Buddhist Festivals in Nepal

The culture of Nepal is synonymous with its festivals. Myriads of festivals pertaining to different ethnic groups and religions are celebrated throughout the year. Nepal government, in the recent times, has declared national holidays for the chief festivals of major and minor tribal groups of the country, which once was the privilege of those who celebrated Dashain, Tihar and other petty ‘exclusively’ Hindu observations.

Buddhism is adhered by around 11% of the country’s population, especially by the highlanders (Sherpa, Bhotia), Tamangs , Gurungs and Buddhist Newars. These 4 different ethnic groups have their own specific festivals, dissimilar to other groups. The festivals observed by Sherpa and Bhotiya are almost , if not totally, similar to that of Tibetan while Newars, Gurungs and Tamangs have their own unique ways – some derived from the Hindu tradition and some passed down from generations.

Lhosar: Lhosar (New year in Tibetan) is the major religious day for Tibetan peoples, including Sherpa, which marks the start of the new year. The festival usually falls during the month of February or March, which is decided according to the lunar calendar. The fête is actually celebrated for 15 days, first 3 days being the chief period of festivity. Donning new clothes, adorning with jewelries, feasting and dancing are some of the features of the festival. Special noodles called “guthuk” are prepared during Lhosar. In Baudhanath premises of Kathmandu, a portrait of Dalai Lama is exhibited and paraded around the shrine while a multitude of pilgrims swarm there. Tamangs celebrate Lhosar as “Sonam” Lhosar and Gurungs as “Tamu” Lhosar, but at separate times and diverse manners.

Buddha Jayanti: Buddha Jayanti which celebrates the birth of Lord Buddha falls on the day of the full moon of Baisakha (April or May). Some texts also claim that the Shakyamuni attained enlightenment and left his worldly soul on the same day. Major Buddhist shrines belonging to Tibetan Vajrayana sect are embellished with prayer flags. Thousands of pilgrims, both Buddhist and Hindu, from all over Nepal as well as India throng Lumbini during this day. Amazing fact is that some Hindus also revere Buddha as the 9th reincarnation of lord Vishnu, though Buddha himself was an agnostic.

Dalai Lama’s Birthday (June 6): This anniversary is mainly celebrated by the Tibetan refugees dwelling around Baudhanath and different refugee camps of Nepal. Prayers are invoked for the long life and health of His Holiness. This day, apart from patriotic significance, is marked with religious importance as HH is considered to be the incarnation of Aalokitesvara, one of the bodhisattvas.

Mani Rimdhu: This festival is observed by Sherpas in Khumbu (Everest region) of Nepal during the full moon of either December or November, which sometimes may be scheduled at a more specific time other than the mentioned months. The monks perform masked dances celebrating the victory of Buddhism over Bon-Po religion in the region. This festival is also marked with merriment by monks as well as laymen.

Tiji festival: This festival is somewhat similar to Mani Rimdhu but celebrated in the restricted area of upper Mustang by Lhoba peoples. Tiji usually falls during May and Lamas perform colorful masked dances depicting a tale of demon being vanquished by his own son who thus was able to save Mustang and its dwellers from the evil intentions of his father. Tourists and locals gather annually during the festival which is celebrated for three days.

Yartung: Yartung means end of summer in Tibetan and is reveled in Ranipauwa, the gateway to Muktinath. Villagers from as far as Dolpo in the west gather to observe and participate in this 3 days carnival, usually feted during july, which also includes an exciting horse race competition. The first day is royal day which features the (now-ex) king of Mustang, second day is chiefly celebrated by the monks and third day is for the gala by the laymen (locals and tourists).

If you would like to have your travel coincide with one of the festivals and closely observe the unique cultural traditions and rituals of different ethnic groups following Buddhism, please fill up the inquiry form and get free information.

