Nepal is one of the few countries I have hope for
It’s a country like no other I’ve visited. A cross between old and new. Centuries old cities mixed with new society and a blend of otherworldly qualities.
On the outside it’s a great place to travel, hike, find solace, enjoy, experience.
Stay a little longer, see beyond the top layers, and you’ll be heartbroken. At least I am.
I’ve been sick recently. Its given me some time to look at the other side to this journey.
Years on I still think of Nepal
As many people reading here will know, Nepal is the only place I’ve categorically stated “felt like home“. It was a sledgehammer like feeling on the side of the head I will never forget.
Why did I leave is the usual question, and the answers are always long. Read my Nepal Travel Blog to get an idea.
In summary: The country was kicking out its King at the time, was in the middle of a Maoist uprising, and I was on an overland mission.
The trouble with Nepal is one many people come across. Once it gets to you, it stays with you.
A summary of Nepal’s problems
- It’s one of the poorest countries in the world
- It’s sandwiched between two giant super powers (India / China)
- Its political system is a disaster
- There is very little media coverage on Nepal’s plight
- Nepal has many religions & many holidays for them all
- Nepal is landlocked, and has few natural resources available to it
- Regular electricity is a thing of the past
- Kathmandu is overdue for an earthquake that seismologists have said will flatten it & cause one of the worst humanitarian disasters of the modern age
- Tourism is its primary source of income
A soap opera like brief history of modern political problems in Nepal
- 1959: King Mahendra unites the country under democratic rule
- 1960: King Mahendra dissolves parliament, abolishes democracy, and changed the constitution to monarchy lead or rather a “partyless” system.
- 1972: The king’s son Birendra took over, political reforms were put in place and a prime minister elected
- 1992: Continued protest mount to riots over land and economic reforms. Human rights violations occur and the country erupts into massive protests.
- 1996: The communist party (Maoists) lead the charge to replace the parliamentary monarchy. Violence again spreads across the nation as it’s view split
- 2001: Crown Prince Dipendra went on a crazed killing spree. The death toll included 9 members of the royal family along with his own father the King, and the Queen. He ended the shooting spree by killing himself. Prince Gyanendra (Birendra’s brother) took over the throne.
- 2004: The monarchy’s popularity waned in the rise of revolution. In 2005 Gyanendra abolished the government, and put the country into emergency rule.
- 2005-2006: the country is in turmoil with human rights violations and freedom of the press being curtailed. Political rallies mounted over the entire country
- 2007: A seven party coalition government abolished the monarchy.
- 2008: The Maoists win a majority victory to rule Nepal.
- 2009: The Maoist Prime Minister leaves office in protest at Nepalese presidents sacking of an army chief. A new communist leader is elected.
- 2010: A new constitution is still not seen as deadlines pass with infighting between political parties. The prime minister resigns. The UN leaves Nepal.
- 2011: Nepal is still without a stable leadership, nor constitution. The economy is in dire straits, the country dwindles on candlelight, imports and foreign aid.
Lack of international media on Nepal’s plight
Sadly Nepal seems to be forgotten by much of the mainstream international media. It’s not violent towards its neighbors. Nor is it an oil-producing nation. They’ve had their protests and civil wars. This is what’s left.
With China and India on either side vying for economic and political control over the tiny nation few international politicians want to mention Nepal; even in passing.
Nepal is well and truly on its own. Least its own “leaders” sell the country out to one of its bidding neighbors.
My personal experience from a few months in Nepal (2007-2008)
I found Nepal is be a truly wondrous place during this pivotal time in its history. And, an amazing place to witness a change such as this happening. It was the end of an old country, and the start of a new one.
There were very few tourists, and yet the place was filled with optimism. The few tourists that were there; were of a different class. Adventure seekers, expats, and travelers.
“I felt like Nepal was the last bastion of true old school travel”
I held out in optimism that one day I would return if things got better. Times have changed, and Nepal has too. But its age-old internal strife has not.
