Official name: the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal
Population: 29 000 000
Area: 147 181 km²
I travelled around Nepal in difficult times for that country. It was 2006, which was a period of hot political changes. Aggressive people with faces painted red were running through the streets of towns and villages. They were the Maoist, who forced the selfish king to abdicate, and then they took power. There are serious doubts whether the communist revolution in Nepal is not a way of healing a broken arm with amputation ?!
News from Nepal at the bottom, under the article.
Tourist attractions of Nepal, Nepal – the present times, history of Nepal.
Tourist attractions of Nepal
Despite all the negative realities of a developing country Nepal is still a very attractive country to visit, and for many even the favourite one. These values ??I would best divide into the natural conditions and the culture, which consists of the many positive features of the Nepalese.
The culture of Nepal is composed primarily by religion, which is nice and easy. Officially it is a Hindu country but because Buddhism has been in Nepal for 2000 years, it is also practiced by 20% of the population. Many people are fathful to both religions, and to some even though they are Hindus, Buddhism is a way of life rather than religion. Worthy of admiration are the temples and Durbar squares built around XVII century, located in Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur, and Kathmandu valley itself is full of art. I also recommend the town of Lumbini, which is the official birthplace of Buddha. Travel guides many times described Nepal as a tourist friendly country where time passes slowly, and the food is the best in the west of Bangkok and east of Istanbul.
When it comes to the natural beauty of Nepal, I think that it doesn`t need advertising. Nepal is a paradise for trekking lovers, with the famous Annapurna Circuit and the highest peak on earth, the famous Mount Everest (8848m asl). Although Nepal is a small country, there are large changes in height, from Mont Everest to the lowlands of Terai, where the height is almost equal to the level of the sea. Nepal also has the lowest located river in the world (Kali Gandaki), and the country is an excellent place for rafting down the stream. There are many national parks in Nepal, with many endangered species. I intend to visit the Royal Chitwan National Park where it is possible to see a one horned rhinoceros. The are many tourist attractions in Nepal, but two main things which I should mention. There is an annual polo match with elephants instead of horses, and the flag of Nepal is the only non-rectangular in the world.
Apart from the Himalayas and attractive temples you should also try the Nepalese transport, and I can ensure you that being on a 50 year old bus, which drives on the edge of a cliff is definitely a tourist attraction. Nepalese drivers are crazy and the roads are twisted and unpredictable. I also have to point out that you have to bargain, and all prices have to be agreed in advance, because Nepalese people have a very deeply rooted sense of business. Based on my experience I classify Nepalese people as slightly more civilized when approaching customers, comparing for example to Indians. For a comparison, when Indians sniff money in the air, they surround a tourist like a bleeding animal to sell him absolutely anything, including dirt under fingernails if that was possible. Expect a lot of funny situations!
Nepal – the present times
Nepal is one of the poorest countries outside Africa, despite having natural resources, great conditions for tourism, and a strategic location between the great powers. The realities of life in Nepal are not as beautiful as the views of the Himalayas, and they are not as spectacular as the Buddhist and Hindu temples.
According to the World Bank Nepal is the third poorest country in Asia, which depends mainly on grants from outside. According to my own calculations, I agree with those cold statistic data, but based on my own travel experience I think that the neighbouring Bangladesh is even poorer, and I’ve seen more misery whilst travelling around India. Data sources show that Nepal in the 50’s did not have any economy, infrastructure, healthcare or electricity. Today it is already there, but in such a terrible state that based on more than 60 years I think that Nepal is a great tragedy.
Agriculture is the biggest part of the Nepalese economy, because it employs 80% of the population and makes up 37% of GDP. Most of the country is covered by mountains, 29% is forested, and 20% is earmarked for farmlands. This situation however keeps changing and I wrote more on this topic in environmental issues at the bottom. The main crops of Nepal are rice and wheat. Also textile and carpet industry are well developed, which by now make 70% of exports. I want to add that these are just cold calculations that do not fix the problems of hunger and disease, which is described in my chapter “health” below. ” Tourism industry is also a big part of economy, what is not surprising because Nepal has perfect conditions for it. Unfortunately rapidly growing population also puts great impact on destruction of the environment, transforming many attractive tourist areas into fields.
