NEPAL

History

Nepal’s history is a very ancient and complex story. The indigenous peoples of the Himalayas have been documented as living in Nepal for as long as 11,000 years. Kathmandu valley itself, before Nepal was united in the mid 18th century by King Prithvi Narayan Shah was a cultural melting point for various cultures.

Over time, Nepal has been ruled and inhabited by the Gopalas, the Kiratis and the Licchavis, all of varied ethnicities, all of whom have left their mark, particularly in the Kathmandu valley with their respective artifacts. The palace complexes and temples constructed in the Malla period from (13th century - mid 18th century)  continue to impress visitors up until today, with a unique blend of pagoda-style temple structures made out of brick and intricately carved wooden struts.

During their 550-year rule, the Mallas built an amazing number of temples and splendid palaces with picturesque squares that are lined with architecturally beautiful temples. It was also during their rule that society and the cities became well organized; religious festivals were introduced and literature, music and art were encouraged. Sadly after the death of Yaksha Malla, the valley was divided into three kingdoms: Kathmandu (Kantipur), Bhaktapur (Bhadgaon) and Patan (Lalitpur). The rivalry among these kingdoms led to the building of grand palaces and the uplifting of the arts and culture. Around this time, the Nepal as we know it today was divided into about 46 independent principalities.

One among these was the kingdom of Gorkha with the ambitious King Prithvi Narayan Shah in power who embarked on a conquering mission that led to the defeat of all the kingdoms in the valley by 1769. Instead of annexing the newly acquired states to his kingdom of Gorkha, King Prithvi Narayan Shah decided to move his capital to Kathmandu establishing the Shah dynasty which ruled unified Nepal from 1769 to 2008 when the last Shah ruler. In 2008, King Gyanendra of the Shah dynasty under public pressure abdicated all his power to make way for total democracy.

Geography

Nepal shares an open border with India in the west, south and east and with the Tibetan Autonomous Region of China in the north. Kanchan Kalan in Jhapa district is the lowest point at 70m above sea level while the summit of Mt. Everest at 8,848 m is the highest. From east to west, Nepal is 800 km long and only 230 km wide from north to south covering an area of 147,181 sq.km. Within this narrow stretch of land there is incredible diversity in topography ranging from a sub-tropical climate in the terai (plains) to Alpine conditions in the Himalayan regions. Mountains, mid hills, valleys, lakes and plains dominate the landscape of this landlocked country. Nepal has eight of the World’s ten tallest mountains including Mt. Everest, the highest in the world.

Nepal also has an abundance of rivers most of which originate in the Himalaya  some flow down from the Tibetan plateau. They all then flow on to India, many of them joining the holy Ganges river. Large tracts of forested land have been preserved as national parks and wildlife reserves where endangered species like the Royal Bengal tiger and the Greater one-horned rhinoceros roam freely along with an amazing variety of mammals and reptiles. Nepal is home to almost 10 percent of the world’s bird species among which 500 species are found in the Kathmandu valley alone.

Nepal offers some of the best trekking in the world and has attracted mountaineers from all over. It is an ideal destination for people who thrive on thrill and adventure, you can experience the thrill of rafting down raging rivers, soar high amongst some of the world’s highest peaks, trek along serene villages and landscape or just immerse yourself in the panoramic views of the mighty Himalayas and the abundance of scenic tranquility, the country has to offer.

Weather

Climatic conditions within Nepal vary from one place to another in accordance with the geographical features. In the north, summers are cool and winters severe, while in the south summers are sub-tropical and winters mild. The monsoon that brings rain from June through September affects most of the country except those that lie in the rain-shadow areas like Mustang which is within Nepal but a part of the Tibetan plateau.

The climate changes rapidly from the sub-tropical terai to the cool dry temperate and alpine conditions in the northern Himalayan ranges within a short span of 200 km. In the terai, which is the hottest part of the country, summer temperatures rise above 45°C. The climate here is hot and humid. In the middle hills, the summer climate is pleasant with temperatures around 25°C – 27°C.

The winter temperatures range from 7°C to 23°C in the terai and sub-zero to 12°C in the mountainous regions, hills and valleys. The northern Himalayan region has an alpine climate with temperatures reaching below -30°C. The valley of Kathmandu has a pleasant climate with an average summer and winter temperatures of 19°C – 27°C and 2°C – 12°C respectively.

