Letter from Langtang

Dear Monica, I have very special memories with you. Last year, we spent the entire day in Bhaktapur Durbar Square. Together, we watched erotic wood carvings and visited the pottery square. We deeply observed the beauty of 55-window Palace and talked about art, history and life. You talked about books and Buddhism. I talked about […]

IntroDear Monica,

I have very special memories with you. Last year, we spent the entire day in Bhaktapur Durbar Square. Together, we watched erotic wood carvings and visited the pottery square. We deeply observed the beauty of 55-window Palace and talked about art, history and life. You talked about books and Buddhism. I talked about Hinduism and explained the concept of trinity (Brahma, Bishnu and Maheshwar) to you.

Finally, you hugged and kissed me and when we returned to Thamel.

But this time I am not giving you hugs and kisses. I want to share my diary of four days when I was in Langtang area – the third most popular trekking destination in the country – after the devastating earthquake of April 25.

Day 1 (July 6, 2015)

‘You are a fool,’ family members, friends and seniors told me when I told them I was going to Langtang. I know it was their love and care for me. I am thankful to all of them.

One a fine July morning, me, a fool, left for Langtang along with some friends. Noted tourism entrepreneur Deepak Mahat and friends bade us farewell at Thamel. As we are traveling to a very risky area, Mahat suggested me to cancel the trip the moment I feel it is not safe to proceed forward. “Life is more important; you can make a trip to Langtang later on if you are alive,” he told me.

Our bus moved through Galchhi of Dhading and Bidur of Nuwakot. It was already midday when we reached Dhunche – the headquarters of Rasuwa district. There, we met Chief District Officer of Rasuwa and district chiefs of Nepal Army and Nepal Police. Though they didn’t call us fool directly, their facial expression and body language spoke were telling us the same. They wished us a happy journey. The Colonel of Nepal Army suggested us to be aware of possible avalanches, landslides and rock falls. He also gave us helmets for our security.

Langtang village lies under debris.

Langtang village lies under debris.

We headed toward Syafrubesi which lies few kilometers away from Dhunche. It was raining heavily. Just before we reached Syafrubesi, we encountered a fresh rock fall. It was very cold in Syafrubesi. We warmed up ourselves by enjoying few pegs of whisky and boiled potato. I talked with my friends till late into the night. Conversations ended with good night from both sides.

Day 2 (July 7, 2015)

The morning was quite good though no one wished me good morning. The sound of murmuring river was refreshing. We started trek toward Khamjing early in the morning. Altogether we were 15 in the team – 11 locals of Langtang village joined us in Syafrubesi. Though they were mourning their near and dear ones, who lost lives in the avalanche triggered by the earthquake, they seemed to have resumed their normal life. That made me happy. These locals were not only guides, they were our teachers. They gave me valuable lessons about live offering our team a helping hand with smile.

They led the trek, and we followed them. By singing local songs, they made the walk refreshing for us.

Finally, we reached Khamjing. There we met some local people who said they can arrange food and accommodation to visitors. I felt they were waiting for tourists like the previous season. After having tea and some snacks, we started our walk toward Sherpa Gaun. Before Sherpa Gaun, we reached Dalanche where there was a temporary camp of Nepal Army with around 20 army personnel. They welcomed us and offered us tasty lunch.

After lunch, we headed toward Sherpa Gaun. Everything was normal till Sherpa Gaun. The trail was okay and we found it safe. It was raining when we reached Sherpa Gaun. The hotel where we stayed had a broken roof. But the owner’s warm hospitality touched our heart. He attended to us like a guardian. As I was tired with the day’s walk, I slept like a log. I saw a village just above the landslide in my dream.

On the way to Kyanjin Gompa.

On the way to Kyanjin Gompa.

Day 3 (July 8, 2015)

After early breakfast, we left Sherpa Gaun and headed toward Rimche. Before reaching Rimche, we came across a big landslide. We had to make a steep climb and make a descent to the track. Langtang Khola was gushing just below the landslide. Life is beautiful, but fate decides your future. Many lodges and hotels in Rimche were in operation despite damages in the building. Rimche is the meeting point of two trails – one trail leads to Syafrubesi via Bamboo, while the other leads to Syafrubesi via Sherpa Gaun and Khamjing. We could see Langur monkeys jumping from one tree to the other. I felt they are welcoming us.

Our next destination is Lama Hotel. It is not a name of the hotel, but a village. There are around half a dozen hotels and lodges at Lama Hotel. But all of them were damaged. The locals of Syafrubesi got some beer, cigarettes and biscuits from the debris. It helped us a lot. After a walk of about an hour from Lama Hotel, we reached a placed called Gumna Chowk which is also known as Chunam. The situation of this place was no different than Lama Hotel. Then we reached a place called Riverside, as foreigners love to call. It is from this place that Langtang Valley starts.

The first view of the Valley was breathtaking. There were tall mountains on both sides of the river. The river was flowing smoothly. When we filled water in our plastic bottle, it froze immediately.

Beautiful flowers are still there to greet you.

Beautiful flowers are still there to greet you.

