Tag Archives: pokhara

Mini-Guide to Pokhara, Nepal: Making the Most of your Time There

 

Commonly known as the gateway to the Himalayas, the lakeside town of Pokhara is brimming with outdoor stores for any last minute items for hikers, and massage centres for aching muscles from hikers coming back from their trek. However the town is more than just an outpost; it has several sites to explore ni the day, and several stores, cafes and bars to while an evening away. Here’s a quick guide to make the most of your stay in Pokhara.

 

devifalls

 

Nearby Sites:

Devi Falls: Named after a Swedish woman who fell to her death after attempting to bathe in the waters close-by, today the waterfall is cordoned off, but it is still one of Pokhara’s scenic spots. The site also contains a traditional Nepalese house for visitors to wander around, and a Buddha wishing well.

Phewa Lake: Arguably Pokhara’s biggest attraction, visitors can take a row boat, or doonga, out to the island in the middle of lake, where the Taal Barahi temple is situated. The highlight of the boat ride however, is the swarm of butterflies that inhabit the edges of the lake, resting on the abundant white flowers that dot the shore.

 

pokharalake

Further afield:

Mahendra Cave: A taxi is required to reach these caves, but microbuses also travel to this tourist site. As one of the few caves in Nepal that contains both stalagmites and stalactites, it is a popular destination for tourists, although this may be due to the claim that the stone formations are in the different shapes of Hindu gods and goddesses.

Bat Cave: Located only a few kilometres from Mahendra Cave, this destination is famed for its pint-sized inhabitants. Emergency lights are strategically placed around the area, but it would be equally useful to bring your own torch.

World Peace Pagoda: If you are somehow not feeling sore from your Himalayan trek or training schedule, take the afternoon to climb up the hill to the World Peace Pagoda. This Buddhist stupa was built to inspire unity between all races and creeds in their search for world peace. Even if you are not Buddhist, the story of its creator, Japanese Buddhist Nichidatsu Fujii, is inspiring in itself, and the views the pagoda affords of Phewa Lake against the backdrop of green paddy fields and the Himalayas is worth the hard slog to the top.

Tibetan Villages: Nepal has been a popular choice for Tibetans fleeing the political turmoil of China, and Pokhara is centrally located between two villages; Tashiling in the south, and Tashi Palkhiel to the north. Tashiling originally consisted of 600 Tibetan refugees fleeing the Chinese occupation in 1964; since then the village has grown and taken an enterprising step towards making itself a centre of Tibetan craftsmanship, allowing tourists to watch yarn and carpets being made and buy some of the crafts. Tashi Palkhiel, on the other hand, is home to the Jangchub Choeling monastery for Buddhist monks.

Restaurants

As one of the major tourist cities of Nepal, Pokhara has an abundance of restaurants and cafes that can cater for every hankering. For a restaurant that will suit all tastes, including the health conscious, head to Black & White restaurant on Lakeside Road. Labelled as an ‘organic’ restaurant (staff state they try to make it as organic as possible), this place is particularly good for curries such as dhal makhani, saag paneer and dhal baat. Plus, they make a mean latte.

Speaking of coffee, if you find you’re missing your daily cup of whatever fancy-named caffeinated beverage you normally drink, then head to the cafes on  Baidam Road, which serve a myriad of iced coffees, teas and other concoctions for your caffeine hit.

If you had your fill of mo-mos and lentils on your trek and are looking for Western food, then La Pizzeria provides excellent value for money, and prime views of the Phewa Lake.  Head there for lunch and enjoy their

On the other hand, if you can’t get enough of those vegetable-stuffed doughy balls of heaven, then head to the imaginatively-named Holy Momo! to eat your fill.

 If you fancy treating yourself to a nice meal after all that trekking, the nicest place in town is Cafe Concerto. Part jazz bar, part Italian restaurant, the staff are attentive and unlike many other restaurants, they have a pretty good, extensive wine menu!

 

pokharaskyline

 

Souvenirs

Soon after visiting four or five stores in Pokhara, it will become apparent that they sell much of the same stock; hippie trousers, faux silver jewellery and prayer flags. However this does not mean that treasures can’t be found, or that the stock is necessarily all that bad; it just means you need to be a little more careful that you are getting some value for your money. You can read about some common souvenir scams here, otherwise, a good place to go for authentic Nepalese crafts is the Woman’s Initiative just off of Lakeside, neighbouring Mike’s Restaurant. Here shelves of handbags, rucksacks and purses in a variety of colours and designs have been handmade on looms by the women’s cooperative, the Nepalese Women Skills Development Project. For £12 I got a medium-sized turquoise handbag. Sure, it might be more expensive than most Nepalese souvenirs, but you’re helping women gain some financial independence and working skills.

Undoubtedly one of the most popular souvenirs in Nepal is a shirt; forget about the tacky ones you normally see on beach holidays, Nepal’s shops are overflowing with so many styles and choices, they can cater for any taste. The average rate for a shirt in Pokhara is between 400-600 rupees, depending on the level of detailing, and whether you want an personalised embroidery done to the shirt. Many of these stores also sell the infamous patches for bags or jackets, depicting which mountains or cities travellers visited.

