The triumphant sun emerged, beaming over the valley still rousing from slumber. The mountains shrugged off its shroud of cold mist that dissolved into the warm, comforting glow of the rising orb. It kissed the mountaintops, and caressed the pointed roofs of the vibrant painted houses. There is a profound silence in the first moments of the day that reaches deep inside you. The morning was filled with an incredible, calming peace. But as with all beautiful moments, it’s short-lived. Soon, the roosters crowed, the dogs barked and people came out of their houses to wash, water their plants and rev up their scooters for a day of work. The city came alive almost suddenly against the backdrop of the breathtaking Himalayas.
Welcome to Pokhara, the gateway to the Annapurna mountain ranges.
There are few places with more natural, untouched beauty than Nepal. I made a trip there alone a few weeks ago to do some work with a local orphanage (more on that soon!), and was reminded of why I fell in love with the place when I was backpacking there some years ago.
Political strikes marked my last stay in Pokhara. This was in 2011 before the earthquake of 2015, and the time when the Maoists were taking over. It was exciting, but much of the city was stopped in its tracks. People gathered in large crowds on the streets, shouting, chanting and raising banners with political slogans. Some lit large fires, shopkeepers closed their businesses and buses stopped running. I remember cycling through the streets and marvelling at all the overwhelming emotion, anger and activity. It was a fascinating time to be there as a foreigner, but it didn’t showcase the city at its best.
This time though, I experienced the true warmth of the community. What I thought was amazing hospitality the last time, was only amplified without chaos in the streets.
Some of the simplest but most sublime pleasures is just to sip Nepalese Chai in the Himalayan gardens. Instead of just pouring boiling water onto a teabag and adding milk and sugar as a haphazard afterthought, so much love and individed attention goes into each delicious cup.
Finely-ground tea leaves are placed into a saucepan before milk and sugar are added.
The heavenly-smelling concoction is then brought to a boil which takes 3 minutes or so before its strained into tea cups for our enjoyment.
There’s something wonderfully meditative about tea. In both its preparation and in the drinking. It requires a certain peace, focus and presence of mind to truly enjoy the process and each moment.
When sipped in gorgeous gardens among vibrant flowers, butterflies flitting around and overlooking lakes and mountains, the experience is true bliss.
I didn’t have much time to explore the attractions in the city. I’d gone to see some of the temples, gorges and waterfalls before, but if you don’t have much time, I recommend just doing a short trek to see the sunrise on Sarangkot and just enjoying the serene beauty of Phewa Lake. Most times people use Pokhara as a base to do week-long hiking trips into the mountains, so it’s a great place to rest and recharge.
A boat ride on the lake is a great way to enjoy its pristine beauty and soak up the cool mountain air, particularly in the evenings when the sun is beginning to set. Just lying back and enjoying the view of the spectacular mountain range while floating over the fresh, clear water is incredibly relaxing. If you’re lucky, you’ll get a boatman who loves to sing, and will serenade you with old Nepalese love songs.
There are many cafes, restaurants and shops lining the lake and so it’s easy for visitors to pop in throughout the day for wholesome Nepalese favourites. I tried this delicious Chicken Thukpa (noodles) here which was a lot spicier than it looked. Thukpa is traditionally a Tibetan dish but the Nepalese version is definitely more spicy and perfect comfort food for the cold weather. I couldn’t get enough!
There is something amazingly rejuvenating about kicking back with some hot tea (or a beer hehe), a good book and watching the sleepy sun retreat into the embrace of the majestic blue mountains.
The peace and serenity in Pokhara is unparalleled. If you’re ever here for a trek or just for a short visit (it’s a 6-hour bus ride from Kathmandu), definitely give yourself time to just sit and soak in all this beauty. Trust me, it’s the best way to truly enjoy the city. Namaste.