy tickets need to be affordable and accessible to as many people as possible; and our ticketing plans have the clear aim of filling our venues to the rafters. Tickets will go on sale from March 2011.
Tropicana Cruise in November London-based Tropicana Cruises has confirmed to begin cruises from Havana in November. Tropicana, with offices in London and St. Petersburg, bought the vessel from a French company and already transferred it to its new homeport in Havana. Happy Cruises announced in September it will home-port its Gemini in Havana to offer around-Cuba cruises, joining British cruise lines Thomson and Fred Olsen in the market. The Adriana will sail from Havana to Cayo Saetia, Santiago de Cuba, Trinidad and Nueva Gerona, as well as Ocho Rios in Jamaica, where US and Canadian passengers
can board. The Belize-registered line will use the 300-passenger Adriana, built in 1972, for the cruises from November 6th. Cruises are priced in Euros and will start at €785 per person for a seven-night voyage.
Swarovski Crystal Worlds in Wattens, Austria, is going to celebrate 15th anniversary, the branch of the Tyrolean glasscutters group developed from the experimental exhibition that took place at the 100th anniversary of the company. Nowadays, it is not only a centre of lucrative business but also a tourism attraction. The Crystal Worlds were designed by Andre Heller. There are 14 chambers that have been fascinating tourists since the very first day of their opening. The attendance has exceeded the expectations very soon. The Crystal Worlds have been expanded twice since their establishment and Swarovski has already invested 42 million euro into the project.
New location for Quebec’s Ice Hotel The Ice Hotel in Quebec, famous all over the world has become a must-see attraction for many visitors to the region. This year with the property taking up residence in a new location just seven minutes outside downtown Quebec City, a visit is set to become even easier. The guests can not only sleep overnight on ice - protected from the cold by thick pelts, they can enjoy a drink in the bar, get married in one of the most spectacular ‘Ice chapels’ on earth, and enjoy activities such as dog sledding.
Now for the year 2011, the guests can build an Igloo, a typical Quebecois type of igloo called a Queenzy. With snow archways towering over five meters tall and crystal ice sculptures standing by the warmth of the fire, North America’s only ice hotel has made a name for itself not only through its architecture and artistry, but also its warm hospitality. This season the hotel opens on Jan 7th 2011, until the middle of March.
TIMES november 2010
spreading wings to Nepal
Voted the best low fare airline in the HT MaRS study for 2009, SpiceJet, the second-largest low-cost airline of India was established in May 2005. With its flights to 20 national and 2 international destinations, SpiceJet operates 129 domestic flights in India everyday with its 20 aircraft. Spice Jet has opted for the newgeneration Boeing 737-800s with winglets and Boeing 737-900ER with single class with a seating capacity of 189 and 212 respectively. With the vision of flying for everyone, SpiceJet has also been honored with the Outlook Travelerâ€™s Best Low Cost Airline India and many other awards. This low fare airline started its operation in the Nepalese sky marking its
first international flight from New Delhi to Kathmandu on 7th October, 2010. At present SpiceJet has daily flights except on Tuesdays to New Delhi offering connectivity to Chennai, Colombo and 20 other destinations in India.
Flight Schedule: Flight from KATHMANDU to DELHI Flight No.: SG 32 Aircraft : B737-800 Days of Operation: Sun, Mon, Wed, Thurs, Fri, Sat Departure: 1005 hours Arrival: 1135 hours DELHI
The services are provided by Boeing 737800 and Boeing 737-900ER aircrafts of SpiceJet providing you safe, comfortable and efficient flying. Passengers of SpiceJet are allowed to carry a maximum of one piece of cabin baggage weight not exceeding 10 kg. It also allows its passengers to check-in up to 20 kg of luggage. SpiceJet is planning to increase its flights to 12 making two daily flights by the end of November.
GOA BANGALORE CHENNAI COIMBATORE
TIMES november 2010
The loca l harbour of Imperia.
The Mistress Of Temptations Words & Photos Pat Kauba
“With every smell, I smell food. With every sight I see food. I can almost hear food. I want to spade the whole lot through my mouth.” -Sarah, Duchess of York; on holiday in Italy 1997 (Spectacular)
I flash my passport at a staunch-looking man in uniform perched behind the immigration counter—throwing him a wide smile and buongiorno. He replies, “Welcome to Milan, sir!” Out the door, my Italian princess is waiting, dressed like the sun in a one-piece dress; dressed to excite. We embrace, lost in each other for a while. Excitement had caught my throat as the plane landed. I was excited to meet Mia, but nervous about meeting her family for the first time. Italian passion is as infamous as the term vendetta. It was my first Italian journey and like an explorer landing in a new world, I was ready to interact with the land, its people and their ways with Mia as my guide. European travel is best done by car; thankfully we had Mia’s. Rail services are expensive and buses grueling. Motorways are a dream—but expensive. Avoiding them however can provide their own merits, saving important vino money.
The Crystal Lake Arriving late at the Granatello home, I’m handed a glass of wine and sat down with warm kindness. I meet Mia’s parents Tullio and Fabienne as we size each other up. The next morning, with hard doses of Italian espresso, we’re up and ready. Mia takes me to a nearby lake named Orta, a half-hour drive from her home in smalltown Gattico, in northwestern Italy. It’s a vast, crystal-clear lake, nestled in the base of the Alps. President Berlusconi also
isl Orta Lake and its quaint
A beach reserved for the wealthy! retreats here; Switzerland lies beyond. I dive into the pristine delight, the water’s impeccably clean—even with people living around. Hours flow by with sunbathing, dipping, doses of ripe melons and vast amounts of getting lost in each other. Mia wants to take me for my first Italian birra. We visit the picturesque lakeside town, also named Orta and walk through narrow streets, cobbled with history trodden stones. The walls are painted in warm earth tones with many adorned with religious murals; never losing sight of Italy being a Catholic country. After all, the Pope lives in Rome. Enjoying a refreshing glass of golden nectar next to the lake, the bubbles make our toes
tingle. It’s no German Pilsner bier, but it’s damn tasty. As the sun sets, we entertain ourselves watching people negotiate boattours around the lake, and its small island with a quaint town. One beer is enough. I salivate past windows stuffed with cheeses of every odor and color, bouquets of wine from every corner of Italy, in shades of yellow, gold, red and pink. Pasta of countless shapes surrounds me. Olives wink at me, and the smell of fresh bread make me cry.
At The Workshop Mia’s father, Tullio, a master drum-maker, is Italy’s first reggae drummer, way before Bob Marley even existed. For the last 20
I dive into the pristine delight, the water’s impeccably clean-even with people living around. Hours flow by with sunbathing, dipping, doses of ripe melons and vast amounts of getting lost in each other.
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22 odd years, he’s focused on drum design, making advances in the field. He works passionately from dusk to dawn in his laboratorio. The whole family works together, building the Volume drums, crafted by hand, with precision. The days are broken with lunch at home, and I don’t mean some simple meal. Many dishes and flavors, prepared by his adoring wife Fabienne, or by Mia are washed down with a glass or two of wine or beer. Mealtime is a passionate affair for Italians, shared with all the family—it’s Italian culture’s epitome; matched only by Italy playing in the World Cup. Another espresso wraps lunch up and it’s back to the lab until sunset, then home for dinner. Dinner is like lunch, but with more of everything. Days are broken with dips in streams, or visits to supermarkets. A world of tastes and tones that one feels could only exist in a place like Italy.
To The Beach We Go Mia’s brother Giona returns from Roma with his girlfriend Chiara. We make plans to go to the beach for a weekend. It’s a four-hour drive away. Family friends own land that over-looks the small, quaint, port town of Imperia, with a 500 hundred yearold olive grove where we can pitch tents. The town is a playground for the wealthy; its main harbor is strictly reserved for their mighty yachts.
enjoy M ia and Chiara
After a few days, we pack the car, leaving late at night to avoid heavy traffic from Milano and Genova; summer sees everyone go beachside. After paying ¤18 in tolls on a superhighway, we arrive at 2 a.m. I take my first dip in the embracing waters of the Mediterranean, sleeping soundly on the beach. Waking early, I find sun-worshippers surrounding us. We rise seeking espressos and a breakfast of Focaccia bread which Imperia is famous for. We cruise through the Saturday market, taking in its vibrant atmosphere. A mix of farmers and entrepreneurs sell everything from colorful Thai and Indian garments to scrumptious olive oils and sun-dried tomatoes.
the M ed iteranean
Late into the afternoon, we plunge from rocks into the deep blue, and float on waterbeds. I look to Mia and the postcardlike vacation I find myself enjoying. Tides ebb, happiness and playfulness do not. Begrudgingly we pack, before it’s too late to arrive at our camping place. We buy bread, cheese, salami, along with beer and wine for our hosts and ourselves before weaving our way over the town on a corkscrew road.
Fancy an Olive, Anyone? Alberto and Pina - longtime family friends of the Granatellos, welcome us warmly to their estate. Sitting in the evening sun, Mia and Giona catch up with the people
Mt. Rossa is only ing pink in the morn t. and evening ligh is The rising moon g, also breathtakin e bright red with th r light of two majo on cities reflecting its surface. At the november 2010
A retc hing off to st n ea an er it ed beac h, the M
they have visited every summer since they were children. Alberto is a man of few words; his warm glow brings one to levels of tranquility. His wife Pina is his loquacious opposite. All around are ancient olive trees, whispering memories as you move amongst them, perhaps from the era of some Caesar. We pitch tents amongst these storytellers, as the sun sets. Imperia shimmers below, where the deep blue Med’ stretches off to Africa. After washing salt from our bodies, dinner awaits at the main house. Pumpkin flower soup with pasta pieces, fresh bread, plump tomatoes, powerful cheeses and a free flow of the estate’s premium olives and oil—prized throughout Italy. Alberto grows just about everything on the table. He too spends much time in his laboratorio, perfecting olives and oil, even producing his own wine with grapes grown on the estate. Mia tells me it’s exceptional. Going to bed, we’re content, staring across the Mediterranean sea’s expanse, now glowing under the moon and wrapped up warmly in a veil of olive trees and each other. The next morning sees more espressos, bread and cheese. We walk to the top of the estate through the olive groves, stretching far and wide, mixed only with the blue of the sky above and the Med’ be-
Olives and Oil at
the Saturday M ar ket.
low. At mid-day, we return to the beach and our youthfulness.
Tick-Tock Our skin turns a deeper bronze as we frolic, leaping into warm waters. We take turns buying cold beers, enjoying the delightful contrast to the heat. I look to my darling floating carefree on the water. Holding a cold beer in my left hand and a chunk of bread in the other, I wonder how life got so perfect. Mia and Giona’s grandmother is also in town—we meet for dinner. Pasta al Pesto
all round. The Italians do amazing things with basil leaves and pesto pasta is a pure delight. Mia explains that to have it in Liguria District, where we are, is a special thing. With the setting sun, we head back to our enchanted campsite. As day breaks, we’re off to the beach again. Today Mia and I decide to wander through Imperia together, joining the others later. We take our time, enjoying each other’s company. While sipping cappuccinos next to the water, I scribble a postcard to Mama. We wander along the promenade, hand in hand, past exclusive beaches for the well-to-do. Palm trees cast blessed shadows and kite-surfers skim across the waters with dazzling speed. We find the others later, and join in their frolicking. With evening, we begrudgingly go back, and enjoy a last meal with Alberto and Pina. Fresh fish from the market—and for dessert, Mia bought handmade gelato Italiano (ice-cream)—truly divine.
Back We Go
The moon so red.
Tullio and Fabienne are awake when we return late, waiting, making sure we’re safe and eager to hear stories about their dear friends Alberto and Pina.
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24 decides it’s time for dinner. Italian boys love to cook, especially on holiday. Sure enough, tonight it will be pasta with red wine sauce.
th others off to fetch ne of the two br
At the laboratorio, Giona talks about a lake at 2,100 m that he visited last year in the Alps, near a peak called Capezzone. Before the top is a mountain refuge, free for climbers. We equip ourseves with a cooker, utensils and bedding. Along the route, we meet two brothers – farming and making cheese. We only need wine and bread, says Giona with a cheeky smile. We’re good to go, selecting next mid-week to start the trip for better chances of having the place to ourselves. Finally, we pack the car. Bread, salami, pasta, gas cookers, warm clothes, our own clean bedding, two dogs and myself. We hit the road early, taking it past Orta, into the land of the Walsers, a distinct ethnic group who are Austro-Germanic in descent. Two hours driving gets us to their quaint town of Campello Monti and more cappuccinos. The dogs excitedly move upwards. Not long after, we pass a waterfall with a deep pool. All around is lush mountain grass and a few trees. Mia, Giona and the dogs can’t help but jump in, the day already quite warm. They leap, and immediately run out due to freezing temperatures. Chiara and I laugh hard. The trail is clear and clean. Rising mountains greet a perfect day. There’s absolutely nothing to disturb us.
e herd for milking.
We come to the farmstead of the two young brothers, tending their cattle; making tome cheese. Asking for a sample first, we take half a kilo paying ¤10 and sit with a bottle of wine and salami. Our bellies satisfied, we lie awhile embracing our loved ones in the hills like some 1970’s culture movie. The entire place is ours, except for some cows whose rattling bells ring through the hills.
