Wednesday, June 13, 2018

4 New Ways to Help Changunarayan Village Rebuild

After 3 years with our Kay Garnay for Nepal, registered NGO, things are finally starting to move. You see, no matter what I want to do, I cannot actually do anything. I need a helper. Even something as simple as making a phone call is exasperating, not just for me but the person on the other end of the call. I can only ask, not micro-manage and there is always a wedding, festival or family member in the hospital. Now they are pushing me.

That being said, we have so many projects starting now-It’s invigorating. First, we have a new website that has a lot of info about Nepal. We are uploading the book I wrote for everyone to read for free, one chapter at a time as we get it updated. I had the eBook for sale, but I’d rather more people read it and have a better time in Nepal. It's all free.

 If you want to buy from an affiliate link on our site we'll be offering some extra values. For example, we have a travel insurance finder affiliate link. If you find the right travel insurance there we can give a free room for the night at Star View Guest House as a ‘thank you’ gift. We hope to also have a Hotel booking site, as well as a few trekking guides we feel comfortable enough to recommend. But most of all, it will be everything you ever thought you’d want to know about Nepal-and then some.

We are also starting two women's initiatives, the first is for handmade,100% woolen hats and gloves. The second one is for hand-loomed pashmina, all excellent quality. If you live in a cool climate you'll love what we are doing. We are making micro-fiber lined, 100% wool hats and gloves for  a donation from $30, possibly including shipping. Today was the first day for the training. I guess that's why I'm all excited about it. Things move incredibly slow in Nepal and now it’s like the floodgates have opened.

We have a volunteer coming later this month who has experience in women’s workshop initiatives. She’ll be taking the lead and using her talents for the women in Changunarayan making pashmina scarves. We’ll be offering them at exceptional values to our sponsors. I am unable to use the business model many social initiatives use. They keep the women poor while getting an inflated price from their generous donors.

Our model is just the opposite. First, if you look at competitive products on the internet for hand-made, 100% wool hats you’ll find them for at least $45 plus shipping, but we are just starting up and really need sales. We can send you a hat and glove set for just $30 and we will be able to get the initiatives running with a break-even cash flow or maybe even earn a bit. We will be starting the women off with a normal salary they would get if they got a non-English speaking job in Kathmandu and would have to ride the bus for 3-4 hours per day. Now they can just walk up the hill to Star View Guest House. They have a room with a TV and box of DVDs for when they get beyond the beginner level. We also provide the women lunch and a home baked snack with their tea break. Next, we provide the women with a commission on each of their share of the sales so this should double their salary. The hours they need to work is just from 10 to 4 with lunch and tea breaks.  I’m sure this is much better than ‘fair trade’ guidelines.

Other than selling the pashmina and wool hat/gloves as a fundraiser for our own needs, we have an unusual proposition for any of our readers who’d like to help us. We have a fundraiser for the hats/glove sets for Western countries' high school football teams, bands, orchestras or cheerleaders. We'd love to find a student who would like to earn a trip to Nepal after graduation. We can even put the money in a bank account at 9%. We would purchase the ticket from here and give the cash after the student arrives.

We’ll custom make your high school colors with the initials on each piece, 100% wool over micro-fiber lining. The hat will be the ‘Mohawk’ style in your school’s official colors. The gloves with have open fingers with a cover and button. When we get the pashmina workshop going we can add a monogrammed scarf to complete the set. We can sell these in lots of 100 for a 50% split on retail of $60 without pashmina scarf and $100 for the complete set. We ask 20% deposit with the balance 30 days after delivery, via Paypal invoice. This is not only an excellent value price-wise, but something that is in high demand for sports fans. If you have connections to a high school club or sports team please let us know. Let us know your ideas and suggestions, as well.

We also had an awesome guest stay at Star View and sent us start-up money for a Mt. Bike Rental concession for the village. We’ll have the bikes delivered in a few days. Actually, Rupak and his friends want to ride them from Kathmandu for us. I offered them lunch for their kindness. I know they love to go on rides and would do it for free, but still, we appreciate it.
Here the bikes are.

So, as we were working on the how’s of the project Anoj came by and wants to take the mt. Bike concession as a ‘Tourist Information Desk.’  Anoj is a very kind villager whom I know I can trust with tourists to be honest and sincere and who doesn’t drink. We can do a lot of things for the village with 7-8 Mt. Bikes and an information center to help tourists stay in Changunarayan longer. We are so grateful to Parel, our donor for making this happen.

I’d like thank everyone for your support, whatever it may be. Please follow along with us and help us by sharing our message, buy a hat & glove set, pashmina scarf or click on one of our affiliate sites for original thangka paintings and hand-carved masks, travel insurance, etc. Seriously, the links aren’t even up yet, but I just wanted to share our plans. Nothing moved for 3 years and now everything is coming together.

