What reforms on Nepal’s economic policies are needed for accelerating development?

1. Introduction

Nepal is a developing country sandwiched between the two giant economies of the world: China and India. Nepal has emerged from a decade long civil war recently and it is in the process of writing a new constitution. In this context, Nepal’s political parties (there are more than twenty) and civil societies are actively debating which political system Nepal should adopt under its new constitution. However, a rather more important question – what economic policies should Nepal adopt under the new constitution, has rarely been discussed. There is no better time to start this discussion as the economy and the political system are strongly tied to each other. This question has become even more important after the massive Earthquake shook the country few weeks ago that claimed more than 8500 lives and destroyed several important infrastructures.

China has been enjoying exponential economic growth in recent decades despite the rising inequality between the rich and the poor. The Indian economy has also shown great potential for growth, although its GDP Per Capita is less than half than that of China. Nevertheless, India and China both can be the role models for Nepal for economic development.

The economy of Nepal has been more affected by the Indian economy than the Chinese economy for various reasons. First, unlike the Nepal-India border which is relatively loose and open, the border between Nepal and China is strongly regulated. Second, Nepal is connected to India through a denser road network – thanks to the flat Nepal-India border. In contrast, Nepal and China are geographically separated by the Himalayas. In addition, Nepal and India have fixed currency exchange rate and stronger social/cultural ties compared to China. More recently, the struggle between China and India on who should lead over the region has provided both opportunities and dilemma in Nepal.

This paper assesses the key development indicators of Nepal and compares them with that of its neighbors China and India. The paper attempts to answer two important questions commonly raised in the forums engaged in the debates about Nepal’s development. First, why Nepal has not been able to gain momentum in economic development despite the availability of natural and human resources? Second, what reforms in development policies could enable Nepal to catch up with India or China?

2. Diagnosis: evolution and current status of socioeconomic indicators

2.1 Gross domestic Product

gdpFigure 1. GDP per capita trend. Data source: Madisson Project. 

GDP is the total market value of goods and services produced in a country in a given year and is a widely used indicator of the economic health of a country. The trend of GDP for Nepal, India, and China is presented in Figure 1. The GDP per capita trend of Japan and South Korea, who have set model for economic development in Asia, is also presented for direct comparison. Japan and South Korea seem to have gained economic momentum right after the Second World War. Nepal appears to be crawling without any changes. India seems to rise slowly after 1980 when India introduced major economic policy reforms although these have been criticized. China appears to have gained momentum after 1979 with the rise of Deng Xiaoping, when the Chinese government introduced several economic growth reforms in 1979. The effect of the 1997 Asian financial crisis is noted in Figure 1 which seem to have affected South Korea more and Japan less while the rest of the countries seem not to be affected.

2.2 Human development index

hdiFigure 2. Human Development Index. Data source: UNDP.

HDI, proposed by Indian economist Amartya Sen and Pakistani economist Mahbub ul Haq in 1990, is a composite index of four statistics: life expectancy at birth, the adult literacy rate, a combined school enrollment ratio, and GDP per capita in purchasing power parity terms. The trend of HDI in Figure 2 shows that Nepal has fallen behind its neighbors although the trend is improving over time. Japan and Korea appear to have reached saturation in terms of HDI. Nepal and India’s HDI is even lower than that of Korea and Japan in 1980.

2.3 Poverty

The headcount index for China, India, and Nepal is presented in Figure 3, which shows that these countries do not seem very different in terms of poverty. The percentage of population living below $1.25 per day in Nepal has fallen to about 24% by 2010 which is comparable to that of India. China looks remarkably successful in bringing down this indicator to less than 10% by 2010.

povFigure 3. Poverty Headcount Index below $1.25/day (PPP). Data source: The World Bank.

2.4 Corruption

The corruption perception index data by Transparency International (Figure 4) shows that there may be a strong correlation between corruption and economic growth. For example, Japan is the least corrupt countries among the five countries being compared, and Nepal is the most corrupt country. This is generally consistent with the growth trend data in earlier GDP report with the exception that China seems to be more corrupt than India despite its higher GDP, although the difference is not very high.

corruptionFigure 4. Corruption Perception Index for 2014. Data source: Transparency International.

2.5 Foreign Aid

Nepal receives foreign aid from a number of donors. The major donors are The World Bank, Asian Development Bank, Japan, UK, and the US in order from largest to smallest. Nepal has received about $59.16 Billion in aid since 1952. Among the foreign aid received, the sectors receiving the funds are Education, Local Development, Health, Roads, and Drinking Water from highest to lowest. Foreign aid and grants constituted about 15% of the proposed budget in FY 2014/15.