Felt handicrafts and prayer flags are popular items, and can be bought from most stores in Nepal. After any trek in the Himalayas, it is likely you will come back craving the tea and coffee; many of Pokhara shops sell tea leaves, but one of the speciality stores to head to is High Tea Shop, which has a large selection of teas and coffees.

Top Tip: Almost every hotel will offer yoga lessons, or help you find a teacher in the city. Any hesitation about early morning starts will be erased when you see the tranquil views of the Himalayas.

 

Do you have any recommendations for Pokhara?

pokharayoga

 

 

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Trekking in the Annapurna Conservation Area: from Chomorong to Syaulibazaar to Nayapul and Pokhara

Wearily I rose, with my joints offering stiff resistance to my concerted efforts. With last night being the penultimate day of trekking, Narendra, the porters and our group all celebrated late into the night with dancing, drinks and cake. What had seemed like a good idea at the time I was severely paying for that morning.

Settling bleary-eyed at the long dining table, our breakfasts arrived just on time. Another thing most people forget to tell you about in Nepal, is that the higher up into the mountains you go, the more adventurous the breakfast choices become. Today’s menu consisted of boiled potatoes in a BBQ sauce, toast that tasted more like sweet pastry, eggs and porridge.

We all began the slow trek back towards Nayapul,  looking wistfully at the scenery that we would soon be leaving that day. The rainfall that had fallen for the past several nights caused an abundance of small waterfalls to drip onto our walkway, and on the heaps of silvery sheen rocks that littered the path and created a natural sort of sparkling fountain. The mountains were as green as we’d seen them, only now a rainbow arched across a smaller hill below.

Annapurna Nepal Rainbow

Suddenly, a large shape up ahead brought us to a standstill. Sprawled on the middle of our narrow path sat a cow, sunning herself on a bare patch of earth. One of our group attempted to shoo her away, but all he received in return was a flick of her ears and the back of her head.

Annapurna Nepal cow

“ She looks pretty comfortable there, “ I said, “it doesn’t look like she’s planning on leaving anytime soon.”

The cow continued to gaze off into the distance, unperturbed by the clicks of our cameras or the pleas and entreats to move aside. Accepting defeat, we tiptoed around her, careful not to give reason to provoke her. She remained impassive, and it wasn’t until we all had bypassed her and continued on the trail that we heard a loud “mooooo!” behind us in farewell.

The path narrowed along the ledge, until everyone was required to walk in single file. Up ahead we could hear a jumble of bleating sounds, and soon a herd of goats confronted us on the path, eager to cross without waiting. Well, all but one.

As we clutched at the rock face and trees to steady ourselves as the goats moved past, one small brown goat in the middle of the queue abruptly stopped, and turned towards us. With bleats of excitement he plunged his head into one of our member’s trouser pockets, eagerly anticipating whatever food he believed lay hidden. Laughter mixed with the angry sounds of the goats still in front of us, and our group member fumbled with his handkerchief as the goat tried to make a meal out of it. Victorious, he waved it  in front of the goat’s face, and, seeing an opportunity in their momentary delay, we all  quickly crossed it before the goat decided to investigate everyone’s pockets. Heads down, with a dejected look, the goats continued their walk across.

“Seriously, what is with these Nepalese animals?!” one from our group cried out between fits of laughter, “you’d think they’d have known how to share these paths by now!”

Nearing the stopping point of our trek, we came across a small, makeshift barn, and there stood quite possibly the most adorable animal we had seen on the trek. A baby kid, barely a few weeks old it seemed, stood feebly on its slim limbs, bleating pitifully at us. With caramel and white fur with a soft, downy texture, the kid nuzzled its head into each of our hands or chests each time someone went to pet it. Every time we made a move to depart, it would look up with large, tear-filled brown eyes, and let out such a small, pathetic cry that it melted even the sternest of hearts.

Nepal Goat trekking

“I think I know why the Nepalese animals are so accustomed to getting their own way now, “ I thought to myself, stroking the kid’s head lightly.

After a long interval we were finally forced to leave, and the kid’s morose bleats were mixed with the outraged chirps of chicks that had received no attention from us. Finally making our way to the Jeeps that would take us back to Pokhara, we threw our bags on the roof, and after everything was strapped down, began making our way along the bumpy road.

About a mile down the road, we approached a rocky bump in the road at a moderate speed, and amid the tired sighs and calls of “bye Annapurna” a sickening crunch could be heard. The car slowed to a stop, but not before another clunking and rattling sound was heard. Getting out and ducking our heads under the car, a part was dragging on the floor. Gazing uneasily at each other, we asked the driver what options there were to remedy the situation.

“Wait for my friend to arrive, he’ll drop you off at the bus site. Meanwhile, let’s move this car off the road so others can get by,” our driver replied.