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Twitter:  @FrugalTravelsNe
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Sunday, May 27, 2018

Why Changunarayan Village, Nepal Should be on your Bucket List

One of my favorite places to visit has been Changunarayan since the first time I rode on the back of a motorcycle up a dirt road to the village. It was like stepping into a story book. There were monkeys and an ancient, outdoor museum with idols and shrines so old and yet so beautiful. As I walked up the steps to the ancient temple the merchants were quite friendly without being overly pushy like the ones in Thamel, Kathmandu. It was lovely after getting there, but it was actually a dirt road for a couple miles.

That was in 2011. In 2012 I had another day helper who suggested a day-trip to Changunarayan. "Oh, no! I can't do that road!" "No, Ama," he explained. "There's a road now." I loved this sacred, ancient village even more with a new, paved road.

That was when I met Sanjay and Kamal, a couple of thangka artists with a little thangka school. They were so friendly and kind we soon became good friends. They always treated me with such kindness and respect and would come over to cook a meal with me or to take me to Kathmandu. Since then they've become family to me, in more ways than one, but that's another story.            

Kamal and Sanjay gave me this lovely thangka as a gift.

I began inviting my guests and tourist friends to meet these lovely guys and create their own souvenirs. They have a 3-day thangka painting course that everyone loved doing. It's still only $7 for each 3 hour lesson and we provide a 25% discount on our rooms for those taking the course. Many tourists spend weeks learning this art style and since our guesthouse is legally Kamal's, we can provide a nice package.

The temple was so beautiful. After passing the merchants and craftsmen along the steps, the temple had long buildings, patis, that created an enclosure for the many temples and idols inside. It was a nice energy shift as I came through the tunnel entrance. This ancient temple is the oldest Hindu temple still in use in Nepal. There are many festivals celebrated in Changunarayan each year, so be sure to check the Nepali calendar before you book your flight. Here's one coming soon.

There are also many ancient ponds and random shrines you'll discover along the way, almost as if stratigically placed, as you scout out the area. The Nepali have no understanding of trespass, so if you cut through somewhere, as long as you don't damage anything, you will be met with a smile. There is a pine forest an INGO planted several years ago, which is quite nice and we have several trekking routes with lovely 1-day destinations.

I always liked buying souvenirs in this village. The prices are quite a bit better than in Thamel and you can often meet the artist or craftsman. Another of the friends I met here is Furba. He has a woodcarving shop and can even teach this craft with lessons. They aren't quite as popular as the thangka lessons, but are quite a unique piece of art to take back home. The wood is a local, fast growing tree that is not endangered. It's also fairly light compared to many woods, so if you see one you like it might fit just fine for your flight home.

One of the most popular gods in this village is Bhirab, the incarnation of Shiva birthed from his anger. Well, Bhirab is probably the oldest god still being worshipped because the ancient Newar people brought him here from ancient Babylon or possibly even before. Furba gave me one of these masks as a gift and I was pleased to put it on the wall. Well, the energy in the flat completely shifted and was much calmer. I mentioned it to my day helper and he told me Bhirab 'eats' anger. Although he looks fierce, if you are open to eastern spirituality, you might like his energy.

If you meet one of our local trekking guides they will tell you about many of the epics from the Hindu sacred scriptures that happened right here in Changunarayan. In fact, this is a village of miracles and myths. If you go up to the temple you'll find a huge rock that is halfway to becoming an elephant. As the legend goes, the craftsmen started making the statue in his rock carving shop. But when he went the next morning to work on it, it was gone. He found it up at the temple and brought it back to continue his work. The next morning it was gone again and that's where it remains, up in the temple courtyard.

Bhairab slayed a demon right here, posibly on our hilltop, although it was most likely at the site the temple was built upon. Shiva lived an incarnation in a village just down the hill from Changunarayan. We have a museum where you can learn more.

Come through the temple and go down the steps at the back. Don't worry about having to climb back up; there is a road that goes around it. You'll come to the hilltop where there are a couple of benches to catch the sunset or views of Kathmandu and tips of the Himalayas. Watch the falcons soaring by, swarms of parrots, sparrows, silver crows and local birds. Star View Guest House sits here overlooking the hilltop, so we get the fresh air, gentle breezes and nice views. If you have a place to stay, don't worry. You'll enjoy the hilltop and you're welcome to come to Star View to fill your water bottle at no charge. We have an RO filter system.

Four years ago I decided I needed an entire building as my home. Kamal found this building and it's just like heaven to me. I can sit up on the covered rooftop and visit with guests, write content for our websites and social media or have a meal while I look out at the beautiful Kathmandu Valley and listen to the lovely birds and other village sounds.

If you come to Nepal I hope you'll take time to come to Changunarayan. It will be one of the highpoints of your time in Nepal.


