Nepali Times Asian Paints
Second-class citizens


NON-TOURIST VISITORS: Bechan Sah, 38, from Siraha in the Tarai with a load of pans and momo pots at Pheriche at 4200 m. He has been doing door-to-door sales here for the past 17 years.
As a Nepali, I had always dreamt of trekking to Everest Base Camp and seeing the 'mother of the skies' up close and personal. The only deterrent was the cost involved. I had heard rumours of how Nepalis were commercially discriminated against because we have to pay less, and the foreigners always get preferential treatment.

I didn't think it would be that bad. But what I saw in Khumbu last week not only left me appalled at the discrimination fellow Nepalis faced, but also made me wonder whether the tourism industry which is supposed to benefit us, is actually doing so.

Whether it's taxi drivers and touts harassing foreigners fresh out of the tarmac, or hotels offering different rates for domestic and foreign tourists, differential tariffs are a given in Nepal. While there is no doubt that foreigners with higher income have higher spending capacity, and perhaps it is characteristic of capitalism to give priority to those who can pay, no one seems to be giving enough thought to those who can't.

"We have rooms for the foreigners but none for Nepalis," the manager of a hotel we had booked in Namche told me, rather obnoxiously. Fortunately, our veteran guide knew the hotel owner personally and coaxed¬ the manager into giving room to the Nepalis. Talking to the porters in our group, I realised that they were being accommodated elsewhere. Never before and nowhere else in Nepal, had I felt more ostracised in my own country than here.

Smriti Kulung is only 15 and quit school in lower Khumbu to earn money as a porter.
But the shock and awe did not end there. Looking around for the men's room, I followed the universal sign and came upon a door that had a sign on it: 'All Nepali friends, please use the outside toilet. Thank You.' At least they thanked us, but only in Nepal's tourism apartheid do you see a sign like that.

Fellow Nepalis may not have learnt bathroom etiquette that modernised Nepali hoteliers think all westerners have, but they are still Nepalis. If tourism entrepreneurs are really serious about developing the industry here, they should be training those Nepalis involved in the tourism industry how to better present themselves, not putting up discriminating signs that reek of racism in an industry that is supposed to promote 'hospitality'.

Outside of Lukla and Namche, however, I noticed that not all lodge owners discriminated against Nepalis. Guides are welcomed as old friends and called into the kitchen to be served food and drinks with the foreigners, allowed free charging of cell phones and camera batteries, and even given some snacks for the way.

They might have to sleep in the dining halls for lack of rooms, but they are not asked to use the outhouse. If those promoting tourism really want to ensure Nepal's tourism industry gets a good name, they should be investing more on the backbone of that industry: the guides, porters, kitchen staff and even the yak, jokyo, mule, or donkey herder.

As the media made headlines of trekkers stranded in Lukla last week, I wondered what the Nepali guides I met on the way were doing. No one in the Kathmandu media obsessed with 'stranded tourists' spared a thought for them, perhaps unsurprisingly.

Charitable challengers

They come from all over the world, they are dentists, engineers, risk management consultants, businessmen and physical trainers. What brings them together is that they all live and work in the countries of the Gulf, love a bit of adventure. And they all care for children.

For the past decade, Gulf for Good (G4G) has raised more than $2 million through 700 Arab and other nationals participating in treks in Nepal. The charity is currently helping 35 projects around the world,¬ including raising $110,000 from the Everest Base Camp Challenge for a hospital in Ilam which was completed in 2004.

This time, 21 participants took part in another fund-raiser trek to support the construction of an orphanage in an eco-farm in Panauti. As a means of fundraising, members accepted the challenge to trek up to Everest Base Camp at 5,380m.

A trek to EBC and back is not a walk in the park. But the 21 G4G charity challengers took it in their stride. They trekked past dramatic signs of glacier retreat caused by global warming.

Landing in Kathmandu from Lukla, the group headed straight to Panauti with Brian Wilkie, the initiator of the G4G project. The orphanage currently under construction is located in the eastern end of the beautiful valley in Kavre district.

Younger ones in the group like the soon to be dad Floyd Meenan, his best mate Tom McNulty and fellow Irishman Brian Hempenstall, felt such a sense of accomplishment that they are already talking about taking up next year's G4G challenge to Mt Kilamanjaro.

