Pokhara Nepal: Lakeside City with a Vertical Himalayan Backdrop
I arrived in Pokhara Nepal fairly exhausted. Leaving Bandipur earlier the same morning, I caught the local bus to Pokhara and found myself standing in the bus station just after lunch hunting for a taxi to take me to Lakeside.
After the calm of a traditional Newari trading town, Pokhara’s tourist district came as a bit of a shock. I wished I was back in Bandipur. My search for a guesthouse ended at the south end of Lakeside. Nestled down a secluded back street, it was the perfect spot to recuperate and gain some energy.
For most visitors, Pokhara’s lake, Phewa Tal, defines their stay. I was no exception. Running parallel to the shore, Lakeside’s main road caters purely to tourism. Both sides of the street jostle for attention with restaurants, bars, cafes, money changes, booking agents and more besides. The full gamete of tourist retail confronts you, and to my frustration, blocks all view of the lake! However, wonder down one of the side streets and Phewa Tal unveils its self. With a wide, grassy shoreline, cows graze, boats get mended and laundry gets washed. Take a stroll to Lakeside North and you’ll discover a more relaxed side of Pokhara; a quieter existence compared to its tourist focused counterpart in Lakeside central.
My first few days were excessively lazy as I struggled with tiredness, the heat of summer, the draw of coffee and Pokhara’s bakeries. Determined to get active again, I set sights on the high point of Sarangkot that looms large over Phewa Tal. My uncanny ability to find and rent very average bicycles was proven again, although this was a step above my Kathmandu effort; this bike’s gears actually worked; the breaks were a different storey.
My body was given a severe lesson in tackling Himalayan hills. Starting from Lakeside and making my way north, the road was nothing but unrelentingly up; no flat spots, no little downhill’s, just pure steepness. I ground my way up in midday sun, a veritable cliff of tarmac turning to rock strewn track. Taking a shortcut to the Sarangkot, I left the road, abandoned my bike at a shop in the little village below the summit and walked. The highpoint itself is a funny mishmash of army outpost with bored looking soldiers, a tangle of aerials and a viewing platform thrown into the middle of it all.
But it’s the views you come for. With unhindered views of towering Himalayan peaks, it really is a place to become immersed in the grandeur of the surrounding landscape. Unfortunately for me, I had to settle for brief glimpses through monsoon clouds. The uphill toil was well worth it, the reward was a huge downhill back to Pokhara and more coffee.
Next outing was a walk to the World Peace Pagoda, a few hours uphill stroll from Lakeside through forest. I took what was described as ‘the scenic route’ in the Lonely Planet, but of course managed to get slightly lost. It was quite surreal to have families of monkeys playing in the trees overhead. I also had my first snake encounter; a slithery friend wriggled its way across the path just a few meters in front of me!
Built by Japanese Buddhist monks, the World Peace Pagoda sits like a gleaming white beacon, nestled on a ridge above Phewa Tal. Another prime vantage point for panoramic views, there’s a smattering of small cafes to sit and take in the vista.
Slightly further afield, I ventured forth to the International Mountain Museum and the Gurkha Museum. The latter was an amazing account of the military achievements and history of this fierce regiment. Room after room gave testament to mindboggling feats of ruthless, selfless courage.
So outings inter-dispersed with a large dose of lounging around found me reenergised and heading for the bus station; leaving Pokhara Nepal, next stop was Tansen, south down Siddhartha Highway.