Monday, June 24, 2013

Cycling for Peace - October 2007


CYCLING FOR PEACE

1. Introduction  
It was a unique and memorable experience when I participated with 38 other cyclists from eight countries to bike from Seoul to Beijing from October 12 to 19 of 2007 to promote peace through tourism.  The Event, officially designated ‘Peace through Tourism: 2007 Seoul Beijing Bicycle Tour’ was organized by Japan Airlines in collaboration with Korean Bicycle Association, PABLE and travel agents in China, Harijin Travel and Shanyang Overseas International  Travel Service, in conjunction with the 15th General Assembly of the  World Tourism Organisation (WTO) held in Beijing starting from October 20. This bicycle tour is in its third year – the first being a ride from Seoul to Osaka in 2005 and the second was a ride from Beijing to HuhHot in Inner Mongolia in 2006.
  According to Kazuaki Saiga, Vice President (Industry Relations), Japan Airlines Co. Ltd and Chairman of the Organising Committee, the Event was first mooted to promote sustainable tourism, bringing people from the regions of China, Japan and Korea and other cyclists from other countries to visit the many attractive tourism destinations along the cycling routes and experience mixing together in the spirit of tourism, sports and peace. Saiga himself is a keen cyclist having picked up the sport when he was posted as a General Manager of Japan Airlines in Milan, Italy from 1981 to 1985 where he bought a Campaniolo and Guelchiotti bicycles.

2.  Participation
  The international participants represented Korea (12 participants), Japan (10), China (7), USA (5), Thailand (2), Canada (1), England (1), Malaysia (1).  The youngest amongst the cyclists was Choo Jae Ho, 16 who is a student from Korea and the oldest at 75 is Masayuki Hatano a retired civil engineer from Sacramento, California.  Many were in the 40 to 50 age group. Masayuki Hatano, known to the participants as Mas, has been riding since he was 63, largely motivated by an intense desire to keep healthy and ‘be active to keep alive’.  He rides five days a week covering 70 to 80km on each ride.  He is also active with voluntary work with the Railroad Museum in Sacramento.  Jae Ho, the baby in the group became interested in cycling through his mother who is a member of PABLE.  PABLE is the acronym for ‘Promotion Association of Bicyling for a new Life Environment’. PABLE as co-sponsor of the event sent in the largest number of participants – 12, and eight of them are middle aged ladies.  Established in 1993 to promote environmental protection, the Organisation has a membership of  8000 largely made up of  ladies.  Members have organized biking tours to Netherlands, France, United Kingdom, New Zealand’ – quipped Mrs. Yong Hye Choi a business woman with interest in restaurants and property development.  She also rode in the bicycle tour.
  Many participants are professionals - David Loutzenheiser is a transportation planner from Boston, Andrew Chandler who is 43 years old is in marketing in Sacramento California, Tachibana Mayumi,from Japan, is an art designer. A teacher, an engineer, a few in the corporate sector and some housewives were also among the participants.
   I was invited to represent Malaysia by Asian Overland Service Tours &Travel.  I was not too sure of my credentials why Anthony Wong, the Managing Director of the company has nominated my name.  He is aware that I am active in a nature conservation organization , Malaysian Nature Society, a biking enthusiast and continue to be  involved in the corporate sector serving as director on a few boards of companies. I had some difficulties in getting a visa to China as the Chinese Counsellor office insisted that I could only participated with the Event if I obtained an invitation from the Organisers from China.  The letter from Japan Airlines was inadequate for this purpose.  I was also concerned that urgent corporate matters might force me not to go. 
    It was a relief when I finally boarded the Malaysian Airlines plane, MH66, which departed  very early on Sunday morning (October 12) for Seoul. We landed at Incheon – Seoul International Airport at 0840 hr, a six and half hour flight. Monitoring  the panel in the plane which provides the record of the flight details, Incheon is only one meter above sea level, located on Geongjongdo Island which is connected to the mainland by an expressway. It appeared to have been built on reclaimed land. It was an entirely different scenery from what I experienced during my first visit to Korea in the mid 1990s.  Then  I landed at Kimpo Airport.   I made my first trip to the country when I accompanied a trade mission to market Malaysian cocoa beans to the chocolate manufacturers.

3.  Cycling and Tourism Attractions in Korea 
   In Seoul, participants from overseas were accommodated at the Olympic Parktel, a hotel located within the Olympic Park.  The Park was crowded with young people who were participating at the International Cyber Games.  I shared a room with an American and Canadian. We woke up early on Monday morning (October 13).  It was raining and the morning temperature was a chilling 17C.  After a simple brief opening ceremony we departed from Olympic Park winding ourselves through the southern part of Seoul city towards Han River.  The cyclists were led by the police escort followed by bikers carrying the flags of the host countries – China, Japan and Korea accompanied by 40 cyclists who are members of  PABLE.  The cyclists from each  country carried three small flags – the respective national flag, flag of the  WTO and  Japan Airlines flag, which were tied to a small aluminium rod fixed to the rear of the bike.  It was a colourful scene. We rode for quite some time along the Han River, ending our ride at Yeouido Park covering a distance of 25km in one and a half hours.  The second part of the biking took place at the later part of the day, covering nine km over a hilly terrain to reach Jeongdeungsa Temple.  We visited two sites on the first day of the tour – Agibong Observatory and Kangwhayun Museum.
  The Observatory at Agibong was built in 1988 and named after a youth, Agi, in a Korean legendary love story.  The Observatory is located on the southern side of the Han River overlooking a community in North Korea.  A few sites on the Demilitarized zones – Imgingak Park, Dorasan Station, Dora Observatory – are popular tourist destinations to get some glimpses of life in North Korea. The Kangwhayun Museum houses artifacts and exhibits on the early history of Korea from prehistoric time up to the Goryeo and Joseon periods.  It also exhibited pictures of the dolmens, which were tombs chieftains of the tribal society in the Bronze Age.
    We stayed for the night in several rooms, allocated to us, built as part of the Jeongdeungsa Buddhist Temple complex.  According to the chief monk who welcomed us, the temple is the second oldest in Korea founded during the reign of King Sosurin of Goguryeo period by the priest named Ado. We were awakened at 06 00 hrs on the second day (Tuesday Oct. 14) of the ride. After a vegetarian menu breakfast, we walked down the steep hill with our bicycles.  With a big group, any effort to ride down this hill would be dangerous.  We left the town of Kangwhagun for the port city of Incheon.  We were riding in the country side with paddy fields on both sides of the road, averaging around 17 km per hour.  We covered 54 km arriving at this bustling port at around 13 00 hrs.  After checking in our luggage and bicycles, the ferry departed from Huadong/Incheon Ferry Terminal for Dalian.  It was a 17 hour journey in the Yellow Sea.  We arrived at 0830 hrs Dalian time (an hour later than Incheon).  The Ferry ride provided the opportunity for the participants to be interacting and exchanging news over the whole range of topics from health, politics and economics.

