AsiaNepalPokhara

A month in Nepal...

Pokhara Travel Blog

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friendly face!!

'Hello Madam, this way please' - was this person speaking to me?! I couldn't believe my ears... 'Please, this way Madam, that man can help you'... I had just got off the plane from crazy Varanasi and it would appear I had landed in Heaven. Clean, quiet, polite, helpful.  I was in love with Nepal straight away.  A hassle free taxi ride from the airport into the friendly bustle of Kathmandu City. Just a short flight, but a million worlds away.  This city is fairly new - shoddy buildings haphazardly patched together - but there is an sense of optimism and growth. The roads are slightly better than I had become accustomed to in India, only hitting my head a couple of times in the back of the Toyota that was nearly as old as me.

Holi face!!
  Everywhere you looked were charming, shabby buildings, mountains, roaring milky rivers, rugged steep streets, tiny shuttered doors for tiny weathered people. The air had an haze that the surprisingly warm sunshine was battling with.  I was in Nepal, a very different place - and it felt good.

HOLI MOLI

I arrived at the hotel that had been arranged by our charity agency, and I couldn't wait to see my friend Jana - she had arrived from Prague the day before and I ran upstairs to see her.  How lovely - after all this time to see such a friendly, familiar face; a little slice of home!  I was, however, suffering from and 'Indian hangover' of an illness and spent much of our first evening together shivering, sweating and sleeping (sorry Jana!).

Still, after a good night's sleep, we were ready to hit Kathmandu for a short orientation, leisurely stroll around the winding streets, taste some momos and enjoy the city... that was the plan anyway. It was, however, Holi... in Kathmandu... The Hindu festival of colour, to welcome spring.  You may be mistaken in believing Nepal is a Buddhist nation - but on that Sunday, it seemed everyone was Hindu - joining in with throwing coloured powders and water bombs.  We only had to walk a mere 5 minutes from our hotel for breakfast and had been transformed into a Jackson Pollock painting... a very wet Jackson Pollock. Heading back was even worse, pointless in resisting - endless water bombs, reds, purples, blues, greens - all from every direction - we were massacred!
We showered and braved the outside again - this time armed with rain coats! We headed to the famous Swayambhunath Temple, or Monkey Temple, just ouside the centre.
Unfortunately, I think that the monkeys were out playing Holi too as we only caught a glimpse of a few, but still, the temple was interesting, with a real mix of Hindu and Buddhist iconic references, beautiful.  We were then dropped in Durbar Square and walked back to our hotel - we had hoped to visit the Royal Palace, but it was closed due to the holiday.  In hindsight, walking wasn't the best idea we had had that day - we were soon back in the Holi spirit for sure... another shower was needed.

ONTO THE MOUNTAINS

The next day brought an air of excitement for us both - we were heading to Pokhara, Nepal's second largest city, to undertake a voluntary program at a children's home and the stay in a monastary nearby.

lovely Hemelal at Everest Children's Home - Pokhara
.. The journey was a mere 8 hours away on some of the most terrifying cliff-top roads I have seen.  I once read somewhere (I think it was in Shantaram... sorry, I can hear the groans), but he wrote that when you're in countries like India and Nepal - you have to surrender to it, or else it will consume you... that's easier said than done when you're staring down a cliff edge 40 metres into some white rapids, but still, it helped.
Still, we arrived in one (shaken) piece and were delighted - Pokhara is a quiet, touristy, lakeside town - with a wealth of shops, restaurants, cheap accommodation and an amazing backdrop of the Annapurna range.  We loved it.  We kicked back, made our new home in the guesthouse with the family involved with the children's home and ventured out.
Fish Tail Mountain, Annapurna range
 

NAMASTEE AUNTIE

We made our way to the children's home to meet the man behind it and the children - 12 of them.  It was quite a hike up, but the house is generous, on a hill top with beautiful views of the lake and lots of rooms for the kids.  When they came out of their class with their teacher - they each in turn welcomed us with 'Namastee Auntie' in THE cutest voices - it nearly brought a tear to my eye! They were all adorable, with bright eyes and wide smiles.  I was looking forward to working with them - although not looking forward to having my heart strings tugged so much!

Our tasks were simple for the week, pick the kids up from the home, take them to school, get bread and milk, pick them up, take them back, feed them afternoon snacks, play with them, entertain them, help with homework, help prepare their evening meal and enjoy their company! We could do that! The kids were aged between 4 and 14, mostly from hill villages and takento the home for a better life.

