pokhaha: a stroll around phewa tal & seeking shelter (& warmth) at moondance

Saturday, January 19:  This afternoon, I meet a young guide named Krishna who takes me on a stroll through part of the town and along the shore of Phewa Tal (Phewa Lake).

colorful lodging along the way

colorful lodging along the way

covered in marigolds

a balcony covered in Flame Vine, or orange trumpet vine

The legend of the lake is that it covers what was once a prosperous valley.  A beggar woman was scorned by most of the inhabitants, except for one sympathetic woman.  The beggar warned the woman of an impending flood, and as the woman and her family climbed to higher ground, torrents of water poured into the valley and submerged it.  The beggar happened to be the goddess Barahi Bhagwati.  The woman’s descendents settled along the new lake and built an island shrine to the goddess called Tal Barahi.

boats on Phewa Tal

boats on Phewa Tal

Phewa Tal

Phewa Tal

Of course, there is a geological story behind the lake too.  The entire Pokhara Valley was submerged about 200,000 years ago when the fast-rising Mahabharat Ridge dammed up the Seti River.  Eventually a deeper outlet was eroded by the Seti River, leaving Phewa Tal and several smaller lakes. The Pardi Dam was built in 1967, providing irrigation and electricity (sometimes) to the valley (Rough Guide to Nepal).

another colorful restaurant

another colorful restaurant

waterlogged water hyacinths

waterlogged water hyacinths

bikes :-)

bikes 🙂

Krishna is an amiable & easy-going young man who tells me he’s neither Buddhist nor Hindu, but Christian, a minority in Nepal.  He points out birds along the way, and when we get to the lake, we walk silently, watching the paragliders ride the wind down to the lakeshore from Sarangkot.  We see ox and water buffalo and white egrets amongst the waterlogged water hyacinths.

water buffalo and egrets

water buffalo and egrets

the lakeshore

the lakeshore

water buffalo

water buffalo

Because the watershed is steep and fast changing, large amounts of sediment are carried down into the lake, which settle out, forming a delta that covers the western third of the lake. Water hyacinths started appearing along the lake edge a decade ago and keep spreading.  Locals organize clean-up sessions in order to keep the water hyacinths from taking over.

wetlands

wetlands

wetlands along Phewa Tal lakeshore

wetlands along Phewa Tal lakeshore

lakeshore wetlands

lakeshore wetlands

We come across a Nepali movie being filmed.  It’s called Kale and is scheduled to be released in January 2014, about a year from now.  A skimpily-clad man sits in a canoe on the lake being filmed.  He reminds me of Daniel Day-Lewis in Braveheart, from what I can see from a small cliff above the shore.

the shoot of a Nepali film

the shoot of a Nepali film

We meet a famous Nepali actor hanging out on his motorcycle at the top of a small cliff; with a large grin he asks jokingly if I think he’s handsome.  I’m taken aback and smile.  “Oh yes! Of course!” I say, though he’s certainly NOT handsome.  He’s actually a little scary-looking.  He says he plays a fighter in the movie. His name is Sagar Ansari and he has been in other movies, including Kalapani, which he says I can buy in a DVD shop.  Then he agrees to pose with me in front of the movie poster glued to the hood of their filming truck.

The movie poster for Kale

The movie poster for Kale

Kale

Kale

me with Sagar Ansari

me with Sagar Ansari

As we continue walking back toward the center of town, we see a beautiful girl has joined the Braveheart actor.  She’s dressed in a bright pink dress and strikes a romantic pose in the bow of the boat. Krishna tells me the girl is Miss Nepal.  I’m not really sure who that is, as Wikipedia says there are currently three Miss Nepals. The Current Hidden Treasure Miss Nepal titleholders are: Shristi Shrestha as Miss Nepal World 2012, Nagma Shrestha as Miss Nepal Earth 2012, and Subeksha Khadka as Miss Nepal International 2012.

fishermen in the lake

fishermen in the lake

Devi, my guide for today

Krishna, my guide for today

more wetlands

more wetlands

wetlands

wetlands

more wetlands

more wetlands

paragliders coming in for a landing

paragliders coming in for a landing

a restaurant along the lake

a restaurant along the lake

ominous skies

ominous skies

boats on the lake

boats on the lake

bikes

bikes

boats on Phewa Tal

boats on Phewa Tal

After that bit of excitement, we leisurely stroll back toward town as the sky grows increasingly ominous.  As we approach town, we hear thunder and raindrops start dropping around us like prickly needles.  I tell Krishna I will see him tomorrow for another walk, and I dash into Moondance for a drink and a light dinner.   It’s Happy Hour, so I get a free slice of pizza with a reduced-price Everest Beer.  Santana’s 1970 rendition of “Oye Como Va” plays on the sound system, while outdoors, cows moo at full decibel as they leisurely saunter by.  A motorcycle pulls another motorcycle by rope past the restaurant as torrents of rain pour from a sky smudged with charcoal.

