Wedged between India and China, geographically, diminutive Nepal was long kept closed to outsiders by its autocractic ruling Rana dynasty. In the Western imagination, the country embodied the mythic mountain utopia of Shangri-La, much like neighboring Tibet. Following the end of isolationism in 1951, Nepal quickly became a popular destination for Western mountaineers, adventurers, and people interested in Asian culture. In 1953, New Zealander Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay made their landmark ascent of Everest, an event followed by a golden age of Nepali tourism. A decade later, hundreds of thousands of middle-class young people from Europe and the United States ventured off to travel across Europe and Asia, often traveling to Kathmandu in a rejection of the dominant cultural values of the ...

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