Seasons

•    Winter (December-February)
•    Summer (March-May)
•    Monsoon (June-Aug)
•    Autumn (Sept-Nov)

Religion & Culture

Originally known as a Hindu Kingdom, Nepal became a secular state in 2006. About 80% of the people of Nepal are Hindus although Hinduism and Buddhism are very much intertwined in the Nepali culture. Buddhism too has a very significant role to play in Nepal as Siddhartha Gautama, the man who was enlightened to be the last Buddha was born in a small village in Nepal. These two religions have co-existed down the ages and many Hindu temples share the same complex as, Buddhist shrines. Hindu and Buddhist worshippers may regard the same god with different names while performing religious rites.

Apart from Hinduism and Buddhism, many other religions like Islam, Christianity, and Bon are practiced here. Some of the earliest inhabitants like the Kirats practice their own kind of religion based on ancestor worship and the Tharus practice animism. Over the years, Hinduism and Buddhism have been influenced by these practices that have been modified to form a synthesis of newer beliefs. 

People

The population of Nepal is approximately 30 million and comprises 36 ethic groups speaking about 93 different languages originating out of the indo-european or tibeto-burmese branch. Althought much less than in the past, the distinction in caste still plays a significant part especially when it comes to marriage alliances.

The main ethnic groups of Nepal are spread out in the country roughly as follows : Gurungs and Magars who live mainly in the western region; Rais, Limbus and Sunwars who live in the eastern middle hills; Sherpas, Manangbas and Lopas who live near the mountains of Everest, Annapurna and Mustang respectively; Newars who live in and around the Kathmandu valley; Tharus, Yadavas, Satar, Rajvanshis and Dhimals who live in the terai region; and Brahmins, Chhetris and Thakuris generally spread over all parts of the country.

Nepali is the official language of the state spoken and understood by most of Nepal. English is spoken by many in government and business offices and is the mode of education in most private schools of Kathmandu and some other cities.

Clothing & Packing

Please see the temperature guide showing the highs and lows that can be expected in key locations that your tour visits. It is advised that you take a practical selection of clothes for both warm and cool climates to suit the season. However please remember that this is just a guide and you may encounter a wide variety of temperatures en route due to altitude and unforeseen weather conditions – so it’s best to be prepared!

Clothing should be simple and consist of layers, which can be added or removed as the temperature varies during the day. During autumn the night temperatures in the mountains often dip below freezing, making warm gear essential. In summer the days can be hot, requiring light cotton clothing. Good wet-weather gear is recommended during the rainy summer months. A warm windcheater and stout comfortable shoes are especially recommended.

Daypack

Your daypack needs to be large enough for a 1-litre water bottle and all other items you will need during the day. Carry this piece with you. In it you should have:
•    Necessary medication
•    Camera, sunglasses, a hat
•    Hand Sanitizer
•    Any other item you require for the day.

Some essentials you need to bring with you:
•    Long-sleeved shirt, long pants, and a hat to wear whenever possible while outside, to prevent illnesses carried by        insects (e.g., malaria, dengue, filariasis, leishmaniasis, and onchocerciasis).
•    Insect repellent containing DEET.
•    Iodine tablets and portable water filters to purify water if bottled water is not available.
•    Sunblock, sunglasses, and a hat for protection from harmful effects of UV sun rays.
•    A folding umbrella especially if you are travelling during the monsoons of mid June to late September. Rain is              possible any time, and is almost certain from June through August.
•    Be sure to carry earplugs (and spares) for when you sleep.
•    There are occasional electric outages throughout the country; so you should always keep a torch (flashlight)                beside your bed.
•    A Swiss style army knife is a good thing to bring, but with the recent concerns over air travel you may want to            bring a folding utility tool such as a Leatherman and make sure to put it in your check-in luggage.
•    Bring a small alarm clock if you need help waking up after all those barking dogs. Not all hotel rooms have              telephones or wake-up service.

Note: Our guides will definitely make sure you are not late for anything.

Hiking Boots

This is an important item on your list if your program includes hiking. Make sure your boots are well broken -in. Ill-fitting boots can make your trek miserable. If you’re buying a new pair, look for medium weight boots of fabric or a fabric/leather combination with a waterproof breathable membrane such as Gore-Tex. They should provide adequate ankle support but be comfortable in the Achilles area (a notch in the top of the rear ankle helps). Bring your thick woollen socks when you are trying on boots so you get the correct size. Short boots can jam your toes painfully during long steep descent. Make sure you walk up and down an incline in the store.