Thursday, May 24, 2018

How Eco Friendly is the Star View Guest House?

We try, we really do. We want to be as Eco-friendly as possible, but its really hard in Nepal. When I saw this list of 21 ways to make your rental property more Eco-friendly I just had to see how well we match up. How many of these does the Star View provide? 14 out of 21. I think you need to grade on a curve here, because it’s not always easy in developing nations.

Not only do we do as many of these things from Trinette’s list as possible, but we’ve put up trash baskets around the village and sponsor village clean-up days. We also plant trees, support the organic farmers whenever we can and always change the sheets between guests, none of which are the cultural norm in Nepal. We are also starting a mt. bike rental concession for the village. Our goal is to attract butterflies, so we are actively pursuing income generating projects, Changunarayan Women's Crochet Circle, hand-loomed pashmina, bike rental and two online websites: original thangka paintings and handcarved, wooden masks. and Everything you need to know about Nepal.

If you’re going to the San Francisco Bay Area I’m sure you’ll enjoy the Farmhouse Oasis. But if you go to the other side of the world, you can be assured that you’ll be just as welcome and just about as eco-friendly in Star View Guest House, Changunarayan Village, Nepal. Take a gander at this breathtakingly stunning vacation rental in California.

Thanks to Trinette at the Farmhouse Oasis and to Airbnb for keeping the environment in the mind of the consumer. It really is the only thing that matters on our planet. It’s a fight for our lives.

Trinette’s Must-Have List for Creating an Eco-Friendly Airbnb
    1. Have a natural non-toxic mattress.
                          No, we have foam mattresses.
    2. Have natural, non-synthetic bedding materials.
                           No, we can get natural fiber mattresses but they are not comfortable. We have sheets that don’t wrinkle and excellent quality blankets, imported from Korea.
    3. Use natural non-toxic cleaning products.
                           Yes, we purchase an organic house cleaning product for kitchen and bathroom cleaning and use vinegar, lemon, baking soda that we make up ourselves. We are trying to get borax and such to make our own clothing detergent, but it’s really hard to find such things in Nepal.
    4. Use natural non-toxic paint and finishes.
                           No, this would be impossible in Nepal, but we use a lot of bamboo with just small amount of varnish and no paint.
    5. Use natural non-toxic soap for hands, dish soap, and shampoos/amenities.
                           No, we are trying to find a source in Nepal for the ingredients.
    6. Use natural essential oils for scent, never synthetic perfumes or diffusers (no Fabreeze or plug-in scent things). You can get an aromatherapy diffuser or just make your own room spray with essential oils.
                          Yes, we use non-poison methods for insect removal and use natural incense for scent. We are fortunate to be able to open the windows throughout most of the year.
    7. Install reverse osmosis water drinking filter (don’t use plastic water bottles). A shower filter or whole house filter is a big bonus to remove chlorine from shower water.
                          Yes, we have reverse osmosis water filter and offer it free to guests. We remind them to fill up before they leave so they won’t need to buy water. Our glasses and cups are glass. We are in the process of installing a whole house water filtration system so we can recycle the water. It has no chlorine, but who knows what’s in it? We have 90% of our water trucked in from the river near Nagarkot, but it’s completely untreated now.
    8. Provide a compost bin for guests and compost food waste. Provide a trash can that separates out recycling and trash (our recycling can is always more full when a guest checks out then the trash is). Most Airbnb’s only provide one trash can and it’s not environmentally friendly. I like the Simple Human trash can that has two slots, one for recycling and one for trash.
                             Yes, although we do not have an extra trash can, we separate the recycling for our guests. We compost and make sure the street dogs, village goats or chickens get our cooked scraps. Our village tractor comes by to collect trash and even recycles the plastic. It’s in its infancy, but we are proud of the effort being made by our municipality.
    9. Use biodegradable trash bags, as well as eco-toilet paper and paper towels.
                              No, these aren’t available here, but we do use the reusable, environmentally friendly shopping bags and limit plastic packaging whenever possible.
    10. Buy furniture without fire retardants and stain guards on them.
                               Yes, such things are not available here in Nepal, but even if they were we would not use them.
    11. Buy throws made with natural materials.
                                Yes, we use wool throws in our rooms.
    12. Use solar power for house or pool.
                                 Yes, we have a solar water heater and a solar panel to help provide back-up electricity as well as a battery. Sorry, no pool.
    13. Use salt water to treat pool or this amazing company that uses hydrogen peroxide instead of chemicals (we are planning on doing this when we have the money).
                                  Yes, although we don’t have a pool, we are in the process of getting a water filtration/recycle system to filter the gray water.
    14. If you provide coffee, tea, sugar, and creamer, make sure it’s organic (and local if possible).
                                   Yes, we buy only the finest quality of organic coffee from Nepal, as well as teas. We have refined, unrefined and even stevia sweeteners. We use Ayurveda brown sugar for our deserts.
    15. Don’t use pesticides or insecticides anywhere on the property (there are companies that treat pests with all natural essential oils).
                                  Yes, we never use poison. Sometimes we get a rat or mouse from the nearby garden that takes up residency in our kitchen. We use live traps and also have an electronic, sonic machine that discourages them from coming in. We also use the electronic bats for mosquitoes and flies to keep them out of the kitchen; this is a village, after all. We have mosquito nets in the guest rooms, so if you don’t want to kill anything you can still get a good night’s sleep. Our windows have mosquito netting/screens.
    16. Provide a HEPA air filter in sleeping areas.
                                No, we just open the windows. The climate is pretty mild and although they say Nepal has a lot of pollution we are above the Kathmandu pollution line. Part of the reason they say it’s so bad is because none of the water is treated. Although we don’t suggest you use the tap water for brushing your teeth, you are welcome to all the filtered water you need, for either when you are here or when you leave. We hope to help people buy less plastic.    
    17. No teflon or aluminum pans! Provide cast iron, ceramic, or stainless steel pans. Use glass storage containers rather than plastic.
                               Yes and no. We do not have teflon or aluminum in our kitchen, but we do use plastic containers for storage. However, we reuse many bottles and jars for a long time to reduce waste. We buy food in glass containers whenever possible.
    18. Provide wood, stainless steel, or silicone cooking utensils.
                              Yes, we only use wood and stainless steel cooking utensils. Actually, we just bought a silicone pastry brush and spatula for baking. I got excited when I saw them in the store.
    19. If you provide any spices, oil, etc, make them organic and high-quality.
                         Yes, we use organic and locally grown as often as we can and are growing a few herbs on our rooftop. We use locally milled, unprocessed mustard oil and coconut oil for cooking and butter as a condiment. We only use Himalaya salt and never MSG.
    20. Use as many natural materials and textures as possible, on rugs, curtains, furniture, pillows, etc.
                        No, we do whenever possible, other than pillows stuffed with old rags, these are not usually available here.
    21. My last suggestion isn’t eco-friendly per se, but it’s golden advice so I’ll list it anyway: have nice pots and pans for your guests and good sharp knives. Our last guest mentioned how much they appreciated our good quality pans and that our knives were actually sharp; they said that is “so rare in a rental.” We also have a feedback card that we ask guests to fill out before they check out if they have time. We have received lots of great feedback from that practice and have integrated requests into our rental, making it even better.
                          Yes, our kitchen is equipped with a food processor, bread toaster, refrigerator and oven, none of which are the cultural norm in Nepal. We even have a fire extinguisher and only use the reverse osmosis filtered water in our cooking. Our vegetables get a peroxide or vinegar soak prior to being served raw. We are also beginning a micro-fiber greens project so our guests can have more salads and healthy greens. The greens in Nepal can have a harmful parasite during the monsoon.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

