Devoted to Promote tourism in Nepal
With the narrow streets still thick with weaving pedestrians and motorbikes, it takes a moment to realize what is missing. That is, until you come onto a main road and see the near deserted pavement. A bunda (strike) has seized Kathmandu Valley.
Save for motorbikes and pushbikes, no vehicles are allowed on the roads until the bunda ends at 6pm, by rule of a political party protesting against the upcoming election. Emergency vehicles and a few tourism vehicles (with their signifying green plates) plod carefully through the empty streets.
Some children make the most of the day off by playing badminton or football in the streets, while parents who cannot find transport to work watch on. For local business owners and tourism operators, the day’s business seems bleak. Along the usually bustling streets of Thamel, only one shop in ten is open, most rolling down their doors for the day. Many cafes, restaurants and tourism offices also stand empty, overlooking the quiet streets.
“It’s difficult for us to provide a service to our travelers,” said Alliance Treks and Expedition Managing Director Kul Bahadur Gurung, “we are able to operate some vehicles with the green tourism license plates but it is difficult.”
Australian medical volunteers Kayleen Gaston and Allan Churchill were amongst those who were affected by the earlier strikes.
“Our placement was to provide pro bono health care to remote villages, but we were forced to cut it down by a few days due to strikes creating difficulties getting there and again coming back,” Kayleen said. Dr Allan Churchill added that due to their minimal time, they were forced to miss out a visit to one very ill client.
“It’s an issue for local people,” Mr Gurung said, “who are unable to get to work, school or move freely around their city, and an issue to tourism, one of our country’s biggest incomes.” “It’s not fair for our [tourism] industry,” he continued, “this is our voice. It is the beginning of the season or us, so we are operating with higher numbers and the strike on top of that makes it very difficult.”
“The strike does make it quite difficult for us to transport our travelers, and sometimes we have to alter the itineraries,” agreed Mountain Delights Sales Manager Panisha Dungana. While for some tourists and travelers, the strike can mean no transport from flights or accommodation or a change in their itineraries, some take the day in their stride. Many tourists within the centre of Kathmandu Valley are happy to spend the day wandering through the quiet streets, a welcomed reprieve from the usual traffic frenzy.
“We are enjoying the chance to see the area with little traffic,” said a Chinese traveler Rosa, who is spending a week in Kathmandu with her friends for a joint honey-moon. “We met a friend living near Swayambhunath, who was able to help us get into Durbar Square to explore.”
“We don’t mind a walk,” agreed Italian travelers Peter Larpi and Titti Maistro, “it is better to see local culture by walking, with the smells and sounds and people to meet.”
Some, like American traveler Wasyl Wakaruk, have seen many Nepali strikes and demonstrations before, and take one more as just ‘being in Nepal’. “It’s not uncommon, the strike,” said Mr Wakaruk , who has returned to Nepal over five times, spending almost two years here collectively. “This is mild compared to some of the strikes and protests I’ve seen here before.”
By the next day, the roads were back to their loud, hectic and usual selves. Buses dodged motorbikes, who slipped between throngs of cars and taxis, dodging cows and pedestrians. Businesses and shops reopened their doors and tourists again filled the streets of Thamel, but the affect of the constant Bunda’s is still evident in the community fatigue of having to deal with the constant interruptions to daily business and income.
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