As extravagantly beautiful the trails stretching from Jomsom-Muktinath (a part of Annapurna Circuit Trek) are, there are some really weirdly cool stuffs that you might witness as you devour the journey. But you don’t have to worry, it has nothing to do with the optimum possibility that you shall return home (from 3800 meters) a rich storyteller- to tell people that you have eaten the YacDonald’s burger and been where Bob Marley and Jimi Hendrix, supposedly had been. Haha! Fact or Fallacy? Well a lot of them still unanswered.
Okay, let’s get started!
1. Did Jimi Hendrix Actually Visit Nepal?
It is said that Jimi Hendrix visited Nepal in October 1967, following the Hippie trails, round the Annapurna Circuit. On his visit, he stayed at a hotel in Jomsom (far-flung area of Jomsom actually), which is currently named as ‘Thak Khola Lodge and Jimi Hendrix Restaurant’. Mark it.. ‘Room no 6’, that’s where he stayed (That’s what they say!). And taking pride, at present, the signboard lures the visitors stating ‘Your chance to stay in the same lodge as Jimi Hendrix’. How can one even miss the opportunity to stay in the same room where the greatest artist rested his head on! The evidence? -A stone scribbled ‘If I don’t see you in this world I’ll see you in the next one don’t be late- Jimi Hendrix- Jomsom Oct 67”.
But, did Jimi even get time to visit Nepal in such a short lifespan of his, and especially 67, the year he had his first album released, is very questionable! As we dig deep, Jimi released his first single ‘Hey Joe’ in 1967 which was a smasher, soon proliferating his career with other crowd-pullers like ‘Purple Haze’ and ‘The wind cries Mary’. He was extremely busy touring around to promote his first album and flying to and fro America and Sweden that year. Also, towards the end of ‘67, Jimi released his second album ‘Axis: Bold as Love’ (Reference: http://www.biography.com/people/jimi-hendrix-9334756#career-breakthrough).
So, it is very controversial to state that Jimi took a tour to Nepal during the turning point of his career (October 1967). Also, no concrete evidence proves that he had any interest in Hippie movement.
Whatever the fact be, seems like Jimi has been the godfather to some businesses back in Jomsom eh!
2. What is the secret behind the popularity of Bob Marley Hotel at Muktinath?
It is believed that Bob Marley visited Muktinath and the place he ate, later metamorphosized as ‘Bob Marley Hotel’. The same controversial question as for Jimi Hendrix arises here again. Did Bob Marley visit Muktinath? The biography of the raggae king (pretty well accounted) does not suggest that he travelled to Nepal in 70s. That year he had been struggling to sustain his livelihood in Jamaica. The resource constraint and lack of time inclines the statement towards being a hoax. When he finally was able to travel, he went to unearth his Rastafarian roots in Africa in 1978.
We are not to decide if the enchanting voice of the popular star was heard on the foot of Muktinath temple or not. But is this alone the reason why the hotel is so renowned? Not really.
Besides the legend, the thing that everybody ballyhoos about Bob Marley Hotel in Muktinath is the food– The deserts to be specific! Another fun fact about the gala place is the common sight of people smoking pot. No wonder the dessert is so mouthwatering! Is it the chef or the marijuana trip, we shall leave it up to you to find out!
3. Why did YacDonalds change it’s logo?
Sheltering in Kagbeni, ‘Hotel Mustang Gateway and YacDonalds Restaurants’ is one of the top ranked hotels in the area that serves the visitors with yummy burgers and oh, They’re Loving It! Something sounds familiar? Spot on! The name of the restaurant twins with the world’s favourite burger point, McDonalds and what a co-incidence, the speciality of YacDonald’s is also their burgers, happy meal and fries. Many stop by to munch on these famous burgers during the trek.
So the question, Is YacDonalds the baby brother of McDonalds or a franchised dealer? Oh no no. YacDonalds is a mere replica of McDonalds in the Himalayan Kingdom. Because, replicating a famous brand is directly proportional to success. A great marketing gimic, ain’t it? (Let’s accept it, Non ‘Donalds’ names are so uncool!) Another fun fact, the signboard that reads ‘Mustang Gateway’ with a yak-like ‘M’ structure and ‘Yac Donalds’ that doesn’t even spell ‘Yak’, didn’t used to be the same. Few years back, the logo of ‘Mustang Gateway and YacDonald’s Restaurant’ happened to be the same famous ‘M’ as MacDonald’s.
Rumor has it that McDonald’s India even sent an official letter to change the logo. What are the odds that could have been the reason for the name change!
P.S Not just the twin brother of McDonalds, you can also find Applebees and 7Eleven in Kagbeni. If you think this is crazily awesome, you should witness the crazily hypnotising trails of Jomsom-Muktinath trek as well.
4. Is Yartung in Muktinath worth it?
Yartung is celebrated every year in the trans-Himalayan region (especially Mustang) to mark the end of monsoon. It is the time of the year when a huge fair is held accompanied by days long series of merry-making. Finally after all the hardworking days in the fields, the land is ready for harvest. That’s when the Mustangi air fills with festivity, for everybody is geared up to celebrate, and just celebrate! The main charm of the festival is the exuberant horse racing in the horse riding kingdom itself. Yartung officially starts in the walled city of Lomanthang, where the royal family and locals gather with their horses all set in spirit to relieve the stress and race. The sight is so lively and eye pleasing as the environment is decorated with people in traditional clothes and horses. All the men and women feast and drink in a fair amount, Shebru dances are performed. That is the beauty of Yartung. While in Muktinath, the festival is celebrated after a few days with a huge fair, on the full moon day.
But, Is Yartung at Muktinath really worth it? Well, not really. Muktinath has turned into a very touristy place. The horse racing and other competitions like football and archery is still conducted and people from various clubs, nearby areas and villages participate to make the festival jolly. However, the authenticity and traditional touch to the festival is all gone. The modern youths’ participation is mostly witnessed while it seems like the older people aren’t very amused to get sunk in the mood of Yartung due to lack of originality. The whole of Muktinath, a night prior to the full moon day (Janai Purnima) is fully drunk. Reality– The sublime festivity adulterated by the drunken vibes; and haywire crowd dancing to the beats of modern day pop stars, making noises at comedians’ acts and hooting at almost everything! (Bummer!) The only thing speaking is booze! The main day of the fair is a fine sight, but you know it starts very late because of the hangover of the previous night.
So, if you are anticipated to witness the authentic Yartung better, go to Lo-manthang instead! Or end up dancing to the peppy India Joshi songs with beer bottle in one hand. Choice is yours!
5. Why are the wierdly exotic human structures in Kagbeni there?
Kagbeni was originally smaller than the current settlement and was surrounded by a defensive wall. Considering the fact that Kagbeni was once an important place in terms of the salt trade, there used to be constant tension in the area which is why the defensive wall makes sense. These walls had two entry/exit gates which were guarded by human guards back then. Only about a century ago when the need for guards faded, were they replaced by Khenis (ghost eaters) representing a man and a woman. And the makers have made it very evident; you can clearly figure out which one is the male and which one is the female.
These statues must be really excited to guard their village. These khenis are grotesque primitive figures which reflect age-old animistic beliefs (Bon) which were practiced here before the advent of Tibetan Buddhism in the 11th century.