Dining in Gyirong
It was 11 pm on a cold night in December and most businesses in the Tibetan town of Gyirong were closed up. A restaurant run by a Nepalese couple, however, was still brimming with guests, warmth and laughter.
The Norling Restaurant, operated by Mingme and her husband Denny, sits near the border of the Tibet autonomous region and Nepal’s Rasuwa District.
“We very much like this beautiful and peaceful place surrounded by snowcapped mountains and kind people,” Mingme said.
The couple comes from Shyaphru township, 22 kilometers from Rasuwa District, where the China GyirongNepal Rasuwa Bilateral Port is located.
Three years ago, the couple gave their hotel in Nepal to relatives, and moved to Gyirong to make a new beginning.
“It is easier to do business in my hometown, but I couldn’t make good money there. Here it is more difficult, but my business is much better,” said Mingme, 27.
She said those difficulties include higher prices for goods in China and problems buying Nepalese rice.
She also operates a store inside the restaurant, but she said the restaurant provided most of the income and most of her customers are locals.
The products she sells — Nepalese clothes, red wine, coffee and handicrafts — are welcomed here, she said.
“When business is good, I can make $323 in a day,” Mingme said. “In wintertime, my average daily income is around $100.”
For locals and tourists alike, Norling Restaurant is the first choice for dining out in the remote town.
“When I go out to eat, I usually choose the Norling Restaurant, because I like the Nepalese food and the setting of the restaurant,” said Phurbu Tsering, who lives in a nearby village.
Phurbu Tsering said he especially likes a dish called Daal Bhaat, which Mingme said is popular with many customers.
Mingme employs six wait staff and spends most of her time in the restaurant and shop, while her husband mainly takes care of the logistics of the operation.
As one of 25 Nepalese who operate businesses in Gyirong — and one of around 60 of her compatriots who work and live there — Mingme said she is pleased with the preferential policies provided to border residents by the local and central Chinese governments, as she had been concerned that the port might charge taxes on imported goods.
According to officials at Tibet’s Xigaze customs, border residents are granted tax exemptions on up to $1,330 worth of goods per person per day.
With this month’s opening of Gyirong Port, Mingme believes an increasing number of Chinese and foreign tourists will come.
“I hope more outsiders will discover this peaceful land and my restaurant as well,” she said.