In 2014, India received about $ 1.67 Billion, Nepal received about $ 0.8 Billion, and China received about $0.2 Billion.

aiddFigure 5. Timeline of foreign aid received by Nepal. Data source: AidData.

The timeline of annual amount of aid received by Nepal is presented in Figure 5. In general, the trend is increasing. The aid reduced around 1996 marking the start of civil war led by Maoists that lasted until 2006. After 2006, Nepal’s political situation became relatively more stable and donors support is increasing.

2.6 Foreign Direct Investment

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Figure 6. Timeline of Foreign Direct Investment as percentage of GDP. Data source: The World Bank.

Foreign direct investment (FDI) in Nepal as percentage of GDP is presented in Figure 6. FDI seems to have increased after around 2006 reaching a peak in 2010 after which it again decreased. FDI being less than 0.5% of GDP at present does not seem to be a large contributor in Nepal’s economy. This is one area where Nepal could potentially benefit in the future if an investment-friendly environment is created. In particular, the hydropower sector can benefit greatly from FDI given the current hiatus in developing large-scale hydropower projects due to the lack of investment capital.

2.7 Remittances

Total workers’ remittances received for the countries being compared is presented in Figure 7 below. The contribution to GDP from remittances for Nepal seems spectacular hitting more than 20% after 2010. This is consistent with the increasing trend of workers going abroad for work mainly in the Middle Eastern countries, Korea, India and other countries. For more developed countries like China, Japan and Korea, remittances appear to be a small fraction of the total GDP though large in total volumes. For India, remittances only contribute to about 3% of total GDP at present. The increasing trend of migrant workers in recent decades can be attributed to a multiple reasons including rising unemployment as a result of the Maoist-led civil war, increasing activities of manpower companies, and the swift development of information and technology that penetrated through the rural villages.

remi

Figure 7. Total workers’ remittances and compensation received as percentage of GDP. Data source: The World Bank.

3. Discussion

3.1 Politics and development paradigms

Two distinct theories have been proposed by two Nobel laureates Friedrich Hayek and Karl Gunnar Myrdal for development. Hayek’s economic development theory was more liberal and argued that free markets can solve many societal problems in their own. His arguments supported the strengthening of communities at the grassroots level. In contrast, Myrdal’s view was that the development effort would be largely ineffective unless there were regulations backed by compulsion. He basically promoted top-down state planning. For example, growth production requires machines, which individuals may not be able to purchase. For this reason, Myrdal supported more state intervention to help individuals and communities overcome market failures.

Nepal seems to be following both paradigms at different times. The presence of left wings groups represented by communist parties including the Maoists have been defending a more state oriented view like Myrdal’s while other political parties mainly the Nepali Congress have been defending a more capitalistic and free market economy. In Nepal’s context, as raised by many economists, the question is not whether more or less state but a better state. Political stability is a great challenge in Nepal. Although Nepal became a democratic regime some decades ago, there has been much turbulence in its political system. Nepal’s civil war led by Maoists between 1996-2006 severely hindered Nepal’s economic growth which can be seen in all the indicators of development presented above.

3.2 Internal Determinants

Resources

Nepal is not poor in terms of resources. There is huge potential for hydropower development but merely a small fraction of it has been harnessed. Currently the installed capacity of hydropower is about 600 MW while the demand is well above 900 MW. Load shedding up to 15 hours a day is common in winter seasons in Nepal. About 60% of the total population of Nepal does not have access to electricity as light source, let alone the luxury of appliances. Industrial development has not expanded in Nepal due to a lack of reliable power supplies. India is the sole supplier of fossil fuels in Nepal and the demand for petroleum products has been rising exponentially. Because of a poor supply chain, supply of petroleum products can be interrupted for several days in a year. The issue often becomes the agenda of politics for the opposition parties.

