After spending 2 days in Kathmandu (mostly eating momos in Thamel), we decide to make our way to Pokhara. We figure that the buses from Kathmandu to Pokhara left from quite close to our guest house in Thamel. Since we didn’t want to get scammed into buying a fake/overpriced ticket, we decide to directly go to the bus place and buy a ticket on the spot.
We woke up early in the morning and reached to the bus stop (at 7 am) which was hardly 5 mins from Newa Home (where we stayed, recommended by a friend). There were 4-5 buses and all of them were headed to either Pokhara or other tourist-friendly destinations. I noticed that 3 of the buses were bound for Pokhara. Our aim was to catch the bus which would leave the earliest.
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We were 4 of us and knew that since it was off season, there was plenty of scope for bargaining on the bus ticket price. A guy approaches us from the Kathmandu-Pokhara Air Conditioned bus, scheduled to leave at 730 am and quotes a price of 800 per person. After checking that the seats were in the middle and not the rear, we agreed a final price of 600 Nepali Rupees per person.
There were many foreigners in the bus and were rushing the bus to leave on time. The bus guy took us aside and told us there’s still 15 minutes for us to start our journey and that we can eat something if we want. We were hungry and found a small local eatery serving tea, sell roti with chickpeas. The bus leaves on time and is almost full. We hope to reach Pokhara by 130 pm as the distance from Kathmandu to Pokhara is only 180 kms.
It begins drizzling after we cross the sizeable city of Kathmandu and we are stuck in a massive traffic jam around 930 am. We are reminded of India a decade or two ago with the chaos of the traffic jam with no news of its resolution. The progress is painfully slow and instead of reaching Pokhara at 130 pm, we have just reached a lunch place set by the river!
The restaurant-dhaba is an expensive place, with buffet lunch for NPR 300 per person. We are hungry and have no choice but to eat; the spread is excellent though with salad, papad, noodles, dall, rice, and 2 vegetable curries. The sitting area is shaded and we eat well considering it might be our only meal of the day. It is sweltering hot and humid and we are grateful for having chosen an air conditioned bus over the faster but non-ac maxi shared taxi instead.
We are ecstatic when the conductor announces that we have reached Pokhara at about 4 pm. The bus parking is at an almost inaccessible place full of slush, leading to a gaggle of taxi operators quoting astronomical prices. We made our way out of the area and immediately found a taxi for NPR 200 that dropped us close to Phewa Lake. Our aim was to find a reasonably priced place to stay in Pokhara.
I hadn’t done any research and entered a lane full of guest houses and were able to finalise a nice place for 1200 NPR for 2 rooms. It was a family run place with some open spaces; the bathroom was shared but since we there were only 4 of us – it was no problem at all. The young guy at the reception was happy to fill our bottles with filter water and that really saved us a lot of money!
After having done all this in less than an hour, there was still plenty of time left for us to stroll to Phewa Lake. There was a temple at the start of the entry point to Phewa Lake I was mightily surprised to see some geisha-like tourists there. It was nice to know that there were no entry charges for the entrance to the lakeside.
It felt like a festive atmosphere as we strolled on the walking path around Phewa Lake. Many local families were out for a picnic with their kids. Colourful boats occupy centerstage in the lake and with the sun setting with the mountain view, made for a pristine sight. I enjoyed clicking photographs of the serene setting.
To the right of the walking path, there were restaurants and cafe’s advertising fast foods, snacks, juices, offers on drinks and beers! Prices of the restaurants were quite high because this was a proper tourist spot. Sunset on Phewa Lake seemed like an especially popular time and there were also some street sellers grilling fresh meat and selling ‘sekuwa’. It felt like a wonderland, full of happy people with smiling faces.
We continued walking on the path and sat whenever we felt the urge to enjoy the views fully. There were 2 people/4 people boats and we saw few tourists enjoying their time boating in the lake. The ticket counter had rates for the same which seemed quite reasonable. Some hawkers were also selling freshly prepared corn on cob. The cafés located farther away look prettier and some of them are playing live music to entice the passersby!
Some of the prettier looking cafés are full of foreigners – they are on the other side of the lake and have calmer sitouts, mellow lights, relaxed music and cheap beer! It is a joyful atmosphere with impromptu guitar and singing sessions. We start having hunger pangs with the lunch feeling like a distant memory now!
The air is still pretty humid and we are thankful for the breeze without which it would have been quite sweaty on the walk. The sunset is stunning and while we debated about sitting at one of cafés and enjoying beer (150 NPR for San Miguel beer), we ended up being indecisive and walked to the main street before it got dark. Many guest houses and hostels for backpackers. Advertised food joints serving different variety of food; Tibetan, Vietnamese, Chinese, European.
