Saturday, 11 April 2015

Pokhara - Ten things to to!

While Pokhara is majorly frequented by trekkers and used as the starting point for Himalayan trekkers, the lakeside city has enough to do and explore for non-trekkers, like me, too.

Things to do in Pokahara for non-trekkers:

1) Boat-ride in the Fewa Lake:
One ought to take a boat-ride when in Pohkara simply cause there is no reason not to ( unless you have aquaphobia ). I took a three hour boat-ride which included one hour to-and-fro ride and two hours of exploring the island temple and the stupa on the other end of the lake. The boat ride was a little scary and I kept feeling it will topple. I literally hung onto it for my life. A little tip, start early morning at about 6ish for this ride and you will be rewarded with stunning sun-rise views and no crowds of screaming tourists.

2) Barahi temple prayer:
An island temple, about fifteen minutes boat ride, has been very smartly built to attract tourists and give the boat rides additional meaning. There is not to see on it however deserves a fifteen-twenty minutes stop while on the boat ride.

3) Trek upto the Shanti Stupa, Pokhara:
The peace pagoda, or the shanti stupa is located at the other end of the shore, about twenty minute ride from the Few a lake shore. Perched on top of a hill it stands at 1000 mts. A 45 minute trek up with one halt and I was at this Buddhist style stupa with stunning views of the valley and the Pokhara city overall. With this walk up my quota of Nepal trek was definitely done with!

4) Scooty around
If I can get a scooty or a two wheeler ride I never miss it. Scootying around in Pokahar was super fun and highly recommended as it is easy to visit neighbouring towns with your own ride. Every pretty view and my scooty was parked and camera pulled out. Charms of your own ride!

5) Get your Fat-me click at the Devils Fall:
I was a little surprised to see the much hyped devil's fall as it was just one little fenced-waterfall and not much to see around. However on my way out I saw these fixed human structures in Nepali dresses with missing heads. This snap alone made the visit worthwhile for me.

6) Sarangkot stunning views:
My guesthouse owner told me about this adjoining town Sarangkot and mentioned it has awesome views. A fourty minutes ride and I was at Sarangkot and was glad I didn't miss the wonderful sights. It is really beautiful and I highly recommend a visit to this place during first half of the day if in Pokhara.

7) Eating Nepali cuisine:
I felt the Nepali cuisine would not be too different. But it was different enough and I think the spices used were different than I am used to. I have to admit I didn't like it too much for some reason. However trying local cuisine at least once is a must ;)

8) Chill in the cafés
There are so many cafes on the commercialised Lakeside street that choosing one is quite a task. If you are finally able to select one ( I took almost an hour ) out of the many options then chill out at these lakeside cafés. It was funny to be served a Turkish dish and be told by the waiter it is Mexican! 

9) Travel gear shopped:
As Pokhara serves as the starting point for trekker's the market place has tons of travel gear shopping options. It is a very competitive market thus a plus for shopper's. Remember to wear your haggling hat on and have fun negotiating on the street shops of Nepal. Most of the stuff is cheap and pretty good quality. I bought a much needed 40 litres backpack for barely $20. Simply loved it! Happy shopping while at Pokhara.

10) Para-gliding:
As it wasn't the best weather during my visit I missed doing this. Thus if you get a chance to go to Pokhara, do some paragliding and send me the pictures ;)

Pokhara in Nepal is  sweet place to rest and relax. Have fun when you there and drink a Gorkha for me ;)

Friday, 3 April 2015

Nepal and Bhutan in 10 days!

So, I am back from my Nepal-Bhutan trip and still reeling from the excitement of the trip. I can not believe how much I did and the places I traveled in just a span of 10 days. Since it was my first ever visit to these countries I visited the most toured places.

I had only 10 days at hand to squeeze as much as possible of Nepal and Bhutan in it. Without any prior bookings the below is an account of my tour of Nepal and Bhutan in 10 days. I was not even sure I would be able to stick t it when I chalked it out and started on it. Having done it I know it is totally possible. ( Pls note: I could afford no prior bookings and reservations especially into Bhutan as I have an Indian passport. For all other Nationalities prior bookings are mandatory for entry into Bhutan ).