Dinner is eaten ravenously, soon the sun begins setting; colors change from day to night. We decide to rise early to catch the Alpine sunrise from Capezzone—40 minutes away. But the time for rising scares us folks, 5 a.m. If we want to see Mt. Blanc (white) - Europe’s tallest mountain and Mt. Rossa (pink) the second, both inside Switzerland, we have to start early to reach the top. The weather forecast is bad, so the morning may be the only window, and Mt. Rossa is only pink in the morning and evening light. However, the rising moon is also breathtaking, bright red with the light of two major cities reflecting on its surface. In the morning, I rise from our nest in the attic to see only clouds in the sky. Plans cancelled, I rise again at six to find a magic lightshow of reds, blues and purples flash across the sky. It’s alive—the others also rise. I reach for the es-
The altitude is easy and after four hours we reach our destination-the Rifugio Abele Traglio, a small building of solid rocks, nestled next to a clean, clear lake, overshadowed by Mt. Capezzone and other peaks. Inside is a kitchen with two beds and in the attic - space to sleep eight more at a squeeze. It’s empty but we claim quickly—first come, first served. Outside, laying a blanket, we have more wine, bread and cheese. Resting at the lakeside, we watch the valley below. Small fish play around the water, walkers come and go; it looks like we have the place to ourselves. Giona
trekking. quired for Alpine re s lie pp su e th All
Ca mpello Monti, the beginn
C The quaint streets of
presso pot, starting the day’s fuel. Hot coffee soon courses through frozen veins. Quickly the show ends, replaced by crisp blue skies. We start up the mountain, passing melting glaciers, victims of global warming. Cresting Capezzone, only grey clouds greet us. The famed peaks are hidden and all we get is chilly winds. The dogs are as unimpressed as us, so we all turn back down, pack up and move homewards. Picking wild blueberries on the trail, like little children we scoff huge handfuls. Chiara finds wild thyme, the strongest I’ve ever smelled. We gather it up; always delicious when roasting chicken. Back at enchanting Campello Monti, we pack the dogs and bags into the car and move on, just as the heaviest rains of the month fall. The mood is high, albeit exhausted. We decide on some Turkish lamb kababs for the delirious post trekking hunger we’ve acquired. The
ing of the trek.
The Breadman of Imperia with his infamous Focaccia. Turkish are a large ethnic group in Europe, trademarked by their food.
The Last Supper The next day Mia and I fly to the Netherlands for our last night in Italy together. Tullio and Fabienne are away, leaving only us youngsters. Giona demands that I’m to have an authentic Italian meal tonight. Real pasta, made from scratch. Who am I to argue, so we leave him and Chiara to it, and go do last minute correspondence. We’re welcomed home to a meal fit for Caesar. Homemade pasta is laid out everywhere. Giona works on a taste-heavy cream sauce: peas, mushrooms, bacon and sausage. All washed down with fine ale. Sitting, I think about the smells of Orta, nighttime dipping in the Mediterranean, sleeping in olive groves and mountainside refuges and the best pasta ever.
Mia and her family had done an incredible job in uncovering some of their home’s hidden beauties. I am aware that I had experienced more than most people with more time and bigger bank balances do. The excitement that was once caught in my throat is replaced by sadness. As Italians do, they welcomed me into their lives. Now I was going to leave my beautiful Italian life and in a few days I would leave my perfect guide and partner. It shouldn’t be long before I see my sunshine again.
Pat Kauba is a freelance writer and photographer with a bug for travel. He can be contacted at email@example.com. He would like to say “mile mile grazie” to the Granatellos for the most incredible journey of his life.
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Modernization vs Rural Charm
The development of trekking routes have helped in uplifting the living standard of the local people and other infrastructure. But after the modernization of a place, do you think the routes will be the same?
Travel Times talked to some professionals serving the travel industry in Nepal, for nearly a decade, what they think about this. Sam Voolstra Director - The Last Resort
Megh Ale Founder Director of Borderlands Group
Dusty roads with buses and trucks and concrete buildings do not make the trekkers happy. But for the villagers it would be great. I think it is important to make a proper infrastructure plan for the whole of Nepal. A plan that improves connectivity, respects the environment and offers alternatives
where roads meet trekking routes. Other important issues are to create awareness about the importance of cultural identity, to maintain traditional architecture, handicrafts and customs of the different areas and to help trekking agencies source as many supplies and services in the trekking area itself instead of bringing everything from Kathmandu. Initiatives like the Great Himalaya Trail are important to promote and manage new trekking areas, so more people benefit from tourism without negative impacts. If managed properly the development of Nepal can go hand in hand with the growth of trekking tourism.
Mangal Maharjan Managing Director, Shiva Treks and Expeditions
In my opinion I would like to lay emphasis upon the fact that development of trekking routes definitely has helped in uplifting the living standard of the local people. On the other hand, development november 2010
means road transports reaching remote areas, which are also necessary for the local people. As such, we should think about separate trekking routes and separate road infrastructure so that they do not coincide. Tourism plays a very important role and many tourists come to Nepal for hiking and other similar purposes. We should always think that trekking routes should not be disturbed for the trekkers as they love to hike, trek and meet different people and observe lifestyles in the villages and to see unique flora and fauna.
stop the people from improving their lifestyles or being more accessible to development just because we want to maintain the places as they are. Instead we must look to empower the locals for development.
Changes are inevitable, we cannot ignore them. We can already see the development of the infrastructure in some of the famous trekking traIls and few others being crowded. The paths have gone so deeper that people donâ€™t risk discovering new paths but follow the same. However we have to be innovative. We cannot
Nepal has so much to offer to tourism. Many places still need exploration. So, tourism entrepreneurs have to be innovative and explore new trekking trails and different sides of tourism. Certainly modernization will reduce the significance of the trekking trails, but we donâ€™t need to worry. We should move forward and search for new opportunities which are in abundance here.
Yadu Lamichanne Yala Adventure
The development of the trekking routes definitely help the people to uplift their lives. In my opinion, modernization is also essential but not in a way that it destroys the originality of the place. In the
name of modernization, we should not risk our culture, civilization and hospitality which are the real wealth and moreover, an identity of the Nepalese society. We need to develop the places as well as preserve their uniqueness so that we do not lose our identity in the rush of modernization. Thousands of tourists rush to Nepal to witness its pristine natural beauty and unspoilt environment, hence modernization should go along with in such a way that it ensures to retain the originality.
Pushpa Thapalia President, Gorkha Tourism
Chhewang N. Lama Managing Director, Responsible Treks tourism sector and for this we need more research and innovative ideas.
The infrastructure development definitely destroys the major value of the trekking routes. In addition, if the people do not take the development in a planned way, it can be a disaster and the remaining beauty of the place will also be completely demolished. But we still have a lot of options to develop the
Not only for trekking, we can also attract tourists by having a planned development and new ideas like ecotourism, agro-tourism, and sports tourism and also through our culture and traditions. But for all these we need a detailed survey and long term plans so that we can develop sustainable tourism. Also we can work with the locals, give them guidelines to maintain the value of the place and develop their areas without harming the charm of the place.
lodges below Jomsom are closed but they have to accept it and change the traditional way of business.
Yes the development of trekking route has helped in uplifting the living standard of local people which we can directly see in Khumbu area and most of the places in Annapurna region. Modernization is inevitable and the changes can already be seen. Once considered the world greatest treks are now running down. Most of the local
The significance of the route will never be the same. With modernization there will be construction of roads, which means the pristine natural environment will be distrupted. Popular treks would be changed into short tours & hikes. We cannot stop modernization but the new trek routes and road should be well planned. The issue of distribution of tourism revenues to large parts of Nepal, and especially among poorer people of Nepal needs to be addressed again.
TIMES november 2010
Budi Gandakiâ€™s Soliloquy trekking in the lap of Mount Manaslu
Contributing writer, KAPIL BISHT and inhouse photographer Suresh Maharjan, along with a team from Nubri Culture and Youth Promotion Committe, made a journey to Manaslu Base Camp on monsoon, alongside the Budi Gandaki River. Words Kapil Bisht | Photos Suresh Maharjan
A view of the buri Gandaki River from the village of Jagat
hel ing Na xa
Ti Tal ngor ta
i Na m
g Gh ap
Bi Ph hi ed i
The 20 days long trek revealed all that the area has to offer as an amazing tourist destination with something for everyone.
Lapu Besi Arughat
All monsoon treks in Nepal start the same way. You take a wretched ride on a vehicle over abominable roads. More than a simple journey, such a trek is a passage that initiates the hardship that is to meet you soon.
ur initiation began after lunch in Dhading Besi, a prominent town in the Dhading district. We climbed in to a white four-by-four truck that was to take us to Aarughat, the town from where we would start walking. As a mud road replaced the black topped one, the truck started lurching like a fishing boat in the Bering Sea. The priority was, however, not to haul something onboard but to not go overboard. I stood between two of the many metal rafters that ran the length of the truckâ€™s roof, baking in the midday sun, grimacing under the strain every bump on the road put on my arms. In front of me, on a strip of three plastic ropes - used for fastening the tarpaulin over the truckâ€™s roof in case of rain - Lama Lakpa was reclined as if he were lying on a hammock. Behind us, Dhading Besi grew smaller; ahead, the road was getting worse rapidly. Feet-deep ruts had been dug on the soft as dough-road. To maintain balance and
grip, every vehicle had to tread on. As a result, in many places the truck had to jettison some passengers to prevent it from sinking too deep into the soft earth. Tired of getting on and off on numerous occasions, I left the plodding truck and started walking. A couple of hours later, I got back on the truck where the road got better but narrower. Roads everywhere fuse the destinies of those traveling over it, no matter for how brief a period or with however trivial consequences. This fusion thrives on poor roads and is amplified on narrow ones. I had thought of our truck as just another truck going along a road. It took a jam to make me realize that our truck was one in a cavalcade and was running as much on gas as on the fate of all the trucks going up and down the red mud road. We should have arrived in Aarughat by evening to stroll in the fresh air, but with all the jams on the road, we got there at midnight.
A makeshift bridge connecting Samdo Village to Samagaon Village
The Siren’s Teahouse Lama Lakpa hired three porters in the morning. He divided the load amongst them, told them that he would buy their meals, and then took their pictures so that he could track them down if they fled with our things. In the garden, amidst artificial trees, deer, and rabbits, an interview with Uday Shrestha, the owner of Hotel View Manaslu Camping Resort, was on. I asked Uday whether on a clear day Mount Manaslu, the eighth highest peak in the world, was visible from his hotel. “No,” he confessed adding in a humorous tone and delighted by his own ingenuity as a businessperson, “Tourists frequently ask me if the mountain is visible from here. I tell them it is, but that it is hidden by the clouds.” The false claims notwithstanding, Shrestha’s sense of his duties and responsibilities as a hotelier is never clouded. One of these days, he just might install a concrete replica of Mt. Manaslu in his garden.
We first saw BG from an iron, suspension bridge. BG is the Budi Gandaki, a river that rumbles through Gorkha. It was our first look at the river that would keep us company during our entire trek, one that got out of sight sometimes but never out of earshot.
Our group comprised mostly of journalists and writers. Suresh was on the trek to take photos for Travel Times, for which I was to do a story after the trek. Kantipur had sent their staff photographer, Laxmi. Badri had joined the trek as a photojournalist for Nagarik, a Nepali daily. Pushkar and Deepak were the reporter and camera operators for the news channel, National. Shankar, a staff of the organization that had sponsored our trek, had come along to shoot footage of the trek. Being from the region we would trek through, Tsewang and Lama Lakpa were to guide us. Besides journalists and writers, there was Chandra and his two American friends, Kerry and Missy.
In the blue dusk, the waterfalls cascading into the BG turned milky. We arrived at Lapu Besi in the dark. The roar of the Budhi Gandaki had been audible for over 12 hours now. I sat on a bench on the teahouse’s porch, where our porters were sipping raksi (a local wine made from millet). The porter at the far end of the bench and I were both searching: he was fiddling with the dial on a radio to find a station while I searched for words to describe the day.
Our porters turned out to be bothersome. Although no one could question their decision to rest every half an hour or so, it was their habit of eating at every other tea shop that annoyed many. Tsewang was given the unpleasant job of walking with the porters, one of whom had given a strange reason for his excessive drinking. According to the man, some of his enemies in the village had cast a spell on him that made him hanker for alcohol. He said that the spell had been cast to ensure that he drank away all his wealth.
The cascading Naulo waterfall and the adjacent bridge over the Budi Gandaki
Roads everywhere fuse the destinies of those traveling over it, no matter for how brief a period or with however trivial consequences.
As the porters passed a cigarette amongst themselves, one of them proclaimed that he did not want to go any further. He was wearing just a
TIMES November 2010
A rocky foot path between Tatopani and Doman villages.
sleeveless vest, and a porters who had convinced him to come along by assuring him that he had enough warm clothes for the both of them, apparently didnâ€™t. Inside the teahouse, in her coquettishness, the girl running the teahouse was akin to the owner of Geisha house. Never did she serve a single item without a playful remark. Her charms took hold before and for longer than the wine she sold; even though she took hours to serve dinner, none of us, who had walked for over ten hours got angry.
Later in the evening I wrote a poem about the porters, the concluding lines of which I hoped would come true.
By day they groan under their loads In the evening they sing Near one bend in the trail, they decide to quit On the next, they realize they canâ€™t.
My prediction, like my verse, was lame; the porters quit in the morning. We hired replacements and moved on.
The sunlight plays a light show on the hiding waterfall.
The charming village of Jagat.
Gateway to MCAP
The trail descended and passed closer to the BG. Dusk was already descending between the towering walls of the hills when we got to Yaru Bagar, a collection of huts on the bank of the BG. A resident here told me of the ample game available on the gaunt hills to the north and in the forests on the south hills. Yaru lies just outside the Manaslu Conservation Area, so hunting is not prohibited here. Hunters had a diverse quarry to hunt down - Barking Deer, Himalayan Tahr, Musk Deer and Himalayan Goral inhabited the region in good numbers. The only animal
our group was interested in was Red Bull, which everyone drank. Jagat marks the entry point to the Manaslu Conservation Area. The people of Jagat (and those living within the protected areas in Manaslu) resent the fact that the government has made MCAP a restricted area. In this, they are wrong, because although the government only issues travel permits to only a thousand tourists annually, the area is open to foreigners. They have probably mistaken the limit on tourist numbers as a restriction.
With Nepal celebrating 2011 as its tourism year, even a limit on tourist numbers seems unacceptable to the people living in MCAP. Another issue is the exorbitant charges levied on tourists. The government charges every foreign citizen $90 per week. The permit lasts for two weeks. In addition, they have to pay 2000 Nepalese rupees to the National Trust for Nature Conservation (NTNC) in Kathmandu or at the NTNC office in Jagat. However, tourists in Jagat are required to pay double of the original amount. Kerry and Missy paid 4000 each.
