Nepal never ceases to amaze people from all round the globe. And Malaysians, who are now one of the most seasoned travelers in South-East Asia, are no exception! This autumn Explore Himalaya is quite happy to welcome a group of 11 Malaysian travelers led by our old friend Mr. Song Poh. What makes the trip more special is we were not welcoming Mr Song Poh and his close friend Ms. Yogaranee Balaratnam Thambayah, aged 73, for the first time in Nepal. For Yogaranee, it was the forth time and for Song Poh it was the second time with us, and after almost 20 years!
The Malaysian group did the classic Everest Base Camp Trek from 07 November to 24 November. The group, which was a great combination of multi-age people ranging from 30 to 73, includes Song Poh (Leader), Yong Kek Loong, Yogaranee Balaratnam Thambayah, Tan Hooi Nee, Ting Choo Hew, Sitta V Kanagasabai, Ling Keoi Tai, Lim Ka Tin, Kalaiarasy Subramaniam, Tan Kim Chan and Wong Kok Seong. The group itself looked like a collective family, a close-knit travelling community – and the trek to Everest Base Camp was quite an ideal trip for them to share, care and create memories.
Song Poh and Yogaranee are frequent travelers to Nepal with Song Poh coming to Nepal for record 12 times and Yogaranee 5 times. However, to many the trip was the first one ever. So there was a lot of anticipation and excitement right after they landed in Kathmandu (1400m). The trip started with a city tour to the ancient treasures of Nepal including Bouddha, Pashupatinath, Patan Durbar Square and Swoyambhu. The trip not only gave a real insight to the history of Kathmandu Valley, but also offered a wonderful spectacle of the mesmerizing cultural fusion of Hinduism and Buddhism being practiced since time immemorial. However, the tour just served as a savory to kick start the most awaited trip to the Himalayas.
The real adventure started on the third day, with a flight to Lukla (2860m), in which the members got to enjoy the scenic Himalayan vistas before the real beginning of the trek. Once in Lukla, the whole members felt the crispy chill of the mountain air, much different from the humidity of Kathmandu. Then, started the real trek that would last for next two weeks, through the meandering stony trail along Dudh Koshi river. Throughout the trek, the weather was exceptionally clear and the views were top-notch as if the Himalayas wanted to flaunt all its glory in one go.
The more the members went higher, the more they were exposed to the elements of nature. The more they were intimate to the nature, the more they experienced the grandeur of the Himalaya in its purest essence, from the first sight of Everest from Namche (3450m) to the panoramic view of Everest from Kalapathar (5545m). On reaching the Base Camp (5357m)-the ultimate point of their monumental achievement- they rejoiced, unfurled their national flag and captured all the moments in their memories. On the way back, they shared their experiences, re-captured the moments and bid the last bye to the land of Everest before flying back to Kathmandu. At the end of the trip our Malaysian friends, quite rejuvenated after the Himalayan experience, wished to come back to Nepal again and again. Explore Himalaya feels delighted to make their Everest dream possible and looks forward to travelling with them in the Himalaya in future as well. Congratulations to all the trekkers and best wishes for your next adventure!
Before flying back home, Explore Himalaya had a tete-e-tete with Mr. Song Poh, the team leader. An extract of the conversation:
EH: How was your first experience in Nepal? How is it now? Do you find any kind of difference?
Songpoh: Well, first time it was totally different because I had never done trekking in the Himalayas. But after coming here I found it such an awesome place that makes me coming back almost every alternate year.
EH: Which part of Nepal have you visited so far?
Songpoh: I think Annapurna 6/7 times, Langtang once, Khumbu-this is my second time.
EH: Which part do you think is comparatively better?
Songpoh: They are all unique, in their own way. I will say like Annapurna is beautiful, Langtang is beautiful, they are beautiful in their own way. They have their own speciality.
EH: How many members do you have in this trip?
Song Poh: In this trip, we are 11 including myself.
EH: Your group looked like a mixed age group. What is the range of the age group?
