Nepali Times
Life Times
Dolakha high

When Judith and Top Thapa were working on a Swiss-aided project in Dolakha in the 1980s, they used to pass the town of Charikot often.

Situated on a ridge overlooking the Tama Kosi and in the lap of Mt Gauri Shankar, they were mesmerised by the scenic beauty of the place. In particular they had an eye on the hilltop outside town from where there is a 360 degree view of the surrounding mountains.

Judith is from Switzerland and Top's parents, who had migrated to Burma, returned to Nepal when he was just 11. Both were employed in rural development projects of Swiss Development Cooperation in Dolakha, and they had just got married.

"We had worked in rural development and we came to realise that for future sustainability, jobs had to be created," recalls Top, "and we felt we had to get into tourism."

They decided to buy the hilltop above Charikot and start a small hotel. But as with everything in Nepal, there were obstacles every step of the way. It took two years to battle the red tape, three more years to organise water supply.

Says Judith: "We enjoyed the place so much, the view was so dramatic that we were convinced the place had potential, and while waiting we started collecting building materials."

CONJUGAL PEAKS: Top and Judith Thapa pose at their Charikot Panorama Resort that offers a view of dramatic sunsets over Gauri Shankar and Melungtse.
Their patience paid off, and Charikot Panorama Resort was finally opened in 1995. Designed by Swiss Nepali architect Kai Weise as a series of small chalet-style bungalows, a dining area for 30 guests and a conference room, the Resort had just started getting bookings when the conflict broke out. Nepal's tourism industry tapered off, and there were no guests. The Thapas closed down, and just maintained the buildings in the hope of better days.

Better days did return after the 2006 ceasefire, and traffic has picked up especially in the past two years. Kathmandu-based expatriates started coming here for long weekends, and with four major hydropower projects going up in the district, Charikot has the feel of a boomtown.

"We never had any ambition to be big, we want to remain small, hire local staff, buy local produce," says Judith, who wants to specialise in niche tourism offering village walks, bird-watching and one-day hikes in the surrounding forests.
With a new dirt road to the 3,800m high Kalinchok, the shrine on its summit has suddenly become accessible for day trippers. Kalinchok offers one of the most spectacular panoramas of the Himalaya in Nepal with a sweep of the northern horizon from Annapurna to Khumbu.

"This is the most peaceful and scenic places I have ever been to in Nepal," said a Kathmandu businessman after spending new year's at the resort, "it is only four hours from Kathmandu and doesn't feel touristy, the resort feels like home."

For the Thapas, it has been a lifelong dream come true to run the resort. Says Top: "We don't want to get rich doing this, we live modestly, provide jobs for local people, and that makes us happy."
Tel: 049 421245

1. Hange
Congratulations to Mr. & Mrs. Thapa for fulfilling their dream!  Moreover, a big thank you for contributing to the community: we need more people like you!

2. Renie

Well done Judith and Top! I had an unforgettable experience in a stunning scenery. The project on this place is amazing and hope you get enough support.

3. Gertrud
Ich kann es allen wrmstens empfehlen. Geht hin und ihr werdet von dem Ambiente und der wunderschnen Lage begeistert sein. Alles Gute und wohlverdienten Erfolg, Judith und Top!

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)