The culture and traditional way of life for many tribes in remote regions are always at risk of being lost as a country modernises. When I first visited Nepal in 1994, there wasn’t even a single ATM in Kathmandu. Things have changed drastically as tourists kept pouring into the formerly reclusive Himalayan kingdom, but many remote regions have not benefitted from the progress brought about by tourism. But tourism and opening up are double-edged swords. As with many remote villages in Thailand, young people in rural Nepal leave for the cities, leaving shell villages tended by the elderly and disabled.
How can these abandoned people be helped? In countries like China, the “obvious” solution is to demolish the villages and have them “urbanised”. Many of these new cities ended up as ghost cities. Housed in their new concrete homes with no vegetable plots and animals to tend to, many of the inhabitants of former agricultural land end up as cheap labour, beggars and even petty criminals in the cities.
A more idealistic approach is to create “heritage trails”, practising sensitive and responsible minimal impact tourism. With new jobs being created in these villages, the young people may return. With artisanal products on sale here, discerning tourists may recognise the value and make their purchases here instead of the cheaper, mass-produced items on sale in the city. For the urban tourist, these trails will prove challenging not only in terms of the terrain but also in terms of creature comforts. Such trips are definitely not for the pampered. You have to walk in with a pensive, even poetic mood and appreciate virtual time travel with the same set of ideals as those who created these trails.
Unlike the Sherpas and Bhotias who are immigrants in Nepal, the Tamang people in the Langtang region are an indigenous race in Nepal. Though they are Buddhists and their culture is influenced by Tibet, they are not of Tibetan origin. The Tamang language is closer to Gurung than to Tibetan.