Sunday, May 4, 2014

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Picturesque Pokhara - Enchanting Nepal Part 2


After some sightseeing and time spent in Kathmandu, it was time to get into depth of Nepal and so were our forthcoming days aiming to get to Pokhara and spend some time there. I hope you all have had an experience of first part of the Nepal trip with the post on Kathmandu. If you haven’t by now, go back and probably you would enjoy this post a bit more with the context from there. Anyway, in short we reached Kathmandu on 29th of April 2014, Amit’s birthday and spent a day seeing around the city. Now the next leg of the journey was a visit to Pokhara. While Kathmandu is like a rushed, populated and metropolitan capital of the country, Pokhara is a getaway scenic city in lap of Himalayas with awesome view of its peaks.


On 31st morning we got up as usual, a bit early because of the excitement of what was in store for us as we get out of the capital of Nepal. Honestly speaking, though Kathmandu was good, we were really looking forward to get out of the city to have an experience of what we were in Nepal for – natural beauty and view of Himalayas, which we hadn’t yet had except for a brief encounter from the flight. So, after another good breakfast at Hotel Indreni, we were all ready to leave for Pokhara when the reception informed us that our driver was there to pick us up. We checked out of the hotel by 9 and proceeded to the car. Shukra (our driver from Kathmandu day tour) was going to take us to Pokhara and his good old Toyota was our ride for this trip. We hopped in and thus began second leg of our journey.


As we passed through the city of Kathmandu while moving out of it, we realized that the points of tourist interests were not really what made this city. There was a lot to offer when someone tried to get across the city to understand the life of people in general. We passed through the museum, Durbar Marg and other localities and it was this time that we decided to spend our last day in Nepal exploring Kathmandu on our own rather than a guided tour to some place. Soon we were zooming past Thankot, a suburban town which was kind of border for the capital area and hence we saw roadblocks which indicated that we were leaving Kathmandu behind us. It was probably more psychological than actual or it was hilly terrain, but as soon as we crossed the boundary, the weather cooled down with Himalayas visible in their distant glory. The road for first 20-25 kms was a bit edgy with dust and bumps and we were told that this was only because of repair works being undertaken. We were convinced at that because roads in general in the region were good and apart from some small rough patches, the route was smooth. The country side run in Nepal is no different than one would have in India. Road side dhabas in India have a new name in Nepal - “Khaja Ghar”. 



We were driving for about 3-4 hours and it was time for our first break. We asked Shukra to stop for lunch at some good place and he pulled off the road at about 12:30. Our lunch site for the day was Hotel Hamlet, a decent roadside joint in Baireni town, with setup where you enjoy your meal under open sky. We spent just over 500 NPR for a lunch of burger, spring rolls and masala tea. After about an hour we were on the road again enjoying the natural scenic beauty on offer. There were a number of small historic towns on the way which Shukra was kind enough to inform us about. Soon the Prithvi Highway, our 230 km pathway, is joined by River Trisuli which accompanies you for rest of the ride. The highway crosses a series of deep river valleys, rice terraces, rocky gorges and roaring rapids crossed by precarious suspension bridges. We cross Mankamna temple on the way which we would talk about more on our journey back from Pokhara. Alongside these historic places, there are a few modern townships being developed at crossings of the highway with the River.





Another short stop came up at about 2:30 for quick freshening up at a stream of water and was followed by a subsequent stop at Brooking Bridge for some photographs of tempting scenery. 

Pokhara and Around

After about 7 hours on road we pulled into this city-town of Pokhara at about 4:00 and the first look of the place was simply appealing and refreshing. After a quick search of the location, we were getting down of the car in compound of Hotel Landmark, our home for next 2 days. As we checked in, we were greeted with a welcome drink, basic information on logistics and invitation for the evening cultural show. We were offered a choice of rooms, one with Himalayan view and other facing the garden in compound. Though the former had some good view, we chose later for the safety concerns and so were ushered into Room 304. After a quick break, we were out on the roads of this lovely town. As you walk on the Lakeside Road, you are mesmerized by relatively less touristy nature of the place, away from rush of Kathmandu with air quality that was refreshing rather than killing. You simply feel like spending your entire time roaming across the city. We chose a long walk along with the Phewa Lake and then another one on the main road which can be compared to a Mal Road in most hill stations in India. After the walks we were exhausted after a long day and we returned to the hotel restaurant as it was already 7 and the cultural show was about to begin. We had our dinner with the song and dance program and then headed back to call it end of the day.



