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Weekly Official e-Newsletter of Nepal Tourism Board

In this Issue :

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Pre-Ashoka structures in Lumbini unearthed
Minister vows to develop Sagarmatha region
Theatre fest concludes in Janakpur
Attract more Chinese tourists: Chinese envoy
Everest Base Camp Trek among the World's Best Hikes: 20 Dream Trails

Pre-Ashoka structures in Lumbini unearthed

New excavations within the Maya Devi temple of Buddha’s birthplace in Lumbini have revealed a sequence of startling archaeological evidences of human settlement dating back to at least 1300 BC in the pre-Buddha era.

In a press meet held on July 7, experts said no settled society as old as this one has ever been found in the Tarai belt of Nepal, which also stretches to several locations in North India, moving along the banks of Ganges River. The earlier human movements located in the region were the groups of hunter-gatherers, say archaeologists involved in the recent excavation project.

The three-year excavation project, headed jointly by Unesco and the government of Japan, came across a “village-like settlement” 4.5 metres underneath the ground some 200 metres to the south of the Mayadevi temple stands at present.

The ancient village, which currently has the area police office on surface, gives the picture of a settled lifestyle and culture that was different from the trend of hunting and gathering, which was popular in other regions of the Tarai belt during that time. Houses made of bricks and clay and the cultivated land in social structure have been traced. According to archaeologist Robin Coningham of Durham University, UK, the society seems to have settled on the bank of a river, a trace of which has also been identified underground.

Further fortifying the evidence of a pre-Buddha-era settlement in the area surrounding Mayadevi temple, researchers have also come across a vertical sequence of two different temples built beneath a Ashoka-era temple built in around 250 BC, which lies on the premises of the present-day Mayadevi temple.

According to Prof Coningham, the temple at the bottom was made of clay and timber. There is one more brick-made temple standing over the one at the bottom. The third one in the sequence is the Ashoka-era temple built of brick and timber. Although the temples represent three different eras, they have structural similarities. The rectangular temples covering an area of 26x21 metres have similar architectures. All three temples look like a walled courtyard and none of them has a ceiling.

“Most Buddha-era documentations are not older than the first or second century AD,” he said. “The structures we have come across could be the milestones for further studies.

The temples built in vertical sequence also hints at the people’s religious life before the era of Indian emperor Ashoka.”

The vital findings meanwhile have come as a pool of proven logics for the government to claim Lumbini to be the authentic birthplace of Buddha. “This is a ground breaking finding in exploration of Buddha-related historical evidences. The settlement that dates back to the pre-Buddha era clearly denotes that a village already existed here,” said Ves Narayan Dahal, director general at the Department of Archaeology. “It was in  the same village where Buddha was born.”

The excavation programme, which started in July 2010, was the Unesco project funded by Japan for the preservation of the world cultural heritage.

Head of the Unesco office in Kathmandu Axel Plathe acclaimed the successful excavation project saying that the findings would be the doorway to further important studies in the future.

Japanese Ambassador to Nepal Kunio Takahashi echoed Plathe, expressing Japan’s honour to have been able to contribute to the success of the project. He said that the second phase of the excavation project would be launched soon.
(News courtesy: ekantipur.com)

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Minister vows to develop Sagarmatha region

Minister for Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation, Ram Kumar Shrestha, has said that the government is serious regarding developing roads and physical infrastructures such as bridges in the remote Sagarmatha region of Solukhumbu district, adding that it is necessary to invest in one of the major tourist hubs of the country.

Speaking at an interaction programme organised on July 8, 2013  by the Solukhumbu Integrated Development Center, he said the Sagarmath region with the world’s tallest Mt Everest and natural beauty is the reason Nepal is popular all over the world and the government is committed to develop the region.

Admitting that because the hefty royalty received from tourists visiting Sagarmatha region and Mt Everest was freezed for the past four years due to some problems, he said this was the reason the government couldn’t invest in improving roads and other infrastructures in the region.

He assured that the developed budget would soon be released and would be utilized for the development of Sagarmatha region from this year.

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Theatre fest concludes in Janakpur

A three-day theatre festival organized with an objective to promote and develop multidimensional forms of theatre including to preserve those on the verge of extinction concluded in Janakpurdham on July 7, 2013, state-owned news agency RSS reports.

During the festival, five dramas in Maithili, two in Nepali and one in Tharu language were presented.

Mithila Natyakala Parishad demonstrated Okar Angnak Barhamasa, while Birat Maithili Natyakala Parishad presented Ab Kona Chalab and Ramandnd Rangadarpan performed Suli Per Ijot Nayak.

Similarly, Nepali dramas Karphyu and Desh Harayako Manchhe, and drama titled Sahitan Dheki of Tharu language were performed on the occasion.

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Attract more Chinese tourists: Chinese envoy

Chinese ambassador of to Nepal Wu Chuntai has stressed the need to promote tourism in Nepal, targeting Chinese tourists.

“It is good to note that the number of Chinese tourists to Nepal has increased by 35 percent. Nepal can reduce trade deficit with China by attracting Chinese tourists in large numbers,” Wu said, addressing the 13th annual general meeting of Nepal China Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NCCCI) on July 8, 2013. The Chinese envoy also said Nepal can take benefit from tourism by increasing the stay of Chinese tourists in Nepal.

