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Kathmandu nepal-Durbar Square, Baktapur, Nepal

Durbar Square, Baktapur, Nepal


July to Oct 2001 I conducted an import sales’ trip to Japan, my first attempt at an import/export business. I sold hip bags, t-shirts and pants from Bali and Thailand at Kyoto temple markets and various trance music festivals around Japan. After successfully selling about 90% of my merchandise, I decided to visit Nepal and hike in the Himalayan mountains, at long last.

valley on Annapurna Circuit- Nepal

valley on Annapurna Circuit- Nepal

Unbeknownst to me, while I was bustling around Japan, an astounding, scandalous tragedy took place within the Nepali Royal family. The crown prince killed several of his Royal family members, including the King of Nepal (!) at a family gathering. He then turned the gun on himself, committing suicide.

That had a tremendous impact on the Nepali government, the Royal family, and the nation as a whole. In addition, there were renewed stirrings of Maoist guerrilla rebels at several places around Nepal, requiring military intervention.

For both those reasons, the safety of traveling in Nepal was a bit questionable. Nevertheless, I was unfazed and proceeded with my plans.

Lash boarding flight in Bangladesh

Lash boarding flight from Bangladesh to Nepal

I flew into Kathmandu, via an overnight layover in Dhaka, Bangladesh. (which was an adventure itself. Overnight in Dhaka)

I got ‘stuck’ in Kathmandu two weeks with some kind of ‘exhaustion illness’ before I could finally set out on my first cycling trip around the Kathmandu Valley.

On my return to Kathmandu, I was struck hard by bronchitis, took antibiotics, and finally managed to take a bus across Nepal to Pokhara, the jumping off point for Himalaya treks in the Annapurna region. After some crazy health dramas, which caused me to cross Nepal 3 times, I did actually hike the Annapurna Circuit.

Annapurna Range of Himalayan Mountains

Annapurna Range of Himalayan Mountains

Immediately afterward, to round things off, I experienced a very exciting and dramatic exit from Nepal (see Dramatic Departure) in the midst of Maoist bombings that lead to most countries issuing urgent warnings to all its citizens: “Depart Now!”

I certainly did not have a dull time in Nepal!

Unlike most travelers to Nepal, I was not so favorably impressed with the country. Although the architecture and atmosphere of Kathmandu were very interesting and unique, I greatly disliked the rubble, debris and filth of the city. I also felt constantly pestered by touts. Although they weren’t many in number, they were incredibly persistent and annoying.

Boudhanath Stupa plaza- Kathmandu

Boudhanath Stupa plaza- Kathmandu

Then, crossing the Kathmandu Valley by bike, I became incredibly angry at the Nepali government for their obvious neglect of the country’s infrastructure and citizens. I was astounded at the degree to which there was NO sanitation whatsoever. No school system. No health care. No basic infrastructure such as paved roads, sewage systems, or piped water.

I found appalling conditions throughout the flat Kathmandu Valley, just outside Nepal’s capital city. Many Nepali people, within just one day’s journey from the capital, were still living like the dark ages, with no knowledge of modern health care, sanitation, running water or education.

Meanwhile, I knew that tons and tons of money was pouring into Nepal for permits to hike Mt. Everest (it’s at least $10,000 US per person just for the permit) and other peaks, as well as by numerous NGOs helping with projects throughout the country.

Obviously, the Nepali government/ Royal family was not using any of those abundant funds for their citizens or their country.

Lash trekking Annapurna Circuit

Lash trekking Annapurna Circuit

Finally, during my entire Himalayan trek I was asked the same boring questions over and over again, day in and day out, from morning until night, by everyone I met, both locals and other trekkers… ahhhhhhhhhhh!

It’s interesting how one’s previous experiences color one’s perceptions of a place. My response to Nepal is a perfect example.

I had just been in Japan for 3 months, where everything is clean, new, mended, functional and punctual- all of which I happen to love. In addition, Japanese people almost never approach strangers, meaning me, which I also happen to love. From Japan I arrived in poor, filthy, broken down Kathmandu and got pestered by touts. Coming from Japan, it was really rather shocking.

Kathmandu- burning ghats

Kathmandu- burning ghats

In complete contrast to my reaction to Kathmandu, I met many many travelers coming up from India to ‘escape’ from the filth, chaos and constant harassment of India. They all found Kathmandu: CLEAN! (what?!) CALM and UNHARASSED! (What?!)

So there you go. It’s all about perspective.

Nepal's 'Living Goddess' Kathmandu

Nepal’s ‘Living Goddess’ Kathmandu

My anger at the Nepali government/Royal family no doubt resulted from my knowledge of the Thai government and especially the King of Thailand. I could clearly see a complete contrast between the two Royal families.

Having spent several years traveling in Thailand, I’d learned much about how the Thai King had helped  peasants with improved agriculture, introduced mandatory free education throughout the entire country, implemented health care, and installed modern, fully-functioning infrastructure.

Thailand has excellent roads,  hospitals and health care, (much better than the US health care, by the way!) There’s electricity throughout the country and a competent educational system.

All of that was missing in Nepal, even close to the capital. I was totally disgusted.

In addition to my annoyances with Nepal, my ‘exhaustion illness’, which derailed the first 2 weeks of my trip, hindered my plans and lead to a temporary health scare. No doubt that also colored my ‘feeling’ for Nepal.

While I did find Nepal extremely interesting, the architecture and culture in Kathmandu amazing, much of the scenery stunning, and many foods delicious, Nepal certainly wasn’t my favorite country.

Maybe my perceptions all boiled down to the particular moment in time that I visited. Almost every traveler I’ve met who’s visited Nepal absolutely loved it.

Looks like I’ll have to give Nepal another try!

Q: Have you been to Nepal? 

    What were your impressions? 

    What did you like and dislike about the country? 


You might also like:

Trekking the Annapurna Circuit

Maoist Guerrilla Bombings and Dramatic Departure from Nepal

Dhaka, Bangladesh

Photo Gallery: Hiking the Annapurna Circuit

Photo Gallery: Kathmandu



2 pings

  1. Jason

    Sounds like you found your trip to be Nepalling

    1. Lash WorldTour

      Hello Jason,

      Welcome! hahahaha!

      cheers, Lash

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    […] My First Impressions of Nepal […]

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