Tuesday, October 16, 2018

10 Things Every Solo Female Traveller Needs To Know About Nepal Part I

Follow along with us as we share important travel tips, particularly as they relate to Nepal, but each tip may be of importance in your upcoming itinerary.

If you've been to Nepal please give us your thoughts in the comments. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

What Every Female Solo Traveler Should Know About Traveling in Nepal

This blog post is supplimental to our Youtube channel: http://bit.ly/2NTzjyM

The first thing you’ll notice is that even if you are average looking or a bit over-weight, when you step off that airplane you will be made to think you are a star. You are so beautiful you can have your pick of all these awesome, handsome men in Nepal. Much of this applies to other parts of Asia, as well.

A lot of this is sincere, we look exotic and come from mysterious lands far away. However, there is a belief that finding one of us will be the best way to get out of Nepal to go to the ‘land of money.’ If you want a husband that may be someone people will say, ‘Wow, how did she land such a handsome husband?’ this is the place. They aren’t all exceptionally handsome, but they all want to go abroad.

On  more serious note, if you think you have some sort of disease or condition you can get an inexpensive test in Nepal-very cheap. I’ve never been asked for my ID, so if you’ve been wanting to get tested, Nepal is the place to do it. Check on my blog posts to learn about some medical opportunities. But don’t just show up and think you can get a safe abortion or something. Write to me.

First, please understand that life doesn’t come with a manual and all we believe comes from our family and culture. Even though there are new laws against the practice of Chaupati, there are many deep rooted beliefs surrounding the women’s monthly cycle. If you stay in the Kathmandu Valley or where many tourists pass through, it will be fine. But if you plan to go out to a rural home-stay or volunteer stay you should ask in advance what the customs are for when you get your monthly. It might be that you simply cannot go into the kitchen, but please know that you are not going to change anyone’s mind; even if they act like you gave them some sort of epiphany.

Here’s our list:

1. Don’t take the local bus outside of the Kathmandu Valley, especially the night bus. They don’t stop long enough for women to find somewhere on the side of the road/mountain to relieve themselves.

If you really must take a local bus consider bringing a feminine, urinal straw Just be sure to clean it properly-which could be a problem. What I suggest in my eBook is to bring the kind of liquid soap you don’t need a lot of water to wash, like the soap a nurse would use to give a sponge bath.

One more reason not to take a local or night bus; they are not well maintained and some of the drivers drink. You can take a tourist bus, rent a car and driver on a ride share basis or fly. Nepal has domestic airports in Lumbini, Pokhara and Everest, and other places, as well.

2. If you plan to do trekking above 4,500 meter don’t go during your monthly. 1 out of 5 people get high altitude sickness, so if you are getting over a long illness, or are having your monthly (manse) take precautions. This also applies to you if you get a bad case of diarrhea, so just remember high altitude sickness can be serious. I’ll put the link to a blog post about altitude sickness in the description. Set some rules for yourself before you go because the first symptom is reduced brain function.

3. If you have a favorite brand of tampon be sure to bring it from home. You can find one brand of tampons in the supermarket in Kathmandu or you’ll be stuck with pads, which they have in abundance, but you may not be able to even find pads in the rural villages. If you are on the trekking trail you must carry everything out. Do you really want to baby-sit used pads? Tourist trash in the trekking routes is highly illegal in a lot of areas.

4. Do not go trekking alone.
    A. We had a guest who told me story about a good friend of hers. The young woman met up with a young man from her home country and they decided to trek together. All was fine until they hit an area too dangerous for her to climb. They argued and finally parted ways at that point and the young man continued alone; has never been seen again.
    B. Another guest/volunteer told of having to spend the night on a rock ledge on a mountain because a band a men were hunting him. He feared for his life.
If you don’t want to pay for a trekking company ($75-100 per day) you should at least take a local guide. They are easy to find, but you should make sure he has a license and take a picture of it and let someone know who you are going with. Seriously, hooking up with another tourist to go it on your own is really not very smart. You can get a local guide for less than $20 a day and isn’t your life worth that much?

5. Be careful with hygiene. Wash before and after when you change your tampon or moon cup with clean water. The water in the bathroom can be polluted, so if possible, bring liquid soap from a hospital pharmacy that doesn’t need to be rinsed off. This is soap a nurse would use to give a sponge bath. Try it before you leave to make sure it won’t cause irritation. If you haven’t yet, watch our video on how to find a toilet in Kathmandu.

6. Never use the bucket in the bathroom for splashing on your privates after using the toilet. Use your own water or at least know where it comes from.

