First published by Nepali Times
How two female flower children joined East and West in the streets of Kathmandu 50 years ago
Lucia de Vries October 12, 2018

The Gangster of Love

Trilochan Shrestha was a hippie even before the word was invented

Lucia de Vries  October 12, 2018

When Nepal became a destination for overland travelers in the 1960s, one young man was ready: Trilochan Shrestha, probably Nepal’s first hippie. Born in 1945 as the oldest son to a wealthy Newar family, he grew up in Jhhochen where his aunt lived.

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Drones to the rescue

Feeling Groovy

Feeling groovy

Finding rare images of Kathmandu’s colourful hippie era

Relics of the hippie era in Kathmandu have been slowly erased by the passage of time, and whatever remained in Jochhen from that psychedelic period was brought down by last year’s earthquake.
One of the few hippie hangouts that is still intact on what used to be called Freak Street is Snowman Café. On a recent afternoon, it was packed with Nepali youngsters but none of them had any idea how the street got its name.

William smoking bong “I brought this bong from Kathmandu and used it for a while. It is basically a bamboo water pipe. It got me so stoned that I forgot what day of the week it was. So I gave it up.”

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Walking the holy river

First published by Nepali Times
One man’s journey to trace the 160 or so traditional bathing places along the now-polluted river


When American researcher William Forbes recently surveyed some of the temples and ghats along the Bagmati River to see if they survived the earthquake, he was greeted with much enthusiasm at a small tirtha just north of Pashupatinath called Hatyamochan.

The smiling face was of social worker Rohit Limbu, who has made it his personal mission to preserve the temple. Limbu led restoration of an old well which is now being used as a sacred bathing spot for women during Rishi Panchami. “I dreamt about you the other night,” Limbu told Forbes. “You were one of the few people who believed in my dream, and look what happened.” Continue reading

War is the crime

First published by Nepali Times

Photographer Stephen Champion goes from covering war between men to war on nature

Photo Willemijn Van Kol

Where to go after the war is over? Many photographers and reporters are confronted with this question after documenting violent conflicts. For Sri Lanka-based British photographer Stephen Champion (above) the answer was obvious: to nature. Or more precisely, to the war being waged on nature in the island.

Stephen Champion was only 25 when he witnessed a man being torn to pieces by a bomb. He did not do what was expected of him: focus his camera and shoot. He crouched down and wept. Continue reading

Healing together

First published by Nepali Times
Religious organisations show solidarity with earthquake survivors
Lucia De Vries in RASUWA

HELPING TOGETHER: IRW officer Bilal Agmad Zargar (left) and LWF officer Chenyen Nekor (right), together with a volunteer hand over construction materials to Nirmala BK in Kalikasthan of Rasuwa.

A Muslim relief agency joining hands with a Christian organisation to help Buddhist earthquake survivors in a largely Hindu country may sound implausible but that is exactly what happened in Rasuwa earlier this month. Continue reading

Born to be free

First published by Nepali Times

Instead of riding them to observe wildlife, elephants themselves are now tourist attractions 
Lucia De Vries in CHITWAN

Photo Lena Quenard

Saraswati Kali enjoys her daily bath in the river.

Raj Kali is 42, and walks surprisingly fast and light-footedly along a forest track in the Amaltari buffer zone of Chitwan National Park. Her trunk sways as if it has a life of its own: Sniffing out edible greens, snapping the branches of acacia, and slipping it into her mouth while on the move. Her friend, Dibya Kali is 46, and follows close behind. Visitors are guided by naturalist Shambhu Mahato on a jungle walk to observe the rhinos wallowing in a muddy pool by the river. Continue reading

Brick by brick

First published by Nepali Times

How Sanogaun’s women are rebuilding better quake-resistant homes
Lucia De Vries

Pics: Paul Jeffrey

Sanogaun, a small Newar settlement on the southern fringes of Kathmandu was flattened by the earthquake last year. Now, the community is using an innovative technology to rebuild all its 49 homes so they are cheaper and resistant to future quakes.

