Nepal – Travel & Food For Thought

Russian born, when I first came to Nepal, I wasn’t going to see the temples nor mountains that seem to capture the imagination of every traveler, and no, I wasn’t going for the food either. In fact, I was dragged here. You see, the first time Nepal caught me, was at the age of six, so the usual tourist highlights didn’t yet interest me. Frankly, Nepal didn’t interest me either. My mother and at the time her boyfriend were going to Nepal on vacation and to visit my aunt (mother’s sister) who had married a Nepali studying in Russia at the time. Though I do have a memory of the Nepal I saw in the 80s, it certainly didn’t leave on me as lasting an impression as the FOOD; for the little that I do remember, for the most part, had little to do with the Himalayas and Pagodas. My mother and I would later immigrate to the U.S. and I wouldn’t get a real taste of Nepali food, other than the occasional taste of achhar (a spicy Nepali pickle) or a rather “not the same” substitute Indian food, until I was 24 years old when the Nepali food, once again excited my memories and taste buds.

When I came to Nepal, this time in 2007, little had changed. My families view has been, that there was now more traffic, the cites were now more congested, but the core of Nepal remained the same. I loved it, but what did draw my attention were the tourists. Nepal certainly is more popular today, than it was then, and the flourishing tourist industry has sadly, in an effort to accommodate the Western tourist’s fear of trying anything new has obscured in my view the true taste of Nepal by making it too easy to abstain from Nepali food.

Not unlike the thousands of others that now come to Nepal to experience trekking in the Himalayas, I too ventured out to do the same. Granted, the area I was traveling through, the Annapurna Conservation Area, was the most developed trekking route in Nepal, but I was slightly put off by what I saw. The villagers that once only served traditional Nepali dishes were now offering pizza and Cesar salad among other typical Western items to accommodate the new age trekker tastes.

Maybe my views are different from most, but www.blackcockshock.com I come to a country I wish to experience as much as that country has to offer. The people, sights and culture and certainly those that manage to achieve the above get a great deal of what is Nepal, yet at the same time, they are leaving just as much (pardon the pun) on the table.

I must say, that what to me is really close to fingernails on a chalk board, is the fearful tourist. I frankly fail to understand how people traveling thousands of miles to come to Nepal arrive with such fear of a bit of travelers diarrhea, which they will probably get anyway (treatable with simple over the counter medication and or over the counter antibiotics available in Nepal), that they dare not venture outside the Hyatt for a meal, all to miss out greatly. As diverse as Nepal is culturally, it is also just as diverse culinary. I think my aunt put it best, “the chances are, that the diarrhea that travelers get comes NOT from the Nepali food, but from the tourists asking a Nepali villager to prepare for them mushroom, sausage and olive pizza.”