What to do in Kathmandu?

(If you have been to Nepal, you will have heard that phrase many times!)

To be honest - there is an overwhelming amount to do in Kathmandu – non stop. Not only can you visit all the wonderful heritage sights, there is so much local culture on display and interesting people happy to meet and chat.

Many of you or your friends may have traveled to Nepal. It is such a beautiful friendly country (can anywhere rival the Himalaya's for scenery?!) with thousands of yearly visitors and tourism as the largest industry. Which is why the earthquakes this year have the Nepali's I met very concerned that foreigners will stay away. I often heard of great frustration from friends there at the way the media only shares stories of destruction, when actually in most parts of the city you would not even know the earthquakes had happened. So writing from Nepal, here is my advice for planning your next trip to Kathmandu, which I very much hope you will do!

In my opinion when you visit a country like Nepal you'll have the best experience if you make friends with the locals who will show you the best places to visit, tell you about the culture, traditions, cooking and introduce you to the native foods. Try to speak a few Nepali words and take public transport. You will be warmly received!

I love Kathmandu as much as much I love London. Both are busy, crazy places where you can meet people from all over the world if you are open to it - which of course you should be, because isn’t that the best part that comes free in only a few cities in the world?

In London it is so much more difficult to speak to strangers. By contrast in Kathmandu the people you meet on the streets or on the bus next to you will engage you in a friendly conversation within seconds – no strings attached ;). Sometimes the bus is so full that everyone is laughing and making jokes about sitting on each other’s laps. Have you ever experienced this in London? I think everyday I spent in Kathmandu a new interesting person told me something amazing, or taught me something new – often it only takes a few minutes to listen.

Many travellers, ex-pats or immigrating people pass through or live in Kathmandu and so sharing experiences and impressions with this cosmopolitan whirl of life stories is a fantastic opportunity to open horizons, learn about other lives lived and the great projects that draw people here. A lot of people here do a lot of great things!

Not only is it great to meet Nepali people but also for Nepali people it is great to meet you - learn about other countries and cultures, practice their English, exchange opinions, views and ‘traditions’ they do not know about, so open up!

I can’t recommend Gaia restaurant in Kathmandu enough. I have met some great people there from all over the world. It’s like a little oasis in the crazy city, to relax, enjoy great food, meet people and make friends for life! But of course that is not the only place in the valley, but all I have time for now... I hope you enjoy your adventure!

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Women's Empowerment!

All women have a story to tell…

When I met Tzering the production manager at Besuited, the ‘new’ factory we are working with to produce our dhaka collection, she was extremely happy to hear that we are three women running HTHT. ‘Women power, women power’ she said with a big smile!

Tzering with Ramila, is a sewing machinist at Besuited

Tzering with Ramila, is a sewing machinist at Besuited

Over many years as I've returned to work here in Nepal and have continued to learn about Nepali life and culture, it has become more and more apparent to me how hard it can be to live in a world ruled by tradition, ritual, religion and caste. As much as some of these also bring charm and beauty to Nepal, they can also cause a lot of difficulty and pain.

It is no accident that we have been working with and supporting mainly women workers at the Association for Craft Producers (ACP). Particularly in the many villages across Nepal, women can have a difficult upbringing and are usually married at a very young age. They are expected to raise large families and work extremely hard to provide for them. There is pressure to please their families so as to not damage their reputation, or become an outcast. Falling in love with a man from the ‘wrong’ caste can be fatal.

Here at HTHT, we come from a Western society and generation where we have no fear of speaking out loud, we can have relationships with whoever we want, have children without being married and without being judged for our decision. We have the freedom to pursue a career in almost anything we want and travel the world without worrying if we will be able to return home. Women for generations before us have fought for our rights and we continue this fight. We feel very lucky to live in a part of the world where all these things are possible for us.

Dhana knitting at ACP

Dhana knitting at ACP

Every woman in the world has the same mind – but sometimes it is hidden or suppressed and some women are raised not to speak out loud for fearing the consequences – or fearing for her life. Nobody can tell me, ‘They get use to it – and are happy to go along with it’. Maybe women are skilled at ‘getting on with it’ as they do not have a choice but it doesn’t mean that some of these things shouldn’t change, be brought to our awareness and we need to speak up about them.

I learned from the stories on this trip that the lives of some of the women here have been extremely tough. They can be quite vulnerable on their own which is why working in a safe environment, having a regular income and being independent is incredibly important and empowering for the woman who work for our producer groups, ACP and Besuited. The women who work there in leading roles, women like Meera, the founder of ACP or Srishti and Tzering who are our production managers, are women others can feel inspired and encouraged by; I certainly am.

Srishti and Anna at ACP

Srishti and Anna at ACP

I think we can all feel scared for being judged by what we do, the pressures of society, and those we put on ourselves. Are we doing the right thing? What will people think of me? Am I succeeding? It is not easy to break free from this and to do what we feel like without fearing other people’s opinions. At the end of the day we are all striving to live a happy life and we should not judge other people for what makes them happy. People all over the world deserve to be free from suffering. This requires us all to respect, love and be compassionate to each and every person, no matter where they come from or what they do.

We are also aware that many men face difficulties and challenges all over the world. Together we are stronger, to stand up to oppression, discrimination and injustice!