The entire Himalayan region is something like a mythical land to many people around the world. Known for its unique cultures, towering mountains, and serene reputation, it can begin to seem almost utopian to some. Or at the very least, it looks like a place that’s thoroughly different than the rest of the world.
Some of these perceptions may be entirely fair. However, there’s also a good chance that if you’re preparing a trip to the Himalayas, you’ve bought into a few myths about the area. The mild air of mystery that surrounds the region in the eyes of many internationals ultimately leads to a degree of myth-making and fictionalization, which is to say there are some fairly common misconceptions about the Himalayas. These are just some you may want to be aware of.
Again, the Himalayan region projects an air of mystery to much of the world, and within this perception, there are undoubtedly people who imagine whole secret countries or kingdoms within the mountains. That might sound silly until you consider something like the widely popular video game Far Cry 4, which was set in a fictional land called Kyrat in the Himalayas. The game’s makers were actually careful to establish some degree of accuracy, saying they wanted to find the kind of place that was on the edge of the map, and which would have a history of political instability. The result is a reasonably believable fiction that millions of gamers dove right into. But rest assured: there are not secret kingdoms nestled in the mountain ranges, though there has been some political turmoil and conflict at various points in modern history.
Buddhism simply fits with how a lot of people in the international community see the Himalayas. And particularly in Nepal, there is a history of Buddhism, which makes this perception completely understandable. That said, the area as a whole is probably less Buddhist than a lot of people imagine. Those that do practice religion seriously are Hindu as often as they are Buddhist, if not more, and there are Muslims and Christians in the region as well.
Perhaps one of the more offensive misconceptions about Himalayan culture is that Sherpas are nothing more than assistants or guides for tourists. Experienced Sherpas certainly can and do help visitors to hike through difficult areas safely. But they’re not merely tour guides, nor do they exist solely for the convenience of travelers. So we’ll say it in the most precise possible terms: Sherpas are actually an ethnic group, and while they’re concentrated primarily in the Himalayas, there are some who live out and about in the world as well.
This may not be quite as widespread a misconception. However, just as the video game mentioned above can have an effect, so too can a widely available slot machine arcade based on the Himalayas. These days, mobile games can be released worldwide quickly and effectively, which means all kinds of interesting themes are enjoyed by people all around the planet. Thus, a game called Himalayas: Roof Of The World, which primarily traffics in traditional Himalayan imagery, can make an impression. Some might well have come to believe it indicates that there is casino activity in the region, when in fact there is very little if any at all.
The myth of Shangri-La is one that’s associated with a few different places in the world, though many think of it as a valley, mountain range, or even small municipality of some kind within the Himalayas. This idea was likely furthered by the aforementioned game Far Cry 4, which has Shangri-La chapters, so to speak, within its own Himalayan city. Sadly, it’s all a myth. Shangri-La does not actually exist, at least in a clear-cut sense. It’s a fictional land from an adventure novel, believed to be based on a sort of conflagration of southern Asian valleys, and morphed into a utopian vision.
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