April 2015 brought devastation to Nepal. A 7.8 magnitude earthquake rocked the capital and much of the country, killing over 8000 people. I have visited Nepal many times in the past, but my most recent visit a few months ago left me heart broken. So many amazing places here have been either damaged or destroyed altogether. One thing however that has not changed is the heart and spirit of the Nepalese people. The people are resilient and strong; they are working hard to repair the damage that has been done and restore the desperately needed tourism industry. Unfortunately, since the earthquake tourism has been almost non-existent. My recent travels into Nepal have shown me that yes, Nepal has been damaged and yes, much of what I had loved is now gone, but this did not affect my interest at all in this wonderful nation. Nepal still is and always will be an incredible country to visit. In this post I will show some of the devastation, but more importantly I will show you why you should still visit Nepal.
Kathmandu and area was by far the most devastation I witnessed in Nepal. Its main Durbar square was full of rubble instead of beautiful temples and shrines. The air filled with dust. Walk the backstreets and most of the historic buildings have support beams holding them up. This was heart breaking for me to see. Kathmandu is one of the most incredible cities I have ever been too. The government’s response to this? They decided to strictly enforce steep entrance fees to any visitors in the area. I understand that this will help, but charging the small amount of tourists here is not the answer. Once you look past the ignorant government and constant devastation however Kathmandu is still a glorious place. Many of the temples did survive, but what survived more than anything was the smiles you receive from Kathmandu’s incredible people. Do visit this city, and put up with the negatives because Kathmandu will always impress you regardless of its current state. The people will welcome you now more than ever.
Bodhnath stupa is gone. The giant gold monument atop of an impossibly huge and bright white structure is replaced by rubble. Bodhnath’s energy however still persists here. Walking the square without the Stupa looming above left an empty feeling inside me. Tibetan monks chanting, juniper incense wafting through the air, bells and gongs shaking your head, Bodhnath’s energy and spirit could not be stronger. Pay your entrance fee here and see that the money is going to the restoration of the Stupa. Monks cart and carry bricks up to its upper exterior as engineers marvel over the strong will these dedicated Buddhists have to repairing this beautiful place once again. Bodhnath’s outlying Tibetan temples have not been affected. So a visit here still leaves you with a good taste of Tibetan culture.
Prepare to be amazed because Bhaktapur was left relatively untouched from the earthquake. A few of the structures in its Durbar square are now gone though. The main temples here still stand strong and proud; a visual testimony to Bhaktapur’s residents. Walking by the red brick buildings in this medieval city will lift your spirits from the devastation. The potters district is still going strong making pottery to sell and the Thangka sellers are still hawking their masterpieces to tourists. Coming to Bhaktapur was an amazing experience this time, as the air was filled with hope and the strong will of the people could not have been more present with their hospitality and genuine character. Do visit Bhaktapur. Do buy a Thangka. And do eat the delicious traditional food. But most of all give hope to these people with your presence here.
Patan has unfortunately suffered a similar fate as Kathmandu. Much of Patan’s Durbar square has been completely destroyed or heavily damaged. Patan still shows us why it is still worth seeing. Most of its medieval backstreets are teeming with life and interesting sights to see. Even in Durbar there is still an amazing atmosphere. Having tea in one of Patan’s roof top restaurants will leave you with amazing views and vistas. Patan is in my opinion still an amazing place worth seeing! So if you’re in Kathmandu, take the time to make it here to its rival city and be rewarded with incredible sights and great people. Nothing will ever take Patan away from the heart of its residents.
Hikes Are Still Breathtaking
That’s right, Everest base camp, Annapurna, Langtang, they are all still waiting for tourists to trek down there trails. Hiking in Nepal is now better than ever! You have the possibility of not seeing a single tourist while you’re hiking. The trails are empty, pristine and couldn’t be more beautiful. There is also plenty of deals going on for guides and special treks from the lack of tourism. Flights to some of the regions are more tricky now, but still readily available. Getting to the trails from Kathmandu or Pokhara is still very easy and local transport is still going to the trailheads. So get out here and get the chance to hike Nepal before travelers catch on and Nepal once again becomes one of the world’s major trekking destinations.
Pokhara was barely affected by the Earthquake, its hiking trails nearby are still in perfect condition. The boats still paddle across the lake and shops are still catering to the few tourists here. Pokhara is just as amazing as ever. Prices on hotels are lower and the thrill of adventure couldn’t be stronger with all the opportunities to micro flights, rafting and blood pumping high altitude hikes.
Chitwan is Still an Adventure
A deep, dense, jungle. Exotic birds calling above you. Foliage dripping from the rolling fog. Riding atop an elephant in search of bengal tigers, indian rhinos, and sloth bears. This is Chitwan, and Chitwan is still just as amazing as ever. A true jungle safari adventure waiting to happen. The chance now to see wildlife is even better than before as with fewer tourist comes fewer safaris. This means the animals are beginning to explore outside areas more. Chitwan is incredible and my third time here was even more amazing than the previous times.
How you can you help?
The best way to help Nepal is to come here. By coming here your tourist dollars will help the affected population who are trying to rebuild. Most of all it will show the Nepalese people that outsider still want to come here and give them the hope they need. Nepal is strong and its people amazing. Coming here you will only see as I did, that Nepal is not ready to give up. So come to Nepal and be a part of the traveller generation that can say “I helped Nepal”. If you cannot make it to Nepal there are a few organizations you can donate to. I have listed a few below.