Wu, however, expressed satisfaction over the growth of trade between Nepal and China over the first ten months of the current fiscal year.

According to Trade and Export Promotion Center (TEPC), Nepal´s exports to China increased by 164 percent during the period while imports increased by around 29 percent. However, Nepal´s trade deficit with China increased to Rs 54 billion during the review period from Rs 42 billion recorded in the same period last year.

Wu also stressed the need to strengthen relation between private sectors of both the countries to explore new avenues for promoting bi-lateral trade and investment.
Speaking on the occasion, Minister for Foreign Affairs Madhav Prasad Ghimire said the government had laid high emphasis on economic diplomacy, by activating Nepalese missions and bi-national chambers of commerce and industry to promote Nepal´s economic relation with major countries.

“We are planning to activate the bi-national chambers in the country besides mobilizing our missions abroad to strengthen ties with our trade partners,” added Ghimire.

He also stressed the need to develop infrastructure and bring more investment in IT, hydropower and tourism sectors.

Speaking on the occasion, Rajesh Kaji Shrestha, president of NCCCI, sought Chinese support to remove existing hurdles in bi-lateral trade.

Similarly, Bhaskar Raj Rajkarnikar, acting president of Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FNCCI), urged both private sector and the government to sincerely implement the commitment made on their behalf for promoting bi-lateral trade.
(News courtesy: The Republica)

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Everest Base Camp Trek among the World's Best Hikes: 20 Dream Trails

This year National Geographic asked 20 outdoor luminaries—from trail runners to CEOs to beloved authors—about the trails they dream about. Among  their picks for the world's best hikes, Everest Basecamp Trek is the one picked by Jim Whittaker, First American to climb Mt. Everest.

Hiker: Jim Whittaker, mountaineer

Photograph by R. Tyler Gross

In His Words

I would recommend the trek to Everest Base Camp to anybody. The people are incredible, the scenery can't be beat, and you get to take a look at Everest or Chomolungma, meaning the "Goddess Mother of the World." It's spectacular just to see the highest point on planet Earth. In 1963, it was a 185-mile trip. These days you can start by flying into to Lukla, a village at 9,000 feet with a slanted airstrip that makes for a hell of a takeoff and landing. In May, the rhododendrons are in bloom with orchids growing in them. There are guest houses on the way up. You can get a beer. There are waste baskets on the trail. They have done a nice job of cleaning it up. I made the trek to Everest Base Camp last year but had to turn back near the camp due to intestinal difficulties. I went ten years ago for the 40th anniversary of the climb with Gombu [Nawang Gombu Sherpa who summited with Whittaker in 1963] and our families. That is when my son Leif decided he wanted to climb it. Who knows, I might wander up there again. —Jim Whittaker

Length: About 40 miles

The Details: The two-week trek to Everest Base Camp and back has become increasingly popular—REI even runs a trip—but no less spectacular, if you don't mind how much the route and the now-bottlenecked climb to the summit have changed since 1963. And why not? It's a bucket list trip available to people who don't have the ability (or money, a guided trip to the top of the world runs around $50,000) to actually climb Everest. Simply viewing the peak is a must. And while so many books and films have focused on the trip from Base Camp to the summit, the journey to Base Camp is no less miraculous.

Beyond the chance to come face to face with the mountain from the spot where climbers begin their ascent, the route passes through the heart of the Khumbu region and wanders into its bustling, little capital, Namche Bazaar. Perched at 11,286 feet, this is where most trekkers spend a few days getting acclimatized and immersing themselves in the local culture—as well as returning to their own by checking email at an Internet cafe. From here, the trek heads up past smaller villages, like at 13,074-foot Pangboche, with its famed Buddhist monastery, before topping out at 17,650 feet at base camp, with the summit towering over 11,000 feet above.

Don't feel bad if climbers who are acclimatizing at Everest Base Camp seem to keep at a distance from you—they don't want to be exposed to germs from trekkers before making an attempt at the highest spot on planet Earth. And while many trekkers are quite content just looking at that summit, some others, like Leif Whittaker, feel the urge to return.

When to Go: Spring from March until the monsoons move in in May is best but September–November after the monsoon season can be beautiful as well, and a bit less crowded.

About Whittaker: Jim Whittaker became the first American to stand on the summit of Mount Everest on May 1, 1963, for which he and the members of his team were awarded National Geographic Society's Hubbard Medal and invited to the White House by President John F. Kennedy. Before he climbed to the top of the world, Whittaker was already a proficient mountaineer in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska, and like many climbing bums he worked in outdoor retail—he was the first full-time employee at Seattle's Recreation Equipment, Inc. (REI), and later its CEO. He also led the first successful American summit of 18,151-foot K2—the world's second highest mountain and a more difficult climb than Everest—in 1978 and the 1990 Everest Peace Climb, which included American, Soviet, and Chinese mountaineers and helped remove two tons of trash from the mountain. His son Leif followed in his father's footsteps, reaching the top of the world in 2010 and again in 2012 when Jim set out on the Base Camp trek with him.

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