Nepal - a country of amazing extremes, is the home
of the world's highest mountains, historic cities and the
forested plains where the lordly tigers and the great one-
horned rhinoceros trundle at ease. In fact enchantment is
everywhere- for anyone in search of Shangrila!
Nepal-a country with a long historic tradition is
an amalgamation of a number of medieval principalities. Before
the campaign of national integration launched by King Prithvi
Narayan Shah the Kathmandu Valley was ruled by the Malla Kings,
whose contributions to art and culture are indeed great and
unique. In 1768 AD the Shah dynasty ascended the throne of
the unified kingdom. His Majesty King Birendra Bir Bikram
Shah Dev, is tenth King in the Shah dynasty.
The new democratic constitution of the kingdom
was promulgated on November 9, 1990. Nepal is one of the founder
members of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation
SAARC of which the third summit was held in Kathmandu in November
In two of the three dimensions, length and breadth, Nepal
is just another small country. In the third, height, it's
number one in the world. Nepal starches from north-west to
south-east about 800 km and varies in width from around 90
km to 230 km. This gives it a total area of just 147,181 sq.
km according to the official figures.
Within that small area, however, is the greatest
range of altitude to be seen on this earth - starting with
the Terai, only 100m or so above sea level, and finishing
at the top of Mt. Everest (8848m), the highest point on earth.
Often a visitor's overriding goal is to see
the mountains, especially Everest and Annapurna. However,
to exclude the people, flowers, birds and wildlife from the
experience is to miss the essence of the country regions,
or natural zones: the plains in the south, four mountain ranges,
and the valley lying between them. The lowlands with their
fertile soils, and the southern slopes of the mountains with
sunny exposures, allow for cultivation and are the main inhabited
Nepal has four climatic seasons
(a) Spring : March-May
(b) Summer : June-August
(c) Autumn : September-November
(d) Winter : December-February.
The average temperature and rainfall records
in Kathmandu are presented hereunder
Nepal's population currently stands at around 23 million (1998
estimate). Every year population increases by nearly 600,000.
The largest city is Kathmandu, the capital, with more than
700,000 people. In the mountains the rate of increase is lower
than in Terai, but this is because many people are migrating
in search of land and work. Despite extremely high rates of
infant morality, the life expectancy is only a horrifying
54 years, the overall annual rate of population increase is
a rapid 2.6%. Family planning is primary importance, but most
people continue to regard children as a blessing. A child
is seen as a vital and fulfilling part of the parents' life,
an extra worker and someone to care for them in old age, not
just an extra stomach. Women have an average of more than
four children each.
Like the geography, the population of Nepal extremely diverse
and highly complex. Simplistically, Nepal is the meeting point
for the Indo-Aryan people of Indian with the Tibeto-Burman of
the Himalaya, but this gives little hint of the dynamic ethnic
mosaic that has developed and continues to change to this day.
In a south-north direction, as you move from the plains to the
mountains, the ethnic map can be roughly divided into layers:
the Terai, the midlands or Pahad zone, and the Himalaya. Each
zone is dominated by characteristic ethnic groups whose agriculture
and lifestyles are adapted to suit the physical constraints
of their environment. In the Himalayan zone, the people are
Monologian of Tibetan descent. They are know as bhote in Nepali.
In the east of the midlands zone, one find Kirati people known
as Rai, Limbu groups. They speak Tibeto-Burman Language. In
the Terai zone, after the eradication of malaria in the 1950s
the only people to live in the valley were Tharus of Hindu overtones.
Anthropologists divide the people of Nepal into
about 50 ethnic groups or castes with their own culture and
traditions. Everyone is proud of their heritage. Many people
use the name of their ethnic group, caste or clan as their surname.
The caste system has many occupational castes such as Brahmins
(Hindu Priests), Chhetris (farmers in the hills and soldiers),
Newars (the original inhabitants of Kathmandu Valley), Thakalis,
Gurungs, Rais, Limbus, Tamangs, Magars, Potters, butchers, blacksmiths,
cobblers, goldsmiths, clothes washers, etc.
RELIGION & CULTURE
Hinduism and Buddhism constitute two major religions
of Nepal. A remarkable feature of Nepal is the religious homogeneity
what exists, particularly between the Hindu and Buddhist Communities.
