By Tsering Choephel
DHARAMSALA, 10 May: The border between Nepal and Tibet has been reopened after three years, albeit with new rules introduced by Beijing much to disappointment of Nepali tour operators, traders and workers.
Hopes and excitement of touring agencies and awaiting pilgrims have been complicated by the unexpected rules imposed by Chinese authorities.
According to the Kathmandu Post, the new rules require Nepali firms operating tours to Kailash Manasarovar to deposit $60,000 or 8 million (Nepalese Rupee) each to send pilgrims to Tibet.
China has also increased what they called “the grass damage charge” for Nepali workers entering Tibet to $300 per person from $100, the report added.
While the Nepal government has waived the visa fee for Chinese visitors since the beginning of 2016, Chinese authorities have, in contrast, increased the visa fee for Nepali workers from Rs 4,200 to Rs 13,000 for a 15-day stay as per the new rule.
Additionally, Biometric details have also been made compulsory for Nepali workers to obtain a visa while earlier it used to be collected at the immigration office at the border point.
The new rule also requires Indian pilgrims to be in a group of at least five people in order to obtain visas, and at least four of them should be present physically.
Since the reopening of borders, Nepali tour operators say that they have been overwhelmed with bookings from Indian pilgrims. However, Nepali tour agencies believe that these new regulations are designed to control the entry of foreign pilgrims, particularly Indians.
“We are in a total dilemma due to the new rules which will discourage Indian pilgrims from going on the holy journey,” Basu Adhikari, managing director of Touch Kailash Travel and Treks has told The Kathmandu Post.
The long list of rules “was filled with hassles for both Indians and Nepalis,” added Adhikari.
Three prominent travel and tour operators—Nepal Association of Tour and Travel Agents, Trekking Agencies Association of Nepal and Association of Kailash Tour Operators Nepal—have submitted a memorandum to the Chinese Ambassador to Nepal Chen Song urging him to help simplify the movement of pilgrims, the report added.
Mount Kailash or Gang Rinpoche (in Tibetan) is an important part of Mythology of both Hinduism and Tibetan Buddhism and therefore, is a sacred site of pilgrimage to devotees of both religions. Indian pilgrims make up the major bulk of those who visit Kailash through tour agencies in Nepal.