2011 Nepal’s year of tourism and plunder
My friends in Nepal keep me updated. They know my feelings about the country. Their emails are sad and trembling. Yet, as always, hopeful. NGO’s continue to pop up everywhere, as do orphanages. All seeking aid. A great money-maker that tics many people off. I’ve seen it, experienced it, and rescued plenty from it during my time there.
The current government is promoting 2011 as best they can using such outdated trends as marking Nepal a “Gay” friendly country. Offering free visas (but only if you are going up Everest), and saying Nepal: Once is not enough. Least we forget a myriad of entry fees for just about anything these days.
India controls Nepal’s source of fuel, and food. Meanwhile from the North Chinese investors smile at last years agreement to allow chinese banks to open in Nepal.
It’s like the country is selling itself off; on the streets.
Nepal’s leaders get a slap to the face
It seems Nepal’s people are also at their wit’s end. I read recently on the BBC about a local Nepalese man who slapped the chairman of one of the main parties across the face.
He likened it to feeling like “soft cotton”.
A sign of the times as Nepal’s temporary politicians dine and live in relative luxury due to “expenses paid“. While most of the nation’s weather beaten people live hand to mouth in a country currently living on electricity rationing of up to 16 hours a day.
Corruption on top of corruption
All is not so bleak though. On the streets of Kathmandu rich business types from China and Korea wish to buy up and renovate vast ancient areas. Replacing old historical building and walls with profitable shiny new ones. Malls are being built near some of the oldest buildings in the world. Shadowing them in freshly imported concrete dust. India dictates new fuel prices, and food prices have only doubled.
Even Nepalese passports are made in India.
Take solace in the upper class “oxygen bars” that are appearing in Kathmandu; so expensive only the elite can breath in the imported air. A respite from the smoggy fumes rising low from the mass of imported motorbikes outside, churning away on low-grade fuel.
Turn a blind eye to the profitable NGO’s setting up camps all over the nation. Adopt a baby, sponsor a family, or volunteer: all for a few hundred or thousand dollars a month depending on your gullibility.
A friend of mine in Nepal once said this to me:
Nepal is a big cake, the politicians today have divided it all up for themselves; and left us mere crumbs.
A hopeful rise of woman power may solve Nepal’s troubles
Indeed as I read my Nepalese emails I do see a change.
The one thing I find amazing in Nepal is the power of the Nepalese women. While the men are outspoken, can talk for hours and have done so for decades. I notice Nepalese women taking the reigns.
In a class system many women have little say in public matters. But times are changing. Last year a consortium of local female business leaders took to the streets of Pokhara to demand that the Maoists “not” hold yet another protest strike.
“We’ve had enough of this. No more strikes. We want our businesses open and our children going to school”
It’s a shrewd move supported by the men too. The violent political youth gangs that have terrorized previous “male” protests were powerless. Admitting that not even they would want to raise a hand against their own grandmothers.
It worked. The Maoist party did not go on strike. And, the nation applauded the women’s defiance.
Last week Nepal voted for the 17th time in 6 months for a new Prime Minister. Yet, it’s the same old faces vying for power – with this sort of behavior; it doesn’t look good for a stable future. But will the international media even report on this story?
Is there hope for Nepal?
I still have a lot of hope for Nepal. It is the bridge between two massive super powers and should surely be taking a far more assertive stance than its current sub-servant role. It’s up to the people of Nepal to decide their future, no one else.
Surely the new government should be obedient to the needs of the Nepalese people, and not just to their personal wants. As education spreads throughout this tiny country people are waking up to this and seeing the plunder around them.
From South East Asia comes hope
I sit here in tropical South East Asia with a fever. Common flu that I will recover from. But, it’s given me some time to sit and watch.
Some internet, and a laptop enable me to have a room with a view on a world in turmoil. It’s like watching a Science Fiction movie from the 90’s to watch international news today. And, I think of the little forgotten country sitting on the roof of the world.
I hope one day soon Nepal will walk a new road towards enlightenment. I hope they will have room for my return. I hope the strong kind people of Nepal will find their way again; before it’s too late.
This is an additional editorial featuring travel related articles, view points, conversational topics and helpful resources based on experiences I’ve learned from my around the world journey