Song Poh: The average age would be above 50, some in the region of 70. The eldest member is Ranee aged 73, a close friend of mine. She has been here 6/7 times. She was here together with me twenty years ago and she keeps on coming back. The youngest member is 31.
EH: How was the trip as a whole?
Songpoh: It has been a successful trip to Everest Base Camp. Some of my friends are first time in the Himalayas. It was worth enjoying the every moment of the trip.
EH: How was the weather since it counts much when you are travelling in altitude?
Song Poh: The weather was cold and harsh. But the visibility was superb, you can never imagine such clear blue sky back in my country any more. Here in the Himalayas, everything was so clear and nice.
EH: What is the feedback of your team members?
Song Poh: Very good question! I have asked to my team members, “Do you want a refund for what you have paid for?” They say straight “No” for that adventure.
EH: So they get the value of their money?
Song Poh: Yeah, they get the value of their money. I think what they are doing is they are buying for the experience which they can never get anywhere else in the world.
EH: How is travelling in Nepal different from other parts of the world?
Song Poh: Every country is unique in its own way. I won’t say Thailand is more beautiful and Nepal is not….no, no. Nepal has got its own uniqueness and Thailand has its own in terms of its natural setting
EH: So are you planning to travel in Nepal in future as well?
Song Poh: Well that could be after the successful trip to Everest Base Camp. This is my second time to Everest. I travelled in many regions. I would like to try Manaslu next time.
EH: And what about the western parts like Rara and Dolpo, and eastern most part like Kanchanjugha?
Songpoh: Yeah, why not? If I have the opportunity and I have the means to do it, chances are yes.
EH: Is there any recommendation/suggestion for us? Have you ever felt like had these things been done, it would have been much better? Any thoughts on it?
Songpoh: From my personal accounts, logistics provided by the company are the important part. You know that you are backed up by a good company, able to get things done for you, and next thing the trekkers are mostly new to this region. We don’t know the language but we get help by helpful staffs. Our adventure is more meaningful, they are able to take care, to see our needs, Malaysians have their own unique demands. That’s the most important part. So you know, what are the demands of Malaysian trekkers, maybe you can look into that matter. Both trekkers and company should act more responsibly.
EH: If you are to give a message to other people who are planning to come to Nepal, what would you like to say?
Song Poh: Nepal has something what the world cannot provide, the uniqueness of its environment, the natural setting of the mountains, the friendly people and if anybody who is a keen trekker or ardent trekker, I think they shouldn’t miss the Nepali Himalayas. It is one of the most awesome trekking routes that you can ever imagine. Nepal has it all.
EH: Is there anything you want to say, something which you feel is missed to say?
Song Poh: If you want to do the ultimate trekking, I think Nepal is the place because they have the infrastructures, logistics, they have the people to do it. Personally to me, Nepal has been a fantastic place. Maybe I’m coming again, I don’t know when but definitely! So we are coming back again.
EH: Thank you for your time!
By: Subin Shrestha
Tourism in Nepal started after the first successful ascent of Mount Everest on 29th May 1953 by Tenzing Norgay and Sir Edmund Hillary. Before 1951 Nepal was closed for foreigners because of autocratic rule of Rana regime. After democracy came in 1955, foreigners were welcomed by Nepal Government by providing them tourist visa. Before, the visas were provided from India by East India Company under the supervision of British Government.
After the successful ascent of the highest peak in the world, Nepal started to be a new destination for foreigners. In 1956, under the supervision of French George Lebrec, National Planning Council on Tourism was set up and started to promote tourism. The same year National Tourist Development Board also came into existence. In 1958 Royal Nepal Airlines Corporation, presently known as Nepal Airlines Corporation started its operation as Nepal’s first aviation service provider. In 1959, Nepal also became a member of International Union of Official Travel Organization.
