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!
Explore Himalaya recently organized an incentive trip to Nepal for mid to high level employees of a Russian company, MTS. The group trekked through the hills of Sindhupalchowk, rounding up their trek with an exciting bungee and swinging adventure at ‘The Last Resort’ located near Kodari, the Nepal-Tibet border. Explore Himalaya caught up with the group on their return to Kathmandu and talked with some of the group leaders. Here’s what they had to say:
– Konstantin, Moscow
|“Explore Himalaya did a very good job of organizing this trip. The staff were very friendly and the trek was an unforgettable experience! I can talk about it for hours!! Our guide was very polite, friendly, told us many interesting things about the life of the Nepalese. We really enjoyed it, and had the most favorable impression. The bungee jump and the subsequent tour of Kathmandu were very impressive. I jumped twice – swing and bungee.
The support staff and guides from Explore Himalaya were all very polite, alert and did their best to make our stay comfortable and enjoyable.After the completion of the trip, I realized how difficult it must have been for Explore Himalaya to organize this trek. Obviously a lot of hard work has gone into organizing this trip and I commend Explore Himalaya for organizing it so smoothly. Surprises were at every turn – in the city, and during the trek but everything got solved. Trekking was a pleasant experience for me. The weather helped us and we were able to see the snow capped Himalayan mountains. It was a daunting organizational challenge, but kudos to Explore Himalaya for making a success of it. With so many uncontrollable factors, everything was organized perfectly!”
Coming to Nepal is itself a life changing experience for most of the western travelers and being here for the elite adventure on the top of the world, Everest Skydive is for sure the biggest holiday anyone could imagine. The biggest and the most thrilling sky adventure of autumn in the shadows of world’s highest peak, Everest Skydive 2015 has been a successful event yet again. After the Everest Skydive, relatively easier Pokhara Skydive was also accomplished by the same crew. After both Skydiving Expeditions, we had a brief interview with three crewmembers who have been the member of this adventurous aerial escapade since the inception of Everest Skydive in 2008.
Tom Noonan, Dr. Ryan Jackson and Derek Thomas, without whom the Everest Skydiving would have just an experiment long time ago, hear them.
EH: Overall Experience of ESD and PSD
Tom: Every year we come to Nepal to conduct Everest Skydive Expedition & Pokhara Skydive Expedition we face new challenges; Operational challenges, personal challenges, weather, aircraft and so on. However, we know no matter what the challenges are we have to overcome and the resources provided by Explore Himalaya and Fishtail Helicopters provide us the confidence to conduct the expedition overcoming all these challenges.
Derek: We have been coming here since 2008; we are three of the four who have been learning here form the first day. For me being an equipment guy, it is very interesting to see how the equipment is able to survive and work in extreme environment for high altitude and I am happy that everything worked well for all these years.
EH: Differences between previous years Skydives and 2015 Skydive
Tom: This year was unique as we arrived after the earthquake. It was difficult to see some of the places that we have known over the years having come down to the earthquake. Hearing about the fatalities associated with it, it was difficult for us to come in and conduct a sports celebration knowing that there was such damage. Moreover, there was a fuel crisis as well and managing to that crisis changed the dynamic of how we operate it. But in the end we decided that the best thing we could do is to promote Nepal and tourism industry of Nepal conveying the message globally “Nepal is back on top of the world” through Everest Skydive and Pokhara Skydive.
Derek: Nothing to do environmentally or equipment wise but personality wise we had few new group members and I am hoping to work more with them as they are very good as friends and have brought very good attitude and work ethic for the adventure like this.
EH :Having 80% of solo skydivers this year does it refer professional skydivers are more into ESD
Tom: I think that the interest between professional skydivers versus tandem skydivers’ rises and falls based on support tourism industry can do. Some years it’s financially viable for professional solo divers other years through global economic changes more tandem divers might be interested on the event.
EH: Difference between Everest Skydive and Pokhara Skydive
Ryan: Two extremes of skydiving for us, Everest Skydiving is enormously and technically difficult and challenging whereas, Pokhara Skydive is within what we normally consider what skydiving is. It is easy and fun with warm and stable weather. Everest Skydive and Pokhara Skydive are totally contrasting expeditions.
EH: Ideal participants for Everest and Pokhara Skydives
Ryan: Everest Skydiving participants are professional skydivers seeking to extraordinary skydiving adventure or they are high networth tourists doing something that can’t be done anywhere else in the world like going to the very peak. Pokhara Skydive is attractive to anyone who would come to Nepal for doing any other adventure tourism who would pay to go paragliding or bungee jumping.
Tom: Whether it is solo or tandem skydiver, Everest Skydive targets wealthy professional individuals. ESD is for Professional and successful individuals highly driven for the adventure. For the ESD we tend to see self made wealthy professional because it in lines with their personalities. PSD is more of a stable and traditional skydiving operation which can target individuals with reasonable income.
EH: Support of Explore Himalaya
Derek: That’s only that has not changed. Everywhere we go we get great support and everyone in Namche now have begun to recognize us and everyone here in Nepal and Explore Himalaya had been great with us and we have no bad experience at all.
Tom: In the beginning one of our first persons to contact was Pushpa, she was amazing. Then came Menuka, she was amazing as well as very easy to communicate. Now we have Monika, she is equally amazing. Every person we have communicated has done their job so well we could totally rely on. For the first few years we had Krishna to support our crew during the Expeditions and now we have Bharat to do that role. To be honest, without Bharat ESD & PSD 2015 would not have been this great. Whenever we had small hiccups during these expeditions we would just call Bharat and without any sort of hesitation the problem was solved. Without Explore Himalaya Everest Skydiving would have ended six years ago and every year we are privileged to come to Nepal to work with you guys. Thanks.