Manaslu Conservation Area Project (MCAP) The Manaslu region, which was closed to tourists until 1991, was declared a conservation area in 1998 by the Nepali government. Since then, the National Trust manages the conservation area for Nature Conservation (NTNC). The region is bordered by the Annapurna Conservation Area in the west, Tibet in the east and the north, and by the district of Gorkha in the south. MCAP covers an area of 1,663 sq. km. There are seven Village Development Committees – Sama, Lho, Prok, Bihi, Chumchet, Chhekampar and Sirdibas – within the conservation area. MCAP is endowed with spectacular natural features, unique bio-diversity, and rich religious and cultural heritage. Mt. Manaslu (8,163m), the
eighth-highest peak in the world, lies in MCAP. Other prominent peaks in the area include Himalchuli (7,893m), Shringi Himal (7,187m), Langpo (6,668m) and Saula (6,235m). The occurrence of lofty mountains and low-lying areas within a relatively small area has made MCAP a region with diverse ecological conditions. There are 19 types of forests in MCAP. Thirty-three species of mammals inhabit the area. The diversity of habitat in MCAP has created a congenial environment for some of the rarest species in the world to flourish in the region. MCAP is home to a good number of Snow and Spotted Leopards, Lynx, Grey Wolf, Himalayan Musk Deer and Blue Sheep. The area’s population of Himalayan Tahr is unequalled in
the country. Other important species include the Himalayan Black Bear, Assamese Monkey, Himalayan Goral, Himalayan Marmot, Golden Jackal, Yellow-throated Marten, Musk Palm Civet, Leopard Cat, Barking Deer, Wooly Hare and Red Flying Squirrel. Numerous packs of Dhole (a wild dog) have been spotted in the area. There are 110 species of birds in the area, of which 14 are protected species. Pheasant species such as the Monal Pheasant and the Impeyan Pheasant inhabit the Kaal Tal and Manaslu base camp area in good numbers. Ruddy Shelduck, Golden Eagle, Eurasian and Himalayan Griffons, Booted Eagle, Himalayan and Tibetan Snow Cocks, Collared Pigmy Owlet and Nepal Sunbird are some of
the bird species found in MCAP. MCAP also has three species of reptiles and eleven species of butterflies. An estimated 2000 species of plants grow in the region, many of which have medicinal properties. The region is also famous for its old monasteries. Mu Gumba, the oldest monastery in the region, falls in the Chhekampar VDC and was built in 1895. The famous Rachhen Gumba with the largest population of resident monks and nuns in the region lies in the same VDC. There is a stone near the monastery that is believed to bear Milarepa’s footprint. The Sehrang Gumba in the Bihi VDC is famous as the place where deer are so tame that they feed off people’s hands.
A majestic view of valley from the village of Bihi
A view of Prok Village, covered by mist.
A Rare Glimpse
Crossing the BG on a long, iron suspension bridge, we arrived at Philim. Streets paved with stone, Philim was the cleanest village on the trail so far. As the proprietor of the teahouse served us lunch, she asked us where we had spent the previous night. “In Lapu Besi, at Laxmi’s lodge,” replied Badri. Then he asked her in turn if she knew Laxmi. “Who doesn’t know her?” she said, with a hint of mischief in her voice. Between Philim and Deng, where we spent our second night, we crossed four bridges, switching banks alternately. Two of these were wonky and would tremble whenever someone walked over it. Gnarled and dilapidated, one of them resembled troughs tilting towards one side. Rocks were strewn on them, probably to improve stability. The only pleasure I got from walking on them came from knowing that the odds of it collapsing when I was on it were minimal; I’d have to walk on them only once again on our way back. Towards evening, I caught up with our porters, whom we had allowed to walk on ahead. They were all Gurungs: Sukpal Gurung, Gopal Gurung, and Suk Bahadur Gurung. Sukpal, who was the oldest at 56 years, but looked much younger, told me the secret of his youth. “No matter where I am or what I am doing, I always eat my meals on time. Your body grows stronger if
you eat on time,” he said. He also boasted about his ability to drink five bottles of raksi. Not to be outdone, Suk Bahadur claimed he could drink six. We arrived at Deng in the faint light of dusk. Deng is the doorway to the Nubri Valley, which is sprawled over four village development committees of Gorkha - Sirdibas, Prok, Lho, and Samagaon. The Nubri Valley has its own unique culture, which has changed little over the centuries. Even today its people prefer the Nubri dialect – maybe as a matter of choice and possibly because they’re not fluent in Nepali – to Nepali. In the narrow hallway of the teahouse we were spending the night in, I saw a long queue of villagers waiting for their turn
to enter Chandra’s room. I peered into the room, where Chandra was examining the people and handing out medicines. Chandra, who is raising a number of children from the Nubri Valley in Kathmandu with assistance from foreign sponsors, had been distributing medicine to the sick and balloons to kids throughout the trek. Muffled coughs reverberated in the hallway. I went down to the dining room, where a large group of women was seated. Through Badri’s questioning, we learned that the women were from the village of Nyak and were traveling to attend the opening of a new monastery in Trong. There wasn’t a single man in the group; the oldest member was 75 years old and the youngest was a five-month-old baby. They were traveling as much to attend the ceremony
Mt. Serangi as seen from the village of Prok. It is prohibited to climb the mountain for superstitious reasons.
A local Gurung Woman in Prok Village.
“We don’t even have tablets to fight fever in our village,”
as to seek a cure for their ailments. They believed that the blessings from the Rinpoche, who was going to inaugurate the monastery, would cure them. Badri asked them why they didn’t get themselves checked at the health posts in their village. “We don’t even have tablets to fight fever in our village,” one of the women answered. Shocked, Badri asked what happened if someone fell seriously sick in their village. “Well, those that die, die. Those who survive recuperate gradually,” said the same woman. The next morning was bright and clear. To the east of Deng, a mountain was glistening in the morning sun. It was to be, much to the photographers’ dismay, the only time we would see mountains during our 19 days on the trail. Towards evening, we descended along a large water pipeline to a verdant plateau. This was Prok. Mist was rolling into the village along with the darkness. There were no lodges in Prok, so we
had to split into two groups and spend the night in different houses. After checking on the group that was staying in a nearby house, the lama, Tsewang and I started for our home for the night. The lama was barely inches in front of us when we exited the house’s gate. However, when Tsewang and I stepped onto the street outside he suddenly disappeared. Somewhere far away a man was shouting to frighten away the bears that raided the crops at night. There was possibly a bear somewhere in Prok, prowling under the cover of the mist. The presence of a couple of mani walls on our way to the house heightened our fears. I kept visualizing a bear hiding on the other side of it. When we got to the house, the lama was sitting in front of the hearth, talking to the people of the house. We asked him where he had disappeared minutes ago. He confessed sheepishly that he had run all the way, because he had been scared of the bears.
A local Gurung Woman making a typical Himalayan butter tea.
Butter tea ready to serve.
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When I remarked how much it was raining in Namrung, a nun told me that the name Namrung translated as ‘the place where it rains a lot’.
The greens adjoining Kaal Tal
In The Village Of Rain
The next day Lama Lakpa, Kerry, and Missy left Prok. The rest of us went on a hike to Kaal Tal, a lake north of Prok. All of us had seen pictures of snowy peaks mirrored on Kaal Tal. Due to the overcast weather, we returned from the lake without a glimpse of the mountains. The next morning, we crossed the river over a wooden bridge, a couple of hours from Prok. Moss and fern grew on the bridge and under it the BG had cut itself a large hole through a boulder. The trail passed through a forest of giant pine trees. Our destination for the day was the village of Namrung, where Lama Lakpa, Chandra, Kerry and Missy were awaiting us. At around two in the afternoon, I saw two police officers coming towards me from the opposite direction. They asked me where I was coming from and whether I
was traveling alone or with a group. I told them that I was a member of a group of journalists. The police officers then shook hands with me and told me that they had come from Namrung to escort us to the village. As we waited for my companions to arrive, I talked to one of them about the security situation of the region. “The people here are very peaceful. There are hardly any instances of crime or violence. We have nothing to worry about here,” said one of the officers. Not having to worry had given him time to pursue his love for writing, and he had a manuscript of a novel that he planned to publish. At Namrung, a small crowd was gathered alongside the trail. Foremost in the crowd was the chubby, mustachioed face of Lakpa Lama (not to be mistaken with Lama Lakpa, who is a monk), whom we had first met in Kathmandu. He shook our hands firmly and placed khata (religious scarf)
Kaal Tal in monsoon.
around our necks. Afterwards, we were served home-brewed wine and Tibetan tea on the lawn. Men and women in traditional Nubri attire sang songs with their arms around each other’s waists, swaying back and forth. Being predominantly Buddhist, killing animals is forbidden in the Nubri Valley. The punishment for killing a wild animal is 500 whippings in public as a result of which, wildlife has flourished in the region. In the evening, we spotted a herd of jharals (Himalayan Tahr) on the hill across the BG from Namrung. The herd, which consisted of only females and a few kids, were licking minerals off the hill slopes. When I remarked how much it was raining in Namrung, a nun told me that the name Namrung translated as ‘the place where it rains a lot’.
Clear view of Kaal Tal as seen in winter with Mt. Manaslu in backdrop.
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The Cloud Disperser
The next day we left the wet village for Trong, where we were to attend the inauguration ceremony of Trong monastery, located beside a dark cleft in the hill face. A stream flows within the hill before crashing onto a ledge that juts from the gorge wall, shaping the milky water into a saxophone that plays day and night. Chandra chose to stay the night in a lodge owned by a man called Tsering. The rest of us crossed the river on a scary, inclined bridge and climbed up to the monastery. It rained all night and the morning after was cloudyâ€”not suitable for a day as important as this. People, some of whom had come from as far away as Manang, had spent the night under the canvas roof rigged over the monasteryâ€™s courtyard. Some had arrived too late to even get a seat in the courtyard and had been out in the rain all night. As I stood in the courtyard watching clouds slowly engulfing the gorge in the distance, a man paced about turning prayer beads in his hands and exhaling short bursts of air. This, I learned, was the man responsible for blowing away the clouds. Coincidentally or by sheer pow-
The revered Kunzig Shyamhar Rinpoche visits the area.
er of his lungs, the sun gradually began to shine, and by late morning, the clouds had receded. An hour before mid-day, the sound of a helicopter stirred the monastery into excitement. Monks started for the helipad, carrying colorful paraphernalia. Two monks began blowing trumpets, which they kept up for an astounding duration. A few minutes after the helicopter had landed, a burly man in yellow and maroon appeared on the path. As he moved, every one on the trail bowed their heads. The Rinpoche had arrived. After the Rinpoche had cut the ribbon strung across the main door of the monastery, a crowd of monks and distinguished guests followed him into the prayer hall as he climbed onto a high chair. Cups and bowls of gold were laid out on a table before him. People shuffled to the Rinpoche to offer khata, which the Rinpoche took and then placed around their necks. After getting his blessings myself, I went outside, spiritually content, but reeling from hunger. In the afternoon, a group of dancers performed
A stream flows within the hill before crashing onto a ledge that juts from the gorge wall, shaping the milky water into a saxophone that plays day and night.
in the courtyard after which there was a sudden kerfuffle in the crowd. Everybody started to push towards the Rinpoche. Apparently, the time to receive his blessings had arrived. The Rinpocheâ€™s chair in one corner of the courtyard suddenly became the center of a spiritual vortex; the crowd seemed drawn towards him. Young monks were 2
operating like security personnel at a concert, simultaneously pulling and shoving people to bring them to the Rinpoche and then send them away once they were blessed. The wails of the children and the drone of the trumpets merged to create a melody; like the union of the rumbling waterfall with the indefatigable BG.
1. 2. 3.
A panaromic view of recently inaugurated Trong Monastery Locals put up a cultural dance show in Trong Newly inaugurated Monastery of Trong
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Clouds blanket the village of Samagaun.
“Before, people here Buying Fine Weather The same the evening, we headed for Tsering’s didn’t wash their lodge across the river. Unlike many young men from his village who move to big cities or even dishes. We would abroad, Tsering had returned to his village after lick them clean and graduating high school from Kathmandu. “I knew if I went abroad I would have to wash dishes. So I put them on our decided that I’d wash my own dishes, in my own shelves,” he said, village,” he said. After washing a pile of dishes, he told us another thing about dishes. “Before, people almost wistfully. here didn’t wash their dishes. We would lick them clean and put them on our shelves,” he said, almost
wistfully. There had been incessant rain since the reincarnate Lama’s departure the previous day. On the third morning after the inauguration of the monastery, Lakpa sent a horseman to deliver some money to a nearby monastery. The money was a fee for dispersing the rain-swollen clouds. Once again, the weather cleared. As we stood outside marveling at the wind disperser’s powers, I noticed an old building directly above the Trong Monastery.
The trails that lead to Samagaun are punctuated by Chortens and Manis
Lama Lakpa explained that it was the Nakchhal Gumba, a very old monastery. Nakchhal is Nubri for â€˜dense forestâ€™. The lama also told me that the monastery once housed a statue that possessed the power to change the weather. Apparently, the statue could reverse the prevalent weather when brought outside in the open. Unfortunately, someone stole the statue years ago. Even the lama had only heard about it from his elders. We had to cross three swift snowy streams
Birendra Taal with chuks of ice floating on the lake.
on our way to Samagaon. One of the bridges over these streams had a door at one end. Shanker, who had trekked in the region before, told us that these doors prevented animals from straying into another village as well as people if disputes broke out between villages on either side. After the last of these streams, the trail passed through flat ground. Chortens - stone monuments that are built in memory of the deceased, to store relics or as an ode to the
deities and mani walls began to appear at regular intervals. A large chorten suddenly came into view and behind it, clad in a veil of thin mist, was the dense village of Samagaon, looking like it stood on clouds. Samagaon is a village embellished by water. BG flows to its south. Half-a-dozen waterfalls fell in dense white plumes from the hills that ran parallel to the village in the north. In the east, just above the village monastery is Birendra Tal, a glacial lake.