7. Trim the bushes so you won’t always need to use toilet paper or water.

8. Do not have unprotected sex. You know that, but here are a few differences:
    a. The men are not circumcised and they struggle with the same water issues. If the young man has neglected his keeping his ‘junk’ clean it can cause a lot of problems. Many of the women have fibroid cysts in Nepal, and hygiene can play an important part in this. We recently had a guest who was sleeping with her trekking guide. When she got her monthly she was at our guesthouse and for the first time she had cramps so bad she spent the entire day in bed. She couldn’t understand it, but my guess is it had something to do her sleeping arrangements.
    b. Society doesn’t speak openly about such things so there is no information for your new friend to understand disease. They still think the common cold comes from the change of weather.

9. Inappropriate dress. Every time I go out to the nearby cities like Kathmandu or Bhaktapur I see young women wearing inappropriate clothing. Yes, you can get away with it in Kathmandu, but the older men and all the women will look at you in a bad way. If you wear it out in the rural villages you will bring disrespect to yourself. The trick is to keep your legs, stomach and shoulders covered-just to the knee and you can wear short sleeve shirt/T-shirt.

10. This should have been first. Never say the ‘F’ word. Don’t even think ‘Freak-in’ will work. There is no excuse and zero tolerance for such speech in this society.

There you have it, Ama’s list for staying safe and being a good tourist.

After writing about the need for women to remain covered while out in the rural areas I thought about an option for the cool, sleeveless blouses and such. If you'd like to support Nepal's textile industry you can buy tourist pants pretty cheap, around $10-12 for top and bottom or something like I had on in the video. They are made of cotton and don't need ironing. They are light and cool and don’t take much space. This is a great souvenir to take back for yourself. If you go somewhere and stay overnight you can easily pack them. You won’t have to wear your dress-up clothes home. They make good pajamas and lounge wear.

I’m going to include these in our shopping video so I hope you subscribe and turn notifications on so you’ll be notified.

 I have to say that 90% of my friends are young Nepali men and they are really wonderful. I think they are some of the nicest people I’ve ever known. I admit I over-generalized. They are really kind, gentle and respectful. I just want you to understand on a deeper level so you’ll be safe.

OK, there you have it, Ama’s list of how to be safe and be a good girl in Nepal. I hope you took a look at our Youtube channel. It's pretty much like this blog post but more visual.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Indra Jatra Nepal-Bhaktapur Style

IndraJatra Nepal 2018

At the end of monsoon the Newar people stop to thank Indra, the god of heaven, for the abundant rice crop and for the life that monsoon brings. Rather than go to Kathmandu, we decided upon a bit slower pace of Bhaktapur for this celebration. If you go to Nepal in September check the calendar to see if you can join us for this festival. For more information please see our blog post

We stayed at Sunny Guest House near the Nyatapola, 5 story Temple, which I’d recommend. Taumadhi Square-11, Bhaktapur, Nepal +977 6616094 or 9841588688
Our thanks goes out to Sharmeela Rajbhandary Mulepati for the portion of the video of the elephant. This came on the fourth day, which we were unable to see.

Thanks to Kiron Mrzn for the Music.

This vlog post is supplemental to our blog of over 7 years. If you enjoyed this video you'll enjoy our blog posts. We explore one topic at a time with the intent to help you to enjoy your time in Nepal even more. https://FrugalTravelsNepal.blogspot.com

This video is also supplemental to our eBook, Nepal: A Tourist's Manual. If you're coming to Nepal you'll find enough valuable information to pay for the book several times over. Not only that, but you’ll be healthier, safer and get the most out of your time here. Check it out here: eBook at http://bit.ly/2bO9zkC

We also have a small guesthouse in Changunarayan Village, in the Kathmandu Valley. If you have an interest in staying with us, for short or long-term stays, pl e ase see our website at https://StarViewNepal.com

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

#WhatAboutNepal #TravelNepal #FrugalTravelsNepal #Nepal #Kumari #IndraJatra

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

It's Gai Jatra Time! A Must See Festival for August

Gai Jatra is one of my favorite festivals in Nepal. It's actually a festival about death, but it's upbeat and profound when you understand it. Last year I found Gai Jatra to be a bit tiring and expensive. Just for a couple beers and a few more soft drinks and it was well over $20 due to ‘festival pricing.’ It was hard to get the shade sitting on the rooftop with just umbrellas over the tables.

