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Pokhara: A city known for its tranquil lakes, snowy peaks and quaint villages

One can also spot the glistening peak of 6,993-metre high Machhapuchhre or Fish Tail, which is one of the few virgin mountains that one is not allowed to climb.

, ET Bureau|
Updated: Jul 28, 2019, 08.50 AM IST
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Pokhara
A hippie haven, lakeside Pokhara is perfect for a stroll in the evening.
Often perceived as the indigent cousin of India, Nepal is far from being one. In fact, it has a wealth of charming villages, incredible mountain scenery, ancient pagodas, monasteries and temples, interesting museums, backpacker-friendly streets and gorgeous national parks waiting to be explored.

During my recent jaunt to the Himalayan nation, I decide to explore Pokhara at a relaxed pace, delving deeper in the traditional mountain life of the lakeside city. “Chaos!” is the only word that comes to my mind when I get off the plane and arrive at Kathmandu airport.

Moreover, rushing to make it in time for my connecting 30-minute flight to Pokhara, having my luggage put on the wrong plane and missing my flight has me sweating under stress. However, a couple of hours and conversations later, I realise that one must be patient and ready to go with the flow to enjoy Nepal. Delays and disorders aren’t a rare phenomenon here. However, there are solutions and happy endings just around the corner provided you are prepared to ask for help.

A village paddy field outside the city
A village paddy field outside the city

It’s a cloudy afternoon as I land in Pokhara and soon reach my resort set alongside a meandering river near Chisapani village. My first evening is spent gazing at the majestic Annapurna range and the forested hills while sipping a locally-brewed beer.

One can also spot the glistening peak of 6,993-metre high Machhapuchhre or Fish Tail, which is one of the few virgin mountains that one is not allowed to climb. Early morning walks around Chisapani village are delightful. Acres of farmland dotted with typical Nepalese houses, buffaloes, cows, goats and chickens resting in their tin-roofed sheds, dramatic blue skies, chirping birds and locals sluggishly preparing to begin their day.

The slight dampness in the weather and the soothing petrichor following a midnight downpour uplift the mood. After a hearty breakfast and a glass of lassi smoothie, I am ready to head out to the old town, situated north of the buzzing Mahendra Pul.

A fisherman at work on the Phewa
A fisherman at work on the Phewa

Exploring the sleepy and traffic-free streets on foot, I pass by Newari houses constructed using red bricks and boasting ornately-carved wooden windows similar to those in Kathmandu.

A local says that Pokhara’s old town, located between Tibet and Kathmandu, used to be a major trade route some 300 years ago. The 200-year-old Bhimsen Temple, known for its erotic carvings, and the ancient Bindhya Basini Temple are the religious sites you can visit when touring this historic part of Pokhara.

My next stop — Devi’s Falls — is a rather unusual waterfall. It is named after a Swiss woman, Mrs Davis, who was pulled in by the currents while swimming there in 1961. The water flows into a 500 feet long tunnel. Across the road is that subterranean cave — Gupteshwar Gupha — where a Shiva Lingam was once discovered.

Clambering through the cold tunnel behind the shrine, one arrives in a damp cavern adjacent to the thundering waters of Devi’s Falls.

World Peace Pagoda
World Peace Pagoda

For a change of landscape, I decide to spend the remaining two nights at a secluded tented villa perched above Phewa Lake and surrounded by cascading rice fields.

It is a wonderful opportunity to reconnect with nature minus the hassles of traditional camping. However, getting to my villa is an adventure in itself. It requires crossing the tranquil freshwater lake by a brightly-painted doonga (old-fashioned paddle boat) followed by a short hike through a curved mountain trail.

Blanketed by lavender water hycinths, the misty Phewa has a subtle emerald hue due to the surrounding lush-green fields and forests. Away from the touristy end of the shore, I can listen to the rhythmic paddles of the boatsmen and see schoolchildren rowing to their homes as well as fishermen at work with their nets. Soaring high above snow-covered mountains, paragliders seem like tiny, vibrant birds.

Paragliders soar above the city
Paragliders soar above the city

Local buses ply around lakeside and Local buses are fun to travel in. I croon Bollywood songs from the 1990s that the driver prefers to play.

A hippie haven, lakeside Pokhara is perfect for a stroll on one of the evenings when you wish to go souvenir shopping or simply grab a table at a cafe and enjoy a plate of momos with Himalayan tea or freshly-ground, organic coffee with pastries and croissants.


THERE’S MORE TO DO...
*Hike up to World Peace Pagoda above the lake

*Go paragliding, bungee jumping, zip-lining, river rafting or fly over the peaks in an ultralight aircraft

* Go to Sarangkot to see the sunrise over the Annapurna and Fishtail mountains

* Visit International Mountain Museum and Gurkha Museum

* Pokhara is also the starting point for the famous treks to Poon Hill and Annapurna Base Camp

Where to Stay
Luxury: The Pavilions Himalayas, Rupakot Resort

Mid-range: Atithi Resort & Spa, Hotel Pokhara Grande

Budget: Hotel Karuna, The Silver Oaks Inn

How to Reach 200 km west of Kathmandu 6 hours by road 30 minutes by flight

The entire street is packed with chic restaurants, bakeries and watering holes; leaving you spoilt for choice. From religious shops selling Hindu and Buddhist paraphernalia as well as brass items, trekking and camping gear outlets, small corner boutiques selling cotton clothing, shawls, embroidered bags and dainty silver jewellery to stores displaying a range of hookahs, cigars and khukuris (gurkha knife), there is something for everyone. Whatever you choose to buy, remember to put the art of haggling to use.

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