Pokhara: Beyond the Hiking Trails

61 comments
Asia, Nepal, South

Two Locals at the Misty Phewa Lake

One morning in the middle of Nepalese winter, I woke up to the sound of children singing and playing from a house a few hundred meters behind our hotel. I opened the door to the balcony, stepped outside and let the cold and crisp air caress my naked arms. From here I could see a vegetable garden surrounded by a brick wall. The kids sang louder, occasionally interrupted by bursts of laughter. They were practicing a few children songs in English, probably taught by the staff members of some international NGO for Nepal is a no strange land for foreign humanitarian workers.

The night before, I had showered in the darkness, with a headlamp beaming the only source of light. I would have never thought that not only did it help me during a hike James and I did months earlier, but the headlamp also turned out very handy for taking a shower at night in Nepal as its giant neighbor to the south was imposing an embargo on the Himalayan country during our visit, effectively blockading fuel, medicine, and other necessities from entering the Nepalese market. Hours-long power outages became far too regular, further crippling the already struggling country.

We were in Pokhara – some 200 km west of the nation’s capital, Kathmandu – known for being the hub of adventure tourism in Nepal, as well as the base for the popular Annapurna Circuit trek. Its city center is bordered by the scenic Phewa Lake to the west and multiple hills to its north, east and south. The heart of the city’s tourism industry lies along the eastern banks of the calm and atmospheric lake – perfect to wind down after days of arduous trekking. Strangely, unlike in other heavily-touristed areas across Asia, Pokhara’s Lakeside was tame in comparison, despite the plethora of western restaurants and bars, souvenir shops, budget accommodation, massage parlors, and other typical establishments one can expect from such a place in the region.

We, too, were thinking of doing one of the short treks the city had to offer. But as we were approaching the very end of our months-long journey, we decided to take it easy and slow. The fact that thick clouds and mist stubbornly obscured the otherwise majestic views of the snow-capped peaks of the Annapurna mountain range further discouraged us from doing the trek. Instead, we took full advantage of the availability of a wide variety of dishes from all over the globe in the city. Nepalese thali and thukpa, Japanese gyudon, Tibetan momo, Vietnamese pho, Korean bibimbap, Italian pizza, and even Greek moussaka were among the dishes we tried during our nine-night stay in Pokhara.

Not A Busy Day

A Pleasant Stroll around the Lake

View of the Annapurna Range from Sarangkot

Majestic Snow-Capped Peaks of the Annapurna Range

A Small Temple in Pokhara’s Old Town

A Newari-Style Building in the Old Town

Reminiscent of the Buildings in the Kathmandu Valley

Business Must Continue Despite the Fuel Crisis

Main Street in the Old Town

One day, suddenly the mist cleared up a little bit, revealing the snow-capped peaks of Machhapuchchhre (Fishtail Mountain) and the adjacent mountains. We immediately headed to Sarangkot, a village on a mountain a few kilometers away from the city center popular for paragliding. From the height of the village, Pokhara’s sprawling houses and other buildings meandered through the high passes, forming Nepal’s second largest city by population. In spite of the lingering thin mist, the view of Machhapuchchhre overlooking Pokhara was truly a sight to behold.

Back in the city, when the mountains were shrouded by clouds and the electricity was cut off, we walked away from the lake toward Pokhara’s old town. A district filled with incongruous commercial and residential buildings divided by dusty roads, the old town surprisingly had a number of houses built in Newari style – similar to the ones found in the Kathmandu Valley. Pokhara itself has been home to the Khas people for centuries, and it was not until the mid-18th century the Newar people from Bhaktapur started migrating to what is today the old town of Pokhara.

In this part of the city, we were the only foreigners as far as my eyes could see. Clearly there were no international restaurants, just local grocery stores. Also conspicuously absent were signboards promoting guided treks and other excursions. With Newari buildings and small shrines set against an unpretentious neighborhood where daily life unfolded, the old town district was itself an interesting excursion.

