When we first decided to go to Nepal, all I knew about it was Kathmandu, Mt. Everest, and… no, yeah, that’s all I really knew. I asked around and heard of this place called Pokhara… and the more I researched the more I liked the sound of it.
Chill little lakeside town, jump off point for trekking, hub for rafting, skydiving, and parahawking!*** Count us in…!
We arrived by bus (tourist bus, that is) after ~7 hours on a windy, mountainous, overcrowded road packed full of trucks, minibuses, and motorbikes. Amazing there aren’t more accidents…
We crashed at The North Face Inn, which has zero affiliation with the apparel brand, but boats a wonderful family who runs it. From the parents to the kids, to the grandmother and their nephew, all were incredibly nice and hospitable.
We did see plenty of North F̶a̶c̶e̶ Fake apparel in the many markets of Pokhara though, as the streets are loaded with shops selling knock off mountain gear to backpacker’s like us, traveling light and in need of some gear before heading on a trek. I liked asking shop owners where they get their inventory and tried to understand how the system works. Basically seems like lots of trips to Vietnam and China to grab gear from factories there, or picking up from distributors locally. Then, mark up and wait for knucklehead tourists to come negotiate.
We spent most of our time in Pokhara prepping for our trek which meant – grabbing gear, figuring out our route, getting permits (2) to trek which was fairly involved (copies of passports, passport photos, application, fees), and stocking up on calories before setting off.
Pokhara itself is a medium sized city, but for tourists, life begins and ends around Lakeside which is where most of the shops, restaurants, and guest houses are. The lake itself isn’t for swimming (at least not close to town itself), as it’s fairly polluted, but you can rent a kayak and putz around if you wish. We took a boat across the lake one day to then hike up to the World Peace Pagoda, which is #71 of the world’s 80 peace pagodas. (Yeah. I had no idea we had so many peace pagodas either. In fact, I didn’t know we had any until here). The hike up (and I do mean UP) to the pagoda will get your heart going but it’s only ~45 minutes to the top. The views would be stunning if not for the incredibly hazy weather this time of year (April).
We hiked down through the park area to the South of the pagoda, a longer but less steep trail through some beautiful forests that led us into a different area of town than Lakeside, which, while loud, dusty, and busy, was good to experience to see life outside the backpacker bubble of Lakeside.
That being said, we then tried to scope out a prayer session at a Tibetan refugee camp that we’d heard about nearby, but it felt like we were walking into someone’s backyard to, essentially, observe them, and that just didn’t sit well with us. Sure, we want to experience other cultures, but not by peeking into their private lives.
We did hit up a great Tibetan-run restaurant called Potala Tibetan Restaurant that made the best “momo” – Nepali dumplings – that we had (until we took a homemade momo making class in Kathmandu!). Highlight of the meal, besides hanging with our new Italian friends Stefano + Gaia whom we met while trekking, was the owner who laughed at the idea of eating chicken momo. “Chicken is like potato! Mush! We eat buff[alo]. Momo? Buff. Curry? Buff. All buff…” We got it. We ordered the buffalo.
After our trek, and I hate to admit this but, we got massages… I know! Such a touristy thing to do, but if our dogs were barking, our hips were howling! After trekking for five days, sans porter mind you, we were ready to indulge in a very affordable, very professional massage. We were new people afterward, ready to carry on with our journey…!
We also indulged in a tourist-restaurant, Caffe Concerto, an Italian restaurant (approved of by our new Italian friends!), where we had a yak-cheese pizza. Don’t yak, it was delicious, and exactly what our bodies craved after a week of dal bhat and curry.
***About parahawking. Yes. It’s a thing. You go paragliding, but with the guidance of a hawk who leads you to the thermals you’ll cruise upon. Once it does, you feed the hawk, from your gloved hand… In. Mid. Air. (Be still my nerdy, falconry loving-heart). Alas, it was not to be. The haze isn’t great for flying and the birds had begun molting, thus, no parahawking for me. Nor paragliding, or skydiving, or anything air related, thanks to the conditions. Le sigh. Next time.
Pokhara, at a glance…
- Eat… momo at Potala!
- Do… hire a boat, cross the lake,hike up to the World Peace Pagoda, and down the other side.
- Stay… at The North Face Inn. Such nice people, clean, comfy rooms, and affordable prices.
- Do… use Pokhara as a base camp from which you can trek etc. We left gear we didn’t need on our trek at The North Face Inn, at no charge. Standard practice.
- Don’t… be fooled by the low, low, low prices(!) of all The North Fake. Sure, if you need something, grab it, but keep in mind you’re supporting bad practices. Note: You can rent jackets, sleeping bags, and other basics you might need if trekking.
- Don’t… order a smoothie at most places thinking it’s a healthy option. Many of them serve milkshakes and smoothies. You’d think the latter is the healthy option, but both have ice cream, and it ain’t great ice cream. None have much in the way of fruits or vegetables. Spike your insulin at your own risk.