One of the major problems in Nepal’s hydropower development is that many rivers have been shared with India and there are numerous water rights issues between Nepal and India. Most recently, Nepal signed three major hydropower deals which, if implemented, can revolutionize Nepal’s industrial sector while fostering overall development. Nepal recently gave a green light to the GMR groups, an Indian company, for a historic 900 MW upper Karnali hydroelectric project worth a $1.4 billion. Nepal also signed PDA with India’s Satluj Jalvidyut Nigam Limited (SJVNL) for another 900 MW hydro project Arun III in November, 2014 (ekantipur). Similarly, Three Gorges Corps., a Chinese company was given orders to execute the 750 MW West Seti River hydropower project worth $1.6 billion. While these projects have shown hope in Nepal’s development, their implementation still seem very far off given the government’s lack of experience, geography- and weather-related barriers, and social and environmental problems. In addition, it is not clear how much Nepal will really benefit from these projects because the Project Development Agreement (PDA) may not be in favor of Nepal given the inequality of bargaining power between Nepal and India or China.

Tourism is yet another potential which is recently booming with the increase in publicity through various tourism activities such as the celebration of Visit Nepal Year 2011. Tourism contributed to about 8.2% of the total GDP in 2013. The tourism industry is one such sector where private entities have invested more than the government. However, the private sector has the tendency to focus on its own private gain and is not solely responsible for managing and preserving the common or public points of attraction. Government’s role is very important in preserving and managing such public purposes.

The agricultural sector is the backbone of Nepal’s economy and contributes about one-third of the gross domestic product. However, this sector remains traditional to date and the agricultural productivity is very low. If agricultural practices are modernized like what Deng did in China, agriculture could substantially enhance economic growth in Nepal and by reducing the dependency of Nepal on India.

Geography

Nepal is a landlocked country and has to rely on India for connecting to the rest of the world. Air transport has potential, but there is only one international airport in Nepal. Improvements in air transportation have helped other landlocked countries like Rwanda by allowing the country to increase exports. Nepal can also utilize air transportation in order to overcome its geographic constraints. Recently, China agreed on a proposal for Nepal to construct new roads connecting Nepal with Tibet. This should bring additional opportunities in Nepal’s economic growth given a very old history of trade practice between Nepal and Tibet among their people.

Corruption

Corruption is one of the major problems in developing countries including Nepal, India, and China. With Nepal’s score on the corruption perception index being the highest among the countries being compared, corruption is one of the major constraints in Nepal’s development. High corruption in Nepal can be attributed to a number of factors. First, although there are a number of acts and regulations meant to curtail corruption, these have been weakly enforced. Second, the salary and incentives of the civil service employees are very low which may have increased corruption. A better performance-based reward and punishment system could potentially reduce this problem. Third, a decade of political instability has restricted the effective implementation of existing anti-corruption policies. Nepal’s bureaucracy is resistant to change, which is in fact more powerful than the government. The corruption is highly institutionalized in Nepal within the bureaucracy. A commission for investigation of abuse of authority (CIAA) was formed after the establishment of democracy in Nepal in 1990. CIAA has been very effective in recent years for curtailing corruption. CIAA is often criticized for catching only the small fish while leaving the big fish responsible for more significant corruption untouched. The boom of NGO’s and media also have helped curtail corruption by raising awareness among the people. Despite the increasing anti-corruption activities, corruption has not reduced as expected. In this context, a stronger intervention at the political level may be an effective strategy in controlling corruption.

3.3 External Determinants

Regional Dynamics

Nepal’s economy cannot be isolated from its giant neighbors. India and China are fighting for leadership in the region. India has made good progress but is still substantially behind China. China’s remarkable recent economic growth stands on the foundation laid by Deng Xiaoping, who transformed/modernized agricultural sector first and then took on the industrial sector. Deng is considered “the architect” of a new brand of socialist thinking, combining the Communist Party’s socialist ideology with a pragmatic adoption of market economic practices. Deng starting in 1978 opened China to the international market. China is now the leading nation in exports and the second largest economy in the world. Nepal has an excellent chance of benefiting from both neighboring giants with appropriate policies in place. Diplomatic relations with both giants should be balanced and should not be inclined to either China or India, as both could be detrimental.

Foreign Aid and Investment

The trend of foreign aid is certainly increasing in Nepal as seen in Figure 5. Despite the increasing foreign aid over time, Nepal has not gained proportional momentum in development in terms of increasing growth, building capacity, and accelerating achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. As a result, aid effectiveness has been questioned by the international community.

Various foreign aid projects have been implemented in Nepal by donor agencies based on past experiences in different places. However, if something works in Africa, it may not necessarily work in Asia. While a proper monitoring and evaluation system in place can increase aid effectiveness in part, institutional capacity development of Nepal can only ensure the effectiveness of aid in the long run.