4.  Cycling and Tourism Attractions in Liaoning Province, North-east China 
     Dalian is a sprawling city with a population of 5.7 million.  It was first built by the Russian thus its name which, in Russian, means a distant city.  The second phase of its development was undertaken by the Manchurians and the third phase by the Chinese.  We had a brief tour of the city stopping at the Tiger Beach Park.  Dalian’s economy is driven by heavy industries such as ship building but the planners are pushing for tourism taking advantage of its many natural attractions -  the sea, the forests, the islands and beaches.
  After a heavy lunch at the Restaurant located in the Dalian TV Tower Complex, it was difficult to get started to ride again.  From the village of Pico, we cycled in relatively flat region for 47km, passing through many farms with paddy, maize and fruit orchards.  Farmers were seen selling their fruits - persimmon, pears, apples and cherries – by the roadside. We were scheduled to bike for a distance of 76 km but as dusk set in, we had to stop. We were accommodated at a Zuanghe Hotel that night.. 
  We started early (0745 hrs) on the fourth day of the tour (Thursday Oct. 16) meandering our way through the early morning traffic of Zuanghe on the coastal road heading for Dandong.  Traffic was especially heavy and on this route I observed drivers have little regards for others using the road.  We were riding through a farming community, passing horse carts, small villages with people waving at us as we passed by.  The main agricultural activities appeared to be rice and maize farming with fruits orchards. The livestock industry is also  important.  We covered 70km of ride that day.  It was the longest distance I have cycled in a single ride – a record of some sort to me.  We arrived in Dandong at around 1330 hrs.  It was on this stretch of route that the front tyre of my bike punctured but it was repaired in a few minutes by the technical support group.  Tyre puncture was the most frequent problem among the cyclists during the tour.
  The afternoon tour took us to Yalu River and Tiger Hill, the eastern most  point  of the Great Wall of China.   The Yalu River is the border between China and North Korea.  A bridge, bombed by the Americans, remains as a reminder of the Korean War in 1950s.  Adjacent to it is another bridge, that spans the river, which serves as one of the communicating land links between China and North Korea.  The boat cruise took us close to the shores of North Korea to have a little glimpse of life there.
   I was fascinated to visit the eastern most section of the Great wall of China, one of the great wonders of the world .  I had the opportunity to see the Beijing section in my earlier visits to China.
We were hosted to dinner by the Deputy Mayor of Dandong, who, in her brief  speech, indicated that the Liaoning Provincial Government, plans to develop the golden triangle area made up of the cities of Dalian, Dandong and Shenyang, as a tourism destination.  In my view, Liaoning Province has a great potential to attract visitors as it has many attributes that will draw visitors.  The Liaoning Tourism Brochures listed many places of interest, among them are historical sites – The Great Wall, landmarks of the earlier imperial dynasties – Qin, Han, Liao, Ming – Shenyang Imperial Palace; the seas – Yellow and Bohai Seas with the many coastal islands;  mountains, caves and unique geological formations; special festival organized on an annual basis – Dalian International Fashion Festival, Dalian Acacia Festival.  Fushan Mt. Qian International Festival, Fushu Manchu Folk Customs Festival, Jinzhou Folk Culture Tourist Festival. We stayed at Yalu River Hotel.
  The ride out of Dandong towards Shenyang was at a blistering pace starting at 0800 hrs being led by a police escort vehicle through the busy streets of the city.  Just at the outskirt of Dandong 20km away was a steep hill – that was the challenging stretch of road.  The Dandong – Fencheng ride was through hilly and mountainous areas and though only 60km, it was the most energy sapping section in the entire tour.
  The afternoon tour took us to Mt. Fenghuan region in Benxi to visit the water cave. The cave  is a huge aqueous karst formation, estimated at 700 million years old, older than the oldest cave  systems in Malaysia, the geological formation of Langkawi.  The river that meanders through is large, deep and wide stretching over the length of 2.8km with the average depth of 1.5m and the deepest point reaches seven metres.  It is an awesome river course with three gorges and many sharp turns and twists, thus also called ‘Nine Zigzags of Galaxy’  On both sides of the river, there are an estimated 60 unique rock formations with such exotic names as Palace of Fairies, Heavenly Pond, Hanging Tower.
  It was dark by the time we reached Shenyang.  According to our  tour guide, the city has a population of 7.2 million made up of 26 ethnic groups.  The Chinese, Manchurians and Koreans are the dominant ones.  A river traverses through the city and from the sky, it appears like a blue dragon, a symbol of protection and prosperity for its inhabitants.  Among the Chinese, Shenyang is well-known for three things – bicycles, wide roads and many traffic lights at the intersections.  Examining the tourist brochures, Shenyang has many attractions – Imperial Palace, Botanical Garden, Doughing Park, Fuling Tomb, Zhaoling Tomb, History Museum.  However, we were in a brief transit in the city.  After a quick dinner we were transported to the railway station and hurriedly we moved through the thousand of travellers and revelers to board the rail coach to Beijing.  The train punctually left Shenyang at 2125 hrs.
  The rail appears to be an efficient and well managed transport system in China, if I could assess from this brief experience.  The passengers were courteously ushered to their respective coaches with a guard looking after each coach.  I shared with five other colleagues in a six bed compartment.  The linen is clean and the light provided at the end of the bed was functional.  The toilet and the dressing table was regularly cleaned.   Sharp at 2200 hrs the light was switched off and surprisingly inspite of the usual noise and sound of the moving train I slept well and was awake fresh.  It was at 0730 hrs we arrived at the Beijing Railway Station.  It was Saturday (Oct 18) morning.