Alok Tumbahangphey

1. Kamal Rizk
Being one of the trekkers of the G4G to EBC, I couldn't but feel the pride that Mr Alok had in his Country and fellow Nepalis, and at the same time his sadness and disgust with the discrimination that  some of our guides and porters were subjected too.
We came to Nepal as goodwill ambassadors to help the needy, and could not but notice that that a great deal could be accomplished by just addressing the Cast system that was obviously inherited from the neighboring country.
In keeping with Alok's observations, I strongly agree with him, that it is the Local people that should be looked after, in order to make this Great country of Nepal worthy of the name "TOP OF THE WORLD"

2. Ramesh Thapa Magar
Thank you Alok ! Nepalis have always discriminated ! At least you are writing about it. The Bahuns are wrost offenders ! I am sorry and sad to read about your experience.  Nepalis have NOTHING to be proud of.  Nothing.  The politicians are corrupt as as well as killers ( read Maoist ). The business men are defaulters and thieves,( read  VAT scandal ) the Police are crooks,( read  Sudan  scams ), the Army is crooked as well, (read selling national treasure to foreigners),  so what can you expect from the rest of the people.  Nepalis have NOTHING TO BE PROUD OF.

3. FunkyMonkey
#2: Yeah, I'm sure it's Bahuns who run all the lodges and hotels above 4,000 m. Does your CT scan result always say 'No brain detected'?√ā¬ However I do agree with your assertion that Nepalis have nothing to be proud of. If all the Nepali were to die tomorrow, no one will give a flying f*** because no visionary, no scientist, no thinker would be lost. It's a country full of worthless beings that are nothing but burden on this planet.√ā¬

4. Kaila Baje
#2Ramesh Thapa MAGAR.
You must have a chip on your Shoulder.
Can you name the lodge-owners of Lukla? Were they Bahuns in any way?  Or they were your own compatriots, in your own terminology.
Ther are Bahun and Bahuns.All Magars are not paragons of virtue.
Please remove the chips from your shoulders first and foremost.

5. sudeep shrestha , Malaysia
i must first appreciate Mr. Alok for bringing out this genuine problem about the discrimination. And guys peace please. Actually the main problem behind we Nepali is lack of civilization. Although how much educated we are, we don't have culture to respect fellow Nepalese as of cast or level. So i hope we will move out and come together united to the development of Nepal.

6. mahendra skaya
Malpi in Kavre has been going to Lukla and trekking around Namche for the last 6 years, we have not faced such discrimination as yet. I will be there from Dec. 2 to Dec. 10, for the first time. will comment once I get back. 

7. K Hill
Nepal should adopt a concept of 'scientific tourism'. In one way another, there are many visionary Nepalese residing in overseas and foreigners visit Nepal's touristic destinations every year as holiday makers. When holidaying, most of these visitors have a common in mind: study of the natural (and other) sciences in the high mountains or initiate a cultural ties and business with this beautiful Himalayan nation of ancient civilization. We need to promote our vision how we could improve the shortcomings of the society  impeding tourism industry in Nepal. Criticizing Nepal and her own people from a Nepali (#2) does not help, but minimizes his/her own intellectual thinking.

8. Mahendra Thapa
We, Nepalese People, have invited these situations. Naturally the businessmen will give services to those from where they get more benefits. In so called tourist-buses, tourists pay almost 2/3 times higher fair than local people. Why do not we have courage to say that the fair should be same irrespective of nationality rather than based on services? In flight also, tourists are paying much more. Why should they pay more? Do American or British or other developed nations airlines or shuttles charge depending on nationality? Do our medical colleges welcome Nepali students in the same manner as other nationals? The lists could be long. I agree, there should be separate provision  for poor and disabled people

9. Dhedu Badar
Around 97-98 before the tourism industry tanked due to the Maoist uprising, the Nepalis hanging out in Thamel area faced similar discrimination. The restaurant owners were reluctant to welcome you and the waiters did not bother to come and take your order while everyone were busy serving "bidheshi guests". But that changed when the bidheshis stopped coming and the ones that came did not have capacity (or did not want) to spend even as much as the Nepalis. These days Thamel is full of Nepalis.
It is all about economics and of course if I were a lodge owner up in Khumbu, I would want a customer i) who pays more, ii) who does not get drunk and start a fight or cause other customers to run away, iii) is clean and does not damage the property. As for the question of teaching bathroom and other etiquette to the porters, herders and other Nepali brothers (and sisters): it is a great idea but who is going to do it? Nepal Government? Lodge Owners of Khumbu region? Mr Tumbahangfey? Any suggestions?

