1. twirly

    twirly boring

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    I'm heading to Nepal in March, only for a short time unfortunately due to family commitments, but I can't wait!

    We are planning to go to Bhaktapur and Nagarkot (for the Everest view), Pokhara, Chitwan National Park then back to Kathmandu.

    Does anyone have any advice, or recommendations for places to stay, particularly in Pokhara and Chitwan? I hear there may be some bars around Pokhara that play psy, is that correct? If so where can these be found? We are also interested in short meditation classes/groups.


    Thanks! :Smile3:
     
  2. bez23

    bez23 Adverse camber

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    Bhaktapur is lovley, and I'd recommend staying over at least a night so you can have a good look around. Patan too, but that's more of an afternoon job.
    If you're staying in Kathmandu for a few days, I recommend staying at The Yellow House or the place opposite on Freak Street, rather than in or around Thamel. Freak Street (Jochen Tole) is right next to the Kumari's palace and Kathmandu's Dhurbar Square, where the old pagoda-style temples and traditional architecture are most dense.

    Thamel is handy for having a lot of (Westernised) restaurants and shops, but it is crazy busy, expensive with a lot of sellers and hawkers and general constant hassle. If you need any of the services in Thamel, like travel agents or money exchange, it's only 20 easy direct minutes walk, and you consequently get to see more of Kathmandu.

    While you're in Kathmandu, go visit the Tibetan community and Buddhist stupa at Boudhanath. It's fascinating, and touched us deeply.

    In Pokhara, Banana Garden Lodge is pretty nice, but you'd be as well to book in advance, as it's only small and popular. There's a couple of restaurant/bars nearby in North Lakeside, I can't remember their names, but they had a nice vibe in the evenings - hammocks to chill in, decent hifi and would be happy for you to plug your tunes in. When you're on the bus over from Kathmandu to Pokhara (which is a great experience in itself), it's likely that about an hour from Pokhara you'll be 'befriended' by a young Nepali or two, who know just the bestest, most amazing cheap and luxury places to stay in Pokhara, and they'd be happy to get you there in a free taxi. I'm sure it's all harmless touting for a commission, but personally I'd rather choose my own place, and know where I'm going. there are a few places in South Lakeside/Baidam that are a bit ghastly, over-priced and surrounded by sports bars full of American sports trekkers watching big-screen TVs and bragging about their trekking/mountaineering exploits. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but personally I found it hideous and annoying.

    If you're staying there with time to do a bit of trekking, DO IT. I've been to Nepal twice, the first time we did a lot of wandering around, smoking and no trekking, which was ace, but the second time when we did the Annapurna Sanctuary 10 day trek, I realised that getting out amongst the mountains and countryside is the very best reason to go to Nepal. I can't recommend it highly enough. I would take a couple of days sight-seeing in Kathmandu then 10 days trekking over pretty much any other itinerary. And don't be intimidated by the idea of trekking - I'm overweight and lazy, and I did fine. Give me a shout if you want any more info :nod:

    We went to Nagarkot in 2002. Everest views are not always possible, and we found the place to be a vibeless tourist trap. It might be different now. Haven't been to Chitwan, so can't help there. Personal view on meditation: learn it in the UK, and integrate it into your everyday life. It's not necessary to go somewhere exotic to meditate, and my view is if I've spend £600 on flights and find myself in an amazing new country, I don't want to be sitting looking at the back of my eyelids while I'm there - I can do that when I get back :laugh: Highly recommend this place.
     
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  3. bez23

    bez23 Adverse camber

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    Kate just reminded me - on the bus journey between Kathmandu and Pokhara, half way there, you'll stop for lunch at the Nepali version of a service station, which is on the right going towards Pokhara. For sure use their toilets, but for a nicer food and drinks experience, you'll notice over the road up the hill a little is a small shack run by a nice family that make proper Nepali local noms, and brain zorching chai. They're always thrilled when tourists come for snacks, and you get better noms in a less hectic environment.

    Also Swayambhunath, the big stupa in Kathmandu is well worth spending an afternoon at. Likewise Pashupatinath funeral ghat on the outskirts of the city (it's possible to walk to Boudhanath from there - takes about half an hour).

    Another Kate reminder - if you've got long hair, tie it back when you visit religious sites. Local custom considers you a bit of a hussy if you attend temple with your hair out! Dress modestly around temples and stupas too - long sleeves and covered legs.

    We were travelling with a dready dude last time, and he caught some flack at Buddhist sites for looking like a dirty Hindu sadhu, so it might be an idea to wear a head-scarf over dreads at stupas and monasteries.

    You can find a bunch of our pics on Kate's Facebook - look for Kate Technodolly.
     
    Last edited: Nov 10, 2013
  4. twirly

    twirly boring

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    Thank you so much for all the helpful information!

    We were definitely hoping to visit Swayambhunath, thanks for letting us know about the customs! My fiance does indeed have dreads and I have long hair so it's good to be aware that we should cover it up. I made a similar mistake in Thailand trying to go in a temple on my first day, I had deliberately completely covered up but I was in leggings! I hadn't realised that this was a big no-no! So I was refused and I had to get changed....I felt like an idiot but luckily at least I knew for next time!