The interlocking brick technique developed by Nepali inventor Gyanendra R Sthapit at the Habitech Center of the Asian Institute of Technology in Thailand combines the strengths of rammed earth and compressed blocks. It has been used in post-tsunami reconstruction in Thailand in 2008 and after Cyclone Nargis ravaged Burma in 2010 to build more than 1,000 homes, schools, and health clinics. In Bhutan, over 100 quake-proof houses and schools have been built using the technology. Continue reading

The belly of the beast

First publishd by The Kathmandu Post

The recent decision to phase out slaughter places in the Valley will not change the way animals are killed inhumanely across the countryThe belly of the beast

Een onmogelijk dilemma

First published by Trouw

Orgaanhandel | reportage | Nepal worstelt met zijn huidige transplantatiewet. Die is te strikt en houdt daardoor de illegale orgaanhandel in stand, zeggen experts.

Hoe koop je een nier? Met wat valse documenten kom je een heel eind. Dat leerde Nepalees Sarju Shrestha, illustrator en kunstenaar, toen zijn schoonvader vorig jaar begon te sukkelen met zijn nieren. Continue reading

Circumambulating with Swayambu Billy

First published by Nepali Times
On the trails of Gunadhya with the yoga teacher who translated ‘Nepala-Mahatmya’


When yoga teacher William Forbes suffered a serious accident in 1985, some predicted he might never walk again but fate had something else in store for the American iconoclast better known as ‘Swayambu Billy’.Forbes came to Nepal in 1970, and like many of his contemporaries, took the long road to Kathmandu overland on the hippie trail. The young adventurer flew to Luxembourg, where he bought a Volkswagen van, crashed it in Morocco and continued by local buses, travelling through Turkey, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. His wife, Susan Burns followed a few years later. Continue reading

Get off that elephant back

Photo Lucia de Vries

Exploring Nepal’s wilderness on the back of an elephant seems like a perfect way to spend the holidays. In bygone eras only aristocrats and kings had access to elephant safaris, mostly organized for hunting. Nowadays any tourist can afford to mount one of the 45 privately owned elephants in Sauraha, the main tourist hub of Chitwan National Park. After the jungle safari one can opt to bath the elephant in the river. With the jumbo splashing water on the tourists standing on its back, that seems a lot of fun too.

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Vrouwen zijn de motor achter wederopbouw van Nepal

First piblished by Trouw

Vandaag werd in Nepal de aardbeving officieel herdacht. Op het moment dat de Nepalese premier een krans legde bij de Dharahara-toren, waar veel mensen om het leven kwamen, versjouwden Sunita Tamang en Srijana Maharjan gezamenlijk een partij modder. Ze droegen rubber handschoenen, veiligheidshelmen en stofmaskers. Samen met zo’n dertig andere vrouwen restaureren Sunita en Srijana een waterreservoir in hun dorp Dakchhinkali.

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Nepal: Door blokkade van de grens met India dreigt een humanitaire ramp — ‘Tweede aardbeving’ treft Nepal in het hart

First published by Het Parool

Nepal lijdt onder een politieke crisis die wel ‘de tweede aardbeving’ wordt genoemd. De impact van een wegblokkade door oppositiegroepen in het zuiden van het land, is volgens economen nu al erger dan die van de aardbeving die Nepal eerder dit jaar trof. Voedsel, bouwmaterialen en benzine komen het land maar mondjesmaat in. De steun, toegezegd door overheid en hulporganisaties, zal veel slachtoffers daardoor dit jaar niet bereiken.

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Kinderhandelaars slaan toe in Nepal na de aardbeving

First published by Trouw

Een maand na de aardbeving die Nepal eind april trof, arriveerde een groep mensen in een afgelegen dorp in de grensstreek met Tibet. Ze spraken over ‘De Meester’ en ‘De Liefde’ en waren op zoek naar weeskinderen. In hun tehuis zouden ouderloze kinderen goed eten en onderwijs krijgen. Twee jongetjes van 5 en 7 jaar werden opgespoord. Omdat beide ouders waren omgekomen leek het de beste oplossing hen met de onbekenden mee te geven.