On the way back to our hotel, cars and trucks formed a long line outside a small gas station, hoping to get however little petrol to run the vehicles regardless of the astronomical price – if there was gasoline at all. On a side walk, dozens – probably even hundreds – of empty LPG canisters were another reminder of the dire shortage the nation was facing. However, this part of Nepal is known as the home of the Gurkhas, soldiers who serve in the Nepalese, British, Indian, Singaporean and Bruneian armies. Perseverance ran in their blood, and it certainly helped them face the most unfortunate situations, including this fuel crisis.

A few days before we left the city, the mist cleared up again, prompting us to go to one more place we had been waiting to visit. A short taxi ride away and we were already on top of Ananda Hill – situated on the southern edge of the lake – where a white Buddhist stupa sat amid a garden filled with colorful blooms. From the stupa’s grounds, Pokhara’s sprawling urban center appeared to effortlessly blend with the calm waters of the lake and the awe-inspiring snow-crowned peaks in the background – a marvelous vista which could help one to forget, albeit briefly, the hardship Nepal was facing.

Shiva, One of the Main Gods in Hindu’s Trimurti

Vibrant Outfits of the Local Women

Bicycle, Always Reliable at Any Situation

Bringing Offerings to A Local Temple

A Long Line of LPG Canisters waiting to be Refilled

Downtown Pokhara and Phewa Lake as Seen from Ananda Hill

A Low-Rise Version of Hong Kong

Shanti Stupa (also Known as the World Peace Pagoda) atop Ananda Hill

Colors of Winter

Houses Sitting on Terraces around Ananda Hill

As the Sun Sets, A New Day will Come

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Based in Jakarta, always curious about the world, always fascinated by ancient temples, easily pleased by food.

61 thoughts on “Pokhara: Beyond the Hiking Trails”

  1. I’m so happy to see more of Nepal! I can’t believe you guys spent nine days in Pokhara – what a treat. I never made it there, and it’s one of my regrets, but after the very long trek on the Everest trail and stays in Kathmandu before and after, I was out of time. The lake looks as ethereally beautiful as I pictured, and I love those boat photos. It was also interesting to read about the settlement history here as I immediately thought some of the buildings reminded me of those in Bhaktapur! I simply must get back to this country some day.

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    • Sounds like a really long time to spend in Pokhara, doesn’t it? That’s because originally we wanted to do one of the easier hiking trails. But due to the weather, and probably also the fatigue after traveling for five months, we decided to take it easy and just rest. I believe I gained a lot of weight during those nine days! However, a few restaurants were closed due to the fuel crisis, and we often had candlelight dinner, literally. You definitely should come back, Lex.

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  2. Mas Bamaaaa…. duh baca postingan ini sangat menyiksa deh, aku semakin kangen untuk ke Nepal lagiiii. Sengaja ya? Bwahahaha….
    9 hari di Pokhara? Envy to the core bisa selama itu di satu kota yang ajib. Sempet nginep di Sarangkot atau engga mas? Aku belum sekalipun kesana, pengen sekali-sekali nginep disitu. Dulu aku stay di Raniban dg panorama view Annapurna, Fewa dan Shanti Stupa, sampai aku extend tinggal disana haha. Nyobain food stalls di sepanjang danau pas sunset sampai malam? Wuuih… asyik banget lhoo.

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    • Saya kan bisa baca pikiran Mbak Riyanti.. 😀 Saya selama sembilan hari itu bener-bener cuma nginep di satu hotel di sisi timur danau. Begitu cuaca agak bagus, langsung pergi ke sana sini. Mungkin karena Pokhara ini bener-bener akhir dari perjalanan enam bulan itu, jadi bawaannya malah pengen santai terus. Makan ini itu, beli buku novel buat bacaan pas lagi mati gaya karena mati lampu, belanja sedikit oleh-oleh, gitu-gitu aja rutinitas setiap hari selama di sana. Dulu setiap cari makan malam pertimbangan saya cuma satu: cari tempat makan yang gak gelap-gelap amat berhubung lagi krisis BBM. Ada satu restoran yang biasa jual yak steak terpaksa tutup karena krisis ini.

