Friday, July 24, 2015

Our Lovely Volunteer Guests

Tourism is at an all time low here in Nepal, so it's a good time to go with the flow and do some planning for the future. I've decided to continue to use the guest house to host volunteers at no charge. Right now I have 5 who are helping in various ways to provide something for the people that they could not provide for themselves. Such dedication and open hearts are so wonderful there don't seem to be words to express my gratitude, shared by all of our neighbors here and in Saku.

Not only have these New Zealanders come with skill and kind hearts, but they have even raised money and will be helping some of the most needy of families in Changunarayan and Saku.

Here is Kerensa's blog post about their arrival in Nepal. The Wellness {R} Evelution

We also have a talented young man, Chris, who has put together a few videos for youtube. Here's the link to the latest movie:

Additionally, we are fortunate to have Livio, our web developer come to Nepal to work on our thangka painting and wooden masks sites. He has it on Google's first page for several key words. 25% of retail price goes to support our projects. We can custom paint or carve your piece of art at no additional charge. The site is full of valuable information on this ancient art form. It is also an easy shopping experience where your satisfaction is guaranteed. Please visit Our community shopping site

Sunday, June 7, 2015

6 Facts You Need To Know When You Travel in Nepal.

Photo credit : Noé -

Nepal is so much fun : each day is a surprise, a new adventure, a learning. You will have to make your own mistakes to get to know the culture, but here are some little tips that might help you during your first days on this sacred land :

1- Your black coffee will be filled with sugar.

You crave for a black coffee. A big, tasty, strong black coffee. No milk, no sugar; you like it 100% black.
Here you are at a local restaurant, ordering your holy Grail. It arrives, in its beautiful dark robe, and all your senses are arising. You take the warm cup between your hands, smell this delicious aroma, and prepare your lips to kiss the exquisite beverage. All the sudden, the divine moment collapses : the taste of your succulent coffee is masked by the sweetness of a ounce of white sugar. Urgh. You go to ask for another coffee without sugar, and you end up with a black-coloured water slightly tasting like coffee.
You do the mistake once, and twice, and trice. Then you remember : coffee isn't great in small local places, and if you decide to order it anyway, beg the waiter to forget the sugar.

Photo credit : Noé -

2- You'll never get the fair price.

If you are accustomed to travel in Asia, you probably know that negotiate a price is a must-to-do. It might be easy in South East Asia, but Nepali are especially sharp in business.
The way you look like is important. The more touristy you are, the more likely a seller is to confound you with a huge dollars bill. Dress local, avoid western brands, huge money belt and socks with sandals, then you might be ready for the negotiation part.
Don't be afraid to ask 50%, even 60% of the price. They usually won't go that low, but keep trying. Fix a price in your head and stick to it. It is easier to do so before shops are closing : if the day wasn't good, they will be more likely to sell for a cheaper price. If you are still not satisfy and have the opportunity to come back to the shop, try again the day after. And remember : keep smiling and kidding, negotiation has to be fun.

4- If you need clean toilets, go to a bank.

Where the money is kept, the cleanest are the toilets. As bizarre as it might sound, toilets in banks are relatively clean and, the most important, furnished with toilet paper ! Banks are pretty much everywhere; it shouldn't be hard for you to find one on your way, before it becomes to urgent. Otherwise, always carry some tissues or toilet paper with you.

Photo credit : Noé -

5- The three people rule.

People in Nepal are nice and willing to help you. However, if you are lost in one of those narrow and messy street in Kathmandu, looking for your guesthouse, you better ask three time your way. Indeed; instead of disappointing you by saying they have no idea of where is the place you want to go, Nepali people would rather show you the wrong direction.
The more times you ask, the more likely you are to find your way. And don't be afraid : locals speak perfectly English.

6- Maybe means no.

As mentioned previously, Nepali people are polite and won't make you feel uncomfortable. They will always find other ways to say no. Take a "maybe" as a no, and if one day you crave for tofu and the restaurant you go tells you they'll only have tofu tomorrow, don't bother to come back : they won't have tofu before a long, long time.

Photo credit : Noé -

Did you experience funny or unusual facts about Nepal ? Tell us more about it !

