farewell to pokhara & back to kathmandu

Monday, January 21: After seeing the sunrise at Sarangkot, we head back to the hotel where I have some hot coffee and an omelet.  I’m tired from waking up so early, so I take a hot bath, since ~ surprise, surprise! ~ there is hot water this morning.  Sadly, I’m still not able to wash my hair because there’s no electricity for the blow-dryer!  On my balcony, I admire my last stunning, and unclouded, views of the Himalayas.   I put my pajamas back on and climb back into bed.  I read What I Loved for a good long time and then nap for a bit longer.

one last view of the Himalayas from my balcony in Pokhara

one last view of the Himalayas from my balcony in Pokhara

When I get up again, I go out into town to continue the shopping spree I started yesterday.  I buy a necklace of silver, coral, turquoise and shell, some silver rectangular earrings with inlaid turquoise and coral, an amazing wooden Nepali mask to hang on a wall, and a book of short stories by Nepali writers.   I also buy a backpack for the hike I will do the day after tomorrow from Nagarkot to Changu Narayan.

last views... :-)

last views… 🙂

I go back to my favorite restaurant, Love Kush, and order the same sizzling grilled fish I had for dinner last night.  Some things are just that good.  Then I walk back to the hotel to pack up all my newly purchased goods so I can fly back to Kathmandu.

lunch at Love Kush

lunch at Love Kush

inside Love Kush

inside Love Kush

sizzling grilled fish... delicious. :-)

sizzling grilled fish… delicious. 🙂

I’m scheduled for a flight on Yeti Airlines at 1:15, but there is not a single airplane in evidence at the airport.  They tell us the flight is delayed and they’re not sure when it will arrive.  They do make the wait quite comfortable, as they invite passengers to go to the outdoor rooftop cafe for a snack.  I’m still engrossed in my book, so I take a seat, order an orange Fanta, and read my book in the warm sun while I wait patiently for the plane to arrive.

the deserted Pokhara airport.  Where's the plane?  Any plane will do.

the deserted Pokhara airport. Where’s the plane? Any plane will do.

Travel can sometimes be a daunting challenge.  In my early days of traveling,  I used to get upset if things didn’t go exactly as planned.  However, I have learned the slow and hard way that I must just LET GO!!  I have to just shrug off inconveniences, otherwise I will ruin my vacation!  Once my peace of mind is thrown off kilter, I may as well write off an experience.  I think the biggest endurance test for me was my 3-week trip to India in March of 2011.  My friend Jayne and I encountered so many hardships and irritations and problems, that we found ourselves wishing we were in Europe, Italy in particular, sitting at outdoor cafes and enjoying the easy life.  We were NOT enamored of India and its trials and challenges, though we found the country and the culture fascinating on many levels.

the rooftop cafe at the airport

the rooftop cafe at the airport

In Nepal, I’ve often been cold, especially at night, with little reprieve,  no place to go to warm up.  I’ve endured no electricity, bad roads, lack of internet services, and flight delays.  Either Nepal is not the hardship that India was, OR I’m just getting used to these inconveniences.  I think that’s a good thing if I am learning to shrug things off and not get too upset by them.

The plane finally arrives at 1:45, at which time everyone piles into the aircraft.  This time I make sure I’m one of the first onboard because I want a left seat, so I can see the Himalayas from the air this time.  I find one and I get some great views, although the mountains are hugged by puffy clouds at this time of day.

airplane view of the Himalayas

airplane view of the Himalayas

When I arrive back to Kathmandu Guest House, the first thing I do is take a long hot bath, wash my hair, and read my book again.   Later, I go out to dinner at New Orleans restaurant.  This restaurant, like all others I’ve encountered in Nepal, has an outdoor courtyard dining area.  In addition it has a heated room, partially open to the courtyard but with space heaters.  I sit inside by the heater.  I just have a light snack and an Everest beer, and then go back into my room, where I get warm under the covers and dive back into my book.  I have an early day tomorrow, as I’m going to Bhaktapur and then up to Nagarkot to spend the night.

