Is it time to go back to Nepal?

On 25 April and 12 May 2015, deadly earthquakes struck central Nepal, causing catastrophic damage to Kathmandu and the surrounding valleys. Harrowing pictures of magnificent temples turned to rubble and concrete hotels collapsed on their foundations were beamed around the world. Five months on from the disaster, Nepal has declared itself open for tourism, but is now the right time to come back to Nepal, and what exactly will you find when you get here?

ADB photo

Image by Asian Development Bank

Assessing the damage
Media images at the time of the earthquakes made it look as though Nepal was completely destroyed, with its astonishing cultural heritage in ruins. The truth makes for less sensational headlines: while 130 historic temples collapsed across the country, only 14 of Nepal’s 75 districts suffered damage, and many of Nepal’s most famous sights escaped completely unscathed.

Even at the height of the disaster, travellers were relaxing in the resort town of Pokhara, unaware of the destruction to towns just 50km away. In Kathmandu, the vast majority of hotels reopened within days of the earthquakes, with just a handful of historic heritage hotels remaining closed for repairs.

This is not the first time Nepal has faced an earthquake of this scale, and as in 1934, Nepalis have stepped in to save what can be saved, and are now rebuilding for the future. How quickly this can happen will depend to a large degree on how quickly tourists return to the country and invest in the local economy.

Here is an overview of how different parts of Nepal are recovering after the disaster.

Kathmandu suffered the full force of the earthquakes, and damage was extensive, but localised to specific parts of the city. Four of the iconic temples in the UNESCO-listed Durbar Square collapsed completely including the multi-tiered Maju Deval Temple, one of Kathmandu’s most famous landmarks but the majority of temples still stand and the square is once again open to sightseers.

The royal palace of Hanuman Dhoka remains closed due to structural damage to the southern courtyards, but work is underway to reopen the museum and palace chambers. Perhaps the most photographed casualty of the earthquake was the Bhimsen Tower, which collapsed completely for the second time in its history (it was also destroyed in the 1934 earthquake). Today, it stands as a ruined plinth, but developers have pledged to rebuild it.

Other major World Heritage Sites such as the magnificent Buddhist stupas at Swayambhunath and Bodhnath were only mildly affected; restoration work has repaired the most obvious damage and the most tangible evidence for the disaster is some lingering scaffolding. The sacred Hindu pilgrimage site of Pashupatinath saw a terrible tide of funeral cremations following the earthquake but the site itself was mostly undamaged.

Patan krishna Mandir

Image by Rene C. Nielsen

Patan, Bhaktapur & the Kathmandu Valley

Despite the loss of some landmark monuments, including the famous Char Narayan and Hari Shankar temples, Patan’s Durbar Square and its stunning Patan Museum are open as normal. The quakes took a heavy toll on the traditional brick buildings of Bhaktapur, but here too, most of the medieval temples are still standing, including Nepal’s tallest, the five-storey Nyatapola Temple.

Elsewhere in the Kathmandu Valley, the damage was patchy. Some places escaped with minor cracks, while towns like Sankhu and Bungamati saw temple after temple crumble to rubble. While the valley is definitely open to travellers, it’s worth checking with locals before heading off from Kathmandu to be clear on which areas are still off-limits due to reconstruction following the disaster.

pokhra-nepal

Image by Mike Behnken

Across the country

Looking beyond the Kathmandu Valley, the historic towns of Nuwakot and Gorkha and their fortress-palaces were particularly badly affected due to their proximity to the epicenters of the two tremors, and the quakes caused extensive damage to the road to the Tibetan border and the Langtang Valley. However, away from the center of the country, there are few signs that the earthquake ever happened.

The east and west of the country were not seriously affected by the disaster, and most damage is restricted to trekking routes in remote areas. The tourist and trekking hub of Pokhara was effectively untouched and the trekking routes around it have been surveyed and declared safe. Despite damage to some villages along the trails, trekking in the Everest region has also been declared safe.

In the lowlands, the towns and national parks of the Terai were almost entirely unaffected. Wildlife safaris in Chitwan National Park and Bardia National Park continue as normal and the number of tigers in Nepal is actually on the rise, bucking the regional trend. The birthplace of the Buddha at Lumbini – an increasingly popular stop on the overland route between India and Nepal – also escaped unharmed.

lukla-airport

Image by Chris Marquardt

Travelling to Nepal after the earthquake

The key thing to note is that infrastructure for tourists was remarkably unaffected by the disaster. Airports are operating as normal and almost all of Kathmandu’s tourist hotels and restaurants remain open, or will reopen for the winter tourist season, though business is currently slim. Kathmandu’s traveller district of Thamel is much as it was before the disaster, and transportation around the city, the Kathmandu Valley and the country continues as normal.