5.  Cycling and Tourism Attractions in Beijing
     We checked in the hotel, had breakfast and after freshening up, we were again on the bus by 1100 hrs.  It was going to be a cycle free day as the day’s schedule is sightseeing and a short shopping tour.  It was bright and sunny as we headed for the Tian An Men Square.  Our first destination was the Forbidden City.  Though this tour brought me to Beijing for the third time, for some reasons, the visit to this world heritage attraction has eluded me.  I therefore looked forward to the visit.  The Square was crowded as it was a Saturday and Beijing is celebrating its 850 years of its founding.  At the same time the 15th General Assembly of the WTO was being held in the city, with many events being organized in conjunction with the Assembly.
   The Forbidden City built over the period 1406 – 1420 is actually the palace of the emperors of the Ming and Ong dynasties in China.  The complex palatial structures are divided into the outer court made up of several halls where the emperors held important ceremonies and the inner court were the living quarters are sited. A total of 24 emperors lived in the palace.  These ancient buildings portray the intricale early Chinese architecture and are being protected as a world heritage site.
  After late lunch and shopping at the Friendship Store we headed to the next attraction – The Ming Tombs.  The Tombs are the mausoleums of thirteen emperors located at Changping – Beijing.  It was built in the Yongle Ming Dynasty in 1409.  The fascinating thing about the mausoleums is the fact that they were constructed deep underground (50m) with the paraphernalia of governance such as marble thrones and other precious possessions buried together.
  We were caught in the extremely busy traffic of Beijing heading for our hotel.  It was the traditional Beijing duck dinner that night .
  We were up early on the last day of the Bicycle tour (Sunday Oct. 19).  The Seoul Beijing Bicycle tour group was given a place of honour in the Beijing International Cultural Tourism Festival 2007 parade organized in conjunction with the 15th General Assembly of WTO to promote the 2008 Olympic game and tourism.  We were on the parade ground at around 0730 hrs preparing for the final arrangement for the parade made up of cultural performances, school bands, motor vehicle floats depicting the cultural heritage of China.  The ceremony started at 0900 hrs with speeches from the mayor of Beijing, an official of the Chinese Ministry of Tourism and the Director General of WTO.
  The 1.5km slow ride in the parade was cheered by a huge crowd lining both sides of the broad street, made up of school children in their smart track suit uniforms of various colours.  I was touched by the atmosphere at the parade, realising that, in this small world of ours, guided by a simple principle of mutual respect for each other, inspite of the cultural socio-religious differences, we could link our hands of friendship together, assist one another and living sustainably to make this planet of ours such a happy and wonderful place to live in.  The many wise words of our beloved former Prime Minister, Tun Dato’ Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, who has retired recently, advocating this approach of living, was an inspiration to my participation in this Bicycle Tour. 

6.  Concluding Remarks
    This bicycle tour was organized to facilitate, in a small way, towards achieving this dream of building a prosperous, peaceful, harmonious and happy world as we linked the hands of the various ethnic with different religion, language, cultural background to promote the 2008 Olympic Games and tourism .  I feel it has met its desired objectives.  To me it was a unique and exciting experience – unique in the sense that I have not riden this long distance before; riding in a company seven different  nationalities with a range of ages from sixteen to seventy five; traveling in different mode of transportation – bicycles, ferry, truck, bus and train; touring many exotic and beautiful destinations.
  For the opportunity to spend a very unique, exciting and happy seven days experience in Northwest Korea and Northeast China, I wish to  express my appreciation to Mr Anthony Wong and George Skadiang, The Group Managing Director and General Manger respectively, of Asian Overland Service Tours & Travel for having the confidence in my cycling power and nominated my participation of this tour to the Organisers.  Also many thanks to the national courier, MAS for substantially subsidizing the air fare from Kuala Lumpur to Seoul and the return trip from Beijing to Kuala Lumpur. 
_____________________________________

 This article was published by The Star newspaper on January 5, 2008.  The article is devoid of photos which usually accompany my writings as the picture file could not be traced. 
  Posted to this blog on June 23, 2013

 

Trekking on the Roof of the World




TREKKING ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD

(This article is dedicated to the Malaysians who have reached the summit of Mt Everest and have trekked in Nepal)



Street Scene in Kathmandu Nepal

 At the Nepal Scout Association HQ in Kathmandu.  Participants
being welcomed and briefed on the climb of one of the mountains in the
Himalayas to be named after the founder of the Scout Movement,
Lord Robert Baden-Powell 
 
In my Scout uniform with a guide, in front of the Nepal Scout Asso. HQ 
 
 
 
 Nepal is a Buddhist country - a Buddhist temple in Kathmandu
 




With a Sherpa guide in front of the Nepal Scout HQ


In the background, Baden-Powell Peak is one of the peaks in the Himalayan Mountain Range
named after the founder of the Scout Movement, the destination
of the Trekking Expedition by representatives of the Scout Associations from all over the world  

1. Introduction
   Nepal has for quite sometime, been one of the destinations that I have on my travel agenda. It is not Mt. Everest that was luring me but more of the exotic, rugged, mountainous topography of the country. A number of friends who have visited it, spoke of the breathtaking beauty, diverse ethnic and friendly people, the many challenging treks that are found throughout the country. It is the treks in the scenic environment that have attracted me for, trekking is one of the regular outdoor activities that I do for my health wellbeing. The question is when to schedule the trip. It was the scout movement that paved the way. The World Organisation of Scout Movement celebrates its centennial year in 2007 and one of the events of the celebration is the naming of one of the peaks in Nepal after the founder of the Movement– Baden- Powell. The event is organised by the Nepal Scouts Association and all national associations all over the world were invited to participate, including the Scouts Association of Malaysia (SAM).

2.  Baden-Powell Peak (BPP) Ambassador
     The Chief Scout Commissioner of SAM, Dato’ Dr. Kamaruddin Kachar, on receiving the invitation extended as early as May 2006, knowing that I would be interested in this sort of activity, sent a copy of the invitation to me and invited me to be the Malaysian ambassador for Baden–Powell Peak (BPP). The role of the ambassador is to promote BPP to Malaysians. I agreed and submitted the BPP Ambassador form in February 2007. In  one of the columns in the form ‘Experience in Climbing and Trekking’, I wrote ‘Had climbed Mt. Kinabalu (4101m) a number of times and trekked in different destinations in Malaysia’. I then proceeded to email mountaineering colleagues in Sabah and Peninsular Malaysia inquiring if they were interested in participating in the inaugural climb scheduled for September 2007. The response was lukewarm.
  Initially, I was indecisive as to my participation as it was indicated in the brochure that the climb of the BPP` is a fairly demanding climb and so one had to be reasonably fit, or known that you can get fit quickly. No experience is necessary; however, one must be familiar with alpine environments and must understand the risks that camping and climbing above the snow line pose’. I fell I am fit as I regularly do my jogging, biking and swimming. I resolved to give a try and signed to participate. I felt that I would give my best and if for some reason, I could not proceed, then I should not go further.