Into the Country of the Wandering Poet
The men always carried a knife to cut off the animal from the load or the load from the animal.
Stupa named kang ni, meaning ‘Two Footed” on the way to Samdo Village. No human habitates, beyond this place in the region.
We set out for Samdo, the last village on our itinerary, in a drizzle. At one point, we came across a small pit beside the trail. In the center of the pit was another hole around ten inches deep and three inches wide. This was an immensely sacred spot. The lama related the tale of the pit. Centuries ago, in the course of his wanderings, the revered Buddhist monk and poet, Milarepa, arrived here. He was deep in meditation when a demon disguised as a beautiful woman appeared before him and proposed to sleep with him. Milarepa declined the offer, but the demon continued to press him to make love to her. Angered by the disruption in his meditation and the insolence of the demon, Milarepa thrust himself into a rock, saying, “I’d rather make love to this rock than to you”. The hole in the ground is apparently an impression of this thrusting act. Across the river, at the end of a series of three waterfalls, there was a cleft in the gorge wall—apparently a waterfall that was now dry. This cleft represents the demon who failed to seduce Milarepa. After laboring up a bluff, we came to a multitiered stupa, known as kang ni, which translates roughly as ‘two-footed’. The lowest tier in a kang ni is hollow, through which people and animals can pass. This gives the stupa an appearance of standing on two legs, hence the name kang ni. We passed under this stupa, and got our first look at Samdo. To the south of Samdo, a large stretch of a hill’s face had been eroded, creating a brown strip that came right down into the river. At the head of this strip, small white areas were visible. We soon learned that the strip had been
made by a glacier that had melted away. The white spots in the distance were permafrost. Lakpa reminisced how only 25 years ago he had seen a river of ice where only rock and earth remained now. A man invited Lakpa, his wife, his nephew, and I into his house for tea as we were sauntering around the village. As he lit a fire, the man explained that doors in Samdo were small so that the skeletons that roamed the village at night could not get in. A ferocious dog tied near the door deterred those who had skin over bones. There was a large field to the east of Samdo. This was where until a hundred years ago traders from Tibet and Nepal bartered goods. Caravans descended from Tibet carrying salt and traders from villages that are lower down brought grains and other supplies to Samdo. Even today, the old trade routes exist, although hardly anyone uses them anymore. Potatoes are grown now in fields where once trans-Himalayan trade was conducted. I had noticed that Nubri men always carried a knife around their waists. Lakpa explained the origin of the tradition. In the old days, most Nubri men drove caravans of mules up and down the BG gorge. Due to the narrow and precipitous trail, accidents were common. In most cases, the men were confronted with a situation in which they could only save either the animal or their cargo. The men always carried a knife to cut off the animal from the load or the load from the animal.
The next day, which happened to be my birthday, the sun came out for the first time in days! After breakfast, we walked to Birendra Tal. Chunks of ice that had broken off from the glacier floated on the lakeâ€™s turquoise waters. On the north shore of the take, a stream of water fell with a crashing sound. The lake flowed out from its southern shore as a swift stream. Like all lakes at high alti-
tude, it had a menacing air about it; it brimmed with energy. The next morning, as we were about to leave Samagaon, news arrived that a bridge on the way to Samdo had been swept away by the river during the night. A grinding sound came from the direction of Birendra Tal. Chunks of ice were breaking away from the glacier. We left Samagaon soon after.
Above: A scenic view of Samdo village built characteristically of stones. Below: Locals gather at a village teashop in Samdo
TIMES November 2010
Samdo observes a unique horse race annually, which is now being planned to be observed with participation of international horse riders. Possibly it could be one of the major attractions of the region.
A rider is supposed to pick up the piece of cloth on the ground without stepping on the ground. Am experienced rider in a thrilling action to pick up the cloth.
Samagaun in monsoon.
Hinang Gumba in monsoon.
Samagaun in winter.
Hinang Gumba in winter.
While the monsoon trek displays a greener landscape, the trekking season sees the same place enveloped by a magical blanket of snow.
TIMES November 2010
If it wasnâ€™t for the people you meet and the places you see, most treks during the monsoon in Nepal would end in much the same way as they had begun. After meeting people that live without so much as the comfort of a tablet of medicine, the wretched ride seems pleasant and the abominable road elicits a cheer from you.
The trek to Manaslu Base Camp was organised by Nubri Culture and Youth promotion Committee (NCYPC) with sole aim to showcase the Manaslu Region and present itself as one of the best trekking destinations in Nepal. NCYPC, established in 2009 AD by the inhabitants of Nubri area of Gorkha District novemBER 2010
is actively involved in the promotion of Culture, Religion and Tourism of Nubri area. Encouraging the locals in conservation and promotion of religion, culture and ancient heritage of Nubri, and enhancing their economic status has been the major motto of the organization.
Together for Tourism
For more photos on this trek, visit www.traveltimes-mag.com
Authorised Dealer: Sherpa Adventure Outlet Pvt. Ltd. Tridevi Marg, Thamel, Kathmandu, Nepal Tel.: +977 01-4445101 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
TIMES November 2010
All you need for T r e k k i n g
November is a good season for trekking. If you are planning any outdoor activity this autumn then travel Times here shares few trekking accessories you need to take before you head for one. Available at: Sherpa Adventure Outlet, Tridevi Marg, Thamel, Kathmandu, Tel. : 4445101
Bag (Rs. 8,499) Beanio
(Rs. 1,899) This cap made up of acrylic material with fleece inside will keep your head warm.
Trousers (Rs. 3,999)
This Dune Beige colored trouser with abrasionresistant nylon fabric and DWR finish has UV protection factor as well. Partial elastic waist with belt loops and belt included will help you to resize the trouser as per your waist size. This trekking ideal trouser also has added features such as rear and front cargo patch with extended side leg-zips, zippered right coil pocket, and gusseted crotch for increased mobility.
Jacket (Rs. 16,999)
This triclimate Jacket is ideal for trekking in all kind of weather. This red trendy jacket is waterproof as well as windproof. The hyvent material with fleece inner makes it warm and breathable. You can get all sizes of this jacket.
This mid-sized outdoor bag with versatile features is ideal for multiple days outside. Deluxe and vertical mesh channel on back panel provides cooling comfort. With an average weight of 1795 gram, the bag has the capacity to carry upto 45 liters.
Shoes (Rs. 11,499) This lightweight and fully waterproof shoe is a perfect accessory needed in trekking. Featured with ankle support, and protective toe cap and heel mudguards, this shoe also has antimicrobial footbed covering which fully protects your legs from bacterial infection. The exclusive Vibram outsole provides excellent traction over varied terrain. Itâ€™s gusseted tongue provides protection from unwanted debris.
This fantastic headlamp with three super bright LEDs offer compact and go-everywhere lighting. The trim and light weight design makes it easy to carry anywhere. The momentary switch powers lamp on and off and prevents accidental battery drain. It offers three brightness settings powered by 3 AAA batteries.
(Rs. 9,680) The Downmat 7 Pump is a sleeping pad for cold weather camping when you need extra insulation below your sleeping bag to stay warm. With the packsack weighing only 18 grams, it is convenient to carry. This Downmat is an air mattress segmented into multiple chambers each containing 700 fill goose down and is rated for camping down to minus 24 degree Celcius.
The Cebe Cecchinel in Large Fit is part of the Sportech Series and is ideal for Sport and Mountain use. With removable sideshields which can be removed to increase ventilation and to lessen the possibility of lens fogging, the removable elastic strap ensures a secure fit around the head.
Trekking Pole (Rs. 6,540)
There are an excellent pair of trekking poles with comfort and various other features. This Trial Shock poles with traditional round shape has dual density grip with double flick locking adjustment collars for quick customization of pole length. The control shock technology doesn't allow the pole bounce back uncontrollably when released.
Sleeping Bag (Rs. 10,999)
Climashield™ Prism synthetic insulation and soft silken lining combine to make this sleeping bag a classic bag for three-season mountaineering treks down to 20ºF. With creaturecomfort features such as a glow-in-the-dark zip pull, a chest-level watch pocket, and a reinforced Velcro® flap at the head-level zip, this bag continues to be admired among campers and backpackers alike. Weighing only 710 grams it makes an ideal, easy to carry bag.
Other Optional Gadgets for Traveling Solar Mobile Charger This solar mobile charger is the device that you must have then. It’s an easy charger with a solar panel that transfers the sun energy into electrical energy which is stored in the built in 2600 mA/h Lithium battery. The stored power can then be used to charge your digital products by the control circuit, and the different adaptable connector. The AC
charger is designed for continual overcast days when there is no sunlight. With a weight of only 125 grams, the solar mobile charger is the ideal backup power supply for business trip, traveling, long distance journey, and wildness work.
Fingertip Pulse Oximeter (Rs. 15,000) If you want to keep track of your pulse and oxygen levels while traveling then Fingertip Pulse Oximeter is an ideal device to carry. This compact, light-weight and portable device is suitable for use with either adults or children. Just attach it to the tip of your
finger and the digital screen will display your pulse and oxygen levels. It is specially designed for short-term monitoring of vital signs with proven reliability and durability. It’s low cost and portability makes it ideal to carry while traveling.
AC Anywhere DC - AC Inverter Running out of power is a thing of the past with the AC Anywhere it is no more a problem. Simply plug the unit into any 12-volt DC vehicle cigarette lighter socket and the AC Anywhere converts your vehicle’s battery power to 230 volts AC. The AC Anywhere is perfect for charging batteries for your
mobile phone, portable computer, electric shaver, TV/VCR, or virtually any device while travelling. The AC Anywhere inverter features a convenient On/Off switch and fuse protection along with an audible alarm that sounds if the vehicle battery voltage drops to 10.6 volts DC.
Thuraya Satellite Phone (Rs. 83,000) Want to be in touch with your family and friends even while you are on a go. This small and light satellite handset has rich features with GmPRS, GPS, SMS, Fax and Data at 9.6kbps allowing you to do so. Weighing just 130g, the Thuraya SO-2510 is powerful and compact, offering total convenience and
mobility. It provides the convenience and mobility of uninterrupted border-to-border satellite communication across Thuraya’s coverage area spanning more than 140 countries across Asia, Australia, Africa, the Middle East and Europe.
Available at: Gadget and Gizmo, Sivir P.J. Tangal, Kathmandu, Tel.: 4411244 TIMES november 2010
Putting together a basic
for travel in Nepal
By Dr. Ravi Shankar Dr. Ravi Shankar is a medical doctor and clinical pharmacologist at KIST Medical College, Lalitpur. He has traveled widely throughout Nepal and has been involved in research about staying well at altitude. He is keenly interested in rational use of medicines and in empowering common people about health, illness and medicine.
Nepal is a paradise for the discerning traveler. The two main ‘tourist’ activities in Nepal traditionally used to be trekking in the hills and going on a ‘safari’ in the Tarai (the lowlands). In addition to climbing the mountains, sports like rafting, kayaking, canyoning, cycling, mountain biking and bungee jumping are also becoming popular. Carrying a basic medical kit and knowing how to use it will ensure that you are prepared to face minor mishaps during your travels outside urban areas. We will now examine putting the medical kit together.
Water purification: The quality of water is highly variable in Nepal. Water in the Kathmandu valley might not be as safe as you would expect. Bottled mineral water costing about Rs. 15 for a one-liter bottle is popular. The environmental cost of plastic may however, be high and the water you drink might not always be that pure. In most trekking and tourist areas there are counters where you can refill your water bottles with clean, pure water at a fraction of the cost of buying a new packaged drinking water bottle. A chlorine solution - ‘Piyush’ - manufactured in Nepal seems to be an effective water purifier. I have used ‘Piyush’ treated water on my treks and travels without any problems. The only problem is the strong taste of chlorine. Iodine tablets and solutions are also freely available though more expensive than Piyush. Ensure a contact period of at least 30 minutes to ensure the water is properly treated. Band-aids: Band-aids (adhesive medicated dressings) are available easily and are cheap. They are handy to keep dirt out of wounds, cuts and scratches. I usually carry about five long band- a i d s and a few small ones on a trek. Before applying the band-aid, make sure you shave off the hairs on the particular skin area to avoid pain while removing it later. Elastocrepe bandage: Elastocrepe bandages are manufactured by a number of comnovember 2010
panies. Some of the cheaper ones lose their elasticity quickly and the pins used to keep the bandage in place lose their grip. The bandage provides support to joints that have been exposed to repeated trauma during a trek or a safari trip. They can also provide temporary support for sprains until you receive medical attention. Wooden rulers: Wooden rulers of 30 cm length or longer (1 meter) can serve as excellent make shift splints. These are easily available in most stationary shops though plastic rulers are replacing them. Cotton gauze bandages can be wound around the rulers to keep them in place. Moleskin and blister treatments: Blisters can be a problem during a trek or a jungle walk. The secret to avoiding blisters is keeping your feet dry. Remove your shoes and socks during lunch breaks and long halts. Applying an antifungal powder to your feet may reduce sweating. Moleskin is highly recommended to prevent blisters and is available in trekking equipment shops in Thamel and Pokhara’s Lakeside though you might have to ask around a bit. Antihistamines: Medicine called antihistamines reduce the symptoms of common cold. There are first and second-generation antihistamines. The second causes less drowsiness. A 2 mg tablet of a first generation medicine called chlorpheniramine maleate costs 50 paisa. A second-generation medicine, fexofenadine 120 mg tablet costs around Rs. 7. These drugs are also useful in case of bites by insects and contact with stinging nettles.
