Sail away home
Blue seas, great food, exotic ports--and speak Nepali.
FROM ISSUE #91 (26 APRIL 2002 - 02 MAY 2002) | TABLE OF CONTENTS
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Take a trip on one of the numerous luxury cruise ships operating in south-east Asia, and you might find yourself closer to home than you expected. No, dal-bhat hasn't yet taken on the status of cuisine du jour.
It is the fact that many of the staff on these cruises are Nepali. And it's not just ex-Gurkha security personnel protecting cargo ships from pirate attacks in the Moluccas, there are now Nepali waiters and pursers as well.
On our first day on the Gemini Superstar's Andaman Sea Cruise that was making its way from Singapore through Malaysia to Thailand, my Australian friend Lealand Penton and I made our happy way down to the cocktail bar. We were served by a smiling man with a face of the cast commonly called "Mongolian" in this part of the world. He could be Filipino, we thought. But it was a naggingly familiar kind of face. So we asked and, of course, he was Nepali. Tej Gurung told us that there were seven other Nepalis on board, all British Gurkha alumni, trained for two years in the Philippines to qualify as cruise security officers.
If I was surprised to find so many Nepalis on a cruiseliner in the Andaman Sea, they were even more surprised. There is nothing to beat being able to watch a fiery sun setting into a still sea reflecting mushroom-like limestone islands, and talk in Nepali about the faraway Himalaya.
Dil Bahadur Thapa from Pokhara is a senior officer who has just completed his three-year term, and he said I was the first Nepali he'd had the pleasure of serving on this boat. Another senior officer, Lil Thapa, who is originally from Kathmandu, described to me how busy he is round the clock, responsible with the rest of the team for all aspects of security on board. It's hard work, but they seemed happy, earning a good living, travelling and serving as excellent roving-ambassadors for Nepal. "After they talk to us, most guests tell us their next holiday will be in Nepal. There is tremendous goodwill for Nepal," Dil Bahadur said. If there are people who deserve a medal for giving our country a good image and promoting Nepal, then these seven on board the Gemini Superstar are it.