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The VolunTourist™ is a premium Newsletter for the Travel Trade. For those interested in discovering what is happening in the world of VolunTourism™ and seeking emerging practices, general information, and case studies, this is your Source.

Volume 4 Issue 3 Highlights

 

WEEKLY WEBCAST

Tuesdays 10am ET/7am PT

Supply Chain

Social Tours, Social Treks, and Nepal VolunTourism

When we discuss the role of business in the improvement of society as a whole and in the realm of VolunTourism, in particular, it is important to have some examples in the market space to which we may refer. Social Tours and its companion firm, Social Treks, represent such examples. In fact, they have a "social mission" that reads as follows: To operate the company in a way that actively recognizes the central role that business plays in the structure of society by initiating ways to improve the quality of life of a broad community: local, national and international.

A Brief History & Background On Social Tours & Social Treks

Social Tours travel & Social Treks adventures is a small Nepalese owned travel company based in the heart of Kathmandu’s tourist district, Thamel. It comprises of two companies; SocialTours.com travels, the flagship tour company and SocialTreks.com adventures, the specialist trekking company. (Under Nepalese law, tour companies are allowed to sell treks but not organise them. Hence the trekking arm.) The small team of individuals work closely together to provide our clients with the utmost satisfaction as well as provide our guides and the local community where we run our trips equal benefits.

Social Tours travels & Social Treks adventures was born out of the desire to build a small business around strong corporate social responsibility to prove it possible to make a profit with this at the heart of the business.

Whist working for an export company in 1998 Raj Gyawali, the founder of Social Tours travels & Social Treks adventures, organised a charity trip for a group of British students to visit Nepal with the purpose of sponsoring a cataract eye camp and a boarding school in the village of Shermathang. Organising this trip ignited Raj’s interest in the concept of social tourism.

The Philosophy Of Social Tours & Social Treks

Social Tours travel & Social Treks adventures envisions a global community supporting social development through tourism and is dedicated to the creation and demonstration of a new corporate concept of linked prosperity. Our mission consists of three interrelated parts:

product mission

To provide visitors to Nepal memorable holiday experiences through proper planning and implementation of tours exceeding each holidaymaker’s expectations.

social mission

To operate the company in a way that actively recognizes the central role that business plays in the structure of society by initiating ways to improve the quality of life of a broad community: local, national and international.

economic mission

To operate the company on a sound financial basis of profitable growth, increasing value for shareholders and creating career opportunities and financial rewards for our employees.

Underlying the mission of Social Tours is the determination to seek new and creative ways of addressing all three parts, while holding a deep respect for individuals, inside and outside the company, and for the communities of which they are a part. All business that Social Tours does is based on the following values:

respect for every individual

Businesses are like families. Every person has a different role to play which when played well, will create a happy family. Every person in the family deserves respect and each and every issue the players have require special attention.

honesty & integrity

Honesty is the best policy. An open, honest business will always make steady progress, however slow. Also, honesty always pays dividends.

continued excellence in delivery

Quality is never to be compromised. It is the strongest marketer of products and the only element which creates lasting impressions. Quality can always be improved on.

social responsibility of business

Every business has a commitment towards society as a whole as businesses would not be there if society was not there. Giving back to society is the only way businesses can fulfill this commitment.

money is never the only goal

Profits and money have to be made but never by means that go against values. Making a business successful is a Dharma (a spiritual good) for the society, the workers and the family and results in a good Karma

importance of environmental conservation

The environment is our greatest asset and needs preservation. Exploiting nature is short term and yields unsustainable dividends whereas protecting nature yields spiritually rewarding and sustainable dividends.

Unique Social Tours Voluntary Service Projects:

As an organisation we do not directly provide volunteer opportunities. Our position is to facilitate a match between the volunteers and the local projects here in Nepal. The local organisations have needs which exist at certain times and not at certain times, and so what we do is only offer a generalised list of activities in which people could volunteer, such as education, psychological counseling, physiotherapy, etc. This system ensures that the local organisation will only receive volunteers who meet their needs and capacities.

