Nepal Diaries: Pokhra & Chitwan

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  • Sunday, January 1, 2012
  • Not that Kathmandu doesn't have enough to amuse a tourist, but if you have to figure out where do all the people who buy the adventure gear, trekking equipment, energy bars, sesame cookies and other provisions go to - you have to visit Pokhra.

    Ritika Gupta

    This is the hub of adventure activities with many a treks starting from here. The town is situated on the banks of the Phewa lake, the streets lined with cafes, resorts, bars, night clubs and shops selling pashmina, jackets, shoes, snow axes and the likes.
    The most convenient and the economical way to reach Pokhra is to hop on to the 7AM buses from Kathmandu. These buses charge NPR 500 for an 8 hour ride to Pokhra.

    The lakeside is walking distance from the Mustang bus stand and hence you must evade the cab drivers who volunteer to drop you there for a mere NPR 100. Walking down the road also gives one a fair sense of the city. You would know you are near the lake, when you see rest houses named as  'Fish Tail', 'Peace Eye', 'Fewa'-  even if the lake is not clearly visible.

    We stayed at Hotel Yeti, a cozy, affordable place with a beautiful garden.
    By the time we finished freshening up, it was almost dusk and hence we could not trek upto the World Peace Pagoda - an UNESCO World Heritage site. It is believed the best view of the Annapurna can be devoured from here. There are 2 ways to reach this place - either trek the entire way which may take upto 3 hours or cross the lake in a boat and trek up for good 70mins before you reach the view point.

    Food: The place may be classified as a town, but it offers the best of the world cuisines  - Italian, Chinese, Mediterranean, Japanese. We strongly recommend the Moondance restaurant - a well laid out, fun place with a pool table, board games, large central fireplace and the best organic coffee. It is a little on the expensive side, but it is a must have experience.

    Everyone sitting around is either back from or is on his way to trekking the Great Himlayas. Adventure tales, words of caution, warm stories are as  free flowing as the beer.

    Chitwan -  The heart of the forest

    Next day we boarded a bus to Chitwan - the Terai Nepali plains, a relatively warmer terrain. Again the bus leaves pretty early in the morning at around 7AM and hence it is highly advised to allocate atleast 2-3 days for Pokhra. A 6 hour ride would bring you to this natural reserve that was recently ripped off its royalty post the democratic rule in Nepal in 2006. The 'royal' Chitwan  once used to be the hunting grounds for the King of Nepal and now is the renowned national reserve - known for its one horned rhinoceros.

    Situated on the banks of river Rapti, the town has a beautiful river beach. There are beach chairs, umbrellas, hammocks all along the river. The site of villagers floating on the bunches of dry grass/wooden rafts is extremely soothing. The placid waters of the river and the quiet surroundings would teleport you to a world where life is slow paced and peaceful. In the afternoons the herd of elephants arrive to take a dip in the river. It is a site to behold to watch the playful, enormous  creatures throwing water at each other or showering themselves. One must sit atop them if one is too lazy to take a shower oneself.

    There are multiple kinds of jungle safaris - the elephant safari which takes you for an hour long ride in the conservation zone, a jeep safari that would take you right into the middle of the forest or a jungle trek that could turn out to be extremely creepy.

    Then there are culture tours to the Tharu village, where tourists watch folk dances and musical performances, interact & dine with the people from this village. There is an elephant breeding center which is quite like an elephant hostel where each one has a name, an assigned living space, timings to be taken out for a stroll and fixed bathing hours. The baby elephants are very cute.

    Stay: Options to stay are plenty, we recommend the Jungle Adventure World as it has vintage cottages and sprawling lush green gardens, which means a lot of mosquitos too, but its manageable with the anti repellants. The staff is extremely cooperative and is on their toes to facilitate a good stay. Other options can be the Tiger Camp next door. The best thing about these two is their location- the sunset point. An excellent view of the river with the setting sun in the backdrop and the villagers canoeing their rafts across to ferry grass and bushes can be way more engrossing than an action filled bond movie.

    Food: Black ginger tea and fried wai wai at the Rhino restaurant is out of the world.

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