3.  Preparation and Equipments 
     The organizers, in their announcement, provided a long list of clothing and equipments to bring – kitbag, sleeping bag, sleeping bag liner, daypack, boots, socks, camp shoes, fleece top, down jacket, wind jacket, thermal underwear, day wear shirt, trekking pants, wind pants, sunglasses, mittens/gloves, water bottle, head torch, toiletries, towel, sun screen, moisturizer, camera, money pouch, snow gaiters, trekking poles, ice axe, crampons, light harness, two locking carabineers, two prussic, wind proof pants, waterproof leather boots. The first thing I did was to check with the supplies that I have purchased over the years which are being kept in the store. I have sleeping bag, gloves, daypack, jacket, water bottles. The usual toiletries, shirts and camera were not a problem. A few things such as snow gaiters, crampons, prussic were new and not heard of before. Many items needed to be acquired.
  A friend recommended a mountaineering equipment shop in Petaling Jaya to source my supplies. Looking at the prices, the items were expensive – a pair of carbon walking poles were around RM600, crampon RM550, the waterproof leather boots would cost me a fortune. I had a dilemma. These items were expensive and I might only use them a couple of times in my life time. On inquiring, I was advised that it was better to purchase or rent them in Kathmandu.
  All participants for the ascent of BPP were expected to be in Kathmandu on September 3, 2007. I explored and browsed the internet to see the various airlines that fly to the Nepalese capital from Kuala Lumpur. Two airlines emerged as the regular service provider for the Kuala Lumpur-Kathmandu sector – Nepal Airways and Thai Airways International. I was booked on the Thai International leaving KLIA on September 4, 2007 at 08.00 hrs for Kathmandu with a one–and half hours transit at the new Bangkok Airport. I left on the scheduled date, inspite of the bomb incident in Kathmandu the previous night as reported on the television. The plane landed at the Tribhuvan International Airport Kathmandu at 12.45 noon. After settling the US $30 visa I was cleared of the immigration formalities and here I was in Kathmandu.
  The welcome that I received outside the airport was a mingling crowd with placards with names of hotels, tour and trekking agencies. This was the marketing undertaken by companies to get clients to their respective business outlets. Taxi drivers were also soliciting to get passengers to their respective destinations.  After finding the scouts that received us, together with three scout representatives from Hong Kong, who were on the same flight from Bangkok, we got the transport provided that took us to our accommodation – Om Tara Guesthouse in Thamel. The Thamel area in Kathmandu is the main centre for travellers to the country with many hotels, guesthouses, money exchange outlets, shops and stalls, restaurant and supermarkets. It was my base during my stay in Nepal.

4. Participants
    At the Guesthouse I was introduced to the other members of the participating team. Hong Kong was made up of three members – Ho Chin Peng, who manages an outdoor school; Ken Leung, a policemen who devotes his time to scouting and Wilson Cheung, a student. The Singapore participants were made up of Wong Yew Heung, who manages a travel agency, Lester Leong, a researcher in Information Technology and Lesley Teh, a student of the London School of Economics who is back on the long summer vacation. All the participants, in my assessment, were less than 30 years old except for Ken Leung from Hong Kong who is in the late 30s.
  On checking into the guesthouse, I had sought the advise of the more experienced mountaineering colleagues from Hong Kong, Oh Chin Ping to have a look at the trekking equipments that I have brought. As we were going through the checklist, some of the scout colleagues from Hong Kong and Singapore had cynical smiles on their faces. I know I was inadequately equipped. As some of the Hong Kong colleagues were also planning to rent some of the equipments in Kathmandu I decided to follow them.
   At the Sherpa Mountaineering Equipment Shop my list of rented equipments include sleeping bag, down jacket, koflach shoes, crampon, ice axe, carabineers and harness. The total rental value of the items was R2250 (around MR125) for the proposed trekking period of ten days. The most expensive rental item was a double layered waterproof shoes at MR40 for the period. Other equipments which I decided to purchase were windproof pants (MR35) a pair of walking poles (MR35), woolen gloves (MR15) head torch (MR15), snow gaiters (MR20). All the items were fractions of the prices in Kuala Lumpur. I also acquired another bag to accommodate the additional equipments rented and purchased.
  Surprisingly I had a good night sleep as usually with a change of place, it might affect one’s regular daily practice. I was relaxed and  was ready to take what comes.

5. Bus Ride to Shabru Bensi 
  We were joined by four guides, headed by Phurwa Pasang Sherpa, when we departed for Syabru Bensi by bus starting from the Nepalese Scout Association HQ, on the second day of the trekking expedition (September 5), a distance of about 144km from Kathmandu. Before the start of the bus ride to our destination, we were told that we would go through two landslides. The extraordinary heavy showers of the monsoon for the last few months have caused these landslides on the way and we have to get our supplies and baggages across at these points.
  There were other challenges as we proceeded. It was raining heavily, the road was narrow constructed precipitously on the flanks of the mountain range with deep river gorges. The young driver did not help either with the speed.
  We were initially on the asphalt road, though narrow, for the first 72km going downhill from an elevation of 1300m at the capital city to 540m at Trisuli Bazaar. For the next 50km to Dhunche the bus was going uphill passing through Betrawati (630m), Ranche (1760m), Thare (1910m) and Ghunche (2030m) . It was between Ranche and Thare that we came across the two landslides – the first one was not difficult to get across and it was still daylight. The second stretch was a scary experience as it was already dark. The walking strip was narrow across a precipitous deep ravine. It took the group some 45 minutes to get across. It was a harrowing experience for me and deep in my heart, my reaction was ‘why on earth do I want to go through this hell’.
  The 22km pebbly road from Dhunche to Syabru Bensi was equally treacherous and narrow but going downhill. We were finally in the village  at an elevation of 1460m at 10.30 pm. The bus took 12 hours to cover a distance of 144km. We were served rice, lentil soup, turnip vegetable for dinner. I was getting exposed to the vegetarian food which is the staple of the Nepalese who adhere to either the Hindu or Buddhist faith.
  Saturday September 6, was a rest day. I took the opportunity to walk around the one row shop houses in the village, inspite of the continuous drizzle.  Syabru Bensi has developed to cater for the trekking needs of the visitors. Hotels and guesthouses with such names as Lhasa, Tibet, Potala dominate the scene and the names given to hotels and guesthouses, were indicative of the ethnic community that own and live there. They are Nepalese of the Tibetan ancestry known as Tamangs and profess the Buddhist religion. The village is located in the District of Rusuwa, which borders Tibet. Other shops were catering for grocery, tailoring and clothing needs of the village community. The village also has a primary and secondary school with dormitary facilities to provide accommodation for children coming from the remote villages.
  Nepal has a similar educational set up as in Malaysia with children going through five years in the primary, five years in the secondary, and two years in the upper secondary. Inspite of the efforts of the government to provide educational facilities, illiteracy in the country is high. One estimate has put 70 percent as the illiterary rate of the population. The Sherpa guides that accompanied us have only primary education.
  We were joined at the hotel by other scout participants who have arrived earlier and were conditioning for the ascend of BPP with trekking at the many trails around the village. With this addition, the number of participants was 26 representing Australia (2), Hong Kong (3), Korea (8), Singapore (6), Taiwan (6) and Malaysia (1) supported by 45 porters and guides. I was the sole representative of the country and the oldest in the group, whose average age, in my estimate were in the late 20.

