Nepal, nestled between China and India, is a world of its own and one of the very few countries in the world to have never been colonized. This mystical and spiritual land is the birthplace of Buddha and home to Mt. Everest. From the Himalayan Mountains in the north to the flat plains of the southern region, the beauty of this country, much of it wild and untamed, is spellbinding.
There is enough to do in Nepal to keep anyone busy for at least a couple of weeks. Ancient monasteries stand as they have for centuries with very little to no modernization. Visit the flourishing markets with hand-pounded brass products, wood carvings, baskets, food cooking on grills, and sights and sounds that will dazzle even the most experienced of world travelers.
If braving the wilds is more to someone’s liking, the Himalayans will challenge even the roughest and toughest explorers on the planet. Unless you have multitudes of experience in backcountry survival, it is recommended hiring the services of an experienced guide and it isn’t very difficult to locate a good one.
Whitewater rafting in the Bhote Koshi and Trishuli Rivers is a thrilling adventure unparalleled to most places in the world. Mountain biking, paragliding, and exploring canyons also rank high on the list of outdoor activities.
If a person is particularly brave and daring, the second highest bungee jump in the world will have them free-falling downward toward the Bhote Koshi River before being forcefully jerked back up. Previous visitors who have survived the ordeal have shakingly stated it was the experience of a lifetime, but counting their luck, they would be hesitant to do it again.
The citizens of Nepal are charismatic, outgoing, and friendly, welcoming all visitors who choose to wander into their ancient and sacred domain. The culture of this highly ignored country of little commercial importance is very much as it has been for centuries, with very few outside influences having permeated its boundaries.
Nepal is steeped deeply in traditions and customs, so if you do plan on visiting it’s best to learn a few formalities before you arrive. Nepalese try their very best to make visitors feel comfortable and at home, so it stands to reason that showing them some respect by learning and adapting to some of their customs is not only respectful, it’s just the right thing to do. Their traditions are not difficult to learn, but doing so will make anyone’s adventure all that much more enjoyable.
Nepal’s Social Practices
When introduced to someone, do not extend your right hand for a shake or you’ll feel foolish standing there with an outstretched arm. Instead, place the palms of your hands together as if praying, gently bow, and say “Namaste.” If the person is obviously older than you, the polite title for a man is “dai,” while for a woman, it is “didi.”
Do not under any circumstance wear clothing which is even the least bit revealing, as this will offend. By revealing, this means hiding your boney kneecaps as well. Do not wear shorts. Especially women. There are places to go swimming in Nepal, but wearing a bikini is strictly taboo. Stick to a one-piece. And please, remain cognizant concerning public displays of affection as they are frowned upon. If you can’t keep your hands off each either at least wait until you get back to your hotel.
There will be people sitting on sidewalks, some of them begging. Do not step over their outstretched legs and avoid touching anyone with your feet. This is considered rude and impolite. When children approach you asking for money, which they will, avoid eye contact and keep walking. They’ll quickly locate a new target. In general, the children will never see any of the money they collect. They will give it to their parents who probably sent them out to beg n the first place.
If you are invited to anyone’s home, which happens frequently, remove your shoes before entering their house. It is customary to wash your hands and mouth prior to eating, and never grab a hunk of meat off a platter. Your host will serve you. Do not let any new food touch a plate you have already eaten off of. This will pollute the new food.
Keep your left hand by your side and do not use it for anything. Left hands are reserved for bathroom use, the right-hand does everything else. Even when exchanging money, try and keep any left-hand use to a minimum.
Most Nepalese don’t use silverware. Even in restaurants, they eat with their right hand. Considering you are not from Nepal, you may be offered a fork and a knife, and while it will be tempting to not accept them, it’s much more respectful to forego the amenity and do as the locals do, so don’t hesitate grabbing a handful of whatever is on your plate and start shoving it in. But once again remember to use only your right hand.
Something Else to Keep in Mind
Water purification in Nepal is not up to the standards of wherever it is you call home. If you drink from a tap, chances are very good you will end up sick. Sticking to drinking bottled water will save you from a few days of misery. If you’ll be exploring the wilderness regions or some smaller villages without bottled water available, carry water purification tablets and they should do the trick.
Remain flexible with your scheduling. Nepal operates on its own timeframe and hurrying to do anything is rare. One traveler ended up spending a total of eight days at the airport because his flight kept getting canceled. While this may seem a bit extreme to the rest of us, to them it’s par for the course.
A visit to Nepal will offer experiences not found anywhere else. It is a world unto itself and should be a high priority on anyone’s list of future travel destinations.