A Short Introduction to Air Transport of Nepal

The air transport service in Nepal began with the establishment of Tribhuwan International Airport (TIA) in 1949, just two years before advent of democracy in the country. Since then more than 40 airports have been founded all over Nepal, though TIA is still the sole international airport here. As major portion of the road network of this recently declared federal republic is still in the primitive and insufficient state, air strips provide a comparatively safer and reliable, although bit expensive, mode of transportation. Those who can spend a little prefer short, cozy and secure journey to the whole-day long bumpy ride on poorly-maintained highways. The gateways to the chief tourist attractions in Nepal like Lukla, Johmsom , Dolpa, Pokhara had airdromes before they were linked into the road network. The remote tourist district of Solu Khumbu alone, which seats the Mount Everest, consists of 4 airports!

Nepal Airlines, formerly Royal Nepal Airlines, is the flag carrier of Nepal operating both national and international flights to Delhi, Quala Lampur, Dubai, Bangkok, Doha and Hong Kong. There are about 18 private companies which are granted the license to operate air services by the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal. Due to the extensive air network and additional aircrafts from private companies, flights are operated in almost regular basis to the major parts of the country. These airlines also provide additional services like mountain flights and charters (both helicopter and airplane). The popular and preferred private airline services of the country are – Buddha Air, Yeti Airways, Simrik Air, Tara airlines etc.

Getting to Nepal from Europe, Australia and America requires two different flights since there is no direct air connection to these places from Nepal. Some of the popular international airlines in Nepal are: Air Arabia, Air Asia, Air China, Bahrain Air, Biman Bangladesh, China Southern Airlines, Druk Air, Etihad, Qatar Airways etc. The places in Asia to where the regular flights from Nepal are carried out are Bangkok, Seoul, Singapore, Hongkong, Kwala Lampur, Doha , Karachi, Dhaka, Guanghzhao (China), Paro (Bhutan) , New Delhi and few other cities. If you are flying from America or Canada, you may choose to travel either westward or eastward over the globe. From Europe, you need to make first stop at one of the Gulf airports from where regular flights to Kathmandu are operated. In case of Australia or New Zealand, the four options are Bangkok, Seoul, Singapore or Hong Kong.

TIA is not yet well-equipped and sophisticated like the big names in the international airports. However, basic airport facilities are available with additional services like money exchange, tourist information center, instant photo booth and also a communication stall from where you can buy SIM cards easily. Most domestic airports of Nepal are below standards, the aviation sector in Nepal has a long way to go and we can expect at least some decades to pass before a properly managed and well-facilitated airways service comes into effect in Nepal. Nevertheless, journey on air is still the first option for tourists as well as local passengers prioritizing time, safety ,comfort and aerial views of the Himalaya.

Altitude Sickness – A Likely Yet Avoidable Trekking Complication

The excitement, thrill and beauty of trekking in Nepal are directly proportional to elevation. This is because as you ascend higher the nature starts to reveal her latent magnificence, relatively honest and candid natives are encountered and many forms of pollution start to almost disappear. However, there is a dark side of trekking at higher altitude, usually ignored, which may even claim the lives of trekkers. The culprit is known as “Altitude Sickness” which is to a great extent preventable and also curable if proper measures are taken as soon as the warnings show up. Every trekker traveling above 8000 ft. should be aware of the symptoms of the illness due to altitude.

According to netdoctor.co.uk, a leading health websie, at least seven cases of fatality due to altitude sickness occur each year among 50,000 trekkers into Nepal. Gokyo valley notorious as “death valley” is said to claim at least 3 lives per year. It is really unfortunate that such tranquil and spellbinding places under Himalaya where monks have meditated for centuries and where many yogis have acquired fortunes of wisdom turn into a place of misfortune. Though some hardy and “in-form” trekkers hold that altitude sickness attacks only the feeble and old people, nevertheless, data reveal that old people generally are at low risk of contracting altitude related problems than the young ones. This is probably because young trekkers are eager to rush as further as they can, compared to the matured travelers since the major causative factor of altitude sickness is ascending more than prescribed height in a day.