Painkillers: The most commonly used painkillers belong to the group called non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Ibuprofen and diclofenac are commonly used. Diclofenac and even ibuprofen are
also available as ointments costing about Rs. 50 for a 30 gm tube. Ointments cause less stomach problems and can be applied to aching muscles. These medicines are useful to reduce the muscle pain and aches associated with a long day’s walk. Tablets should be taken after food to reduce the risk of stomach irritation. Paracetamol is used for treatment of fever. It is available in 500 and 650 mg tablets and can be taken when required. Antibiotics: Numerous infections are common while traveling. Standard of food handling and hygiene may be poor. Cotrimoxazole may be a good antibiotic to have in your kit though many organisms are becoming resistant. The major advantage is the low cost. Check for allergies to the drug before you take any. Ciprofloxacin is used commonly. The medicine is relatively expensive with a 500 mg tablet costing Rs.10. Amoxicillin could also be used. It is important to complete your course of treatment
with the antibiotic. Take the medicine for at least five or preferably seven days. Incomplete and inadequate doses are a major reason for resistance. Antibiotic eye drops: Travel in Nepal is often dusty and you may stay in smoky, ill-ventilated lodges predisposing to eye infection. Many cases of infection of the eye (conjunctivitis) are viral. In these cases, antibiotic eye drops are not needed. Antibiotic eye drops like ciprofloxacin may be useful in bacterial infections. They have to be used within a month of opening the container. Do not to touch the dropper tip to any surface or reuse old eye drops. Antiprotozoals: Entameba histolytica is a major cause of dysentery (passage of blood and mucus in the stool). Metronidazole is the mainstay of treatment. It is often com-
bined with diloxanide furoate that acts against the cyst form of the ameba. A major problem with metronidazole is a metallic taste in the mouth and an adverse reaction (headache, nausea, reduced blood pressure) on consuming alcohol. Tinidazole and secnidazole (fewer doses being needed) are newer derivatives, which can be used.
worm infestations. Roundworm and hookworm are the most common. Albendazole is the most commonly used anthelminthic (drug acting against worms). The medicine has to be chewed well to reduce the particle size and increase surface area of the drug acting against the worm which resides in the lumen of the intestine.
Oral rehydration salts: Brands like Jeevan Jal, Jeevan Bal and Nava Jeevan are available. The sachet has to be dissolved in a liter of water that has been boiled and then cooled. Make sure you prepare the solution in hygienic conditions. The liquid has to be consumed within 24 hours. ORS is recommended for replacement of lost fluids and salts during diarrhea.
Acetazolamide: This is a medicine used in prevention of altitude sickness. Prophylaxis is started before going to the high altitude region.
Malaria prophylaxis: Malaria prophylaxis may be needed if you are traveling in the Tarai (the lowlands). We had examined this in detail in a previous issue of Travel Times. Anthelminthics: They are used against
Antimotility drugs like loperamide and diphenoxylate have been used in Travelerâ€™s diarrhea. The consensus of opinion is to use them only if necessary for as short a time as possible. They are useful while traveling on buses and other vehicles. Sunscreens are a good option to protect the skin from the effects of the ultraviolet rays of the sun. Ensure you are familiar with your basic medicines and know to use them properly. A properly stocked basic medicine kit will go a long way towards ensuring your health and safety while traveling.
Basic Medical Kit: Medicine
Quantity 1 bottle 10 1 roll Two
How to use 4 drops to a liter of water
Band-aids Elastocrepe bandage Wooden ruler Moleskin Chlorpheniramine maleate 1 strip of 10 tablets 1 tablet every 6 or 8 hourly Fexofenadine 1 strip 1 tablet daily Ibuprofen 1 strip (10 tablets) 1 tablet three times a day after food Diclofenac 1 strip (10 tablets) Paracetamol 1 strip (10 tablets) As required Cotrimoxazole (Double Strength) 1 strip (10 tablets) 1 tablet twice daily Ciprofloxacin 1 strip (10 tablets) 1 tab twice daily Metronidazole (400 mg) 1 strip (10 tablets) 1 or 2 tablets three times Ciprofloxacin eye drops 5 ml 2 drops 12 hourly ORS Five sachets As required Albendazole Two 1 tablet to be chewed before going to bed Malaria prophylaxis (if required) Acetazolamide 1 strip (10 tablets) 1 tab twice a day Sunscreen 1 bottle Clotrimazole antifungal ointment 15 gm tube Three times daily to affected area Domperidone (antivomiting) 10 mg Three times a day Loperamide 10 Tablets As needed (avoid prolonged use) The cost of medicines is approximate and can vary according to the brand chosen. The kit is basic and other medicines can be added for specific requirements.
Cost 15 Approx. Rs 30
Rs. 5 Rs. 7 per tablet Rs. 10 Rs. 30 Rs. 6 Rs. 18 Rs. 100 Rs. 20 Rs. 20 Rs. 40 Rs. 20 Rs. 90 Rs. 200 to Rs. 500 Rs. 30 Rs. 4 per tablet Rs. 30
TIMES november 2010
An h UR WITH
Mingma Dorji Sherpa
Mingma Dorji Sherpa went searching for the abominable snowman as a teenager. He ended up studying auto-mechanical engineering in Japan. Utsav Shakya talks to the affable Managing Director of Last Frontiers Trekking about his life and the Nepali tourism industry. Photos Suresh Maharjan
Let’s start from the beginning. Tell us about your childhood and growing up years.
I was born in Solukhumbu in northern Nepal and got my primary schooling at the Hillary School in Khumjung. Since my father was in the trekking business, (he was in the 1953 Hillary-Tenzin Norgay expedition that scaled Mt. Everest), I was exposed to trekking at a young age and even went on a Yeti search expedition with a Japanese group when I was in my teens in the Annapurna and Kanchenjunga area. For some reason, the Japanese took me under their wing and sponsored my further studies. From 1974 onwards, for five years I pursued and completed a degree in auto mechanical engineering and a course on the Japanese language at the prestigious Nanganuma Japanese Language School. I also had the opportunity to train at the Yanase Company and later joined Toyota motors too, both in Japan and later in Nepal. I headed back to Nepal soon for marriage and then took over the trekking company my father and brother were running in 1984. I renamed it Last Frontiers Trekking and the rest as they say is history.
What are the different products that Last Frontiers Trekking offers? What new products do you have planned?
Last Frontiers’ primary product is trekking and adventure tourism. We operate treks to all major trekking destinations in the country such as Annapurna Base Camp, Everest Base Camp and Langtang. We have adventure sports products such as mountain biking, white water rafting and safaris and also operate tours to India, Tibet, Sikkim and Bhutan through Nepal. After more than 30 years in the business, we are a trusted name and we have this to live up to. We are always striving to uphold the quality of our products to do justice to these expectations. We also conduct sightseeing trips for visitors while they are here. We are constantly thinking of new ways to attract tourists to Nepal and have a number of ideas that we are planning to implement such as bird watching and photography tours. Being from Namche, I am trying to design products to extend the stay of the tourists in the area with events such as bird watching and viewing wildlife in co-ordination with Sagarmatha National Park as well as opportunities for tourists to plant trees and volunteer for basic construction in the area.
As a veteran in your field, what kind of changes have you seen in the trekking and tourism business?
The changes in this field have been immense. However, its funny how even with so much change, a lot has remained the same. When I started with Last Frontiers, there were probably a maximum of 200 companies like ours; now there are more than a thousand. In the older days, the services we offered to our clients were very limited but our earnings were good. Now the services have improved immeasurably with hi-tech equipment and less labor-intensive products but due to low quality, local operators we are forced to charge rather competitive prices. Even the products have changed. While tourists would spend months in Nepal before, today’s trekkers come for a two-week period and want to go on short treks rather than long, leisurely ones.
Being from Namche, I am trying to design products to extend the stay of the tourists in the area with events such as bird watching and viewing wildlife in co-ordination with Sagarmatha National Park .
One thing that has not changed is the government’s indifference towards tourists. It is as difficult now as it was then to get anything done with ease when it comes to dealing with the Nepalese government. The number of hotels and flights has increased but so has the number of tourists. The problems of inadequate hotel rooms and flights therefore persist.
You have also branched out into the coffee business with Lekali Coffee Estate and into the hospitality industry with Chhahari – a boutique lodge. Tell us a little about them.
I guess these ideas are extensions of my interests and beliefs. Nepal is primarily an TIMES november 2010
Even with so many problems, tourists keep coming back for only one reason – the genuine hospitality of the Nepali people. agricultural country but we have completely ignored this aspect in our tourism. We forget the image of Nepal as a farming country with plenty of village life and culture that attracts tourists to Nepal. Other South Asian countries have plenty of this to offer to visitors. Lekali is a step in that direction – towards agricultural tourism if you will. In addition, Nepal has also advertised Himalayan coffee for a while now but the quality of the coffee is not at all up to mark. With Lekali coffee, I am trying to change that in a small way by producing an excellent brand of Himalayan coffee. We are starting our small but have not compromised in quality at all. As for Chhahari, as I said before, tourists are drawn to rural life and our traditions and culture. What we offer them however, is a poor copy of the things they are used to back home i.e. modern hotels and bars. Therefore, with Chhahari – Boutique Lodge, which runs completely on alternative energy, employs biogas to cook organic food that is grown at the lodge itself and which borders a national park, we are trying to provide an alternative to the usual western style of accommodation.
I ask this to everyone I interview who is in the Nepalese travel industry. What is stopping Nepal from achieving its full potential as a great travel destination?
Ask this to anyone and the answer would be government apathy to making it easy for tourists.
However, a lot has to be done by the Nepali people too. We have to change our attitude to improve the condition of tourism in Nepal. The Ministry of Civil Aviation has to improve the condition of Nepal’s only international airport. It is in a pathetic condition now with dirty toilets, inadequate trolleys and hawkers that undermine the security situation of the airport and our tourists. Nepal Tourism Year 2011 is aiming to bring in a million tourists but I see the preparations for it as disastrous. Where will we accommodate all these tourists when they turn up? Home stay in Kathmandu city, the government’s solution to this problem, is a horrible idea. Home stays are only be effective in rural areas where tourists can enjoy village life, eat locally prepared food and spend time there. Also, there are simply not enough hotels or seats on airplanes to get these tourists here. Even with so many problems, tourists keep coming back for only one reason – the genuine hospitality of the Nepali people. They see the hardships Nepali people endure to make the tourists’ stay better; they notice the porters as they carry huge loads and prepare food in inhumanely cold conditions and this kind of effort is what they appreciate and advertise when they go back home. We really have not done anything to improve tourism in the country. I think the tourism industry really has been blessed by Lord Pashupatinath to be working this well with such little effort on our part.
Hyatt Regency K a t h m a n d u Words Yesha Malla
A narrow stone pathway cuts through the waterfilled stone basin to the entrance, giving an illusion of walking on water. As the golden doors swing open for you, you are welcomed with tika and garlands; a grand entry indeed.
As part of an international chain of hotels and resorts, it is no surprise that Hyatt Regency Kathmandu in Taragaon, Boudha maintains world-class standards albeit with a Nepalese flair. The hotel prides itself in its hospitality and its seamless combination of modern and traditional Nepali architecture. As you enter the hotel, you see a huge area dotted with Chaityas surrounded by cushioned stone seats as seating area– the Temple Court. The nine shrines, or Chaityas, are replicas of shrines built between the 11th and the 18th centuries in Nepal. Famed conservation architect and researcher Niels Gutschow, researched upon the shrines and reproduced them for the Hyatt. The hotel also organizes a puja in the Temple Court every year with five or six local priests, and if requested, arranges a guided tour through all the actual Chaityas.
Beside the special area designated for the Temple Court, the rest of the lobby is modern and sleek, with abstract sculptures and paintings everywhere. The Lounge looks out to the pool garden through huge windows, and has indoor and outdoor seating where guests can enjoy specialty drinks, snacks, high tea and wine. The swimming pools at the Hyatt are a grand affair on their own, with an outdoor Jacuzzi, a small children’s wading pool and a huge swimming pool for everybody. Guests can lounge on lawn chairs to soak up some sun or swim to their content. The Café located on the lower lobby level overlooking the poolside area has a show kitchen, which offers Continental, Indian and Nepali cuisine served as buffet or a la carte daily. The Café Restaurant serves buf-
fet breakfast, lunches and dinners and can seat 150 people. It has a cool, classy atmosphere with comfortable wicker chairs and sofas. The Terrace Bar set in the gardens near the poolside also serves cocktails and snacks. Sitting at the poolside, you can see the towering hotel with its artistic windows, and its extensive compound of 37 acres, complete with artistically landscaped grounds and tree-lined outskirts. There is also a helipad in the hotel grounds, and unlike most hotels, the Hyatt has extensive parking facilities. The Boudhanath stupa looms beyond the area, the peaceful eyes of the Buddha seemingly gazing at you with affection. A small pathway from the hotel leads directly to the temple, a godsend for tourists who want to avoid the heavy traffic of Kathmandu’s streets. The gardens are not just limited to the pool area. Well-manicured lawns are dotted with trees, with stone steps at different parts of the garden. Stone spouts are lined up along one part of the garden while shrubbery and flowers adorn another. There is even a small organic garden in the hotel grounds, which supplies most of the vegetables, and herbs in the kitchens. Looking over the gardens while frogs croak near the taps and the wind rustles through the many trees is a delight in itself. A small, secluded Japanese style garden in the Zen combination of stones and flower bushes, gives an air of peace and recuperation to the area. Guests sweating it out at the Hyatt’s gym get a great view of the gardens too.
Talking about the gym, the Hotel has a well-equipped fitness center. The fitness center is part of Club Oasis, which also features a health and beauty spa, swimming pools, three tennis courts and a jogging track through the hotel gardens. There are saunas, steam rooms, and a grand Jacuzzi with stone taps. It also offers a variety of Ayurvedic treatments, aromatherapies, relaxation and rejuvenation packages and yoga sessions. The hotel also offers weight loss programs as well as customized exercise programs designed to meet any guest’s needs. You can also head on to the Beauty Salon to get your hair done or to get a facial. Who said vacations were just about lazing around in the sun? Looking for more than a massage on your holiday? Check out Casino Tara - an independent, on-site casino where you can try your luck
The Cafe (Above) Temple Court (Below)
There is even a small secluded Japanese style garden in the Hyatt, the Zen combination of stones and flower bushes giving an air of peace and recuperation to the area.