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Nepal krijgt miljarden van de wereld

First published by Trouw

Wie dat geld verantwoord gaat uitgeven is onduidelijk. Internationale hulporganisaties niet betrokken bij herstelplan.

Op de internationale donorconferentie die gisteren in Kathmandu plaatsvond, werden twee dingen duidelijk: Nepal heeft minimaal vijf jaar nodig om de aardbeving van 25 mei te boven te komen, en het Himalayaland weet zich in de donorgemeenschap goed te verkopen. Maar hoe en door wie de toegezegde miljarden op een verantwoorde manier gaan worden uitgegeven, is vooralsnog een raadsel. De internationale hulporganisaties waren niet uitgenodigd. Continue reading

Sujal troost Sandip (12) die zijn been heeft gebroken

First published by Trouw

Traumacentrum Kathmandu bergt slachtoffers. Vrijwilliger Sujal Tundakar helpt.

Na een uur rondrennen neemt Sujal Tundakar de tijd om op adem te komen. “De verhalen zijn het moeilijkst”, zegt de stoere marketingmanager, gekleed in zwart T-shirt dat de talloze tattoos op zijn onderarmen vrij laat. “Ze zijn stuk voor stuk verdrietig. En dan te bedenken dat ze het topje van de ijsberg zijn.”
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Kathmandu probeert de regie te krijgen

First published by Trouw

Vertrouwen in overheid is laatste dagen hard gedaald

LUCIA DE VRIES 2 mei 2015, 2:46
“De regering? Daar wil ik niet over praten!” De ogen van Hira Kumari Bhandari, een jonge moeder uit Sindhulpalchok, spatten vuur als haar mening over de Nepalese overheid wordt gevraagd. “In mijn dorp ligt een man onder het puin. Van zaterdag tot donderdag riep hij om hulp. Niemand kwam ons helpen. Sinds vanochtend is hij stil. De regering heeft geen enkele belangstelling voor de ongeletterden in de dorpen. Ze gebruiken ons alleen om verkozen te worden en hun zakken te vullen.”

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Yes, E-bikes!

First published by Nepali Times

When my Hero Honda Splendor bike got stolen last year, I felt a deep sense of loss. The Honda had grown on me like no other bike had before. The bike (re-baptised as ‘Heroine Honda’) took me to remote destinations inside the Kathmandu Valley, opening my eyes once more to the beauty of this place we live in.

Buying a new Honda did not seem like a good idea. Valley bikes get stolen at the rate of 140 a day. Queuing for petrol for hours no longer appealed to me. So instead I decided to find an e-bike: the Foton TDP33ZWG, fresh from Zhucheng, China. It somehow reminded me of a centaur. The bike’s front looked feminine, with a cute white basket and a scooter-like dashboard. It had an extended back part, with a solid battery compartment and tool box under a comfortable seat, and a sturdy back seat. I did not even take a test drive. Just paid and drove off.

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First published by Nepali Times

The first time I came across a jingle word, a fast growing phenomenon in the Nepalese language, I was in a taxi. The driver hailed from Dapakhel and I asked him what his village was like. Dapakhel was something out of this world, he explained, as from there one can see ‘Airport sairport’. I thought I misunderstood the last bit, and asked him to repeat. At night, from his house, the driver said, one can see all the lights of ‘airport sairport’. I asked him for the meaning of sairport; he merely shrugged his shoulders.

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Picturing war

First published by Nepali Times.

War is hard to capture. The heart of war is a schizophrenic place where extremes of love and hate, heaven and hell, touch and ignite each other.