6. Trekking in the Lantang National Park and the Surrounding Villages   
    Friday September 7 was the start of the trekking.  BPP lies in the Ganesh Himal area which is in the north-west of Kathmandu. The renaming of Urkema Peak, after the founder of the World Scout Movement was part of the centennial celebration of the Movement. It was an effort initiated by the National Commissioner of the Nepal Scouts, Shree Ram Lamichhane, to make Nepal known to the 35 million scouts in more than 200 countries all over the world and to make the country the trekking destination, whilst at the same time, by stimulating tourism activities in the area, uplift the economic wellbeing of the people who are mainly living below the poverty line.
  The climbing itinerary of BPP was a seven day return trip starting at Syabru Bensi (1460m) to Lama Hotel (2769m) Langtang Village (3330m), Kyangjin Gompa (3720m), High Camp (4960m) and finally BPP (5822m).
  The start was scheduled at 7.30am. However, many were ready much earlier. By 7am the eight Koreans started the walk. I followed next. The Taiwanese, Singaporeans and Hongkies trailed behind with the porters with their supplies. As we crossed over the overhanging steel bridge that span the Langtang River and observe the surrounding areas, the scenery was stunningly beautiful and picturesque. These were the sights that soothe my achieving muscles as I trudge through the treks during my sojourn to Nepal.
  We were trekking along the Lantang River going up and down. At a few places it was treacherous because of the precipitous ravine. Because of the heavy downpour for quite a few days and the hilly terrain, the ferocious raging waters of the Laytang River was frightening. At a few points the River appears more like a waterfall, flowing through a steep area. We were walking along a trek in a narrow valley bounded by steep mountains on both sides of the trail. It was an awesome but yet picturesque. Inspite of being overtaken by the younger participants and the porters, I was walking at a slow pace and drinking lots of water as required in high altitude climbing and after four hours of trekking we made the first stop at Namaste Guesthouse and Restaurant at a place known as Landslide. It was so named to commemorate a huge landslide that occurred in the 1850s. At this point, the only participant that did not reach the point was a Korean who served as the official photographer for the Korean team.
  After a two hour lunch break, the group proceeded on. The trail was getting steeper and dusk was setting in with an overcast sky. My leg muscle was aching. The scheduled next stop was a further steep climb to Lama Hotel. My concern was that if I proceeded, the muscle pain might worsen and cause more problem. I decided not to proceed further and put up a night in a lodging house on the trek that provided room for trekkers. I requested the Sherpa guide that was accompanying me to proceed ahead and inform the leading guide about my predicament and decision.
  The lodging house that I stayed was owned by a family with two young school going children aged around seven and ten. A 82 year old grandfather of the children lived with the family. I shared with him the bedroom. Surprisingly a printed menu in English with the available dishes was shown to me. I ordered fried chowmein and milk tea for dinner. It was a hefty serve of chowmein which was too much for me. I shared the food with my bedroom mate.
  I was provided with a mattress and woollen blanket but no light. The head torch that I invested in became useful during dinner and looking for the various items in my backpack. I was in bed by eight and with the tired muscles I was having my dream not long after that. I had a good rest facilitated by the woollen blanket which provided the comfort against the chilling mountain temperatures.
  A different guide Bharat Rama Magar was assigned to me. He was at the lodge early and by nine we proceeded on our return journey to Syabru Bensi. This was Saturday, September 8, my fourth day in Nepal. Unlike the earlier guide, Bharat was more fluent in English and we were able to communicate. It was a more leisurely, slow trek and Bharat reminded me to look around the plants, insects and wildlife that abound this forest. Indeed. I was actually trekking in one of Nepal National Parks–Langtang National Park (LNP). LNP is part of the national parks and wildlife reserves that exist in the country, which cover an area of 1710 sq. km. LNP encloses the catchments of two major rivers. The Trisuli and Sun Kosi – the former river serving as one of the popular white water rafting destination – and several mountains exceeding 7000m and BPP. With areas of varied climatic patterns from alpine to subtropical its biodiversity is rich. It was brought to my attention by Bharat of the many bee hives overhanging the steep rocky cliffs and the white faced monkeys that were feeding on the trees. I noticed a few species of butterflies. It would have been exciting to see the many others bigger faunal species reported to be present which include pandas, muntjac, musk deer, black bear and serows.
  I observed that the Park is rich with oak, pine and bamboo. Asian pennywort (pegaga – Centella asiatica) was growing everywhere. I picked its shoots and started munching away. I did the same with Hibiscus shoots which grew in abundance. I informed Bharat that the pennywort is widely used in traditional medicine by the people in the east and is considered as a brain tonic and good for general health as it promotes blood circulation. He started picking up the shoots and washing them and handing over to me to eat. Marijuana was also seen growing widely. Bharat was aware it was a drug and according to him, it is being consumed by the older members of the Nepalese community.
  Besides LNP, Nepal has eight other national parks and four wildlife reserves. These protected and conservation areas cover an area of 14600 sq. km representing the diversified ecosystems in the country – from the tropical plains, the midland valleys to mountainous regions. The country also has two UNESCO World Heritage sites – the Everest National Park, whose main attraction is Mt. Everest and the beautiful impeyan pheasant, the national bird; and Royal Chitwan National Park, in which a significant number of one horned rhinoceros and the endangered species of the Bengal tiger, Gangetic dolphin and Gharial crocodile can be found.
  Bharat and I discussed further the plan for trekking activities. He suggested that the towns situated on the return trip to Kathmandu such as Dhunche and Trisuli Bazaar offer trekking possibilities. Dhunche the administrative capital of Rosuwa District, is the home of the Tamang. There is a Tamang museum, depicting the culture and economic activities of this ethnic group. The treks leading to the many small hamlets surrounding the town, Trisuli Bazaar has a hydro electric power plant that we could visit and trails along the Trisuli River were also suitable for the walks. I kept my opinion open and leaving the plan flexible and perhaps deciding as we went along.
  After a night rest at Syabru Bensi, we were out of bed early to catch the scheduled bus departure at 6.30 am. This was Sunday, September 9. By the time I got on the bus, the 36 seats were occupied and it was standing room only. There were also passengers on the roof of the bus. While standing I was face to face with a gentleman who subsequently introduced himself as Likpa, a teacher trained in Sociology. He was leading a group representing different ethnic groups– Mongolian, Gurung, Tamang, Magars, Sherpas for a filming assignment sanctioned by the Government, on the subject revolving around overcoming ethnic discrimination. I noticed the beautiful faces of the girls and handsome boys seated in the bus who were actors in the film. They indicated that they were volunteers taking part in the film.
  I was curious on ethnic discrimination and started asking Likpa as to who discriminate who in the country. I was not able to get the answers from him. However I posed these questions to other Nepalese at the later stage of my stay in the country. There were several categories of discrimination that were referred to – one category is discrimination among the castes in an ethnic group; another aspect of discrimination is the ethnic groups that dwell in urban environment as opposed to those in rural. Some form of discrimination also exists on the basis of economic status. This discrimination issue is not unique in Nepal but is pervasive in many countries all over the world.
  Among the members of the filming entourage was another teacher, Bhakta, who attempted to speak to me in Bahasa Malaysia – sudah makan, mau pi mana, after I have introduced myself as a Malaysian. Bhakta worked for a short stint in Penang among the many Nepalese that took advantage of the working opportunities in Malaysia. I met many in Nepal who have either a relative, a friend, a classmate who work in our country. Bhakta operates a guesthouse in Dhunche, managed by his wife and son and he himself teaches at Rosuwa Secondary School in the town. He is active in the school scout movement. He brought me to visit his school and meet the teachers.
  In Dhunche, in which the bus pulled up, two and half hours later, I checked in at the Langtang View Hotel. It was a five storey outfit owned by a teacher, who has developed it progressively over the years. Besides visiting the secondary school, I toured the one row street town. Though the small hamlets that dotted the slopes of the mountainous areas around Dhunche were beautiful, I felt lethargic about walking. I spent time going through Lonely Planet travel guide on Nepal and from the information I gathered, Pokhara was my option for the next trekking destination. I decided not to have a break in Trisuli Bazaar but to proceed to Pokhara and spent three days there and the remaining three days to get to know the capital city, Kathmandu.