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      • Awas yaaa… ntar aku balas dendam deh wakakakak…
        Duh kebayang santainya, sayang ya pas lg krisis bbm, kalo ga bisa kemana2 tuh. Ga mau ngulang lagi mas Bama? Sekalian Janakpur gitu hahaha…

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      • Ngulang lagi pastinya pengen mbak. Tapi di kepala masih banyak banget tempat-tempat yang pengen saya datangi, dan kayaknya semakin sering traveling justru semakin panjang daftar tempat yang pengen dikunjungi. 🙂

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  3. Bama for a moment as I was reading I thought you were going to say that you and James went paragliding! I was very excited at the prospect.
    The photos are fabulous and I do love the boat photos. I saw some of the lake on Instagram just the other day. How wonderful that you had 9 days. This is the kind of travel I hope we will have one day. I don’t mean that I am not grateful for every minute we have had. It will be another way of taking in a deeper look of a place and its people.

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    • Actually I can imagine himself doing that. But height is not something I’m comfortable with — although I do realize that when we’re traveling we should try new things. For some people nine days in Pokhara might be a little too long, but it worked perfectly fine for us since we wanted to wind down (and eat up) anyway after months of constant travels. In hindsight, I’m glad we did stay nine days so we had enough time to go out and explore parts of the city we would otherwise have overlooked. Thanks Sue!

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  4. I was i Pokhara in the 90s loved the town and your pictures bring back so many memories. I racal an electric storm one evening when the sky lit up with an amazing display. No sound though! Wonderful post thank you! Al

    Liked by 1 person

    • Pokhara must have looked very different back then. And an electric storm when you were there? Wow, what an experience you had! I do love the fact that Pokhara hasn’t changed into something like Kuta in Bali. Thanks for reading Al, and glad this post brings back some fond memories!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Jane. Nepal really is a beautiful country. Its majestic landscape, impressive architecture, and friendly people make this country one of those places I want to return one day. Happy travels too!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Simply amazing – the pictures, the writing – overall picture! I’m amazed by how you describe your travels – just amazing! Reading such a passionate description is so inspirational! Keep up the splendid work!​

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Stella. Thank you for your kind and encouraging comment. I’m constantly inspired by other bloggers to keep writing, so I simply am passing on that inspiration to others. I’m really glad you enjoyed this post.

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  6. I have only ever seen photos of the colourful boats on that lake, so I am grateful for this wander around the town Bama. Your photos of the Annapurna range are breathtaking. Also love the rooftop view. Very often it is the places that let us slow down that we end up liking as much, or even more than the picturesque ones.

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    • Before the trip, I used to think that Pokhara was all about adventure — hiking, paragliding and whatnot. But a visit to the old town proved that I was wrong. I think if the weather was better, we would have walked more often as both of us really enjoy walking. You know, now that I think of it, there is one similarity between Pokhara and Nyaung Shwe in Myanmar: both usually serve as base camps for visitors to explore something else in the vicinity, but they themselves are actually worth exploring. Thanks for reading, Madhu!

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  7. Swati says:

    Wow! Your picture quality is amazing! Additionally, I love that your pictures capture all the real moments you encountered from the expressions on people’s faces to the buildings.

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    • Thank you, Swati. Those colorful garments the local people wore were such a contrast to the dusty roads of Pokhara. Seeing some Newari buildings was a treat too.

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  8. A friend was recently describing her visits throughout several Asian countries, and she said Nepal was her favorite. She told of going into jungle areas, which I had not imagined in Nepal – is it perhaps on the India side? I wonder what the embargo was about… Thanks for another post of great photos and information!