Apart from the Hindus and Buddhists, Muslim from the third largest
religious group. The exquisite medieval Art & Architecture
of the Kathmandu Valley vividly reflect the artistic ingenuity
and the religious tradition of the people.
Visiting a Temple
Always walk clockwise around Buddhist stupas, chortens or mani
walls. Always remove your shoes before entering a Buddhist or
Hindu temple or sanctuary. You may also have to remove any items
made from leather, such as belts and bags. Many Hindu temples
do not permit westerners to enter.
Visiting a Nepali Home
In a Nepali home the kitchen is off limits to guests. Avoid
polluting food by inadvertently touching it or bringing it into
contact with a used plate or utensil. Using you own fork or
spoon to serve out more food will do this. Putting your used
plate on a buffet table risks making the food still on the table
jutho or polluted. Notice how Nepalese drink from cup or water
vessel without letting it touch their lips.
Do not intrude with a camera, unless it is clearly OK with the
people you are photographing. Ask before a temple compound whether
it is permissible to enter and take photographs. Do not exchange
addresses or offer copies of photos unless you definitely intend
to follow it up later.
It's quite easy to get by with English in Nepal; most of the
visitors will have to deal with in the Kathmandu valley and
in Pokhara will speak good English. Along the main trekking
trails, particularly the Annapurna Circuit, English is widely
understood. However, it's interesting to learn at least a little
Nepali and it's quite an easy language to pick up. Nepali is
closely related to Hindi and, like Hindi, is a member of the
Indo-European group of languages. Although Nepali is the national
language of Nepal and is the linking language between all the
country's ethnic groups there are many other languages spoken.
The Newars of the Kathmandu Valley, for example, speak Newari
and there are other languages spoken by the Tamangs, Sherpas,
Rais, Limbus, Magars, Gurungs and other groups. In the Terai,
bordering India, Hindi and Maithali, another Indian language
of their region, are often spoken. Even if you can learn no
other Nepali, there is one word every visitor soon picks up
- Namaste. Strictly translated it means I salute the god in
you, but it is used as an everyday greeting encompassing everything
from Hello to How are you? and even 'see you again soon'. Properly
used it should be accompanied with the hands held in a prayer
like position, the Nepali gesture which is the equivalent of
westerners shaking hands.
When you depart from Kathmandu, you may be searched very thoroughly.
In addition to drugs, customs is concerned with the illegal
export of antiques. Visitors are allowed to bring only few items
from the duty free shop for their personal use only.
You need to follow the right steps to transfer money from overseas.
You have to select the bank which is the branch of International
Bank and make sure that you transfer by fax as mail can take
forever. Before you transfer your money, make sure that they
have you name, bank name & address exactly right. Do not
forget to inform the bank in Kathmandu about your transfer in
The postal service to and from Nepal is sometime slow otherwise
it take only a week. Make sure that you write down the name
in bold and underline it and also do not forget to write the
post box number of the hotel that you are staying . E-mail &
fax services are available in most of the hotels and communication
boots. There are few communication booths in Pokhara for e-mail
All luggage is X-rayed at Kathmandu airport on the way in and
the way out of the country. Films are supposed to be safe in
X-ray machines but, if you are really concern about your exposed
films, please get them inspected manually.
Nepal is generally very safe with one of the lowest crime rates
of all countries. Travel with children in Nepal, yet with a
bit of planning it is remarkably hassle free. There is no fear
of special threats, but it is always wise to keep an eye on
one's luggage in busy areas. Pick-pockets are a world phenomenon.
Electricity: 220 Volts, 50 Hz.
International calls can be made from any hotel telephone booth.
The access code is "00" followed by country code and
so on (e.g. 00-81 for Japan). Most of the public shops also
have telephones, but international calls are usually not accessible.
However, there are plenty of private telephone booths around
the streets of Kathmandu.
In our Nepali custom, tipping is not a big issue. People do
not expect anything as a tip from you in Nepal. Even in big
hotels, they do not levy service charge. However, if you feel
like tipping, it's all up to you. Generally Rs. 50 - Rs. 100
is quite sufficient. Taxi drivers don't expect to be tipped.