Cynthia Tan, a semester 4 medical student in IMU has embarked on a journey to Nepal for her medical electives. Let’s take a walk through the memory lane of her visit to Nepal where she wrote about her experience and her aspiration to raise awareness regarding health burdens in Nepal.
Namaste! In the space I’ve been given, I plan to do a few things. First persuade you to visit Nepal at least once in your lifetime, secondly share my experiences and finally raise awareness regarding burns and its health burdens in Nepal.
Why should you visit Nepal?
Nepal, नेपाल, is a beautiful country situated between China, India, Tibet, Bhutan and Bangladesh. Its population of 27 million people consists of some of the friendliest people I’ve ever met in my travels abroad and its landscape and architecture are some of the most colourful and beautiful I’ve seen. The Himalayan range stretches all across Nepal and it is a sight not to be missed, even in the monsoon cloudy season where you’d have to sit and wait for snow capped peaks to appear. Of the top 10 tallest mountains in the world, 8 are found in Nepal, including of course the world’s famous Mt Everest. Lumbini, Buddha’s birthplace and many monasteries is a short 40 minute flight away from the hustle bustle capital city of Kathmandu. Kathmandu is vibrant, colourful, filled with life and a city that doesn’t sleep, you can find everything you need in Thamel- the hub of Kathmandu. If I haven’t got you yearning to visit Nepal let me share my experiences with you, and if I have here’s some more reasons for you to book that flight.
My time in Nepal!
From the moment I arrived into Kathmandu as the plane was landing, I knew I would enjoy my time. The rolling hills and valleys and the colourful buildings in the distance was just beautiful. The ride from the airport to Thamel was full of life and I just couldn’t wait to be in the midst of it. After my first meal, a Nepali Thali lunch set, I was excited for the many more food and drinks I’d be tasting. Momos- Nepali dumplings, buff(alo) momo if you are adventurous enough is not to be missed and of course a good cup of Nepali Masala tea. For you beer lovers, make sure you try Everest beer too! Shopping in Thamel is fun, targeting tourist audiences you can find all kinds of souvenirs, salwar pants, scarves, tops, trekking gear and the list goes on. A visit to the Kathmandu Durbar Square is a must! I managed to visit the square on the first day of the Indra Jatra festival where there were various masked dances and processions including that of the living goddess Kumari. Bhaktapur, 20 minutes away from Kathmandu is another city I visited and loved. It’s architecture remained in its ancient wooden form and the views from many of the rooftop terraces of the mountains was breathtaking. Bhaktapur is famous for its pottery, you will see men and women putting clay together to mould vases or preparing the furnace. On one of my off days, my friends and I did a 15km trek from Changu Narayan to Nagarkot, a viewpoint many go to see the Langtang Himalayan range (I very sadly missed it due to the cloudy situation). Swayambhunath, the monkey temple is the oldest religious site of Kathmandu and after the hundreds of steps up, the view of the valley is absolutely worth it. If you have enough time, make a short weekend trip to Pokhara, you can fly or bus. We flew there on the smallest commercial plane I’ve ever been on (9 rows, 2 seats per row) in 25 minutes! In Pokhara, we rented a boat and rowed out on Phewa lake and went paragliding over the Annapurna Himalayan range. Pokhara is different to Kathmandu, it’s quiet, natural and peaceful, a good getaway from the hustle bustle. From Pokhara, we returned to Kathmandu by a scenic car ride, driving through the mountains, rivers, local villages, rice terraces and then it was time to return to KL. I hope this little account has done the persuading, if not I’ll let the pictures do the talking.
The forgotten global health crisis.
Despite all the fun I had, my time in Nepal left some lasting impressions on me and my perception on the burns crisis. These impressions include images of burnt babies, amputated limbs due to burns and disabilities due to burn contractures. In Nepal with a population of 30 million, 66,000 cases of reported burns and 2100 deaths are recorded by the WHO yearly, the second most common injury in Nepal accounting for 5% of disabilities. To put it in striking differences, the USA have a population of 300 million people and 3500 people die of burns yearly. Additionally, the annual percentage of women who contract HIV/AIDS is the same as that who are burnt. In South-East Asia, more girls aged 5-14 die of burns than TB, HIV/AIDS or Malaria. In the USA and Australia, anywhere between 700,000 to 1,000,000 USD is spent per burn victim a year, however in Nepal for 1300 burn and cleft victims combined, 300,000USD is spent yearly. This goes to show how much aid is still needed and I was so glad to hear that Australia and a local Nepali poet are putting in every effort to do so. Every little bit helps, so please take your time to have a look at the following website: here and here, and through the word of mouth raise awareness for this devastating yet preventable issue.
Each one of us can make a difference. Together we can make a change.