Nepali Times
Gods no more



Nepal may have got record number of visitors during Nepal Tourism Year 2011, but the quality of their experience in general has suffered from harassments by touts, to theft and muggings.

Nepalis have been exhorted to treat tourists like "gods", but the reality seems to be far from it. A random sampling of visitors to Nepal shows that although most tourists admire the country and the people and say they enjoyed their stay, many were put off by the garbage, pollution, cheating and harassment.

The total visitors to Nepal last year was 735,932, less than the targeted 1 million, but a 22 per cent jump from 2010. The police said they reported 307 cases of theft of tourists in one year, but admit many cases of harassment and theft go unreported.

American student Calin Kearns was almost mugged outside Boudha recently, but managed to fend off her attackers with a pocket knife. "Perhaps my attacker also realised that I was twice his size and he ran off without looking back," Kearns told us.

Sexual harassment of both the verbal or physical kinds plague female tourists. Australian Morgaine van Wingerden says her worst experience was being groped in a crowded market one morning. "I couldn't tell who did it," she says, "there seems to be a notion that tourists are available or that they have lots of money to spend."

The Tourist Police, however, say that they only had one reported case of sexual harassment last year. Inspector Chini Maya Tamang of the Tourist Police says most of the complaints are thefts, and her job is to liaise between the victim and the local police regarding paperwork for insurance claims. "We treat both tourists and civilian cases with the same legalities in cases of sexual harassment and cases are handed over to the local police if investigation is needed," said Tamang.

Although embassy websites and tourism guidebooks warn visitors about being aware of the situation, visitors say their most important source of information are chat sites and blogging sites where individual trekkers and tourists post their personal experiences.

Asked what the government and Nepal Tourism Board could do, most visitors say they still feel much safer in Nepal than in most countries in the region, but making tourism a part of the school curriculum to teach students that a foreigner is not just "white", that they are not always "rich" and that they are not sexually promiscuous would be a first step.

While the horror stories about what some tourists have to endure in India still makes Nepal sound better, tourism experts say, rising urban poverty, joblessness and impunity could worsen the security situation in Nepal as well.
Despite her incident, van Wingerden says she is coming back to Nepal soon. She says: "Whatever problems I faced here, people always came forward to help me. At the end of the day, it always works out in Nepal."

Leave valuables at your hotel's safety box
Try not to look lost even if you are
Dress generic
Try to be less conspicuous
A smattering of Nepali language will help
Beware of backpack slashers
It's tough, but avoid crowded places
Learn Nepali numericals and memorise taxi numbers
Exchange money only at authorised centres

1. bhaje
� "Leave valuables at your hotel's safety box" 
- depends on which hotel ... and which safety ...  and most probably, if there is a safe,  the key is lost since 1987, with still inside the passport of Mrs Hieldergard WIERDENSTAHL, born 14/06/1943, from Wiesbaden, West-Germany, pass n° 5675  DR 47867 ... we used to see her a lot before, less these days, ke garne ... business is not that good now ...

� "Try not to look lost even if you are"
- how to do that ? a look at the prime minister of Nepal will help, but serious coaching on Nepalese politics is a must, it takes time.
And, if you're a first-timer, on arrival, you will have to confront the line of "Tourist Taxis", including vintage 1972 Toyotas, their drivers, lodge peddlers,  ... You'll definitely not LOOK but BE lost and will end up NEITHER in that lodge that your aunt Rosa recommended to you from her 1978's trip NOR in this nice one you booked from the net (and are you sure anyway that Hetauda is near to Thamel). 

� "Dress generic"
- you must know that tuxedos are bit TOO formal for casual lunch in Thamel (after all Nepal is something of a republic by now)
- so don't forget your topi, and keep around your neck this mala and possibly kata they offered your at the airport.
Or that was "dress genetic" ?