Free-wifi is advertised prominently; it reminds me of backpacker friendly tourist destinations in India many years ago where wifi is a popular way of enticing international tourists. We come across a stunningly beautiful restaurant by the name of Byanjan – done up in gorgeous blue and white colours but it turns out to be super expensive when we check the menu! We sit on the upper floor of a nearby restaurant and sip draught Sherpa beer and eat excellent Margarita Pizza.
The staff recommends an authentic Nepali restaurant for dinner nearby, one Fewa Thakali Bhanchha Ghar. We enter the eatery and are pleasantly surprised to see it is fully occupied with local families. The interior sitting space is in a traditional style, walls are in maroon and white with low tables and cushions laid out on the floor. We find a solitary empty table on the roof and grab the same!
The food turns out to be excellent; served in brass plates. We were recommended momos made with buckwheat and a thali which was full of greens that had a unique taste. The prices are reasonable too for the excellent and authentic variety of food and the Thali costs us NPR 300. We thank the staff and go walking on the streets of Pokhara.
There are cyclewallahs as fruit sellers roaming on a cycle with a juicer and offering fruits like pineapples, avocados, mangoes, banana, oranges etc like a mobile fruit market on wheels! Its fun to see them stop wherever they see foreign tourists. Pokhara is a busy market with many souvenir shops. We enter a shop selling Tibetan singing bowls, and it has a wide and staggering variety. The singing bowls make a serene and calming sound but the handmade ones are priced very high (medium sized ones at NPR 1500) and we choose not to buy anything for the moment.
We walk back to our guest house and are relieved that the weather has turned cooler with the recent rain. It is decided to head to Begnas Tal next morning as my friends Jai & Prerita are staying there and highly recommend the area. Sleep comes in no time with the tiredness of the bus ride!
I had spotted the bus from Pokhara to Begnas Tal and found that the starting point of the same was from Phewa Lake itself! So, we woke up in the morning, had chai and an early breakfast and got ready quickly to leave in the bus bound for Begnas Tal. The ticket is only 60 NPR per person and we are the only 4 people in the bus when it starts from Phewa Lake! It is a comfortable bus and will take around an hour for the 25 odd kilometre distance to Begnas Tal.
We call Jai after the bus drops us in Begnas Tal. He explains the directions to get to a place called Sanu Lake on D Water. A local street festival is going on in Begnas Tal, we are delighted to see the dances and the ladies all dressed for the occasion. We keep walking across Begnas Tal lake, cross a small hillock and arrive at the beautifully located Sanu Lake on D Water.
Sanu Lake on D Water in Lekhnath
It is a pristine scene, with not a soul around and calm, placid waters of the lake. There are blue and yellow coloured boats in the water and with the surrounding green hills look very pretty. We meet with Sanu and check the rooms and agree on the price. It is a gorgeously located guest house with rustic tables set in an open sit-out very close to the lake.
Sanu tells us that some of the rooms are blessed with views of the Himalayan peaks when the weather is clear. Kayaking is also possible in the lake and Jai has already told me about the fantastic swimming experiences possible here. Relaxed opera music is being played and reflections of the nearby mountains in the water look enchanting. We fix the prices with Sanu @800 NPR per room including breakfast.
We only plan to stay for a night here as Jai & Prerita are going to be moving to a higher area in Pokhara itself and we plan to see that region too! We walk out and spot some nicely located tiny eateries near the lake, it is a surreal setting for sure. Some of the walls at Sanu Lake on D Water are painted with graffiti and they also have life jackets available for for swimmers. Jai calls and asks us to come to the village where a festival is being held in the fields!
The rice fields are submerged in water and youngsters are happily singing and dancing in the muddy water over some funny looking competitions! Its very humid and we find a shaded corner to protect ourselves in the harsh sun. Locals are watching the proceedings and it is an especially funny scene to see foreigners rolling in the mud too!
I decide to try a bread at a small bakery and it turns out to be delicious! Jai & Prerita take us to a home run eatery near Sanu Lake on D Water. We order thalis and the family sets about the task of making everything fresh. Food takes a lot of time to appear but is well worth the wait when it does. Rice, fried potatoes, dall, vegetable, curd, chutney and salad and the puri sabji is excellent too.
It is the World Cup 2019 and today is England vs India; Jai leads us to an open air space with an expansive view of Begnas Tal and a television screen. We happily drink Nepali beer (300 NPR per bottle) like Gorkha and Everest while playing UNO. Jai is mostly interested in watching cricket and all of us take turns with the match too! It is a supremely serene setting. We go back in the evening after an early dinner of chowmein at a small eatery nearby because the food at Sanu is quite expensive!
