Before I really finished descending Anadu Hill, I stopped at a shop. A grocery store which sell some snacks, mineral waters, as well as soft alcoholic drinks. A small shop which spread smell of coffee aroma from the roasting stove at right.
“Himalayan coffee bean”, said the seller when I watched how he roasted coffees. For some people, passion is everything. Like this man, he was willing to released his Japan citizenship and chose to be Nepalese for his love of Himalayan coffee.
“I take it“, I pointed to 250 gram coffee package and bought it.
—- **** —-
“Mr. Tirtha, your country is unique. Some Nepalese faces are like Indians, sometimes I find them similar to Chinese”, I said when Mr. Tirtha who began to step on gas pedal away from the hill.
“Yess…. Nepal is flanked by India in south and China in north. So some Nepalese have mixed marriages”, he said with a friendly smile answering my question.
We moved northeast around Phewa Lake to bak to hotel which was 6 km away. Upon arrival at New Pokhara Lodge, I thanked to Mr. Tirtha who had been accompanying me since 4 am in my Pokhara exploration. I handed over 5.000 Rupee as service fee, that means I only needed to spend a transportation budget of 1.600 Rupee because I used this taxi with other three backpacker who staying in the same hotel.
Having not lost the feel of New Years celebration on Lakeside Road, I returned to explore the outskirts of Phewa Lake after bathing and stretching my legs. This time, I was starving and had to dinner. There was still promise in myself after whole day conversation with Mr. Tirtha. Yes… .I would taste Nepali Thali.
Street foods seem not to be able to dampen my hunger, I rushed into a restaurant. I sat on its inside to get warm air, then greeted by a sweet female servant. It didn’t take long to choose. “Nepali Vegetarian Thali and Orange Juice“, I told to her after seeing the menu which I was reading. Nepalese food for 300 Rupee and juice for 150 Rupee to close my day that night.
The evening turned to morning, I sipped hot tea and finished the breakfast menu in hotel courtyard. Then returned to the room and shouldered my blue backpack to get ready to say goodbye to Mr. Raj. I shook his wrinkled hand and repeatedly patted his upper arm.
Me: “Thank you Mr. Raj for your kindness and hope to see you again next time ”.
Mr. Raj: “Be careful, Donny. Thank you for stopping by in New Pokhara Lodge ”.
I know Mr. Raj was still forcing himself to work because his last son is still studying at Kathmandu University. Because of his work, he still looked fit.
This time, Mr. Tirtha came for the last time to give me a taxi service. We both headed for Tourist Bus Park, the bus would take me to Kathmandu.
It was still quite early in the morning when I started leaving Bindhyabasini Temple. Back in riding Mr. Tirtha’s daily rental taxi, I along with a trio of backpackers from hotel started down Pokhara-Baglung Street heading south. Mr. Tirtha planned to take me to an old market which was more than 250 years old. He said, this old market was called Purano Bazaar, but public often called it as Old Bazaar.
It was true that said by Mr. Tirtha that this temple and market are close to each other. Only 1.5 km away with 5 minutes of travel time. Quickly arrived, Mr. Tirtha dropped me off on a side of market and he threw his index finger in a corner as a sign that I should meet him there when my Purano Bazaar exploration was over. He wanted to enjoy situation in his own way. All I knew was that he hadn’t been exposed to coffee aroma since early morning.
My stomach which started to feel hungry, automatically led me down market corridor to find street food as a breakfast. Before long, white smoke which rising from three furnaces caught my attention.
“Namaste”, said old merchant who was busy frying. Before answering, my heart laughed when it was the first time in my life to see Jalebi’s appearance. Yes, it is a kind of typical Indian street snacks which I got to know when Saroo and Guddu couldn’t afford to taste it because their money from stealing coal in a mining wagon was only enough to pay for a few bags of milk for their poor family in Ganesh Talai. A touching scene in a film which titled “Lion”. Since then I have been determined to taste Jalebi in India, although I was tasting faster in Nepal.
That old merchant who was initially stunned watching me when I spoke English to buy his food suddenly laughed and raised his hand while frowning. Then a young man in blue jacket who was enjoying his meal got up from his chair and with his fluent English helped that old man served me….Great.
Going back down to market corridor, while munching on snacks, I enjoyed the classic Newar architecture which were shown by many old buildings. Each building always featured visual strength of red bricks which were integrated with distinctive carvings on building wood.