the "warm room" at New Orleans Cafe in Kathmandu

the “warm room” at New Orleans Cafe in Kathmandu

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sunrise in sarangkot

Monday, January 21:  Last night, the hotel clerk told me that someone would knock on my door at 5 a.m. this morning.  This unknown person was to wake me up so I could head with a driver up to Sarangkot, the ridge north of Phewa Tal, to see the sunrise.   At 1590 meters, it’s the most popular of the mountain viewpoints around Pokhara.  The mountains appear closer than from the World Peace Pagoda, at 1113 meters, but not as many of them are visible.

Annapurna Himal & Machhupuchhre before sunrise

Annapurna Himal & Machhupuchhre before sunrise

the peak of Fish-Tailed to the right.

the peak of Fish-Tailed to the right.

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Luckily I set my alarm.  Had I depended on the hotel staff to wake me up, I would have missed the sunrise.  I wake up, toss on some clothes, and go downstairs, where the reception area is dark and a person is snoozing in a sleeping bag on the floor.  It turns out that I wake him up!!  He hops up, rushes around and makes phone calls to the driver, who has seemingly forgotten his commitment.

Machhupuchhre, commonly known as Fish-Tailed

Machhupuchhre, commonly known as Fish-Tailed

the first powdering of sunlight on the peak

the first powdering of sunlight on the peak

blushing mountain peaks

blushing mountain peaks

When he arrives, we drive quite a long way up the mountain in the dark and then walk up to a terrace with tables and chairs for viewing, along with lots of other tourists.  I order a cup of coffee and try to get in a good position.  I figure out shortly that there is no one perfect position.  One spot looks north, out over Pokhara Valley and the Himalayas.  The other looks east, toward where the sun will rise.  To the south is Phewa Tal and the town of Pokhara.  To get a good view, I have to keep moving around, to wherever the best views are in the different light.

the rose hue slides further down the mountain

the rose hue slides further down the mountain

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We stay for quite a long time, enjoying each moment of the sunrise.  Before sunrise, we can see the white peaks of the Annapurna Himal and Machhapuchhre, glowing and hovering above the pinpricks of light from the town in the valley below.  As the sun rises, the snow-covered peaks gleam like a smile.  Once the sun peeks over the horizon, a rose-colored hue settles like a blush over the peaks.  Breathtaking.

the sun breaks over the horizon

the sun breaks over the horizon

...and colors the sky

…and colors the sky

mountains

mountains

breaking out

breaking out

Himalayas

Himalayas

me & the mountains :-)

me & the mountains 🙂

a new day

a new day

What is the good of your stars and trees, your sunrise and the wind, if they do not enter into our daily lives?  ~ E.M. Forster

sunrise over Phewa Tal

sunrise over Phewa Tal

pokhara & the valley: devi’s fall, tashiling & the world peace pagoda

Sunday, January 20:  We start our trip to the World Peace Pagoda by making a stop at Devi’s Fall.  This is the spot where the Pardi Khola, the stream that drains Phewa Tal, flows into a channel and sinks underground.  The sinkhole’s name is based on the name of a Swiss woman named Devin who drowned in 1961 while skinny-dipping with her boyfriend.  The name Devi usually means “goddess,” so the name of the falls may be due to the Nepali’s tendency to deify everything.  According to Rough Guide to Nepal, this may have been a story fabricated to warn Nepalis to “shun promiscuous Western ways.”  Anyway, I’m under-impressed.