Moondance ~ where I come in out of the rain

Moondance ~ where I come in out of the rain

flowers in a bowl outside of Moondance

flowers in a bowl outside of Moondance

the bar at Moondance

the bar at Moondance

I sit next to a fireplace where the staff is trying to get a fire going, but it isn’t really taking and isn’t putting out much heat.  I decide to linger longer, in hopes of getting warmer, and order some delicious bruschetta with feta on top.

bruschetta with feta and Everest Beer

bruschetta with feta and Everest Beer

I sit in the restaurant until the storm passes, and then I walk back to the hotel, where I try to get comfortable in my room, which has no heat.  Luckily there are extra blankets in the cupboard, which I pile on top of myself.  I feel like I’m sleeping under a heavy coat of armor; I can hardly move because of the weight of all the blankets.  I don’t even want to get out of bed to use the bathroom or brush my teeth, it’s so cold.

I poke my head out from under the covers just enough to read my book, What I Loved, on my Kindle.  The story is becoming increasingly disturbing as Bill & Violet’s son, Mark, compulsively lies about everything in his life, yet is so charming, everyone believes everything he says.  Mark, who was the friend of Leo & Erica’s son Matthew before he died, not only lies, but gets involved with an artist named Teddy Grimes, who creates horribly violent art filled with maiming and mayhem, as a statement about pop culture’s fascination with horror films.  What’s doubly disturbing is this artist’s creation of a myth about himself as a violent murderer in order to get publicity for himself and his art.  Reality and myth and art are getting all tangled up in this book, which I find very unsettling.

When I can’t take more of this story, I turn on the TV and watch episode after episode of the American TV series I’ve heard a lot about: Homeland, but have never seen. I get caught up in several episodes and in the midst of the second one, at about 1 a.m., the electricity goes out and I have to face a long night ahead trying to sleep in the ice-cold room.

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pokhara: lunch at the black & white cafe and a lakeside view

Saturday, January 19: After the tour is over, I ask the driver to drop me at the Black & White Cafe near the lakeside so I can eat some lunch. I order the famous Nepali dish I’ve heard all about: daal bhaat.  Many Nepalis eat this as their only meal twice a day, every day of their lives.  It consists of rice, lentils, vegetable curry, some pickled relish.  I will write more details about it in a later post, when I have pictures to accompany the description.  Today, I don’t take any photos of my lunch at the Black & White Cafe… probably because I am too occupied with enjoying every bite!

some fellow diners at the Black & White Cafe

some fellow diners at the Black & White Cafe

the outside of the Black & White Cafe

the outside of the Black & White Cafe

After lunch, I walk along Phewa Lake toward my hotel, so I can relax a bit before my planned afternoon walk along the lake shore.

a little shrine or temple on the lake

a little shrine or temple on the lake

While at this little shrine, I am intercepted by a Tibetan lady who appeals to me to buy some of her jewelry.  She tells me she is a woman without a country, without citizenship.  I feel bad for her struggles.   I look at her jewelry, and if I had liked any of it, I would have bought something.  But I don’t particularly care for anything she has to sell.  With all the people in Nepal who are asking for help in some way, just as in India, I cannot help everyone.  I do try to buy things from locals, but my general rule is to only buy if I really like something.  Otherwise I’d be handing out money every half hour or so, and accumulating things I don’t need or want.  I’m not wealthy and I have to scrimp and save for every vacation.  In so many parts of the world, everyone thinks Westerners have money to throw away.  I wish!!

pretty boats all ajumble in the lake

pretty boats all ajumble in the lake

Phewa Lake

Phewa Lake

the view of Pokhara and the gardens from the Pokhara View Garden Hotel

the view of Pokhara and the gardens from the Pokhara View Garden Hotel

I return to my hotel where I go out on my balcony to search for a view of the Annapurna Range.  This afternoon, the mountains are shrouded in clouds.  I do enjoy a view of the gardens and the town, though, and read a bit of my book, What I Loved,  before I go out for a lovely walk around the lake.

