As a foreign traveller in Nepal, it’s easy to meet and talk to a lot of Nepali men. Most guides are men; men are the point of contact at most travel companies; and although many women work in shops and restaurants in Kathmandu or in family-run enterprises, most Nepalis working in the tourism and service industry are men. So, it was wonderful to spend some quality time with local Tharu women at the Barauli Community Homestay in Chitwan.
This ‘homestay’—which is really more like a village stay, as guests get their own small house situated within a village compound, and eat most meals in a dining hall—was established early in 2015. The intention behind it is to provide an income for the local women. They work as waitresses and cooks, host cooking classes within their own kitchens, and act as local guides, escorting visitors on village walks and bike rides.
Young Jeevan Kumari was all three rolled into one, and a good hostess during my two-day visit to Barauli. Born and raised in this rural Chitwan community, her English is extremely good, and I asked her how. “All credit goes to my father,” she replied. “He worked in the USA, and spoke to me in English since I was young.”
The community of Barauli is home to a few hotels and lodges, but is generally a much quieter, less spoilt and more ‘local’ kind of place than Sauraha, where many visitors to Chitwan head. During a guided evening bike ride around the village, past vibrant green rice paddies, immaculate mud homes with giant piles of hay outside, and down to the banks of the Narayani River for a blood-orange sunset, you may be the only tourist around. This bike ride was a highlight of my stay in Barauli, as I got to see Tharu village life close-up.
The second highlight was spotting nine one-horned rhinoceros during my jeep safari through the Chitwan National Park. With around 600 of the giant animals in the park, a rhino sighting is all but guaranteed. Jeevan reassured me an electric wire discourages the rhinos from leaving the park and rampaging through the villages, as has happened in the past. You can be confident that a stay at the Barauli Community Homestay will be peaceful, relaxing, and that the largest animal you will encounter will be a domestic cow.