Saturday, May 23, 2015

One Month Later in Nepal

Tomorrow will mark one month since the first earthquake struck; I woke up to another aftershock this morning. There has not been a lot of relief for the people, rice, a blanket, some plastic tarps, a few sheets of aluminum and little more. Outside the village, I can see that several helicopters have been delivering goods to the people in more rural areas. They fly so low it can feel like an earthquake, thus traumatizing us anew several times a day. No one seems to understand why they have to fly so low. The food supply has not been seriously effected, yet. I do not know if I should be concerned in the long term, but have purchased a big bag of rice and a couple Kg. of organic coffee. It's important to prioritize.

Yesterday afternoon a wind storm came up and blew the tents away at our hilltop. Then it started raining. People had to scatter to make sure things didn't get blown away in the high winds. The wind was so strong a person could hardly stand up and both of my young men volunteers promptly went out to help. Although some of the tents stayed and the wind died down after about an hour or so, it was quite sad for the people who had nowhere to sleep.

When I woke up this morning I could see that my housekeeper's family had to stay elsewhere, which could have included my dining room or a bedroom. Many of my neighbors have been so traumatized they are too frightened to stay inside. It's so difficult for them. If it were me I'm sure I would have driven everyone crazy by now.

Many people are using sheets of aluminum to make little shelters. These shelters will help them survive the monsoon. There is a moratorium on building at this time. The government seems to be attempting some sort of building code.
This is the new aluminum shelter the childless couple and Birbhadur made together by sharing the aluminum we managed to get. One of the villagers connected to an NGO told me they had provided one piece of aluminum per person to 17 families in the village, but knowing I was helping 3 families he let me know they didn't get any aluminum. Of course I was happy to provide it for them. I got enough to help another family, too. That's when I bought the other two wheel barrows, with the help of a young man, Doug, from Sweden. 

Here's our fund raiser site: 

We are also going to be doing a sweepstakes extravaganza and will give $10,000 trip to Nepal for next year, after the village is looking nice. It will be an all expense paid trip for 2 to Nepal, custom designed to the person's needs, but it will be basically 6 weeks of being treated like an honored guest and they will be able to do whatever they want to do here. If all goes well we will be able to have this village looking lovely by next April with the money this will bring. This contest will also provide Nepali, handcrafted gifts for participants to get the economy going and make it better for everyone. It's actually our first, annual sweepstakes. Next year I hope to help Shaku, another nearby village. 


Thursday, May 14, 2015

Donating to Nepal-What You Need to Know

It is always sad when nature creates destruction anywhere, but when it's a country like Nepal it is even more tragic. Everyone wants to help and it truly warms my heart to think that so many Westerners have such compassion. Especially New Zealanders and people from other earthquake prone countries want to help. I understand New Zealand is still to recover from their disastrous earthquakes, and yet the compassion they have for Nepal is so outstanding. 

However, and this is a big however, we do not want the money to be used in a counterproductive way, or be misused by the social worker keeping the money. Either of these cause many Westerners to throw up their hands and not do anything to help. At this time in Nepal, in light of the recent tragic events it is even more important that the money be used properly and in a timely fashion.

Birbhadur and his mother, Laxmi showing me their new blankets. They were very grateful.

I've lived here for over 4 years and have had many opportunities to work with social organizations. As much as I've wanted to help I've not been able to connect with what I'd assess to be an effective organization. I've had people come to volunteer at orphanages and brought warm clothing for the children. These same volunteers who paid from $5 a day to $500 a month tell me the children continue to wear old, dirty clothing and the new clothes just get put somewhere. I've seen such clothing go to the social worker's home village to his/her own relatives. I have some appreciation in this because you can find people in need all over Nepal; I'm sure the social worker has relatives in genuine need. I know, it still isn't right.

Speaking of 'orphans' in Nepal, most children living in orphanages have 2 living parents. They are poor, so they are sent to the Kathmandu Valley to get an education. Imagine living in a village of 20 homes with the closest school being a 2 hour walk through the forest. That is the reality. So, to support an orphanage like that is up to a person's own abilities and conscience. I've written about volunteering in orphanages, as you can see by my previous posts.

Now we come to a time for Nepal when we really need help, literally everyone. 90% of the homes have either collapsed completely or need repairs. Even my guest house has cracked walls, but I do not need money from donations for my own home. My landlord needs to make the repairs. Also, I'm an expat and would not think to take money that could go to a Nepali family. 

But the question remains, how do you know the money will be used to help Nepal rebuild-not make a new trekking agency or guest house? I have a strong suspicion that many guest houses and trekking agencies will be established from donations of well-meaning Westerners. And many poor Nepali families will remain living out in the cold for a lot longer than reasonably expected. Monsoon is almost here and when it rains it can create rivers within a few minutes. Now that the earthquakes have shaken things up, it seems logical to expect even more landslides this year. These people will never be able to rebuild on their own, except to take the old brick and re-stack it into a new building. Then it will surely fall in the next earthquake. 

