This all started when I casually looked into possibly doing a short term volunteer vacation.
I was looking on the Global Aware site (http://www.globeaware.org/) and saw a Nepal section. Nepal is where Mt Everest is and the Sherpa culture is pretty intriguing.
They suspended their Nepal trips in 2006. Looking at
Shows a very long explanation as to why.
"The political situation in Nepal remains tense and unpredictable and levels of violence remain high across Nepal ." (Go to the site for the rest, it's pretty interesting)
Noting that this was dated in 2006 I looked for more current info. Wish granted, and I now have two vastly different takes the US State Dept and Lonely Planet.
The US State Dept in their typically paranoid way says STAY AWAY
This is published today (Oct 27):
In contrast Lonely planet (http://www.lonelyplanet.com/nepal dated Sept 30) talks about what a wonderful place it is and here are the cool places you can go. So I did some digging, major digging and it doesn't seem quite right to bury this information no matter what you think of it:
The May 4, 2009 resignation of the Prime Minister and the resulting caretaker government has created an environment of increased political instability and the potential for demonstrations to be called without advance notice.
Political violence remains a problem in Nepal. The Young Communist League (YCL), a Maoist Party subgroup, continues to engage in extortion, abuse, and threats of violence, particularly in rural areas. Youth groups from the other two main political parties, the Nepali Congress (NC) and the United Marxist-Leninist Party (UML), have also formed and clashes continue among these political rivals. Violent actions by multiple armed splinter groups in the Terai region along the southern border with India remain a significant concern.
Curfews can be announced with little or no advance notice.
Page down down down and you will find:
Dangers & annoyancesAnnoyances?
First sentence of this section says:
"Despite the continual stream of bad news headlines that flows out of Kathmandu, the most touristed areas of Nepal remain remarkably safe. "
Fair enough but what follows are pretty much the same facts as before just in a more moderate ton. Mostly.
- Register with your embassy in Kathmandu.
- Keep an eye on the local press to find out about impending strikes, demonstrations and curfews.
- Don't ever break curfews - instructions have been given to shoot those who are found breaking curfew.
- Don't travel during bandhs (strikes) or blockades. Get very nervous if you notice that you are the only car on the streets of Kathmandu!
- Be flexible with your travel arrangements in case your transport is affected by a bandh or security situation.
- Avoid marches, demonstrations or disturbances, as they can quickly turn violent.
- Don't trek alone, even on a day hike. Lone women should avoid traveling alone with a male guide.
- Consider flying to destinations outside Kathmandu to avoid traveling through areas where there have been disturbances.
- Avoid traveling by night buses and keep bus travel in general to a minimum.
- Be prepared to pay the Maoists a 'tax' if approached while trekking and budget the cash for that eventuality. Trekkers have on occasion been beaten up for not paying this tax. It's just not worth arguing with these guys.
Ok I am clearly a travel wuss and I have traveled during terrorism scares (1986 in Europe and it was fine). But the odds of you being hit by terrorists are usually remote. The odds of you being robbed or assaulted are much more likely.
Of course, I live right beside a violent area (though ironically my area is very safe) and so obviously you just have to be aware and know where to go and where not to and when not to. I'd love to see the travel advisory for Oakland, Calif. I'm sure it would be scary.
I have an acquaintence in Israel and when bombs were being lobbed in from Palestine on a regular rate I check in with him. This most recent time he said that the bombs weren't quite reaching him so life was going on as usual. I think this is a lesson here. Even in war zones ordinary life does happen.
So what does this mean? Is it safe or not? I think the answer is probably, but maybe not and do I want to deal with knowing that. I think if I want to go to Nepal I should do it with a highly organized group which kinda cuts into getting to know people on a volunteer stint though I'm sure it's possible.
Could Nepal be the next thing you hear about on the news? Well if depends on if some Americans get into something they shouldn't. Right now the focus is on Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan with brief forays into Cuba and Pakistan and India, so the headlines are a little full. We'll just have to see if the Maoists or their rivals decide to start doing large scale bombings. General strikes and petty thefts don't get much press attention even if it gets the US Dept of State's attention.
I don't get much thrill about traveling in potentially dangerous areas. I'd rather see it in a movie like a favorite of mine "The Year of Living Dangerously." When I travel I like to focus on learning about the area and talking and connecting with people. If I was there are a news correspondent I wouldn't mind the danger as much as it would be my job and that would be ok. But in my oridinary life when traveling, even though I'm good about taking ordinary precautions, I really don't want to be on guard as I find it pretty tiring and takes away from the experience. The performers on the George Pompidou Museum's plaza in Paris are really cool, but the place is so rife with pickpockets that you really can't relax which is a huge bummer. You walk out there are you can feel the eyes of a hundred predators. Weird and not fun.
I had a similar experience with my mom at the flea market at St. Ouen. A guy was playing 3-card Monty and the crowd drew in. I told my mom to put her hand on the top of her fanny pack (which was already in front). We didn't get ripped off and I think that helped.
(The American guy playing 3-card Monty did, which sort of goes without saying, doesn't it?)
Even being willing to "play" 3 card Monty means that you have "mark" tatooed on your forehead.
Believe the State Dept. Greg and I had Nepal as our last hiking destination and we decided to do the Alps at the last minute instead due to the warnings. Trip candy...looking forward to the experience is part of the pleasure of travel. No sense looking forward to civil unrest and the opportunity to lose your life or worse. I'd rather paraglide off a mountain and take my chances at that!
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