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Tibetan Encounter tour guide in Pokhara, Nepal

Many people have asked me why I chose to open ” The Tibetan Encounter Day Tours.” Being a Tibetan refugee myself, I am uniquely qualified to tell the story of how so many Tibetans came to live in Nepal. Additionally, having worked in the hospitality industry for almost seven years, I gradually became aware that tourists had a keen interest in Tibetan culture, customs, religion, livelihood, medicine, arts and crafts, our dynamic philosophy and our way of thinking.

I was born in 1974 in Riphuk near Gonpa Ghar in upper Mustang, Nepal. My story begins well before I was born. In fear of their lives, my parents fled Tibet in 1959, close on the heels of the invading Chinese army. They escape on  foot to Mustang, Nepal in 1959, an area in the mountains of northern Nepal close to the Tibetan border. There my parents lived almost 13 to 14 years until the Nepali government ordered the remaining Tibetan guerillas ( about 1800 men ) to shut down the operation and arranged for land where Tibetan refugees could build permanent settlements. Eventually, in 1975 my family settled in Jampaling Tibetan Refugee Settlement, about an hour east of Pokhara on the road to Kathmandu, and it was there that I was raised and educated.

As an adult I gradually became aware of tourists’ thirst for knowledge about Tibet and I began thinking about the best way I could share real information about Tibetans who live in Nepal as refugees. As a result, I started “The Tibetan Encounter Day Tours” and developed morning tour, morning tour with Sarangkot sunrise, full day tour and half day tours to four different Tibetan Refugee Settlements around Pokhara.

If you would like to learn about Tibetan culture in an environment where Tibetans are happy to tell their stories, please contact me about joining one of my cultural tours.

Tibetans In Nepal

In May 1960, Nepal requested assistance from the international committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and other aid organisations. The ICRC established emergency relief programs for the refugees. These programs were funded mostly by the United States Agency for International Development. In response to the refugees’ plight, the Tibetan government established the Kathmandu Tibetan Welfare Office, a branch of the Tibetan Ministry of Home Affairs. The Tibetan Welfare Office functioned as a liaison between the refugees, various aid organisations, and the Nepalese government. Also known as the office of Tibet, it continues to serve this vital role today.

Estimates of the total number of Tibetan refugees currently living in Nepal differ. Approximately 20,000 were believed to have arrived in 1959 during the initial conflict. Many more arrived in the ensuing years, however these numbers were reduced as Tibetans emigrated to other countries. According to the demographic survey of Tibetan Exile conducted by Central Tibetan Administration, Dharamsala in 2009, the population of Tibetan refugees in Nepal stands as 13,500.

In the early 1960s, the Nepalese government established four “temporary” settlements for the Tibetan refugees, including Tashi Palkhel, located on the outskirts of Pokhara. The Nepal Red Cross (NRC), purchased the land for these settlements with funds donated by UNHCR. Today there are up to a dozen Tibetan refugee settlements scattered across Nepal, four of which are located in or near Pokhara: Jampaling, Paljorling, Tashi-Palkhel, and Tashiling. These camps have evolved into well built settlements, each with a gompa(Buddhist monastery), chorten(stupa), school, clinic and its particular architecture and Tibetans have become a visible minority in the city.

Jampaling was opened in 1975 and  is one of the two main settlements established for the rehabilitation of Tibetans from the Mustang guerrilla force. The community, which is located an hour east of Pokhara on the road to Kathmandu, has a small plot of agricultural land on which they grow maize, rice and vegetables. Their main source of income is derived from spinning wool, which is done in the traditional way, by hand. It also has a school and a dispensary. The current population is about 750.

 

Paljorling, opened in 1972, also established for the rehabilitation of Tibetans from the Mustang guerrilla force, although today the residents come from other areas as well. Situated in the heart of Pokhara, it is the smallest (in terms of land area) of the four settlements. The community maintains a small noodle workshop. It is estimated that between 300 to 350 Tibetans live in Paljorling.

 

 

Tashiling, located on the south side of Pokhara, began life a temporary camp set up by the UNHCR (United Nation High Commission for Refugees) for refugees who gradually found their way to Pokhara from the border areas of Tibet. At its zenith in 1964, 1000 residents lived at this camp but number continue to decrease as many emigrate to India, Europe, Canada and the United States. Currently, 523 Tibetans are said to reside at Tashiling. The settlement has a co-operative engaged in the souvenir business and a carpet factory provides employment and income for residents. In addition to schools, the community has one modern dispensary, a branch of the Tibetan traditional medical centre, and a small monastery which welcomes visitors to attend pujas held at 5:30 each morning.

Tashi Palkhel was established in 1962. It is located in the northern suburbs of Pokhara. The main source of income for residents of this settlement is derived from selling souvenirs. The community has schools, a dispensary, a branch of the Tibetan traditional medical centre, and a large monastery that welcomes visitors during a puja, held every afternoon at 3:30.

 

Estimates of the total number of Tibetan refugees currently living in Nepal differ. Approximately 20,000 were believed to have arrived in 1959 during the initial conflict. Many more arrived in the ensuing years, however these numbers were reduced as Tibetans emigrated to other countries. According to the demographic survey of Tibetan Exile conducted by Central Tibetan Administration, Dharamsala in 2009, the population of Tibetan refugees in Nepal stands as 13,500.

Pokhara

Pokhara is one of the most popular tourist destinations and the second most visited city in Nepal. It is famous for its tranquil atmosphere and the beauty of the surrounding countryside, as well as for lovely Phewa Lake, on whose shores the city lies. Three out of the ten highest mountains in the world can be seen from Pokhara (Dhaulagiri, Annapurna, Manasalu) and iconic Machhapuchre (“Fishtail”), with its distinctively pointed peak, has become the icon of the city.

As the base for trekkers who make the popular Annapurna Circuit, Pokhara has developed many interesting sightseeing opportunities. Lakeside, the area of town located on the shores of Phewa Lake where most visitors stay, is interesting for its shops and sidewalk vendors. On the south end of town, visitors can catch a coloured wooden boat to the historic Barahi temple, located on an island in the Phewa Lake.

On a hill overlooking the southern end of Phewa Lake is the World Peace Stupa, from which a spectacular view of the lake, city, and Annapurna Himalayas can be seen. Sarangkot, a hill on the southern side of the lake, offers an exquisite dawn panorama of green valleys framed by snow-capped Annapurnas. The Seti Gandaki River has created spectacular gorges in and around the city. At places it is only a few meters wide and runs so far below that it is not visible or audible from the top.

Temples worth visiting in city include Bindhyabasini, Bhadrakali, Sitaldevi, Gita Mandir and Bhimsen, and both the International Mountain Museum and the Gurkha Museum are worth a visit. Shoppers will want to spend at least half a day wandering around Mahendraphul and Pritiviti Chowk, where shops number in the thousands and offer a mind-boggling array of merchandise.

Many tourists plan to spend only a day or two in Pokhara at the end of their trek and, once they arrive, are disappointed that they have not allocated more time. Don’t make this mistake when visiting Pokhara; the city has so much to offer that a week is easily spent here.

Contact me today for more information and pricing details about tour packages.