There really doesn't seem to be a magic bullet to assure your money will be spent properly and effectively. I offer a few suggestions below that I've thought of myself. No one seems to be doing anything but bitching about the funds not being used right. 

Other governments are also providing help. The US provided two Osprey helicopters, one of which fell killing 6 Americans and 2 Nepali. The Chinese government has provided many lovely tents that can keep the animals away and provide some privacy. 

Many governments from Europe have been sending medical teams and supplies and so much more. The world is truly grieving for Nepal-and opening their wallets. It's like the world's heart is beating just for Nepal; I am so grateful because I love Nepal so much. From what I understand, the Red Cross has also provided tents. I haven't seen any of these tents, but I have seen countless tarps that people sleep under. Our little tent is right next to this one at the top of the hill.

The government has decided to intersect as many donations as possible to the government relief fund. This will insure the social workers do not abuse the funds, but the Nepali are not confident that the government will. Already we've seen one family take 10 tarps for themselves due to knowing the person who was handing them out. Rather than using them for sleeping under, I'm pretty sure they will use them for harvesting. That's why there were already so many tarps-even before the NGOs came with tarps.

So, what to do? 'Ke garne?' as they say in Nepali. 

1. Make sure the person you are providing money to has a good, clear plan as to how to use the money. What kind of transparency will they have? What is the contingency plan if someone else solves the problem or it's discovered that another plan of action would be better?

2. Make sure the person has some integrity; do not just give to someone on a crowd funding site.

3. Do not send money to a foreign bank account. Always use third party funding.

4. Use people from your own country. That way you can get some accountability via the Attorney General or a consumer 'watchdog' agency.

5. Ask questions about how the money will be used. 'If this, then what?'

6. Follow-up to see how the money has been spent. 

7. If you are sending money to an agency that has already been doing social work look at the way they used the money in the past. How much is used for management? More than 10% is probably too much. 

8. Use your Paypal or credit card rather than bank transfer. If it's fraud you might be able to get a refund (but do not count on it).

9. Consider donating to a non-profit/NGO and ask them to donate it to an agency in Nepal. That way you get the tax credit and get to do some good. Just make sure how much will actually be sent to Nepal.

10. If you belong to a church, fraternal or civil organization consider having the group do a garage sale/silent auction or some other fundraiser for Nepal. If someone can bring the funds and distribute them it would be even better.

A newspaper article in the Kantipur Newspaper, Kathmandu, today was about a village in the hardest hit region. The spokesperson made a good point, "We don't need rice and aluminum." Then he went on to illustrate what would satisfy their needs. In his case, he wants to be relocated to a less hazardous area. They have been experiencing more than their share of hardship. Just last year there was a landslide that took out a large village and hydro-power plant. My point here is that it's important to let the local people tell what they need; it's best not to patronize them. In some places the people have sold the donated rice for roxie, the local brew. When we sat out on the hill with the people right after the first earthquake Yana applied some sore muscle cream on the older women and I cannot think of anything that could have made them happier. 

Another article warned that the Village Development Committee in each village is politically motivated and tend to distribute supplies only to those in their party and close relatives. In this village someone brought tarps for only 100; there were more than 300 homeless families. The men here sent them back to get tarps for everyone. However, everyone talks about one man who took 10 tarps for himself. Plastic tarps are used for harvesting, so he surely took them for that reason. 
The women still draw water from the community tap.

There were several families that did not get aluminum sheets to make a better shelter so we brought more aluminum and a couple more wheel barrows for the village clean-up.

Actually, this blog post was inspired by a Western friend married to a Nepali. Right away, even before the lights came back on after the first earthquake they had a crowd funding project up online. A week or so later the young woman came by and I asked her how the project was coming. "We already have over $5,000," she replied. "That's great, what are you doing with the money?" I asked. "Oh, we're not really sure yet. Maybe we'll do some temporary housing." I wanted to ask her one more question, but kept my mouth shut. 'How do you plan to extract the money from your husband's pocket?'

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

What? Twin Earthquakes!

