Pokhara is a relaxed city and it’s been a good place to be based for a few weeks. It’s pretty too – the main draw is the picturesque Lake Phewa and also the backdrop of the stunning mountains.
We are in the main tourist area called Lakeside although it’s quite quiet at the moment as it is winter. Here, the main thoroughfares comprise restaurants, coffee shops, hotels, handicraft shops, trekking agencies, shops selling trekking gear and supermarkets, each many many times over with more on the way. There’s a massive amount of building work going on – apparently Pokhara’s airport is due to upgrade and become an international airport (currently you can only fly nationally to Kathmandu and some of the small mountain airports) and in anticipation of this, there is a ridiculous amount of construction (and it’s not clear that there are many planning regulations here). I’m trying to work out what the ratio of tourists to hotel will be (it is really hard to see how all the hotels will be viable but this doesn’t seem to dampen the enthusiasm for the building works). It’s a massive contrast to Asmara (Eritrea) where there was literally no building or renovation work going on at all.
Most of the restaurants sell similar food (Nepali specialities (including mo mo dumplings as well as dahl baht), Indian curries, pasta/spaghetti/macaroni*, chowmein, fried rice) but there are some specialist restaurants too (e.g. pizzerias, Vietnamese, creperie, Japanese, steak house etc). [*I’m yet to work out the difference between pasta and spaghetti or macaroni]. You can get most things here if you look hard enough so we’re spoilt for choice!
Despite the brands, most things that are sold here are fake: all the trekking gear is branded “the North Face” etc but it is fake, a fact that the shopkeepers seem very ready to admit. Items marked “100% cashmere” are also likely to be a wool/cashmere blend so you have to go shopping with your eyes open.
As well as the shops, there’s some relatively interesting museums in town including the International Mountain Museum (unsurprisingly the Nepalis are proud of their mountains, after all 8 of the 10 highest mountains in the world are in Nepal). This museum also contains what is now my favourite museum exhibit of all time: a Yeti.
Also in town is a museum about the Gurkhas but somewhat disappointingly no mention of Joanna Lumley.
We’ve explored by foot, bus, taxi, rowing boat and also by mountain bike: last Sunday, we rented bikes and cycled around town for one day which perhaps was a slightly foolish decision as the roads here are absolutely crazy: while no one drives that fast (and nominally everyone drives on the left so that’s helpful for us), no one ever seems to stop and give way and people just shoot out from side roads, seemingly without looking. Also the roads are dreadful – full of pot holes which are obviously a bit treacherous on a bike. On the rare occasion when you do get a smooth stretch of road and think you can get some speed up, you then have to deal with the numerous sleeping policemen which again can be a little problematic on a bike. But we managed ok without incident but let’s just say I was pretty happy to give the bike back at the end of the day.