Posted by: Ciaran | January 19, 2010

Changing places – Pokhara

I’ve already mentioned one of Pokhara‘s main attractions in my inaugral post when I wrote about paragliding, so instead I’ll focus on what there is to do and see in Nepal’s second city and, more importantly perhaps, what there is to eat.  After three weeks of living as a vegetarian in India, I couldn’t believe my luck when I got to Pokhara and every restaurant served steaks at dinner time and a full English (of sorts) in the morning.

Breakfast in Billy Bunter's restaurant - manna from heaven

Make sure you get yourself stuck into some Nepalese momos (I’d recommend steamed beef ones) and have a roast beef sandwich in Monsoon Bar, and don’t miss the steaks (plural is deliberate – you get at least two) in Everest Steak House.  Breaksfasts in Love Shack are worth trying – the bacon sandwiches are tasty, though don’t bother with the sausages.

The best restaurant in Pokhara has to be Moondance; the steaks are gorgeous (though they’ll serve them on a sizzler and burn your vegetables and chips no matter how many times you ask them not to), and the chocolate brownies are out of this world.  Get a seat upstairs, play pool – for free – for as long as you like, have a few beers and look out over the beautiful Phewa Tal and you will be very happy indeed.

The gorgeous waters of Phewa Tal, set beneath the Annapurna mountain range

You can hire boats to go out on the lake – depending on the weather and how energetic you’re feeling you can either be at the helm yourself or pay a little extra and travel in style with a boatman or woman ferrying you around.  I did the latter (unsurprisingly, I’d just eaten) for an hour and it was great.  You can stop at a temple in the middle of the lake too, although there’s not quite as much to see there as is made out.  There’s also a highly entertaining public toilet sign by the boat station, which informs you in two-foot high lettering: ‘Latrine Rs 3, Piss Rs 2’ (Rs being rupees, the currency of Nepal).

Temple on the small island in the middle of Phewa Tal

There are hundreds of small arts and crafts shops selling beautiful handicrafts and carvings, and you can easily spend at least a whole afternoon wandering around them buying gifts and souvenirs.  There are plenty of travel agents too, so if you’re planning a visit to Chitwan National Park, Kathmandu, Tibet, Bhutan or India then spend some time strolling between them to get the best price.  They also do a lot of offers on extreme sports, tea treks and transport, and you can make fantastic savings if you block book with them.

View over Pokhara from Sarangkot

Whether you want to paraglide or not, it is worth heading up to Sarangkot just for the views of the mountains and the lake.  The city is in a valley so both the place itself and all of the surrounding areas afford beautiful views.  Head up to the World Peace Pagoda – on foot if you’re brave/energetic – to see a beautiful Buddhist stupa with four different statues of the various incarnations of Buddha.

One of the statues of the Buddha at the World Peace Pagoda

While you’re out of the city you can make a day of it and visit the nearby Devi Falls and Gupteshwor Mahadev cave.  The dramatic waterfall is said to be named after a Swiss tourist who drowned there whilst swimming, while the cave contains a massive stalagmite worshipped by Hindus as the ‘lingam‘ of the God Shiva. 

Devi Falls

Round off your day with a visit to the Tibetan settlement at Tashi-Ling, where you can take a relaxing walk through the streets and chat to the people.  By that stage, you’ll be ready to head back to Pokhara – the only question left is which restaurant to head for…

Monument in the Tibetan settlement of Tashi-Ling

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