� "Try to be less conspicuous", how ?
- if your are a Westerner, disguise as an Indian
- if your are an Indian, let everybody know that your are from Mumbai and not some nobody (just ask tanda pani by 3 AM, roti anytime and run frantically for "casino") - otherwise ill-informed pahariya might think you are only from Terai, and will (possibly) remind you that they don't entertain Nepali customers in casino ...
- or pretend you are a guest from China, even the Prime Minister of them (BTW are you 100% sure that it REALLY was Wen the other day, and not any other guy dropping from any other flight - there is maybe some M. Yamamoto in Tokyo trying since days to explain to his friends asking "what about that trip to Everest?", how he was brutally kidnapped on arrival in Kathmandu, forced to sign papers he couldn't understand,... people nice he says, in Japanese, his only language, but food terrible and restaurant not so clean) 
To look local, the best tip: dress terribly, order a lot, drink a lot, don't pay, if you pay some, never tip, shout anyway, make lot of noise, they will think you're a relative of some thulo manchhe (now that feodalism is gone for good, the number or thulo mancche the ordinary Nepalese citizens have to be wary of increases daily). But you will need a 4 wheel drive at the door.

� "A smattering of Nepali language will help"
- "Ke garne" will do for the first week and "bholi parsi" for 2nd weekers (specially trekkers in Lukla, waiting for that "canceled due to bad weather" flight)
- so far the "smattering" of English of most Nepalese (everybody is supposed to learn it in school)  will be far better than feeble attempts at mastering dubious transliterations of Nepali (this advice is from the same box as "Nepal is here to change you, not for you change Nepal)
ah, yes, "hello" is "Namaste", with a very nice gesture, you fold your hands, yes, yes like that, really ..
very useful for next:

� "Beware of backpack slashers" 
- they specially hit at people namasteing imprudently around
- they can have some political friends 
- AND beware even more of any tourism-related add including the words "pristine, cheap" and of anybody calling you "my friend" in Thamel

� "It's tough, but avoid crowded places"
- even the top of Everest is crowded at time , so does that mean "avoid Nepal at any cost?" or "see Asan at 3 AM"

� "Learn Nepali numericals and memorise taxi numbers"
- this will help your taxi's driver - he's actually only the driver's cousin-brother  (he came few days ago from Sindhupalchok where he never went much to school) and is driving the cab only today, since the driver-in-charge got his licence picked-up yesterday by that pulis at Battisputali's corner (and paisa, ke garne, the sauji is mean)
And learn the valley's map by heart (or use your GPS if you are a trekker), it will also help him to find his way back home, or simply the place where you want to go.
But, by then, your "smattering of Nepali"(as recommended above) must have seriously improved, consider a student visa, good luck!

� "Exchange money only at authorised centres"
Carpet and souvenir shops in Thamel seem to be generally authorised (and the ATMs around either aren't working, or this one is the one who ate your card yesterday and today, ke garne, is saturday,  office closed)... see, start to understand usefulness of "ke garne".
They forgot "and don't pay in hard currency".

It seems the whole thing is picked up from some "Nepal Tourism year 1990" or well before ...Kunda Dixit was making fun at the same kind of stuff by 1985 
I hope he can see how much the piece before is not very different from the equivalent in 1980's  era's Rising Nepal, with a quote from, yes "tourism experts"!

No figures on how much tourist actually spent in hard currencies - it's probably a bit early by now -, or simply the total number of nights spent - easy to gather from entry-exit records (and the part of Indians in it, they come for shorter trips than, say, Europeans, and spend in IC).
These are the really significant figures, before talking about success or anything.

More or less the same guys in ministries (NTB, what a joke) are since decades paid for such a poor result , so, at least, the old traditions of jagir khanne are not going to be lost.

The sad truth being that tourists are facing only part of the hardships faced daily by Nepalese (particularly evident in Kathmandu), pollution, garbage, mad traffic, noise, bad transportation, bandhs, low quality of water, adulterated food, incompetent and (at best) impolite officials, I was going to forget power cuts, a degradated safety situation ...
Should Nepalese people's general situation improve, tourists situation would naturally improve, not the other way around.
No need useless years of this and and that ...


2. lol
That was the best comment I have ever read in my history of reading NT comments. thanks for writing it, Bhaje

3. lol
That was the best comment I have ever read in my history of reading NT comments. thanks for writing it, Bhaje

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)