City of the Month: Pokhara, Nepal

We are introducing a new feature here at AWTY.  Each month, we will be nominating a new city; one that stands out in some way.  Our inaugural winner is…

POKHARA

This city in central Nepal is pretty legendary for being a kicked-back place to stay.  It’s set on a lake (which from afar is quite pretty but from closer you can see it’s quite filthy,) with mountains in the background (though in a month I haven’t seen them behind the clouds yet).  There are a lot of hippies here, and you will have plenty of chances to buy hash or magic mushrooms.

The lack of postcard opportunities hardly hurt the city.  The part where nearly all tourists stay is called Lakeside, and it’s one long strip.  There are more trekking shops, used bookstores, cafes, restaurants, net cafes, and souvenir stalls than you can shake a stick at.  (Not to worry if you’re stickless; I’ve already confirmed this with my own trekking stick Sir Sticksalot).

It’s a small place, where the general day unfolds as finding ways to spend time between meals.  But there is plenty to do.  Paragliding is popular, as is parahawking.  You can boat around the lake.  There is a hike up to the World Peace Pagoda.  You can climb to the village of Sarangkot for amazing views of sunrises and sunsets.  In addition, Pokhara is the gateway for a lot of the best trekking in Nepal.

I spent almost a month in Pokhara, off and on, and here are some of the things I learned in that time.

POKHARA TIPS

  1. Though the bus doesn’t stop in Lakeside, it’s quite easy to walk to.  The taxi mafia will swarm you, but just continue the direction you came in on.  Damside is no more than 3 minutes away (this is where Immigration and the ACAP office are) and Lakeside is about 10 minutes further.
  2. Bottled water should be 20-40 rupees, but if you have a water bottle you can refill it for 10 Rs per liter at many of the shops in Lakeside.
  3. The smaller shops are more willing to bargain; these are often further away from the center of town.
  4. Books are generally cheaper in Lakeside North, but  Fewa bookstore has some very cheap deals.  For trading in, Fishtail Books was easily the best I found.
  5. Don’t buy a TIMS card.  They’re free but many trekking agencies try to charge for them.  You will need two passport photos, and if you buy them there they are twice as expensive.
  6. Many internet cafes claim to be the fastest, but the one that really is (for uploading photos or using skype) has a pink sign and is right next to a Korean restaurant and a small ally.
  7. There are many places to do your laundry–your lodge will offer the services for you.  But if you want cheaper, look around a bit.  Many places claim to do machine washing but they have no machines and it takes 24 hours to get your clothes back.  It should cost about 350 RS for a kilo / big bag of clothes.
  8. There are grocery stores in Pokhara, and they have set prices.  These prices aren’t super-high, but they’re set for tourists.  If you have the time, bus or walk into Pokhara (not Lakeside) and got to the markets that the locals shop at.
  9. The restaurants that are always full are the most expensive.  The cheaper places do not have worse food, just less tourists.  You should be able to get a meal (chowmein, dhal, or spring rolls) and a soft drink for 100 rupees.  Two of the cheaper places are House of Momos and New Marwadi restaurant.
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