What’s it Like to Get Medically Treated in Nepal?

It’s different - a lot different and not as pretty. A few years ago I fell and broke/badly sprained my ankle. While at the hospital I needed to use the toilet. No problem. I found a fairly clean ladies restroom, but with a squat, Indian style toilet. How does an old western lady squat on one leg? Knowing the entire ordeal would cost less than $40 helped; my ankle healed just fine.

When you go to a hospital in Nepal you will first have to go to the reception to pay. Yes, pay first, 20 Nrs., for the doctor exam and 20 more for the ‘patient book’ that you’ll need to keep track of. This is the only record of your medical condition. Take care of it and bring it back with you for any follow-up visits. Everything is written in that little book. Next, you go to the exam room, give the assistant your book and wait in the hallway for your name to be called. By the way, they never ask for ID, so it’s a great way to get a completely discreet test or treatment

The Nepali like to go early, but if you go around 11 am you can usually see the doctor without waiting so long. Another reason I like to go a bit later is most of the people are already gone. When they call your name you will step into the exam room. The door is left open and everyone who’s still there will come into the room with you. You’ll hear echoes of your age, where you’re from and especially what’s wrong with you. I’m sure you could ask to have the door closed if you feel uncomfortable or have to take your clothes off. Don’t be shy to speak up.

The doctors speak English and just about all the doctors have been educated in India or Europe. Additionally, doctors from the west come to teach new techniques and bring new equipment.

So after the exam you’ll need to go back to the reception to pay for the next step. Pay for the X-ray and go to that room, then find the appropriate doctor and have another exam, get blood work-up and come back on a certain day, whatever. This is one thing in Nepal that you absolutely need to have a ‘Nepali friend’ to be with you. He can go pay for the next test or procedure and take you to the next room. It’s quite chaotic if you don’t know what to expect. Your guesthouse manager can provide you with a ‘friend’ to accompany you for around $5.