7. Trekking around Pokhara
  After a night in Dhurche and an uneventful night stay in Kathmandu, Bharat and I were on our way to Pokhara. It was at 7am on September 11, my seventh day that we departed in an express bus heading gently downhill for the Lake City and the entry point of the many popular trekking destinations in Nepal. The bus weaved itself on the 200km KathmanduPokhara Privithi Highway passing through beautiful country side and small towns of Dokhani, Mugling, Dhumre, Damauli, Khairani and Gate. It was a seven hour drive covering a distance of around 200km with two stops for breakfast and lunch.
   Pokhara lies at an elevation of 884m, about 400m lower than Kathmandu at 1300m and is considered by many, the paradise of Nepal with a combination of pristine lakes, turbulent rivers suitable for white water rafting, hill stations that visitors can have the panoramic views of the valleys and the Annapurna and Dhaulagiri mountain ranges and picturesque villages and many natural and cultural heritages such as waterfalls, caves, temples and museums. It is  also in the proximity of some of the most popular trekking destinations in Nepal which include Annapurna Circuit, Annapurna Sanctuary, Namchase Trek, and Royal Trek.
  I checked in at Base Camp Resort at the Lakeside of Pokhara close to Phewa Lake and on the advise of a travel agent, who is a friend of Bharat, I decided to trek along two routes –Naudanda–Kaskikot–Sarangkot and part of the Royal trek. The latter was so named after Prince Charles of United Kingdom, who with his team mates, trekked it in 1980.
  We were driven by taxi starting at around 8 am to Naudanda, a 45 minute drive from Pokhara on Wednesday September 12. The walk on the Naudanda-Sarangkot Trek was a gentle climb along a lateritic and rocky trail, being accosted by school going children and villagers with ‘namaste’ (welcome), passing through terraced farms grown with millet, vegetables, fruits and with goats and buffalo grazing the pasture land. It was a pleasant walk with views of the valleys to our right and mountains to our left, passing through the villages of Simpali, Bhuyelbari, Durali, Baspani, Turipani and Sarangkot.
  At Sarangkot we scaled the steep hill up to the viewing tower with telecommunication gadgets. A signage indicated that I was 1592m above sea level , some 700m higher than Pokhara, from this strategic high point we gazed down the vast Pokhara Valley and the many lakes that dotted the surrounding. It was a beautiful sight. I was informed by the guide that conducted me around the tower that on, a clear day or early in the morning, one could see on the horizon to the north the silhouette of Mt. Dhaulagiri (8168m), Annapurna 1 (8091m), Mt South Annapurna (7219m), Mt Himchuli (6444m) and Annapurna IV (7555m).
  In the tower, I bumped into a group of officials from Central Bank of Nepal and one of them, on being told that I was from Malaysia, informed that he has visited Kuala Lumpur and Terengganu. A small world. The subsequent walk was a steep descend to get to the road that brought us back to Lakeside by six in the evening.
I was looking forward to walk the Royal Trek on Thursday September 13. The number 13 proved to be unlucky as it rained heavily that morning and it would be unsuitable and uncomfortable to trek. I opted to visit the Pokhara Regional Museum and the International Mountain Museum.
  The Pokhara Regional Museum displays the cultural and traditional heritage of the diverse ethnic groups in Nepal. Walking in the streets of Kathmandu, Pokhara and travelling in the buses to the various destinations, this diversity is apparent. One observes the various hue and colours of the skin from dark to the light Occidental complexion; the heights from short and stocky to the tall and slender body; from the facial features from the yellow, narrow eyed Mongoloid that we see in Kuala Lumpur to the sharp appearance similar to Hindi movie  stars of Bollywood. The Nepalese are a mixture of the Indo-Aryan people of India and the Tibeto–Burman of the Himalaya. The diverse ethnicity was also brought about by the inter ethnic marriages over the years.
  The people of Nepal are reported to have come from 101 ethnic and caste groups but the more prominent ones are the Sherpas, Thakalis, Tamangs, Tibetans, Rai, Limbu, Newars, Gurungs, Magars, Bahuns and Chhetris and Tharus. The Sherpas are perhaps the most well known as they are associated as guides to the many Everest expeditions and other mountain expeditions. Tensing Norgay who was the first to climb the highest mountain in the world with Edmund Hillary in May 1953, is a Sherpa. Many of the guides that participated and led the scout group up BP Peak were Sherpas. Phurwa Pasang the leader of the BP Peak Expedition is Sherpa. Lambabu, a senior guide, assisting Phurwa is also a Sherpa.
  Bharat who was assigned to me on my trekking is a Magar. The Magars are the single largest group that constitute the Gurkha Regiments. The Gurungs with the Magars also work as Gurkha soldiers. The Gurkhas were well known for their bravery in wars and armed conflicts. They served the British Army well during the struggle against the Communist terrorists during the Emergency period prior to our independence. They are still sorted for defence and security purposes in Brunei, Singapore and Malaysia.
  The International Mountain Museum contains displays in three areas related to mountains – the ethnic groups that live around mountains, the biodiversity of the mountain ecosystems and the mountaineering activities. The section on mountaineering activities takes the biggest floor space in this sprawling building, constructed on a six hectare site. It exhibits the equipments, clothes and photos of legendary mountaineers who have successfully reached the summit of all the fourteen peaks whose height exceeded 8000m –Annapurna 1 (1950), Everest (1953), Nanga Parbat (1953), K2 (1954), Cho Oyu (1954), Makalu (1955), Kanchenjunga (1955), Lhotse (1956), Gasher Brum II (1956), Manaslu (1956), Broad Peak (1957), Gasher Brum I (1958), Dhaulagiri ( 1960) and Shisha Pangma (1964). The Museum also pays tribute and recognize the contribution of women in mountaineering by displaying the pictures of Ms. Junke Tabei, a Japanese who first reached the peak of Everest.
  The three days was definitely too short a period to be in Pokhara for it has so much to see. Besides the popular short and medium scale treks, there were many places to see which include the waterfalls, caves, temples, cultural villages and the many beautiful lakes that dotted the valley.
  We left Pokhara by the express bus at 7.30am on Friday, September 14 on a return trip to Kathmandu and, based on the earlier trip, the bus was scheduled to be in Kathmandu at 2.00pm. It was not to be. As we approached the capital city at about 22km to the city, vehicular traffic was at a stand hill. The bus was caught in a massive jam as the trucks, buses, vans and cars could not move as the highway was blocked by a large log that was laid by the villagers at this highway stretch as a protest. The protest was for a fatal accident involving the death of two children of electrocution the previous day and the village community was blaming the government and demanding compensation for the mishap.
  After three hours of waiting, with words going around that the negotiation was going to be prolonged, we had the option of walking across the other side and catching a vehicle to get us to Kathmandu or continue to sit down in the bus and possibly sleeping in it. We opted to trudge our feet. It proved to be a tiring affair as the distance of the vehicular jam was long and the walk was uphill. The walk was three hours before we finally scrambled into a sardine packed bus that slowly but surely found its way to Kathmandu. I was hilarious to get a room at Kathmandu Guest House; has a warm shower to soothe my aching muscles and slipped under the blanket to rest my battered aging body. Under the circumstances, the rest and sleep was such a pleasureable thing.