Fewa Lake
  There was - Ruth, Raju, Robin, Hemelal, Joseph, Jasmin, Herod, Bingcashe, Kamal, Alisha, Manisha and Ashish.  They were all a delight, some more receptive than others to having foreigners coming into their home.  Most took well, enjoying the cuddles, human contact, learning and interaction with us.  We introduced them to a memory picture card game, plasticine modeling, drawing, gave them their first taste of post it notes and made chocolate rice krispies and taught them how to look after rabbitts.  It was so amazing to see such a group of kids, of all ages, working together, playing together, sleeping in the same room, washing their clothes together and getting on - all with little or no electricity, no tv, computers, games consoles or even a garden.
In a power cut with Ruth
  I couldn't help but think our western kids could learn alot from them.

OM MANI PATME HUM

Saturday soon came and so did our day off!  we had befriended fellow traveller Aron, from San Fran, in Kathmandu and we had arranged to take a taxi to Sarangkot hill at 5.30am for sunrise.  Sarangkot is a tiny hill top village just outside Pokhara, with total 360 degree views of Pokhara and the Annapurna range.  It was spectacular - a real sight.  We climbed to the viewing spot (and were greeted by 20 Japanese tourists) - we battled our way to a good spot and proceeded to take too many photos - it was too beautiful. And when the sun eventually peeked it's sleepy head over the mountain, there was a cheer from the crowd - very sweet!  Annapurna and Fishtail mountains were tipped in a pink-orange glow, the sun changing the sky from lilac to orange to pink and back, the view was crystal.

the kids dancing and singing during a power cut!

The following week saw us packing up our things and moving into Pema Ts'al Sakya Monastary just outside Pokhara Lakeside, but a world away!  The monastary sits on top of a hill over looking a Tibetan settlement. Aron, Jana and I were shown to our spartan but lovely rooms in the grounds and given a tour.  Home to 84 Tibetan monks, aged between 4 and 42, the monastary teaches English, Nepalese, Tibetan, Social Syudies and philosophy - along with anything volunteers can bring.  Only staying a short time meant we were down for a duty close to Lama Kunga's heart - gardening!  That was fine by us - taking cuttings, planting, trimming, clearing and feeding plants in a beautiful setting with beautiful people!

Our first dinner was such a treat and one of the most incredible sensory experiences of my life: once we had devoured our temos (Tibetan dumplings) and cabbage, the monks began chanting - evetually they were all in sync, rocking and chanting in unison at their tables.

who thought post-its were a good idea?
  The noise was amazing, vibrating right through you.  And at that very moment, there was a power cut : 80 monks, sat in the dark, chanting.  It was electrifying - I've never heard anything like it before.

As part of our stay at the monastary, we were also invited to partake in Buddhist Philosophy class taken by our 'teacher' Tenzin.  Every evening he taught us the 4 noble truths and basic philosophy adn thinking behind it - some was enlightening, others were difficult for us westerners to get our heads around or even begin to comprehend - our worlds are so severely different. Still, it was a mind opener.

NAMASTEE HOLLIE!!!

The next day and we were all (including the monks), were in for a treat - Hollie was arriving, from glorious Skegness, to bring a bit of that Lincolnshire sunshine to us.

Jana and I, sunset - Sarrangkot
  She appeared like an aparition across the gardens, back pack full and face a little weary.  My travel buddy had arrived.  She didn't take long to settle in, and  love it too. Our days ticked by - we were enjoying being in the unreal bubble of monastary life. Our little slice of Tibet next door also gave us some entertainment with a musical group we met one day over chow mein - the Tibetan Brothers.   The locals were so friendly and pleasant, it made our stay all the more enjoyable.

One thing we haven't touched too much on is electricity.  It's a simple thing in our 'normal' life, it's there, always - at the flick of a switch.  Not in Nepal.  It is at the forefront of saving the planet by using only hydroelectricity.

.. this does mean however, very long periods of no electricity at all.  Even the water is heated with solar power - so a cloudy day means a cold shower.  This made the simple life in the mountain monastary, all the more simple, what an escape (or awful I can hear my Mum say!).  Another Saturday and another day off - most monks head into lakeside for a wander, but the youngest are left to govern themselves.  Inevitably, they found our rooms, and 15 very small, burnt, smiling faces soon descended for play and generally be interested in our possessions.  Hollie had brought some bubbles from home and this happily entertained them for some hours!  Others came and were fascinated with our magazines, music, sunglasses and clothes!  It was hard to get rid of them! ALthough it did make for a great photo op!  The week past very peacefully and we were sad to leave - we had all grown fond of out Lama Kunga - complete with his matching mobile, Oakleys and Toyota pick up (too match his robes you understand!), and all the other monks.
with Aron
  But it was back to civilisation in Lakeside. 