The altitude sickness can occur in 3 forms: mild altitude sickness or acute mountain sickness (AMS), high altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE) and high altitude cerebral edema (HACE). The latter two complications are deteriorated conditions of AMS and also life-threatening. So, if proper attention is paid during the AMS stage then further complications can be avoided. Common symptoms of altitude sickness are difficulty in breathing, headache, nausea and vomiting but not limited to these as a statement by Dr. Shilm that has been quoted or paraphrased in many articles and books goes – “until proven otherwise, if you feel unwell in altitude it’s altitude sickness “. In case of HAPE and HACE, victims show much severe symptoms like severe headache, confusion, pink frothy sputum, bluish lips, elevated temperature etc. In such serious cases, emergency measures should be sought immediately like taking to the nearest health center via porter or horse or if possible, summoning rescue helicopters etc. Even though the symptoms are not severe to that extent in the mild form of altitude illness, it must not be taken lightheartedly which may eventually worsen if left untreated.

The first and foremost treatment to altitude related complications is descending down and halting your program of going up. Many modern treatments and herbs have been advertised in the market as prevention to the altitude sickness. BEWARE OF QUACKERY! The only drug known currently to prevent AMS is acetazolamide or Diamox. So administer the drug to the victim or yourself in case you observe any of the symptoms mentioned in the previous paragraph. Highland dwellers and some trekkers claim that garlic is panacea to altitude related problems but though it may be beneficial, it must not be taken as a substitute to the medicine though combination of the two won’t have any negative reaction.

Prevention is better than cure. AMS can be avoided simply by following the simple thumb rule: at height above 3000 meter, the difference in elevation between two consecutive overnight destinations should be less than 500 m. That is, if you stay at 3000 meter on Day 06 and go high up to 4000 meter on the 7th day, you should descend back to the place at or lower than 3500 m. for the night stay. Also, it will help to acclimatize few days in lower elevations before passing over high altitude. Plenty of water should be taken and it is better if you can avoid alcohol in higher altitude instead of emulating the Sherpas or Bhotias who are immune to the complications of altitude. To reiterate, if you sense any symptom of illness then do not go further up but rather descend as soon as possible. Take Diamox in case of headache or nausea, keeping aside the opinion on the medicinal side effects for some time.

Trekking is not an extreme adventure but an activity that can be undertaken by anyone healthy enough to walk. As pleasurable activity trekking can be, it can equally be dangerous if certain simple precautions are not followed. Altitude sickness is another such “danger” which can be prevented easily by simply following this basic advice- walk slower as you go higher!

Put Down Weight While Walking Up in Nepal

In today’s hectic and synthetic world, many people are suffering from obesity that eventually leads to physical diseases, stress and discomfort, apart from the unimpressive look. The ones wishing to get rid of a few pounds are spending thousands of dollars and even resorting to the unhealthy measures that are advertised in the popular media. While only a few are benefiting from such unnatural applications, 2-3 weeks trek along with the observation of finest views, sundry culture and a superfluity of tourists may be considered as a good alternative. The mountains of Nepal welcome such ‘health-motivated’ tourists in different seasons of a year. For this you need not go on any strict diet-control, sleep less or follow a harsh exercise routine. Instead, you will march few hours along the hills, take enough protein and calories consuming the staple cuisines, have a dreamless and enough slumber and free you from any worries.

Though a magical plummet as they show in infomercials is not to be expected, however, many people have experienced significant reduction in their weight after the trekking. So, this can also be a motivation factor to continue short hikes or simply daily walks after you return back to your place. But this comes at cost of something, your willingness to undertake an average 5 hrs walk/day. Don’t worry of the terrifying altitude figures since you will acclimatize and gradually move to your destination. The treks are of corse strenuous at times but the rewards are priceless.

Having said that, the ones with low weight need not discard it thinking “this is not for me”. Naturally, you will eat more to replenish the energy you lost. The only difference is those longing to lose their weight will prioritize proteins while the ones who need to gain weight will devour more fats and calories. Mind that, even in case there is no major difference in the weights previous and after the trek, you will no doubt have amplified energy, increased stamina and a renewed vitality.