Few photographers can capture this. But when they do the image is never forgotten and sometimes even change the course of history. A little Vietnamese girl, naked, fleeing a napalm attack, the soldier in the Spanish civil war caught at the moment of his death, Saddam’s teetering statue or prisoners being tortured at Abu Gharib, these images lie buried in our minds and hearts and have become part of humanity’s common consciousness.

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Little Heroes

First published by Nepali Times

When Pabitra Tamang’s parents found out she was suffering from a life-threatening disease called a-plastic anaemia, they took a desperate decision: they left their jobs as daily labourers to take care of five-year-old Pabitra and her two sisters.

With no money to pay the rent, the landlord threatened to throw them out of their tiny Bhaktapur room. All three children left school and moved into the hospital, much to the chagrin of the medical staff. Only Pabitra kept smiling: she loved the extra attention and her chance to visit the hospital’s playroom.

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Jong zijn in Nepal

First published by Onze Wereld.  Also published by Landenreeks Nepal, Amsterdam: KIT.

Het is donderdag en bijna donker. De straatjes die naar de Banglamukhi tempel in het hart van Patan leiden, een oude koningsstad vlakbij de hoofdstad Kathmandu, zitten tjokvol. Jonge stelletjes op Suzuki motoren navigeren via de eeuwenoude toegangsweggetjes naar het tempelcomplex. Donderdag is de dag om de godin Banglamukhi te vereren. Die is verantwoordelijk voor het liefdesleven van haar gelovigen, wat met name jongeren van heinde en ver naar de tempel doet komen. De Banglamukhi tempel staat symbool voor zowel de oude als de nieuwe cultuur in het snel veranderende Nepal.

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First published in Mountain Bound.

Image by Steam Community

The sun touched the crowns of the pine trees when Chandra returned to his village. It was Spring, the skies were clear. In the distance the snow-capped Himalaya shone like queens. It was half past eight, time for the Brahmin priest to wind up the daily rituals in the temple, a simple whitewashed structure containing a few holy stones representing Shiva. Most of the women were busy collecting water and preparing food. A few children were already on their way to school, some dressed in a neat uniform, others in tattered blue clothes, saved by numerous rounds of stitching. The headmaster opened the school gates and was about to enter the teachers’ office when he paused. From below, from the steep valley embracing the mighty Kali Gandaki River, three gunshots roared.

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Get off that elephant back

First published by World Animal Protection

Exploring Nepal’s wilderness on the back of an elephant seems like a perfect way to spend the holidays. In bygone eras only aristocrats and kings had access to elephant safaris, mostly organized for hunting. Nowadays any tourist can afford to mount one of the 45 privately owned elephants in Sauraha, the main tourist hub of Chitwan National Park. After the jungle safari one can opt to bath the elephant in the river. With the jumbo splashing water on the tourists standing on its back, that seems a lot of fun too.

However, with mass tourism coming to the national parks, and the absence of welfare rules, the conditions of Nepal’s working elephants have severely deteriorated[1].

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A poisoned plan

First published by The Kathmandu Post

Pramada Shah and Lucia de Vries, volunteer directors, at Animal Nepal, expose the regular poisoning campaigns by local governments in Republica. “Betraying our canine companions by feeding them poisoned meat is an example of unmatched cruelty,” they write.


Earlier this month our friend Urmila woke up when her dog started running around and twitching uncontrollably. He soon developed epileptic attacks and started vomiting. Urmila realised her beloved pet had been poisoned, ran out into the street to find a taxi and called the vet.

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Beast of Burden

First published in The Kathmandu Post

Lulu, a malnourished working donkey, died last week night at our shelter. She died from colic, a disease that is mostly caused by eating plastic, often fatal in equines. Today, on World Animal Day, I wonder what Lulu’s life must have looked like. What is it like being a common Nepali donkey, employed in one of the country’s countless brick kilns?

The first thing Lulu must have experienced on this earth is dust. Dust marks the lives of working equines in Asia, home of half of the world’s 50 million working donkeys. Nepal’s working equines (horses, donkeys and mules) have never been counted, but 100.000 is a fair guess.

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