“Oh Nepal.Easily, our favourite country visited during our trip…One of the highlights of our 2-week trip was a visit to the village of Panauti where we took part in a homestay program. We learned how to make momos (a Nepali dumpling), visited the village, and bonded with our guide and friend Ashok and his family who warmly welcomed us! We started off our day by having a Daal Bhaat feast: unlimited amounts of rice, potatoes, chicken, fried spinach, lentil soup, chapatti, and ginger tea. So much tea. The food is delicious, and like any good host in Nepal, they won’t stop feeding you until you can roll down a hill. And roll we did!”
The above is an excerpt from an account by a Canadian tourist to Nepal, who writes on, “What shall we do this afternoon? Ashok asked us. We decided on a walk through of the village…As we finished our walk around the town we started helping out with the buffalo meat momos. Momos are Nepal’s answer to steamed dumplings, filled with meat, carrot, cabbage, onions, and spices, oh so many spices. There is an art to making momos, and by the end, we started getting the hand of it and realized that the dozens of momos were only our appetizer. As we each downed about 12, out comes the Dhaal Bhaat. How we survived to tell the tale I have no clue.”
It is clear that he must have returned home packing several more kilos that when he started off. That’s what a homestay does to you, besides of course, assuring you of a knowledgeable guide as well, who’ll take you around the town and help bring closer the unique lifestyle of the place. He ends by saying, “The people of Nepal are by far some of the friendliest we’ve met. To us, Nepal is the actual land of smiles. Panauti was no exception. We bumped into some of the schoolchildren we met on the street, we had a cup of tea in the local hangout watching an Indian soap opera, we simply lived the daily life in Panauti and it felt great. Just one more reason that made Nepal our favourite country to visit.”
And yes, the main reason for our Canadian friend’s enthrallment must surely have been due to the fact he made good use of one of the many home stay facilities available in Panauti. Now, before moving on with another account of one more tourist who similarly stayed with a local family in Panauti, a few words on the town itself. Panauti is claimed to be the fourth most important town after Kathmandu, Patan, and Bhaktapur as far a heritage is concerned. It is just 32 km south east of Kathmandu and is located at the point where two rivers meet, and interestingly, is said to be located on one single rock, thus making the town somewhat earthquake proof.
It is one of the oldest towns in the Kathmandu valley with plenty of temples, public resting places (patis), courtyards, and so forth, most of them built with terracotta. The town has a lot of festivals too, and some are unique to the town. These include Jya Punhi (Panauti Jatra) held at the end of the monsoon season; Makar Mela, a month-long fair known held once every 12 years; and Yomari Punhi, a post-harvest celebration to honor Annapurna, the goddess of grains. Historically too, Panauti has some significance. It is the birth place of Prince Mahasatwo, who attained sainthood for sacrificing his body to feed a starving tigress and her cubs in the Namobuddha jungle, 10 km away from the town. King Ansuverma, a noble king of the Licchavi period noted for his great contribution to art and culture, was also born in Panauti.
Now, it’s time to hear what another tourist had to say about his home stay in Panauti. “…we arrive in the little known ‘kingdom’of Panauti…Full of magnificent temples and funeral ghats set along the river banks, it is a magical and sacred place where pilgrims come once a year to bathe and cleanse their mind, body and soul. Suresh meets us and takes us to his home where we will be spending the night. Proud of his home and Newari culture, we wander through the streets at dusk as he tells us legends of gods and goddesses that once visited this magical place. We cook a traditional dinner using rudimentary methods—crushing spices and tomatoes with a stone, and cutting potatoes with something that resembled a medieval torture device. Early morning, we head out to the look-out point as the town wakes up…The people here are warm, authentic and open…There is a true sense of community here and a desire to sustain their heritage and people.” He adds at the end, “The home-stay program is designed to provide local people with a sustainable income and at the same time let travelers experience a day in the life of this unique culture.”
Indeed, there can be no better way of leaving behind the ‘tourist’ tag and becoming one with the inhabitants than by living with a local family when visiting a new place. Panauti has plenty of such homes with some really great families waiting to welcome you to their humble abodes. Yes, don’t expect five star luxury, no way. However, do expect to find genuine warmth and hospitality as well as plenty of wholesome food while you’re there. Home stay programs have become pretty popular now, and most travel agencies can arrange them for you. The “Panauti Community Home Stay” offers a well organized ‘Home Stay Program’ that is sure to go a long way in enriching your visit as well as your cultural experience.
Well, have a pleasant time when in Nepal, and make it a point to visit Panauti as well. While there, make your visit more worthwhile and interesting by using a home stay facility. Can’t wait to read your account about how thrilling your visit was!
Community Homestay Network: https://www.communityhomestay.com/