TIMES november 2010
• • •
Shridhara (Left) Gym (Right top) Banquet Garden (Right bottom)
at roulette, baccarat, blackjack and slot machines. Hyatt Regency Kathmandu also has comprehensive conference and banqueting facilities, which include the Regency Ballroom with a capacity of 500 people. The hotel has more event space than any hotel in Kathmandu, and its luxurious lawns make it the ideal solution for elaborate weddings, product launches and theme parties. Of course, every care is taken to make sure that the parties do not disturb the resident guests. In addition to the Regency Ballroom, there are two meeting rooms a drawing room and a boardroom with large pre-function areas available both inside and outside. The hotel also has a Business Center, which is equipped with audiovisual and telecommunication facilities and offers confidential secretarial support, interpreters, photocopying services, facsimile and internet facilities. Besides the Café and the Terrace Restaurant, Hyatt Hotel also features the Rox Restaurant and Bar, easily one of the attractions of the hotel. The Rox is a three level dining and entertainment venue serving
European cuisine that lives up to its name with its fascinating stone slab layered walls and pillars. The first level of Rox is the restaurant with a well stocked bar stocked with bottles of aged wine and baskets of dried garlic, chilies, pasta, coffee beans and fresh tomatoes. The restaurant specializes in European cuisine with Italian specialties. A spiral staircase leads to the second - mezzanine level, which exudes a cool private lounge-like atmosphere with its casual, low sofas and even a billiards table. Further below, walking through a stone staircase with small lights on each step and a cobbled stone ceiling which gives the feeling of entering a cavern is the Rox bar. With its stone fireplace bar with a tall vase full of pebbles on top and rock encased tall sofas, it is an amazing place to enjoy drinks and the company of friends in the evenings. The rooms are still the best part of the Hyatt. Hyatt Regency has 280 well-appointed, spacious and comfortable guestrooms, including seven Club Deluxe Rooms, six Regency Suites, a Regency Executive Suite and a grand Presidential Suite. Security is not taken lightly here. To get into your room, you need a security card to enter your hotel room floor first. All rooms are elegant, brightly lit, and equipped with cozy duvets, comfortable lounge chairs, a private bathroom, a walk-in shower, individually controlled air-conditioning and heating, and a
well stocked mini bar. A special feature is an in-room safe to keep your documents and valuables safe during your stay. There are also Regency Club rooms and suites, which offer additional privileges and facilities such as a private lounge, complimentary continental breakfast, evening cocktails and canapés, all day tea and coffee service, a boardroom, a dedicated concierge, airport transfers, international newspapers and magazines. It offers panoramic views of Boudhanath stupa and features a separate TV room and a library. The best space of course is the Presidential suite, which occupies the entire seventh floor with amazing views of the area. The suite has its own lobby, a huge master bedroom and a bathroom with sauna and Jacuzzi facilities. Carpeted and richly decorated, the suite also has a study room, a kitchenette complete with a refrigerator and a microwave and a classy dining room. With its fabulous rooms, lush gardens, delicious food and great service, the Hyatt Regency lives up to its expectations. It presents the timeless quality of Nepal’s fascinating culture yet maintains a subtle fusion of creativity with novelty; ensuring modern day comfort and convenience with a flavor of the past. One thing is for certain; if you want your money’s worth and more, the Hyatt Regency will deliver!
TIMES november 2010
Newari Sweets Sweet
Words Utsav Shakya | Photos Suresh Maharjan
A melting pot of cultures from all over the country, Kathmandu celebrates anything and everything with equal gusto. Rich culinary traditions are an integral part of all these celebrations. The Newar people, popular for their artisanship, are equally famous for taking their food very seriously; their rich food is a very important part of their culture. Small feasts with non-vegetarian delicacies as well as extravagant amounts of home brewed liquor accompany every major Newar festival. While the meat delicacies and liquor are consumed heavily and also offered to the gods, the unwavering popularity of traditional Newari sweets is proof of their sweet tooth. A stone’s throw away from the UNESCO World Heritage Site-enlisted Basantapur Durbar Square, Maru Tole in old Kathmandu is no less
popular with locals. From fresh vegetables to ayurvedic medicine for common ailments, it is all on offer here on this bustling cobble stoned square. What sees the most traffic here are the old, traditional Newari sweet shops, which are some of the most popular in the valley. Generations after generation of culture-proud Newars have run these shops. While these are definitely Newari sweets, most Kathmandu natives who know the taste, simply cannot resist biting into one. Marriage season in Nepal, mostly falling in the winter and spring, is occasion number one for the sweet shops to see maximum traffic. Newar marriages in particular see a variety of these delicacies offered. The groom’s party offers Newar sweets galore to the bride’s family to mark Kalya while the bride’s family
Many a Nepali will return from a morning jog and walk in to a sweet shop for a quick bite to have with the customary early morning cup of tea or even buy some to take back home for breakfast with the family. does the same to mark Khwa Sweu; both vital parts of a Newar marriage. Kalya represents a sort of confirmation of the marriage where the groom offers a brass bracelet to the bride while Khwa Sweu sees the bride visit the groom’s home for the first time. Sweets such as Lakhamari – made of a mix of rice and lentils, prepared in ghee and then dipped in a sugar solution, Anarsa – made of rice flour dough and Sel – also made of rice flour dough and lightly fried in ghee are some of the popular sweets offered during such ceremonies. Crunchy and sweet, the lakhamaris are drawn into circular or flower like designs and are offered in little gift bags at the end of Newar wedding parties to the guests. An anarsa is round in shape and crunchy like the lakhamari but with a slightly more gritty texture to it. Sel is a favorite of people living in the hilly region and is round with a large central similar to the western doughnut although not at all similar in taste.
Whatever sweet you choose to satiate your seemingly insatiable sweet tooth, remember that you are biting into a piece of culture and tradition.
Other sweets are the Nimki, wafer-like salty items prepared with all purpose flour and dipped in a sugar solution. Roths are rhombusshaped and are slightly salty too. After the flour dough is prepared, they are set in a key to obtain the unique shape and then dipped in ghee. However, sweets like sel and anarsa are not just limited to being traditional offerings. Served warm and best had with sweet milk tea; they make up breakfast for a large number of Nepalese residing in the capital. The hot items complement the cool mornings of the city wonderfully. Many a Nepali will return from a morning jog and walk in to a sweet shop for a quick bite to have with the customary early morning cup of tea or even buy some to take back home for breakfast with the family.
Another popular occasion where Newar sweets are most used is during the Hindu festival of Tihar. Tihar is the celebration of self and an occasion where people invite Laxmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity into their homes. Homes are cleaned, painted and purified and oil lamps are lit to show Laxmi the way. Laxmi is said to be fond of sweets and thus it is Newar sweets that are offered on the day of Laxmi Puja, the third day of Tihar, to appease the goddess in order for her to bless the family. In addition to all of the sweets used during marriages, other sweets such as the colorful Finni are added as offering to goddess Laxmi. The last day of Tihar is Bhai Tika, where sisters worship their brothers as their guardians while brothers traditionally offer gifts to the sisters. An important part of this ceremony too is the sweets offered to the brothers by the sisters; comprising of the customary Newar variety.
Where to get the best Newar sweets Although these traditional sweetshops are strewn all over older parts of Kathmandu and Lalitpur, two of the most popular spots are Maru Tole in Basantapur, behind the busy roads of New Road and in Patanâ€™s back alleys. Maru Tole has a whole line of sweet shops and you can walk into any of them for a bite. If in Patan, look for Nanda Mithai Bhandar in the narrow alley behind the famed Krishna Mandir; the owners are fourth generation sweet makers and their quaint, little shop has every variety of Newar sweets.
These sweets are not just popular for their taste. Indian sweet shops with their good-looking, milk-based sweets have more or less taken over the sweet industry in the capital. However, when it comes to making offerings to the gods during festivals like Tihar, the Newars - who are mainly Buddhists but also celebrate Hindu festivals - still prefer their own traditional sweets. There are reasons for this. Indian sweets are mostly milk-based and thus prone to spoil when kept outdoors for long durations. Newar sweets on the other hand are rice or wheat flour-based and therefore less likely to spoil as quickly. You donâ€™t need to wait for an occasion to have a Newar sweet though. Visit your nearest sweetshop and ask the owner to recommend a favorite. Whatever sweet you choose to satiate your seemingly insatiable sweet tooth, remember that you are biting into a piece of culture and tradition when you enjoy a sel for breakfast or a lakhamari with your afternoon tea.
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mmended restaurants&B rs
CHinese/ Japanese The Ghangri Café Pulchowk Lalitpur Tel: 5528703
Café De Patan Mangalbazar, Patan Tel: 4228833 samaya baji
D’ Square Café Mangalbazar, Patan Tel: 5545056
Bhoe Chhen Newari Restaurant & Bar Basantarpur Tel: 2331028
Baithak BhabarMahal Revisited Tel: 4267346
Beijing Roast Duck Restaurant Jawalakhel, Patan Tel: 5547453
Dhokaima Café Patan Dhoka Tel: 5522113
Café Du Temple Patan Dhoka Square Tel: 5527127
Vishram Restaurant Basantapur Tel.2012127
layeku Restaurant Bhaktaour Tel. 4781104
Courtyard Restaurant & bar Kamaladi Tel: 4253056
Rice and Bowl Restaurant Tripureshwor Tel: 4251678
Mandarin Palace Babar Mahal Revisited Tel: 4212675
Road House Café Thamel Tel: 4426168, 5521755
Chopstix Kumaripati, Patan Tel: 5551118
Dan Ran Japanese Restaurant Pulchowk Tel: 5521027
Pizza Xpress Lazimpat Tel: 2161212
Hadock Dining & Bar Pulchowk Tel: 554631
TIAN rui Chinese Thapathali Tel.: 4243078
Fire and Ice Pizzeria Thamel Tel: 4250210
Bourbon Room Narayhitimarg, Ktm. Tel.: 4441703 green Olive Restaurant & sisha bar Chhetrapati, Ktm. Tel. : 4212730 La Dolce Vita Thamel Tel. : 4700612 Rum Doodle Thamel Tel.: 4701107
which is ideal for couples. If you also want some time without interruption, Lobsters has private room arrangement as well, suited for family and informal gatherings. The well-set tables and great service also adds to the appeal of the ambience.
Close your eyes and think of a deep blue sea and your mind instantly wanders over to a variety of mouthwatering seafood. Most landlocked Nepalese rarely get to taste some quality seafood. No sea means no seafood? Not anymore! Lobsters - the restaurant opened at the Sherpa Mall is a haven for seafood lovers. Located in the heart of the city, Durbarmarg, Lobsters with its 5-star restaurant service, has something different to serve other than what is served in the city’s regular eateries. Walking up the stairs of the Sherpa Mall, the first thing you’ll notice at Lobsters is
its large space. The lounge on one side and the dining area on the other have a sea theme. The furniture arrangement and small fountains in the open terrace bar have been set up to relate to the theme and are perfect for outdoor barbecue gatherings. The interior is equally wonderful which revives the sea theme. The picture of a floating mermaid on a blue background in the ceiling and flowing water behind the bars are unique. The bar with its big aquariums beside the open kitchen lures everyone to have a sip of their favorite drink. The restaurant also has cozy seating upstairs overlooking the main bar
Lobsters serves six different types of cuisines but sea food tops the menu. Apart from French, Italian, Indian, Continental, Thai and Chinese food, the seafood here is something else; all of which is brought directly from Singapore and Thailand on a regular basis. Prepared in a hygienic kitchen by renowned chefs, the food has an authentic seaside taste. Well-garnished and beautifully presented dishes will tickle your taste buds making you crave for more of what’s on the menu. The owners are also planning to open a spacious lounge bar and kid’s area to upgrade the level of the restaurant. Lobsters is well recommended for their good food and the spacious and unique ambience.
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mmended restaurants&B rs CAFE
star restaurants VESPER CAFE Pulchowk Lalitpur Tel: 5548179
Dhaba Restautant & Bar Thapathali Tel; 4100510 Tehzeeb Restaurant Durbarmarg Tel: 4233037 Bawarchi The restrobar Lazimpat Tel. 2150050
Delicatessen Centre Café Durbar Marg Tel: 4221331 Imago Del Café Gallery Nag Pokhari Tel: 442464
Lobsters’ Sherpa Mall, Durbar Marg Tel: 4231323, 4231437 Bhumi Restro Lounge Lazimpat Tel: 4412193
Jatra Thamel Tel: 4700043 lakhey restaurant and bar Durbarmarg, Ktm. Tel.: 4256606 MOODS Studio lounge Bluebird Mall, Tripureshwor Tel. : 4215740
Ezer Book Café Sanepa Tel: 5546578
The Factory Restaurant & Bar Thamel Tel: 4701185, 4701187
chapter 9 Jhamsikhel, lalitpur Tel.: 5525979
Himalayan Java Thamel Tel: 4253056
Bronco billy Harihar bhawan Tel. 5526212
BUZZ Baluwatar, Ktm. Tel.: 4429903
Ghar-e-kabab durbarmarg Tel.: 4221711
The Bakery Café Kathmandu Tel: 4464438
Café Cheeno Patan Tel. 012210423
NEW YORK CAFE Thapathali, Ktm. Tel.: 4101532
Red Dingo Jawalakhel, lalitpur Tel.: 01-6914930
Soaltee Crowne Plaza Soaltee Mode, Ktm. Tel. 4273999 Kakori Speciality: Indian Alfresco Speciality: Italian Garden Terrace Speciality: Café Rodi Bar Speciality: Bar China Garden Speciality: Chinese Cuisine
Radission Lazimpat, Ktm Tel. 4411818 The Olive Garden Speciality: Italian The Corner Bar Speciality: Bar TFC Speciality: Continental
Annapurna del’ hotel Durbarmarg, Ktm Tel. 4221711 The Coffee Shop speciality. Café Ghar-E- Kabab speciality. Indian Cuisine Arniko Room speciality. Chinese Cuisine
Hyatt Regency Boudha,Ktm Tel. 4491234 Rox Restaurant Speciality: Multi The Café Speciality: Café
Shangri-la Lazimpat, Ktm Tel. 4412999 Sambala Garden Speciality: Café Lost Horizon Bar Speciality: Bar
Utsav place. The brass crockery laid neatly atop the black wooden tables is simply attractive. The walls alongside the chowk have khwopa with statues of deities as in the traditional Newari houses. The veranda overlooking the chowk has a cozy seating area ideal for couples.