There are scores of possible trekking options in the northern territory of Nepal, from the popular Annapurna and Everest trek to less popular but challenging treks of Manaslu, Dolpo region, Rolwaling etc. So if you are interested in artistic and cultural aspects of the Himalayas, can take few days off from the work, want to start weight management but confused how to begin, CLICK HERE and choose a trek that best suits your needs.

Rafting ventures in Nepal – Paddling down the rapids!

Nepal although a land-locked country avoided by the marine bodies boasts with an immense resource of water. As only a small percentage of this huge reserve has been utilized purposefully for hydel projects, water-supply or irrigation schemes, a majority of the rivers rove aimlessly. However, a few of them offer the opportunity of white-water exploit to the swashbucklers who enjoy maneuvering their rafts against the rapid of Himalayan streams. According to the Nepal Association of Rafting Agents, a union of the rafting entrepreneurs, 11 rivers in the country are open for rafting expedition. These rivers are categorized according to the international scale of river difficulty, expressed in Roman figure from I to VI, sometimes appended with a + or – to the figure. The grade for each river varies with the season. The rivers in Nepal permitted for the rafting are usually between the grades III and IV. Hence, rafting and kayaking can be enjoyed by the novices also with the help of a river guide.

Whitewater Rafting on the Bhote Koshi in Nepal.The most popular rivers for rafting in Nepal are: Trishuli and Bhotekoshi followed by Sunkoshi, Seti , Kali Gandaki and others. Trishuli and Bhotekoshi can be reached within 4 hours from Kathmandu. The start-point of Trishuli expedition lies somewhere in the middle of Kathmandu and Pokhara making it the most accessible river-trip. The trip can be completed within a day, is relatively easier than Bhotekoshi and is the most economical raft option. On the other hand, Bhotekoshi has a high gradient with steep rapids and is preferred by somewhat experienced rafters. It is also recognized as one of the best short raft trips found in the world (source: Lonely Planet). The other easier and cheaper alternatives are Sunkoshi and Seti while challenging river-routes are Marsyangdi, Kali Gandaki, Tamor and Karnali, the last two being located a bit farther from Kathmandu.

The season appropriate for rafting and Kayaking coincides with the tourist season of Nepal- between September to December. The river is gentle during the spring which is best time for beginning paddlers. For more audacious rafters, monsoon is favorable with the floods contributing to an adrenaline-surging challenge! The trips can be booked between 50 to 80 USD depending upon your requirements and the number of expeditors. The river guides provided with the payment of package price are usually well-experienced, most of them having overseas experience and/or license. There are also training centers or “Kayak Clinics” run by rafting companies that provide practical on-the-water instructions to the tyros on proper paddling, rescue and maneuvering according to river dynamics.

Are you ready for a memorable and adventurous white-water experience in Nepal? Then you can take the next step and fill out the Inquiry Form and get FREE travel info.

Getting a Nepal visa – the first step before you step into Nepal

Nepal is one of the few countries where visa can be obtained easily and free of hassles. Since tourism is a major income source, the government has maintained its policy of granting visas to the immigrants at any of the entry points to Nepal. The issuance is virtually unconditional, unless your passport is on the verge of expiry, you hail from one of the restricted countries or something fishy is linked with your travel. The immigrants of these 11 countries (3 from Asia and 8 from Africa), however, need to obtain a visa prior to their arrival in Nepal, which are: Zimbabwe, Somalia, Ethiopia, Liberia, Nigeria, Ghana, Cameroon and Swaziland; Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine.

The department of immigration or the offices thereunder is responsible for regularizing all visas, except diplomatic and official visas. All tourists except Indian visitors are required a visa for their admission and stay in Nepal. The visa cost is free for the South Asian (SAARC) countries. You can get your visa issued at the International airport(Kathmandu), one of 6 entry points at southern border or an entry point at the northern border. The essentials for obtaining visa are a valid passport with at least 6 months of validity period remaining and a lucid passport size photograph. The visa fee is acceptable in US/Aus/Can/Singapore/HK dollar, UK pound sterling, Euro and few other foreign currencies. Nepalese and Indian currencies are not acceptable.