It was said that Newars originating from Bhaktapur in far east of Pokhara were skilled traders. Short story, King Kaski invited him to trade in Pokhara in 1752. And at that time Pokhara had also developed trading activities with Tibet as well. My mind agreed, because there was a Tibetan village in Pokhara….I would visit it later.
Market beauty could be felt because there were still no activity that morning. Himalayas sight was still an idol just down the road. Two bonus destinations which were well presented by Mr. Tirtha, a tall, thin Nepalese, has brown skin typical of South Asia but has slanted eyes like a Chinese.
I said goodbye to Mrs. Celesse, a Belgian woman who still had a beautiful face. Maybe she was a photo model when she was young. Mrs. Calesse, who had shoulder-blonde hair, using a red jacket and a white scarf, still chose to pretty sitting in Sarangkot fot watching Phewa Lake expanse which shining blue when hit by the sun.
Meanwhile, at the botton of hill, precisely in a car park, I had been waiting by three other backpackers who had been heading to this place since early morning with me.
—- **** —-
Me: “So, we returned to the hotel for breakfast and taking a bath“, I said on taxi front seat to Mr. Tirtha-our taxi driver-.
Mr. Tirtha: “Sure, but before it, can I take you to two places which are located along with our way back? “, His smile held mystery and surprise.
Me: “Oh, yeah …. Is it one of International Mountain Museum, Tashi Ling, Gupteshwor Mahadev Cave or Shanti Stupa?“, I think we were still time there after breakfast.
Mr. Tirtha: “Oh No, Hahaha….These were different places…. Two places were close together, Sir“, he deliberately made me curious.
Me: “Oh yeah….Nice to hear that. How about you, bothers?“, I asked to other backpacker’s in the backseat asking for their approval. Finally we agreed to go to those place.
Heading east, the taxi slowly crept down Sarangkot Street. Riding it for 20 minutes, I arrived at a T-junction. I found several school buses which looked like have yellow colour all over the world, then the journey continued with passing the crowd of cyclists and motorbikes. The taxi was slowly uncovering their way until finally it was parked on the edge of pavement.
Visitors were free of charge when they took turns entering temple area through stairs on a side of courtyard. Having finished climbing the stairs, the large temple courtyard was in front. Some congregants began queuing to perform rituals at a white stupa on the left, while others made offerings at a cow statue which overlooking a temple building. And right in the center of courtyard stood a main building with three levels of roof which were no less crowded with congregation. It was in this building which the statue of Goddess Bhagwati was located.
Goddess Bhagwati herself was believed to be the Protector of Pokhara who was purified in the temple. Congregations regularly made offerings to Goddess by slaughtering various livestock. And Pokhara people should be grateful that their king Siddhi Narayan Shah contributed to building this temple in the 17th century.
Temperature was starting to warm up to spoil anyone to linger sitting on the edge of courtyard with 900 meters high above sea level. Then while breathing the fresh air, I enjoyed residential areas view with the blue background of Himalayas.
Visiting Nepal is synonymous with visiting the Himalayas. And all travelers know that the Himalayan gate is in Pokhara. It has been a long time since this city, nicknamed as “Gem of Himalaya”, has opened itself to show its beauty around the world.
This had put Pokhara on the top list in my visitation to South Asia region. Not Kathmandu, but Nepal’s second largest city which is located in northwest valley of Pokhara, this was what made me hurry for a moment to leave the capital city of Nepal even though it had only been arrive a day before.
Here were seven tourist attractions which I visited in Pokhara:
Being the closest vantage point to enjoy the Himalayas had placed Sarangkot as a special place to visit for travelers who didn’t have much time to hike that famous mountains.
Early arriving in the morning and sat at the viewpoint ahead of dawn. Enjoying colors gradation which hit ice layer at Machhapuchhare peak. Undoubtedly the golden color would fascinate you.
2. Bindhyabasini Temple
Descending from Sarangkot with its background of iconic Phewa Lake, I immediately headed to a Hindu temple where the Goddess Bhagwati worshiped, which was 7 km east of Sarangkot. Exactly at 08:14 hours. the temple was already so busy with visitors and also congregants who had come to pray.
Temple location which was on a hill made me freely gaze in observing dense residential housing with Himalayas background which turn blue with white ice at its peak.