Utsav, in Nepali means celebration and the same is what you will feel at the Utsav restaurant. True to its name, Utsav is a celebration of Nepali cuisine and culture. Located in Durbarmarg, the restaurant is set in a beautiful Rana mansion, Lal Durbar. A well maintained traditional and modern fused embellishment in this place will fascinate anyone. The theme of the restaurant portrays rich Nepali culture, traditions and the hospitality of the Nepalese people. Traditional lamps and a traditional copper vessel filled with water which is believed to be lucky in Nepalese culture stands at november 2010
the entrance of the restaurant giving a pleasant welcome to all the guests. Utsav offers seatings according to the requirements of its guests. A special family room is arranged for a perfect family dining. A thanka decor hung at the entrance of the room and a Buddha idol on the right wall beautifies the space. The parqueted floor and the low chairs and tables are comfortable for a family to dinein. The brick walls, wooden ceiling, and the traditional lamps Dalucha, hanging from the ceiling enhance the beauty of the place. The stone water fountain within the courtyard will make you set your eye on the splendor of the
Apart from these, other rooms too are appreciably superb. Flawless white walls festooned with Nepali musical instrument like sarangi, madal, tunga and Tibetan instruments glisten in the exquisiteness of the room. Utsav also has regular live cultural performances representing different ethnicities of Nepal. Utsav means festival and this is what you find at the restaurant. For a nepali dinner, Utsav serves Samay baji, momocha, masu, badel tareko, bhuja, dal, tarkari, saag, karela, achar, fruits and tea or coffee. This main course is very popular, while other snacks are also equally popular. Chatamari, gundruk sadeko mutton/chicken soup, yogurt, kheer are other light snacks at Utsav. The food is well presented and served. A true authentic restaurant, Utsav definitely stands true to its name.
Teotihuacan City of the Sun and the Moon
TeotihuacĂĄn, literally the place where gods were born, was a name given by the Aztecs to support their belief that it was here that God created the universe. Indeed this sacred site, located 30 miles northeast of Mexico City, Mexico, is one of the most important ruins in the world. Built as early as 100 BC, Teotihuacan is one of the last remaining evidences, perfect in its geometry and built in astronomic precision, depicting marvels of the ancient Mesoamerican civilization and its architecture â€“ a true Global Treasure. Words Nandita Rana
gulf of mexico
Teotihuacan North Pacific
The city sits over an area of 12 sq. miles with three of its most remarkable structures the Temple of Quetzalcoatl, the Pyramid of the Sun and the Pyramid of the Moon, all dedicated to worship. Others include sacrificial altars and remains of palaces – the Palace of the Jaguars and the Palace of the Quetzal-papalotl. The amount of religious artifacts in the city suggests Teotihuacans to have been highly religious. The area has more temples than any other pre historic Mesoamerican site. Believer of the heavens and the universe, their religion was based on astronomy and the cycles of the sun. Further studies suggest them to be warriors of high caliber, whose concerns however, were less about territorial expansion and rather focused on capturing prisoners by the thousands for religious sacrifices. Cradled in the central highland plateau of Mexico at an altitude of more than 7000 ft., the magnitude of the city and its exotic monuments makes a Teotihuacan tour a truly exhilarating experience. To acknowledge that an architectural prowess such as this existed so early in the history of human civilization is unbelievable. More so, the whole of the sacred city is astronomically aligned to a north-south axis, consistently oriented at 15 to 25 degrees east of true north.
The avenue of the dead is the main thoroughfare of the city and most of the area’s monuments are housed along it. What is most amazing about this two and a half mile long street is the fragment of red paint still visible in its buildings, which during the ancient time was covered in limestone and bright colors. The name “The Avenue of the Dead” or Calle de los Muertos, however, comes as a historical error when the Aztecs mistook the site’s temple linings for tombstone and burial chambers. They settled in the region nearly 500 years after the Teotihuacáns, and used it as a pilgrimage center. They believed it was here that the gods created the sun and the moon and thus revered the site highly. Astronomically however, the Avenue of the Dead points at the setting of the Pleiades - an open cluster of stars in the constellation of Taurus.
Pyramid of the Sun
Walking down to the east of the avenue of the dead is the site's major landmark, the Pyramid of the Sun - the largest edifice at Teotihuacan. The third tallest in the world after the pyramid at Cholula and the Pyramid at Cheops, Egypt, it has a base measuring 738 feet and stands approximately 210 feet tall. Its summit offers a great view of the city and the mountains beyond. However, climbing up its 248 stone steps is an
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Interesting Facts • Only the priests were allowed to climb the steps of the pyramids for rituals and ceremonies. • For reasons unknown, the inhabitants of Teotihuacán gradually abandoned this great city around 700 AD. About 50 years after its abandonment, Teotihuacán was destroyed by fire, leaving some of its greatest monuments buried under millions of tons of earth. • Legend has it that one of the reasons the Aztecs were defeated so quickly by the outnumbered Spaniards (at around 1520) was because they mistook Fernando Cortes, a Spanish conquistador for Quetzalcoatl - the feathered serpent, who was expected to arrive from the Atlantic in the form of a bearded white man.
entirely different story – thankfully the interspersed platform terraces in the stairs save enough room for rest. The construction of the first part of the pyramid commenced around 100 BC whilst the temple that crowned it was completed only around 300 AD - 400 years later What remains now is the restored pyramid, but unfortunately the temple, with time and its inevitable wearing effect has disappeared completely. The pyramid is built on top of a cave, which is believed to have determined its location and where religious artifacts and remnants of ceremonial activities were later discovered. Caves, in most Mesoamerican culture, were considered highly sacred and used for religious rituals. The architecture of the pyramid is such that its front wall lies exactly perpendicular to the point on the horizon where the sun sets on the equinoxes. The rest of the ceremo-
nial buildings at Teotihuacan are laid out at right angles to the Pyramid of the Sun.
Pyramid of the Moon
The pyramid of the moon is a smaller structure lying at the northern end along the Avenue of the dead. This structure, built on a much higher ground however, appears to be of the same height as the Pyramid of the Sun and offers a remarkable view of both – the Avenue of the Dead and its neighboring Pyramid of the Sun. Reaching its summit however, takes effort because of its steep stairs. To its north, the pyramid is fronted by a plaza and the sacred mountain Cerro Gordo, from which the pyramid is believed to have adopted its shape. The Plaza of the Moon, which sits directly in front of the Pyramid of the Moon, houses many temples and features a square altar at its center. To its west is the splendid Palace of Quetzalpapalotl, (Quetzal-butterfly)
decorated with murals of exotic animals including the Quetzal – Mariposa, a hybrid being - part bird and part butterfly. The pillars in the inner court of the palace have equally elaborate carvings of the same. Situated behind it, is the Palace of the Jaguars whose walls are adorned with exquisite murals of jaguars and other frescoes. The early builders followed a technique where paintings were laid down quickly on thinly astered walls with red dominating the color scheme. Amazingly, traces of these paintings are still intact after 2000 years.
Temple of QuetzalcoatL
The Temple of Quetzalcoatl or feathered serpent is the central monument located in the site's southern perimeter at a sunken square called the Citadel. It is topped with a pyramid, known as the Feathered Serpent Pyramid - considered an important point of pilgrimage for the city's ancient inhabitants. Built for religious purposes, its stone walls
feature large, carved serpents' heads jutting out from collars of feathers and weigh about four tons. Other feathered serpents are also carved in reliefs, lower on the walls. For a temple of such religious prominence where important rituals were conducted, archeologists have now uncovered more than 200 ceremonially buried skeletons of warriors. Of the many aspects concerning the Teotihuacan and other Mesoamerican culture, one of the most appalling and surprising one is that human sacrifices were widely accepted. According to their mythology, humans were sacrificed to prevent cataclysmic events and even while expanding or laying foundations of a building. The discovery of skeletons of children in corners of each step of the Pyramid of the Sun and three burial pits full of skeletons below the Temple of Quetzalcoatl serve only a trail to this horrific, ancient tradition.
Visiting Teotihuacan A must-see global treasure of such an impressive scale, the ruins of Teotihuacan can get quite confusing to visitors. The on-site Museo Teotihuacán is a good place to start the tour. Its interactive exhibits and glass floor where visitors walk above models of the pyramid are quite informative. This state-ofthe-art museum features findings of recent digs, including tombs, with skeletons wearing necklaces of human and having simulated jawbones and other newly discovered sculptures. Owing to its altitude (7000 ft.), the site area gets almost daily afternoon showers in the summer – carrying sun block and bottled water is highly recommended. Vendors at the site sell drinks and snacks, and the museum houses a restaurant. A small trolley-train takes visitors from the entry booths to various stops within the site including the Teotihuacán museum and cultural center that runs on weekends.
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New Findings in the Abode of Snow Words Kapil Bisht
Photo Courtesy WWF
The Himalayas have always held as much mystery as ice. Much of that mystery has revolved around the flora and fauna of this snowy region. Hindu scriptures tout the region as the place where plants with magical properties grow. In the Hindu epic, Ramayan, it was the potion made from a plant that grew in the Himalayas that restored Laxman, the brother of Lord Rama, back to life. Tales of encounters with the legendary Yeti, usually have the Himalayas as their locale. Today, discoveries are being made, which may not find a place in mythology, but are becoming folklores of the scientific world.
The eastern Himalayas contain four Global 200 eco-regions, places of international biological importance, four World Heritage
Being contiguous with both the Tibetan plateau in the North and the Indian subcontinent in the South, the eastern Himalayas possesses the characteristics of both these regions. As a result, there are multi-
tudes of habitats with in this region. Asian elephants, clouded leopards, numerous deer species, hornbills, and cobras inhabit the lower parts of this region. Snow leopards, pheasants, red pandas, black bears, wolves, tahrs, musk deer and blue sheep are found in its upper reaches.
region encompasses parts of northwestern Myanmar, India’s northeastern states of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, North Bengal, and Sikkim, Bhutan, Nepal, and certain areas of southern Tibet.
Although in the recent decades the Himalayas have been marked by the worrying phenomenon of receding glaciers, some amazing finds in flora and fauna have come to the fore. Most of these finds have been made in the eastern Himalayas, a region lying where two continental plates – the IndoMalayan Realm and the Pale Arctic Realm – meet. This unique geographical location has endowed the eastern Himalayas with almost unrivalled biological richness. This
Out of the total species discovered in the eastern Himalayas, 90 were discovered in Nepal. They include two amphibians, seven fish, 36 invertebrates, 36 plants, and nine reptiles.
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Nepal’s waters have yielded half of the 14 new species of fish discovered from the Eastern Himalayas. A catfish species, Batasio macronotus, was discovered in the Koshi River. The species has two dark stripes running horizontally on its yellow body. In 2005, two more catfish were recorded from a river in Nepal’s Terai. The fish, Erethistoides ascita and Erethistoides cavatura, are set apart by the serrations on their fins. The fish’s Latin name means ‘strange’, probably an allusion to its unique fins.
Leptobrachium smithi (Left) Amolops assamensis (Right top) Rhacophorus suffry (Right bottom)
The Chitwan frog (Hylarana chitwanensis), named after the Chitwan National Park, was discovered in Nepal. Its habitat includes the Terai grasslands, bushes, and tropical Shorea forests. Living close to human populations has had an adverse effect on the Chitwan frog and its numbers have decreased drastically. Because of habitat destruction, the frog’s status is on the verge of worsening to ‘Vulnerable’ from ‘Near Threatened’ on IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species.
Rendered inaccessible by its treacherous terrain, the region has always been inadequately surveyed. But findings from recent explorations in the region have established it as one of the biggest repository of plant and animal life on the planet. An astounding 353 new species have been discovered in this region between 1998 and 2008. The newly discovered species include 242 plants, 16 amphibians, 16 reptiles, 14 fish, two birds, two mammals and 61 invertebrates. These figures become even more remarkable when one considers that the region’s original habitats have shriveled by seventy five percent. The eastern Himalayas, with its remaining pockets of habitat, is a haven for numerous flora and fauna, and one of the few places on the planet that has evaded the reaches of human encroachment.
Out of the total species discovered in the area, 90 were discovered in Nepal. They include two amphibians, seven fish, 36 invertebrates, 36 plants, and nine reptiles.
sites, two Endemic Bird Areas, and numerous areas that are internationally renowned for their plant diversity. The region also has the world’s northern-most tropical rainforests. The prime habitats of many endangered species fall in this region: the biggest populations of Bengal tigers and the one-horned rhinoceros are found here.
Nepal’s fish have always been lower than other fauna on the priority list for study and research and have thus remained in the shadows.
Another fish species, Psilorhynchus nepalensis, was discovered in the Budi Rapti River in 2008. Nepal’s fish have always been lower than other fauna on the priority list for study and research and have thus remained in the shadows. These discoveries have illumined the richness of Nepal’s rivers in terms of fish species. Although few would assign it any aesthetic value, a scorpion discovered in Chitwan National Park will be valued as a historical find, for it was the first scorpion species to be discovered in Nepal. The scorpion, Heterometrus nepalensis, can grow up to 8cm in length.
The new discoveries have been made, however, against the backdrop of unprecedented
habitat destruction. Large tracts of forests have been felled for timber and to create cultivable land. Collection of fuel wood, overgrazing by cattle, poaching and trade of animal parts are major threats to the preservation of this region. Many species have been unable to cope with increasing human pressure and are now struggling to survive in the region where they once flourished. The region has seen 163 of its species – 50 birds, 45 mammals, 17 reptiles, 12 amphibians, three invertebrates, and 36 plants – slip into the globally threatened category. These numbers are especially disturbing since half of these species are endemic to the eastern Himalayas. According to IUCN, 14 species are now Critically Endangered and 46 species are Endangered. The Himalayas were created when two tectonic plates collided. Now, life in the Himalayas is being destroyed by its contact with humans and their activities. As the movement of the plates keep thrusting the Himalayas higher, our actions are pushing the life in this mysterious region closer to the point of extinction.