I decided to take a room for the night and that’s what I did. We took the bus from Changunarayan to Bhaktapur and then walked to the main entrance where we had soft drinks on the rooftop of a local restaurant, Darbar Restaurant. The restaurant last year was inside the city. This one is just outside the main gate and the price difference was huge. We had mo: mo, I had veg and Sujit had buff and a soft drink each and it was just $5.

I asked Pramesh, a good friend and local guide in Bhaktapur, to get a room for me that would be good for the ceremony and he found a place for me. It was a bit rough, but there was a fan in the room. The windows didn’t have screens.

I have to say that I made the right choice about the room, at least location-wise. Ju Ju Newar Guest House, Inacho district in Bhaktapur. The guesthouse is located between Golmadhi and Datatraya Square and is directly across from the Buddhist Bihar/monastary, Jhor Bahi Bihar. This is one of the few Buddhist sanctuaries in Bhaktapur. Most of the temples are Hindu, but that’s not to say there isn’t Buddhist influence. It’s reassuring to see the two religions living together in such peace. If I ask someone if they are Hindu or Buddhist they usually answer, ‘same, same.’ 

Gia Jatra has a unique history, which I really don’t understand. This is the first day of the festival so there was the procession in the afternoon. Then, in the evening Bhirab comes and a special ceramony is done to appease Bhirab. I asked Pramesh to help me to understand the festival, which he did. 

One of the most revered gods in this part of Nepal is Bhirab. I read that the Newar people brought Bhirab from ancient Sumaria when they immigrated to the Kathmandu Valley. He and goddess Kali are said to be created from Shiva’s dreadlocks due to his anger. It would appear, based upon the history of the Newar bringing Bhirab so far back, that Bhirab is probably the oldest god still being worshiped in the world.

The noise of the crowd, the sounds of tambourines, drums and other instruments create a lovely ambiance. The air is filled with incense being carried by people in the procession. The people all chant in unison, dance and click their sticks together in a long line-dance. The Newar people have been celebrating this festival for hundreds of years. 

A note about our guesthouse room. This guesthouse is under new management and had just opened again for business. It's an earthquake-safe building and really lovely. They have a huge reception area that's nicely decorated. However, we had two beds, but one blanket (of course another was promptly delivered upon request). The room had not been vacuumed, nor had the bathroom been cleaned. The bed had what looked like a clean sheet. Also, the blankets were cheap with polyester fill, too heavy for summertime and not big enough for the bed-of course no top sheet. 

I hope you enjoy the video portion of this blog, as well. Have you ever been to the Gai Jatra Festival in Nepal? Please comment and subscribe.

Tips for this festival: 

One bit of advice about staying in budget guesthouses in Nepal. Get a sleeping bag liner. Sheets are not always changed between uses. Unfortunately, I didn’t bring a pillow case. ‘Oh well, I won’t die.’

Leave your passport, ATM cards and most of your money in your guesthouse room before going to any festival with a big crowd. One time I got pick-pocketed and they got money from my fanny pack I wear in front.

Be aware people will be drinking pretty heavily by the evening and drunk behavior is no stranger in Nepal. There can be fights breaking out and such. Fortunately, people are not allowed to carry guns and the police work the crowd pretty well.  

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Child Labor in Nepal-Is it a problem?

Is child labor a thing in Nepal? Yes, indeed. Unfortunately, child labor/exploitation is here, but the government is making laws to help children, lower castes and women. It's wonderful to see the progress. One third of the parliment is/must be women and lower caste, as are our board members at Kay Garnay for Nepal, our NGO, etc.

There is a young boy, 14, who is working nearby full-time. I expressed a desire to have the boy work here and learned that he would need to go to school and other laws are in place to protect him. That was actually my point, to help the boy to have a better life. It's just good to know the government is finally onboard with it. Realizing he'd have to go to school, he declined my offer.

There is only one road to and from Changunarayan, so I often survey the surrounding area. One day, after quite a long time since I'd seen children in the brick fields, there they were! I was mortified! I soon learned about this part of Nepal's culture. The families are very poor and travel with their children. During certain times of the year they come here and work as a family in the brick factories. These factories are being phased out due to pollution issues. It's a problem for the authorities; this issue and it's on a steep decline.

Our friend of Kay Garnay for Nepal, Pema from Dulpa, told me many stories about his life up near the border of Tibet. Families live in abject poverty, so at certain times of the year the children need to climb down the steep mountains looking for yarsegumba, a fugus/plant consumed by Chinese at a high price. This is often the only money the family sees and sometimes the children fall down the mountain to their death. Poverty also causes families to give up children to be educated in Kathmandu in orphanages. Everyone loves to volunteer and give money to orphans. The problem is the children seldom see the benefits of your financial gifts and are exploited. We do not support the orphanage industry.  Here's an older blog post I wrote that will provide more information on the subject.

