Maoism and tourism
During the decade-long Maoist war, tourists were mostly spared even though the tourism industry was severely affected by the insurgency. Many Nepal lovers ignored travel warnings and took off to remote parts of the country to trek. But the Maoists did charge them donation money and they even handed out receipts.
A long-time Himalayan trekker Joel Schone wrote about one such experience in Nepali Times 20 years ago this week in issue #170 14-20 November 2003. Excerpts:
Sherpa who had worked on a trek with me had come for his salary, and unwisely, I had paid him in view of the hotel staff. After he had gone, one of them approached me; "Why do you give this man money? He is a dirty peasant. I am educated, give me some money also." It is hard to explain to someone when logic goes that way.
That was 15 years ago. In October, our trekking group was held up by Maoists in the stunningly beautiful Manaslu trekking circuit. The rebels told us we would not be allowed to proceed unless we paid a 'war tax' of $100. In conversation, the young man was forthright, telling us the money was being used to equip his comrades for their struggle. Around us villagers were in the middle of their own struggle: harvesting millet and down the hill we could see children in the school playground, their struggle for education about to begin for the day. Like most Nepali children, they got up early to finish their tasks on the farm before walking uphill to school.
It was obvious that none of the money we were forced to donate would go to local education, agriculture or health care. It was obvious that, unlike what Mao Zedong taught, they were not interested in the people of this mountain village above the Budi Gandaki. This man sat in his office, well fed, healthy, waiting for the next group of trekkers to take money from. We paid, of course. We had come from around the world to see Nepal and $100 was not a lot of money.
For archived material of Nepali Times of the past 20 years, site search: nepalitimes.com