Nepal has also very good conditions for development of hydroelectric power, but because of lack of money, and extremely slow reaction of India to this and thousands of other problems, the production of hydropower in Nepal is a much desired wish. Nepal has also mineral resources that could be used, but because of the steep terrain it is very difficult to extract it. 33% of Nepalese population lives below the poverty level, which is for less than $1.25 a day.
Whilst travelling around Nepal I could not miss the horrifying state of local roads and the great lack of safety. A lot of roads are on winding and high slopes of the Himalayas, and taking into account condition of the buses and number of tragic accidents, wrecks lying in the depths of the valleys are a fairly common sight.
In my point of view Nepal does not have a chance to lift its economy and help its citizens. The problem is in the fact, that nobody cares and every next government only steals. Not a king and not the Maosits are able to change anything, because politicians care only about their own money, instead of providing health service, education or lifting the economy. Poverty is extreme, although with India not many can “compete”.
It is a great shame, because Nepal is a beautiful country which has a lot to offer. Luckily travellers are not affected by Nepal`s problems, and that`s why we can concentrate only on the natural and cultural beauty.
It was calculated that about 75% of children go to school but I think this number is presented in a very optimistic way, as only 60% of Nepalese can read and write.
Health care in Nepal
There is a high infant mortality in Nepal, very poor maternity care, and life expectancy is only 66 years. Nepal is also a country with the highest possibility of gaining a serious disease in relation to other countries of the region. The major diseases include: diarrhea, gastrointestinal disorders, goiter, intestinal parasites, leprosy, tuberculosis, and many other. All the problems are mainly due to lack of education, lack of equipment and lack of funds. Infant mortality is about 850 per 100,000, and mortality of children under 5 years is as huge as 162 per 1000. Almost 40% of all children are malnourished, what leads to many other diseases.
Despite this horrific situation Nepali government spends on health only about $2 per person, what means that 70% is covered by the already very poor Nepalese. Nepalese Government has already promised a lot, but little has improved. In addition, the majority of health expenditure is spent on Kathmandu, what leaves other areas of the country with virtually nothing at all. Overall, health care in Nepal has been classified as one of the worst in the world.
I has been also calculated that on average 4 persons per 1,000 are infected with HIV.
Culture/Religion of Nepal
Nepal is a Hindu country (81%) and the country’s religious patron is Shiva. Thanks to Hinduism we find many interesting temples in Nepal, such as the very interesting Monkey Temple. In addition, there are also Durbar squares which I partly described in my chapter – “the history of Nepal.” Hinduism is also visible in daily life of Nepalese people, and in their rich culture and arts. The second largest religion is Buddhism (about 10%). I think that connection between those two religions is an important cultural asset of Nepal, which is very attractive for travellers.
It is unfortunate however, that the only good news about Nepal I have only in this chapter and in the tourist attractions above.
Freedom of speech in Nepal
Press freedom in Nepal is a promise similar to the health improvement. In other words they make good impression but results are very poor. Only since 2006 (when I was in Nepal), according to official figures three journalists have been killed. On the press freedom index Nepal takes 106th place, what means no freedom at all.
Environmental problems of Nepal
The big problem is water pollution and wood burning for fuel, what leads to heart disease. Another big problem is with air pollution due to traffic and industry. In my point of view Nepal is still a beautiful, small country with a large number of environmental problems. These are for example land degradation and logging. Forests once covered 45% of Nepal and today covers only 29%. Nepal’s population is increasing at a rapid pace, resulting in deforestation and toxic industry. In Nepal, there is also a hunting/poaching, incompetent use of pesticides, soil erosion, fires, introduction of alien species and poisoning of entire wetland ecosystems. Nepal is really nice, isn’t it?
History of Nepal
Nepal’s history is quite long as it is about 2000 years old. The small Himalayan kingdom shrunk and grown, over the centuries. Once limited only to Kathmandu and the surrounding areas, and other times went beyond today’s boundaries. One evidence of creation of Nepal is a stone carved by one of the Indian rulers over 2000 years ago, in Lumbini in southern Nepal, where Buddha was born. For those 2000 years Nepal was a place of migration, especially from India and Tibet, but also from Burma, China and Mongolia. Due to migration of different peoples, it was a time when the language and religion was shaped. In the third century BC Nepal came under Tibetan rule, what brought Buddhism to the Kathmandu valley, which survived here to this day.