In late 1960’s and 1970’s hippies started to flow in Nepal. During those days Nepal was famous for hippies as marijuana and hashish were easily available. But in 1973 government banned on the selling of marijuana and hashish. It became a turning point in Tourism history of Nepal as after that time Nepal developed as a hot spot for adventure seekers and cultural tourists. In 1998, Nepal Tourism Board https://www.welcomenepal.com/ was established in the form of partnership between the Government of Nepal and private sector to promote Nepal as an attractive tourist destination. The same year, Nepal celebrated “Visit Nepal 98” to strengthen Nepal tourism. From 1999 tourism started to decline because of a decade long Maoist insurgency due to which negative message went viral all over the world. Other incidences like hijack of Indian Airlines fleet from TIA (Tribhuvan International Airport) in 1999, Royal Massacre in 2001 and King Gyanendra taking over the power and suspending constitution, affected the Tourism industry negatively.
The historical Peace treaty agreement between Maoist and Government in 2006 was the biggest achievement as a positive message about Nepal was relayed to the international tourists. In 2011, Tourism Year was celebrated for the second time.
On 25th April 2015, the devastating earthquake with the Magnitude of 7.8 shook the nation. About 600,000 structures in Kathmandu and other nearby towns were either damaged or destroyed along with UNESO Heritage Sites. Thousands of people were homeless while the death toll reached approximately 8,000. Gorkha was the epicenter of the earthquake and it was felt throughout central and eastern part of Nepal as well as some parts in India, Bangladesh, Tibet and Bhutan.
Nepal Government immediately declared a state of emergency after the earthquake, and the entire Nepali army, Armed Police Force and Nepal Police were mobilized for rescue and recovery work. Nepal also called on the international community for aid. Members of SAARC and several other countries like China, Taiwan, USA, UK etc. quickly responded by sending aid and rescue team. UN (United Nation) quickly established the “Nepal Earthquake 2015 Flash Appeal” fund, whose goal was to raise earthquake relief fund. NGO’s and INGO’s like International Red Cross Society, CARE International, Save the Children, SOS Children’s Village International etc were also active for support. The toughest task was to supply relief materials due to landslides and continuous aftershocks. However, U.S Army, Nepal Army and Indian Army chopper were used for rescue operation and to supply relief materials.
Though Tourism Industry was badly affected as many historical places around the capital city were destructed and some trekking routes were closed, in mid-August new slogan “Nepal is safe” started circulating in international market for the promotion of the areas which were not affected by earthquake like Pokhara, Annapurna region, Lumbini and Chitwan. Now, Tourism has recovered from the effects of earthquake and Nepal is well on its way to better future.
FIGURE: TOURIST ARRIVAL IN NEPAL (2000-2015)
The morning of 09th November was different at Pame Lauruk, a small settlement 11 km northward from Pokhara lakeside. Excited skydivers were milling up in the dropzone, a wide grassland nearby the village. Crew were busy around preparing and briefing, jumpers were being all geared up and waiting with dreamy anticipation. Many of them were having their first ever jump – so things were being so intense for them. A whole lot of spectators were waiting for the moment to capture in their mobiles and cameras. The sky was exceptionally clear, the mountain was smiling its brightest smile and the hills around as lush as ever. It was quite a sight! At round 9 am, the jump started and added a real thrill to the already excited crowd. Well, to be honest, to jump off the chopper at the height of 11,000-13000 ft with the majestic views of Annapurna range at your backdrop and the sprawling valley of Pokhara along with serene Phewa lake below, is not just an adventure but a sublimity in itself! The first day, 27 lucky jumpers achieved that momentum!
This year’s Pokhara Skydive continued for three days till 11th November and a total of 65 jumpers from India, Nepal, Denmark, Australia and Netherlands achieved their dream of flying in the Himalaya. Among the happy jumpers, some were even able to make it to the record list of Pokhara Skydive. Aniket Jain (India), aged 16 and Rajinder Singh (India), aged 65, became the youngest and the oldest skydivers respectively to have done Pokhara Skydive. They have proved that age doesn’t really count when it comes to adventure! Jad Kamel became the first Lebanese to skydive in Pokhara. The whole three days passed with amazing chopper take offs, crazy freefalls, spectacular landings, overwhelming moments and a series of never ending excitement. The event concluded with great memories and hopes of welcoming more skydiving enthusiasts next year. Congratulations to all the dare devils who ticked the dream of “flying in the Himalaya” out of their bucket list!
