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.

Big tip: Try to book your time in Nepal so you will be here during a full moon. There is usually a festival going on during each full moon, but you may need to do a bit of research on where is the best place. Indra Jatra is coming in September, awesome! That will be an excellent time to stay a couple nights in Thamel, Chhetrapati or near Darbur Square, Kathmandu.

Tourist Section at the festival

Now, from Changu, after you finish your warm-up hike to Nagarkot to see the sunrise over Everest, seen the Kali Baba who lives at his temple ground on one of the nearby hills, explored Bhaktapur, etc. then move over to Pharfing/Kirtipur areas. But first you will probably go to Pokhara or Chitwan, but when you come back you don't need to stay where you were staying before. Guest houses in Nepal will store your luggage while you are out exploring, so you might want to stay one more night at that guest house before moving on.

These are all permit-free trekking trails and can go from gentle walks to a bit of climbing, but it's through villages that do not get so many tourists. After you see this side of the Valley you will want to go to the other side for a bit. You will see different birds, insects, cultures and terrain. 

Check out our website for more information regarding Nepal, as well as information on purchasing the eBook.

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.

The village is made up of the main part with the steps leading up to the temple. There are several thangka, craft stores, restaurants and guest houses as you walk up. Once in awhile I will see a beggar at the temple, but it's rare. The merchants are not so aggressive as in Kathmandu or Bhaktapur.

The temple consists of a nice courtyard and many temples and idols. Beyond the temple grounds are steps leading down the hill with 108 steps. There is a nice lookout area at the temple, but if you walk down the steps you can follow the road to the end of the hill for views of many of the tourist sites in Kathmandu and sometimes you can see the big mountains. Our guest house is just at the end of the hill.

About the guest house: 
Modern, brand new building with screens on the windows and many other things Westerners have come to expect. Although you may find it humorous that I’m bragging about screens on the windows, you’ll understand when you get here.

Back-up electric system and emergency lamps in case the electrical blackouts last longer than the schedule suggests; it happens occasionally.

WIFI 24/7, fairly fast; think 1999.

Solar water system and back-up LP gas.

Clean, fully stocked kitchen with organic coffee and Nepali teas.

Organic vegetables when they are available.

Lovely views of the Kathmandu Valley along with a quiet location in an ancient village will provide a setting for a peaceful stay.

What’s included?
-Room with attached bath
-All rooms are decorated and fully furnished with a robe (for women), a lock box for valuables, bed with new foam mattress, toilet shoes, back-up lamp (for extended electrical problems), mosquito net and paddle, soap, extra blanket, towels and toilet paper.
-All the food you want to eat: Any vegetarian meal you want to eat while you are at the guest house will be individually prepared for you. Although we do not cook meat very often we do use cheese and have found sources for delicious cheese in Nepal.
-Shared ride in a private car to your daily activities in the Kathmandu Valley.
-Help and guidance on whatever you want to do or need help with. This is a family type atmosphere. I have an extensive knowledge of Nepal and have many contacts that will help you to have an enjoyable stay here.
What’s not included in long term stay:
-Medical insurance or medical expenses.
-Transportation to and from Nepal.
-Visa fees. A tourist visa costs about $2 per day.
-Any expenses arising out of unforeseen circumstances like flight delay/cancellation/hike in fare, strike or any other natural calamities.
-Personal nature expenses i.e. International Telephone Calls, Soft/Hard Drinks, meals while outside the guest house, tipping etc.
-Camera Fee & Entrance Fees to UNESCO sites/entertainment expenses.
- Anything not specified is probably not included.
- Meat. Our kitchen is primarily vegetarian due to refrigeration and sanitation issues in Nepal.

We just finished tiling the bottom floor for the restaurant, which we hope to be an Italian, vegetarian restaurant. Although we will have a menu for our guests off the street, our residents who live at the retreat center will be able to order anything they like, at no additional charge. We'll have tables downstairs in the restaurant, outside on the patio area and on the roof.