pokhara: mahendra cave, seti gorge, a buddhist monastery & the regional museum

Saturday, January 19:  After leaving the Hindu temple, we continue on our “City Tour” of Pokhara, which, other than the Buddhist monastery, turns out to be one disappointment after another.  The things the Nepalis call tourist attractions in Pokhara are a far cry from what the rest of the world calls tourist attractions.  I wish I hadn’t wasted my time and money seeing them on a “guided” tour.  I have to qualify that I only have a driver who barely speaks English, so there is no “guiding” being done.

Mahendra Cave!!

Mahendra Cave!!

First we go to Manhendra Cave.  According to the Mahendra Cave website (Mahendra Cave), this cave’s main attraction is that it is completely different from other gufa ( gufa being “cave” in Nepali).  The other draw is that 95% of tourists visit it!!  Wow!  What a circular argument.  It’s popular because so many people visit it, and people visit it because it’s popular.  No reason is given for its popularity, nor do I find any reason for its popularity once I go there.   We climb down into it and it’s barely lit.  It has no walkways, so I find myself stumbling down a long twisted passage, tripping and stubbing my toes.  And all this for what?  There is absolutely NOTHING to see, mainly because there are no lights!!

the not-so-fabulous Mahendra Cave

the not-so-fabulous Mahendra Cave

The next stop is even better.  Ha!  The Seti River gorge is quite a sight to behold.  Rough Guide to Nepal calls it “dramatic,” but I don’t see much dramatic about it.  Why is it so dramatic?  There is no answer to this question, as it doesn’t look particularly deep or even beautiful.  What is the appeal??  The Lonely Planet Nepal says “if you peer down through the darkness, you can just see the water churning through the gorge.” (Lonely Planet Nepal: Seti River in Pokhara)

the water flowing above the Seti River Gorge

the water flowing above the Seti River Gorge

and, drumroll, the amazing Seti River Gorge!!

and, drumroll, the amazing Seti River Gorge!!

Hmmm.  Again, I would advise it’s better to spend your time strolling aimlessly around the town of Pokhara and around the lake.  Those activities are much more pleasant than visiting these “tourist sites.”

Actually, the bridge over the Seti River Gorge has more interesting sights than the gorge itself.

the bridge over the Seti River Gorge

the bridge over the Seti River Gorge

The best thing on this second half of the city tour is the Karma Dubgyud Chhoekhorling Manag Monastery.  It’s a Buddhist Monastery with both Nepali and Tibetan monks.  I can’t find much information about this monastery, but what makes it lovely is its colorful temple and the views of Pokhara from atop its hilltop location.

the arch leading to the stairway to the Buddhist Monastery

the arch leading to the stairway to the Buddhist Monastery

my driver and the now dilapidated Peace Cafe

my driver and the now dilapidated Peace Cafe

the steps that leave me breathless walking up to the monastery

the steps that leave me breathless walking up to the monastery

Karma Dubgyud Chhoekhorling Manag Monastery

Karma Dubgyud Chhoekhorling Manag Monastery

the view of Pokhara from the monastery

the view of Pokhara from the monastery

the monastery

the monastery

Karma Dubgyud Chhoekhorling Manag Monastery

Karma Dubgyud Chhoekhorling Manag Monastery

walking back to the monks' quarters

walking back to the monks’ quarters

the monks' quarters

the monks’ quarters

the Monastery

the Monastery

a Buddha in the garden

a Buddha in the garden

Buddha & friends

Buddha & friends

me with Buddha & company

me with Buddha & company

in the monastery garden

in the monastery garden

Buddha in the garden

Buddha in the garden

The Pokhara Regional Museum is okay; it’s just a small museum with displays on Nepali ethnic groups.  The woman who takes my money at the door acts like she’s doing me a big favor allowing me on the premises.