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    • I can completely relate to what your friend feels about Nepal — it is by far among my favorite countries. Probably she went to Chitwan National Park which is famous for its rhinos. It lies in the lowlands of Nepal. I haven’t been there myself, but from the photos I saw on the internet it is a completely different place from the snow-capped peaks of the Himalayas most people associate the country with. The embargo was very political — it started with this ethnic group in Nepal who felt underrepresented in the new constitution. They are closely related to India, hence a punitive action was taken against Nepal. I don’t know whether this problem has been resolved or not, but it is in everyone’s interest to see a stable Nepal. Thanks for reading, Marilyn!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Nepal looked beautiful! I hope that you had a great time there. Hope that I could visit the country one day. Much love ❤

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    • It is among the most beautiful and memorable countries I’ve been to. Hopefully you’ll get the chance to visit Nepal sooner than later! Thanks for dropping by.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Dirimu beruntung dapat pemandangan yang bersih dari atas pelataran Peace Pagoda Bam, soalnya waktu aku di sana kabutnya tebal banget. Bahkan waktu trekking dari pinggiran Phewa Lake ke atas pun kabutnya menghalangi jalan. Serem. Di hutan lebat, remang-remang, dan berkabut. Visibility jalannya agak terhalang. Btw, dua kali aku ke sana ,,, belum nemu lho Old Town nya dimana 😀

    Dan selama di sana ternyata dirimu nyobain beragam masakan dari beragam negara ya? Emang itu sih salah satu asiknya Pokhara, banyak banget pilihan tawaran makanannya. Hmmmm Warung Minang aja nih yang belum ada 😀

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    • Eh iya, selama kamu trekking ke World Peace Pagoda sempet ketemu orang-orang yang nawarin yang aneh-aneh gak?

      Old town-nya Pokhara kadang dikenal dengan nama Purano Bazaar. Kalau gak salah dari sekitaran danau jaraknya kurang lebih 4 km, jadi walkable. Nah, mungkin kamu butuh ke sana untuk ketiga kalinya Bart. 🙂

      Hahaha, ayo sebagai orang Minang kembangkan jaringan bisnis rumah makan Minang hingga ke kaki Himalaya, Bart. 😀

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      • Nawarin aneh-aneh apaan Bam? Hasish? Hmmm ,,, justru aku penasaran soal ini. Katanya di sana banyak yang sering ditawarin hasish. Kok aku malah gak pernah sekalipun hahahaha 😀

        Noted. Purano Bazaar ya. Ok siip, kalau ke Pokhara lagi, aku mampir.

        Haha ,, kira-kira dikasih nama apa ya rumah makannya? Sinar Uda Jaya? Hahahahaha

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      • Eh iya ya, Nepal kan lumayan terkenal di kalangan hippies karena ganjanya. Sampe-sampe di Bandara Tribhuvan pas mau pulang belanjaan oleh-olehku digeledah semua, diendus-endus pula, takut di dalemnya ada ganja kali ya.

        Sinar Uda Jaya boleh juga sih, ada jaya-nya, kan orang Nepal juga tau tuh artinya jaya. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • Wah tumben-tumbenan tuh Bam. Sejauh ini sih aku belum pernah diperiksa sambil sedetail itu, meskipun bawa oleh2 satu ransel penuh. Random check aja.

        Menyoal ganja dan penyelundupannya, aku jadi ingat satu serial di tv kabel itu. Duh apa ya judulnya, intinya tentang orang-orang yang masuk penjara di negara lain karena melanggar/dituduh melanggar hukum. Dan kisah soal Nepal sering banget.

        O iya ya, mereka pakai kata jaya juga. Jaya hai!