The main roads across Nepal are open to traffic (or as open as they ever were!), and the Arniko Hwy/Friendship Hwy to Tibet and Everest’s North Base Camp (in Tibet) is due to reopen for the 2015 winter season. However, roads are still cut off in some rural areas, where earthquake damage has been worsened by monsoon landslides. This situation is likely to persist for some time, so it pays to confirm that roads are clear and that accommodation will be available before leaving Kathmandu.

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Image by Wonderlane

So should I go ?
In August, the US and UK lifted their country-wide travel advisories against travel to Nepal, meaning that travellers and companies can once again get travel insurance for upcoming trips. Most western travel companies plan to run trekking trips as normal for the 2015/16 winter and spring seasons and some companies are even offering special reconstruction treks, though it’s now more important than ever to do some research and partner with a reliable NGO that has long-established links with the country.

Of course, Nepal still has its problems – including a fuel shortage caused by a political stand-off with India over the new Nepali constitution – but these kinds of issues are part of the landscape when travelling in the subcontinent. Despite these problems, in many ways now is a great time to visit Nepal.

The infrastructure that travellers need is in place, but tourism is down by over 50%, which means fewer crowds on the popular trekking routes and discounts for hotels and airfares. More importantly, the money you spend when hiring a guide or porter, staying in a lodge or hotel, or eating in a restaurant will directly help local people. Given that 500,000 Nepalis work directly in tourism, the country needs travellers more than ever to rebuild its economy and bounce back stronger for the future.

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Source: www.lonelyplanet.com

Indian children say very excited to reach Mt Everest base camp

The two Indian siblings who successfully reached the base camp of the world’s highest peak Mount Everest, becoming the youngest climbers to reach the destination, on Saturday said the experience was “very exciting”.
Five-year-old Kandarp Sharma and 8-year-old Ritwika successfully reached the base camp situated at an altitude of 5,380 metres in northeast Nepal on Monday. “It was very exciting experience for me to reach the base camp,” Ritwika told reporters here. “We saw snow falling from the mountain there and also saw the Everest which was very close from us.” The siblings reached the base camp of the 8,848-metre peak accompanied by their parents. After reaching Kalapatthar, the children had chanted ‘Bharat Maata Ki Jay’ and hoisted the tri-colour.

india children reach everest base camp

First-grader Kandarp and fourth-grader Ritvika are students of Little Angels High School in Gwalior in Madhya Pradesh. Both of them are national adventure sports players and are the world’s youngest siblings to scale such height. “It was a challenge for us and we have accepted it, without hesitation,” said Bhupendra Sharma, father of the two. Sharma, an adventure coach with 20 years of experience as international mountaineer, said: “Along with breaking the world record in mountaineering, the siblings also excelled in other sports including horse riding, swimming, parasailing, river crossing, jumaring, parallel rope traverse, flying fox, rock climbing and rippling where they have won many awards.”

Sharad Pradhan, media consultant of the Nepal Tourism Board, said the two Indian children have not only shown their love for mountains, but have also helped in promoting tourism in Nepal at a time when the country suffers in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake in April. The Kalapatthar peak is higher than the highest peaks in the US, Europe and Antarctica. By reaching the base camp, Kandarp broke the record previously held by Harshit who had reached the base camp in 2014 at the age of 5 years and 11 months.

The successful expedition has send a message to world climbers that the Everest trekking circuit was not damaged by the 7.8 magnitude earthquake that devastated other parts of the country and claimed nearly 9,000 lives. Felicitations and greetings have poured in for the children from many countries. Despite the difficulty, the two kids showed courage as big as the mountains themselves and by climbing the mountain in this challenging time for Nepal they helped in promoting tourism.

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Source: zeenews.india.com

Naturally Nepal needs tourists now more than ever, says Peter Athans

In the wake of the devastating April 25 earthquake and its subsequent aftershocks, one of the world’s foremost high-altitude mountaineers Saturday appealed to foreign visitors to come to Nepal as the country was in need of tourists now more than ever to revive its vital tourism sector.

Peter Athens

Talking to this daily, Peter Athans, who summited Mt Everest seven times, noted that it was an opportunity for global tourism to help Nepal in time of need as the country was always very welcoming to visitors and travellers.