After spending sometime at Riverside, we headed toward Ghodatabela which literally means horse stable. However, we neither saw horses, nor stable. There was nobody in the village. There used to be an army camp here. But it was nowhere to be seen. A few minutes after we reached Ghodatabela, a big rock detached from a nearby hill and came rolling toward us. My mound stopped. The rock fall triggered landslide and debris started flowing downward. Our mind stopped for a moment. After we recovered from the trauma, we talked about disasters and fate for some time then started our trek toward Thangsyap. Here also the situation was the same. We passed through settlements like Chaarting, Chyamkidanda and Gumbadanda before reaching Langtang village. Langtang village lies in Ward No. 7 of Langtang VDC. But there was no village. It looked like huge debris of rock and pebbles. We found nothing but stones and pebbles for about a kilometer. Locals of Langtang village, who were with us, were lost in memory. They were remembering their childhood days. Their eyes were longing for the beautiful moments that had spent in their birthplace. They had nothing left. All their property and belongings as well as near and dear ones lay below the debris. But their hope, belief and love toward life were intact. After seeing the situation they are in, we were lost for words.

After spending some time in the village, we moved toward our next destination Mundu. We found accommodation in a home where we meet a couple and their son. They offered us typical Nepali meal and some local liquor. After dinner, we were in bed as we were very tired. It rained throughout the night. As the roof of the hotel was leaking, rain drops fell near my head. It was very cold outside. Temperature was sub zero outside.

At Kyanjin Gompa

At Kyanjin Gompa

Day 4 (July 9, 2015)

We left Mundu early in the morning and walked toward Sidhum and Nespalle. It was very cold. We were exhaling ‘steam’. I was enjoying every breath I take. I was in the heavenly world. There were snow-capped peaks all around. There was silence and spirituality. Sounds of birds, river and wind were so appealing. Everything around me was smiling — flowers, birds and rivers. Later I knew we were in Kyanjin (4,000m). The earthquake had no impact in the village. All houses were intact and life was safe as usual. We visited Kyanjin Gomba – the landmark of the village. I kissed the monastery and bade adieu to the Langtang Region.

We were the biggest group to trek to Langtang Region after the devastating earthquake. I was happy as I was the first journalist, writer and tour guide to reach the place after the disaster.

 

This much for now. See u soon. Kyanjin is waiting for you.

Thank you Monica.

 

Your’s,
Ashok Silwal

ashoksilwal@gmail.com

(Silwal is a writer/journalist. He is also a licensed trekking and tour guide)

Jajala Trek – The Hidden Treasure of Rolpa

Rolpa, lying in mid western part of Nepal, is one of the most backward districts in terms of infrastructure. However, it is regarded as one of the exciting potential tourism destinations in the country because of its nature, culture and political history. District headquarters Libang lies approximately 300 km west of Kathmandu.

Locals performiing the Bhume Dance at Thabang.

Locals performiing the Bhume Dance at Thabang.

Rolpa, lying in mid western part of Nepal, is one of the most backward districts in terms of infrastructure. However, it is regarded as one of the exciting potential tourism destinations in the country because of its nature, culture and political history. District headquarters Libang lies approximately 300 km west of Kathmandu. Kham Magars are the major inhabitants of the district followed by other groups like Brahmins, Chettris, Newars and Thakuris. Rolpa is the origin of the decade-long People’s War which claimed more than 10,000 people. Jaljala is one of the popular destinations in the district with immense tourism potentials. A detailed itinerary of a trek to Jaljala is given below: (more…)

Giant crematorium at Pashupatinath alarms UNESCO

The UN’s cultural body has voiced alarm at the building of a giant crematorium within a fabled temple complex in Nepal, worried it will become an eyesore at one of the world’s holiest Hindu sites. Pashupatinath, a temple complex which sprawls over a 2.6 square-kilometer (one square mile) area near Kathmandu on the banks of […]

The UN’s cultural body has voiced alarm at the building of a giant crematorium within a fabled temple complex in Nepal, worried it will become an eyesore at one of the world’s holiest Hindu sites.
Pashupatinath, a temple complex which sprawls over a 2.6 square-kilometer (one square mile) area near Kathmandu on the banks of the Bagmati River, attracts tens of thousands of pilgrims every year from neighboring India.
Parts of the complex date back to the early fifth century and it was awarded World Heritage Site status in 1979 by UNESCO, putting it on a par with structures such as India’s Taj Mahal and the Great Wall of China.
But now UNESCO has pleaded with temple authorities to rethink plans for the construction of a mass electronic crematorium as well as ongoing work to build a road which cuts through the site, fearing irreparable damage.
The organization’s country chief, Axel Plathe, confirmed to AFP that the projects were “a concern for UNESCO” and had asked them to come up with an alternative.
“Construction began without proper authorization from the competent Nepali authorities as per the established integrated management plan for the property,” Plathe added.
In particular, UNESCO is unhappy at the construction of a two-storey building which will house three separate crematoriums.
While defenders of the project say it is more environmentally-friendly than burning bodies in the river, Plathe said no assessment study had been conducted and warned that a giant chimney at the top of the building “will have an adverse visual impact”.
Govinda Tandon, the member-secretary of the Pashupatinath Pashupati Area Development Trust, said management was trying to address UNESCO’s concerns and wanted to avoid endangering its special status.
“If the temple gets delisted from the World Heritage Site, it will be damaging for us,” Tandon told AFP.
“Because there are several government offices involved with the construction works, we are consulting with them.”
However he defended the crematorium project, saying it was being built “in order to reduce the environmental pollution because dozens of bodies are cremated on the banks of Bagmati River, using firewood”.