Drug treatment center

US doctors don’t even look you in the eye. Nepali doctors will spend as long as you need. You might even find you don’t need a doctor. One expat friend living here tells me she was feeling dizzy and just went to a pharmacy. The pharmacist gave her some medication that she looked up on the web. I know, a bit over the top. I’ve done that many times with a sinus infection, but dizziness in my 60’s would a bit risky. Dizziness is an early symptom just about every disease and brain problem, right?

Although in the past, a person could walk up to any pharmacist and ask for anything and the pharmacist could provide it, times have changed. Nowadays, there are regulations and even sleeping pills need a doctor's prescription. I thought about quieting our barking street dogs with a half a benedryl, but is not available in Nepal and you need to see a doctor to get sleeping pills. Those horrible patches and medications drug dealers use to make the crazy designer drugs are not available here, either. However, it would be possible to get such drugs with a well-respected doctor's recommendation. The rules can be a bit more bendable in Nepal.

Here are two scenarios I have in mind. First, a person from the US has chronic back pain from an old injury. He/She comes here and makes a connection with a well-respected doctor in that field. We help the person to get the tests, procedures and medications they need. When they go back home they can take some medications in the suitcase and some in their carry-on. By that time they will know how the meds are working for them. They will also have a medical prescription so you shouldn't have a problem traveling with them. If you run out or decide not to come back to Nepal we could ship you some meds via UPS where they deliver them to your door, usually without any tariff. My friend with the pills for dizziness paid 60 cents each, but that is way more than I ever heard of medication costing in Nepal. Your cost to ship them would be $40 max for UPS plus $10 for our staff to get them from the pharmacy and take them to the parcel service, plus the price of the drug (really cheap). You could easily pay via Paypal. 

The second scenario would be a person with a lot of dental work needed and who lives in the cold areas of the US. Other countries are also welcome, but probably won't have so many medical issues. Such a person can come here and get testing and treatments as needed. Such people can enjoy being catered to and relax. Perhaps you would like to write a book, do some research or volunteer. 

We can keep you busy with whatever you like, trekking, yoga, etc. and the village is so friendly you'll have many friends.
One of our rooms with a lovely view. Curtains have been added.

My suggestion would be to come to Nepal after August 1 if you want to get out of the winter weather. This is the magic date for the maximum time you can be in Nepal on a tourist visa. You can stay here until May 31 of the following year or you can leave March 31 and come back in November for 5 months in a calendar year. A recent couple staying with us at Star View Guest House rent their little house in the countryside in their country for over $500 a week and travel throughout the winter in Asia. Read more...

Our hilltop with a neighbor grazing her goats.

Our Offer: We can provide you with a lovely room with a view, room heater, electric blanket, room fan, attached bathroom (no tub), 24 hour hot water, WIFI, electricity, all the meals you want to eat while you are at the guesthouse, transportation by car for sightseeing and help getting your health needs taken care of. We have knowledge of many hospitals and modalities available in Nepal. I think the more you look into this topic the more you’ll see it in a positive light.

If you’d like to stay with us to take care of such things and get out of the harsh winter we can provide all the things mentioned above from $800 a month on a 6 month contract, including airfare (we will refund you any excess after the airfare is paid for) or $600 a month without any obligation in case the guesthouse isn’t a good fit for you. We can help you find your own flat if you’d like, as well. Additionally, if this is outside of your budget we can do a work exchange for those who'd like to volunteer, not free but discount.

If this is of interest feel free to reach out to explore it. FrugalTravelsNepal(at) or connect with us on social media.

Twitter: @FrugalTravelsNe

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Medical Care in Nepal-Doable?

Americans have been lied to. We all know that, but are you aware of the lies involving travel and medical services while you travel? We’re told that only American doctors can be trusted and only the American healthcare system works. I remember when Obama Care was getting started. ‘You don’t want to be like France, do you?’ was the question of the day. I even heard France has medical care only until a person hits age 82. I traveled to France that same year and I asked a French woman I met. She was speechless! The very thought that anyone would even think such a thing about the French people or the French government was an insult to her, and rightly so.

It is also not true what we are convinced of, that the US has the best healthcare, best educational system and the best society. Well, it would be hard to justify any of these claims on the world stage anyway.

I didn’t even know what it was, but I believed it, American exceptionalism. Now, after traveling around the planet awhile and landing in a culture about as far removed from my own as possible, now I understand better.

In my haste to get my health taken care of before traveling, I ended up with a bad root canal. I started to take the travel vaccines, but decided against them. Although everyone needs to come to terms with this issue, I feel as though I made the right decision for myself. I actually met a couple of people who had to get treated for rabies and a couple more who got typhoid fever, so consider the topic well. Typhoid is transmitted by bad water and 'poopy' hands. It’s fairly rare, even in Nepal. Rabies is from animals, which I tend of avoid in my everyday life. I’ll probably die from something else.

