At the other end of the spectrum, the era’s flower-power hippies gravitated to Freak Street and Phewa Tal seeking spiritual enlightenment in clouds of legally available ganja whilst haggling over the price of omelettes and apple pie. Forerunners of today’s budget backpackers, hippies played a significant role in publicising Nepal’s tourism image, until their visas evaporated prior to King Birendra’s coronation in 1975.
A healthy holiday destination delivers to a variety of different types of tourists, from the cheap world-travellers willing to rough it, to high paying clients cossetted in luxury, with domestic visitors an important part of the mix. Since the insurgency knocked international tourism down to half its normal volume, Nepal has struggled to regain its reputation as a quality destination, or to develop new ‘authentic experiential’ hip trips to appeal to high spenders and trendy millenials.
Tourism recovery since the 2015 earthquakes has been impressive in term of numbers, but our 1.2 million arrivals last year are mainly from cost-conscious neighbours and regional visitors who prefer the same parts of the country as were popular when I first arrived: Kathmandu, Pokhara, Chitwan, Lumbini, Annapurna and Sagarmatha.