Day 1: Kathmandu, Nepal
I took a 2 hour flight from Delhi to Kathmandu and landed in the capital city of Nepal, over a majestic mountain range landscape, around noon. Immigration clearing was the easiest it has ever been, thanks to the Indian passport I had. It was almost like a domestic flight exit from the airport.
I spent the rest of the day walking around the busy streets of Thamel. The first and last night in Kathmandu was spent drinking Gorkha beer with 5 travelers from different countries and some crazy events.
I found Kathmandu different from Delhi in just one aspect - polite people. Rest all the pollution level, busy streets, crazy traffic, shopping streets was a lot like Delhi. So I escaped from Kathmandu the very next day early morning.

Day 2 & 3: Pokhara, Nepal
After an almost 8 hour bus drive ( which was supposed to be 4 hours ) I landed in Pokhara in the afternoon. First sight I loved it. I hitch hiked to my hotel after fighting my way through the taxi drivers who desperately wanted to sell me their hotels. I had been told not to miss going to Pokhara and it was good advice. Set on the shore of Lake Phewa this laid back, beautiful city is a far cry from the madness of Katmandu's busy streets. I did as much as a traveler and non-trekker me could do in the day and a half in Pokhara - walking around the lakeside Pokhara, riding a scooty to distant view points and surrounding town area, boat-ride in Lake Phewa, walk-trek up to the Shanti Stupa, travel gear shopping, chomping Nepali food and yapping with locals.

Day 4: Chitwan National Park, Nepal
As much as I wanted to spend more time in Pokhara I was on a tight schedule and if I had to cover
both Bhutan and Nepal in 10 days I had to move fast. So the next morning I packed my bags and was off to Chitwan National Park. 6 hours later I reached Sauraha, a small town located just outside Chitwan National park. The chaotic sight at the Sauraha bus station was hilarious. Almost seemed a do-or-die situation for the workers seeking tourists for their bread and butter.
The afternoon was spent on an elephant back in an elephant safari in the National park. I was really looking forward to it however by the end of it, i knew never to repeat it ever, as it was a very uncomfortable ride for me and I believe for the poor overloaded elephant as well.
With that I completed my checklist of Nepal and having covered what I had set out to, I could not wait to get to Bhutan.

Day 5: Nepal to Bhutan
I took an overnight bus from Chitwan Park and by changing about 5 transportation and almost 24 hours later I reached late evening to my much awaited destination Thimpu in Bhutan. There is so much ambiguity linked to Bhutan that I was not sure if I will ever make it there. Hence I had not booked an accommodation prior to my arrival. Thus the first few hours were spent in hotel hunting. I was lucky to find one in a prime location within my budget. I was extremely tired hence all I did was have dinner and collapse into deep slumber.

Day 6: Thimpu, Bhutan
First sight it had seemed very flat and boring to me to be honest. But that changed the next day. Infact I realized it is anything but flat. Even a walk in the city is like a trek as there is so much uphill walk.
I hired a local cab and did my own tour and sight-seeing of the city covering all major sights and various temples. By the end of the day I was totally in love in Bhutan and keen to explore more the next day.

Day 7-10: Paro, Bhutan
At the tail end of my trip and eager to explore more I gave a few more hours to Thimpu and was off to Paro.
A short, picturesque one hour drive and I was in Paro - the place I did not want to move from for the next 3 nights. This is the place I felt I had been seeking and traveling to reach for the past one week. It is extremely laid back with people so happy they will induce you with a sense of satisfaction in you with their simple words. The many dzongs, monasteries, stupas and temples make it a fun place with enough to explore. I loved the vibe of the town and will go back to it any day.

Day 11: Bhutan to India
With a promise to return, next time with Gabi, I set out early morning from Paro on my journey back home. Since the trip was completely unplanned with no prior bookings of any sort, I was a day late in reaching Delhi and had to spend the night in Baghdodra in Bengal. I took the next day noon flight to Delhi and after 11 days was happy to be back home with my family. :)