After a couple of weeks of exploring Kathmandu, I broke out for a travel excursion in the direction of Pokhara, the second largest city in Nepal. It sits about 25 kms from the Annapurna Range of the Himalayas, and right on a lake called Phewa Tal. This would be my first foray into Solo Travel in Nepal, and I was ecstatic!
What to Do in Pokhara Nepal
Pokhara is on basically every Backpacking Nepal Itinerary as it is perfect for chilling out for days/weeks in the clean air that is a respite after the smoggy streets of Kathmandu. But it still has great cafes serving brownies and Wi-Fi. It’s also the jumping off point for trekking the Annapurna range, which when the weather is clear, is spectacular. The 7-hour bus ride was gorgeous too, and despite the family of three vomiting beside me and the cliffside road anxiety, it was a pleasurable experience. And made me glad I don’t normally get motion sick.
Hike to the World Peace Stupa in Pokhara
The day after I arrived, I wandered out of Pokhara trying to find my way up to the World Peace Stupa, which is perched up on the hill on the opposite side of the lake from Pokhara. It looks in all directions, most importantly north towards the Annapurna range. So I set off, and about 5 steps past the entry sign for the World Peace Stupa the trail split in 4, with no clear direction of onward travel.
I wandered a bit and then asked directions from a man and his 11-year old son. The son spoke quite nifty English, and instead of carrying water with his papa, decided to take me to the start of a clear and easy way to get to the stupa.
This trail involved circling through the middle of his neighbourhood on the south side of Pokhara, a stop at his house where I met his mom and little brother, a chorus of “Namaste” to half the kids in town, a detour to his brother in laws phone shop and an intro to his older sister, and then concluded at the very clear paved staircase that eventually will wind itself to the stupa. So it was a great path of showing off the white girl, which I had no problem with.
And the kid led me to the base of a clear path, which was far more than I could have managed on my own. He shook my hand and then off he trotted. Bye little friend!
I started up the trail and eventually found two teenagers playing ping pong, and when they called Namaste, I took that as an invitation to sit down and catch my breath. Ping pong is a huge sport in Nepal, and you see homemade tables that are concrete slabs the size of a ping pong table, with bricks concreted together in the middle to make the net. It’s a dang sturdy table indeed!
So I sat and chatted with the two boys, one of whom was 17 and had fantastic English. I asked him if they were brothers, and he said, “NO, We are friends, BEST friends.” And I said, “That’s nice, my best friend is in Canada”. And he said, “ Hmm, too bad for you”.
Yes, indeed, thank you for your sympathy.
He then asked me if I was married, and to my negative answer came the obvious follow-up of:
“But how old are you?”
“Oh that is very old, here in Nepal you get married at 21 or 22. You have boyfriend?”
“Ohh, well I think if you not married now, you get married at age of 31 or 32.”
“Ok, sounds like a plan”
As a note, this is a pretty typically conversation. Nepali people are mainly baffled over two things: 1) a single woman at such a supremely advanced age as myself and 2) a person who does not commit themselves to any one religion and dare I say, may question the existence of common beliefs. Shocking!! Though, between the two I do think the single lady part is honestly more offensive.
Throughout this whole conversation, this kid was playing ping-pong. So now that I’ve met the ping-pong playing Dr. Phil of the Pokhara Valley, I kept going with my climb up to the Stupa.
I again came upon a group of kids playing a version of hacky sack with a ball of electric bands tied together. The oldest one decided I need an escort and took me up the hill, off roading a bit, but making the way a bit shorter I guess. I had another conversation about when I was going to get married. Then we talked about arranged marriage, and I asked what if you have to marry someone you don’t like. His response: “It’s ok, you will still have your friends”. Well that’s a positive spin.
World Peace Stupa Pokhara Nepal
After much dissection of love and matrimony with Nepali teenagers, I made it to the World Peace Stupa. This was built by the Japanese government as part of the plan to build a bunch of such stupas all over the Buddhist world. This one just so happens to have an awesome view at 1139 meters altitude, and looks out over the lake, Pokhara and the Annapurna range of the Himalayas. Not too shabby! And I happened to get an ok day/time, and was able to see the mountains in varying degrees of clarity, depending on the minute.
Boating on Phewa Tal in Pokhara Nepal
When it came time to return to Pokhara, I went down the lakeside of the hill, and caught a row boat across the lake. There are no motors of any kind allowed on the lake, so if you are going out in a boat, you are going by paddle. Since it was just me in the boat with the oarsman(??) I also got a paddle and helped! And then looked around me to the other boats of tourists and saw no other people helping. Bitches.
