Stranded Vietnamese in Nepal yearn for home

By Viet Anh   June 10, 2020 | 03:30 am PT
After a trip to Nepal, 19 Vietnamese remain stuck in a lockdown aimed to fight the Covid-19 pandemic.

"Of the group, 16 are stuck in Kathmandu, with three others in two different provinces," Phuoc Loc, a representative in contact with the Vietnamese Embassy in India, told VnExpress.

Loc arrived in Nepal on March 9 to climb Everest and visit Lumbini, the birthplace of Buddha. At the time, Vietnam had recorded its 17th Covid-19 infection, with all 16 previous cases having been treated successfully. In Nepal, only one case was reported.

After flying to Annapurna Base Camp on March 20, Loc decided to book a flight to Vietnam the following day, instead of going to Lumbini. However, the flight was canceled as the South Asian country implemented travel restriction on March 24.

"I did not expect that Nepal would implement its coronavirus lockdown that quickly," he said.

In Kathmandu, Loc has been staying with a local family, whose incomes are decreasing due to the pandemic. As Hindus eat no beef or pork, Loc survived on chicken, goat, potatoes and beans.

A man sits in front of a closed tea shop in Kathmandu on April 5, 2020. Photo by Shuttlestock/Corey OHara.

A man sits in front of a closed tea shop in Kathmandu on April 5, 2020. Photo by Shuttlestock/Corey OHara.

Paying around $300 per month in utilities and for food, the traveler lost six kilograms in two months.

Loc struggled to remain at ease as the number of Covid-19 infections in Nepal reached 3,700, with 14 deaths. Rumor has it "the virus falls asleep after 5 p.m.," so many Nepalese venture out after dusk, spit and rarely wash their hands, often used to eat.

While Loc can afford local living costs, many other Vietnamese in the group have to rely on free food handed out at local restaurants.

With several countries easing their lockdown, Loc's group plans to fly to Bangladesh, where several Vietnamese, some from Sri Lanka, have been stuck, before flying home. The cost is estimated to hit $1,500 per traveler.

Around 5,000 Vietnamese have been repatriated amid the pandemic. The Vietnamese Embassy in India has also contacted Loc's group, though it has yet to confirm their repatriation flight.

"I want to return to Vietnam soon because I am concerned about my health, and work is waiting at home," Loc lamented.

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