Our bus ride to Pokhara ended up taking 8 hours instead of the quoted 6. It was long and bumpy, but offered a good outside view of Nepal and it’s rural dwellers.
Once in Pokhara, taxi drivers immediately offered their services. We noticed a sign that read a trip to Lakeside would cost 200 Nepalese rupees (NPR), With this is mind, we knew we could not be far from the main popular area of Pokhara, so we decided to walk. It felt good to stretch our legs, plus we had very little luggage to carry.
Aankhi Jhyal Restaurant Cafe
After about a 25 minute walk, we stopped at a restaurant called Aankhi Jhyal for a late lunch. There we ordered Paneer Pakodas (paneer fried in batter that came with a dipping sauce) and a Nepali set meal. The set meal came with a large pile of rice and 5 bowls containing curries, dal, and other delicous sauces meant to be eaten with the rice. It was very flavourful and fun to eat! The Pakodas cost 310 NPR and the set meal came to 450 (most of the restaurants that cater more to foreigners add additional tax which can mean you are paying up to 23% more!).
Where We Stayed
We used the wifi at the restaurant to locate a few guesthouse options. Once we had saved some to our map, we set off to shop for one we liked. The first two places had no vacancy, but the third did. We decided to stay there. It was called Gauri Shankar Guesthouse and the owner, Ram, was extremely relaxed, helpful, and welcoming. He showed us two available rooms, and let us choose which one we preferred. We chose the cheaper of the two and it cost us a grand total of 980 NPR a night.
The guesthouse had an enclosed courtyard garden in the front, with large old trees, overgrown yet manicured grasses, and two pagodas to relax under and order meals from. The rooms were decent, nothing special, but clean enough which for me holds the highest importance. Each room had an attached bathroom containing a western toilet, hot shower, and sink. The floors did not seem like they had been cleaned, but then again the water that came from the shower wasn’t exactly sparkly and clear. Our bed was comfortable and there were several places to store our things. The best part was the ceiling fan on those hot days in Pokhara!
Gauri Shankar Guesthouse also had a kitchen where you could order food from 7 am until 9 pm. It was one of our favorite places for breakfast as they always served freshly ground coffee in a french press (not that awful Nescafe crap) and their brown bread from the neighboring German bakery was always delicious! Jonny also loved their banana porridge which he always seemed to order at every place we’d been at least once.
There was also a rooftop with a view of the ice capped Annapurna mountain range which could only be seen on a clear morning. We managed to get a picture around 7 am once when Jonny first noticed the mountains. They truly were stunning!
Massages in Pokhara
For our first full day in Pokhara, we had a lazy breakfast then went on a hunt for a good massage. Again we shopped around. The first place offered a full body massage for 2600 NPR, the second about 2800 (but the guy told us if we came before the evening he would give us a 30% discount), and then the third place offered us 40% off plus no added tax. We were sold.
Jonny asked for the neck, shoulders, and back massage and I asked for the full body ’Trekkers Massage’. Just a forewarning, a full body massage literally means full body. You will be touched around 97% of your body. My masseuse was a woman, so at least that helped me to relax. If it had been a man, I would have stopped the massage entirely! First, she had me strip down to…well…nothing. I had been given a package containing these odd black panties in translucent fabric that reminded be of a hair net. I ripped them on my first attempt to put them on, so they really didn’t cover much. There was a sheet that I slipped under, but it often came off and left me feeling pretty exposed.
She began massaging my back, shoulders, arms, and hands. It really did feel great! She used a massage oil which is why I had to used those strange hair net panties to avoid ruining my own. Then she worked down to my bottom. She took one side of my black underwear, and actually tucked it into my…well…you get the picture. So, I lay there in my newly equipped ‘half thong’, trying to enjoy myself and reassuring myself that the massage was perfectly normal as this young woman is kneading one of my butt cheeks. Of course, what happens to one side, happens to the other and it all repeated once again. Based on what I have heard from other people, massages like that are common and normal. Still, no matter how open minded you are, it might be an experience that hits your breaking point. These masseuses will go where you least expect them too, they will massage your bum, your breasts, and the spaces in between. They won’t of course go too far, so you can be rest assured that what they provide is a massage, that is it.
For the both of us, our massages cost 1500 NPR. Jonny opened his wallet to pay, only to discover that he hadn’t brought enough. The guy working there was kind enough to drive Jonny on his scooter back to the guesthouse to get him the money. I am a little jealous that he got a free ride!
Later, we found a small coffee shop down the road, White Rabbit Coffee, and enjoyed a Doppio (2 shots of espresso served with a shot glass of room temperature water) and milk espresso. Afterwards, we decided to stroll down Lakeside main strip to look at the shops and street merchants. Shortly through our walk, we came across a small alley with a lot of beautiful graffiti. There we met a petite old man named Krishna, who invited us to his restaurant to try his momos. His house was just down that same alley. It was tiny and quaint. His family of six all lived there in the two room house. The sleeping area was in the back, and the kitchen and restaurant were in the front. We sat down at one of the tables and chatted with him as he cooked. The momos there were good, but not what made that experience special, It was being in Krishna’s home and discussing Nepali life and food. He is a good man, and I would recommend anyone to go meet him and give him and his family some business. On a side note, he does talk about money often and whether he is doing it just to make conversation or as a plea for you to give him a little extra, we are not sure. For 10 momos he charged 500 NPR, which makes them very expensive for Nepal. But we had spent a good 2 hours there, had also been served tea, and some bread from a German bakery so we didn’t mind the cost. Ask him ahead of time for prices, they are not written anywhere and it will feel as though he is just offering things for free. Remember, he is still a business even though you will quickly make friends with him!