We can say that from the III century BC until the XII century, Nepal was constantly conquered and ruled by foreign powers, which use to change depending on who managed to push out someone else out of the country. For example, in the III century BC Indian tribes living in Nepal and Tibet were conquered by the Maurs reigning dynasty in India. After their fall Nepal came under influence of Tibet, and remained that way from the VII to the XII century, and then it was invaded from the south by the Indians, who introduced the caste system, which is in force today. They also introduced Hinduism, what resulted in Buddhism losing its importance.
Rebirth of Nepal began in the XIII century, when the Nepalese Malla Dynasty took over the power. Even though in the XV century Nepal broke up into four smaller countries, and despite the division into separate cities, states and earthquakes, during that time the Kingdom of Nepal reached its splendor. Between the XV and the XVIII century took place a major breakthrough in arts, and especially in sacral temples. During those times a lot of beautiful pagodas and Buddhist stupas were built, with characteristic for Nepal, few-storey four sided roofs. A lot of notable temples and palaces were established at that time, which are today the cultural heritage of Nepal. We can admire them in Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur. As I mentioned earlier the region of today`s Nepal was once divided into smaller cities and states, but today they are combined again into a single Nepal.
It is also worth mentioning that at the end of the XVIII century the Mallow dynasty began to be invaded by Gurkha rulers, who after 27 years of fighting finally won in 1768, and they moved the capital to Kathmandu. Unfortunately, peace did not last very long, because soon after, a war with Tibet broke out.
At the end of the XVIII century Nepal was under British rule, and a result of it the British crown annexed a part of Nepal`s territory, what also resulted in loss of Sikkim (now a state in northern India between Nepal and Bhutan) and some Terai, which luckily for Nepal was partly recovered. In 1846 power over Nepal was taken over by a pro-English prime minister from the Rana family, who limited the the king`s role to representation duties only. In the meantime there was a massacre of hundreds of the most important dignitaries, and the man in power – Jang Bahadur, appointed himself as the lifetime prime minister, and he also introduced a hereditary of this position. As a result of it, Nepal fell under British dependence, and it was only in 1923, when Great Britain recognized the sovereignty of Nepal.
In fact however, hereditary of prime ministers and their governments were overthrown by armed uprisings at the turn of 1950-1951, when the king Tribhuwana regained full power and declared Nepal a constitutional monarchy. As it is usually in such unstable countries, despite the first parliamentary elections in 1959, the king dissolved the parliament and government a year later. Then at the turn of 1989-1990 bloody anti-government riots broke out in Nepal, and in 1990 they adopted a new constitution which introduced multi-party democracy.
Soon after Nepal became a constitutional monarchy where the throne was inherited in the male line. Unfortunately, in a country which is so unstable, changes happen quickly and unexpectedly. It is worth recalling that the British Empire left the Indian Subcontinent in 1947 and therefore in the XXI century poverty in Nepal is no longer the fault of the British. At that time South Korea was at the same economic level as India, Japan was destroyed by atomic bombs and Europe was destroyed because of the Jewish conspiracy. However, each of those countries and regions became an economic tiger and the Third World is still the Third World until today only because of its own stupidity and inefficiency.
News from Nepal
King Gyanendra of Nepal was dethroned
Shortly after I left Nepal King Gyanendra was dethroned and all his palaces and all his assets are now owned by the State and are administered by the government. For hundreds of years Nepalese kings were regarded as the incarnation of God Vishnu but because of his despotic rule king Gyanendra clearly lost his divinity in the eyes of his people and is now an ordinary civilian. If he had abdicated the year before he could have saved the throne for his grandson and now Nepal will not have a king at all.
In my opinion it was a huge mistake because the king could have been kept purely for representative reasons and now Nepal will cease to be “the Kingdom of Nepal” and will be ruled by hungry for power hyenas under the banner “Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal”. The Nepalese society expects a miracle but I think that the economic situation will not improve even by as much as one rupee per every family. Revolutions in countries like Nepal are quite common and they are always very passionate but future disappointments are bigger than Mount Everest.
