A guide or not a guide? That’s NOT the question! ;-)

During our 28-day trek we met quite some people without guide, saying that “they didn’t need one” and “could do this on their own” or “they would rather save the money”. Which is fine of course, because hiring a guide is of course costing some money, as you are employing somebody to provide you a service. But what did those people that didn’t take a guide really save? Money for sure, but we think they also missed some important background information to Nepali and Tibetan culture, a thing which made our trip all the better. Especially after Thorong-La Pass there is quite some cultural heritage to be seen and visited, which just isn’t the same without somebody explaining. If in Kathmandu we quickly got to the “ah just another temple” we fully enjoyed the most important Hindu-shrine outside India and some hidden away Tibetan monasteries… :-)

One of the cultural highlights we visited was a Hindu-shrine in Muktinath. The shrine of Muktinath is considered one of the eight most sacred shrines for Hindu Vashanavites known as “Svayam Vyakta Ksetras. It´s one of the most ancient Hindu temples of the God Vishnu (the “protector” who plays an important role in the creation of the universe) founded in 500 AD. For Hindi people it is said, that as long as they haven’t visited this shrine all other worshiping elsewhere will be useless. Therefore thousands of Hindi come on a pilgrimage to Muktinath to do their ultimate worshiping here. Around the temple, there are 108 bull faces through which water is poured. Hindi people walk under each of those fountains to get “cleaned” before praying. 108 represents a holy number in Hinduism, as long ago, Hindi holy men were meditating and praying until suddenly they stopped (after 108 prayers) without any apparent reason, considering that the meditation had been completed. For this reason, 108 is a very holy number in Hinduism and if you do any religious task you always have to do it 108 times.
When we spoke with so-called do-it-yourself-hikers about this, it turned out that most people didn’t know anything about the shrine and some didn’t even see it at all! :-/

Another advantage of having a guide, is that you have access to temples and/or monasteries a lot of other tourists just don’t have access to. As an example we visited a small monastery in Bhraga, just before Manang, that is probably unnoticed to most tourists as it appears closed. Our guide however, knew exactly where to go to find the right person with the key, an old lady, who happily showed us around in this magnificent Buddhist monastery. As a thank you, she blessed us at the end with a small cord around our neck wishing us “good luck” for Thorong-La Pass. :-)

It is definitely also an advantage to have a Nepali-English speaking person to get into contact with the local population. A very nice example of this is the visit of an 800 year old monastery in the recently opened village of Tiri in Upper Mustang (for information, Upper Mustang is one of the restricted areas in Nepal, where you cannot go without a special permit of the government which costs 700 USD for 10 days – recently however, they opened the first village of Upper Mustang to tourism, a thing we knew, thanks to our well-informed guide). The lama was so happy to see foreign visitors, asking a lot of questions and being curious, that he invited us to see his collection of Tibetan medicines including explanations about almost every herb, salt, powder he possessed and then he showed us the 800 year old “Gumpa” (monastery) which had very, very beautiful colored carvings rarely shown to the outside world. The lama was so enthusiastic and explained so well, that we got real insights into Buddhism and we stayed for almost 2 hours (!). At the end he even invited us to drink a tea in the sun. It was a great experience! :-)

Until now we haven’t met any tourist yet who can say he had tea with a lama or a nun, sitting in the sun and lingering over Buddhist insights. But then, they saved a lot of money! ;-)

Vera & Jean-Christophe


  1. Posted December 9, 2007 at 20:37 | Permalink

    What is your experience compared to money? It is all and money is nothing. I’m happy you spent the money cause I have a benefit too;-)

    At the end for some people there your money is a chance to live a little bit better, isn’t it?

  2. Posted December 10, 2007 at 15:00 | Permalink

    Dear Vera and Jan-Christophe, hiring a local guide has a lot of advantages to loearn alot of the real live (this was our experience this year during our trip in Indonesia). They showed us Indonesia in a real sence
    Best wishes
    Giel and Paul

  3. mamma
    Posted December 10, 2007 at 15:38 | Permalink

    Another advantage of having a guide (et non des moindres hi hi hi): ne pas faire mourir de peur la mamma !!!!!

  4. Vera
    Posted December 10, 2007 at 15:42 | Permalink

    @Juergen: I completely agree with you, we just got so much more out of our trip by having somebody actually explaining. And it’s true that here, the guides (the normally paid ones, there are also many, many underpaid ones by “greedy” tourists that only think about themselves) get paid around 8.50 Euros per day (this includes their insurance, accommodation and food) which isn’t much for us really but it allows them to have a normal living.

  5. Vera
    Posted December 10, 2007 at 15:43 | Permalink

    @Ivana: It’s true that that is also a very important reason, but not the first one we thought of! ;-)