When my doctor in the states made his pitch for shots, he told me that hospitals around the world do not use disposable needles. This is true, but extremely misleading. Tourists from the west are treated much better at hospitals than local people are. Even if you were in the most remote place in the Himalayas, I think you’d get a fresh needle.

A janitor wearing gloves as he works at a Nepali hospital

Another issue is about the quality of the medication you find outside the US. They say a person can even get a counterfeit drug at a pharmacy overseas. No, although that could happen, there are ways to know if it’s a high quality product. It isn’t that hard.

Why am I on a rant about this? Because of the problems in the US regarding healthcare; many people are struggling with medications due to the high costs of drugs and deductibles. The elderly and disabled are having to choose food or medicine when it doesn’t have to be that way.

I’ve been trying to get the word out that Americans can get excellent healthcare in places like Nepal. It can be a challenge, but it’s doable. You can find state-of-the-art equipment like the MRI Splice that can see your entire body for under $100. That price and a round trip airfare will still probably save you money and it’s the same machine you’d use in the finest hospital in New York City. You would get the narrative and slides sent to you via email. Read more...

Our Offer: We can provide you with a lovely room with a view, room heater, electric blanket, room fan, attached bathroom (no tub), 24 hour hot water, WIFI, electricity, all the meals you want to eat while you are at the guesthouse, transportation by car for sightseeing and help getting your health needs taken care of. We have knowledge of many hospitals and modalities available in Nepal. I think the more you look into this topic the more you’ll see it in a positive light.

If you’d like to stay with us to take care of such things and get out of the harsh winter we can provide all the things mentioned above from $800 a month on a 6 month contract, including airfare (we will refund you any excess after the airfare is paid for) or $600 a month without any obligation in case the guesthouse isn’t a good fit for you. We can help you find your own flat if you’d like. Additionally, if this is outside of your budget we can do a work exchange for those who'd like to volunteer.

If this is of interest feel free to reach out to explore it. FrugalTravelsNepal(at) or connect with us on social media.

Twitter: @FrugalTravelsNe

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Tuesday, May 8, 2018

How to Catch a Bus to Varanasi, India

It's good to have new alternatives when traveling to, from or in Nepal. If I had to say what the worst part of living in Nepal is I'd have to say it's the road/transportation issue. Well, you can't get to India without going by airplane, private taxi or bus. Of the buses, please take my advice and only take a 'tourist' bus. The local buses are not well maintained and do not always stop often enough for the female passengers. This is particularly so for the night busses.

Purchasing a ticket is fairly simple. Just go to any trekking company in Thamel, Patan, Bhaktapur, Pokhara and ask for a quote. It's important to understand that if they are not a direct representative of the bus line they will put a commission on top of what the normal charge is. That's the bad news, that you will need to shop to get the proper price. However, the good news is the one-way ticket to anywhere in Nepal or to northern India will cost less than $20. You can ask your guesthouse manager for a ticketing office.

The bus to Varanasi leaves from Swayambhunath or 'Monkey Temple.' twice a day, once in the morning and once in the evening and conversely, arriving from India. The buses are usually quite comfortable and they stop at places with tourist-appropriate standards. Some buses are air-conditioned and some even have WIFI.

For information on how to get from Varanasi to Kathmandu please check out this post: About the new bus line to India I strongly suggest reading the warnings in that article.

FrugalTravels' best advice: I would not attempt a bus ride all the way through. I would suggest leaving Kathmandu a bit earlier and spending a night or two in Chitwan or Lumbini. Particularly if the bus is not air-conditioned, you will not have a pleasent time trying to get there in one 24 hour nightmare. Even if the bus has 'air-conditioning' that doesn't mean it will work. This is the best way to see Chitwan during some parts of the year, anyway. Keep in mind that the weather plays a big part in how much time to spend in the lower elevation areas of Nepal. Here's a bit of information about Chitwan

Tip: If you want to have a better chance of less traffic, travel on Tuesday. The Nepali believe it's bad luck to travel on Tuesday or buy things on Tuesday.

Lastly, here's another post I wrote about Chitwan.


Sunday, April 15, 2018

Pokhara, an Amazing City in Nepal

This post is written by Rupak Giri who works for us at 
Kay Garnay for Nepal.

Pokhara is one of the best cities to see in Nepal, a welled planned city with proper roads and clean environment, with some of the best scenic views all around. Traveling about 200 km from Kathmandu you can reach to this beautiful destination. 

There is only one highway that  takes you to Pokhara, but you'll be happy to see many road improvements on the way. There is even a place to catch the tourist bus from Bhaktapur. We do not suggest taking a local bus, under any circumstances. Conversely, you can even choose air flight to reach there if you don’t like the long vehicle ride. Pokhara has a lot to offer for every kind of person from adventure loving to nature loving, from young couples to old, Pokhara is the place for everyone. 

