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Nepali is not a difficult language to learn, and you will see notices around Kathmandu advertising language courses. Most schools offer courses or individual tuition. Expect to pay about US$50 for a two-week course or around US$3 per hour for private tuition.

Places to try in Kathmandu:

Intercultural Training & Research Centre(ITC; 01-4414490; itc@mos.com.np; Kathmandu) Just off Tridevi Marg, this well-respected language centre works with many NGOs, including the UK's Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO). It offers crash courses (three hours), 60-hour beginner courses and six-week intermediate courses. Tuition is one-on-one and costs around Rs 300 per hour.

Kathmandu Institute of Nepali Language (01-4220295; www.ktmnepalilanguage.com, namrata@mos.com.np; Jyatha, Kathmandu) Offers a week's course of six hours for Rs 1200.

Thamel Nepali Language Institute (01-4700949; views@wlink.com.np; Thamel; 10am-6.30pm Mon-Fri) Opposite Pilgrims Book House, on the upper floor, this tiny place offers an intensive course of 20 hours a week or a more relaxed six-hours-a-week course, for roughly Rs 250 per hour for one-on-one tuition, plus around Rs 800 for learning materials. For real linguistic immersion you can stay with a local family.

There are often flyers around Bodhnath advertising Tibetan-language tuition and apartments to rent, as well as opportunities to volunteer-teach Tibetan refugees. The Centre for Buddhist Studies (www.cbs.edu.np) based at the Rangjung Yeshe Institute is part of Kathmandu University and offers a two-month Tibetan-language course (US$1900) June and July, with accommodation provided with local Tibetan families, it also offers longer university-accredited courses.

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Music & the arts

Gandharba Association Offers lessons in the sarangi (four-stringed instument played with a bow) and they can probably find teachers for other instruments such as the madal (drum), basuri (flute) and arbaj (four-string guitar). Expect to pay around Rs 150 per hour's tuition.

Trekkers Holiday Inn (01-4480334; www.4free.ch/nepal; Chuchepati) Based at the Hotel Samsara, midway between Kathmandu and Bodhnath, this Swiss-run centre offers cookery courses and evening lectures on social welfare and Ayurvedic medicine, as well as a Nepali-language course three days a week (Rs 3500 for 15 hours). You can get a programme of talks and courses from the website. The hotel is hard to find; get yourself to Chuchepati Chowk, by the bust of Pasang Lhamo, head north, take the lane on the left and follow it as it curves.

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Yoga, buddhist meditation & massage

Nepal is a popular place for people to take up spiritual pursuits, particularly around the Kathmandu Valley, although Pokhara is becoming increasingly popular.

Check the notice boards in Thamel for up-to-date information about yoga and Buddhism courses, and shop around before you commit yourself.

Ananda Yoga Center (01-4311048; ananda@yoga.wlink.com.np; PO Box 1774, Kathmandu Valley) On the edge of the valley at Satungal, overlooking Matatirtha Village, 8km west of Kathmandu, this is a nonprofit yoga retreat offering courses in reiki, hatha yoga and teacher training.

Ganden Yiga Chopen Meditation Centre (Pokhara Buddhist Meditation Centre; 01-522923; pokharacentre@yahoo.com) Three-day meditation and yoga courses (Rs 3000) as well as daily sessions at 10am (Rs 200) and 5pm (Rs 150).

Healing Hands Centre (www.ancientmassage.com; Maharajganj, Kathmandu) Various monthly courses in Thai massage. The five-day course (20 hours, US$175) teaches you how to give a full body massage; there are also 10-day courses and one-month professional courses for US$800. Accommodation is available at the centre in the northeastern Kathmandu suburbs.

Himalayan Buddhist Meditation Centre (HBMC; 01-4414843; www.fpmt.org) This friendly place offers talks and meditation courses (three to five days, US$50 to US$85). There are also guided meditations Tuesday to Friday and Sunday at 8am, 3pm and 8pm and day-long dharma teachings on Saturday.

Kathmandu Center of Healing (9851-070786; www.kathmanduhealing.com; Galfutar, Kathmandu) This place offers one-, two- and five-week professional courses in Thai massage. Other activities include yoga, dance, a monthly four-day reiki course and various 'healing seminars'. Contact Rabin.

Kopan Monastery (01-4481268; www.kopan-monastery.com) This monastery, north of Bodhnath, offers reasonably priced and popular seven-day (US$75) or 10-day (US$100) courses on Tibetan Buddhism, generally given by foreign teachers. There's also a popular annual one-month course (US$365) held in November, followed by an optional seven-day retreat.

Nepal Vipassana Centre Kathmandu (01-4250581; nvc@htp.com.np; Jyoti Bhawan Bldg, Kantipath, Kathmandu; 10am-5pm Sun-Fri); Budhanilkantha (01-4371655) Ten-day retreats are held twice a month (starting on the 1st and 14th of the month) at this centre northeast of Kathmandu, just north of Budhanilkantha, and there are also occasional shorter courses. These are serious meditation courses that involve rising at 4am every morning, not talking or making eye contact with anyone over the entire 10 days, and not eating after midday. The fee is donation only.

Nepali Yoga Center (061-532407; www.nepaliyoga.com) Daily hatha yoga classes (1½ hours, Rs 300) at 7.30am and 4.30pm, plus various longer courses can be arranged.

Osho Tapoban (01-4353762; www.tapoban.com; 6km northwest of Kathmandu) Commune near the Nagarjun Forest Reserve based on the teachings of Osho. Offers daily meditations, Saturday meditation courses and three-day courses every full moon. Accommodation is available and there's a decent vegetarian restaurant.

Patanjali Yoga Center (01-4278437; www.saptayoga.com) A recommended place for yoga, west of Kathmandu's city centre. Five- and 10-day courses involve attending the centre for three hours per day and include lunch. In theory there are drop-in classes daily at 7am and 4pm but it's best to call in advance.

Rangjung Yeshe Institute (01-4490498; www.shedra.org) At Bodhnath's Ka-Nying Sheldrup Ling Gompa. The institute offers a fairly advanced 10-day course ('Vajrayana empowerment') on Tibetan Buddhist teachings, practice and meditation, led by the monastery's abbot Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche. The course is held in mid-November, and costs US$100. Daily meditation at 8am is open to all.

Sadhana Yoga (www.sadhana-yoga.org.np; Pokhara) One to 21 days are offered here at the cost of Rs 1600 per day, which includes accommodation, meals and steam and mud baths.

Self-Awakening Centre (01-4256618; Babar Mahal Revisited; closed Sat) Commercial classes in t'ai chi, yoga, transcendental meditation and anything else you can dream up. Yoga classes cost Rs 200 per hour; t'ai chi is Rs 2800 per month.

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