3. Old Bazaar/Purano Bazaar
Now I was moving about 2 km southward down the road to a commercial place which dated back to the 18th century. The market was dominated by Newar architecture with red brick motifs with a lane which was only enough for two vehicles passing each other.
9:15 am….It was too early for Pokhara people to trade. As far as the eye could see, my memory was spoiled with market streets view which were flanked by classic buildings on either side of road, then at the end of road, there were dammed with Himalayas face whose timeless beauty.
Because the market was so quiet, no one bothered me in enjoying Jalebi in the middle of street.
4. International Mountain Museum
After returning to hotel for breakfast. Then, I continued visiting a museum which was dedicated to Himalayan climbers who never again safely descended.
By paying 450 Rupee, I was treated to a gallery which displayed a photos series of snowy peaks around the world which was followed by the peculiarities of various ethnic Nepalese inhabitants, then closed with several heroic stories of Himalayan climbers.
5. Tashiling Tibetan Refugee Camp.
For those who haven’t had a chance to visiting Tibet, then feel its nuance by visiting Tibetan people in Tashiling. This village was inhabited by Tibetan refugees who migrated because of political intrigue.
They made a living by trading in their new home. Many travelers shopped for souvenirs at this place. I myself took time to lunch with a bowl of noodles for 150 Rupee at one of their food stall.
6. Gupteshwor Mahadev Cave.
Located near from Tashiling, the cave which was located right on a side of Siddhartha Rajmarg road, its ticket fare about 100 Rupee. Circling down the stairs in red main building, I came to the mouth of this cave. Continuing along the curves of narrow humid alleys which lead to the main cave room with a view of swift waterfall which was peeking out from longitudinal slit on a side….Very beautiful.
7. World Peace Pagoda
Late in the afternoon, I arrived at my final destination. By another name, Shanti Stupa, this pure white pagoda was a painstaking climb on Anadu Hill. A Japanese heritage site of worship symbolized peace which uphold silence. Not allowing a slightest noise was a norm which must be obeyed during a visitation.
A natural decoration in the form of Himalayas with the ground of Phewa Lake in a view side became even more perfect with appearance of Pokhara City which was seen from above.
So, if you visit Pokhara, make sure to visit these cool places.
Ending a transaction and grabbing a Pokhara-Kathmandu bus ticket, I intended to hurry to hotel. Clockwork seemed to move fast and dark slowly but must have enveloped the city, until then I agreed to a taxi driver to take me to New Pokhara Lodge.
A little white taxi was agile cutting through small alleyway. Once he looked confused and forced him down and asked to young man who was drinking a cup of coffee and sucked a cigarette. Then his pointing hand made the driver understandably nod.
—- **** —-
I sat and watched banknotes from various nationalities neatly arranged in a lobby gallery. One of them is a banknote with Tuanku Imam Bonjol’s image.
After a while, a middle-aged man appeared, he already had slow movements but was trying to keep smiling. Furthermore, I knew him as Mr. Raj, a hotel’s person in charge who was very good at providing services to his guests at New Pokhara Lodge.
I was placed at second floor of this U-shaped hotel, three-story orange hotel. A room which I redeemed for 900 Rupess had now become my base camp while traveling in Pokhara.
—- **** —-
Mr. Raj briefly advised me, “Don’t worry about your security in New Year Celebration !. Don’t drink too much and back soon!…. Enjoy your night and Happy New Year ”.
Walking 650 meters to Phewa Lake edge, I followed a small path which only two-wheeled vehicles could pass. Only two minutes to arrived at the bustle of Lakeside Road. A stage was set up at lake edge.
Street food scent in the midst of groups of Nepalese youths was a perfect blend in the cold air of Pokhara. Temperature of 8o C slowly intimidated stomach. And it felt like I couldn’t afford to eat and sit for long time in sidewalk, cold night temperature had made my unprotected hands and face stiffen. In the end, footsteps led me into AM/PM Organic Cafe. A cup of Masala Tea with vegetarian fried rice would warm the body towards midnight which was being awaited by all people in the world.
Food which was finished with had no leftover, tea cup which had dried up and waitress who kept paying attention, made me feel bad. My hunch tell me to get out of the cafe because of course the owner hoped that the table which I was currently occupying could be sold to other visitors.