Pokhara lies in a valley, same as Kathmandu, with hills surrounding it and  carrying views of a wide range of  snow capped mountains. This area offers lovely views of Mt. Makalu, Aanapurna, Maccha Puchrey(fish tail), breathtaking views of thes popular mountains. Unfortunately, views of Mt. Everest are not possible in this region.

Pokhara lies on the lap of these beautiful mountains with rivers flowing from these; just beautiful. It seems nature has expressed its love to this city; it looks to be decorated as a newly married bride. Pokhara has become a favorite place for tourists in Nepal, being naturally rich. Pokhara has recently become the first choice, according to the Tourism Board of Nepal.

Adventure loving people can do paragliding, trekking, bungee, zip flying, kayaking, hiking and boating. Pokhara is the starting place for so many popular trekking routes,
as well as being a place for the peace loving person. There are beautiful lakes, waterfalls and parks where people can spend quality time. You can even do boating on the beautiful Fewa and Begnas lakes. Pokhara is a joyful place; it goes to sleeps late and wakes up early with bars, nightclubs and pub restaurants are all over the place with many nearby guesthouses, hotels and hostels. 
Lakeside is a popular place throughout the Pokhara area and an attraction point for many activities. The environment gets musical at sunset as the bars and clubs offer live music. Happy faces throughout the city, that’s what you'll see when you get to Pokhara. People from all over the country with many religious traditions, castes, ethnic groups, with a variety of norms, values and cultures all at the same place enjoying their time.
There's a lot more to do and a lot more places to visit than you'll have time to see. You can enjoy the differing cultures and traditions of local people as they live peacefully together.  
Tip: It does tend to rain more in this region, so be sure to plan a few days for capturing the bestt sunsets. Additionally, always give at least 2 days prior to your flight home in addititon to your travel day when in Pokhara.
Nepali Thakali khana is a popular menu suggestion around there, but you can find many restaurants serving food  from around the world. Although we never recommend the street food in Nepal, local shops serve a variety of local foods. It's obvious that they prepare and serve the food from their hearts with a smile on their faces.
You can rent a vehicle with driver to take you around Pokhara; there are several caves to visit and a waterfall, too.
Sarankot is the highest hill of pokhara from where you can see the best mountain range views and amazing sunrises. 

For sunset you can go to the World Peace Stupa where you can see mesmerizing sunsets, Pokhara City and the beautiful Fewa lake. Although a few years ago the lake was polluted and the road getting there was horrific, times are changing rather quickly in Nepal and this is one example of how tourism can power environmental improvements. 

About our guest blogger: Rupak is our administrator at Kay Garnay for Nepal and Star View Guest House. He loves mountain biking and showing tourists around on either mountain bikes or on the back of his motorcycle. I'm sure he'd love to take the day off to go on a bike ride. Contact him directly at: girirupak4 {at} 

Monday, March 26, 2018

Tummy-safe foods in Nepal?

I'm not a big fan of food, so I'm not so keen on Nepali foods. So, because I know I'm not alone in this I'm going to tell what to order to avoid problematic local food. The food is almost all heavily spiced. It can cause every kind of intestinal issue from various degrees of heart-burn, or your body might just not know what to do with it, which can last throughout most of the night.

If you have a sensitive digestive track, don't let it keep you from enjoying Nepal. Here are a few safe suggestions on local foods that are more forgiving on the western digestion:

Veg burger and fries comes on a bun with lettuce, onion and tomato. The burger is chopped, boiled vegetables held together with potato and maybe a bit of flour and fried. The fries can be cooked in old grease and will almost never have salt added. Ask the waiter if they have the buns or if he will have to go out to buy them. So often I'd sit there for an hour and a half waiting for a simple veg burger only to find they had to go looking for the buns.

Veg sizzler in a unique sauce

The veg cutlet is the same as the veg burger, but usually a bit larger and served without the bun.
Veg sizzler is a veg cutlet served on a bed of spaghetti or rice smothered in mushroom gravy with a side of sauteed, slightly crunchy vegetables and fries. You'll hear it when it comes out by the sizzling sound.

Chatamari (Newari pizza) is a crispy, flat bread with vegetables chopped fine and probably heated in an oven. It's pretty tasty and not so spicy. The meat version has keema, tiny sized chopped buff.

Samosa served with chickpea/garbanzo bean soup
Samosa is a fried potato/vegetable dumpling/pie that is usually offered at the open, local restaurants. It's usually a bit spicy, but really tasty and beyond cheap-20-30 rupee each. Be sure to ask if it's 'tato' (rhymes with hot-o) or 'hot.' Make sure you get them right out of the fryer. One time I brought a 'doggy bag' home for dinner and got so sick. It taught me a good lesson to make sure everything is hot and freshly prepared. I had a couple samosa for lunch and took two home. Either the bacteria had time to grow or the cook had dirty hands when he took it out of the grease, but I got so sick all night.

