A Nepalese Guide to Pokhara

Fewa lake is the popular of the three
You have heard about Pokhara, now you have your bags packed up, ready to leave but don't really know what exactly you want to do in the beautiful lake city that's about 200 km west of Kathmandu. As a Nepalese myself, I didn't exactly know what I had in mind for the city either. There are the usual suspects; the touristy stuff that every travel website writes about, a bit of Davis Falls (covered on the post) here and a dash of Mahadev Cave (also covered) there. That's fine by any standard but I am more interested in what the locals in Pokhara are after.

You see, Nepalese have these extensive network of cousins and cousin's cousin. I had a couple of my close family members residing in Pokhara as well and like a true Nepali, I contacted them. For a person who sort of calls Kathamandu his home and has been living in Seoul for the past six years, this insider info could be vital for my experience. And it proved to be which I have, duly for your purpose, written it down here. 

The way I have structured the post is by ; first half will be dedicated to touristy, well known stuff that you could do, it's not boring but not too different from what that foreigner from Romania next to you is doing either. I have then spiced things up with little insider "bonuses" that might not have actually been documented in internet. 

So let's start out with:
1) Getting to Pokhara:

Jagadamba Super Delux Bus had wifi connection for sure.
Unfortunately, the router wasn't connected to the internet
Jagadamba Travels info [HERE]

Having heard quite a lot about Jagadamba Travel's Super Delux Tourist bus that made it's way to Pokhara, I made it a point to try it. For Nepalese nationals the ticket costs about $20 and someone with a foreign passport, you get added $5. The price is nearly double than the standard tourist bus but for that you get to remain comfortable with large electronically controlled seats. Sure the WiFi internet connection didn't work but if I am forced to sit down for an eight hour ride, I better get comfortable seats. Having said that though, I don't particularly feel that I got the value for the relatively steep ticket price I paid. My friend had to literally tie his seat belts and the music system was completely out of tune with the movie, which quite frankly, was the weirdest movie watching experience I ever had.

You might want to check out other tourist bus heading to Pokhara as well. Google Greenline and you should have info to their services. 

The 200 Km road took about 8 hours
2) Checking out Davis Fall

Davis Falls
Nothing says "I am a tourist" than buying a ticket to Davis Fall or locally known as the Patale Chhango. The more popular name originates from a foreigner who basically fell into the depths of hell after a sudden rush of water, hence the term Fall. Probably your first question after seeing the fall would be, "Where is this water going?" and to answer that you will have to head out, cross the road straight to Gupteshwor Mahadev Cave.

3) Gupteshwor Mahadev Cave and making your way to Davis Fall bottom

Entrance to Gupteshwor Mahadev Cave

Location [HERE]

The cave has a shrine of Shiva which is open through all seasons. The real "meat" of the cave though, the portion where you actually might want to see, is closed during the summer and monsoon due to high volume of water coming in from Davis Fall. We were unfortunate to have felt the blunt of that, probably for the best. If you do end up in the winter though, do make your way through to the bottom of the Davis Fall. The picture below taken from [HERE] shows a spectacular view that we spectacularly missed.

Inside Gupteshwor Mahadev Cave taken by Anton Jankovoy
4) Talk to refugees from Tibet at the camp

"The goat? yeah we are good friends. Don't think we will be parting this year"
Once you are done with the fall and cave, the Tibetan Refugee Camp nearby does attract both internal and external tourists. Whether you want to sit down and have a chat with the some of the refugees or check out their hand crafted goodies, a little connection can go a long way in helping them support their families. If you have time, do check out their hand knit carpets that are on sale at the site.

Carpets on sale
BONUS


Never forget to order Mo:Mo, of course
A couple of local eateries can be seen while on the way from Gupteshwor Mahadev Cave to the camp. If you do get a chance to sit down for a meal, order Thukpa (Seen behind the beer glass), a soupy noodle-ly Tibetan dish.

5) Hire a boat for a day

Fewa lake is popular lake located right next to the city
Although there are three lakes in Pokhara; Begnas and Rupa lakes are often overlooked because of their distance from the city. Fewa lake, however, is where the tourist area Lakeside is located and is a stone throw away from the street. One thing you could do instead of hiring someone to row for you is to row yourself. And to do that, the best deal you get is if you hire the boat for the day.

By doing so, you basically have the freedom to roam around anywhere in the fewa lake. We realized that they don't specify the number of people allowed to ride or the time at which the boat has to be returned and that did cause some problems later. Do make sure to get these info at the ticketing booth.