Now I was trying to sneak into crowd to avoid cold wind which was blowing from the lake. The Nepali-like stature and facial features made me looked like a local all around the stage.
Local artists took turns in giving their best performances, elementary school age children didn’t want to be outdone by their dances, all of them were guided by MC with ideal features, smooth hair without mustaches and worthy looked as Bollywood actor.
That night, Pokhara people seemed to be the happiest people in the world.
I wasn’t sure that it would celebrate fireworks. That belief made me slowly withdraw from crowd. Slowly walking and echoing Mr. Raj’s advice who warned me that whatever might happen because there were indeed many young men who drank too much on streets.
Having yet to turn into an alley, the crowd began to loudly countdown then fireworks shot into the air and exploded right in the center of Phewa Lake. The moment which I had been waiting for was almost interrupted by cold. I turned around and enjoyed the atmosphere. The lake, which was originally dark and appeared to be black, now reflected fireworks light spectrum which were exploding above it.
An admiration which I didn’t even get at the same moment a year ago in Osaka. A beauty which made me forget to capture the moment itself. But never mind, my brain was still recording it well until now.
Check out a situation ahead to the new year at Phewa Lake edge:
Enough with 300 Rupee for 10 minutes, riding a taxi from Thamel to Kanti Path Road. If you weren’t afraid of getting lost, you could also walk for 20-25 minutes.
My imagination told me that a bus which I was chasing would standby at a travel agent office. But the reality was far beyond presupposition. All buses from various travel agents lined up along Kanti Path Road.
48 minutes before departure, I took time to have a light breakfast because this was a long journey which I myself didn’t know how the travel time management was.
I already ordered the ticket via email from Jakarta for 750 Rupee, it was just the payment was do at departure location. It was a strange transaction which I encountered for the first time abroad. Now the problem was only one, I had to be transferred to another bus because according to ticket seller, a bus which I ordered was fullseat (it seemed that this was their strategy, catching passengers via email first and regarding which bus would be placed on, that was the next business….Hahaha, smart).
Amazingly, I was only given a ticket and then asked to independently find a bus along Kanti Path Road based on a number plate on the ticket. I confidently executed his order. It was just that, just walking for 5 minutes to looking for it, I started to get overwhelmed….Yes, it was puzzling!….Nepali numeric was different from Latin numeric!.
Worse …. Now half an hour to departure began to be count down. Armed with no communication access, I returned to starting point of searching to ask ticket seller who seemed to be concurrently as bus coordinator. Dizziness was made by him because I couldn’t find him. I showed my ticket to several people around, they just shouted “wait!…. wait!”. Trying to disguise my panic with 15 minutes remaining to departure time, my eyes closely watched crowd one by one to find the person who I was looking for. Yes, I recognized green color of his winter beanie and a polyphonic phone necklace around his neck. I approached and asked him to help me in finding the bus which was referred to in the ticket….Yes, he only briefly said “Looking for light green bus….Row number three from the front”. Seeing her busy and impossible to accompany me in looking fo the bus, I immediately ran towards front row.
Finally, a light green bus departed at 7 o’clock. Armed with a liter of free mineral water, I sat in the back seat with Korean students who would then have a friendly conversation throughout 8.5 hours journey to Phokara.
Along the way, the bus would stop four times.
Twice for toilet breaks for 15 minutes, i.e 1st break stop on 9:30 hours and 4th break stop on 14:30 hours.
Apart from toilet breaks, bus would also stop twice for meals, each with a duration of 20 minutes. 2nd break stop for breakfast on 10:30 hours and 3rd break stop for lunch on 13:30 hours. I paid a little attention to restaurant cashier table. It was seen that if how many of food was taken, passenger would pay for 450 Rupee.
During the trip, I was really fascinated when I was presented with views from right side. Leaves were turning white because of thick dust from streets, giant billboards which were displayed in the middle of rice fields, suspension bridges which connecting hills, rafting along river and bustling Chandragiri Cable Car tour. Even I could be made to smile by residents behavior in sunbathing in 9° C air while playing carom or some of them surround fire which was lit in house yard.
Slowly bus climbed, descended and circled mountains with ravines on the right. I wasn’t too worried because bus was slowly running. A thing that then made me realized that most of cars, trucks and buses in Nepal came from Tata Motor manufacturer, India.
