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Nepal

Nepal intro goes here

The market is saturated with books on Nepal. Good general books include Peter Matthiessen's "The Snow Leopard", a beautifully written account of the author's pilgrimage to Dolpa to track the elusive cat; and Peter Somerville-Large's engagingly dotty "To the Navel of the World", which chronicles his adventures through Nepal's uncharted lands. Try also Pico Iyer's '"Video Night in Kathmandu", a collection of essays which has a chapter on the collision between Nepalese tradition and Western culture.

Recent histories are limited but "Fatalism & Development - Nepal's Struggle for Modernisation" by Nepalese anthropologist Dor Bahadur Bista is a good place to start. There are more up-to-date books on the country's natural history, including K K Guring's "The Heart of the Jungle",  George Schaller's "Stones of Silence - Journeys in the Himalaya" and Robert Fleming Sr et al's "Birds of Nepal".

"The Boy From Siklis" by Manjushree Thapa is a great read, which outlines much about the history of conservation in Nepal and the creation of the Annapurna Conservation Area Program. This was a huge milestone for community based conservation and had a massive impact in the trekking world - great to read if you're heading to this area! Another of Manjushree Thapa's books, "A Tutor of History" is a great insight into life and culture of Nepal told via a political novel.

Good introductions to Nepalese art can be found in Lydia Aran's "The Art of Nepal" and Hallvard Kare Kuloy's "Tibetan Rugs", while facets of the country's culture are revealed in "People of Nepal" by Dor Bahadur Bista and "Festivals of Nepal "by Mary Andersen.

"The Rough Guide to Nepal" is a great travel book for general information on the country and the Lonely Planet's "Trekking in the Nepal Himalaya" is good if you want more detailed trekking information - although it does cover all of Nepal so might be a bit much to buy just for info on one trek!

Mountaineering breeds either writers or braggarts, judging by the number of publications written after every first ascent of a Himalayan peak. Often choosing which account to read can become one's own personal Everest, but H W Tilman's "Nepal Himalaya", Chris Bonington's "Annapurna South Face" and Mark Anderson's "On the Big Hill" should steady the nerves. Otherwise, try "The Ascent of Rum Doodle" by W E Bowman - a classic mountaineering tall story.

Popular items include ‘tanka’ (religious) paintings and Buddhist articles, such as prayer wheels and prayer flags. There are great clothes, jewellery and craft items available and some really good Fair Trade shops opening up now. While it's officially forbidden to export precious stones, gold or silver, customs officials don’t worry about jewellery – you will see many beautiful jewellery items for sale in the bazaars and you will not be stopped from taking these as souvenirs out of the country. If you buy an antique or religious sculpture, check that you can get it out of the country, as some items (religious or cultural heritage) are not allowed out. There has been a busy trade over the years stripping temples etc, so this is an understandable precaution taken by the Nepali authorities.

Nepal is a land of many festivals with rich cultural heritage. More than 90% of Nepalese festivals have their origin in the religious practises of the many different ethnic groups that live here. Such is the diversity of these groups and there are so many festivals, that you can often see one happening and ask a local person what it is for and they can only tell you which cultural group has the festival but not what it is for.

This diversity can also be seen in the fact that the country has a range of calendars; including two solar calendars and three lunar ones making it difficult to predict many of the religious festival dates! The official Nepali calendar is 365 days, but is 57 years ahead of the Gregorian calendar. Religious festivals follow the lunar calendar, while national festivals have fixed dates.

Read on to find out about some of the major festivals...

The national dish is dal-baat. Dal is a lentil sauce, baat is rice. The dish is in fact rarely as simple as this however as it invariably comes with a number of different side dishes, such as achar (pickle), curd (yoghurt), and usually vegetable curries. Another common dish found on many menus is momos – Tibetan dumplings made with vegetables or meat.

You will be astonished by the huge variety of international dishes (such as Chinese, Thai, Japanese, Mexican, Italian, Middle Eastern) available in Kathmandu and Pokhara. Likewise you will also often be able to find steak on the menu – although you will generally not be eating beef (except in some restaurants in Kathmandu where they import beef). Water buffalo (or buff as it is called!) is the usual substitute for beef and is actually quite tasty – if a little chewy.

Please be aware though, that sanitation standards are not always as you’d expect and it's very easy to get very sick on appealing food. We will make restaurant recommendations and, if you are going out to the mountains, we urge you to do your experimenting after your trip, or you may not get to go. Outside Kathmandu and Pokhara there is a very limited choice of food, so (except for the unique Newari food of Kathmandu) it’s often best to save eating heaps of local food until you’re out of the big towns, where you won’t get much else!

Vegetarians

Nepal is a fantastic place for vegetarians! Much of the cuisine is vegetarian and you will often find a much better (and tastier) selection of vegetarian options than meat dishes.

Food Allergies

If you have food allergies or preferences, please make them known to us before your arrival and we will do our best to ensure that your requirements are met!

Tipping

In Kathmandu and Pokhara restaurants only, tip 10% (if a service charge is not already on the bill). For city sightseeing it is nice to tip your guide if you had a great day and learnt a lot. If you go trekking, tip your porters and guides well as they work very hard to ensure your safety and enjoyment. Some of our trips include a tips kitty to take the hassle out of this sensitive issue for our guests – please ask for this if you would like us to handle it for you.

While there is so much to see here, following is a list of recommended places to visit in Nepal. There is of course much, much more, but this will get you started...

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