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Introduction
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!

HISTORY
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 1987.

Geography
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 regions.

CLIMATE
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

Month (C)Month Min (C) Max (C) Rainfall
January 2.7 17.5 47
February 2.2 21.6 11
March 6.9 25.5 15
April 8.6 30.0 5
May 15.6 29.7 146
June 18.9 29.4 135
July 19.5 28.1 327
August 19.2 29.5 206
September 18.6 28.6 199
October 13.3 28.6 42
November 6.0 23.7 0
December 1.9 20.7 1

Population
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.

People
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.

Photography
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.

Language
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.

Customs
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.

Money Transfer
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 advance.

Post
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 as well.

Airport Security
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.

Security
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
Electricity: 220 Volts, 50 Hz.

International Calls
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.

Tipping
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.

 
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