[Pokhara Skydive https://www.nepalskydive.com/, is an annual skydiving adventure, organized by the pro team of Everest Skydive and Explore Himalaya, the only skydiving company in Nepal. Pokhara Skydive has officially started its commercial operation since 2014, after its first test operation in 2010. It has welcomed hundreds of skydivers round the world ever since. As the event is the blend of adventure and the exceptional beauty of Pokhara, every year Pokhara Skydive community is getting bigger and bigger!]
Medhavi Davda, one of the attendees of International Travel Bloggers and Media Conference 2017 http://htmnepal.com/program/itbmc/, has recently posted her travel story on Everest Base Camp and Kala Patthar Trek in her blog http://www.ravenouslegs.com/ . Though she was in Nepal solely for the conference, she could not resist the charm of Nepali Himalayas and instantly packed her bags and set off for Everest Base Camp, one of the most sought-after adventure trails in the world. Medhavi’s refreshing details take us to the very base of the mighty Everest and make us enjoy every corner and every stone of her journey including the overwhelming moment she had at the first sight of Everest. As Everest Base Camp Trek is always one of its kind, so is the story of her trek! Explore Himalaya is really delighted to be a part of her lifetime experience. To enjoy her journey in full detail, please visit http://www.ravenouslegs.com/blogs/trek-to-everest-base-camp-and-kala-patthar
If you are next in the queue, you can also visit her next blog for detailed guidelines http://www.ravenouslegs.com/blogs/handy-guide-and-tips-for-everest-base-camp-trek-in-nepal . You will never remain without thanking her!
Gantabya Nepal News organized an Award Ceremony on the occasion of its 4th Anniversary at Manang Hotel, Thamel, Kathmandu on Oct 17, 2017. The program, which was held in the presence of dignitaries including Nanda Kishor Pun, the Vice-President of Nepal and Jagdish Narshing K. C., the former Member of Parliament; honored Tourism Entrepreneur Suman Pandey with “Tourism Lifetime Achievement Award” for his thirty years long contribution to Nepali Tourism Industry.
During the program, Vice President Pun handed over the award to Mr. Pandey and congratulated him for his landmark success in Nepali Tourism. He asserted the need of dynamic personality like Mr. Pandey in the tourism field of Nepal, and emphasized on the importance of tourism industry and the need to utilize the benefits of nature and culture for the country’s development. In his acceptance speech, Mr. Pandey thanked the organizer and shared his experience of three decades in tourism sector. At the end, he also expressed his wish to handover the legacy of his experiences to the young tourism entrepreneurs of Nepal.
(Picture Credit: Gantabya Nepal News)
Jagdish Narshing K.C., the former MP; Nawaraj Dahal, National Coordinator of Nepal Tourism Entrepreneurs’ Association; and Shiva Adhikari, Nepal-based President of Destination Nepal were among the other speakers. Tourism entrepreneurs Lok Prasad Dahal, Anil Lama, Chiranjivi Bhatt, Rajendra Adhikari, Gita Gurung, Anneli Sophia Rieker; and social workers Ramhari Adhikari, Rajan Thapa and Motriram Dhakal were also honored on the same occasion.
(Picture Credit: Gantabya Nepal News)
[Suman Pandey as an active tourism entrepreneur has undertaken various leadership roles including President-Trekking Agent’s Association of Nepal, Chairman-PATA Nepal Chapter, Executive Member-Nepal Tourism Board, Executive Member-Nepal Tourism Year 2011, General Secretary-Airline Operator’s Association of Nepal and Founding President of Explore Himalaya Travel & Adventure, CEO of Fish Tail Air and Director of Chhaya Center. He is also a receiver of numerous accolades including prestigious Suprasiddha Gorkha Dakshin Bahu (2004) and Lifetime Achievement Award conferred by American Biographical Institute (ABI) based in the United States in Raleigh, North Carolina in 2008.]