At present we work with People and Places in the UK, who also works on extensive placement matching systems for itself and with United Planet in the US, where we are responsible for the entire matching process.

Unique Social Tours & Social Treks Tourism-Related Activities:

The people in the mountains of Nepal are the fittest people. A combination of living in the pure atmosphere, devoid of pollutants, good level of exercise on a daily basis and good food, full of nutrients and lacking excess fats, are the main factors that contribute to this state of health. We thought we should offer this, combined with ancient techniques like yoga, to custom design a trip that results in a changed state of health, a kick-start into a new lifestyle.

Another one of our more unique treks is the ‘Full Moon Festival & Shamanism Trek’. One of Nepal's most famous religious places of pilgrimage is Gosainkunda lake situated at an altitude of about 4312 m. Surrounded by high mountains on the north and east, this lake is grand and picturesque. Every year during Janai Purnima in August, thousands of Hindu pilgrims come here for pilgrimage and it is quite a sight.

The large rock in the center of the lake is said to be the remains of a Shiva shrine and it is also claimed that the channel carries water from the lake directly to the tank at the Kumbheshwar Temple in Patan, 60 km to the south. Shamans ("Dhami") come from all over Nepal to the lake and on nights of the full moon.

Social Tours/Social Treks Philosophy

product mission

To provide visitors to Nepal memorable holiday experiences through proper planning and implementation of tours exceeding each holidaymaker’s expectations.

social mission

To operate the company in a way that actively recognizes the central role that business plays in the structure of society by initiating ways to improve the quality of life of a broad community: local, national and international.

economic mission

To operate the company on a sound financial basis of profitable growth, increasing value for shareholders and creating career opportunities and financial rewards for our employees.

There is much dancing and singing. This day is considered holy by the shamans whereby apprentices or "Jhankris" graduate into full shamans. This trek is truly a unique and memorable experience!

Social Treks Sample Itinerary:

(Please keep in mind that voluntary service activities are not included in this sample itinerary. They will be custom designed for any travelers that select any Social Tours/Social Treks itinerary.)

Tamang Heritage Trail

The ‘Tamang Heritage Trail’, once used by Tibetan traders, is a recently developed tourism product initiated by the Tourism for Rural Poverty Alleviation Program. This off the beaten track trail highlights an ancient lifestyle combined with picturesque scenery and natural hot springs.

The people of this region are mainly Tibetans who arrived from Kerung, just across the border, and settled in Nepal. At this time, citizenship of Nepal was not offered to Tibetans, so to circumvent this rule they changed their ethnicity to Tamang. The culture and traditions of the Tamang people remain very similar to the Tibetans.

The Langtang Region, Nepal’s third most popular trekking destination, takes just 8 hours to reach from the capital, Kathmandu. The trail is a 7-day trek and includes a wealth of traditional architecture, culture and breathtaking scenery.

Kathmandu Day 1

Today is arrival day in Kathmandu! A member of the soicaltours.com travel & socialtreks.com adventures team will meet you at the airport and transferred to your hotel. This evening a trip briefing will take place to make sure you are all set to go.

Accommodation: Hotel in Kathmandu

Kathmandu Day 2

Today we offer a short heritage tour of the Kathmandu Valley. This tour includes the UNESCO World Heritage Monument of Kathmandu Durbar Square, situated in the heart of the Old Town; Swayambhunath temple often more affectionately known as ‘Monkey Temple’, due to the troop of monkeys that call it home; Pashupatinath, Nepal’s most important temple situated to the east of the city on the banks of the holy Bagmati Koshi (river) and lastly one of the world’s largest stupas in the Tibetan district of Bodhnath.

The evening is left free for any last minute preparations before setting off tomorrow.