Yesterday, May 12, 2015 another major earthquake came, 7.3-4. There was another epicenter so I guess it means it’s a brand new earthquake. No more people died in our village, but 6 Americans died from an Osprey accident and 2 Nepali.On a side note, I was living in the town in Florida that had twin hurricanes in 2004. Who knew there were twin earthquakes.
We were home, Bimila, Mark, our new helpx volunteer, Sajana, my new helper and me. It hit hard, not like the wave I’d felt during the first one. And we panicked. We jumped up and went down the stairs while it shook the entire time. “Bimila,” I called out as we went down the stairs and she promptly joined us going down the stairs. Although I know we should not leave the building, we all promptly ran outside and to the hilltop. Bimila had been traumatized enough from the first earthquake while she clung to our tourist guest as she watched the devastation happening in Bhhaktapur.
As we reached the hilltop I turned to see our housecleaner, didi, coming out! She had been on the roof doing laundry. I gave her a big hug to try to ground her.  I sat with her for a few minutes and then turned to look for Bimila. I jumped up and told our didi that I was going to look for her and as I got a ways up the hill I heard her call me. I thought she went to look for her father, Kamal, who was up near the temple doing some thangka painting.
I waited for her to come and even without a word we turned to find him and almost ran past the old buildings as we past. Bimila wouldn’t let go of me. We stopped along the way when we saw people we knew to ask. I knew Kamal is the kind of person who will stop to help his neighbor and that can be deadly at such times as this.
Sure enough, Kamal had stopped what he was working on when a tourist asked for directions to Nagarkot. He had been safely out of harm’s way when the earthquake struck. His random act of kindness hadn’t saved his life, but likely saved him from the initial trauma.
We spent the night at the hilltop. Fortunately, Mark had brought tarps, so we made a nice tent. He has been working so hard to help clear debris in the village so some shops could possibly open again.
Tonight we will use Mark’s mosquito net, which will make it a lot better. The mosquitoes buzzed around all night except for when the wind picked up. I put coconut oil on my face to keep them away. They cannot take an oil base like that and will die if they land.
About the guest house: Star View held up quite well during the first couple quakes and aftershocks, but after this earthquake I noticed more paint on the floor and the cracks are growing. None of the baring walls seem to be compromised, but the wall I’m most concerned about is near the door. Sleeping in the room would be foolish, and upstairs might be even worse prior to getting a qualified inspector. I’ve been promised that ‘someone might come today.’
The electric has been cut to the guest house due to some of the homes on the grid have fallen. After the inspection we will get a generator, but if it’s not safe to stay here I plan to let my inner American come out and I’ll stay at a friend’s guest house that stayed intact in Nagarkot. Many of the guest houses in Nagarkot collapsed, but Hotel Mt. Paradise is only two story and almost as new as mine.
65 people are said to have died yesterday in this new earthquake.
Even with the earthquakes and craziness, I am so happy here and there is nowhere I’d rather be than in Nepal. I saw this bird this morning while having my coffee.

Monday, May 4, 2015

The Nepal Earthquake Disaster-According to Ama

I wrote this during the crisis but couldn't upload it until now. It sort of feels like old news even though it was just last week. It was the longest week in history for me. I still woke up last night with aftershocks.

As I write this, almost 48 hours from the first earthquake, I can still feel small aftershocks. It was a Saturday and one guest, Yana, wanted to take Kamal’s girls to Bhaktapur for a day out.  I had guests earlier in the week who were vendors at the tattoo convention in Kathmandu, I was on the way to it with Kiran, Kamal's 10 year old son. We got to where the airport  meets the highway and suddenly motorcycles were on the ground and people were sitting on the highway.  It was horrible! The shaking went on and on-not like any other quake I’d been in. We decided to get out of the mini-van and then got back in and back out again while the earth was still shaking, at least 3 minutes. I looked up at the hills and saw plumes of brown smoke and knew houses were collapsing.
“We have to turn around,” I told Prem, our driver. “We have to check on your wife, Kamal and the girls.” I started hysterically telling him to turn around. “Turn around before traffic starts back!” 

Prem had to stop the van several times due to aftershocks and one of those was almost as big as the original quake.  Then we saw broken homes, collapsed homes and places where the highway had cracked or completely buckled as high as 5 feet.

I’m a native San Franciscan so earthquakes are not new to me, but this appeared right away to be on the ‘Biblical scale.’ Feelings began to overwhelm me and then I’d feel no feelings at all. At one point Lisa saw that I had started to look like I was coming apart and whatever she said to me gave me the fix I needed. But I couldn’t get a hold of Kamal or Yana with the girls. I decided right away to text instead of clogging the phone lines and soon got confirmation from Yana that they were fine. They were fortunate to come out unscathed as Bhaktpur did not fare well. The girls watched as even children were carried out on stretchers, many even already dead. As we drove through Bhaktapur we saw Yana and the girls in a taxi ahead of us, but the worst was yet to come.