Keshow Chandra Pradhan and Dr. Michael Lorek
Heterometrus nepalensis (Left) Macaca munzala (Right)
Two more catfish species, Pseudecheneis crassicauda and Pseudecheneis serracula, were discovered in Nepal in 2005. Residents of fast-flowing streams, both species are equipped with undersides consisting of traverse ridges that enable them to stick to rocks. The Pseudecheneis serracula is known to ascend to as high as 1000 meters upstream during the monsoon in order to breed.
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haadigaun a PHOTOGRAPHic journey to
Photos Suresh Maharjan
Words Nisha Shakya
Haadigaun, formerly known as Harigram - meaning the residence of lord Vishnu - was the capital of the kingdom during the Lichchhavi period. A culturally rich place with numerous sacred temples and religious sites, Haadigaun has an archeological importance as well. The ancient glory of this place is also attested by various Lichchhavi-era artifacts found in this place. Temples like Satya Narayan, Manmaneswari, Dhanawantari, Gahana Pokhari, Dhana
Ganesh, Krishna, Dakshinkali, Bhat Bhateni and Saraswati are among the culturally, religiously as well as historically significant temples of this place. “Kahi nabhako Jatra, Haadigaunma” (No festival like the one at Haadigaon) and “Jewel finding festival” are amongst the most popular festivals here.
Haadigaun still has few preserved traditional old houses that exhibits the rich cultural as well as historical significance of the place.
Members of the guthi and other locals singing Bhajans early in the morning prior to the Haadigaun Jatra.
Locals preparing the chariot for the Jatra. Children, youth, the aged : all participate in the festival with equal enthusiasm.
The typical newari attired group-Paita Khala playing newari musical instuments to initiate the Jatra. The ritual does not be start until the Dhimae and Pongaa (newari musical instruments) are played.
The Jatra is really one of its kinds as the chariot is structured upside down giving it a bell-like look. The gajur (crown) is situated at the bottom and is upturned too.
Two men standing on the chariot rotates the upper part of the chariot using ropes.
The locals participate in carrying the chariot on their own. They shout in excitement as the chariot proceeds ahead.
The chariot is carried by 24 men led by the leader who rides on the chariot to direct them.
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Locals observing the jatra from the veranda of their home. Relatives are invited during the jatra to observe it and feasts are organized.
A Newari woman returning after paying homage to the chariot after the jatra.
The tale of the Haadigaun Jatra is related to the story of two pregnant sisters. Once while they were talking about the birth of their children, one of them said that she would give birth when Lord Vishnu wishes so while the other laughed at the stupidity of her sister and said that giving birth is an easy job. At the time of delivery, the former sister delivered her baby easily while the other did not give birth. She yet ignored her sister’s advice to pray to Lord Vishnu and waited for her child’s birth. Twelve years went by. She finally went to the mountains and meditated in the name of Satya Narayan. After a long meditation and a promise to organize a jatra that had never ever taken place, she finally gave birth to a baby. This unique festival of Newars celebrated in this part of the valley with its own significance is recognized as “Kahi nabhako Jatra, Haadigaunma” (No festival like the one at Haadigaun). The festival is celebrated the very next day of the Kojagrat Purnima (the last day of Dashain).
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Onwards towards a journey of self-discovery
Words Prasanna Pandey | Photos Suresh Maharjan
Music is an integral part of the fabric of creation. Every act of everyday life has its own kind of music associated with it - the steady fall of rain, the cadence of footfalls on a wet pavement, farmers incessantly tilling their fields. These vibrations are one of our earliest sensory experiences and perhaps for that reason alone the sound of music has an efficacy beyond description. Relevant music can be positively stimulating and can change the mood and ambience of a locale instantly. It is speculated that music brings the sound of love into the physical dimension. The Bansuri is an ancient folk musical instrument that has been adopted by classical Nepali music tradition. The word bansuri is a conjunction of two words – ‘bans’ meaning bamboo and ‘sur’ meaning musical notes. It is a side-blown flute made up of reed or bamboo with six or seven holes. Flutes are the oldest musical instruments known to man – some of the ones made up of animal bones discovered in a cave near Ulm, Germany were 35,000 years old. The tradition of Bansuri was maintained through aeons by cowherds and the pastoral traditions of India. According to Hindu mythology, the bansuri is the musical instrument of Lord Krishna. Myths relate to accounts where Krishna’s tunes on the Bansuri not only enthralled and mesmerized the women of his village but also herded cows to their sheds. Even today, the sound of a virtuoso bansuri player can have a magical effect of taking the listener to a rejuvenating space where worries and cares are absent.
In the beginning of this century, three kinds of flutes were in use; transverse (side blown), end blown and fipple flutes (similar to a recorder) made up of a variety of materials such as metal, wood and bamboo. They were used in a variety of pitches that ranged in size from fifteen to sixty centimeters (6 to 23.6 inches). The North Indian bansuri, typically about 14 inches in length, was traditionally used as a soprano instrument primarily for accompaniment in lighter compositions including film scores. The great Indian artist Pandit Pannalal Ghosh who lived in Northern India in the 1940’s decided to construct a more ‘refined’ flute. After much deliberation with length, bore and number of holes, he found out that longer length and larger bore allowed better coverage for lower octaves. He settled on a bamboo flute 32 inches in length with seven tone holes and a tonic at E above middle C (E3 at A440Hz). This bass variety of the bansuri became the standard for North Indian classical music and was widely adopted around the region. Hariprasad Chaurasia, disciple of a disciple of Ghosh extended the repertoire of Bansuri with different styles of play and adopted a range of accompaniments that further popularized the use of bansuri. Chaurasia is a prolific flautist with an extensive discography with music schools in India and Rotterdam. The Indian and Nepali bansuri flute usually consists of a blowing hole, six fingering holes and one tuning hole (though in some cases, flutes do not have a tuning hole). The pitch of the bansuri
varies depending on the length and diameter of the bore. The fipple flute is usually popular in folk music and is held on the lips like a whistle. The transverse variety is preferred in classical music as it enables superior control, variations and embellishments. There are at least 29 different sizes of bamboo flutes used in various forms of Nepali and Indian music ranging in sizes from 12 inches to nearly 40 inches. Some of the more prominent scales in use are - G (recommended for beginners â€“ medium size, easy to grip, closest to the western flute), F (allows you to play the western concert scale (C major scale) comfortably), E (Bass) is used by most Indian and Nepali classical artists, D (Bass) is equivalent to the western bass flute. Prices range from $15 to $300. The making of a bansuri is a complex art in itself. The bamboo suitable for making a bansuri needs to possess several qualities. It must be thin walled and straight with a uniform circular cross section and long internodes. As it is difficult to find bamboo shafts with all these characteristics, good bansuris are rare and expensive. Suitable bamboo for making long bansuris are endemic to the forests of Assam and Kerala. After harvesting a suitable specimen, the bamboo is seasoned so that the natural resins strengthen it. Once is it ready, a cork stopper is inserted at one end next to which a blowing hole is burned
in. The holes are burned with red hot skewers since drilling holes will cause the fibers to split rendering the piece useless. Uncommon skill is required of a flute maker while burning the hole as one mistake renders the whole piece useless. Usually a small hole is burned after which he or she plays the note and uses a chromatic tuner to make small adjustments by sanding the holes in small increments. Once all the holes are perfected, the bansuri is steeped in a solution of antiseptic oils, after which it is cleaned, dried and its ends are bound with silk or nylon threads for both decoration as well as protection against thermal expansion. That said, the bansuri is a very simple instrument. Unlike string instruments, it does not need tuning once it is tuned by the flute maker. The sound of a bansuri is generated from resonance of the air column inside it. The length of this column is varied by closing or leaving open, a varying number of holes. Half-holing is employed to play flat or minor notes. The flat portion of fingers and not the tips are used to cover the holes as this gives better control and ease while playing the half-holes. Octaves are varied by manipulating oneâ€™s embochure and controlling the blowing strength. An accomplished flautist is able to perform complex facets of Raga music such as microtonal inflections, ornamentation and glissando by varying the breath, performing fast and dextrous fingering and closing and opening the holes with slow, sweeping gestures.
Note that you canâ€™t get a sound by blowing straight into the hole, you have to blow at an angle so that some portion of the air goes into the flute.
TIMES November 2010
Locally produced bansuris of good quality are a rarity and would make for a good souvenir to aid in your journey – both physical and spiritual. To start to learn to play a Bansuri you must first decide upon what kind of music you want to play and what kind of tone you prefer. There is no fixed criteria and it is a matter of personal choice and comfort however flautists recommend any bansuri from a small C (usually 15 inches long) to a G. A small C bansuri is louder and higher pitched, and is better for “rural” or movie-ish sounding music. A G-scale bansuri is a medium variety. Longer flutes are heavy and more difficult to grip (for the beginners). As with any other woodwind instrument, the first step of learning is the toughest. Note that you can’t get a sound by blowing straight into the hole, you have to blow at an angle so that some portion of the air goes into the flute. The correct angle and the intensity for blowing into the hole is only achieved after a lot of practice. One should feel free to experiment with the flute to find out which position works for him/her the best.
Another key factor to note is that there should be no air leakage as you close the holes with your fingers. Air leakage will result in an unsavory hissing sound and to rectify it, just use the flat part of your fingers. Once you get these basic techniques right, you will be prepared to embark upon an exciting musical adventure where the only thing expected of you would be patience and effort of regular practice (Riyaz – repetition with attention). Bansuris are instruments that are elegantly simple in their physical form yet deceptively demanding in their mastery as they depend solely upon the manipulation of breath and fingers to coax out their song. It is considered to be amongst the most “human” of all instruments, with a complexity of range, and richness of timbre suggestive of the human voice. Locally produced bansuris of good quality are a rarity and would make for a good souvenir to aid in your journey – both physical and spiritual.
Special gratitude towards “HIMALYAN FLUTE & MUSIC SHOP” for sincere cooperation. Contact: 9841 586428
TIMES November 2010
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november 2010 novemBER
the Sun festival
Chhath Puja, a festival of purity and devotion observed with strict discipline and dignity by the Maithali speaking people in the eastern Terai region is dedicated to sun. Words Nisha Shakya Photos Rocky Prajapati
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Chhath Puja is performed to pay gratitude to the sun god for granting the gift of life on earth and requesting the fulfillment of certain wishes.
(Clockwise) â€˘ The participants of the ritual exhibiting the offerings at the bank of the pond before starting the ritual. â€˘ Devotees performing ritual to the setting sun. The festival is observed by praying the setting and rising sun. â€˘ Women prepared to start the ritual.
Starting from Kartik Shukla Sasthi, (October/November), Chhath is celebrated for four consecutive days. Chhath Puja is performed to pay gratitude to the sun god for granting the gift of life on earth and requesting the fulfillment of certain wishes. People believe that worshiping the sun helps cure skin diseases like leprosy and ensure the longevity and affluence of a family. Chhath is a festival of purity and strict discipline followed by Hindu devotees. Women start the entire process of
the festival by cleansing all the materials that would be required to prepare prasad (offerings). The woman preparing it, herself observes strict rules such as fasting during the entire time it takes to prepare for the festival. She will not wear stitched clothes and has to take a cleansing dip in a holy river. Fasting begins from the second day of Chhath, with devotees fasting for the entire day and ends in the evening after worshiping the earth and offering prasad to devotees.
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Entering the water until they are knee-deep in it, the gathered cover their bodies with a piece of sacred cloth and pray to the Chhathi mai.
(left to right) â€˘ A devotee offering prayers to the rising sun. They pray for healthy life, and blessings for peace and prosperity. â€˘ Janakpur beautifully adorned for the festival. Banks of different ponds and rivers are decorated similarly for the Puja.
Devotees fast again from the third to the last day. They sing devotional songs and gather at a riverside to perform the rituals. Entering the water until they are knee-deep in it, the gathered cover their bodies with a piece of sacred cloth and pray to the Chhathi mai. Offerings made include
dry fruits, Indian sweets, thhekuwas - traditional cakes of wheat flour and fruits amongst others. Thousands of hands clasped together in prayer and millions of twinkling oil lamps lit in offering make the spectacle a memorable one.
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The fourth day sees devotees fasting without drinking even a single drop of water. Their family members come to the riverbank before sunrise and pray to the rising sun as they wade knee deep into the river. The festival ends with the devotees breaking their fast by
having prasad. The remaining prasad is distributed among family, friends and even passersbys. People believe that having this prasad fulfills oneâ€™s wishes. Chhath is a festival of great commitment. Once a devotee
takes up a fast during the festival, they have to continue the ritual without any break. If they are unable to do so, devotees try to make up by helping out where others are fasting.
â€˘ A devotional woman taking dip in the water. The devotees take several dips in the water. (Above) â€˘ An old woman bending over to sprinkle water to herself as a part of the ritual. The devotees regard the water to be holy and pious. (Below)
The joyous festival carries not only a religious significance but also the faith of the people and provides continuity to the time honored traditions.
TIMES november 2010
NPR 150 | US$ 4 | AUS$ 6 | INR 100
VOL. 2 | ISSUE 10
yourtravelcompanion AFFILIATED TO NEPAL TOURISM BOARD
budi gandakiâ€™s soliloquy The 20 day long trek to Manaslu Base Camp, alongside the Buri Gandaki River, reveals all that the area has to offer as an amazing tourist destination with something for everyone.
ITALY tHE MISTRESS OF TEMPTATIONS
on GOOD FOOD
on FESTIVAL WATCH
TRAVEL TIMES is a monthly travel magazine. It covers all facets of traveling as well as provide tour information, featuring travel destinati...
Published on Mar 10, 2011
TRAVEL TIMES is a monthly travel magazine. It covers all facets of traveling as well as provide tour information, featuring travel destinati...