I was blessed to visit the land of the Himalayas recently, here’s a detailed look at our vacation with tips for new travellers to Pokhara! Enjoy!
We arrived in a quiet and cloudy Kathmandu towards midnight. Since we were headed to Pokhara on the next day’s flight, we picked an Airbnb place that was close to the airport. The first act of kindness we experienced in Nepal was when we couldn’t find our destination and our cab driver kindly obliged to call up Buddha (No, not for praying!! The Airbnb flat owner – Buddha) to get directions. We arrived in less than 10 minutes and we weren’t sure which building to enter so he let us use his phone to call up Buddha again! Buddha immediately left his apartment to show us the way and we were greeted by Kriti, his wife and shown our room. It was nice, clean and airy, just what we needed after our long journey. Most of the Airbnb reviews about Buddha’s place talked about their rooftop view so I did not waste any time and decided to check it out immediately! The view did not disappoint! The city was quiet and the air was cool and energizing and with sunrise, we were greeted with a massive view of the city surrounded by beautiful hills and the sight of people going about their daily tasks over their neatly gardened rooftops.
Kriti and Buddha were kind, warm and helpful in answering all our little questions and after a nice breakfast, we decided to explore the area. After the quietness of the night, towards 10 AM, the city was bustling with vehicles, people, and activity! There were lots of college students in the area and I was enamoured by how trendy people dressed! Kathmandu felt like a young city!
Since we were in Nepal for a short while, we took the 25-minute flight to Pokhara. You can also choose the 7-8 hour bus journey. However, during monsoon season, there are chances of landslides blocking your way, so we decided to take the flight route! We flew with Yeti Airlines, after hearing that there are fewer delays with them compared to other domestic flights.
Pokhara is the second largest city in Nepal. Surrounded by endless hills, the gigantic Annapurna range hovering over the city and Lake Phewa at the helm of it, the views are like beautiful live paintings. We wanted to stay a little far from the city and chose the Peace Dragon Lodge about 1100 meters atop Ananda Hill and right beside the famous Peace Pagoda. We arrived at Pokhara in the afternoon, after being dropped at the parking lot of Peace Pagoda and after a 5-minute climb up an array of stone steps, we finally arrived at Peace Dragon Lodge amidst a breathtaking view! We were greeted by Juliette, a delightful British woman who owns Peace Dragon and an adorable dog (PS: Pokhara is a dog lover’s heaven). Being surrounded by the cacophony of nature’s sounds, big fluffy clouds passing above us and sometimes through us and breathing the refreshing air is all any nature lover like myself could ask for! For dinner, I ordered the Tibetan dish, Thukpa, a delicious hot noodle soup that accompanied incredibly well with the cool breeze.
The next day, we wanted to go to the lakeside. Walking past the main entrance of Peace Pagoda, there’s a pleasant one-hour walk down the hill towards Lake Phewa that Juliette explained to us in detail. The scenic stone path down the hill was teeming with pretty butterflies, moths, foliage, and sounds of birds and insects. At the lakeside, we took a boat ride to the main lakeside area and spotted a few monkeys on treetops. You can stop by Tal Barahi Temple but it can get pretty crowded, we decided to skip this and head straight to the main lakeside area. We hired a boat for a few hours by ourselves that cost us a little less than NPR 700. The views from the lake of the surrounding hills are gorgeous, the sound of the water hitting the boat as it waded through the lake, the occasional dragonflies that went past our boat and feeling the sun hit our faces as we lay on the boat was amazingly satisfying. I can say that by the end of our 4-hour Lake Phewa escapade I am now an expert at rowing boats Haha. Probably not, but I have learnt a thing or two. 😉
By the time we were out of the lake, there was a light drizzle and our growling stomachs were asking for something to munch on. The lakeside is a tourist driven area so you’ll find a myriad of restaurants serving food for predominantly tourists. From burgers to pasta to Nepalese food all being served in the same restaurant. It felt like all the restaurants were having an identity crisis trying to cater to a variety of mouths. What surprised me most, was spotting a lot of Korean and Japanese restaurants in the area. We don’t even have that many Korean places out where I live! On the lakeside, expect to pay at least 2000 Nepali rupees or more for 2 people for food. Seeing that all the restaurants had the same thing to offer we walked into Maya Pub and Restaurant and chose the special which was a Thai curry (Yes I know, but we were hungry!!) and Nepalese Momos (dumplings). The food was good but it wasn’t the local experience we’d hoped for. Looking outside from the open balcony of the restaurant, we people and dog watched haha (because dogs are adorable) as they strolled past trekking shops, souvenir shops, painting and clothes shops. The area is great for shopping however if you’re a tourist, the prices are hiked, so make sure to ask for a better rate.