Yoga and Outdoor Movies
Another excellent activity to do in Pokhara is attend a yoga class. Jonny and I ended up going to a meditation class at Holy Garden located in the same area as Busy Bee Cafe. A Polish woman ran the class, and it ended up being a very relaxing and new experience for me. Sitting in silence was difficult, but the ‘ohm’ chant afterwards was really a moving moment for me.
We had a quick curry for lunch, then headed back to Busy Bee Cafe for a second yoga class. It was run by a French guy named Julian, and it was also wonderful. Most of the postures were for beginners, but we are no experts and were happy to have a fairly relaxing and easy session. Both classes cost 500 NPR. Holy Garden is really trying to promote themselves and would love some new visitors! It is a small price to pay for some relaxation, community, and growing your inner yogi.
Afterwards, we ate a quick supper of hummus, pita, and falafels then went on a search for ‘Movie Garden’ where you can watch films outside on a projector and enjoy pizza and drinks. Getting there was a little difficult since you have to walk up a hill for a few minutes, which can be dark and slippery. I recommend that you bring some sort of torch if you ever try going! We followed the small path for a while, then finally arrived. The place had a great atmosphere; it was warm and inviting. The bar where you buy your tickets and order food is protected under a large wooden structure, as are the different seats for the movie watchers. There are chairs, cushions, and blankets to relax on as well as lit candles to add to the mood. On a clear, warm night, more mats are added to the grass closer to the screen in an area that is uncovered. Not many people can enjoy Movie Garden, as seating is quite limited so going early is a good idea. We watched ‘Full Metal Jacket’ for our first night there, then came back two days later to watch ‘Blow’, starring Johnny Depp. The service is excellent, pizza delicious, and who doesn’t love a good movie under the stars?
Rowing on Fewa Lake
On Saturday, October first, we decided to accomplish a bit more in Pokhara considering we had already indulged in a few lazy days. We headed to Fewa lake and rented a row boat for an hour which cost 400 NPR. We were told to grab a life jacket, they handed us two paddles, then helped us set off on our own. It was a really sunny day, but absolutely beautiful.
Hiking up to the Peace Pagoda
After boating, we began the hour or so walk around Lake Fewa to the base of a mountain that lead up to the Peace Pagoda. It was a long and hot walk. We stopped at a small restaurant for some momos and a lassi, then later at Gupteshwor Mahadev Cave which was recommended by Ram (from Gauri Shankar Guesthouse). It cost 30 NPR each to enter the cave. A spiral staircase lead us down to the entrance which consisted of a dark opening, and wet stairs. Incense smoke puffed out and made visibility slightly poor. The cave itself is not very large, nor that impressive but we stilled enjoyed having a quick look. My favourite part was a small narrow passage that you could take which made you feel like you were actually exploring in a mini maze. It was quite dark, and an exciting little pathway. Eventually it linked up with the main cave area where we continued to look around. It is not worth a trip out to if the cave is your sole destination. I would recommend visiting the cave only if you are in the area already.
It was time to leave the cave and continue to walk towards the base of the mountain. Once there, we began the slightly steep accent up a dirt rocky road. It was a bit of a boring walk because the road consisted of switch backs, but nothing really exciting to look at along the way. We came across a small business and a gentleman there told us to try a small path off the road for the rest of our journey. It was a great suggestion because we were no longer on a road, but a nice grassy footpath that linked between farmhouses and small shops. We came across goats, chickens, and cattle grazing on the sides of the path, and little old ladies working in their gardens. It was really nice and relaxing.
Finally we reached the top of the mountain after about an hour. There were both cafes and guesthouses where you could relax with a cup of tea and enjoy the view, or even book a night stay if you so desired. We continued past the businesses to the Peace Pagoda. It really was an impressive sight. A lovely garden was on either side of the pathway leading up to the pagoda. The beautiful white structure towered over us and had four golden statues of Lord Buddha; one was made in Japan, another Shri Lanka, another Thailand, and the last in Nepal. The steeple was topped with a crystal from Shri Lanka. It was definitely worth a visit, and the views of Pokhara were a bonus!
Our last day in Pokhara was meant to be a relaxing one, but first we had to extend our Visa. We had 35 days planned for Nepal, but upon arrival, we had only applied and paid for the 30 day visa. Luckily, the immigration office was only a short 20 minute walk from our guesthouse. The process would have been short and sweet had we come prepared with Nepalese rupees, but of course we brought U.S. dollars which they wouldn’t accept. No problem! We just needed to find a money changer place, exchange our USD for NPR, then we’d be all set. We returned with the right currency, our Visa extension forms (which need to be filled out online and include a passport size photo uploaded to the form), and our passports. If there are not many people and you have everything you need, the process can take less than half an hour. If it is busy, it can take more like 2 hours! Anyways, we were lucky that it didn’t take long. We had to pay for the 15 day extension even though we were only really staying for 5 additional days. Each of us had to pay about 3,200 NPR for this extension, but we loved Nepal enough by then that it didn’t seem like much at all.
On a side note: If you have any further questions regarding Visa extension in Nepal, do not hesitate to send us a message and we will do our best to direct you!
A lovely couple whom we had met at our guesthouse recommended that we take a day to check out an outdoor pool owned by Temple Tree Resort and Spa, but open to non-guests for a fee. We paid about 750 NPR each for a day by the pool, lounging on their chairs, reading, and drinking fresh lemon sodas.
We had spent 5 nights in Pokhara and could have easily stayed longer. I highly recommend that you visit this city which feels more like a small beach town. The people are more relaxed, the air is clear, and the mountains are picturesque. You will find tons of cafes, places to do yoga classes, opportunities to go trekking, and reasons to relax in this wonderful place. Take a break from Kathmandu and experience the slower side of Nepal. For more information about Pokhara, feel free to leave a comment or contact us through Facebook.
Thanks for reading!