10. B2B
#9Mr. Dhedu Badar, You amplified your tralala a little bit no! I feel pangs in my heart to hear all such degrading behaviors of our compatriots. We cannot go on ignoring them and make the simulacrum of business as usual. Folks have lost their North for the time being. The successive governments must take actions to correct the trajectory which is taking away the global Nepalese soft nature of living in harmony.

11. Paul Krugman
Let's be clear. The problem is that Nepali males don't raise the toilet seat before they pee, and then leave a seat wet with urine for the next user to sit on. Even if you "train" them, many of them keep on doing it. That is why Nepalis are asked to use the "Nepali toilet". And that is why I ask "where is the Nepali toilet?", so I don't sit on a seat that some Nepali guy recently peed all over!

12. Phinjo sherpa
I completely agree with Dhedu Badar. People of all ethnic groups are running lodges & tea shops in Khumbu these days & work their tails off for around 3 months out off 1 year for some income. Mr. alok's stereo type observation is saddening for non corrupt people who work hard for living. What did the government & bureaucrats did when there were thousands of people stranded in Lukla? Nothing. 

13. Mia
@Alok: Don't you think, in a true capitalist world, costumers pay the price for the service? If you are going to pay less, you certainly are going to receive less of a service than those paying more. And as far as I know, these businesses run as businesses on capitalist ideals. While I totally denounce the discrimination, I also believe that there should be a flat rate: either decreased for outsiders or increased for Nepalis, but I believe this issue address itself only if everyone pays equally. And as a customer (irrespective of whether or not you're a Nepali), if you cannot afford a service, you suck up what you can afford.

@ Paul: Thank you for pointing that out. Definitely, some Nepali men cannot be trained...perhaps, they should have an outhouses in hotels/restaurants...LOL.

14. Paul Krugman
Following up on Mia's comment:

it is one thing to have a dual price system for services provided by the government, such as flights on Nepal Airlines or entry passes into national parks. There, national citizens can rightly question why their tax rupees should subsidize foreigners (although i would point out that in the west, everybody pays one price for entry to national parks, Nepali or French or American). But Nepal is the only place I have ever seen where the private sector has dual pricing based on nationality. Rich Nepali businessmen pay one (lower) price to fly to Nepalgunj while poor non-Nepali students pay another (higher) price. This is insane and shows how far the attitude has crept into the Nepali mentality that Nepalis are entitled to free lunches and special discount pricing (gasoline for less than the cost price, for example). Nepalis are great people but on some issues they really need to wake up.

15. tashi Lama
Nepalese by nature are mostly warm hearted people prior to these many political upheavals, up till late 1980's. And upon coming of multiparty system, things started changing, it is all due to the increasing corrupted nature of the government, which are all rooted on the greed and power.
Once the Maoist came into Nepal, things got upside down, attitude of most workers changed, people became more aggressive in nature, which are all caused by the Maoist brain washing of the innocent Nepalese. Yes, it is sad to Nepalese down looking upon other Nepalese brothers and sisters, I realized this at some tourist resorts, they just count on money and for them money only matters to make such discrimination, it is shame on all those who are so cheap in such way. 

Money matters but not most, in reality morality matters most for all of humanity! You can't buy it in the market, you can observe and achieve it through the wisdom of love and compassion for all!              

16. B2B
I back #15 tashi Lama's comment entirely. Those others who deem that other folks are stealing away their revenues by running lodges et al must unite themselves together to make a committee of uncorrupted to safeguard your means of living. And that's called self-management of your own profession.

I'm reluctant to hear some of the comments with so low thinking of capitalism. Capitalism is only a tool, it is up to you to make a good usage, not by imitating what there is the worst of it. If you start to scaring the sh.. out of every tourist next time they won't come back. That's for sure.

Do not shoot on your own foot!?!

17. Inky

Yes, it's sad to see Nepalis being discriminated in their own country, by their own fellow men. I have witnessed umpteen times how local traders and tourism entrepreneurs ignore local customers whenever they receive a white customer.  It's just too disgusting to see them fawning over, ready to lick the white tourists' boots.  It's good to show some genuine warmth, but being servile sucks.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)