Of all the experiences I was most nervous about in Nepal, I have to say, doing a homestay (i.e. staying with a local family) was probably one of the biggest.
There was no rationale to my nervousness either. I just had no idea what to expect and after being so used to being in control of where I stayed (and to a large extent – what I ate), it was just an idea that took some getting used to.
To set some context, I’d never done a homestay prior to this, the only time I’ve done any couch surfing of any kind was when at Uni, we’d all go and stay at a friend’s parent’s place for the weekend and even then, I almost always bagsied the spare rooms. I’ve never even stayed in a hostel so staying in someone’s home just had me a bit more nervous than it really should have.
Turns out, I had nothing to be nervous about whatsoever! But more on that later…
We started off our morning with a quick ride over to Palpa, which is the wider area where the town of Tansen is – Tansen is where we would be staying with a local family.
We stopped off at a temple on the way (not planned, just one we saw as we were driving by)…
…appreciating the scenery, along with the opportunity to stretch our legs.
Before carrying on to Tansen…
In Tansen, we got a rather unexpectedly warm welcome! Turns out, we would all be staying with different families across the town and everyone had heard about this and was fairly excited to see us (if I do say so myself – haha!). Understandably, Tansen is not a tourist hotspot so getting to meet people outside of Nepal was something the locals were quite pleased about.
We were welcomed with the bindis (red dots on our foreheads), flowers, hats for the guys and scarves for the girls and a lot of dancing.
Oh, by the way, Tansen is a lot higher in elevation than Lumbini and Chitwan so not only was it a lot cooler, but there were also no insects biting you (though to be fair, I didn’t notice many insect bites in Lumbini or Chitwan).
Eventually, we were introduced to our host, Man Mohan Shrestha, a retired teacher.
We very quickly settled into our rooms, me being the gracious, kind, generous (and of course, humble 😀 ) one of the two of us – gave Lloyd the bigger of the two beds. 🙂
We then headed up (there are like 4 or 5 floors in the building) for lunch before going out to explore the town.
Now, remember how nervous I was about doing a homestay? I’ve got to say, it is a huge credit to our host and his family how quickly I settled in and felt comfortable. We mostly spent time with him and his daughter and he’s one of the funniest and nicest people we met in Nepal!
Turns out, we weren’t the only ones that thought so as he showed us guide books from (I think it was the Lonely Planet and Rough Guides) where they had written about him specifically and all about how amazing he was – something he took great pride in!
Also, I didn’t expect this but the wifi here is super fast! Like faster than it is in our friend’s places back in London!
Lunch here essentially involves topping up your food constantly until you strongly decline any more food. They don’t like to leave you hungry and as you can tell, I was very pleased about that. (For those who were wondering, you also get bottled water so you’re fine on that front too).
Back outside, we pretty much just wandered around the town, sans maps and very much sans plans, stopping to say hi to the inquisitive little kids who wondered what we were doing in their home town. 🙂
The locals stopped to say to us and even this group of girls who belonged to a dance group and were hurrying off to their dance event stopped to say hello.
Stuff like this totally makes you settle in very quickly here. The attention isn’t overwhelming either, it’s not like people are constantly staring at your or trying to get your attention; they just respond to you positively if you’re looking to have a conversation or say hi – it’s brilliant!
We stopped for a few minutes while the rain came down – a perfect opportunity to get to meet more people and once it cleared made our way over to the main temple in the town.
Eventually, we decided to kick back for a bit with some beers and a huge plate of momos (the dumplings I mentioned before).
The rest of the evening was spent back at our homestay discussing till late in the night with our host family over dinner and more drinks, before settling in for a brilliant night’s sleep! (Not sure if it was from being so tired or being so comfortable – I very much suspect it was the latter – but I slept so well here! 😄)
The next morning, after a breakfast of pancakes, an omelette, bananas and sweet milky tea, we bade farewell to our host family and hit the road again!
A homestay in Nepal isn’t something I think I’d have done by default (I just don’t think I’d have even considered it) but boy, am I glad I did!
It’s such a great way to get to know people, to see more of the real Nepal outside of hotels and other tourist attractions and leave feeling like you’ve seen more of Nepal than most people would. I totally recommend doing it, even if just for a night as you make your way through this amazing country.