The Pokhara Regional Museum

The Pokhara Regional Museum

display inside the museum

display inside the museum

close up of the display

close up of the display

another display in the museum

another display in the museum

the garden on the museum grounds

the garden on the museum grounds

After our tour, I ask my driver to drop me at a restaurant near lakeside so I can eat some lunch and enjoy the views of the lake.

arrival in pokhara: the pokhara bazaar & bindyabasini mandir

Saturday, January 19: This morning I get up early at Kathmandu Guest House for an 8 a.m. Yeti Airlines flight to Pokhara. Pokhara is the closest thing to a resort town in Nepal.  Here the contrast between the high, sheer icy peaks of the Himalayas and the subtropical lush valley and lakeshore of Pokhara is the most noticeable in Nepal.  From Pokhara there is a clear view of the 8,000+ meter Annapurna and Manaslu ranges, just 25 km to the north.  In addition, one peak of the 6,997 meter twin-peaked summit of Machhapuchhre (“Fish-Tailed”) dominates the skyline.

Yeti Airlines, which I’ve never heard of before today, is a Nepali airline with 14 aircraft.  Their website says: The airline has served the isolated population of Nepal living in far-flung mountain areas by providing the only means of transportation and connection to the outside world.

Yay!!

Sadly, the one thing I forget as I board the small airplane is the recommendation I read somewhere that one should try to secure a seat on the right side of the plane in order to get a view of the Himalayas.  Duh!!  I am one of the last to board, and immediately grab a window seat on the left.  Only after we take off do I realize I should have sat on the other side to see the mountains.  I decide I will remedy this error on my flight back to Kathmandu, where I will have to do the opposite and sit on the left!

the Pokhara View Garden Hotel

the Pokhara View Garden Hotel

I arrive in Pokhara and am driven directly to the Pokhara View Garden Hotel, a sister hotel of Kathmandu Guest House (Pokhara View Garden Hotel).  There is no view of Phewa Tal (Phewa Lake) from my hotel, but as I walk to my balcony I see a view of the garden below, the town of Pokhara, and the cloud-topped Himalayas.  This is my first view of the Himalayas in Nepal.

the view of the mountains from my balcony at Pokhara View Garden Hotel

the view of the mountains from my balcony at Pokhara View Garden Hotel

I don’t want to hang out in the hotel, so I head immediately out to do a city tour of Pokhara.  The first place we go is to the Pokhara Bazaar, a small old Newari market town along a former trade route from Butwal to Mustang.  My driver drops me at one end of what he calls the Old Market, and I just walk along taking pictures.  I find the old painted buildings and the businesses to be quite photogenic.

vegetables for sale in Pokhara Bazaar

vegetables for sale in Pokhara Bazaar

a colorful shop

a colorful shop

more colorful goods for sale

more colorful goods for sale

an enticing little cart

an enticing little cart

a corner shop

a corner shop

...and brightly painted buildings as well

…and brightly painted buildings as well

movie posters?

movie posters?

I come across a lot of children along the way, and one brother and sister agree to let me take a picture of them.

a protective big brother and his little sister

a protective big brother and his little sister

I come across two other children concentrating seriously on their schoolwork.  I ask if I can take their picture, and the little girl jumps up to pose.  She looks so earnest, I can’t help thinking she’s like I was when I was a kid.  I used to be so studious, and took great pleasure in doing my homework to perfection.

this little boy and girl are working diligently in their schoolbooks

this little boy and girl are working diligently in their schoolbooks

After my walk down the market street, we climb up a hill to Bindyabasini Mandir, a Hindu temple complex sitting atop a hill with sweeping views of Pokhara and the Himalayas.  Bindyabasini is an incarnation of the Hindu goddess Kali in her bloodthirsty aspect.  Apparently animal sacrifices are common here.  Luckily I don’t see any such thing going on while I’m up here, but I do see a long line of people waiting with gifts to bring the deity.

two HIndu ladies walking down from the temple wearing auspicious red

two HIndu ladies walking down from the temple wearing auspicious red

a view of farms and haystacks as we walk up to the temple

a view of farms and haystacks as we walk up to the temple

making offerings

making offerings

a rather unique looking Hindu worshipper

a rather unique looking Hindu worshipper

Bindyabasini complex

Bindyabasini complex

lines of pilgrims waiting to present offerings to the goddess

lines of pilgrims waiting to present offerings to the goddess

Bindyabasini Mandir

Bindyabasini Mandir

offerings for sale outside of the temple

offerings for sale outside of the temple

a shop outside the temple

a shop outside the temple

We continue on our tour to Seti River Gorge, Mahendra Cave, the Pokhara Regional Museum, and a Buddhist Monastery….