An old man sits in one of Kathmandu’s ancient squares trying to sell Nepalese flags. Yet no one is coming.
Behind him, among the crowds of colourfully dressed people; the rickshaw drivers, traders bent heavy carrying loads, monks and religious devotees, incense and bells; a set of steps lead upwards to what is known, rather crudely, as the ‘Hippy temple.’ This, in the 1960’s, marked the end of the Hippy Trail and on the temple’s upper reaches, flaxen haired foreigners would have sat smoking ganja. Yet today the steps lead to nothing. A earthquake lasting just seventy three seconds took it away. The steps look upwards to Kathmandu’s clear blue sky.
However, the overwhelming number of temples, not just here but across Nepal, still remain. This beautiful palace square, like others in the neighbouring UNESCO city of Patan for example, have remained largely intact. Walking through, is still the same as ever; an experience as if stepping back in time. The ancient pagoda architecture, in this country cut off from the rest of the world until the late 1950’s, remains. Coming here now, without many tourists, you can be forgiven for feeling like a Victorian explorer – perhaps there has never been a better time to visit.
There has been devastation in areas. The earthquake’s epicentre was 80kms from Kathmandu. Villages have seen awful damage as well as the city of Bhaktapur. The earthquake has struck four out of Nepal’s fourteen districts, but the world’s press has been less discriminate. Its generalistic approach suggesting earthquake has conquered all of Nepal has caused even more damage to its tourist industry. Traveller areas such as the jungle in Chitwan, Lumbini the birthplace of the Bhudda and the lakeside town Pokhara have seen no damage at all. A majority of ancient monuments are intact, roads are clear; hotels, restaurants open, but few travellers are coming.
Most traveller services in the country such as hotels, transport, restaurants and excursions are run by small family businesses, not multinational chains. For them, hardly damaged by the earthquake, the generalistic approach of the world’s press could not have been more devastating. And today the press shows little interest in Nepal. We contacted the travel editors of the Guardian and Telegraph for example, but neither expressed interest.
The truth is that visitors who come here now will have a unique experience.
In some areas they’ll see evidence of earthquake damage, not on a television screen but for themselves; something few witness in a lifetime. This is a very friendly country too, whose citizens still address each other as ‘brother or sister.’ In the aftermath of the earthquake not one single shop was looted, this tells you something about the decency of the people of Nepal. Pioneering travellers coming today can expect a terrific welcome.
Yet for now the old man still sits in Kathmandu square trying to sell his flags. The sun shines, the ancient architecture stands majestic around him. Yet few visitors are coming.
Angel Holidays will be taking a group to Nepal this October to give them this unique experience of Nepal. By visiting you will also be helping Nepal’s tourist industry. If you might like to join the adventure; visiting ancient cities, the jungle, the birthplace of the Buddha and staying Pokhara in full view of the Himalaya, please contact us. To crown the trip, you’ll also have the chance to fly around Everest.
A special thanks
Angel Holidays would like to thank previous ‘Angel travellers’ who have given generously in time and money to help the people of Nepal. There’s been events such as marathons and garden parties to raise money, as well as generous donations. Your help has been delivered directly to those in need. We’d also like to thank the selfless work of Pabitra, our first organiser with Angel Holidays, who’s delivered blankets, medicine and shelters to remote villages from donations from Angel Travellers.
Thank you for your affection to Angel Holidays and to Nepal. For those booked on our October trip this year, and for those thinking of coming, a very warm welcome awaits. Angel Holidays.
an old man selling flags in Kathmandu’s Durbar Sqaure.
Patan city three months after the earthquake