Due to the weather, I made the executive decision, to not try and get a trek together. Instead, I opted to go to a nearby yoga retreat for a few days and do some breathing. And bending. Start my 3 days, 4 nights at the Sadhana Yoga and Meditation Retreat. Click [intlink id=”552″ type=”post”]HERE[/intlink] for that tale…
The day I came back to mainstream life from Sadhana to Pokhara, I met up with Lizzie, a friend from Kathmandu for an afternoon of tea, momo’s and chatter. Then Lizzie went off for a massage, and I went to town to have a brownie. A definitively non-Ayurvedic/yoga friendly brownie. We got together again for an evening of similar eating, drinking, and bullshitting. This was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
Paragliding in Pokhara Nepal
The day after I left Sadhana, an ashram amie, Lauren, was leaving the retreat after completing her program, and her sister was around, so more the merrier and we all went for lunch! The plan was Lauren, her sister, Lizzie and I would all go paragliding at 1:30pm, as Pokhara is said to be one of the best paragliding spots in the world.
As luck would have it, the morning of was horrendous weather, but crazy enough the skies cleared a little before noon and the day was clear as…day. But of course, a bit of absolute confusion ensued with the paragliding company about how many pilots there were and earlier bookings flying later due to weather, none of which made any sense. Unfortunately only Lizzie and I could go paragliding, but hopefully Lauren and her sis will when they come back to Pokes next month. And yes I did want to punch the woman who was bullshitting us through all of this.
In no time, Lizzie and I were each strapped to the front sides of Nepali men, standing on the edge of a drop-off cliff about to run off the edge. Yes that is what paragliding is, you have a big parachute that is laid out, and someone helps by running it up to catch the breeze as you/the pilot run forward and take ye’ olde leap of faith. I was not scared at all until the 90 seconds before lift off when this whole concept was truly sinking in, and then I was worried I was going to pee my pants whilst soaring with the hawks.
Of note, my ‘pilot’ looked like a Nepali version of Orlando Bloom, and he had long luscious flowing hair, which I think made us fly faster, so I basically flew through the sky with Legolas strapped to my back. Yet another reason peeing my pants would have been bad.
But all went well, and the Elf-Prince and I were soon swooping through the air, looking down on hawks, villages, the lake, and across at the Annapurna range, oh you Himalayas! Because it was such a great clear day, we ended up with a decent view and were able to really enjoy the flight. Sometimes I thought about what was happening and held on with both hands, not that that would do anything to help if we started plummeting towards the ground, but I also hold onto my arm rests when airplanes are going through turbulence, because apparently I control the plane with my mind.
Paragliding was wicked, and it was also on my Bucket List, as I have wanted to take flight in this way for some time, so check that off!!!
What to do in Pokhara on a Budget
After paragliding, Lizzie and I were on total highs, so we headed to the lakeside Bamboo Bar, or Derek’s as we now call it, as we are BFF’s with the Aussie owner, Derek. We had popcorn and nachos, I had wine, Lizzie had cocktails, and we played Uno and enjoyed how awesome we were while singing “You are the Wind Beneath my Wings” and making R.Kelly jokes in reference to our recent soaring experience.
Then we headed to the hostel to meet Lauren for dinner, where we had more good times with that cat, until a racist Swiss dude came and sat himself with us and proceeded to offend and stupefy us all to no end. And to offend/stupefy me is actually pretty hard to do, so I guess that’s impressive for him.
Pokhara Travel Blog Points…
I mentioned momo’s so I will explain. Momo’s are steamed dumplings, and are the national snack/appie of Nepal. I love them, and regularly get a full order of momo’s just for myself. There are many different levels of momo quality, and if possible, I would very much like to think of myself as a momo connoisseur. Set the bar high.
The bus ride to Pokhara from Kathmandu had a lunch stop at a fancy resort. The resort had this monstrous bright blue swimming pool, and also catered for the less entitled of us by having permanent tents. This is not out of the ordinary, except that instead of numbers, the tents had names. Names like Lady’s Delight, Surprise, Rocky I, Upset, etc. How could one choose between staying in Lady’s Delight or Rocky I? I have no idea!!!
When you are walking in Nepal, you will often get kids running up to you asking for money, which I never give. When I was walking down from the Peace Stupa I heard an odd whisper and looked over and there was a little girl whispering from behind a fence “chocolate?” That gal’s got her priorities straight!
The last morning in Pokes, Lizzie and I got a 5am start, as she was to return to Kathmandu, and I was heading south to [intlink id=”556″ type=”post”]Tansen[/intlink]. We got out of the bungalow and started walking towards town hoping to get a cab to take us most of the way to the bus station for our 6am buses, and what would you know, we came across one after 10 minutes of walking. We were his first customers of the day, and wouldn’t you know, we were the first tourists in the bus park too. And as the good fortune of this day would attest, we rocked up at the exact same time as the croissant guy!!! So there we were at 6am, in the dark, drinking black tea and eating freshly baked, still warm, chocolate croissants. And laughing about how amazing of travellers we were to make an early morning start so magical. What a time!