Peter, who is also embarking on a three-week trip to Mustang with his team to explore ancient cave dwellings as well as to summit a few mountains in the region, said there were numerous things to explore in Nepal beyond the world’s highest peak.

“Tourism sector in Nepalis really hurting now after the earthquakes and visiting tourists can only heal it,” he said, mentioning that it was also high time tourists gave back to the places they visited.

The motivational speaker is also highly concerned about ongoing recovery efforts. He says they should focus more on community-based approach. “From a high-altitude worker to a tea house owner along the hiking trail, recovery and rebuilding efforts must mean something to them,” he said, terming the country a tourist-friendly host with a big heart and an even bigger resilience.

Saying that the resilient communities were still struggling hard to rebuild their lives after the tragic disaster, the country’s tourism goodwill ambassador also requested world media to highlight the ongoing rebuilding process as well as the country’s flora and fauna that remains untouched by the earthquakes to their global audiences.

“It’s not the time to repeatedly draw global attention only to the rubble and debris as three months have already passed after the quake shook the nation,” he said, referring to the findings of recent assessment that substantiate the fact that the country is a safe destination for visitors with its famed nature and culture. According to him, the disaster has also brought all stakeholders together in efforts to build back a better country.

Peter arrived in Nepal for the first time in 1981. He said he has been visiting the Himalayan nation every year and has also led numerous expeditions to the mountains. Being a strong proponent of Sherpa culture, Peter has documented Sherpa talents at high altitude in books and films as his name has been synonymous with the exploration of Mt Everest. “Nepal has now become my first home and not the second one.”

Peter, who has also been awarded the American Alpine Club’s David J Sowles Award (with Todd Burleson) for unparalleled bravery and selflessness during the May 1996 Everest disaster, also launched Magic Yeti Library project to support children’s education.

The Bainbridge Island-based mountaineer is also associated with Himalayan Cataract Project that brings eye care to cataract patients in Nepal and has recently authored abook, Tales from the Top of the World: Climbing Mount Everest with Pete Athans. The highaltitude film-maker has earned credits on films for NOVA, National Geographic Society and also the feature film, ‘Seven Years in Tibet’.

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Source: The Himalayan Times

Back on its feet, Nepal ready to receive tourists

Nepal’s economy, which was largely dependent on its tourism industry, had suffered a sharp decline of over 50 per cent after the earthquake.

pokhara1

Than three months since Nepal was hit by a massive earthquake which had taken a toll on its economy, the country is finally ready to receive tourists like before, said Deputy Consul General of the Nepal government Surendra Thapa in Kolkata on Friday. Speaking on the occasion of the Travel and Tourism fair being held in Kolkata, Thapa said Nepal, which used to receive 800,000 tourists annually, of which 150,000 were from India alone, has recovered from the devastating earthquake and urged Indians to make Kathmandu their next travel destination. Nepal’s economy, which was largely dependent on its tourism industry, had suffered a sharp decline of over 50 per cent after the earthquake. However, everything has gradually come back to normal, said an official of the Nepal Tourism Board. He pointed out that out of 75 Nepalese districts; only 11 surrounding Kathmandu were affected by the earthquake. But the tourist infrastructure such as roads, drinking water, healthcare, flights, airports and others are fully operational.

Urging Indian tourists to visit the neighboring country, the official said, “It is time to get over the psychological barrier and enjoy Nepal once again.” Further, he added that of the eight UNESCO-recognized tourism circuits recognized by the government, only three had been affected by the earthquake. The official also pointed out that more than 90 per cent hotels are back to business and telephones lines have also been restored. The tourism officials said a Japanese agency that came to assess the damage has identified that only 4 km of a total circuit of 210 km in about 36 trekking routes around Annapurna region was destroyed and the rest was safe for trekking. The popular Pokhara valley is also fully operational, they said.

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Source: www.indianexpress.com

Nepal Tourism Is Back On

Despite concerns about safety and infrastructure following the earthquakes earlier this year, Nepal has gotten the all-clear for tourism, including on Mt. Everest.

Nepal-Kathmandu-Valley-cr-getty

Following devastating earthquakes this spring, Nepal has officially been cleared to welcome tourists again, just in time for peak hiking season. Miyamoto, a structural engineering firm, oversaw a survey of Nepal’s infrastructure that was paid for by the British government. They determined that the country—as well as Annapurna, Mt. Everest, and other places favored by international tourists—is safe to visit. While the Nepalese government, which counts on tourism money to help boost its economy, is happy about the news, not everyone feels the same way.

