Nepali tour operators should learn not to discriminate against Asian tourists and western tourists ('Peace sanctuary', #267). With more than two billion people across both sides of the border, Nepal could reap a good harvest of tourists with proper public relations.
. I see September tourist arrivals have gone up. If things go well we might total 250,000 this year, half of the total for 1999. Tourism is now more a hobby for the few than a national industry for the many. Like many other things tourism to Nepal has become 'Kathmandu centric'. Your page one picture (#267) should have featured Hanuman Dhoka Square not a Chitwan elephant safari. I was in Pokhara last week and Chitwan before that. Both are hurting badly and have been for the last few of years. My guess for hotel and lodge occupancy and trek numbers in those areas will be running at no more than 30 percent of what they were. The implcations are grave.
Tourists are coming to Kathmandu for sightseeing Indians for the casinos, going onto Tibet and Bhutan (Incidentally how many doing that are booked into the country twice and count as two tourists not one, as argued by Hans Nix in Letter section, #263). The trekkers that come are going to the Khumbu, which will again become overcrowded and problematic with a lack of bedspace, pricey food and accommodation, and flight delays to and from Lukla. The impression is set: Kathmandu and the Khumbu/Sagarmatha National Park areas are safe, the remainder of Nepal is not. Sad, because that is not true. We can't pretend there are no problems but trekkers to the Annapurnas, Manang, Langtang or elsewhere will face nothing worse than perhaps a request for a 'donation'. Also the road from Mugling to Narayanghat is now fine and driving to Chitwan or Pokhara is once again a pleasure. So let us all try to give Pokhara and Chitwan a boost for non- trekkers and point trekkers north and west. Not east.
. I look forward every week to logging onto the internet and reading in Nepali Times or nepalnews.com all about Nepal which is for better or worse my favourite place in the world. This time I came across the letter by Sam Bleha ('Candid camera', #267) that struck a chord with me and brought back memories from 1997 of my first glide down over the Kathmandu Valley on a Thai International jet and touching down at Tribhuban International Airport. Three things stand out:
Firstly, the 'magic carpet' ride over an enchanted faraway land, walled in by mountains and under a sunny sky and the many greens pastures and crops, red brick kilns and buildings, winding roads and paths with a few slow moving vehicles and people, and a general aura of peacefulness . Secondly, the contrasting and overwhelming impression of chaos upon exit from the airport into crowds waiting for transport into the city, mixed inextricably it seemed with innumerable spectators and would-be porters and helpers of all sorts. Thirdly, as so aptly described by Bleha that inflight announcement just before landing that "the use of camera over Nepal and at Kathmandu airport is strictly prohibited". Of course, Nepal and her people very soon and forever after won me over with all their real beauty so that cabin announcement was consigned to the recesses of my memory until reading that letter in your paper today. My dream is to return for a third and, hopefully, longer more relaxed time in Kathmandu Langtang, even the Annapurna Sanctuary. And maybe by then Thai will have dropped that silly inflight announcement.