Trade and Finance

Nepal became the member of world trade organization in 2004 so its impact on Nepal’s economy has not been clearly seen yet. The membership can bring opportunities for Nepal in the sense that the Nepalese products and services will get access to global markets with equal treatment compared to other member states. However, it can also bring negative consequences by encroachment of foreign multinational companies that can shadow local enterprises. Although Nepal’s export has increased with the growth of carpet and garment industries after 2000, negative consequences have been observed recently—the import to export ratio has increased from 2.31 to 3.40 from pre accession period to post accession period. In this context, Nepal should focus on increasing exports which can potentially be achieved by formulating appropriate market policies and better connecting Nepalese market with Chinese/Indian as well as the global market through air and road network.

Microfinance activities are rising recently in Nepal with various micro credit institutions in place. The importance of microfinance was recognized by the government with the establishment of democracy and district cooperatives. The activities increased at the grassroots level with the introduction of microcredit and micro finance institutions proposed by Bangladeshi Nobel Laureate Muhammad Yunus. While microfinance’s role on economic development is not clear due to the lack of reliable data, it can certainly contribute in poverty reduction and in reducing inequality.

Remittances are booming in Nepal recently as shown previously but it does not appear to contribute to growth. Clemens and Mckenzie (2014) showed that GDP growth and remittance growth are uncorrelated. Remittance inflows are always associated with labor outflows and the net effect on growth is extremely challenging to measure.

4. Concluding Remarks

Nepal has a great potential for economic development despite being landlocked and vulnerable to weather-related calamities. Nepal can greatly benefit from its two economic giants through appropriate proactive diplomacy. Large markets of India and China as well as global market can be Nepal’s opportunity for export if appropriate trade policies are made while strengthening the connectivity with these markets through air and road network. Hydropower and tourism are the two most viable sectors, investment on which can foster rapid economic development. Implementation of some large-scale hydropower projects can potentially help the country cross the poverty line and push the country’s economic growth rate towards the double digit. Remittance should not be taken as an indicator of economic development and the present increasing dependency of Nepal’s economy on remittance may not result in economic development in the long run.

The author is grateful to Dr. Joshua Busby for helpful comments. This paper is the outcome of a class project of the course ‘International Development’ at the LBJ school of public affairs, UT Austin.

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Get the facts on the recent Earthquakes in Nepal

Another huge quake has hit Nepal on May 12, 2015 scratching the wound on Nepalese people caused by the massive Earthquake that had occurred on April 25 as the wound had just started healing. This quake having a 7.3 moment magnitude is still considered as an aftershock of the earlier massive Earthquake that occured on April 25, 2015. Our family member and friends are safe again but that does not mean anything when the country is counting the number of deaths and damages. People are still scared to live inside their houses because of a series of ongoing aftershocks. The damage this time has been mostly in the Eastern parts of Kathmandu including Dolakha, Solukhumbu (where the Mount Everest stands), Sindhupalchowk, Kathmandu itself, and some additional districts of Eastern Nepal. This Earthquake’s epicenter was closer to the Himalayas ( and further damage could be emerging because of avalanches and glaciers/lake burst. As Nepal waits for the mighty monsoon season, it is also possible that landslides will follow which can potentially sweep villages and block the rivers and only surviving roads. This is merely a small account of the massive Earthquake from a person living abroad. In this situation, we really need to be wise and strong to prevent further damage to our society. Some very important things to do now are:

1. Prepare for the worst but do not create havoc or panic among people. Share and spread inspiring stories and humanitarian works in social media rather than criticizing the government and other people. Leave the media to do such things.

2. Educate yourself about the Earthquake and find the facts before telling anything to others and sharing anything in the social media. Please visit Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology (IRIS) website for a number of detailed information about these specific earthquake events. The website also has a number of peer-reviewed publications related to Earthquake events in the Himalayan region. You can also get the factual live details of the Earthquakes happening around the world including Nepal in the same IRIS website.

The facts and live details of the Earthquake in Nepal can also be found in the United States Geological Survey (USGS) website.

Please read my recent article (Nepali) in a digital media of Nepal called Setopati. Raising awareness about the Earthquake and telling the facts to the common people is one of the most important things to do now.

Lets unite. Lets learn. Lets help. And lets be prepared.

Earthquake relief effort by the Jackson School of Geoscience community

06/23/2015 update

The project got delayed a bit but we wanted to implement the project in coordination with the local government authorities and provide more durable shelter for the victims of the Earthquake.  The project has been finally executed successfully with some changes based on local circumstances.