Footwear

We recommend walking shoes/boots, as comfortable shoes with good ankle support will make all walking more enjoyable. If your trip does not involve hiking/trekking and you do not own a pair of hiking boots, then trainers/sneakers will suffice.

Toiletries

Everything you normally use for your days in the city and do not forget sun lotions.

Considerations for Women
•    Hand wipes: The kind that are in a roll that comes in a plastic container with a flip-top. Take them out of the              container and put them in a Ziploc®.
•    Tampons and extra Ziploc bags for disposal and carryout.

Baggage Allowance

Baggage allowance differs on domestic and international flights. And also differs on individual carriers. Please check with your carrier before travelling.

Physical Fitness

Any person in reasonably good health is able to travel in Bhutan. Those in good physical shape will no doubt enjoy the trip more. Please start to get in shape NOW! A good 30 minutes walk, jogging daily, stretching and regular exercise should put you in the right shape (concentrate on your heart and legs – Aerobics). During the hike it is recommended that you bring a good day pack and are fit enough to carry your day pack that would probably have filled water bottle/canteen, food/snacks, camera, film, map, fleece, sun hat, first aid kit, lightweight rain gear, etc. To ascertain your level of physical fitness take the Harvard Step Test online at http://www.brianmac.demon.co.uk/eval.htm

Accommodation

The hotels used in Nepal are of 3-star (or higher) standard. All are modern, clean and comfortable and offer friendly service. All rooms have basic facilities and are booked on a twin share basis; most are air-conditioned. Most of the hotels have swimming pools but you should also be aware that swimming pools at the hotels are often unheated and so can be cold in the winter months or even closed. While on a trek the accommodations are usually Tea House lodges along the trekking route. The rooms and services in these areas are minimal, catering to the basic needs of the guests. This provides a good feel of the local life. Because of the electric shortage, some places provide solar powered hot shower.

Food & Drink

In Kathmandu the range of restaurants is quite outstanding – from French to Japanese and Indian to American! Even the best restaurants are fairly inexpensive compared to western standard. We can provide a list of recommended restaurants in Kathmandu. Food in Pokhara is wonderful as well.

When walking in the mountains, food is most important; you must eat well to provide the energy that is necessarily more than you require normally. Unboiled water is NOT safe to drink anywhere in Nepal. Always stick to bottled water. Uncooked vegetables are also not safe to consume, unless properly treated by soaking in a solution of iodine. Always peel your fruit.

The lodges serve fresh and tasty meals. At the teahouses, there is little or no meat.

Medical Examination

Medical facilities in Kathmandu valley are sound. All kinds of medicines, including those imported from overseas are available in Kathmandu. Kathmandu valley also offers the services of major general hospitals and private clinics. The government has set up health posts in different parts of rural Nepal. However, facilities are not on par with those found in Kathmandu valley.

Immunization

Visitors do not need any particular immunization for visit. It may be a good idea to get a complete check-up before departure.

Medical Kit

A simple but adequate medical kit can be very useful while travelling. The following items are recommended: Aspirin or Panadol – for pain or fever; Antihistamine – as a decongestant for colds, allergies and to help prevent motion sickness; Antibiotics – useful if travelling off beaten track but they must be prescribed; Kaolin preparation (Pepto-Bismol), Imodium or Lomotil – for stomach upsets; Rehydration mixture – for treatment of severe diarrhea; Antiseptic, mercurochrome and antibiotic powder or similar ‘dry’ spray – for cuts and grazes.

Other things to be included are:
Calamine lotion to ease irritation from bites or stings, bandages and band aids for minor injuries, scissors, tweezers, thermometer, insect repellent, sun block lotion, chopsticks, water-purification tablets, throat lozenges (Strepsils), moleskin, Sulamyd 10% eye drops, Acetaminophen (Paracetamol, Antacid tablets).

Prevention the Best Cure

Stomach upsets are the most likely travel health problem but the majority of these cases are minor problems. Thoroughly cooked food is the safest but not if it has been left to cool. One should be careful about what one eats and drinks. The number one rule is not to drink tap water or other water from open sources. Reputable brands of bottled water or soft drinks are available. While drinking and eating it is important to make sure that water which may be unsafe has not been added.

Do not drink unpasteurized milk. Boiled milk is fine if it is kept hygienically and yoghurt is usually good. Tea or coffee should also be all right since the water would have been boiled. Salads and fruit should be washed with purified water or peeled where possible. Food, drink and snack from reputable sources are usually safe. However beware of food that has been kept out in the open for long.

