Oh Nepal. Easily, our favourite country visited during our trip. We still have a lot to catch up on on prior destinations (Turkey, Jordan, Israel) but just couldn’t resist showing you a slice of life in the village of Panauti, Nepal.
We chose to travel to Nepal with a Canadian company, Original Trails that focuses on ethical travel. Responsible tourism is very important to us and we were glad to know our trip to Nepal was 100% fair trade. One of the highlights of our 2 week trip was a visit to the village of Panauti where we took part in a homestay program. According to OT’s website: the home-stay program is designed to provide local people with a sustainable income and at the same time let travelers experience a day in the life of this unique culture. We learned how to make momos (a Nepalese dumpling), visited the village and bonded with our guide and friend Ashok and his family which warmly welcomed us!
We started off our day by having a Dhaal Bhaat feast: unlimited amounts of rice, potatoes, chicken, fried spinach, lentil soup, chapati and ginger tea. So much tea. The food is delicious and like any good host in Nepal they won’t stop feeding you until you can roll down a hill. And roll we did!
What shall we do this afternoon? Ashok asked us. We decided on a walk through of the village but that wasn’t enough. Throughout our trek and time spent in the mountains Matt and I had claimed that Nepalese children were by far, the cutest children in the world. Constantly smiling while wearing huge tuques, waving as they much on bags of chips; Nepalese children were a hoot. So when we saw that Ashok lived next to a school, we couldn’t help but ask if we could pop by and visit the school grounds. Ashok, being the most connected man in Nepal, talked with the principal and on our way we were! And oh god, we were not ready.
After talking with the school principal about the school functions we were sent to visit the grade 6 class. It was a tiny room full of loud, oh so loud, 12 year old boys and girls.
”Class, today, we have some visitors! Now, would you like work, or entertainment?” asked the teacher.
I don’t really need to tell you what the kids picked right? And so as we try to understand what they mean as ”entertainment”, the teacher was gone and there we were, left alone with a rowdy group of twenty five 12 year olds. We soon learned that entertainment means playing games so having to act quickly we decided to play a classic: hangman.
Let me tell you. Never in my life have I seen children so damn passionate about hangman. A future national sport? You bet. Oh yeah, we then visited the kindergarten class. They went on reciting the alphabet as their wide eyes were fixated on us, so confused with these white people barging in to their classroom. But this is serious business, and so they all carried on reciting the alphabet in the loudest, possible way. Stupendous.
As we finished our walk around the town we started helping out with the buffalo meat momos. Momos are Nepal’s answer to steamed dumplings, filled with meat, carrot, cabbage, onions and spices, oh so many spices. There is an art to making momos and by the end we started getting the hand of it and realized that the dozens of momos were only our appetizer. As we each downed about 12, out comes the Dhaal Bhaat. How we survived to tell the tale I have no clue.
The following morning we wake up to a last walk around the village. Ashok wants to do some birdwatching. I’ll be honest, I have no interest in birds but it was wonderful to be up so early and watch everyone get their shops ready, drinking their warm masala tea. We had the chance to visit an old man who explained to us his well was donated by a Canadian NGO. Even though we had nothing to do with it, he promptly thanked us and offered us a glass of warm, buffalo milk.
The people of Nepal are by far some of the friendliest we’ve met. To us, Nepal is the actual land of smiles. Panauti was no exception. We bumped into some of the schoolchildren we met on the street, we had a cup of tea in the local hangout watching an Indian soap opera, we simply lived the daily life in Panauti and it felt great. Just one more reason that made Nepal our favourite country to visit.
Have you participated in a homestay program?
Disclaimer: After choosing to travel with Original Trails, we received a discount in exchange for our story. But don’t you worry, as always, all opinions are our own.