I begin this letter while sitting in the Hotel Yak & Yeti in Kathmandu, Nepal preparing to head back to Beijing after a whirlwind visit through the country as part of the Ogilvy-Tsinghua Freshman 'Writing on the Road' programme.
This week has been a milestone in my career. I have lived in Asia for nearly 20 years and never once thought of coming to Nepal. Now that I’m here, I find this country is the best kept secret in Asia.
Ogilvy PR established the Freshman 'Writing on the road' programme with Tsinghua University in 2004 to allow freshmen from the school to step outside of their normal environments and explore other cultures and societies and write about them. Over the years, the programme has taken dozens of promising student writers all over Asia, from Russia to Inner Mongolia to Tibet.
This year I joined the dean of the Tsinghua University Journalism School, Li Xiguang, students and several faculty members on a five-day trek through Nepal as the guests of independent Kathmandu television station TVJ.
Over the past few days we debated best practices in journalism, and discussed local culture, society and politics, and the promise of creating an active tourism trade in Nepal. The students were enthusiastic, knowledgeable and keen to learn.
Although the beauty of Mount Everest is well known, I had no idea of the lively culture and opportunity this country has in the area of tourism. There is something here for everyone including temples, villages, festivals, museums, white water rafting, safaris and trekking. If you want to step away from the usual tourist destinations in Asia and have a raw, natural experience, Nepal is a must-visit.
The highlight of the trip was meeting the president of Nepal, Dr. Ram Baran Yadav, and sharing my views on how to brand the country. This nation of 30 million is situated right between China and India, yet many people in Asia are not aware of its unique culture and beauty.
Is Nepal the new Phuket? No. But it does offer a truly unique experience unlike one you will find in more cosmopolitan destinations and for this reason it is definitely a place to watch.
I am looking forward to my return and sharing this experience with all of you. Let's get our thinking caps on and consider how to brand Nepal together.