December 11th-12th 2010
So after getting to Gorakphur, taking a 3-hour bus to Sonauli, checking out with Indian immigration and crossing the border to Nepal ($25 15-day visa, not doing any trekking so no need any longer this time around), and taking a short bus ride to Siddharta Nagar (and staying a night there because it was late), then taking a 9-hour bus ride, I finally got to the first major city in Nepal, Pokhara.
(9 hours on this wonderful bus.)
(A musician who hopped on the bus and then performed. Pretty good music.)
Pokhara is a popular tourist location because it’s a great jump-off point for many popular treks and other activities including paragliding and rafting (it was cool to see the paragliders in the skies near the mountains). The city was located beside the beautiful Phewa Lake which had the mountains as its backdrop although I could barely see the Annapurna range peaks from where I was at. For several weeks beforehand, I debated on whether or not to go on a short 7-10 day trek on the Annapurna circuit because it was “the thing to do” according to guidebooks and many folks who like the trek. But I realized I’m not much of a trekker to begin with. I don’t have a proper sleeping bag (I’ve read buying the fake stuff being sold all over Pokhara is a bad move because they don’t keep you warm especially at high altitudes), I don’t have proper cold weather clothes, and I am lugging too much crap needed for my travels but not for treks. I decided that someday, I’d like to come back to Nepal solely for trekking, maybe with a friend or two. I would be better prepared because I would pack (and packed right) specifically for a single purpose. Porters or not, I will be light, agile, warm, mentally (and physically) ready and will probably enjoy myself more. For now, my time in Nepal is mainly to get a flavor of the country.
(A local Nepali meal. Just kidding. It’s hand-made spinach pasta.)
(You can see the Annapurna range way in the back, behind the clouds.)
(The view from the Newari restaurant.)
(A Newari meal. And since I can’t remember the names of the items…)
(Locals doing chores by Phewa Lake.)
I walked around the lake, took a short boat ride to the temple in the middle of the lake, enjoyed the views, ate a mix of continental and Nepali (Newari to be exact, an ethnic group in Nepal), drank hot drinks, ate some cheesecake, ate ice-cream, read, used the web, checked out books, listened to Mandarin music played on loudspeakers outside a Chinese restaurant, had a Nepali beer while watching some soccer at a bar one night, people-watched, and generally just took it easy. Probably not as exciting as trekking in the Himalayas but it’s what I wanted to do. Decided my next move was to go to Bandipur, a small hill-town about 3 hours away.