8. Kathmandu and its Tourist Attractions
    I decided to spend two days (September 15 and 16) to get some feeling of the pulse of the capital city. Kathmandu lies at an elevation of around 1300m in an extensive valley stretching 25km from east to west and 20km from north to south. It carries a population estimated at 1.7 million and demographic growth is rapid, which is stretching the available resources – land, water, fuel, education and health facilities. The major economic activity are tourism related – the many shops and stores marketing and renting mountaineering and trekking equipments and clothing, currency exchange, supermarkets, guest houses and hotels, restaurants and eating outlets, entertainment and massage joints.
  Visitors are attracted to Nepal for its scenery of high mountains, deep valleys, raging turbulent rivers which offer diversified outdoor activities from mountaineering, trekking, white water rafting, mountain biking, horse riding, rock climbing etc; friendly people of diverse ethnicity with unique cultural practices from the dress code to the music and dances; the relatively in expensive cost of living and most of all, the free, relax and happy atmosphere that is pervasive in the society. An oft-quoted saying by a Nepalese youth in that ‘ we may be poor but we are not miserable. When it comes to laughter we have got the highest Gross National Product of country – HAPPINESS’.
  Nepal is considered the mecca and paradise for mountaineering and trekking ever since the exploratory mountaineering expeditions that were initiated by Europeans in the 1950s and the successful climb of the high peaks in Himalaya in the 1960s. The recognition of the potential appeal of mountaineering and trekking led to the establishment of agencies promoting the outdoors and their regulation.
  Mountaineering is synonymous with the Himalaya, which in Sanskrit, means ‘abode of snows’ and Nepal. Eight peaks in this Mountain Range exceed 8,000m in height with Everest the highest among them at 8848m. It was these high peaks that seduce the mountaineers from Europe to travel to Nepal conquer them. Many failed but slowly and surely one by one the summits-Annapurna. Everest, K2, Kanchengjunga, Lhotse, Makalu, Cho Oyu, Dhaulagiri were successfully scaled by determined mountaineers.
  People often wonder why individuals desire to climb high mountains. I too have been asked as to why I want to climb Mt. Kinabalu and the mountains in Nepal. The quote often mentioned in publications, attributed to George Mallory, a Himalayan mountaineer ‘Because it is there’ is an appropriate response to this query.
  In recent years, interest in mountaineering has caught up with us. This year two members of an expedition led by Dato’ Khalid Yunus of Persatuan Pengembara Malaysia, successfully reached the summit of Everest. A few years earlier two other Malaysians have also achieved the challenging feat.
  I am associated with another Malaysian mountaineering group led by Tan Sri Chan Choong Tak whose members have successfully trekked up Kilimanjaro in Africa and attempted Aconcagua, the highest mountain in South America. Among us, a few are eyeing mountains in the Himalaya. I look forward to see a mountaineering buddy successfully conquering one of these 8000m peaks.
  It was the mountaineers that actually provided to initial spark to the trekking activity. As the activity becomes popular more and more of the previously off-limit areas were opened up. The newly opened up destinations include the upper Mustang, upper Dolpo, Manaslu, Himla and the Kanchengjunga Base Camp. The Langtang and Helambu Treks that we were trekking were also of recent development and being promoted. The naming of one of the peaks in this mountain region is part of the promotion to popularize the Trek.
  There are countless treks in Nepal but the popular and frequently visited ones include the Everest Base Camp, Helambu, Langtang and Jomsom, The Annapurna Circuit and Annapurna Sanctuary.
  The trek to Everest Base Camp is a three week affair, the first part of which is a challenging walk, taking a trekker to a maximum elevation of 5545m, through Sherpa country. The Base Camp offers, spectacular views of Everest, thus its popularity. The Helambu Trek takes a shorter period, seven days to a height of not more than 3500m and again through potato growing farms of the Sherpas, whose women are renowned for their beauty. The Annapurna Circuit is perhaps the longest as it takes a full three weeks encircling the Annapurna Range. The Annapurna Sanctuary is a six day trekking, taking climbers to an elevation of 3000m.
  Nepal is just not mountaineering and trekking but offers many other challenging recreational activities such as mountain biking and rafting and kayaking. The country has an equally tremendous opportunity for biking with its many mountain tracks located in diverse terrain. Even within the Kathmandu Valley, in the vicinity of the capital city, there is a vast network of tracks, trails and back roads that provide the optional transportation means to get to see its many temples, stupas and the old architectural structures that dotted all over the Valley. The oft-beaten tracks that have been identified include the Scar Road, a 70km route and the Dhulikhel, a three day circuit in the Kathmandu Valley; a four day return trip of the Kodari-Tibetan border ride; the Rajpath Track; the Hetanda–Narayangat Track; and the many tracks along the numerous lakes, rivers and hills around Pokhara.
  The many raging rivers that I saw in my travel in Nepal remind me of the white-water rafting days in Sabah, where Padas and Kiulu and to a lesser extent Kadamaian are popular destinations for this outdoor activity. The rivers of Sabah however are not as challenging compared to those in Nepal, which not only, reach the level of Grade 6, the most difficult and hazardous grade by international standard but also the duration of the activity which can last for days. Rafting and kayaking is another outdoor activity that a visitor can indulge in. The Karnali River is a seven day odyssey on the longest river in Nepal through both huge and narrow constricted rapids; Sun Kosi River, a nine day relatively, relaxing rafting;  Trisuli River, which is on the Kathmandu – Pokhara Highway and because of its accessibility, is overused; Kali Gandaki, considered a holy river, requires a rafter to spend 8 -10 days in the water; Bhote Kosi, being the steepest river for rafting, should be attempted with very experienced guides using good safety equipment; Mansyangdi River, an equally challenging river to raft on, also requires good guides with adequate safety measures. The list of rivers suitable for rafting and kayaking goes on.
  Nepal is also rich with its legacies of temples, statues, shrines and towers associated with the population’s Hindu, Buddhist and Tantric roots. The Durbar Squares in Kathmandu and its sister towns of Patan and Bhaktapur are dotted with these structures, which are also dominant features in the villages in the Kathmandu Valley, Porkhara and other outlying towns like Gorkha. To make many of these structure enticing, the wood carving include erotic scenes. The underlying reasons for these erotic work of art are unclear.
  I spent one morning to tour the Durbar Square in Kathmandu. The many structure that are found are temples (Bhagwati, Krishna, Shiva, Shiva-Parwati, Vishnu, Taleju etc) with a few shrines (Ashok Binayak), statues and towers.Hanumanm Dhoka (old Royal palace) is the most dominant building. It was a busy Saturday morning (September 15) with many selling their products from vegetables, fruits, fried nuts of various types, handcrafts and postcards. There was also a religious gathering, with young girls accompanied by their mothers organized within the compound of the Square. It coincided with Teej Festival, a celebration where ladies beautifully dressed, pray for a continued blissful married life.
  The other consideration that can attract visitors to a country is its cuisine. On a number of occasions on our expedition, at lunches and dinners, we were served with a plate with compartments containing rice, lentils, vegetables and bowl of soup. The vegetarian diet is common and the staple among the people, in accordance with the religious teaching. However meat are served particularly chicken and buffalo  (buff meat in the language used there).
  In Thamel, the tourist part of the city, the availability of food to meet the taste of the clients is very wide Indian, Tibetan, Chinese, Italian, Western and Thai. My favorite restaurant, Yak Restaurant, serves a wide range of dishes on its menu. A glimpse at it provides the type of dishes that appear to be popular. The house specialty dishes listed were barbecue chicken, spaghetti meal sauce, cheese tomato pizza, mushroom cheese pizza and Nepali  vegetables set. Among the soup to go along include French onion, vegetable, sweet corn and chicken mushroom. The Indian dishes have the various types of nan bread, curries (mutton, chicken, fish, buff and vegetable), dal and chicken preparations. The Tibetan dishes have gyacok soup (an exotic soup made up of assorted meats, vegetables, tofu, vermicelli, mushroom, egg usually serve during religions festival), buff (soup, potato, momo). The deserts, soft and hot drinks come along in the menu.
  On the entertainment side Kathmandu has its bars and dance outfits and massage joints/clinics offering the whole range of therapy –ayurvedic, shiatsu, Thai reflexology, acupressure. Quite a few of these joints appear to be a fa├žade for other operations. I ventured into a real joint from its name – The Real Therapy and Beauty Point – and had an invigorating ayurvedic massage with vigorous rubbing of the muscles and twisting of the limbs by a young male masseuse.
  The challenging outdoor activities undertaken in scenic montane and rivervine background, friendly people rich in religious and cultural legacies in a relaxing and free spirit atmosphere with accommodation and food at reasonable costs, have attracted droves of tourists from all nooks and corners of the world – Australia, Belgium, Canada, China, France, Japan, Netherlands, Italy, Spain, Finland, Sweden, Ireland, Germany, USA, England, Iran, Israel, Russia, Denmark, Romania, Korea, Pakistan and as far as Brazil. Even Malaysians are going in increasing numbers.