Devi's Fall

Devi’s Fall

Next stop: the Tibetan settlement of Tashiling which has about 750 residents.  I see a demonstration of some women making yarn and weaving carpets, then I’m shown around a showroom where someone is hoping I’ll buy a carpet.  I don’t, much to their disappointment.

a Tibetan woman in Tashiling

a Tibetan woman in Tashiling

Tibetan woman in Tashiling

Tibetan women in Tashiling

On our drive up to the World Peace Pagoda, I ask our driver to stop numerous times so I can take pictures of the valley and the agricultural terraces.  I’m sure the terraces are much prettier in spring, when everything is abloom, but I think mustard is about the only thing growing now.

the valley

the valley

terraces of mustard

terraces of mustard

the golden mustard plants

the golden mustard plants

me in front of the terraces :-)

me in front of the terraces 🙂

beautiful terraces, again.

beautiful terraces, again.

The World Peace Pagoda is a Buddhist stupa built to inspire peace.  It’s designed to provide a focus for people of all races and creeds, and to help unite them in their search for world peace.  A Japanese Buddhist organization, Nipponzan Myohoji, funded the monument and has a monastery nearby.

approaching the World Peace Pagoda

approaching the World Peace Pagoda

the World Peace Pagoda

the World Peace Pagoda

Here are some photos of what is in the four niches of the Peace Pagoda.  Click on any image to see a full-sized slide show.

The view from the 1113 meter ridge where this stupa sits is a wonderful wide-angle panorama of the Himalayas with Phewa Tal and Pokhara in the foreground.  At the far left is Dhaulagiri, in the middle is the Annapurna Himal and the pyramid of Machhapuchhre, and to the right are Manaslu, Himalchuli and Baudha.

the view of the Himalayas, with Phewa Tal and Pokhara in front, from the World Peace Pagoda

the view of the Himalayas, with Phewa Tal and Pokhara in front, from the World Peace Pagoda

Pokhara and the Himalayas

Pokhara and the Himalayas

Pokhara from the Peace Pagoda

Pokhara from the Peace Pagoda

the view from above

the view from above

parting shot of the Peace Pagoda with poinsettia plants

parting shot of the Peace Pagoda with poinsettia plants

After we walk all around the World Peace Pagoda, we take a long walk down the mountain through chestnut forests to the lake below.   We come across a little pond with what I think might be water hyacinths.  Four adults are sitting on the ground nearby playing a game that looks like Parcheesi, but I don’t have the nerve to ask them for a photo.

water hyacinths?

water hyacinths?

the view over the water hyacinth pond

the view over the water hyacinth pond

We take a rowboat back to the Pokhara lakeside.  After this, my guide and I part ways, and I go back to the hotel to check again on the electricity.  Now I’m really yearning for a shower.  However, the electricity is still off.

boats to take us back across the lake

boats to take us back across the lake

my guide in the rowboat

my guide in the rowboat

I decide I will go get a massage at Seeing Hands, a massage place that employs blind therapists.  I get a lovely massage for an hour.  By the time I finish my massage, it is dark and as there is no electricity and no hot water, I take a cold shower in the dark.  Kind of negates the whole warm fuzzy relaxing feeling I got from the massage!

me having a leisurely ride :-)

me having a leisurely ride 🙂

looks like a party boat full of friendly folks

looks like a party boat full of friendly folks

Phewa Tal

Phewa Tal

I return to the hotel, where the generator is now running. I take a hot bath and dry my hair and manage to feel human again.  Then I take off for lunch at the Love Kush Restaurant, where all the patrons are huddled around a fireplace in the center of the room.  I speak some though dinner to a Greek man, but he really doesn’t have much to say.  Then I speak to a nurse from Hawaii, about my age,  who just left Thailand, and her 29-year-old Thai lover, behind.  She said he was feeling depressed and sorry for himself and all he wanted to do was sit around moping, so she broke up with him.  She was a lively lady and I enjoyed our chat, even if briefly.  She was getting ready to go trekking tomorrow in the Annapurna range.

our colorful rowboat

our colorful rowboat

I go back to the hotel, where once again, I hunker down under the covers and read my Kindle story, What I Loved, by the light of the book light.  Luckily I sleep better tonight since tomorrow morning, I will get up at 5 a.m. to go see the sunrise at Sarangkot, which supposedly has an astounding view of the Himalayas.