“Travel insurance is the major problem for us right now,” Shiva Dhakal, the owner of the Royal Mountain Travel tour company, told The Guardian. “Travelers from the U.K. are scared.” The survey’s methods also drew concern, as it was pulled together in a short amount of time, leading some critics to argue that it wasn’t entirely thorough.

But not everyone is put off. Tauck, a U.S.-based tour operator, has announced that its previously scheduled Nepal visits this fall will go on as scheduled. The 17-day itinerary is primarily across India but includes three days in Kathmandu. Tauck corporate communications manager Tom Armstrong told Condé Nast Traveler that he felt confident sending travelers back to Nepal after his own partners there had okayed the venues they would be visiting, including the famed Dwarika’s Hotel.”We’ve been in consultation with all of our partners in Nepal since the earthquake,” he said. “We sent one of our employees, who has been to Nepal many times, in [early] July to go visit all the places our guests visit on our tour. He inspected them and found that, much to his surprise, it was better than anticipated. Based on the media coverage, there were a lot of areas that were better than he expected them to be.”

Nepal Reopens Earthquake-Damaged UNESCO Sites

The Tauck itinerary in Kathmandu includes a flight seeing trip through the Himalayas, a Q&A with a Sherpa, and a visit to the historic village of Bhaktapur. It doesn’t involve any mountain climbing, one of Nepal’s riskiest outings. The only change to the itinerary, Armstrong reports, was a planned visit to Durbar Square, one of the UNESCO sites in Kathmandu that was seriously damaged during the quakes. It has been replaced with a visit to a similar monument in less-precarious condition. “It’s definitely not intended to be an adventure itinerary,” Armstrong added. “The Nepal component is much more about history and culture. Typically, this [tour] appeals to a seasoned traveler who is culturally curious, who has traveled extensively.” He believes that people who want to help Nepal’s recovery efforts should do so by going there and spending money, as tourism is such a key part of the country’s economy.

A second Miyamoto report, this one funded by the World Bank, is due this week. It’s also expected to say that Nepal is ready to welcome back tourists.

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Source: www.cntraveler.com

Annapurna Circuit, sanctuary trails safe: Study

The structural damage in two popular trekking trails in the Annapurna Region following the earthquake of April 25 and aftershocks thereafter is very minimal, according to a study commissioned by the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation.

The study carried out by Miyamoto International — a global engineering, construction management and project management company — only 3 percent i.e. 6 out of 250 accommodations along the trails have suffered minor repairable damages. “All 30 bridges on the trails are safe. Only around 250 meters track on the trails needs to be rerouted,” the report states.

Annapurna Base Camp Trek

The study was funded by SAMARTH-NMDP — a program supported by UKAID.

Kit Miyamoto, team leader of the assessment group, said Annapurna Region is open for business for autumn and that the region is completely safe. “However, there are some areas that have been identified as having a particularly high hazard level due to their existing features or geometry. For example, very high rock slopes and areas with evidence of historic large rock fall and slope instability,” said Miyamoto.

Minister for Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation Kripasur Sherpa said this independent assessment will help to clear negative message about Nepal in the international market. “Now we can tell the world that trekking in the region is completely safe,” he added.

The assessment team has suggested carrying out a detailed risk-assessment study of some areas including assessment of likelihood of failure, occupancy of specific areas of trail and villages, and combining these with hazard to assess the risk. “It is recommended that a detailed hazard and risk assessment is undertaken at Bagarchhap to better understand the slope stability and rapid deposition risk to villagers and tourists staying in the area. Until such time as this is complete, we recommend that the risk present at the village is considered intolerably high for overnight occupancy,” the report stated.

It has also recommended placing ‘Landslide Hazard No Stopping for 2 km’ signage on either side of the new regolith landslide north of Bhratang.

“We also recommend re-routing the section of track that is located at the scarp of the large rockslide between Kimrong and Chomrong or Jhinu Danda which is located within 2 meters from the edge of the failure. The track should be located at least 100 meters upslope from the edge of failure,” Miyamoto said, quoting the report. “The section of track that requires re-routing is approximately 250 meters long.”

The report has recommended abandoning the older section of trail south of Ghasa that leads to the old foot in favor of the road located further west that leads to the newer bridge due to landslide hazard.

“All the frequently used tracks should be checked for new failures and rock fall following monsoon rains each year,” the report states.

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Source: Myrepublica