    I found a site called pokhara.net which seems to be helpful finding a nice place and I'll check out Banana Garden Lodge. :Smile3: Hotel touts do annoy me but I'm usually an over-planner booking everything early which helps brush them off!

    We were thinking of doing the Poon Hill trek as it's short so we'd have time to fit in plenty of other things. ABC and MBC also look tempting but we'd probably have to skip Chitwan. I'll do some more research.

    Sounds like we might skip Nagarkot then as I'm sure the views around the Annapurna region are just as good/better... I don't think we can afford to do the Everest helicopter ride!!

    I'm already dreaming of the food and the chai... ahhh!
    Thanks again! :Smile3:
     
  5. twirly

    twirly boring

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    I just looked a Kate's pics - absolutely wonderful! :wub:
     
  6. bez23

    bez23 Adverse camber

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    I'd agree with skipping Nagarkot. Seeing Everest is attractive, 'cos it's Everest, but if you're going to go up Poon Hill for the sunrise view of the Annapurnas, you'll definitely get your fix of OMG MOUNTAINS :snaphappy::wtf::frolic:

    Is that Poon Hill, then across to Chomrong and down? That'll be lovely. Only one of our group of 5 got as far as ABC. The rest of us were happy to have got as far as MBC, and I had a funny turn due to altitude, so didn't think it wise to go any higher, But still - mind blown.

    It's well worth taking a guide on the trek, even if it's a small one. The route is pretty straightforward and there'll be lots of other trekkers to ask the way, but having an experienced guide with you just totally smooths out the bumps. Our dude was on really good terms with the tea houses/lodges we stayed at, so he'd call ahead to make sure we got good rooms, food ready when we arrived, sorted out breakfasts and the like. Having someone that spoke Nepali/English meant we could have chats with the locals too, which added another dimension to the experience.

    The finest traditional Dal Bhat in Pokhara was from the Sun Welcome restaurant just a little way North of the Manswara Road Junction, heading to North Lakeside. Proper lovely family run place, with huge helpings of noms.

    I'm proper excited for you! Nepal is a beautiful country, with a lot of friendly people. :thumbsup:
     
  7. janinho

    janinho psypizza and tomatos

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    Great suggestions by Bez there, I'll try to add some personal experiences..

    I don't know how long you are staying, what are your objectives for this trip and what are your fav activities, but..before I went to Nepal it was about 15 years I hadnt been in any trek..decided to try the Anapurna Round with the option of coming back in case of not making it / liking it, and ended up trekking for almost 60days, including Tilicho Lake, Poon Hill, Anapurna Sanctuary and walking back all the way to Pokara. Had to come down just because my visa was about to expire..was also planning to go to Chitwan and Lumbini but I am quite glad I stuck to the mountains instead..
    I would't say it changed my life, but it definitely changed my way of perceiving and relating nature. Mindblowing experience.

    So my suggestion is trek trek trek. Psy parties are ok but tbh I prefer Europe festies..charas is delicious and bloody cheap but being constantly stoned can screw all your plans, especially when you are planning of staying just few days in the country. KTM valley is well nice and super interesting especially if you have never been to the sub continent before, but I personally got much more out of trekking.

    If you are heading in March you shouldnt find the masses on the treks yet, but you are likely to find colder climate and possibly snow from 3500+ meters.
    North of Pokara, there's plenty of different short loops you can do in between Ghandruk, Chomrong, Tatopani, Ghorepani/Poon Hill..all of them shouldnt take more than 3 days, but be advised it's mostly Jungle trekking..which is very cool actually, but just dont think you will be viewing extended landscapes for the most time, because you won't.
    One of the places I enjoyed most was Khopra, close to the Anapurna South and in front of Daulaghiri massive..hardly any trekker there and mindblowing views

    However if you can spare 7 days for trekking, I definitely recommend the Anapurna Sanctuary..It's a very easy trek, you go through nice villages and terraced rice paddies at the beginning, and when you enter the main valley that takes you in the heart of the Anapurnas the stops in between won't be as characteristics as several centuries old villages are (see Anapurna Round), but you will get to trek through jungle and bamboo forests and eventually grass land and glaciers before you will be rewarded with one of the most breath taking views of your life once you arrive in the sanctuary..very hard to describe with words, but there was something different there that you can only find in the high mountains..special special special.
    I do not agree with taking a guide, I really value my independence when trekking above anything else and met many trekkers who said they could have easily done without any guides/porters..most of the locals you will meet in the Anapurna treks speak a basic level of english and few of them actually speak more than decently, so you will be able to communicate with most of the villagers fairly easily..but I can see some of the advantages of having a guide, especially in terms of acquired knowledge of the surroundings (although be aware some guides come from KTM and know very little of the region).