back to Lakeside....

back to Lakeside….

pokhara: the electricity dilemma, a stroll around town, & a little shopping spree

Sunday, January 20:  This morning I wake up to a room that feels like a walk-in refrigerator.  On top of that, there is no electricity in the Pokhara View Garden Hotel.  I walk out on the balcony, where the sun is shining and it’s actually a lot warmer than in my room.  There, in front of me, are the gorgeous Himalayas: the Annapurna & Manaslu Ranges and one fin of the double-finned Machhapuchhre, nicknamed “Fishtailed.”  There are no clouds or pollution obscuring this morning’s view. The snow-capped peaks loom in the distance, a sharp contrast to the tropical valley of Pokhara, with its colorful buildings and its abundance of bright red poinsettia and orange trumpet vines.

One fin of the double-finned 6997 meter summit of Machhapuchhre ("Fishtailed")

One fin of the double-finned 6997 meter summit of Machhapuchhre (“Fishtailed”)

After admiring the view for a bit, I throw on some clothes and go down to the front desk to inquire about the electricity.  The guy who is always at reception tells me there won’t be any electricity for a while, probably until around 1:00 this afternoon.   I’m flabbergasted.  What?  Why not?

the 8,000 meter + Annapurna and Manaslu Ranges

the 8,000 meter + Annapurna and Manaslu Ranges

He explains patiently that there’s a schedule put out by the Nepal Electricity Authority, but the hotel doesn’t have the current schedule so he can’t tell me for sure when the electricity will be back on.  Apparently the NEA does what is called load shedding: cutting off the electric current on certain lines when the demand becomes greater than the supply.   Rumor has it that this load shedding occurs throughout the country in a rolling fashion for about 14 hours a day every day!! (I’m not sure about the number of hours because I hear different things from different people.)

the amazing Himalayas

the amazing Himalayas

I find this so odd, because in Kathmandu Airport, there are signs spaced equidistant along the Arrivals corridor spelling out little-known facts about Nepal.   One of the facts I distinctly remember goes something like this: Nepal is second only to Brazil for its water resources. Isn’t that great for hydroelectricity?  Later, after I google this, I find Nepal is not even on the top-9 list of water-rich countries.  Brazil is in fact #1, but the Russian Federation is second.  Canada is #3, the U.S. is #7 and India is #9 (FAO: Water-rich countries).

I guess I didn’t notice this electricity problem in Kathmandu because at Kathmandu Guest House they have a generator, and most businesses in the tourist area of Thamel must have generators too.  Obviously, Pokhara View Garden Hotel is more of a budget operation, and there is no electricity to be had.  They have a generator, but they only turn it on at certain times of day.  The guy at reception assures me I can take a shower because there is hot water (I guess that must be heated by generator), but I tell him I can’t wash my hair unless I can use a hair dryer.   Believe me, no one wants to see my hair when it air-dries!   He tells me maybe I should try back at around 1:00.

an omelet for breakfast at the Pokhara View Garden Hotel

an omelet for breakfast at the Pokhara View Garden Hotel

I figure I will go ahead and eat my breakfast and go for a walk around the town.  Maybe I’ll do some shopping.  I am supposed to go the World Peace Pagoda after 1:00 with a guide, so I have the morning just to wander.  I do just that.  I walk around the town taking pictures and enjoying the views of the Annapurna Range and “Fishtailed” and Phewa Lake and the colorful, funky shops.   I buy a few totally unnecessary things: a pretty embroidered bag, some hiking pants, a bunch of books, a necklace and a top, all for about 9,000 Nepali Rupees, or over $100!! I always say when I travel I am not going to buy ANYTHING, yet here I go again!  There are so many cool things to buy in Nepal’s enticing shops, I can’t help myself.