With the freedom of the boat you could do plenty. Here are two things we managed to do:

A) During the day time, hike to the Peace Stupa after a short boat ride


Peace Stupa is a very iconic place in Pokhara and can be observed from most places of the city
The two hour hike is every bit touristy and every bit worth it. You will frequently encounter light aircraft circling around and if you happened to carry a pair of binoculars then even better.

Binoculars are handy
We happened to climb up when the clouds had just overtaken the mountains otherwise, during a cloud-free day (mostly during winters), we could have observed the whole Annapurna range. If you do feel like you need to just chill out for a while, check out some of the restaurants on offer on top. They guarantee food and a splendid view.

Clouds skew the view
Seen here is the deep fried C-Mo:Mo, a spicy version of the original
B) For dinner, row your way to Duna Tapari for some fresh fish delights

1.5 kg of fresh deliciousness
Ever rowed your way to a restaurant? You should try. Duna Tapari in Pokhara [HERE] is probably THE place where you want stretch out your legs and just do absolutely nothing. The food is fresh, the hookah plentiful and the selection of Hass ko choyela (Duck Nepali/Newari bbq) is exquisite.

perfect end to the day
6) Ditch the boat and walk the suburbs


Walking past Lakeside and along the lake, you will find scenes that are hard to beat

Not really a boat person? Feeling hydrophobic? Put on your walking shoes and take a walk.

LOL

3 months to live

 BONUS

colors
Handwoven pashmina business (cashmere, their difference these days are small) is still a thriving cottage industry in Nepal. This store above near the Lakeside supported single/divorced or even married but jobless women to nick out a living by teaching them skills that's required to manufacture quality pashmina. Do check out these store, there are plenty and support them when you can.

Beer?
Craft beer in Nepal is hard to come by. Saleways, a local supermarket (also available in Kathmandu) have a few selection of Belgian beers including Westmalle Tripel. This Saleways was located at the Lakeside, Pokhara.

7) Try out Nepali Millet Unlimited Beer; Tongba

Refilling Tongba is free, just ask for hot/cold water and you are done
Instagram post @abhasmaskey
Try it at Yeti Restaurant [HERE]

Tongba is a millet based local drink which has similar ABV as a light pilsner beer. The "millet beer" can be drunk both hot and cold and is specially common in mountainous terrains of Nepal. Surprisingly, the drink is getting harder to find with western drinks taking significant chunk of alcohol market in cities.

8) Check out Thakali dish at Mantra Thakali Bhancha, New Road, Pokhara

A photo posted by Nishtha (@nishtha.shrestha) on


Thakali cuisine is one of the most sort after ethnic cuisine in Nepal and Pokhara has a reputation of having probably the best restaurants that offer an authentic version of the food. Mantra Thakali Bancha located [HERE] in the core of Pokhara city has a delightful range of thakali menus to endulge on. The menu is in Nepali and you might want to ask around if you need help, people will be more than happy to assist you. 

9) Recommended stay: Rupakot Resort

Photo taken by Ram Ghale [HERE]
We chose to stay near the Lakeside of Pokhara but if you feel like mountain tops are your thing, and you are fine with diving a little deep into your pockets, Rupakot Resort is the place you want to stay in the city. Located about an hour drive from the core tourist spot, the resort offers view of all the three lakes (Begnas, Rupa and Fewa) with an added small bonus of the whole of Himalaya. The price is steep with $150 a night but book it early and you might have a very good deal on your hands.

10) Morning climb to Sarangkot to soak up the view

Summer's aren't the best time to go mountain hunting
Sarangkot, about 40 minutes drive from Lakeside, is the go-to place to watch the sunset and sunrise in Pokhara. Every hotel have their own service, so do ask the counter about the shuttle time. There is a short 30 minute hike up from the place where the shuttle drops you. Just be wary of restaurateurs alluring guests into their place explaining that "this is the maximum you can go." The recommended season is winter, although you can get lucky during the post-monsoon, autumn season as well. After two morning's of trying, we gave up. 

11) Adventure?


Let's just say, we were totally lazy bums wondering around the city. This does not mean, however, that you should be one too. There are plentiful of adrenaline pumping stuff to do and I have duly provided links below to blogs who have taken the time and effort to document that. Just remember that bloggers have taken their time to write these reviews for next to nothing, so check out their blog and comment or share if you like them.

A) Paragliding: Info [HERE]
B) Zipline: Info [HERE]
C) Light Aircraft: Info [HERE]
D) Ghandruk Trek: Info [HERE]

There you go, plenty to do so do get packing!

Update: Missed out on the International Mountain Museum. Info [HERE]

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