9. Concluding Remarks
    Back to the scout activity on the BPP Expedition,  I was in constant touch with the Nepalese National Scout Commissioner, Shree Ram Lamichhane, getting the progress report of the climb. On a call on the morning of Sunday September 16, the last day of my stay in Nepal, I was informed that there would be a get together at the National Scouts Headquarters of all the participants of the Expedition at 4.00pm. At this gathering, the Commissioner officially announced the names of the scouts and guides who have successfully scale the summit. Fourteen scouts and seven guides managed to get to the peak. Among the scout contingent the successful ones include from Australia (1), Singapore (3 including one female), Korea (7 including two female) and Taiwan (3). I congratulated the winners and also the Scout Commissioner for having successfully organized the expedition in conjunction with the centennial celebration of the Scout Movement.
  Shree Ram Lamichhane admitted on his passion with scouting. He has served in different capacities at the district and regional levels before his elevation to the National Commissioner, four years ago. Since his tenure he has elevated the scout movement in Nepal to a higher level of achievement with an increase in membership to 30,000, the establishment of an International Training Centre for Scouts at Kakani. The successful BPP Expedition adds another feather to his cap.
  As I departed on Thai Airways International for Kuala Lumpur via Bangkok I purposely chose to be seated on the left side of the plane as this would provide the opportunity for me to have a glimpse of the mountain, Everest. I thought this would be an appropriate way to say ‘namaste’ (goodbye / farewell) to Nepal. It was not to be as it was a cloudy day. Perhaps, Everest could read what was in my mind – Nepal is imbedded in my mind and this is not my last trip. Hashim will definitely return to the country.
  Though my original purpose was carrying the Malaysian flag in the international scout group to climb BPP, the trip turned out to be a journey of discovery of another Asian country which has long association with us.
  Nepal and Malaysia have long legacies associated with culture, religion. But for an outdoor person, its mountaineering, trekking mountain biking, rafting and kayaking on the turbulent rivers in its rugged picturesque countryside would be the persistent call to visit this outdoor adventure mecca again inspite of many challenges of road blockade, many landslides and rough and precipitous roads I shall be, in the language of the tourism industry, a repeated visitor to the country.

10. Reference

     a. M. Amin, D Willets, B. Tetley. Journey Through Nepal. Camerapix
          Publishers International, Nairobi, Kenya . 1997

      b. Camerapix. Spectrum Guide to Nepal. Prakash Book Depot, New
           Delhi, India. 2000.

      c. S. Razzetti , V. Saunders. Trekking and Climbing in Nepal. Timeless
          Books, New Delhi, India. 2003.

      d. Finlay, R. Everest, T. Wheeler. Nepal – Lonely Planet Travel Survival
           Kit. Lonely Planet Publications. Hawthorn Australia. 1996.

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This article was written soon after my return from the trip.  However it was not
published in any publication. It has remained as a file stored as an item
in the computer.  I do not know what actually sparked me to publish this
unique experience of mine and share with readers of my blog.  Here it is and
 happy reading. Posted on June 24, 2013.