Sexual molestation of anyone under 16 years old comes with a 16 year prison sentence in Nepal and human traficking is down due to the attention and support the world has provided. What is the real reason for such exploitation in the first place? Poverty. Our agency, Kay Garnay for Nepal, is working to provide a solution to such issues through job creation and exporting handcrafts. I've been exporting high quality, custom painted thangkas for over 5 years  online. I'm really proud of the website and have to say it's all due to our web developer, Livio, and his hard work. He is working from his heart to help the artists and our local thanka painting school. 

WhatAboutNepal.org If you live in a location where winters are harsh you'll find our handcrafted, knitted hat/glove sets to be an excellent value. Only 100 hats can get us started building our first home. Check out first home we built in the village at Dada-Home.org

Although the school system is truly abysmal, all children must attend school through the 10th grade and it's getting better, too. I've heard many stories about Nepali schools, both government and private, that I'd consider 'unteaching' due to the trauma inflicted in the children. One would expect capitol punishment for misbehaving, but I've heard stories of students being slapped for not knowing the correct answer. One friend even told me some teachers will have a student who knows the answer slap the child who does not.

Bottom line: Child exploitation can happen in even the world's best countries. Does it happen in Nepal? Yes, of course. However, Nepal is successfully combatting this issue. If poverty is the cause of such exploitation then tourism is certainly the cure and Nepal is one of the most hospitable, tourist-friendly, budget destinations on the planet. Come to Nepal. It's a destination of a lifetime.

This blog post is supplemental to our video channel. If you enjoyed this post, you'll enjoy our videos. We explore one topic at a time with the intent to help you to have the best time in Nepal.

This blog is also supplemental to our eBook, Nepal: A Tourist's Manual. If you're coming to Nepal you'll find enough valuable information to pay for the book several times over. Check it out here.

We also have a small guesthouse in Changunarayan Village, in the Kathmandu Valley. If you have an interest in staying with us, for short or long-term stays, plase see our website at https://StarViewNepal.com

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Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Nepal, A Retiree Winter Retreat

After 9/11/2001 my eyes opened and I started educating myself as to the political landscape of my country, USA. Yes, we all went through this, I know. Although I always wanted to travel the world and go to Africa, that wake-up call made me commit to that goal at a deeper level. My kids were young and my husband was in heart failure and not a likely travel companion to start with.

It wasn't until 2010 that I was able to get out, but it was life changing. I highly recommend a solo travel abroad-preferably one way. When I landed in Nepal I just fell in love with the place-everything!
Don't wait for 2020. You can come this winter.

Being as I'm looking at the world through a widow's lens, I see Nepal a bit differently than many of my more financially substantial counterparts. I see Nepal as a way to go from rags to riches without having to get more income.

But it isn't for everyone. First, the roads are not great and some of the potholes are big enough to get a car stuck. When you go to Kathmandu you have to use a mask to keep the pollution from bothering you too much. No one seems to follow through on their promises, but I'm expected to-even when they don't, and the list goes on. It's a big adjustment and it's not because the people are bad. They are really wonderful to tourists; it's just culture.

What's my point? My point is that for Americans who stuggle in the winter time to stay warm, get enough help to not have to shovel snow and have such high deductibles on insurance they cannot afford to take care of their dental issues or want to explore alternative medicine or get testing. No, I'm not saying to come here to get open heart surgery or anything like that done. There are many issues regarding infections and such that make it a foolish choice if there is another option. But putting up a crowdfunding project for medical help isn't always the only solution.

My badly sprained ankle

That being said, a person can get a root canal fixed for less than $200, usually a lot less. If you want to pay $30 you can, but it won't likely be very good. But you can go to a modern hospital with state-of-the-art equipment in Nepal and get care that is almost the same as in developed nations. Yes, almost; think 1995. As I've written about elsewhere, during one dental visit, the radiologist came to take me to get x-rays and I noticed he was wearing gloves. Wonderful! But as I followed him to the x-ray room he met a friend and actually shook hands with him! Did he change his gloves? No, although I'm sure he would have if I'd have asked.

Another issue was due to my going during the winter time to get my teeth cleaned. Good news: it was only $6. Bad news: they had no heating of the water they squirted into my mouth for 30 minutes. It was so cold it hurt! You see what I mean?