Accommodation: Hotel in Kathmandu

Kathmandu to Syabrubesi (2720m) Day 3

It’s an early start today as the drive to Syabrubesi takes around 8 hours. On the way the road winds through many beautiful villages in the foothills of the Langtang mountain range until we reach the village of Syabrubesi where our journey begins.

Accommodation: Teahouse in the village of Syabrubesi.

Syabrubesi to Gatlang (2238m) Day 4

This morning we start our day with an 1 1/ 2-hour ascent to reach a viewpoint from where we can see the Ganesh Himal and Gosaikunda mountain ranges and the Goljang Valley. After taking in this spectacular view we head down into the Goljang Valley where we stop for lunch, about an hour walk. From here we trek for a further 3 hours until we reach the beautiful Tamang village of Gatlang. Upon arrival you will be welcomed by Khada (a white scarf place around the neck), Rakshi (a homemade local drink) and the traditional welcome song, sang in the local language. Now it’s time to relax and enjoy the local Syabru dance.

Accommodation: Tamang Community lodge in the village of Gatlang.

Gatlang to Tatopani (2607m) Day 5

Today is the longest day of the entire trip and will take about 7 hours. We start the day by descending to Thangbuchet, near the village of Chilime. Here we stop for our lunch, alongside the Bhote Koshi and next to the Chilime Hydropower dam. After lunch we follow the trail up towards the hanging bridge crossing. Our climb continues until we reach the village of Tatopani, literally meaning 'hot water', were we stop for the night. This gives you plenty of time to wallow in the village’s natural hot springs! Locals believe the springs have healing qualities and will eases away the day’s aches and pains.

Accommodation: Local teahouse in the village of Tatopani.

Tatopani to Thuman (2338m) Day 6

This morning starts with a 2 to 3 hour walk towards the village of Brimdang were we stop for lunch. After lunch we continue our ascent to the viewpoint of Nagthali Danda (3165m), a high open grassland with amazing views of snow covered Himalayas. Whilst taking in the views we take time to stop for a cup of tea prepared by the caretaker of the Gompa (monastery). Our trek continues down to the Tamang village of Thuman, a 2 to 3 hour downhill trek, were we will be welcomed by the friendly people who love to sing and dance! The ancient monasteries and houses adorned with rich wood engravings of the village is an unforgettable experience.

Accommodation: Local teahouse in the village of Thuman.

Thuman to Briddhim (2229m) Day 7

We start the day with a nice flat piece of trail and then descend to the village of Timure, just 3 hours walk south of the Tibetan border. Here we stop for lunch. After lunch we follow the trail for around 3 hours till we reach the Tamang village of Briddim. Tonight’s accommodation is with one of the 24 families who participate in the villages home stay scheme. This is truly a unique experience! Each host family provides a clean bed, toilet and a family dining room. You will get to enjoy an evening with the host family, eating traditional foods, observe the local indoor rituals and cultural practices. After dinner the locals gather in their traditional costume to perform cultural songs and dances, welcoming the visitors. The host family will guide you, explaining the special features of the village, showing the live craftsmanship and giving you an opportunity to buy traditional handicraft.

Accommodation: Tamang homestay in the village of Briddim.

Briddim to Syabrubesi (2720m) Day 8

After breakfast, we follow the trail down to the village of Syabrubesi, just a 3-hour walk from Briddim. Here we have lunch and rest of the day is free.

Accommodation: Local teahouse in the village of Syabrubesi.

Syabrubesi to Kathmandu Day 9

Today it’s an early morning breakfast followed by our drive back to Kathmandu.

Accommodation: Hotel in Kathmandu

Kathmandu Day 10

Free until departure to airport.

Contact Information:

Social Tours (www.socialtours.com) &
Social Treks (www.socialtreks.com)
Kathmandu Offices
Tridevi Marg, Thamel, Kathmandu, Nepal
Telephone: +9771.4412508

Email: info@socialtreks.com
Contact: Raj Gyawali

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