Wash your hands frequently, as it is quite easy to contaminate your own food. You should clean your teeth with purified water rather than straight from the tap. Avoid climatic extremes: keep out of the sun when it is hot, dress warmly when it is cold. Avoid potential diseases by dressing sensibly. Do not walk bare feet, as it is easy to get worm infections through bare feet. Try to avoid insect bites by covering bare skin when insects are around, by screening windows or by using, insect repellents.

Additional medical information can be found online: The Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta at www.cdc.gov and The CIWEC Travel & Medical Center in Kathmandu at http://www.ciwec-clinic.com.

Travel Insurance

Dharma Adventures asks, as a condition of accepting your booking, which you take out a comprehensive personal insurance policy, which covers you for sickness, accident, loss of baggage and trip cancellation (this may mean an extra premium). For trekking clients, it’s important that the policy covers you for the unlikely event of evacuation by plane or helicopter. If you have optioned rafting, the policy must cover this as well. We will provide you with a certificate, which should be accepted by your insurance company, if you need to claim.

When you are away, things might go wrong!
We do provide evacuation specialists and assistance specialists. Insured clients have 24 hours access to our doctors and nurses in the cities and towns, but can be organized at the earliest time in the mountain if paid for.

Existing Medical Conditions

Existing medical conditions must be declared and will probably incur an additional premium. If you do not declare, claims will be refused.

Important Information
Travel insurance is compulsory.

Money & Exchange

Payment in hotels, travel agencies, and airlines are made in foreign exchange. Credit cards like American Express, Master and Visa are accepted at major hotels, shops, and restaurants. Remember to keep your foreign exchange encashment receipt while making foreign exchange payments or transferring foreign currency into Nepali rupees. The receipts may be needed to change leftover Nepali currency into hard currency before leaving the country. However, the bank may convert only 10 percent of the total amount. ATM is widely in use in Kathmandu.
Major banks, hotels and exchange counters at Tribhuvan International Airport provide services for exchanging foreign currency. Exchange rates are published in English dailies such as The Rising Nepal, The Kathmandu Post and The Himalayan Times. Nepali currency notes are found in denominations of Rupees 1000, 500, 100, 50, 20, 10, 5, 2 and 1. Coins are found in denominations of Rupees 5, 2 and 1. One rupee equals 100 paisa.

Security

Whilst the vast majority of travellers never experience anything untoward it is worth taking precautions particularly in urban areas. You should take sensible precautions in crowded areas such as street markets and airports, where pick-pocketing is a possibility, and keep clear of any street disturbances. Don’t wear jewelry, never leave your bags unattended, keep large amounts of money, cameras and cell phones out of sight when walking in town centers, and avoid venturing into quiet alleys and lanes after dark. Keep copies of important documents, including passports, in a separate place to the documents themselves, together with details of credit cards. Leave copies at home with a friend too. Safeguard valuables, important documents and cash and deposit them in hotel safes, where practicable.

Tipping

Tipping is a recognized part of life and although at your discretion you will be expected to reward good service. Please remember that tipping should be a way for individuals to thank staff for good service. The amount is entirely a personal preference; you are free to tip more or less as you see fit, depending on your perception of service quality and the length of your trip.

Electricity Voltage

Electrical sockets (outlets) in Asia usually supply electricity at between 220 and 240 volts AC. If you’re plugging in an appliance that was built for 220-240 volt electrical input, or an appliance that is compatible with multiple voltages, then an adapter is all you need. If you are using an appliance with 110 and 120 volts then you need a voltage converter.

Battery Adaptor

Charging your electronics such as mobile phones, cameras, music devices might not be frequently available during the tour. When camping it is often difficult to find a safe and secure wall outlet to recharge these devices, therefore we recommend that you bring extra batteries. When you are staying in hotels, your room will have an electrical outlet (just remember your international adaptor!

Keeping in Touch

Some restaurants and hotels offer free WiFi while some require a paid password protected system. The connection however may be slower than expected. While going to remote areas outside the main cities, WiFi may not be available.

making Offerings

It is considered auspicious to make donations at sacred sites like the monasteries and temples. However, the donations and the amount to be donated are not obligatory.

