Saturday, June 20, 2015

Nepal: Pokhara

Dragon Boat Festival comes again.  While most of my colleagues have headed back to their hometowns for our lone summer holiday, B. and I are relaxing in Shanghai.  Last year, we took a day trip to Suzhou; this year, we're enjoying a quiet moment in the midst of our summer storm of visitors.  (Definitely not a complaint!  Just means that life is a bit busier than usual.)  While I should really be working on writing a chemistry paper, this seems like an apt time to catch up on writing about our Chinese New Year travels to Nepal.  Posts about Xi'an, Tokyo, and Chengdu/Emeishan are also forthcoming!

When B. and I booked plane tickets for Nepal in February, we braced ourselves for frigid cold -- like Christmas in South Dakota cold.  We were very pleased to discover that the valleys of Nepal are actually quite temperate, even in February.  With predicted highs around 70F / 22C, I packed some layers, bought new hiking boots, and left my proper winter coat at home.

Pokhara, as I alluded to in last post, is charming.  The tourist area is concentrated around Lakeside, away from the everyday hustle and bustle of the city.  From breakfast on the roof of our hotel, we looked out at Phewa lake, the Peace Pagoda, the swarming paragliders and, when the clouds lifted, the peaks of the Annapurna mountain range.

The main drag of tourist-Pokhara is lined with shop after shop, selling outdoor gear, adventures, a world of cuisine.  Everything you could want or need to explore the region, available in English at a moment's notice, without any oppressive hawking or overbearing tourist-ness.  Brightly colored prayer flags and boats accented the natural beauty.  It's a rare traveler's paradise.


While Nepal is a newer tourist destination for Chinese travelers, it's growing in popularity every year.  
Many of the store signs now feature Chinese translations.
The one above comically adds "You're good (Hello), I'm good, Price is good"

 Natural organic products!  Just like my PhD project, right?

We spent a fair amount of time wandering around the lake, enjoying the scenery and stopping occasionally to sample different cuisines.  We ducked out of the rain and ate some fantastic Middle Eastern food.  B. took a particular liking to Nepali (Tibetan) salty butter tea, a combination of heat, water, caffeine, salt, and fat (traditionally yak butter) which is well-suited to life in the Himalayas. 

During early morning strolls starting in the pre-dawn hours (thanks, jetlag!), we luxuriated in the still, peaceful quietness -- a dramatic change from life in our bustling city of 24 million people.  Sunrise bathed the hills and lake in beautiful morning light; the mountains behind played coy, shrouded in clouds, occasionally peeking through to show white mountain against white sky.  A sunrise trip to Sarangkot would reveal the mountains in their full glory. 

This post is photo-heavy enough, so I'll hold description of our other activities around Pokhara -- a hike to the Peace Pagoda, to Devi's Falls and the Gupteshwor Mahadev Cave, a sunrise trip to Sarangkat, and parahawking(!) -- for later.  Instead, I'll close with a series of boats and cows.

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