A feat that was easier said than done, considering the road was in an inclined position, with a sheer drop on one side. Time flew by as we struggled to push the jeep up the hill towards a small space in the

Looking nervously behind us at the distance below, we continued to strain against the Jeep as it crawled up the dirt path. Our trepidation grew as a queue of cars and a bus began to line up on both sides of the Jeep. “This couldn’t get any worse,” I thought to myself. Just then, a small boy jumped from the steps of the bus and designated himself as traffic warden. Shouting words of encouragement while telling the bus driver where to turn as well as sternly telling the cars opposite us to wait, our fears of the small boy being crushed by the Jeep gave us all renewed strength. We hurriedly pushed the dilapidated car into the small space while the boy zigzagged between us, and heaved big sighs of relief that he had narrowly avoided being crushed by the car.

Looking around and satisfied that his job was done, the little boy clambered back up the side of the bus and began ordering the driver to continue. We all stood and watched the boy in astonishment waving his arms and hollering orders as the bus peeled down the road and to the rest of the villages. Shaking our heads and giggling in disbelief at the boy’s audacity, we were rescued from our stranded state by the arrival of our driver’s friend.

Dragging our bags onto the new vehicle and realising that it was much smaller than the previous one, we all squeezed in together and anxiously hoped this car would prove more resilient than the last. Looking around us, I thought to myself that there were possibly worse places to be stranded, and as a the vehicle grumbled to life we all wished, that despite the afternoon’s troubles, we had a little more time to spend in Annapurna.

Annapurna Nepal River

 

 

IMG_2737 (2)

 

 

Nepal trekking donkey

 

Nepal bridge

 

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

 

I spent 12 days on Earthbound Expeditions’ Nepal Mountain and Tiger Tour, with our guide Narendra Timalsina, whom I would highly recommend. For more information about the tour, please click here.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Day 1: Trekking from Pokhara to Laxmi

 

We had been walking for several hours, but my enthusiasm had yet to die down. Like many others, I had spent years dreaming of visiting Nepal, only my visions of mountainous scenery were met with an altogether different scene when I exited Kathmandu airport. While the first few days in Nepal were met with a little trepidation that the entire country would match the hectic traffic and pollution of Kathmandu, the subsequent drive to Pokhara and our eventual stopping point allayed my fears. Instead, I spied from my window waterfalls thundering down gorges, with mountains in the purest shades of green towering over them. Rice paddy fields were hewn into the side of the cliff, as though they were a series of stairs that could tumble down the side at any moment. Lorries bedecked in every colour imaginable with tassels and other decorations normally reserved for ball gowns chugged past.

 

IMG_22992

 

 

IMG_23022

 

Safe to say, by the time we had reached our starting point, I was bouncing on the spot in my eagerness to get hiking. And while I was revving to hike up the mountains, my pace had slowed considerably to stop and take photos of every waterfall and flower I saw. It was exactly this eagerness, and that of my fellow hikers, that our group’s guide Narendra was trying to tame.

 

“Guys, save your camera battery, there is scenery much better than this further up the mountains! Plus, we’re close to our lunch spot….” he called out. The promise of food and unimaginably breathtaking scenery instantly focused our efforts, and within a short interval we made it to our spot.

 

IMG_23162

 

IMG_23112

 

One of the things travel companies forget to tell visitors to Nepal is the abundance of oxen and yak that inhabit the Himalayas. Every settlement we trekked through contained several, and near the end of our first day we happened across our first yak/oxen. This being the first time myself and several of our group had seen one, we leaned in closer to the fence to take a photo.

“Ahh no, I wouldn’t get to close to them. These aren’t like cows, they’re vicious, they attack humans and have been known to kill people, ” Narendra explained, and proceeded to tell all of us a story of one of his fellow guides who ventured too close to an ox, only to be chased down the path by it. Just as Narendra was mimicking his friend jumping in the air as the ox’s horns pricked his bum, the oxen standing before us let out a hoarse cough, turned to us with a wide stare and propped his ears up, as if to hear the punchline. Chuckling, we continued down the path, lest we suffered the same fate as Narendra’s friend.

 

IMG_23182

 

IMG_23282

 

After a refreshing dip in a nearby waterfall, which was deceptively fast and caused several of us to fall over (myself multiple times, erasing any gracefulness I might have had) our group settled around a large table on the front porch of the Laxmi Guesthouse, drinking Everest beer, listening to music and chatting frequently, stopping only to watch the odd horse or group of pack mules wander past. With nightfall descending we joined our sherpas and Narendra inside, where we all sang and danced to Nepalese music; despite everyone’s best efforts no one could beat Narendra’s ‘chicken dance’.

After a third round of drinks Narenda warned us, “Make sure you don’t drink too much, you’ve all got a hard day tomorrow, and the last thing you want when climbing those stairs is a hangover!”

The thought of dragging ourselves up a never-ending series of steps up the mountainside while acclimatising to the altitude was warning enough for us. Well, most of us, as we found out the next morning.

 

IMG_23212

 

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

 

I spent 12 days on Earthbound Expeditions’ Nepal Mountain and Tiger Tour, with our guide Narendra Timalsina, whom I would highly recommend. For more information about the tour, please click here.

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,