Offerings to Beggars

Begging is a normal practice. While giving to the needy and the physically handicapped is a good practice, we do not encourage begging. There is no need to feel pressured to give, even if crowds of beggars approach you and struggle to get your attention.

Bargaining

You will be surprised by the power of bargaining. Bargaining is a way of life throughout Asia. It is important that you do not over pay for anything. Your guides can make recommendations about what a fair price is. Never suggest the price for yourself in the beginning. Wait for the store owner to quote a price before you start bargaining.

Language

The language in Nepal is Nepali, but English is widely spoken in the tourist areas.

Altitude 

The effects of altitude can be felt by anyone at anytime above a height of 8000 ft. Statistically two-thirds to three-fourths of those going to high altitudes (above 14,000ft.) will have mild symptoms of A.M.S. (Acute Mountain Sickness) but less than 2% will develop serious illness. Fitness does not affect acclimatization. Generally older people acclimatize better and teenagers are at the most risk and need to be extra cautious. This may be because older people are often slower and going slower helps your body have a chance to adjust.

The best precaution to altitude sickness is drinking a lot of water. Avoid being dehydrated; you need to drink slowly and often. Be sure you are eating enough in small amounts throughout the day.

Also it is very important to take time to acclimatize. Altitude sickness starts from mild symptoms such as; headache, nausea, loss of appetite, mild shortness of breath with exertion, sleep disturbance, breathing irregularity, dizziness or light-headedness, mild weakness, slight swelling of hands and face, lethargy, malaise etc. Any symptoms should not be ignored and must be reported to your group leader.

We do not expect any problems in the trip but it is better to take precaution. AMS is only applicable for those trekking in higher altitude.

Cultural Considerations

There are many important customs in the Buddhist tradition. Any Buddhist temple or stupa should be circumambulated clockwise. It is customary to eat, handle food, gifts money, etc. with your right hand. It is considered impolite to point the soles of ones feet at any one or towards alters, holy objects, people or a family’s fire. It is considered impolite to be physically demonstrative in public-especially between people of the opposite sex. It is okay to be affectionate (but not demonstrative) with a same-sex friend. It is important to dress appropriately while visiting monasteries and temples. Full sleeves shirts and trousers are a must. Please do not take photographs of people without asking permission. It is also important to ask permission before taking photographs in a monastery. Some monasteries may ask you not to use the flash on your camera. This is important for the preservation of the wall paintings.

Following local customs to a certain extent just shows good manners and your consideration is much appreciated.

Common Phrases

I Love you – Ma timilai maya garchu.
Hello – Namaste. (Nah-MAH-stay)
How are you? – Tapai sanchai cha?
Fine, thank you – Sanchai chu, Dhanyabaad
What is your name? – Tapai ko naam ke ho? (ta-pai ko na-m kay-ho?)
My name is ______ – Mero naam ______ ho. (MAY-ro na-m _____ ho.)
Thank you – dhanyabaad
Yes – Hajur or Ho
No – Hoina
Excuse me. (Getting attention) – maaf garnus.
I’m sorry – ma maafi chahanchu.
Do you speak English? – Tapaai Angreji bolnuhunchha? (Ta-Pai- Ang-gri-jee bolnu-hun-cha?)
Is there someone here who speaks English? – Koi English bolne cha?
I don’t understand – Maile bujina.
I’m lost – Ma haraye.
How to say ______? – _____ kasari bhanne?
I know – thaaha cha
I don’t know – thaaha chaina
What is this? – Yo ke ho?

Last Minute Checklist

The following checklist is to be used to double check right before you depart for the field.
•    Passport
•    Copy of passport
•    2 passport-sized photos (just in case)
•    Final documents – air tickets, hotel vouchers etc.
•    Credit cards, Traveler’s checks, Cash ($1, $5, $10 & $20 bills)
•    Necessary items from Clothing section
•    And lots and lots of Spirit for Adventure, an appetite for learning and patience & flexibility!!!

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Nepal boasts eight of the world’s tallest mountains and the world’s oldest Hindu and Buddhist sites. While Kathmandu valley is made of three ancient cities filled with enchanting medieval palaces, pagodas, temples, statues and stupas, the rest of the kingdom offers unparalleled adventure options with abundance in flora and fauna. From Custom-made holiday packages, Hotel booking, airline ticketing Dharma adventures will plan your trip and work with you to optimize every part of the journey to make sure you get the dream holiday you desire. Visit our other pages to view our other experiential journeys in Bhutan Nepal India Tibet