Basic services like water supply and sewerage, electricity and telephone lines are now available. The erratic NTC mobile network is surprisingly consistent in this remote district and loadshedding, unsurprisingly, is less than in the capital. If it were not for the snow-clad mountains that tower over you on both sides, you'd be forgiven for forgetting you were in a trans-Himalayan valley of nomadic people of Tibetan origin, said to have crossed the mountains in the course of hunting and gathering centuries ago.
The Manang valley's harsh climate, due to the rain-shadow created by the Annapurna massif, ensured that its people never lost their nomadic tendencies. When King Mahendra granted special privileges to the Manangis in the 1960s, many moved down to Kathmandu and beyond and became prosperous traders, hoteliers and businessmen. The out-migration was intense, and depopulated Manang district between the years 1960 to 1990. It was only in the 1990s, with the increased popularity of the Annapurna Circuit trek, that a few people returned to tap tourism.
In-migration from neighbouring districts has been on the rise in recent years, mostly from Gorkha district. In fact, those from Gorkha now outnumber Manangis in Manang, says Ram Raja Prasad Subedi, CDO of the district. Gorkha people mostly go to Manang in search of employment and end up settling there.
With the construction of the road, in-migration is expected to rise. The road linking Besisahar to Chame has been completed up to Chhahare, near Syange. This has already shortened the journey from Besisahar by one day. Tourist entrepreneurs may worry about what this will do to tourism, but hundreds of villagers will benefit directly from access to the road. The Manangis may keep on moving, but their heartland, Manang, awaits a future they won't chart for very long.