Having stayed here for almost two weeks I am giving Nepal a big thumbs up! I have to say we chose a very unique place for our first stop on this around-the-world journey (more about Nepal here and here). Below are my 9 interesting facts about Nepal. To break these down further I divided them into 3 groups: Infrastructure, Culture and People, and Food. Enjoy!
- Roads in Nepal are very poor.
Essential infrastructure such as roads is still very underdeveloped in Nepal. Even in Kathmandu, the capital city of Nepal it is not unusual to see some of their main roads looking more like dirt tracks. Some roads are impassable as piles of gravel sit in the middle ready for the road to be resurfaced. It seems only very few roads are concrete. Apparently, Nepalese trekking trails are more developed than their roads which means that you might spend more on the “road” travelling to the starting point of your trail then doing the trek/hike itself!
- Electricity supply is intermittent.
Although a lot of places seem to have electricity in Kathmandu, power outs are frequent. Because supply is so intermittent people have to rely on storing solar energy or backup generators to make sure they have a more consistent supply. Once again I am told it is even worse in the mountains or more remote areas, where in some cases people might only have an hour or a couple of hours worth of electricity every day. There has been no electricity for the last 2 hours as I write.
- Wastewater treatment is non-existent.
As an engineer who worked on wastewater treatment projects in the past I could not help but notice the quality of water in rivers in Kathmandu. In the UK we would call this water septic untreated sewage. It’s dark grey in colour, it smells and looks horrible. If you sampled it you would probably find every type of contaminant, virus and bacteria known to science. Whatever sewage collection systems exist in Kathmandu, they all discharge directly into these rivers – I doubt anything is ever treated.
- Seismic activity did a lot of damage in 2015.
Earthquake in 2015 caused a lot of damaged to the city destroying some of the nicest places in Kathmandu including it’s many temples and squares some of which are UNESCO sites. It is evident works are still taking place to this day to rebuilt those places. It also took several thousands of lives and affected hundreds of thousands of people, homes and businesses. A café just nearby where I stay at this moment had to be completely rebuilt after the earthquake. The brothers running the café smiled to me as they were telling the story. They are happy they have each other, their new business and can support their families. The resilience and capacity to take whatever life throws at them is incredible.
People and Culture
- Nepal has a variety of ethnic groups all with unique and interesting history
I am usually not a big fan of these things but reading about some of the ethnic groups of Nepal was really interesting. You can spend hours online and on Wikipedia. Just to mention a few:
Pahari – the largest ethnic group in Nepal. They are agricultural people, many of whom are farmers who grow rice and potations on the hillsides. My initial thinking was that Pahari would mainly belong to Vaishya (farmers and merchants caste – more about that below) but after further reading I understood each group might have their own caste system which makes it all too complex to explain in one short article!
Newar – a very influential ethnic group many of whom hold high ranking posts in government and other institutions. According to Wikipedia Newars are considered “the most economically, politically and socially advanced community of Nepal”.
Sherpa – Most live in the northern and eastern regions of Nepal. Highly regarded for their excellent mountaineering skills and knowledge of their regions. According to Wikipedia, Sherpa were immeasurably valuable to early explorers of the Himalayan region, serving as guides at the extreme altitudes and particularly for expeditions to climb Mount Everest.
- Caste system officially abolished but is still prevalent especially amongst older generations.
Although in 1962, Nepali government made it illegal to mistreat people based on their caste so that people have equal rights to public services and education, caste system is still somehow prevalent although probably not as much as it used to. As mentioned above each ethnic group might have their own version of caste system, however, to simplify it there are four main castes in Nepal:
Brahmin – caste of scholars and educators, Kshatriya – soldiers and governors, Vaishya – merchants and farmers, Shudra – labourers
Caste system is a way of dividing people into social classes or groups with some having more “rights” and higher social status than others. Historically, lower caste person would not be allowed to touch or sometimes even look at a person from a higher caste and failure to respect these rules would be punishable. I suggest you google it to find out more as I will never be able to explain it as well as some other people online!
- Kathmandu is where people find opportunities.
As underdeveloped as it might seem from the first glance, Kathmandu is where people from all over the country come to find opportunities to improve their lives. Kathmandu has countries best schools, hospitals and this is where people find business opportunities or come to seek further education. A lot of businesses revolve around tourism and providing for the tourists.
Having said that, Nepali people believe the true beauty of their country is beyond Kathmandu or any other city with every single person pointing towards the mountains. They say that’s where the true Nepal is.
- Traditional Nepali dumplings are called MoMos
By far the most popular food in Nepal (at least for tourists) is the traditional Nepali dumplings called MoMo. You can have them stuffed with vegetables or meat and either served steamed, fried or fried and covered in a special chilly sauce. Chilly momos are amazing!
- Cuisine is influenced by neighbouring countries
Nepali kitchen seems to have borrowed a lot of dishes from neighbouring countries such as curries from India and chow-mein from China. You can find pretty much any type of food in more touristy places though.
To sum up I think Nepal is really a unique place to visit and explore. Whether you like history, food or nature it feels there is something for everyone. Who cares if the road is a bit bumpy, it’s the destination that matters!
Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed my 9 Interesting facts about Nepal.