An AFP correspondent who visited the site on Tuesday saw dozens of workers laying bricks on the building.
And while construction work on the contentious road through the complex has been halted, several cars could be seen driving across what is currently an unpaved track.
“I use it every day and so do thousands of others because this is convenient for us. I can reach my home in 15 minutes. Otherwise I would have to take a big detour,” said 24-year-old student Dipak Rijal.
While UNESCO has not issued an explicit threat to revoke Pashupatinath’s heritage status, Tandon said it had been given a deadline of early 2015 for the situation to be resolved.
To date, only two sites have ever lost their world heritage status.
The Arabian Oryx Sanctuary in Oman was removed from the list in 2007 due to the government decision to reduce the size of the protected area by 90 percent.
In 2009, Germany’s Dresden Elbe Valley, a 20-kilometre (12 mile) cultural landscape in the city of Dresden was delisted after a four-lane bridge was built in the area.
(AFP)

Kathmandu cashes in on Chinese tourist surge

The south side of Kathmandu’s tourist hub of Thamel has transformed itself into a cluster of Chinese commerce – restaurants, hotels, travel agencies, shops and even a hospital in this backpackers’ haven are strictly targeting Nepal’s northern neighbours. With the country’s tourism scene dominated by the influx of Chinese tourists lately, businesses targeting them are […]

The south side of Kathmandu’s tourist hub of Thamel has transformed itself into a cluster of Chinese commerce – restaurants, hotels, travel agencies, shops and even a hospital in this backpackers’ haven are strictly targeting Nepal’s northern neighbours.
With the country’s tourism scene dominated by the influx of Chinese tourists lately, businesses targeting them are also mushrooming. The street that borders the tourist district with the traditional neighbourhood of Jyatha is a prime example.
This stretch of street is crowded with signs in Chinese: Hotels offer their room rates and services, restaurants display their menus and travel agencies plaster their windows with itineraries strictly in the script that would attract their targeted customers.
“It’s very helpful,” said Kelly Ren, a Chinese tourist visiting Kathmandu with a group of friends. “It’s easier to go around and find what you want – it minimises the language barrier.”
One of the newest Chinese restaurants has made an effort to set up an authentic ambience. While Putonghua-speaking Nepali staff members approach their guests with menus in their local language, the flat-screen television on the wall is set to a Chinese channel.
A couple of blocks away from this moderately priced restaurant, Ramesh Bishwokarma has opened a small eatery that specializes in cuisine from Sichuan province .
“About 80 per cent of my customers are Chinese,” said Bishwokarma, who opened the New Chong Qing Wei Fast Food Restaurant last September. “With so many Chinese tourists coming to Nepal, I thought it would be best to run a Chinese restaurant. And it’s doing really well.”
Kathmandu’s Thamel district is seeing more businesses targeting Chinese tourists. Photo: Bibek BhandariRam Sharan Thapaliya of the Thamel Tourism Development Council said he saw this growth as a positive sign.
“We should be happy that new businesses are being opened to cater to a specific group of tourists,” he said.
“Thamel is full of businesses – having more facilities catering to Chinese in this area doesn’t mean it’s being converted into Chinatown.”
While businesses are cheering over the sunny side, cultural enthusiasts travelling to the Himalayan republic say they are missing out on the Nepali experience.
Vito Chow, 24, from Hong Kong said he was disappointed to see the growing market catering to Chinese tourists.
“I’m in Nepal, and I want to get away from all this,” he said. “I want to experience local culture and tradition. I can find all this stuff back home.”
However, Chow agreed that the businesses might help overcome Chinese tourists with difficulties in communicating in English. Lately, there has also been a surge in Nepalis learning to speak Putonghua.
“There’s a demand for it,” said one of Bishwokarma’s employees who speaks average Putonghua, as he took an order from a customer.
Chow, though dissatisfied, noted that being a Chinese-friendly destination would help draw more tourists for Nepal.
We should be happy that new businesses are [catering] to a specific group
Ram Sharan Thapaliya
And that’s what the country is vying for. “We’re trying to fetch in as much [Chinese tourists] as possible,” said Aditya Baral, a spokesman for the Nepal Tourism Board.
The latest figures released by the Immigration Office at Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan International Airport show that Chinese tourists increased by 25.7 per cent in June compared with the same month last year.
The surge resulted from the Approved Destination Status, a bilateral tourism agreement between China and Nepal in 2001, Baral said. Direct air service linking Kathmandu to Kunming , Guangzhou, Chengdu and Hong Kong has further aided in bringing more tourists.
Baral said an estimated 85,000 Chinese visited Nepal last year mainly for sightseeing, religious and soft-adventure tourism.
He added that the country aimed to increase the number to 100,000 by 2014.