Khumbu – Nepal
2015 marked a half century since Major Jimmy Roberts organised the first commercial trek in Nepal, so hurry up to dust off those trekking boots.
Population: 106,000(Solu Khumbu district)
Foreign trekkers per year: 35,000
Main town: Namche Bazaar
Languages: Sherpa (similar to Tibetan), Nepali
Major industries: tourism, mountaineering, agriculture (yaks and potatoes)
Unit of currency: Nepali rupee (Rs)
Cost index: set meal of dal bhat (rice and vegetables) Rs 400 (US$4), lodge room for a night Rs 300-700 (US$3-7), porter-guide Rs 2000 (US$20) per day, permit to climb Mt Everest US$10,000
Why go ASAP?
We don’t really need to sell you on the mountain glories of the Khumbu region; just a whisper of the word ‘Everest’ and everyone in the room snaps to attention. The chances are that if you love the mountains, you’ve always considered walking to Everest. It’s the ultimate goal of the vertically inclined, a classic journey in the footsteps of Tenzing and Hillary into the planet’s most jaw-dropping mountain arena, home to the world’s highest peak but encompassing so much more.
Now that Nepal’s Maoist uprising is firmly behind it, trekkers are once again rediscovering the region’s remoter trails. For an alternative to the standard .
First there’s Marina Bay. From the now-iconic, boat-shaped Marina Bay Sands resort to otherworldly eco-park Gardens by the Bay, this new entertainment precinct is like a funfair for the whole family. And then there’s the city’s new crop of swanky hotels – between the W Singapore, Parkroyal on Pickering and the Sofitel So Singapore, it’s difficult to keep track of the latest openings.
To coincide with the anniversary, Singapore set to usher in a number of new attractions in 2015, including the National Art Gallery and the Singapore Sports Hub, which will host the 28th Southeast Asian Games. And with more than a dozen MRT (metro) extensions currently in development, it’ll soon be easier to get around. Even Changi Airport, named the world’s best at the 2014 Skytrax awards in Barcelona, will receive two new terminals (and a third runway) in the coming years.
Base Camp route try the high-altitude Three Passes trek or adventurous Mera Peak expedition. If you want something more authentic, tread the old-school approach routes to Everest from Jiri and Tumlingtar, along parts of the 1700km-long Great Himalaya Trail.
Already popular, the trails to Everest are only going to get busier in future seasons. 2015 marked a half-century since Major Jimmy Roberts organised the first commercial trek in Nepal, so hurry up to dust off those trekking boots. Why trek to Everest? Well, as Mallory famously quipped, ‘because it’s there’. And because life is now.
Festivals & Events:
Fancy floats, fire-breathing dragons and pyrotechnics collide at February’s Chingay, Singapore’s biggest street parade.
Have your wallets (and elbows) at the ready for the Great Singapore Sale, which sees retail prices slashed from the end of May until the beginning of July.
July’s Singapore Food Festival provides ample opportunities to sample the city’s top grub, and learn how to cook classic Malay, Chinese and Indian dishes yourself.
It’s already Singapore’s main event, but you can expect National Day, on 9 August, to be celebrated with ultra-extravagant fanfare in 2016, as usual.
Mani Rimdu is the most famous Sherpa festival, celebrating the victory of Buddhism over the local Bon religion with three days of colourful masked dances. The big celebration is at Tengboche Monastery (November), with a quieter alternative at Thame Monastery (May).
Tibetan opera, masked dances and home-brewed chang (barley beer) add a buzz to the Sherpa New Year festivities in February.
The magician and Tantric master Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambhava) is revered as a second Buddha throughout much of the Himalaya and his birthday is celebrated with religious processions and prayer ceremonies during summer’s Dumje festival (June or July).
Pack your head torch for the sunrise views of Mt Everest and the Khumbu Icefall from 5545m Kala Pattar.
Beat the Base Camp crowds and acclimatise slowly by taking a side trail to the stunning scenery of the Gokyo and Chukkhung valleys, or to the Sherpa villages of Thame and Khunde.
Attend one of the daily talks on altitude sickness at the Himalayan Rescue Association in Pheriche ¬it might just save your life.
Sherpa safety and working conditions, after 16 Sherpas died together on the Khumbu Icefall in 2014. With 60 flights a day arriving at Lukla airport in peak season and 200 people queuing up to attempt Everest on a good day, overcrowding on the trails is an ever-pressing issue. Finding a sustainable way to deal with the waste produced by so many trekkers and porters in such a remote region is a complex problem, though solar-powered technology is making a difference in many trekking lodges. Since 2014 each Everest climber is now required to carry 8kg of waste off the mountain.
Air safety is another concern, after air crashes in 2010, 2011 and 2012 killed dozens of trekkers and Nepali staff en route to or from the region.
At Everest Base Camp you are breathing in only 50% of the oxygen available at sea level.
Over 3000 people have summitted Mt Everest since Tenzing and Hillary reached the top in 1953: the youngest aged 13, the oldest 81.
The local Sherpa people are what make trekking in the Everest region such a joy. Many of the lodges you stay in will be run by a retired summitteer and most families have at least one member employed as a climbing porter or trekking guide. Sherpa culture also gives the region its distinctly Tibetan flavour, adorning the grand landscapes with stupas, prayer flags and stones carved with Buddhist mantras.
Most bizarre sight:
Fans of the bizarre will want to hike up to Khumjung Monastery to get a peek at its yeti scalp. Nearby Pangboche Monastery had its famous yeti hand stolen in 1991, but a replica is now on display.