The tourist visa is granted for a maximum of 150 days in a visa year, including the extension. Visa year is equivalent to a full 12 months. The costs of visas according to duration are: US$25 for 15 days, US$40 for 30 days and US$100 for 90 days. Children under 10 year are exempt of visa fee. Visa extension can be extended up to a duration not exceeding 150 days per visa year. The prices of visa extension are: US$ 30 for a period of 15 days or less and US$2/day for the period exceeding 15 days. The visa extension is sanctioned by the immigration office of Kathmandu or Pokhara. You may also have your visa regularized before coming to Nepal via diplomatic agencies of your country by filling up and submitting the visa application form. Apart from the visa fee, you need to make separate payments for the trekking, mountaineering or access to the regulated areas.

Though obtaining a Nepalese visa is easy, a tourist should keep in mind few things and abide by the regulations, the breach of which may lead to deportation or penalty or both. A tourist visa doesn’t allow the grantee to engage in any business or work in Nepal, with or without salary. Counterfeit information furnished, if found, is not tolerated which may lead to the cancellation of the visa. The fill-up forms and detailed information regarding the visa to Nepal can be found on the official website of the Department of Immigration, Nepal.

Thinking of visiting Nepal? Please fill up this Inquiry Form…

Muktinath – Where Hinduism Meets Buddhism at a Picturesque Himalayan Landscape

Buddhist temple in MuktinathWith snow-clad mountain on the background, the beautifully adorned 3-tiered temple of pagoda style may give impression of a complete Hindu shrine. But, the Buddhist prayer flags fluttering with one side attached to strings that embroider the shrine will make you reconsider your last opinion. Yes, this is Muktinath- the pilgrimage for the Hindus as well as a sacred place of the Buddhists. The holy abode situated at the base of Thorang-la Pass, one of the favorite places of High altitude trekkers, represents a perfect paradigm of centuries-old understanding between the two religions. The main temple houses the statue of lord Vishnu which is also revered as Aalokitesvara – the deity of compassion by the Buddhists. Apart from the main temple there is a remarkable coexistence of other Hindu temples (Shiva, Vishnu, Ganesha) and many prayer wheels and chortens (stupas) in a common religious platform.

The history of Muktinath dates back to around 15th year from the start of 19th century when a queen of Nepal initiated the construction of the temple. Muktikshetra, the site of Muktinath, is considered by Hindus to be the place of salvation as is its literal meaning in Sanaskrit. According to a legend, the Hindu god of creation Brahma made an offering by lighting fire on water. Surprisingly, the phenomenon attesting this Hindu legend –flame of natural gas that is believed to be burning from the eternity can be witnessed inside a Buddhist monastery, namely Meber Lakhag Gompa. There are nunneries to the left of the temple. There is also a Shiva temple surrounded by Vishnu, Ram and Ganesh temples which is the only all-Hindu shrine of the site. The monastery at the entry of the complex is Sangdo Gompa which was once a residence of monks and who, as told by the villagers, performed Lama Dance during Lhosar. The complex apart from seating the religiously important temples and stupas is known for being the site of spiritual practice by Hindu as well as Buddhist yogis in the past. Guru Rinpoche or Padmasabhava who is credited for bringing Buddhism to Tibet had meditated here on his way to Tibet whose footprints are still preserved in the site. Similarly, an 18th century Indian yogi Swaminarayan had undergone a severe penance whose monument rests at one of the spots.

