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Far Out

Countercultural Seekers and the Tourist Encounter in Nepal

Far Out

Countercultural Seekers and the Tourist Encounter in Nepal

Westerners have long imagined the Himalayas as the world’s last untouched place and a repository of redemptive power and wisdom. Beatniks, hippie seekers, spiritual tourists, mountain climbers—diverse groups of people have traveled there over the years, searching for their own personal Shangri-La. In Far Out, Mark Liechty traces the Western fantasies that captured the imagination of tourists in the decades after World War II, asking how the idea of Nepal shaped the everyday cross-cultural interactions that it made possible.
Emerging from centuries of political isolation but eager to engage the world, Nepalis struggled to make sense of the hordes of exotic, enthusiastic foreigners. They quickly embraced the phenomenon, however, and harnessed it to their own ends by building tourists’ fantasies into their national image and crafting Nepal as a premier tourist destination. Liechty describes three distinct phases: the postwar era, when the country provided a Raj-like throwback experience for rich Americans; Nepal’s emergence as an exotic outpost of hippie counterculture in the 1960s; and its rebranding into a hip adventure destination, which began in the 1970s and continues today. He shows how Western projections of Nepal as an isolated place inspired creative enterprises and, paradoxically, allowed locals to participate in the global economy. Based on twenty-five years of research, Far Out blends ethnographic analysis, a lifelong passion for Nepal, and a touch of humor to produce the first comprehensive history of what tourists looked for—and found—on the road to Kathmandu.

392 pages | 22 halftones | 6 x 9 | © 2017

Anthropology: Cultural and Social Anthropology

Asian Studies: General Asian Studies

History: Asian History, General History


“The interested and careful reader is regularly reminded of the consistent ways that we inevitably construct and find whatever it is for which we search.”

International Journal of Hindu Studies

Far Out is a wonderful book. Part cultural history, part urban anthropology, it provides a deep and rich account of the changing contours of the East-West encounter in legendary Kathmandu over much of the twentieth century. This book will change skeptics’ minds about the serious intellectual value of tourism studies.”

Sherry Ortner, University of California, Los Angeles

“Liechty masterfully untangles colorful skeins of stories surrounding the fabled countercultural draw of young Westerners to Nepal. He follows threads backward to Nepal’s history and the nineteenth-century Western fascination with Himalayan mysteries; outwards to geopolitical transformations enabling mass travel in the mid-twentieth century; and forward to the responses of Nepalis through transformed youth culture, tourist infrastructure, literary accounts, and reminiscences. Far Out spins a many-stranded cultural history of encounter.”

Kirin Narayan, author of My Family and Other Saints

"This is an extraordinary case study of how the exoticism of people and place can end up shaping a country’s self-identity as well as how it is perceived on the international stage. If you are looking for a textbook study of fluidity in tourism branding and promotion, and in particular how they change in response to external factors, this book meets that mark well."

South Asia Research

Table of Contents


Part One: The Golden Age

Chapter One: Building the Road to Kathmandu: Steps in the West’s Journey to the East
Chapter Two: Making Nepal a Destination: The Cultural Politics of Early Tourism
Chapter Three: Mountains, Monsters, and Monks: Nepal in the 1950s Western Popular Imagination
Chapter Four: The Key to an Oriental World: Boris Lissanevitch, Kathmandu's Royal Hotel, and the “Golden Age” of Tourism in Nepal
Chapter Five: Jung Bahadur Coapsingha: John Coapman, Hunting, and the Origins of Adventure Tourism in Nepal

Part 2: Hippie Nepal

Chapter Six: The Great Rucksack Revolution: Western Youth on the Road to Kathmandu
Chapter Seven: “Kathmandu or Bust”: Countercultural Longing and the Rise of Freak Street
Chapter Eight: “Something Big and Glorious and Magnificently Insane”: Hippie Kathmandu
Chapter Nine: Hippie Ko Pala (The Age of Hippies)
Chapter Ten: Nepal’s Discovery of Tourism and the End of the Hippie Era

Part 3: Adventure Tourism

Chapter Eleven: Adventure Nepal: Trekking, Thamel, and the New Tourism
Chapter Twelve: Imbibing Eastern Wisdom: Nepal as Dharma Destination


Anthropology of Tourism Interest Group: Ed Bruner Book Award

The Himalayan Club: Kekoo Naoroji Award for Mountain Literature

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