Kongma La 18,159ft / 5,535m, Cho La 17,782ft / 5,420m & Renjo La 17,930ft / 5,465m – trekking across three elevated passes is incredibly a challenging and fascinating Himalayan trekking that caters the best of cultural and natural aspects of eminent Everest Region. Three Pass Trek in Everest Region is probably one of the most challenging treks in Nepal that most of the times take you to the region above 4500m in the wilderness of Himalayan Region dominated by the world’s highest peaks including Everest.
Recently, a solo trekker Ms. Maria Hendrika Van Horen from Netherlands undertook the challenging Everest Three Passes Trek. A very happy trekker, Hendrika expressed few beautiful lines regarding the trek before she headed off for another intriguing trek to Dolpo in Nepal.
“It was very good. I really enjoyed it. It was beautiful; mountains were beautiful, people were beautiful. We had good weather and hence we could do all the passes. We went to different tops like Chhukung Ri, Kalapattar and Gokyo Ri. We were a lot high in the mountains and the experience was wonderful.”
“I liked the mountains, which were spectacular. The culture in the lower region was great and the facilities catered throughout the trek, were wonderful.”
“It is safe. To me it looked like every trekking trail of Everest Region is safe to trek. All the bridges were okay. There were some damages in the teahouses in certain villages and everybody is repairing them. We could always stay in safe places that had no problem at all.”
“I didn’t find any sort of challenges traveling solo in Nepal; rather it is easier to travel solo in Nepal than many other countries across the world. However, when trekking higher in the Himalayas, it is more fun to be with other people or join the group undertaking the same trek. Nevertheless, it is hard to find the trekking partner because it low trekking season in Nepal and after the quake not many travelers have visited Nepal.”
“I am really happy. I got good information before we started the trek and the briefing was wonderful. The quality of your office is great. The guide to be honest who really makes the difference during the trek, Megh (trek guide) did a great job. He told us a lot about Nepal and Himalayas. He chose a good place to sleep. He made sure we were safe. We could always talk to him about shortening the trip or the day trip or make it bit longer so that we could overnight in a better place. It was always good to negotiate with him. The service was great before and after the trek, though I came back in a very different time. I don’t think the company needs to improve in any area. You people did a great job.”
“I wish the flight back to Kathmandu from Lukla had been on the scheduled time. I waited couple of days in Lukla to fly back to Kathmandu because; the weather was not clear enough and hence no flight could fly back to Kathmandu. However, this is understandable.”
“Nepal and Everest Region is safe to trek. It is as beautiful as it was before. Anybody who loves the culture of Nepal in combination with mountains should travel to Nepal. For example, my friends back home think Nepal is not yet safe country to travel. They think roads are unsafe, trekking trails have been hindered heavily and the hotels to accommodate are not in good shape, which are not true at all. People in the west now consider that Nepal is in miserable condition, where people still live in the tents, but I did not see anything like that. My message is that Nepal has become normal and the beautiful country with beautiful people deserves more travelers than ever. Himalayas are the best mountain ranges and if anyone who likes trekking and climbing should travel to Nepal. There is plenty of trekking options hard trek like the one I did or the easy treks for novice trekkers; Nepal caters many easy treks as well.”
The dust of rubbles created by the quake of April 25 had not settled another powerful quake of 7.4 moment magnitude hit Central Nepal yesterday. Despite all adversities, the hope of Rebuilding Nepal remains intact and Explore Himalaya in collaboration with PATA Nepal Chapter continues to serve the quake affected communities in every possible ways.
“Doctors for You” an Indian Humanitarian Organization dedicated in offering medical expertise in disaster hit zones has started its activities in quake affected regions of Nepal in collaboration with PATA Nepal Chapter. The team of doctors supported by local medical professionals is now conducting the Medical Campaign in Nuwakot, one of the most quake-affected regions.
Dr. Mridul Deka, a prominent member of “Doctors for You” organization recently working in the quake affected regions of Nepal says something about the campaign.
About the “Doctors for You” Campaign in Nepal
We have always been working in disaster prone areas. We began our volunteering campaign after Koshi Flood in Bihar in 2007. We also served humanity during Kashmir Floods, Uttarakhand flat floods and Assam Ethnic violence. Earthquake is a different thing but it displaces people in mass, creates panicking situation all over. Since this is our first international campaign, we are here to help people. We arrived to Nepal on 27 April and were having problems in getting the permission. However, PATA Nepal Chapter stepped in and helped us throughout all the procedures. We are very much thankful to PATA Nepal Chapter and Mr. Suman Pandey (the Chairman of PATA Nepal Chapter) who understood we had the same goal of helping people during this crisis.
Plans of “Doctors for You” in Nepal
We do not have short-term plans and we are planning to be here for at least for 3-6 months. We are focusing in maternal child health after the disaster. We will be working on the needs of women, children and the trauma they have faced. For the next six months, when the media attention is not there we want to be here with them. We want to help on victims’ nutrition plans and reproductive needs. We are planning to recruit local team and go forward to give them some preparedness and resilience to face the disaster that might hit anytime.
Collaboration with PATA Nepal Chapter
Disaster response is an initial thing and later part involves building the capacity of the people in the community. All this will come into play once the initial stage is handled properly. We would like to have longer collaboration with PATA and see through all the process until the community, we look after becomes normal, get rid of the mental trauma and start to prosper once again.
On Tourism Industry of Nepal
While we were working in Uttarakhanda after the floods, people had apprehensive perception about the tourism industry. However, Tourism Industry was not affected and the same volume of tourists came to the state the very next season. Once the crisis is over and Nepal gets normal, the tourism industry will once again flourish because it is a beautiful destination to be.
We work with the motto "Tourism for Development". Explore Himalaya Community Service Project was conceived to empower underprivileged segments of Nepal.