10339420_1077463148939784_5111644498039440812_oProject leader Sushma Paudel (middle) and my father (middle, with a cap) along with other social workers handing over the steel truss system to be used for Homestay.

The target area was Barpak, which was completely flattened by the Earthquake. Until the Earthquake, Barpak was a famous tourist destination and it was very well known for it’s unique tourism known as ‘Homestay‘. The local people wanted to revive their tradition and we decided to support them. We coordinated with the Office of the Chief District Officer, Officer of the District Development Committee, local social workers, and media persons to identify the families in need. The project was led voluntarily by Sushma Paudel, a local female journalist and social activist, who is also a member of the Federation of Nepali Journalist. We were able to fund two families for constructing shelters to be used for Homestay from the fund that we collected at the Jackson School of Geosciences. Two additional shelters will also be supported from another source of Funding in the following week.

The shelter will be constructed using steel truss system and CGI sheets which can be easily assembled on site and moved to another location if required.

The families being supported will operate the Homestay and will invest a portion of the profit back to the community. They will also provide shelter to the people in need during the upcoming Monsoon season and provide space for community activities.

11655101_1077518918934207_590971975_nCGI sheets and other accessories to be used for building the ‘Homestay’ shelter. 

11650796_1077519072267525_936741343_nHand-over ceremony held in the office of the District Development Committee, Gorkha.

I heartily thank the project leader Susma Paudel and her team, CDO Uddav Raj Timilsina, Local Development Officer Prem Giri, and other local activists for supporting this project in different ways. This project was only possible due to the generosity of the people from the Jackson School of Geosciences Community listed below. I am again extremely grateful to them.

Follow this link to read a news about this project published in a local newspaper. I will soon be posting more pictures after the shelters are built in the actual site.

Thank you again to everyone involved in this project. We can certainly make great difference with our little effort.

05/22/2015 update

The collected fund has been sent to Nepal via Western Union – thanks to Western Union for waiving the transfer fee. Construction of a community hall in a worst-hit village Barpak, Gorkha is being considered. This fund will provide the CGI sheets and additional support for the whole building construction is being sought.

May 11, 2015 update

Many members of our community at the Jackson School of Geosciences have responded to the Nepal Earthquake and donated generously to the victims of the massive Earthquake that occurred on April 25, 2015. Although your supports have been more than what can be expressed in words, I can only thank you all for your support and financial contributions made through various organizations involved in the relief effort on behalf of the people of Nepal and myself. Specifically, I must thank Dr. Laurie Schuur Duncan, Dr. Bayani Cardenas, Dr. Kathy Ellins, Dr. Zong-Liang Yang, Dr. Gary Kocurek, Dr. Sharon Mosher, Dr. Kerry Cook, and Dr. Rong Fu for supporting in this effort in different ways.

Some bighearted people including Dr. Kathy Ellins, with whom I am doing TA, showed their desire in helping the Earthquake victims directly after I sent e-mail to the Jackson School of Geosciences community. Together, as of 05/13/2015, we have been able to raise $1,225.00 in cash/check in addition to the donations made online. I would like to thank the following people for their generous contribution:

1. Laurie Duncan and her husband Drew, UT-Austin

2. Kathy Ellins, UT-Austin

3. Bayani Cardenas, UT-Austin

4. Alison Hansen, UT-Austin

5. Chengling Gong, UT-Austin

6. Liuqin Chen, UT-Austin

7. Patricia Bobeck, UT-Austin

8. Katherine Strandberg, UT-Austin

9. Jisun Kim, UT-Austin

10. Karen Relly Brown,  Lauderdale, Florida

In order to distribute the collected fund to the victims directly, I am coordinating with some of my friends affiliated with a club in my hometown, which is just about 50 miles away from the epicenter of the Earthquake. In the verge of the upcoming monsoon season, the plan is to provide Corrugated Galvanized Iron (CGI) Sheets to some worst-hit families of the Earthquake and assist them in constructing shelter so that they do not have to live under the open sky. Some members of the club led by a female journalist have volunteered for the cause and will be executing the project in coordination with the local government authorities. Please note that, in Nepal, one small house roughly requires about 20 CGI sheets worth $200, which means that about 5 families will be directly benefited from $1,000.

I will be updating this page as we continue to help the victims of the Earthquake. I also wrote an article (although it is in Nepali) in a popular digital media of Nepal Setopati to raise awareness about the Earthquake. If anyone is still willing to donate, I can be reached at psagar@utexas.edu or at my office JGB 5.322.

Once again, thank you very much to all.