Next morning, we woke up at 6 to enjoy the views and as recommended on a number of Trip-advisor review we moved to the terrace on 4th floor. The view was simply awesome with snow clad peaks in full view. But we weren’t satisfied and wanted a clearer view and hence we moved a floor higher using the iron round about stair and then a bit higher using the makeshift stairs to get to the water tanks top. This was perfect place for a photo-op session and we were onto it. After this, we came down for the breakfast and readied for the day tour of the city. We had a different car today as local people don’t allow outside vehicles to take up their share of tourist revenues and so it was Santro arriving to pick us up. First stop for the day was the Gupteshwar Mahadev Caves (entry fee of NPR 100). The fee may seem a bit high but is truly deserving as it covers a trip down the low tunnel-like cave right where you can see the roaring waterfalls though a crack in the structure forced by annual monsoon water. The view is simply breathtaking and you like to spend some good time there. However, one must realize that the trip down the cave is treacherous and uneven and trip up to exit is tiring at best.







Next as you move out of the cave, right across the road is entry to view the front end of the water spring which we just saw from behind – Devi Falls. It was at this place we bought a Khukhri –a long knife used as weapon by local Gorkha tribe. After this we went for a quick visit to a number of relatively less important points like Shubhadra Chowk, Seti River Gorge and the Mountain Museum. To end the tour we visited the old Pokhara town and after a short hike we were at the Bindya Basini Temple, a 17th century Durga temple worshipped here in form of saligram – an ammonite fossil. It was now time for some rest so the driver dropped us back to hotel and we spent some time resting. In the evening we were again by the lakeside and did a lot of window shopping. After spending a couple of hours at the lake viewpoint, we bought some souvenirs including local tea, Pashmina Shawl and some small items for friends. We ended the day with dinner at Lakeside Restaurant which had its own cultural show on offer which was marginally better than one at our hotel. It was time to sleep early as it was going to be a very early morning next day – just imagine us requesting the hotel reception for a 4 AM wakeup call.


Next day, 2nd of April was when we were woken up by the morning wakeup phone call and were picked at 5 for trip to Sagarkot. It was our own Maruti Dzire as a ride today with a great person – Dileep – as driver. I would say of all the drivers we had on this trip, Dileep was best person to have a driver for a tourist vehicle. He was proud of belonging to the region, eager to tell about it and easy to deal with whom was more than welcoming to any request for stopping by to take pictures. After about a 40 minutes ride we were standing at a strategically located view point waiting for the sunrise. Sun rises at 6:15 with mesmerizing view of first rays of sun on the snow clad mountains of the Annapurna range. The scenery with Seti River below in the valley, greenery of lower mountains which merges to the snowy slopes of ranges behind them which finally meets the skyline and sun rising somewhere amidst all this - nothing could provide a better view of mature and the designer capabilities of the almighty above. Wow, what a wonderful start of the day!



After returning back by around 7:30, we head towards the Phewa Tal, the largest lake of Nepal for a boat ride. We had attempted this last evening but rough weather only allowed us a view of rescue operation bring back Swedish tourist group to safety after their boat was stuck at another shore. We hired a row boat for an hour which cost about 400 NPR for the boat and another 10 NPR per head for the life jacket. The boar first took us to the Barai Temple – with idols of Goddess Durga and Lord Ganesha - in middle of the lake. After the boat ride amidst lovely background of hills we were back at the hotel room to pack up. 

Trip Back - Pokhara to Kathmandu

We checked out by 9 PM and were on the roads again on our Toyota. Midway between Pokhara and Kathmandu, we stopped at 17th century Manakamana Temple – one of the most important temples in Nepal for Hindus – located at 2000 meters. Locals believe that Goddess Bhagwati of this temple has power to grant wises of the devotees as suggested by name of temple which is Hindi translation for “wishes of the heart”. There is a cable car designed and developed by an Austrian firm, 15 minute ride on which is the best way for tourists to reach temple. The ride itself is exciting with breathtaking views which end at the electric environment of the temple. In all it takes about an hour and half for the two way ride and darshan at the temple.






We had a quick lunch on way at Hotel Hill-top which was set up amidst view of hills and rivers. The waiter there – Suman Halat, was a jolly chap fond of Hindi movies and his comments for us – “aapki hindi bahut achcha hai …aikdum hindi film ke jaisa” would be long remembered. At the end he wishes “aaram se jaiye” (have a safe journey) and we leave to reach Kathmandu. We check back into Hotel Indreni at about 6 PM. This was end of our trip to Pokhara and we were there in Nepal for one more day to explore the city on our own. I hope you have read the details of this endeavor on the Kathmandu post.

Hope you had a good experience along with me on excursion to this Himalayan nation of Nepal. Please do leave your comments on how you liked or disliked the post.


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