I've been pleasently surprised on a number of occassions and my teeth are in better shape than when I'd neglect them for so long back home due to the cost. There are MRI slice equipment where you can do an entire body scan for around $100. Although I tried to get a doctor to let me take one, if there is a medical need they will easily provide a prescription. If aneurysms run in your family you'd do well to have such a scan-and other reasons. What I like about Nepal's medical testing is the fact that no one asks for ID; it's completely anonymous.

So, what are you supposed to do? Show up and ask for a dental clinic? Well, you could probably do that, but I have a better idea.

I love caring for people and if you read the reviews on our guesthouse, Star View in Changunarayan, you will see the reviews I get on the way I personally care about our guests. My suggestion, recommendation is to come for the winter and stay with us or elsewhere and get such things taken care of.

The weather and view from our guesthouse on Oct. 30, 2017

I put out an offer of $800 a month all inclusive of private room, meals and transportation, even airfare. This would be on a 5-month agreement, but if it didn't work out a person could just pay back for the flight and be on their way. I would help them to find another place to stay. The only commitment would be on my part. If you pay for airfare we can give you a private room with private bath and all the food prepared for you from just $500 a month.

What would a person do here? Actually, there are a lot of things people spend their time doing, such as volunteering in the government school or helping our farmers start organic farming. Others write their memoirs or do internet projects; it's a great place for digital nomads. We have broadband internet, filtered water, refrigerator, back-up electric, room heaters, room servicing, solar water heating and just about whatever you need. We even have a HAM radio and antenae for your use.

"But what about all my bills and obligations back home while I'm away," you ask? If you understand that Facebook is not 'the internet' you are lightyears ahead of most of the population in Nepal. Therefore, you can get creative about how you can travel while producing some value along the way to help supplement your income. Here is a rather long list of ways a person can travel while earning a bit. Jason Swain is a blogger and online worker who's explored many an online money-making scheme and such. The life of a digital nomad isn't for everyone, but it might help supliment your travels or use one of these ideas to help you save up to travel: https://www.basedbachelor.com/entrepreneurship/how-to-make-money-while-traveling/

Tourists are able to stay here for 5 months per calendar year, so coming in November and staying until the end of March can get you out of the worst part of winter for most people. Such a schedule could easily be a way to save a bit of money and give you a special time of not having to worry about things.

I'm 65 years old and have been blogging about the virtues of Nepal for 7 years now. I'm from the US and lived a fairly middle class lifestyle throughout my life and know the importance of handwashing, etc. Having someone on your side to help you through all the cultural nuances will make your stay a real retreat with mild weather, sunshine everyday and activities that will enrich your life.

My goal is to have our guesthouse be like stepping back to the West when you are inside. However, that would be a gross exaggeration if I were to claim that. However, in a country where almost 20% of tourists get stomach issues, we haven't gotten anyone sick due to food preparation in over 3 years. Yes, it happens, but I eat the same food as my guests, so it's a major problem for our staff if that happens. Three years is major in Nepal!

As more and more benefits are taken away from us in America, I think it's time to rethink our later years and think outside the box. When you go back in the spring you will have done all the needed medical testing and maybe a few visits to some unconventional healers. You'll have a whole new smile and new reasons for smiling. You'll have prescription meds to take home and we can send you more when you run out. Then you can show your doctor the test results and save a lot of money.

I have many connections on Twitter with people in the #Resist movement. For anyone serious about the US elections and political climate, book your flight for right after the election as a reward for your hard work. If the Dems win it will take a while to get whatever we lost back, if at all. So, you deserve a break and Nepal is calling (If you are a trumpster I apologize in advance. I can be pretty annoying, so I'm happy to help you find somewhere).

I know there are millions who would benefit from this offer, but I only have room for 4, at the most. Any inquiries are welcome to contact me at FrugalTravelsNepal@gmail.com

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. http://WhatAboutNepal.org 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% high quality wool over micro-fiber lining. The hat will be the ‘Mohawk’ style in your school’s official colors or choose from other styles. The gloves will 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. We ask 20% deposit with the balance 60 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 had the bikes delivered already and they are quite nice. Actually, Rupak and his friends rode 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 to thank everyone for your support, whatever it may be. Please follow along with us and help us by sharing our message, buy a hat and glove set, 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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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. http://StarviewNepal.com

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 $5-10.

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, you would possibly be able 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 our guest 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. Our guests 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.

This room even has a TV. It has a ynal on the floor to keep it cleaner.

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 airfare or 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) gmail.com or connect with us on social media.

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