The yard of Muktikshetra consists of 108 water spouts, each with the shape of a boar-head, from where ice-cold water emanate. These are believed of delivering salvation if shower is taken from each. The devotees baring themselves in such a cold air and running quickly bathing from one faucet to the other with the chilling water is fun to observe. The Tibetan identify Muktinath as Chuming Gyatsa who probably coined the title after those water spouts (Chuming Gyatsa = 100 waters in Tibetan). A large number of religious visitors throng at Muktinath during the Poornima (full moon) of August-September, which is an auspicious day for the Hindus. For those interested in tribal festivals with horse-race, the propitious time to visit is during Yartung festival which is marked by open gambling (still illegal in Nepal ), horse-race , joviality, alcohol and much more. For the rest, any time between April-May or October-November is the best. The recently constructed handsome gate, shops run by the nuns, poplar trees at the altitude of more than a dozen of thousand feet, a peculiar Chorten with strange sounds said to heal ear diseases are also the attractions of Muktinath worth mentioning.

The accessibility to Muktinath has become much better with the construction of road, though many trekkers consider that the excavation has rather hampered the long-preserved and exotic significance of that route. However, you have plenty of options to reach Muktinath – either by trekking, flight to Johmsom and a short trek or directly via jeep ride. Whatever mode you opt, you can make your Nepal stay memorable simply by paying a visit to the Muktinath – a pilgrimage located at the spectacular Himalayan setting, a focal point of the Annapurna trek, an ideal conflation of Buddhism and Hinduism and much more.

If you want your Muktinath trip to be organized in an ideal manner, then you can take the next step and fill out the inquiry form and get FREE travel info.

Mindfulness in the lap of Himalaya

Life can only take place in the present moment. If we lose the present moment, we lose life. ~ Gautama Buddha

Right Mindfulness has been described by the Buddha as one of the seven factors of enlightenment. This can be achieved through insight meditation (popular as ‘mindfulness meditation’ in the west). Unlike the concentrative meditation that leads to short-term bliss or attainment of psychic powers, insight meditation helps the practitioner to attain wisdom and free herself from the worldly suffering. In today’s world we are exposed to a good many things but sadly, not all of them are good enough! These in turn produce incessant thoughts and emotions leading not only to psychological disorders like stress or anxiety, depression and schizophrenia but also somatic diseases like high-blood-pressure, heart-disease etc. The monks, hermits and yogis who undergo a secluded or monastic life are able to guard such thoughts as they are less exposed to the thought-provoking agents. Unfortunately, we cannot live a life like that in today’s busy world and a quick-fix that can help us pause our thoughts for even an hour without side-effects or other costs hasn’t been discovered yet. Insight meditation, nonetheless, is an appropriate answer to the problem which requires/costs nothing but an orientation from a mentor and a commitment to apply what you learnt in daily life. Separate hours/day for meditation is also not compulsory since you can practice this meditation later while walking, eating or even trekking!

Yoga meditation at sunsetVipassana is the Theravada approach to mindfulness meditation. A very noble aspect of this practice is that you don’t need to convert into Buddhism to practice Vipassana and the mentor never urges you to do so during the practice. One thing you should keep in mind is that Vipassana meditation is not to motivate you to follow an austere life or forsake worldly attachments AND NOT to cure your disease (although some report of this positive side effect). But instead, the meditation helps you to recognize yourself in the spiritual sense, your purpose of the world and bring an overall transformation in yourself. Besides, many scientific studies have revealed the progressive effect of this meditation in concentration, anger management, anxiety alleviation and so on. These results depend upon your dedication, perseverance and belief.

In Nepal, the birthplace of Shyakyamuni Buddha, Vipassana sessions are conducted by few spiritual institutions. The most popular and the oldest one open to general people including foreigners is Nepal Vipassana Center. The spiritual quiet assembly is a 10 days-long meditation session in the foothills of Shivapuri, a place away from the hustle and bustle of Kathmandu.

The 18-days spiritual program also includes 8-days Kathmandu-Pokhara-Chitwan tour package. These include sight-seeing of temples, museums and monasteries around Kathmandu; Jungle safari in Chitwan National park and tour to the beautiful town of lakes- Pokhara. The meditation will commence on the 8th day after you have become somewhat acquainted with Nepal and Nepalese culture, heritage, wildlife and other tourist attractions, with a completely novel vibe.