For the rest of the evening, we window shopped and looked around for a motorbike rental shop. (More on this below). We took shelter in White Rabbit Coffee once it started raining, a warm and plush coffee shop with an array of drinks and most importantly comfortable sofas to chill in. When we decided to leave, it was still raining outside and the roads were flooded! We flagged the first cab we saw and thus began our journey upwards. With only the car’s headlights lighting our way, we spotted streams of water flowing across the road. When going towards Peace Pagoda’s parking lot there’s a turn uphill that needs to be made before a waterfall. Due to the rain that night, this waterfall was in full force! Our cab driver having traversed through these roads before, was initially a little hesitant which got me anxious but after stepping out to check it, he said he could do it. True to his word, he managed to drive past the stones and water but as soon as he turned the car uphill, it stalled and started reversing into the water! I was nervous but he managed to kickstart the car and off we went uphill! Phew! Hats off to the Nepalese Cab drivers for being able to race their tiny cars through floods and waterfalls! (NOT for the faint-hearted!) Upon later discussion with Juliette, I found out that this waterfall is benign, though it looked daunting at first, it wasn’t anything to worry about. A lot of people stop their cars and bikes to wash their vehicles which I was later able to witness. Quite an amusing sight for a city person like myself who’s used to automatic car washes, Nepal was definitely opening my mind and I was loving it!
The next day, we visited Peace Pagoda. It was built by Japanese Buddhist monks to promote world peace after the war, they built several such Pagodas around the world and one of them was here. Entry is free and sculptures about Buddha’s life story is depicted on the Pagoda with descriptions. The views from Peace Pagoda of the surrounding area is again, like the rest of Pokhara – spectacular.
By afternoon, we started our trek downhill towards the Tibetan community from the other side of the hill. There are a few different paths to go there and when we eventually found a way, we had to jump and loop through walls and fences before we could get to a stone path again. Since it was monsoon season, while walking down the hill we got caught in heavy rains. We were surrounded by shrouds of grey clouds so we took shelter at a small temple beside our path. The sky was getting darker and after contemplating if going uphill or downhill was our best option, we decided to keep heading down. By now, our stone path had become a fast flowing stream covering most of the stone path aside from a few big stones. My thoughts during these moments were all the possible worst-case scenarios that could possibly happen to us! I only hoped and prayed we didn’t have an incoming landslide or worse! There was only one way to go and we had to take it one step at a time, making sure not to slip. As we reached closer to the end of this path, we spotted a few locals and school kids walking up the path we had come from! Phew! We were on the right path and seeing them calm kept me calm too. We found a waterfall right at the end of our stone path that joined the main road, all the water we walked past was accumulating at this waterfall and joining the main road!! It was an overwhelming and thrilling experience! I let a big sigh of relief once we reached the town and we took shelter at the small stalls that peppered the area. In retrospect, the one life lesson that I take away from this was – Stay Calm!
Apart from a few grocery stores, there were no restaurants in sight. We were soaking wet and ill-equipped for the rain storm So, we went to the place where we knew would have dry clothes and some warm food – Lakeside. We saw a few buses but no cabs in the rains and approached a bus in hopes that they could direct us to a cab. The bus had a few local teenagers who obliged to take us to the lakeside if we paid them the fair of a cab (about 800 NPR, hiked up prices but we were ready to take anything at this point) and so we went to the lakeside on a public bus! Haha! As soon as we found the area, we hopped down to the nearest Trekking shop and got some dry clothes to wear. We went to Lemon Cafe and got some warm food and much-needed shelter! Our second day was ending on yet another adventurous note.
We woke up to the sight of the gigantic and elusive Annapurnas at sunrise, having been covered by clouds all the previous days. This was the stunning sight we were waiting to see! I was so awestruck by the gigantic beauties in front of my eyes! It was overwhelmingly magnificent and divine.
