DRINKS

Alcoholic Drinks

For a small country, Nepal has a thriving beer industry. The local brands – Star, Golden Tiger, Iceberg and Gold – come in 650mL bottles. Tuborg, Carlsberg, San Miguel, Kingfisher, Guinness and Singha also brew in Nepal, and distribute in cans if you want to carry beer on your trek. However, you can get beer in lodges and teahouses, even in the remotest villages, although the price increases dramatically the further you are from the nearest road.

Despite the traditional Brahman abstin­ence, a lot of alcohol is consumed in Nepal. The local potions are chhang, rakshi and tongba, which can be quite tasty and potent, and there are also numerous Western-style liquors available. The notorious Kukhri Rum makes a fine after-trek drink on cold nights and Jawlalkhel Distilleries produces inexpensive but drinkable gin, vodka and whisky. A few districts in Nepal are dry, in­cluding Jumla, the region near Royal Bar- dia National Park and a few villages in Helambu. Local women and other activists are agitating in several more districts to ban alcohol consumption.

If you decide to sample locally brewed chhang, remember that it is made from water taken straight from the river, not boiled water, although you can feel reasonably safe if you order hot chhang.

Nonalcoholic Drinks

Nepal has all the international brands of soft drinks. All are made in Nepal and distrib­uted in bottles, not cans. The bottle deposits are more than the cost of the drink, so leave the bottle behind when you quaff a Coke at a trailside stall. Locally produced fruit drinks are sold in cardboard cartons and many of these have made their way into the hills, offering a refreshing thirst quencher. Look for mango frooty and apple appy. Because bottles are banned in the Everest region, the only available soft drinks are expensive, imported, canned varieties.

Water

Don’t drink tap water or stream water anywhere. Stick to water you have purified yourself or soft drinks, juices or beer. Bringing water to a boil makes it safe to drink, but it can be difficult to get boiled water on a trek. If you ask an innkeeper if the water is boiled, they will assure you it is, even if it has just been taken from the river. This response illustrates several facets of Nepali culture and temperament. Most hill folks don’t perceive germs. They settle for good-naturally the need of Westerners that their drink be poached, however few folks perceive why. They typically believe Westerners like solely plight. Another thought is that Nepalis prefer to please others and dislike responsive any question negatively. additionally, hotels don’t prefer to prepare poached water as a result of it uses fuel and takes up area on the stove, and that they can’t charge for the service.A better way to ensure safe drinking water is to treat it with iodine. This method is easy and does not consume scarce fuel.

Don’t Drink Mineral Water on a Trek

A recent phenomenon in the hills is the large-scale use of bottled mineral water by trekkers. So-called mineral water is produced in both India and Nepal and is always packaged in sealed plastic bottles. Assuming you get a genuine bottle, what you are usually getting is tap water that has been filtered and passed by an ultraviolet light, a process supposed to purify the water. What you really get could be anything.

What happens to the bottle when you drink this litre of water? It is not recyclable, it is of no use to anyone, it is not biodegradable (ever) and it is bulky. Empty mineral-water bottles have surpassed pink Chinese toilet paper as the prime eyesore of the Nepal Himalaya.

There are many ways to obtain safe drinking water. All these are described in detail in the Health & Safety chapter. If you don’t like the taste of iodine, bring flavoring. Vitamin C tablets are also said to kill the iodine taste, but be sure you let the iodine do its work before you add the vitamin C or flavoring. You can also purchase bottled soft drinks wherever you find mineral water. These come in glass bottles, which are valuable enough that trash collectors wander the hills collecting bottles to carry back to Kathmandu for refilling. An economic incentive to avoiding mineral water is that a bottle of mineral water costs Rs 50 or more in the hills, and water treated with iodine is almost free.

Hot Drinks

Another way to ensure you have a safe drink is to consume lots of tea. A properly made cup of tea will be made with boiled water. Throughout Nepal a cup of tea is served with a large dollop of milk and pre-sweetened with sugar. If you want to avoid this, order ‘black tea’ (it’s also cheaper than milk tea). A cup of tea in a trekking lodge is usually served in a glass. It takes a bit of practice to drink the hot tea without burning your fingers. When the ‘glass’ is made of stainless steel, you’ll probably have to break out a handkerchief in order to hold it.

If you want to avoid caffeine, try the herbal teas that are made in Nepal. Most hotels within the hills don’t give them, however you’ll be able to obtain a provide in most outlets in Thamel. Another smart caffeine-free drink is hot lemon, that is offered all over.