Please read my earlier post to get more information about the Earthquake including some videos and pictures, and additional ways to help.

Message to the Jackson School of Geosciences family at UT Austin

Thank you very much to all who have already donated to the victims of the Earthquake in Nepal. I also thank you all for your concern and being with the people of Nepal at this difficult time. Although my extended family members are safe until today, some of my friends and many other people were not so lucky and did not survive the Earthquake. I still feel guilty for not being able to go there and help the victims of the devastating Earthquake. So I am trying to do what I can do from here.

Now I have also started collecting funds directly to ensure that the donations are properly utilized. Sending help through large organizations has been less effective for immediate relief because the government and NGOs/INGOs have not been able to reach the rural areas where the worst damage have been reported and survivors are in desperate need of some help. Specifically, they are in desperate need of some Tents, foods, and medical supplies to keep themselves and their children safe. My plan is to mobilize my friends who are living close to the affected rural areas and help the Earthquake victims directly through them. So if you have not already donated and still wanting to donate, please provide your donations to me in the form of cash or check. I will do my best to keep the fund transparent, ensure that a single penny that you donate is properly utilized, and keep you posted. Please reply to me at psagar@utexas.edu and I will come to collect your donations. Alternatively, I would appreciate if you can come to my office JGB 5.322 and drop your donations.

Please feel free to donate through any organizations of your choice. Some options to donate are:

1. Prime Minister Disaster Relief Fund

2. Help Nepal Network

3. Non-resident Nepali Association

Thank you so much again for your overwhelming support.

To get a feel of the devastation, please see below:

A live footage

Latest coverage in CNN

Must read tips for Nepal travelers

If you are planning a trip to Nepal, there are a very few things that you must know. Please keep in mind that you are going to a developing country where facilities and quality of life may be poorer when compared to that in the developed countries. However, Nepal is a famous tourist destination and a range of facilities is available depending upon whether you are a budget traveler or a business traveler. Know that Nepal is one of the safest travel destination. If you heard it is not safe, it was so many years ago during the civil war, even then, it was unsafe only in some rural areas.

What to Know?

Roads are poorly maintained and traffic laws are weakly enforced. Roads are often without footpath so be careful while walking on the roads. Begging is common but ignore the beggars as giving encourages begging. Always greet your passerby with a smile saying ‘Namaste’. Turbulent rainfalls with thunderstorms and winds are common in Nepal, specially in summer, the monsoon season. Weather may change abruptly and may cause delays/cancellations in local flights. Expect unscheduled strikes leading to a complete road/market closure for hours/day, so make your travel plan more flexible. Momo and chowmin are the most common food along with the regular Nepali Thali (rice, lentil soup, seasonal vegetable curry, cooked green leaves, optional chicken/mutton curry, and pickles). Please be extra careful while buying street foods for their quality; you must try Pani Puri or Chat if you like spicy food though. Always drink cheaply available bottled mineral water as the public tap water is not potable unlike in the western world. Always check the date of expiry for whatever you buy. Bargaining is very common in shopping so always be generous in bargaining. Almost all transactions are carried in cash so always keep sufficient cash/change with you. ATMs and Banks are commonly found in the cities like Kathmandu and Pokhara but they might be difficult to find if you are going for trekking in the mountainous region.

Where to go?

Patan_Durbar_Square_at_Night

From Kathmandu: As there is only one international airport (Tribhuvan International Airport) in Nepal, your entry point is always Kathmandu, the city of temples (note that over 90% people in Nepal are Hindu). As in other developing cities around the world, you will experience the hustle and bustle of city life there. If you are not interested in the history or temples, go directly to the outskirts of the city such as Nagarkot, from where you can see the beautiful Himalayan range at sunrise. If you are a pro rafter, consider going to Bhotekoshi River, a four hour drive from Kathmandu. Since it is in the same direction, consider also to include a bunjee jumping adventure at The Last Resort hotel in your itinerary.


Mount Everest.

If you are going Nepal just to experience Mount Everest, consider trekking to the Mt. Everest Base Camp. In this case, you will have to first take a flight from Kathmandu to Lukla (30 minutes), the gateway to the Mount Everest Base Camp. The whole return trip to the base camp is about 20 days.


Reflection of Annapurna himalayan range on Fewa Lake.