Changunarayan village looked like it was destroyed. I saw countless homes in various stages of destruction. As we walked home from the village entrance we had to run past some homes because they looked so precarious.

As I came close to my guest house I saw Birbhadoo's home in ruins, but soon found my first reason for smiling. My 14 year old neighbor was safe and unharmed. He started to cry, “My house fall down.”  His tiny, village style home was only half standing with a pile of bricks blocking the road. I assured him that he would get another, better home.

Our other neighbor’s home was in almost the same shape. I looked for the little, tiny lady and was so relieved to see her smiling and waving at me. There is not a building or home in the village without damage of some kind, most older homes have major damage. 

My guest house! Although it was supposed to be up to code to survive a cat. 9 earthquake, I thought the foundation was broken; some of the walls looked to be cracked all the way through. The one that bothered me the most was the wall with the electric box on it. Since that day I’ve had several people tell me it’s fine structurally; I’ve been staying in a bedroom on a lower floor just in case.

The people of the village just took it in stride. They were already outside at the end of the hill setting up make-shift tents by the time we arrived. They welcomed all us tourists and openly shared whatever they had. I made a quick grab at the guest house and brought blankets, mattresses and food for everyone. 

Suddenly one woman broke out in wails of tears. Her 5 year old son had died from the home collapsing. My heart broke for her. Another young man, a cousin of the child who died was carried to the hilltop after his home had fallen on him. He was fortunate to have survived.

Night time was really the worst. We slept under the plastic tarps normally used for harvesting. Kamal and the kids stayed at the bus park camp and I stayed at the hill top with my neighbors. Dogs barked all night and the men at the camp fire who were protecting us talked all night and when the aftershocks came people would cry out. When the aftershocks would come, some people would get on their knees, put their thumbs on the ground and then say in Newari, 'Stop, stop!" The second night it rained until almost midnight. Martin and Lisa, my guests who had come to do some volunteering were wonderful. He helped make the tents and troughs for the rain and we managed, although I got wet and cold throughout the night. Raindrops came in through the roof from tiny holes and the rain would come in from the sides. 

We were told to expect an even bigger earthquake and no one was allowed to go back into their homes. When Kamal came to check on me he told me the people staying at the bus park got terribly wet due to the rain and them being on the brick lined street instead of a hilltop. 
The next day Yana and I walked up to the police department to see about getting in contact with the US Consular, but communications were still down. While we were there we experienced the next earthquake, 6.4 and saw buildings in the village collapse and plumes of brown smoke off in the distance.

This was the police station after the first earthquake: 
The Police are still a great protection to us even without a building. So brave.
 Today is finally Wednesday. Tuesday was spent with Yana playing doctor with many of the older women in the camp. She had various types of muscle relaxing creams, cough medicine and such. What started out as a way for her to get to know some of the villagers and pass the time generated into an experience neither she nor the villagers will ever forget. The old ladies came and bared their ailing body parts for her as she gently applied her creams. Not only were they sore from falling bricks and such during the earthquakes, but they were sore from overwork, poverty, old age and neglect. What amazing women they are. Words cannot describe the connections made that day. 

Yana bonded so well with the women that she vowed to help bring in enough money to rebuild as many homes as possible in Changunarayan. Rather than have Changunarayan be built with modern architecture we hope to have the homes look exactly like they did on Saturday morning. We will make the homes with the wonderful rebar pillars, but put an antique façade  on the outside. Well, that’s my dream; Yana’s is more about bringing the needed resources for the people here. Together, we hope to create lasting change in the village and in Nepal. 

Martin and Lisa were amazing, as well. They all left on Wednesday together. Sadly, Martin began to feel ill during this time, but he continued to do all he could to help those around him. These helpers were truly wonderful tourists.
Meal time at the earthquake camp

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Trekking the Langtang Range Solo

When Annie told me she was on her way to Langtang by foot from Changunarayan it was all I could do to not lecture her. As I wrote in my eBook, Nepal: A Tourist's Manual, it is important to support the local economy when trekking. There have actually been incidents of muggings due to trekkers not using local guides. Not only that, but I think it's like swimming. Just as you should never swim alone, trekking alone can be just as dangerous. But Annie has done her share to support Nepal by volunteering and embraces the culture so graciously. She seems to have something surrounding her that keeps her safe, too, but don't we all? So, off she went on her adventure that could be called, "110 Pounds Against the Mountain."

