Big Day Masthead
Nepalese cuisine at The Hungry Buddha. Image: Rebecca Doyle Photography.

Canberra Reaches for Nepal

Molly McLaughlin

The Hungry Buddha Nepalese restaurant has become a Canberra institution since it opened five years ago, and co-founder Lachhu Thapa has even bigger plans for the future.

He recently founded Reach For Nepal Foundation to allow Canberra to support development projects in Nepal. Lachhu moved to Australia from Nepal in 2002, and after graduating university ended up in the public service.

“Canberra can be a lonely place so a mate, Ben Richardson, and I thought we could start a Nepalese restaurant,” he explains. “When we first opened the restaurant we thought we could run it by ourselves, how crazy we were! One thing that worked for us was that we didn’t know what we were in for.”

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The Hungry Buddha is a place where like-minded Canberrans can gather, talk and share a meal. As a natural progression, Lachhu started the Buddha Odyssey, a travel service, which he runs with the help of his family in Nepal.

“I already had a lot of interest in travelling so I started the Buddha Odyssey to take groups from Canberra to Nepal for trekking, yoga and tourism,” he says. “People chat with me, they can even plan a trip with me. Everything I do is closely linked and one thing works with another.”

Lachhu founded the Reach For Nepal foundation with a focus on transparency and accountability, so he works closely with donors and the projects in Nepal. Lachhu holds fundraising dinners at The Hungry Buddha, along with organising fundraising trips to Nepal for more adventurous travellers that benefit Reach For Nepal.

“Last year after the earthquake, many of my friends started talking about helping Nepal,” Lachhu says. “We wanted to give them one more reason to donate. Reach for Nepal has raised over $30,000 so far and worked on two projects.”

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As Nepal is a developing country, Lachhu acknowledges that there is still a lot of work to be done, but tourism can play a part in stimulating the economy. He says that his home country can have a lasting effect on visitors due to the majestic landscape and welcoming people.

“Nepal is a place where you can stand in front of an 8000-metre mountain in the Himalayas that has been there for thousands of years,” he says. “When you look at the beauty and it makes you realise how tiny you are. People connect and they have time to reflect on themselves, and I think that is why most of the people that go to Nepal end up going back.”

Lachhu will be working on even more projects through the Reach for Nepal foundation in the future, with a focus on education and empowering individual villages in Nepal.

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“I have the restaurant, the travel business and the foundation and it’s a close community where we all talk and we all help each other,” he says. “It’s a good space to be in, where we can make a real difference.”

the essentials

What: The Hungry Buddha and Reach for Nepal
Where: 44E Curtin Place, Curtin Shops
When: Monday – Sunday 5pm until 9.30pm
Web: www.facebook.com/thehungrybuddha and reachfornepal.org

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Molly McLaughlin

Molly McLaughlin is new to Canberra and is attempting to prove to her friends that the capital city can be cool. This mostly involves frequently going out for brunch and then posting about it on social media, along with trekking up hills and around art galleries. She is half way through her uni degree but spends most of her time reading, writing and planning her next adventure. More about the Author

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