From Pokhara: If you want a closer look of the Himalayas, go straight to Pokhara valley, also known as honeymoon city, one of the most beautiful cities of Nepal. Take either a half an hour flight or a 6-8 hours bus ride from Kathmandu. If you go by bus, you will have the opportunity to enjoy the scenic hilly landscape and do rafting in Trishuli River on the way. You will be welcomed by a myriad cultures and smiling people in Pokhara. Enjoy the varieties of local and international food while looking at the reflection of the Annapurna Himalayan Range on the Phewa Lake. Pokhara is also the gateway to the world famous trekking route Annapurna Circuit. The longer you trek to the North, the closer you get to the Himalayas; cross them if you dare and look from behind. Please don’t go without a trekking guide if you are going to trek the whole Annapurna Circuit (15-20 days); they are cheaply available. If you are an amateur climber, go for a short trekking (3-4 days) given below, which you can do even without a trekking guide.

If you are traveling Nepal for a short period of time, below is a action-packed 10-day itinerary:

Day 1: Arrival at Kathmandu
Day 2: Rafting at Trishuli River and arrival to Pokhara
Day 3: Pokhara sightseeing (Boating, para-jumping, Davi’s Fall, World Peace Monastery, Gupteshwor and Mahendra Cave, etc.)
Day 4-8: Trekking to a part of Annapurna circuit (route: Nayapool – Birethati – Tikhedhunga – Ghorepani – Poonhill – Tadapani – Ghandruk – Nayapool (Staying in decent guesthouses in-between)
Day 9: Fly from Pokhara to Kathmandu and do sight seeing in the evening
Day 10: Bunjee jumping at the Last Resort
Day 11: Depart from Kathmandu

What to Carry?

1. Raincoat/umbrella (must have if you are traveling in summer)
2. High quality frictionless undergarments (people often get allergy because of friction while walking, also carry antiperspirant/anti fungal powder)
3. Torch light (expect daily load shedding for a few hours in the evening, specially in winter)
4. Warm clothes (specially if you are going for trekking)
5. Water sports shoes/a pair of slippers, a pair of comfortable hiking shoes, plenty of very good cotton socks, and probably leech socks?
6. Hat/sunscreen lotion, sunglasses, cold cream
7. Mosquito repellent spray (not really needed)
8. A mask and a lip balm (is a must)
9. A medium trekking bag with double straps (must be very comfortable)
10. Tooth brush/paste
11. Nausea pills (riding in road bends may cause nausea/vomiting)
12. Muscle/joint pain relief spray
13. A small towel/wet wipes
14. A small sleeping bag (backup)
15. Water bottle (not really needed since mineral water bottles are commonly available)

When to go?

Nepal can be traveled in all seasons. Personally, I like rainy season because I enjoy being connected to the nature. One more reason is that, during the rainy season, everything is green, from the paddy fields, to the forests. You will love it when the majestic mountains play hide and seek with the clouds; just imagine the face of a beautiful young lady hidden in a scarf. Your inner passion will be rejuvenated when you connect to the nature – guaranteed. However, if you are trekking, it is more comfortable to travel in trekking seasons, which are March-June, and September-November.

There is much more Nepal has to offer for you. Please check this list of top 18 most beautiful places of Nepal if you are there for the real adventure.

1024px-Barun_Valley_-_Nghe
Barun Valley in the Monsoon.

And don’t forget to check out:

1. The official travel website of the government of Nepal for more detailed advice.

2. This summary video about Nepal.

Welcome to Nepal. I wish you all the best in your adventure.

Namaste!

An untold story of a himalayan boy

He was born in a small village of a small country. Only a few adventurous people around the world know his country by its name. Most of the people presume that he is from India. That bothers him sometimes. He is even more bothered when they can’t locate his country on the map when he reveals his identity.

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He was told that his country has never been under any reign from very long time known. He was told that his ancestors fought with the then ruler of India, East India Company, and Tibet, backed by the superpower China. His ancestors survived despite being sandwiched between two giants. His identity was not lost in history. So he is proud of his history.

Every morning, majestic mountains standing high greeted him when he woke up. Throughout the day, he heard holy sounds coming from temples and monasteries. In the night, he slept after listening to the rhythm of the gurgling river.

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He was born on the patio. He saw hospital for the first time when he was 10. He is an example of ‘survival of the fittest‘. Had he been attacked by a disease at that time, chances were that his story would be written differently.