Trekking the Langtang Range Solo

Written by guest blogger: Annie McLaughlin, Canada

Monday, March 9, 2015

Traveling with Children to Nepal

I recently read an article about the value of traveling with children; I'd been thinking about the same thing. Yes, Nepal is a 'kid friendly' place to go although I seldom see tourists traveling with children. We seem to get those who were recently children, and those with grandchildren, but not so much in-between tourists. 

When I see tourists eating in a restaurant, I'm prone to strike up a conversation with them to see what I can learn. Not much. It's basically the same as dealing with them at home, from what I can tell. Kids will be kids no matter where they go. A couple years ago I met a French family with two pre-school boys and two mountain bikes. They took the boys on their bicycles across Nepal. I met them in the late fall and they told me they'd be back in March to stay a bit in Bhaktapur. I didn't think I'd ever see them again, but sure enough, they came back through reporting that they had a great time. You've just got to admire the French!

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Discovering Nepals Sustainable Agriculture

Discovering Nepal's Sustainable Agriculture
written by guest blogger Annie McLaughlin, Canada

Always wanting to explore the Himalayas and having just finished my formal education I was finally able to explore the country I dreamed about. I was even more eager to leave after putting my beds to sleep and getting a 3 foot snowfall after an incredible year of farming in Canada. It was amazing being able to come to a country where in a few hours time you can be in every kind of climate possible. From subtropical jungle to glacier ridges you can easily find everything here.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Travel Traps and Drugs

I just heard a podcast on Democracy Now about a young, American woman's plight with police in East Timor and it reminded me of how so many come to Nepal, totally trusting that things will go well. They roll with most of what they travel into, but there are many, many traps that young people can fall into.
This is a familiar scene from the river near many temples.

A few years ago I hosted a traveler from the US who brought a few things for me from America. Although I was aware of the marijuana issues in Nepal, I had no idea about hard drugs here. Marijuana has been part of the Nepali culture for many generations and each year on Lord Shiva's birthday, generally celebrated in March, smoking marijuana is legal. However, the police are on the lookout a few days prior and Nepali who are caught with it can fall into problems. Tourists, too, can get caught up in it, so it's best to be very careful here about it. But it's plentiful and the majority of the young men are said to partake of 'ganja.' 

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Guest Blog: A Deadly Trek in Nepal

My name is Evan and I've volunteered to add a post here about trekking in Nepal.  I can't be considered an expert since I've only done two treks here but this October I was involved in the worst (deadliest) trekking disaster in Nepal in 45 years.

My wife, Lisa, and I spent 10 days trekking the Annapurna circuit from Besi Sahar to the High Camp just below the 5400 meter Thurong La pass.  The evening before we planned to cross, it began to snow. Unbeknownst to us, there was the terrible storm, Hudhud, that had recently ravaged part of the Indian coastline and we were experiencing a bit of it as it moved inland and north.  Without any phones or internet for over a week, we didn't know that what began as a light snowfall would turn into a devastating blizzard with deadly consequences.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Doing Nepal a bit differently

Instead of staying in Thamel and taking a taxi where they want to go, there is a better way. This info is taken from information in my book, Nepal: A Tourist's Manual, eBook.

First, take a quadrant of the Kathmandu Valley to explore. Changunarayan/Bhaktapur, Kopan, Pharfing, Kirtipur. So book your room online for the first night or two. This usually gets you a free, or reduced, ride from the airport.
Changunarayan is nearby Bhaktapur, an ancient village that will give you more of a 'genuine' feel. Using this example, book your room at Star View Guest House & Retreat Center or another guest house in Changu. There are several things to do, from painting your own thangka to exploring the nearby villages that each have a unique flavor. There are also 2 museums to explore. It's really quiet, too.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Our Lovely Guest House & Retreat Center

Changunarayan Temple at sunset, from a distance
Most of my readers are aware of our retreat center project, but the details haven't been properly clarified. I hope this blog post serves as a bit of a 'walk-through.' Few are daring enough to come without seeing what they are getting themselves into.

First, the village. It's just so peaceful. The people live and dress like they have for generations and few over the age of 30 speak much English. However, most of the young people do speak English and at least a couple more languages, German and Japanese being among the most popular.