Aloo paratha with a side of slightly sweetened yogurt, pictured at the top. This is a flat bread stuffed with potato. It's usually cut into 6-8 servings that you will pick up and dip into the yogurt before eating.

Fried rice or briani is an easy choice with just a couple of cautions. Sometimes the rice is leftover for the fried rice. Bacteria love rice and the cook may not get it hot enough to kill the bacteria. Briani is like fried rice, but with extra things like cashew, raisins and larger veg chunks.
Chopsi is like chowmien but with dried/fried noodles

Veg chowmein served with catsup

Chowmein is usually served quickly, as is fried rice, but chowmein may be fried in old oil.
Avoid all meat while in Nepal. The refrigeration is not always used, the butcher-block is filthy, cooks don't always make sure it's fully cooked, and they can cross contaminate it with their dirty hands or dirty counter workspace.

'Peero china' if you don't want any spices added, but then the dish comes as plain as cardboard, so maybe it's better to say, 'peero oli oli ' as you hold up a thumb and finger to show a little bit.

For foods to avoid and for more information on staying safe in Nepal take a look at this post.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Coming to Nepal During Monsoon-A Good Idea?

Changunarayan Travel Blog

Buffalo grazing in our nearby forest
in Kathmandu Valley from hilltop below the temple

Is coming to Nepal during monsoon season a good idea? People suggest coming to a country during the off-season. Nepal's off-season is from June to September and December to the middle of February. Can a person enjoy this country during those time periods? We know it’s going to be cold in the winter, but what about monsoon? What should a traveler know about Nepal during this time?

First of all, you need to consider why you are traveling at that time. Is it to save money? Surprisingly, many Nepali merchants do not easily discount during slow times as we do in the US. Instead, it is typical to see the merchant expect you to pay more because he is not getting any sales. Western tourists are often happy to comply, which brings the prices up for everyone. Don’t let your Western guilt or ego lead you into over-spending.

Along one of our local trekking trails.
Always book for one day if you book online. After the first morning you can talk with the manager and get a discount if you stay longer. I don’t recommend booking online for more than a day because booking sites usually don’t allow prices under $10, which means walk in traffic might pay less. If you are afraid you’ll have to sleep on a park bench because the guest houses are all full, don’t worry. Unless you are out on the trekking trail in a very remote place you are 99% sure to find a place. Yes, the 5 star hotels book up in advance, but the normal, independent, little guesthouses are seldom full. I know this because I have a guesthouse; there are way too many guesthouses in the Kathmandu Valley and Pokhara.

A traditional Newari home with garlic drying outside
How much does it rain during monsoon? Of course it depends on where you are in Nepal; Nepal has several different climates. Here in the Kathmandu Valley it might rain for the night or morning, but it usually clears enough to do what needs to get done during the day. It seldom rains all day or all night. It’s more likely 3-4 rain showers throughout the day.

If you come during monsoon, you will need to watch for slippery rocks as you walk. Many roads are paved with lovely, but slippery rocks. So, check your shoes to make sure they have enough traction. Plastic soles, as on cheap shoes tend to be quite slippery.

If you intend on doing trekking in the high country I don’t suggest coming during monsoon. You could slip on a piece of ice, but the main reason is you won’t have many beautiful views.
Monsoon view from Star View Guest House
It’s often a great disappointment. However, if you would like to do volunteering, an internship or work on your thesis monsoon may not be a problem, at all. The Kathmandu Valley is mild and downpours are usually of short duration. Kathmandu being so polluted, the frequent rains keep the air quality at permissible levels. Do not plan to see Chitwan, Bardia National Park or other areas along the Indian border; it is just too hot. During the winter off season you will enjoy Lumbini and these other places, but remember it gets chilly and damp at night. You will not need malaria tablets for these places unless you go there during monsoon.

Here in Changunarayan Village, at the eastern edge of the valley, we have gentle breezes and it often doesn’t rain badly enough for guests to come down from our rooftop terrace at the Star View Guest House.
Two goats playing in the forest
along one of our trekking trails
Unlike many places with a dependency on tourism, Nepali love to meet and get to know tourists. I am always amazed to hear a Nepali greet a tourist in their own language or invite them home for tea or a meal. If you come during either off season you will feel like a super star. Yes, there is some sense of being able to dip into a deeper pocket, but once you get out of Thamel or Kathmandu City you will find many Nepali who just genuinely want to get to know you.

Come to Nepal during our lovely spring or fall tourist seasons, during the monsoon or even in the winter, but please put Nepal on your bucket list and come see this amazing country. It has something for young and old alike and more festivals than days of the year.