In a country of great poverty where 40% cannot even read or write it will be always easy to find people ready to paint their faces in red and manifest something what they simply do not understand. Nepal repeated the history of Russia from 1917 when the communist pigs overthrew the monarchy. Now the people of Nepal will continue to be poor and in addition to that they will also loose a part of their national identity.
⇒ On the 15th of January 2007 King Gyanendra was suspended from his duties by the newly created temporary authority. Finally, on the 28th of May the kingdom was officially abolished by the First Legislative Assembly and declared the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal.
My view of the civil war in Nepal
In 2001, there was a massacre of the Royal Family and power was taken over by King Gyanendra, who later wanted to seize absolute power, but his government was overthrown. In the meantime, the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoists) were gong stronger. After 10 years of civil war, guerrilla battles in the jungle, and 13 thousand victims, the Maoists finally got their place in the government (exactly when I was there!). They have support of at least 30% of the population and agreed to put down their arms, on the condition that the king would step down and they would have place in the government. Maoists blame the monarchy especially for the fact that Nepal is still one of the poorest countries in the world with one of the smallest per capita income, despite of the natural wealth and great conditions for tourism industry.
During the civil war in Nepal which took place from 1996 to 2006 19,000 people were killed and about 150,000 were displaced. Nepal is one of the world’s poorest countries outside Africa, even though it has a strategic location, perfect conditions for tourism and a relatively small population. That means that Nepal should become “the Switzerland of Himalayas”. During the civil war Nepal was a chessboard of two superpowers – China and India, which officially supported the government of Nepal and the King but they secretly supported the Maoists.
King Gyanendra was too selfish to worry about his country but after he was overthrown Nepal fell into even a greater economic problems and people became even poorer. Currently, the economy and the infrastructure of Nepal are being built by China and India which compete with each other; but of course they do it for a price. Besides, everyone who has even a basic understanding of politics definitely predicted that Nepal would one day follow the red path.
I’ve never come across such comments but I personally wonder who financed the 10-year civil war of the Maoist against the government of Nepal, taking into account its great poverty. I believe that China has imperial ambitions and Nepal is a strategically very important country in the Himalayas towards India. In the event of a conflict in Nepal and India’s intervention, China could “help” the brotherly organization on the other side of the Himalayas. Given the attitude of Pakistan to India and vice versa, and the size of the three most populous Asian countries, and at the same time nuclear powers, a relatively small conflict in poor Nepal could turn into a world war.
Tourist Visa: I received my visa at the border when coming from Tibet. It cost me $30 and was valid for 60 days. The visa can be easily extended in Nepal to a maximum of 150 days. In other words, if someone wants to move to Nepal, they can spend their whole life there. A traveller could either organize visa trips to India or start a new life in the mountains.
Security: Despite ongoing political problems, the recent civil war and the overthrow of the king, I think Nepal is safe and friendly to tourists. To me the only danger was in travelling on the buses, which I saw crushed in the valleys like cans of Coke. Besides, I do not advise wandering alone in the higher parts of the Himalayas.
Moving around the country: apart from local air connections, the only form of transport are buses in a terrible condition, which drive on the edge of a cliff along winding and steep roads. There is no point to count on the timetable, and buses leave when their capacity is 150%. Besides, the distances are not only huge, but also extremely problematic and tiring. Nepal is about 885 km east to west, and maximum 250 km from north to south. If someone wants to see the whole of Nepal, I recommend internal flights.
Prices: (for 2006 when £1 = 130NPR) Nepal is very cheap. In Kathmandu I paid $4 for a double room but I think that $3 to $6 is the optimal price. You can eat for pennies and transport is also equally cheap.
Climate: is divided by the Himalayas into two types: a dry tropical mountainous in the north, and tropical monsoon in the south. In the Taraj lowlands and in Kathmandu and Pokhara, the summer air temperature is up to about 30°C in winter and 4°C at the Himalayan foothills, to about 15oC in the lowlands. High in the mountains the temperature can drop even down to -40oC. Above 5000m above the sea-level snow lies a whole year. The highest rain falls are during the monsoon season, from June to September.