|View of Sauraha|
Sauraha, a little village that sits on the outer edge of the Chitwan National Park in the lowlands of southern Nepal, slept through most of the last half of the 20th century.
|A working Sauraha girl|
That was then.
Sauraha is not sleeping anymore. In fact, it is wide awake and rarin' to go.
Since a big bridge was built to open access to Sauraha, oxcarts and horse-drawn wagons have been replaced by motorcycles, tourist buses and automobiles.
|A wild Chitwan rhino|
The first time I came here, 18 years ago, the few lodges that catered to visitors used noisy generators to light rooms and dining halls. A person needed to be careful not to bump into a rhino in the village after the sun went down. Now electricity is not only used to light over 100 lodges and hotels, but also to electrify fences to keep the rhinos in the park and away from unsuspecting tourists.
And downtown Sauraha, an area that once closed down at sunset, is now alight with restaurants and shops and the sounds of Bob Marley and Guns N’ Roses often fill the air.
Of course, all of this "progress" is a mixed blessing. The commercialization of my little village has caused only a little loss of innocence. Please know that Sauraha is not yet ready to challenge the Las Vegas strip or Monte Carlo. In fact, the next step up would be street lights.
But the growth is good for the local folks. Everybody is working in the tourist business. Even the women are earning a few bucks washing hotel sheets and pillow cases — although I'm sure they aren't being paid very much, unfortunately. Any Trade Unionists out there are more than welcome to come and organize the "downtrodden masses”.
Regarding the value of land around these parts, the talk is that "one could buy a house in Sauraha or a condo in New York." What’s even better? Almost all of the roads are now paved!
With comfy hotels and lodges, a stunning national park, navigable roads and restaurants, it’s really becoming the place to be. You (yes you, dear reader) should come visit sometime. The people love visitors, and it’s good to boost the local economy (especially one that’s slowly employing more women).
Stay tuned for more reports from my little village.