After all the adventure from the previous days, we decided to take it easy so we hired a driver/guide to take us to the Tibetan village and around the area. The Tibetan community was a small quaint village with its own school, houses, and shops. We visited the traditional carpet weaving factory where they create elegant pieces of handcrafted carpet. There was a charming old lady weaving wool while singing old Tibetan songs in the small makeshift factory. Since a lot of machine-made factories are cropping up and competition is high, the traditional route of making these carpets, are sadly dying! However, the carpets are exquisite, albeit expensive. We couldn’t buy any carpets but we did donate some money towards the growth of the community.
We visited Shree Gaden Dhargay Ling Monastery within the community. It was opened for us by an adorable 7-year-old monk! There are also lots of small stalls selling antique souvenirs. I had been longing to get a handmade Tibetan singing bowl for a while so I purchased a beautiful piece that was older. The owner mentioned that the old ones have a nice bass tone and are thicker whereas the new ones are thinner with a higher note. The handmade ones are special, each one sings differently. You don’t get that quality with the machine made singing bowls. I loved visiting this community, the vibe was so peaceful and the Tibetan people were so kind and welcoming!
We also went to Davis Falls, there are big bars all around the falls and since it was monsoon we had a good view. I believe during the non-monsoon season, you can’t see as much. Having been through the previous day’s adventures, Davis Falls wasn’t as adventurous as I thought it would be. If you’re going to Pokhara and want to avoid touristy areas, you can easily skip this one. At this point, we were craving for some authentic food so we asked our guide to take us to a good Nepalese restaurant. He took us to Mithra Restaurant! This did not disappoint! The food was heavenly here, we ordered for a vegetarian thali and we got a variety of curries with mushrooms, black beans, potatoes, greens, bitter gourd and other vegetables with rice and papad. It was a hearty and delicious meal! Finally! Some good authentic Nepali cuisine. The best part was that they refill any of the dishes you want and it cost us NPR 700 for two! Less than half of the lakeside food and much tastier.
After lunch, we were taken to Jangchub Choeling Monastery where they perform prayer chants at 4 PM every day. The Gong had just started ringing when we arrived, calling all the monks to enter the monastery and so the chanting began. The heavy rain clouds above us, the smell of burning incense and the sound of the chanting was divine! They had trumpets and cymbals, it was like an orchestra with the periodic throat singing and chanting of the monks. I felt my body being pulled and pushed by the sounds. It was intensely captivating and surreal! The young monks went about pouring milk tea for all the monks chanting inside the monastery and offered some milk tea to us as well! It was so kind of them! It was nice to sip on while listening to this intense and heart-centred prayer. Walking away from the monastery, I spotted young monks cleaning the steps of their quarters. They were splashing water, laughing and being playful while cleaning, it was amusing to watch kids being kids at a place that I had previously thought would be strict. Yet another bubble burst. The purity of the place was right there in their freedom and that is special.
This brings me to the end of my short yet amazing Nepal journey. I can’t wait to go back and I hope this will encourage you to feel the magic of Nepal too.
We booked Peace Dragon through Booking.com and our stay included breakfast. If you like being active, going for nature walks and want to have the city at an accessible distance, this is a great place to stay. Juliette and Dinesh were great at helping us with whatever we needed and directing us to places to visit. They also book paragliding trips that we weren’t able to go for, we had had enough adventures of our own! Next visit perhaps!😊 Hiring a cab to Peace Dragon or anywhere up the hill, costs between NPR 800-1500. Here’s a link to their website: http://www.peacedragonlodge.com/
For our stay in Kathmandu, here’s a link to the Airbnb room rented out by Kriti and Buddha – https://www.airbnb.ae/rooms/14722198
Renting a motorbike in Pokhara is a great way to get around. On the lakeside, there are not many individual bike rental shops but they are all hiding in plain sight! Just go to any of the trekking shops or if you spot a bunch of bikes in front of any of the trekking shops, ask if they are renting bikes! That’s how we found quite a few! The rate that was charged by most shops was NPR 1000 per day for a Pulsar/Yamaha etc. The scooter bikes are cheaper. We skipped this only because it would mean wading through flooded areas and being wet most of the time.
Nepal has made a lasting impression on my soul and I hope this helps you when you visit Pokhara. Hope you enjoyed reading this!
Love and light,