MY KNAP SACK ON MY BACK

We has a trek planned for 3 days on our return and we were looking forward to the challenge... honest...  And a challenge it was - the famous Royal Trek, or Annapurna Skyline Trek, completed by Prince Charles in 1980, we were sure it'd be fine.  It was tricky.  Amazing though - some of the most beautiful scenery seen to date.  We stayed in remote hill villages, the accomodation was barn-like, complete with buffalo, goats, chickens and the infamous bucket shower.  Our first night saw us stay in Lipyani, a small hillside village serving some of the best dhal bhat ever!  We were weary and the aches of the day were not shy to come the morning.

 We set out and up late the following morning and it was a hard day - we climbed to 1700m to a tower viewpoint - had the weather been clear, it would have been spectacular.  We had to deal with the mountains teasing us from behind alot of haze which was unfortunate, but still very beautiful.  The tough day tested our tiring, shaky legs, but we eventually made it to the small village of Chisapani (meaning Cold Water... they weren't kidding).  We spent another night in a 'guesthouse' (a little more comfortable with frilly pillowcases amd white washed walls), to a stunning back drop.  I sat on the terraced landscape for some time just looking at it, trying to think of a way to describe it and not doing very well, and our guide Dil joined me.  He asked "What are you watching for?", I guess he wasn't seeing the same thing as me.
  The next and final day was our descent to Begnas Tal - it was hard, leg shaking all the way down the very steep decline.  But again, we were rewarded with beautiful views and breathtaking landscapes.  The relief to reach the bus was overwhelming - smiles all round, we had done it!

Us girls treated ourselves to a much deserved massage on our return to Lakeside and relaxed on the roof top of our guesthouse - it seemed to be getting hotter everday.  Another visit to Sarangkot for sunrise, a boat ride on the lake for sunset and some Nepal Ice Lager - and our time in Pokhara and Nepal had come to an end.  We had loved it - and being off the beaten tourist track had helped to see a little slice of West Nepali life - although I think many of us can do without dhal bhat for a while.

the view from the monastary
..  And so it was - back on the treacherous bus back to Kathmandu, which seemed so chaotic now!  And what awaited was a great surprise - a Mysore Family reunion! Giovanni, Roberta and Ben were all there too, coming and going.  It was a lovely way to end my time there - surrounded by old friends and new ones.

We all headed off to the airport for our various flights, sadly leaving Jana for one more day, and it was next stop - Bangkok and South East Asia.

And so - thank you Nepal, you chilled us out and hushed busy minds, you mesmerised with your landscapes, opened our minds and treated us with trekkers Cadbury's and HobNobs (and Signature whiskey), danyebad.

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friendly face!!
friendly face!!
Holi face!!
Holi face!!
lovely Hemelal at Everest Children…
lovely Hemelal at Everest Childre…
Fish Tail Mountain, Annapurna range
Fish Tail Mountain, Annapurna range
Fewa Lake
Fewa Lake
In a power cut with Ruth
In a power cut with Ruth
the kids dancing and singing durin…
the kids dancing and singing duri…
who thought post-its were a good i…
who thought post-its were a good …
Jana and I, sunset - Sarrangkot
Jana and I, sunset - Sarrangkot
with Aron
with Aron
the view from the monastary
the view from the monastary
in the local tibetan settlement
in the local tibetan settlement
chocolate crispy cakes went down w…
chocolate crispy cakes went down …
Tibetan Uprising Day
Tibetan Uprising Day
Another friendly face
Another friendly face
what a pretty ram
what a pretty ram
yes, a monk on skates!
yes, a monk on skates!
Lama Kunga
Lama Kunga
Kunga Champi
Kunga Champi
hes tooo adorable
he's tooo adorable
I want to take him home...
I want to take him home...
Never try pack in front of young m…
Never try pack in front of young …
with our philosophy tutor, Tenzin
with our philosophy tutor, Tenzin
resident activist!
resident activist!
I DID meet the Dalai Lama!
I DID meet the Dalai Lama!
Gorgeous Monk Lekshey
Gorgeous Monk Lekshey
So - how many people can you fit i…
So - how many people can you fit …
Michael Jackson the goat
Michael Jackson the goat
home for the night
home for the night
Begnas Tal, the lake that is
Begnas Tal, the lake that is
Henna tattoos in the sun in Pokhara
Henna tattoos in the sun in Pokhara
Sarrangkot sunrise again
Sarrangkot sunrise again
Hemelal getting cuddles
Hemelal getting cuddles
Bye kids!
Bye kids!
Jana and I TRYING to row
Jana and I TRYING to row
Bye Nepal :(
Bye Nepal :(
what a view from the plane - can y…
what a view from the plane - can …
Pokhara Hostels review
clean, very friendly and great food - they organised our trek too and one of the waiters took us! perfect. (they have vegimite too for those who are i… read entire review
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photo by: Makkattack