Next, we have a living room with a TV on each floor for our guests. We have all the channels available to Nepal,  DVD player and a large DVD library. The cable channels don't work when our electric is cut because we are in the same load shed district as the cable company. I find that hilarious.

Here is one of the living rooms. I believe in having a lot of room to call your own and interact with others.

We have tables and umbrellas for the rooftop and patio area on the bottom floor.

I feel that some pictures of the rooms will be helpful.

Each room is decorated with original artwork. 
Room descriptions/list prices:

Penthouse: $650 per month. This room features a king size bed that can be separated into 2 twin beds, a lovely view and it’s on the top floor so you can just step out to the rooftop where we have tables and umbrellas. We can put curtains on the windows to keep the light out, but there is no need of curtains for privacy; I just hate to cover the view. Room number C1

Small Rooftop room: Occupied. Room number C2

Second floor deluxe room: Same approximate size as the Penthouse, but with a queen size bed. $600 per month. Room Number B1.

Second floor small room: $500 per month. This room has a single size bed and faces the back. Although there is a shower, the bathroom is quite small and the resident of this room is welcome to use the common toilet for taking showers, just outside of the room. Room number B2.

First floor deluxe room: This room faces the lovely view side and features a king size bed that can also be two twin beds. $600 per month. Here it is shown with both bed layouts. Room number A1.

First floor small room: $500 per month. This room has a set of bunk beds, custom made a bit longer than the standard twin bed. This room also faces the back, which looks out at a little road few cars drive on. The bathroom is quite small, so the resident of this room will be welcome to use the common toilet for taking showers; it’s right outside the room.  This bathroom can be remodeled for you and this room is ideal for someone who is either traveling with someone or who is on a smaller budget. We can give this room for a reduced rate if you have a hardship. 

For more information on the project please see our website,

Monday, August 4, 2014

Is it time for surrogate parenting in Nepal?

I'd been contemplating this subject for awhile, surrogacy. Then I saw this article about surrogacy in Thailand: Sick surrogate baby abandoned It raised all the questions/issues that should have been addressed up front. Here in Nepal there is a group of women who would be excellent candidates for surrogacy; you could not find candidates in mainstream society.

I had been thinking especially about how ripe it is for helping gay couples have children. First, as I say in my eBook, Nepal: A Tourist's Manual Nepal makes for a great honeymoon destination for gay couples. There isn't much societal dialog about homosexuality and it is a common practice for men to hold hands and even touch each other in public, not that you will see anyone kissing, but there just isn't the same boundaries as in the West.

Regardless as to the sexual preference of the parents, the first thing I'd put into the contract would be for the inevitable defective baby. Any contract would need to be made enforceable in the father's home country because, inevitably, the child will be considered to be the father's heritage by Nepali law. If the father were to abandon the child the papers would need to be in place to provide for the mother and baby-no excuses. This is actually one country where the mother has no right to claim custody, which works out well for this subject. The father has the right of custody, however, to abandon such a child would be unthinkable. 

Children are regarded much differently in Nepal. There are finally child labor laws, but many children still work as domestic help. One of my neighbors began working as domestic help at 7 years old. He still works for an elderly couple who pay for his school fees; I believe he goes to public school.

I was talking with a young girlfriend about what she would do if she got pregnant before she was ready. She admitted without hesitation that she would have an abortion. I was quite surprised to find Nepali young women are so liberal in this regard and they have caught on to the concept of children equaling poverty and do an excellent job of keeping the number of children to 2-3.

Culturally, I believe Nepal is ready for surrogate mothers. Anyone who would like to explore the subject with me is welcome. I can see many pitfalls here, so I'd definitely treat this with the utmost discretion and concern. But there is no way I would be party to abandoned children so an escrow would need to be put in place for the child.

I would not want to be a party to the exploitation of the mothers, either. These girls will never be able to go back home or even get married within society. I believe I have a source for the mothers, too.   Right now I cannot say whether or not I could put a good project together for the betterment of  all parties, but I am willing to see what I could do. I also believe I can provide a surrogate baby for around $25,000.