I thought bus which labeled with “Tourist Bus” word wouldn’t pick up passengers on streets, it turned out that its little conductor had picked up passengers twice, but the better ting was no one stood up in bus.
The trip was stopped due to a wheel leak on 15 minutes before reaching Pokhara. The conductor was a teenager who struggling to change bus wheel, luckyly three taxi drivers came to help. In this condition, I still managed to do transactions at a street market to get a bag of oranges for 100 Rupee. But repairing took too long time and didn’t fast finish, so I was finally transferred to another bus.
In Pokhara, bus would stop at Tourist Bus Park with a view of the Himalayas behind it…..pretty amazing.
Ignoring many offering from taxi drivers, I rushed to a travel agent office, not far from where I got off. Yup….I took initiative to immediately order a return ticket to Kathmandu because later I would fly to New Delhi via Tribhuvan International Airport. This travel agent offered three types of ticket prices, ranging from 650 to 850 Rupee depending on bus quality. Not taking it long, I chose the cheapest price.
Receptionist: “Mr. Donny Suryanto from Indonesia? ”, greeted me when he got closer to his desk.
Me: “How do you know me?“.
Receptionist: “Yes Sir, we are waiting for you. Our last room which we have. And you have kept it via Booking.com “
Me: “Yeaa wright….Hahaha, excellent”, Simultaneously signed a confirmation sheet with a smile.
I entered Holiday House Hotel room for 1,100 Rupee. Planning to stop overnight in Kathmandu. And next morning, I left for Pokhara to enjoy the Himalayas.
Limited time forced me to hurry up. Without taking a bath and immediately took a folding bag to fill it with important items, then heading to Swayambhunath Stupa.
Now I walked along narrow streets of Thamel with inevitable suction of dust with every step. Distinctive smell of dust was obscured by pungent smell of incense which slowly diminished by small embers in pashmina stalls.
I approached a driver who was wiping his tiny taxi from dust, then started a transaction to Swayambhunath Stupa which was 3 km away from hotels where I was staying. I deliberately canceled to walking because I was worried that it was getting late.
400 Rupee was my agreement with him. During trip, Nepali pop songs, which I never understood, made my head nod in following its tune. Every now and then the driver who was the owner of that taxi looked at me with full of smiles and finally we nod together.
Taxi driver advised me to get off at top gate of shrine. He said it took a long time if I had to tread from bottom gate. After I agreed to his suggestion, that tiny taxi slowly drove in a circle following Swayambhu hill contour and dropped me off right at front gate.
Security: “Where are you come from?“
Me: “Indonesia, Sir“
Security: “Oh, I know…. I know…. Jokowi“.
Me: “Hahaha great….You know that“
Security: “He is very famous here“, he said while tore my entrance ticket for 200 Rupee.
It was true, according to its nickname, i.e “Monkey Temple”, area around stupa was often found monkeys which cheering up tourists arrival in front courtyard. Crossing “the peace pool” which full of coins which were tossed by travelers. It was said that they believe their prayers would come true if they throw coins. I continued up the stairs to worship’s main place at hill top.
Congregation took turns coming and turning prayer wheels one by one…. Of course they hoped that Buddha would grant their request.
Around the stupa, souvenir sellers offered their merchandises to tourists. Souvenirs made fro metal which dull because of were exposed by dust didn’t deter tourists to buying and owning them.
Passing through each groove around stupa, dogs as guard animals looked limp and some of them were asleep anywhere. Meanwhile, thousands of colorful prayer flags neatly lined up on a rope which centered on stupa and stretched out in various directions.
Meanwhile, on other side, there was a sunset which splashes the city with a reddish-yellow spectrum. Combination of religious nuances and natural beauty which really spoiled the eyes.
Exiting at the same gate, I took time to walk down street, watching activity of street food stalls. My steps stopped when a husband and wife who selling panipuri were busy. Then I redeemed a portion for 100 Rupee and started to enjoying Nepal’ street food for the first time. Spicy taste mixed with sweet and sour, also strong aroma of curry made me a little slow to swallow every piece of panipuri which I bought. In the end, that seller spouse laughed at me when I chewed that snacks while glaring.
After enjoying this famous South Asian folk-style snack, I stopped a taxi which had just dropped its passengers. It was time to go to hotel, took a shower and got ready to enjoy dinner on my first night in Nepal.
Bye Swayambhunath….Got ready to go to Pokhara tomorrow.