However, if you don’t have enough days for the complete tour package and want to customize your trip or you want to modify the itinerary by including only one of the three cities (Kathmandu, Pokhara or Chitwan) Or you just want to participate in the meditation program, we shall adjust the package in accordance to your requirement.

A spiritual journey into yourself is waiting for you to make your first stride. If you think it’s the right time, Why not fill up the inquiry form and get free information about this unparalleled undertaking of self-transformation?

Pokhara – city of lakes and caves

Pokhara, by its name, means a city of lakes and ponds, as there are numerous beautiful lakes where you can boat and literally drown your sorrows. And these lakes aren’t the only thing to blow your mind in Pokhara.

Pokhara is the second largest city of Nepal after Kathmandu. It is just at a distance of 200 kms from the capital city, and is easily accessible. There are numerous tourist buses, micro buses and local buses that take passengers in and out of Pokhara every day. Just five hours drive from Kathmandu, and you end up in a completely different place, with a completely different landscape and an entirely different feel from the buzzing hubbub of Kathmandu.

Pokhara is the home to numerous lakes and caves, a modern yet welcoming city life and not to mention, a plethora of peaks of the Himalayas. The lakes in Pokhara include Fewa Lake, Begnas Lake, Rupa Lake, Gude Lake, Neurani Lake and Maidi Lake among many others. The peaks than can be closely observed from Pokhara include Dhaulagiri, Annapurna I and Manaslu as these are within 30 miles from the city, and all of these peaks are more than 8,000 meters high. The city is also the gateway for trekking to the Annapurna Circuit. The notable caves here are Bat Cave, Mahendra Cave and Gupteshwor Cave among others.

There are two major notable hilltops in Pokhara that serve as a perfect getaway, the World Peace Pagoda at the southern shore of Fewa lake and Sarangkot, a beautiful hill at the north-west part of Pokhara. The newest attraction of Pokhara is Paragliding. Now you can paraglide from Sarangkot over the famous Fewa Lake and land at the bottom of the city. Other adventure sports in Pokhara include canyoning, base diving, kayaking, mountain biking and rock climbing.

One of the tourist attractions in Pokhara is Lake Side, a small part of the city famous for its ultra-modern restaurants and night clubs. Lake Side is the place to be if you want to experience the night life of Pokhara. There are numerous pubs, clubs and discos here to give you the taste of nightlife of Pokhara.

Words are not enough to describe the amount of fun you can have in Pokhara, the only way to experience the city is by going there and receiving what delights it has to offer. So, have Pokhara on your top list of places to travel when you are in Nepal.

If you want your Nepal trip to be organized in an ideal manner, then you can take the next step and fill out the inquiry form and get FREE travel info.

Volunteering in Nepal

Scenery to rival anywhere else on Earth, a breath-taking gamut of culture and ancient tradition, palette-expanding cuisine, a land of adventure and a people of gentle grace await those willing to open their minds to Nepal. Prepare for your senses to be captured forever on a trip not to be forgotten. Nepal is home to most of the world’s largest mountains, including the renowned Mount Everest, Nepal is home to a lifetime of outstanding sights, sounds and varied experiences, from lowland jungle safari to snowy Himalayan peaks.

Why Nepal?
Nepal is also home to some of the poorest and most disadvantaged people in the world, people who have little access to basic services like healthcare, education or road transport, whose lives are dependent on agriculture, food deliveries on the mule train and unsustainable foreign aid. It is estimated that 60% of Nepal’s growing population of 30 million are living in poverty. Nepal has higher levels of child malnutrition than its South Asian neighbours, weaker health facilities and also appalling adult-literacy. About 71% of adults are illiterate – one of the lowest rates in the world.