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      • Jangan pernah deh Bart. Meskipun kita tau kita gak bakal kenapa-kenapa karena kita memang gak bawa ganja, tapi tetep aja gak enak rasanya digeledah sampe seluruh isi tas disuruh dikeluarin. Btw aku baru tau sih kalo orang Nepal juga cukup sering kena kasus kayak gini di bandara, karena yang sering diekspos kan biasanya orang-orang Amerika Latin atau Afrika.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Iya sih, males aja ya. Meskipun gak ngapa-ngapain, dicurigai itu gak enak. Cuma aku bingung juga, kenapa setelanmu kok dicurigai 😁

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  11. Well, Bama, this certainly stirred up some fond memories! Considering how little we did during those nine days in Pokhara, it seemed to go by pretty quickly. But yes, after eating Indian food for practically a month (with the exception of that Mexican-style pizza in Pondicherry, and that wonderful last meal in Chennai with Madhu and R), the sheer variety of international cuisine in Lakeside was such a treat. One day we’ll have to go back to Nepal and do some actual trekking. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Trying different dishes was actually among the highlights of our stay in Pokhara, don’t you think? Despite the long power outages, I felt really comfortable during those nine days thanks to a combination of several things: good food, Nepalese hospitality, the laid back ambiance, and those majestic views of the snow-capped peaks. But you’re right, if we do return one day, we should do some actual trekking — probably the Annapurna Circuit itself? 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Gorgeous photos, Bama! The Shanti Stupa is really beautiful, and the niches in the brick of the Newari-style building are really cool details. The bicycle photo is my favorite — might be the most useful invention of all time, as you’ve alluded to in your caption. Great post!

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    • Thanks Kelly! It would have been better if we did the hiking to the stupa. But as the weather was rather unpredictable, once the skies cleared up a little bit we didn’t waste our time and went straight to that hill. I’m glad we went to the old town since there were quite a few things to see. Seeing that guy riding a bicycle actually made me wish I had one to ride on too!

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  13. Suwandi says:

    Happy Id Bama!
    It’s great to have stumbled upon your wonderful blog which adds much richness to the Indo travel blogosphere.
    Peace and happiness to you & your loved ones!

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    • Happy Id to you too, Suwandi! It’s always great to have you share your thoughts on my blog. Have a peaceful and pleasant holiday to you and your loved ones too!

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  14. Mas Bama, lama enggak mampir ke blog, aduh, kemana aja aku ini ya. Waduh foto2nya makin cakep, dan ini kalau mr.husband liat semakin giat dia ngajak aku ke Nepal. Hehe..

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    • Hi Mbak Tesya! Wah iya saya juga udah lama gak mampir ke blog Mbak Tesya lho. Udah berabad-abad kayaknya, hehe. Wah makasih lho mbak, semoga Mr. Husband semakin ngiler ke Nepal. 🙂

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    • Thanks! I wonder if it was because of the fuel crisis or Pokhara is always like that, but the city felt so peaceful during my nine-day stay.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Appreciate your kind gesture, Julie. However, I’m afraid I won’t be able to take part in the award. Anyway, thank you for reading and I’m glad you enjoyed this post!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Kamila! Sorry for the delayed response. I just returned from a holiday at my parents’ house.

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    • So kind of you! Glad this post does that to you, and really appreciate your time dropping by my blog.

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  15. You’ve been to my country Nepal too – great! 🙂 Pokhara is one of my favorite cities in Nepal although I am from Kathmandu. Incredible photos! I can almost feel the Nepalese winter through your photos.

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    • In fact, I loved Nepal so much! Being an enthusiast of carvings, heritage buildings, and archaeological sites, I fell in love with the Kathmandu Valley. It still is among the most memorable places I’ve been to. Thanks for reading!

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      • Kathmandu is really something special. The only thing I don’t like about Kathmandu is the increasing pollution but still no love like for hometown 🙂

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      • There was this brown air throughout my stay in Kathmandu which made the city look rather gloomy when viewed from places like Swayambunath Temple. But it still was an enchanting city.

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