Malaysian tour guide discovers Nepal’s natural beauty and colorful stories

Joshi, the chef of a Spanish restaurant in Kathmandu, Nepal, worked as a sous chef for many years in the resort town of Valencia in Spain. He’s a good cook, and I particularly like his gazpacho and his chicken paella.

Joshi is an example of what the Nepalese government has been trying to do over the years: exploring the concept of global tourism and taking initiatives to attract talent and experienced experts to the country.

The government had also encouraged local and international investors to help further develop the travel and hospitality industry, establishing hotels, food outlets and specialized tourism products. One of the best products has been the Himalayan trekking experiences, which has seen many professional international mountaineering companies open in Nepal in recent years.

To be fair, a landlocked country like Nepal would have to rely heavily on its mountaineering tourism industry and the export of migrant workers to sustain its economy. But unfortunately, the per capita income of some 30 million Nepalese is only around US$1,400 (RM6,186).

The Boudhanath Stupa (background) is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the city of Kathmandu. — Photos: Apple Vacations

As such, the country’s tourism board had to mobilize the whole nation and prepare the population adequately to welcome a target of two million foreign tourists a year.

However, very often plans do not go as planned. Almost all of Nepal’s initial plans have been disrupted by the pandemic, throwing the nation into a state of panic.

“Although it is definitely preferable to make paella with seafood, the country has since April this year banned the import of seafood, as well as other luxury items, automobiles, tobacco , alcohol, fashion accessories and even chocolates. Only essentials such as flour, sugar and medicines are allowed in the country,” Josh said despairingly.

Currently, Nepal is also suffering from severe shortage of fuel and power which has triggered worsening inflation.

The country’s central bank recently said that Nepal’s foreign exchange reserves are dwindling and foreign currency credit can only last another six months. But at the same time, he refuses to give up and is determined to work harder than ever to bounce back.

The Poon Hill Trail, a 20-hour trek, is one of the best trekking routes in the Himalayas.The Poon Hill Trail, a 20-hour trek, is one of the best trekking routes in the Himalayas.Historically, Nepal was never colonized by any western power. It is a country with many stories to tell, but perhaps not all very happy ones!

From 1996 to 2006, Nepal experienced a civil war that ultimately tore the nation and its people apart. The royal massacre of 2001 shocked the world and ultimately led to the collapse and deposition of the 239-year-old Shah dynasty in 2008.

Now, Nepal has become a republic.

However, the country has failed to improve since then. And as if that weren’t enough, in April 2015 a massive earthquake measuring 8.1 on the Richter scale occurred which almost ruined the whole country.

Fortunately, Nepalese have learned to survive living in a harsh environment for centuries and still believe that things will be better after a disaster.

Nepal today

Recently, we stood in the 17th century Patan Durbar in culturally diverse Kathmandu, watching the endless stream of devotees and listening to their joyful voices. The World Heritage Site was largely destroyed in the 2015 earthquake, but today it is slowly regaining its former glory, thanks to extensive restoration work.

The ethereal sounds emanating from the many nearby shops selling healing bowls exuded an aura of peace and serenity. Whether it was the 83% Hindus or the 10% Buddhists in the country, everyone seemed to be strong believers in their own religion, and they all had the same hope: that they and their families will soon have access to a better life. .

Many Nepalese come to Malaysia for work, mainly in search of stable employment in manufacturing and construction. Others work as security guards and are often praised for their hard work, reliability, loyalty, and kindness.

The Annapurna mountain range is Nepal’s biggest ecotourism attraction.

While trekking along the Annapurna Trek, we hummed a popular local song called Resham Firiri, marveling at the thick foliage of ancient forests. Local tour guides generally believe that after the white clouds have passed in front of us, what will come next is the sunny clear blue sky and the splendid view of the snow capped Himalayas in the distance.

As we walked we were greeted by smiling mountaineers along our way: “Hey Malaysians, how are you? Namaste!” they said cheerfully.

It was raining at 5am, but we had walked for over 20 hours (35km!) and were just too excited to finally reach the top of 3,210m high Poon Hill to notice the gloomy weather. The natural beauty of Nepal is simply breathtaking!

The opinions expressed are entirely those of the author.

Leesan, the founder of Apple Vacations, has traveled to 132 countries, six continents and enjoys sharing his travel stories and insights. He is also the author of five books.