We watch India losing the cricket match under the stars on the roof with Jai’s VPN connection! There is no electricity for a few hours and it is blissful to enjoy the stars overhead. We all go for a short swim in the lake in the darkness when Jai insists it is an unbelievable experience!
It is a comfortable sleep with the breeze blowing and next morning we enjoy the tea and breakfast sitting by the lake. The sun is out and we jump in the water to enjoy the blissfully cool lake! Tranquil setting with live guitar playing, a traveller is playing and singing. Breakfast is roti, potatoes, egg bhurji and fruits.
We check out and Sanu’s true colours are revealed when Jai & Prerita try to settle their bill! He has apparently charged them for beers that they never had. We have been charged princely prices for bananas and fat rotis that he has served in the name of breakfast which he had included in the prices earlier! We somehow end the matter without a fight and pay up (nodding to ourselves that we had correctly judged Sanu’s cunning character but had still let him work his charms on us.)
Dinesh House Deorali & Robin’s Nest Deorali
We walk to the market in Begnas Tal and book 2 small Maruti Altos to drop us to Deorali area, an uphill climb of 3 kms. Pay 150 NPR each cab, very reasonable. We get down close to a temple and continue walking to reach Dinesh House (where Jai’s room is booked for 2 weeks!). There are no spare rooms at Dinesh House and we check out the nearby Robin’s Nest. The woman in charge there shows us the rooms and even though they are not very well ventilated, the weather is mild and we agree on a price of INR 600 per room including breakfast.
It is a relaxed evening and we play UNO in Jai’s spacious room with a balcony at Dinesh House. Prerita orders our thalis too at their in-house kitchen. We go to the roof to catch the sunset amid the surreal evening skies. We enjoy a few chilled beers in the evening as the clouds turn stormy and bring rain in the night. We have an excellent dinner at Dinesh House, thanks to Jai & Prerita.
We come back to Robin’s Nest and it starts pouring down as soon as we are in our rooms! The electricity goes with the sky thundering intermittently and it continues raining for a good two hours. We sleep well and wake up to the the best sight of our trip (or life?!)
The skies have cleared and the majestic Annapurna range is visible from our balcony. Our guest house, Robin’s Nest is perfectly located for this view and we lounge around on the hammock and take in the surreal sight of 8000 metre peaks in clear view! Jai and Prerita also join us and tell us that we are very lucky to see this sight in the monsoon month of July. We enjoy the show for an hour or so until the clouds decide to come back.
After breakfast, we have a shower and decide to walk around the area. It has progressed into a hot day with the sun out in full force. We visit the nearby Deorali temple and are stunned with the majestic wood carvings. The entrance to the temples in Nepal is very ornate and artistic. I am especially glad to come across a non-touristy local temple in a real village.
It is afternoon time and we are all hungry with all the aimless walking around in the humidity. We come across a small eatery run by a lady and ask her if she can make noodles with mint chutney and vegetables? She says it will take time as everything will be freshly made. We are pleased with the answer and decide to wait and help her in making it! The noodles take around 45 minutes to make and turn out to be the most delicious noodles of our entire Nepal trip.
We go back happily to Deorali and witness the cloudy skies in the evening with the beautiful landscape and the views of Begnas Tal lake. It is time for another round of UNO and dinner at Dinesh House. It rains in the evening making the proceedings cooler. The food is delicious again and we also watch another World Cup cricket match in progress. We decide to drop all plans for Muktinath or hiking in the Pokhara region and plan to get to Kathmandu next day(Bhaktapur.)
The cloud cover is heavy in the morning and the mountains are not clearly visible. We have tea and breakfast with the greenery glistening in the brief period of sunshine. In an hour or so, when the clouds part a gap in the clouds reveals a dazzling array of peaks! It is like a goodbye photograph from Pokhara as we are going to leave in some time.
We all leave for Pokhara first for a pizza treat (losers in the UNO game) and decide on Roadhouse Café as the venue. See some souvenir shops selling Shaligrams. The pizza is ok-ok and we eat cake and pastries for dessert at another nearby place. Say goodbye to Jai and Prerita and thank them for a lovely time!
We decide to go by shared maxi cab while going back. We are quoted 600 NPR per seat but the intense competition between the cabs works and we get into a maxi cab for 400 NPR per person! They are faster than a bus but non-aircontioned. Thankfully the weather is good today and we have reasonable space in the maxi cab!
We reach Kathmandu at around 8 pm.