colorful houses and gardens with the World Peace Pagoda in the background

colorful houses and gardens with the World Peace Pagoda in the background

peeks at the Himalayas as I walk around town

peeks at the Himalayas as I walk around town

a Nepali boy looking like a dragon :-)

a Nepali boy looking like a dragon 🙂

shops along the way

shops along the way

love the bright colors in Pokhara

love the bright colors in Pokhara

Nepali woman sitting along the roadside

Nepali woman sitting along the roadside

bicycles

bicycles

vegetables for sale

vegetables for sale

the streets of Pokhara

the streets of Pokhara

brights for sale

brights for sale

lanterns in a restaurant

lanterns in a restaurant

I go back to the hotel to check on the electricity and to drop off my purchases, but still there is no power. When I look at the Himalayas off the balcony again, I see them in a different light.

the Himalayas in a different light

the Himalayas in a different light

the Annapurna and Manaslu Ranges

the Annapurna and Manaslu Ranges

So I walk back to town, where I find the Love Kush Restaurant, which advertises pumpkin soup.  A bowl of hot soup sounds very good, so I enjoy that along with some garlic toast.

pumpkin soup & garlic toast

pumpkin soup & garlic toast

Love Kush Restaurant

Love Kush Restaurant

Everywhere I go, I greet Nepalis with “Namaste.”  I also learned the word for “Thank you” today: “Danyaybat.”  I keep getting tongue-tied and forget the syllables every time I try to say it.  I’m terrible with languages.  Isn’t that sad for someone who teaches second languages to people?

inside Love Kush

inside Love Kush

After lunch I return to the hotel to find the power is now on, but my guide has arrived and it’s time to go to the World Peace Pagoda.  I guess there will be no shower for me until tonight. 😦

bicycles along the lake

bicycles along the lake

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.

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….

kathmandu, i’ll soon be touchin’ you

Wednesday, January 16:

Katmandu, I’ll soon be touchin’ you
And your strange bewilderin’ time
Will hold me down

~ Cat Stevens: “Katmandu”

The day after my boys left Oman, on Saturday, January 12, the University of Nizwa finally announced that IF we worked REALLY hard invigilating final exams and marking papers during this week, we would get a semester break from January 17-25.  I have been waiting for this announcement and was about to give up hope that we would get a break at all.   I had researched 6 places I was thinking about going if we got a chance to escape: Sri Lanka, Prague, Kathmandu, Casablanca, Beirut and Zanzibar.  When it came to decision time, Kathmandu had the best price, the shortest flight, and the promise of cool, but not freezing, weather.  So, on Sunday, I booked a ticket to Nepal for 166 Omani Rials ($432).  I fly out tomorrow at 12:45 p.m.

I recently read one of Pico Iyer’s travel essays from Video Night in Kathmandu: Nepal: The Quest Becomes a Trek, which, inspired me to visit Nepal, much as his Lady and the Monk inspired me to visit Kyoto, Japan in January 2011.

My colleague, Mona Lisa, spent several months in Nepal and loved it.  She highly recommended the Kathmandu Guest House (Kathmandu Guest House), so I promptly arranged to stay there.  I downloaded to my Kindle the Rough Guide to Nepal and Lonely Planet Nepal and started reading.  I have not had time to do any planning, but Mona Lisa stocked me up with trekking essentials (which I’m not sure I’ll use since I don’t plan to do any long overnight treks), a city map, a walking stick, and miscellaneous other essentials.  She also sent me the link to some Tibetan incantations, music that will soothe my soul in Kathmandu, music that she says I will hear everywhere on the capital’s streets, music that captures the soul of the place.

Another colleague, Zida, told me she hated Kathmandu because of the filth, pollution and chaos, but she highly recommended Pokhara, which she says is stunning.  I think the Kathmandu Guest House will help me book a flight to Pokhara, home of Phewa Lake, Mt. Machhapuchhare and Annapurna.

I really have no plan and have no idea what to expect.  I hope to bring home lots of pictures.  Stay tuned!