Many sisters were born before his father was born. Eight of them survived. But more people meant more productivity at that time. Everything was grown on muscle power by then. The hilly area was terraced to make fields where everything needed for the family was grown. The only things not grown were salt and sugar, for which his grandfather went to the town sometimes. In the monsoon season, the whole village looked beautiful in the greenness of the paddy fields. After harvesting rice, wheat and corn were grown. In the garden, seasonal vegetables were grown. Cucumber was his favorite at that time. He never let a young cucumber grow old. His grandmother always accused other children in the neighborhood every time a cucumber disappeared overnight.

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At that time, neighbors meant a lot, and people exchanged everything including food, fire, and workforce. Only a few richer people in the village kept a matchbox. Other people would not extinguish their hearth completely or they would ask their neighbors for firelight. His parents had only one ox, so they collaborated with their neighbor to make a pair. The villagers celebrated every festival together. In one of the greatest festivals called ‘Dashain‘, he competed with his young colleagues in picking leaves from a tall tree while being on the swing.

He worked in the field to help his parents. When there was no work left, he went to school.

On the next hill was his school located. His parents had to pay $0.02 every month for his tuition. He had to walk for an hour to go to school. Every morning his grandmother baked corn in a clay pot, in which only a few corns really popped. He would put the baked corn in his pocket and go to Khoria (ranch) to bring fodder for the cattle. He would return in a few hours and eat the meal hurriedly, prepared by his grandmother. After the meal, he would wear his mud-colored school dress (which was originally white) and get ready to go to the school. On the way to the school, he would drive his cattle to the pastures on the flood plains of the river. He reached the school late everyday to be punished by his teacher with a sturdy stick. There was no ‘children’s right’ back then.

There were only two class rooms in his school, yet it was a primary school. Half of the classes took place outside on the grass carpet. He hoped to see black cloud in the sky because it meant early to home. When inside the class, he sat on a wooden flake supported by two stone pillars. In the break, he played football made by packing torn clothes in his father’s old sock with his friends.

When returning from the school, he would drive his cattle back. Among the cattle was a holy cow, which gave milk everyday. The cow was very loyal to him, she clearly identified his voice. She would be right at the ranch gate everyday when he reached there while coming back from the school. He had to reach home before it became too dark, to avoid being attacked by wild animals. Once the cow didn’t come to the ranch gate as usual on time. He went as far as he could go searching for her. He yelled calling her nickname ‘nani’ until his voice became hoarse. But she didn’t return. A few days later, one of his friend told him that he saw a skeletal on the other side of the forest.

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His grandfather told that wicked spirit and ghost would come at night if he commits a mistake, which he undoubtedly believed. So he was obliged to be righteous from the very beginning.

His grandfather also told him the stories of ‘Mahabharata‘ and ‘Ramayana‘, which became the ideals of his life. Inspired by the stories, he asked his grandfather to make him bow and arrow. He made several unsuccessful attempts to hunt wild birds with the bow and arrow. Later, he switched to stone throwing technology. Then he was able to hunt some birds. When he hunted a bird, his friends considered him a hero.

His grandmother always complained about his grandfather. His grandfather went to a neighboring country when he was young for earning money. He returned after 15 years without a dime. His father followed his grandfather’s path and went to India for a better job.

He had a small circle of friends. In that circle, he shared his happiness and sorrow. When he cried, his friends comforted him. When his grandfather brought a candy for him from the town, he crushed it with a stone and shared with his friends. That is how he played ‘candy crush saga’ long time ago.

His parents wanted to send him and his siblings to a better school. He moved to the town as his parents started a business there. He had now new friends from the town. Some of his new friends had Brick Games. Some of them even had bicycles. He wanted to own a money purse (even though he didn’t have money), but that was beyond his reach.

He went back to his village in the weekends. He reunited with his old friends and told stories of the town. He told them that he saw lights without flame there. He talked about the motors he saw there. He also told them that he actually saw the people who talked on the radio being locked in a slightly larger box. He also talked about the white people he saw in town, who looked to be from a different world.

When he was adult, he moved from the town to the capital city to go to the university. His parents wanted him to study higher and earn money and fame. His parents sent him money every month so that he could survive in the city, where he had to buy everything. He cried in a small rented room when he missed his home and his village. He felt lonely in the city because he could not afford the price of friendship there.

After his baccalaureate, he also followed his father’s path and decided to go abroad for higher studies. Now he is seen in the streets of the US. He has crossed the Indian ocean and the Atlantic ocean to reach the so called land of opportunities. While he feels lucky for being able to go to a world class university, he still feels strongly attached to his birthplace. If he returns his homeland someday without a dime, like his grandfather, at least his children and grandchildren will have a story to tell.