What’s the Need?
Years of political unrest and civil war have left their mark on Nepal in the form of a gaping hole in the country’s infrastructure – educational standards are low, attendance lower. You will find that the sort of placements and volunteer opportunities on offer cover the following areas:

? English Teaching & Educational Training
? Child Care & Orphanages
? Fund Raising & Grant Writing
? Medical / Healthcare & Hygiene
? Construction & Manual Labour
? Environmental Education
? Community & Youth Empowerment

There are a wide range of opportunities in Nepal for those willing to donate their time. But be prepared to pay large sums of money for these chances. Volunteering in Nepal through a volunteering organisation will more often than not mean paying anything up to, including and even over $350 – $3500 USD for varying durations of time – but often in the range of 4-6 weeks.

Do Your Research
An internet search of ‘Volunteering in Nepal’ will result in many hits worth of volunteering organisations, volunteering opportunities and more than likely, pictures of happy/destitute children vying for your emotions. There are many horror stories available on the internet about unscrupulous volunteering organisations that charge inordinate fees for what they claim will be the experience of a lifetime, then leave you stranded at the airport with no word ever heard from them again. There are stories of children living in ‘orphanages’ under excruciatingly awful conditions, set up simply to attract foreigners’ money – money which will never benefit anyone other than the crooks running the show.

Unfortunately there are a seemingly endless string of ‘orphanages’ – and new ones springing up every week – in Nepal that may or may not be legit and/or to the benefit of the children living there. The moral of this story: Do your research. It doesn’t talk 10 minutes of your time to enter the name of the organisation you are curious about in a popular search engine and read up. Look for online forums where people might discuss their previous experience with this organisation, be thorough, spend some time weighing up the available opinion from other’s experience and decide for yourself.

Responsible Volunteering
If you are considering donating your time and money to an organisation in Nepal, or anywhere for that matter, you might find the following guidelines useful.

1. Research the impact of the organisation.
How does the organisation define success? How do they measure success? What are their goals? What failures have they experienced and how have they learned from these failures?

2. Check out the management and transparency of the organisation.
Ask to see audited financial statements, receipts of donations and goods bought with these donations, ask for references from past donors. You could check out the reputation of the organisation in the local community – as they are more likely to understand the intricacies of the impact they make than other donors/volunteers.

3. Think about the sustainability of what the organisation does.
Are they affecting change? Is what they do a band-aid solution or are the underlying issues being addressed?

4. Ensure the organisation is locally-run and agendas are negotiated not imposed.
Ask about ownership and decision making lines, who is in charge? Try and meet with them – do you trust them? If you don’t trust them you might feel like you can’t trust the whole organisation.

5. Be sure volunteers are not taking away local jobs.
Is a volunteer the best person for this role? Who will perform this role when the volunteer(s) leave? Will your input leave the organisation with more gaps or a greater dependency, or with a greater capacity to solve these problems in the future?

6. Question any organisation diverting extensive resources towards catering to foreigners.
Whose needs are being served best in this organisation? What are the motives for this organisation to take volunteers?

7. Think about the impact of a foreigner doing that role.
Are Volunteers’ roles designed to reinforce the roles of local staff? Are volunteers is managed and supervised by a permanent member of staff, not the other way round? Is speaking English taking precedence over other, more important skills?

8. Question any organisation that lets un-vetted volunteers work directly with children.
Why is a volunteer doing that particular role instead of another member of staff? Whose interest is being served? Would this be allowed in your country? What kinds of background checks does the organisation do on the volunteers? What kind of training is given?

9. Question any organisation that allows volunteers to do anything they would not be qualified to do at home.
Would you be allowed to do this job at home? Would the organisation put a local person with the same skills you have in the role they are offering you?

10. Ensure that a volunteer is not too big a burden on the organisation.
Will providing the necessary supervision or support for the volunteer actually distract staff from the main mission of their organisation? Are paid staffs taking time out to instruct volunteers?

Nepali people always welcome visitors to their country, just be sure you are there for the right reasons. Do the job that helps the most, not the one that is most exciting. Good luck and work hard!

*The above guidelines were originally developed by PEPY Tours in Cambodia.
~ This article is compiled by Rory McCormick for VisitNepal.com