    Another place I enjoyed a lot, although not nearly as good as being in the Anapurnas, was Begnas Lake and its surroundings..I went there to get out of Pokara confusion after a big psy party and prepare myself for the big trek, breaking into my trekking shoes..ended up falling in love with the place and staying 10 days..Once you get to Begnas Bazar avoid the dam zone and instead go to the left on the road that goes up the ridge..keep going for a couple of km, pass the Vipassana Centre and you get to a little village with a delicious family guesthouse (there are a couple, look for the one the lower end of the village...they cultivate their coffee and honey and are very friendly and cheerfull..the big didi cooks amazing and very cheap food! Once there you can have walks around the two lakes (there's also Rupa Lake nearby) and on the ridge on the other side of Begnas lake, which is part of the Royal Trek, where you get stunning views of Anapurna I and II and Manaslu.

    These are some suggestions I have written to a friend some time ago, you might find them useful..enjoy enjoy enjoy!

    buy the LP guide "trekking in Nepal" and a map of the trek while in pokhara, you will find them everywhere..buy the most detailed one (smallest scale). bring a torch light,a sleeping bag and try to carry as little as you can..you can always wash your stuff on the trek, and it's better to have just few changes rather than carrying 15kg of stuff. just make sure you have enough socks (4 is ok)..and anyway even if you are a bit smelly it doesnt matter, everybody is while trekking. dont be afraid, i was not trained at all and i did it easily, and many people as me.
    remember to buy a good pair of trekking shoes and brake in them before the trek, unless you want blisters all the way up. and socks are extremely important too..you can find decent trekking socks (fake north face) everywhere in pokhara. also, buy 2 thermos bottles and drops for purifying the water. you can buy the drops in pokhara in any pharmacy, they are very cheap, like 500 drops for 2$ and you will only have to fill up the water from the villages, not carrying plastic bottles around or, even worst, consuming and throwing them away..the drops are safe, i was very healty for all the time i spent up there and i have never ever drank bottled water..you are in the high mountains and you dont want to pollute them with plastic which will not be recycled
     
  8. twirly

    twirly boring

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    Thank you so much! Lots of helpful information. Do you know if most hotels/hostels in Pokhara allow you to store main luggage for the time you are trekking, so you can just take a smaller bag of essentials? Thanks for the reminder about the torch! We have some water purifying drops, but definitely need to stock up on some decent socks! I've had some trusty hiking boots for many years so I'll probably take those.

    The fact the areas around Poon Hill are more jungly is good news to me, I'm not so good with cold and ice but love jungles! :Smile3: We went to Komodo Island last year which was a rather exciting and nerve-racking mini-trek! Definitely one never to be forgotten!
     
  9. bez23

    bez23 Adverse camber

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    Ace thoughts from Janinho. Obviously more intrepid than me on the trekking front - that sounds brilliant, 60 days walking. What an experience.

    Speak for yourself! Ulleri steps, an easy walk?! :badger:
    It was knackering!

    We did leave our main luggage in a lock-up at our hotel in Pokhara. I believe that's something most places offer. I took a 35l rucksack up to the hills, and Janinho is totally right - just take a few essential clothes and wash as you go.
     
  10. janinho

    janinho psypizza and tomatos

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    Wow Komodo island must be amazing!! As I really want to go there next time I'll be in Asia, I'll know who to ask then :Smile3:
    I guess Himalayan jungle is a tad different than equatorial island superlush jungle and probably also less thrilling (unless lechees are to considered a thrill), but amazing none of the less..I have attached a couple of photos I made between Ghorepani and Chhomrong, to give you an idea..you can find plenty of pics of the ABC sanctuary on the net but none of them will make justice to the place when you are physically there!

    All the guesthouses/hotel/hostels in Pokhara will allow you to store your stuff at their place..it's common practice and it also means that you are likely to spend at least 1-2 days in their place when you'll be back to valley..

    Just a thought: I have a friend who carried her trusted, old boots into the trek and ended up with plenty of blisters after few days..she hadnt used them for a couple of years before the trek and this might explain it, so just make sure to walk in them for a few days before catching the flight..better safe than sorry!

    188318_10150326269057275_5292290_n.jpg 217479_10150326271287275_7993329_n.jpg 269829_10150326269392275_4961701_n.jpg
     
  11. janinho

    janinho psypizza and tomatos

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    ahah sorry just noticed your reply!
    yeah I was very very lucky to have the opportunity to take all the time I wanted to wander in that paradise..best choice ever!
    And probably I was in such shape after so much walking at high altitude for so many days that when I arrived in that area of the trek it didnt seem such big effort, but I guess I would had had a different impression if I did it at the beginning of the trek..

    However I dont think I did the Ulleri steps..I was coming from Tatopani in Kali Ghendaki Valley (Anapurna Round) when I decided to take the northern route to Kopra, from there back to the river and up to Ghorepani/Poon Hill and after that I went straight to Chomrong and then up to the ABC. I went back to Pokhara via Ghandruk. I remember loads of stairs in that part of the trek tho, not nice when going down and it's wet.
    Which loop did you do? What period of the year was it?
    When I got to the Poon Hill/ABC area it was already monsoon season (up in Muktinath/Manang the rainy clouds were blocked by the mountains in between) and didnt get to see the southern mountains completely clear of clouds during the day, but strangely enough every night the sky was totally clear and got a couple of spectacular nights of full moon with Machapuchre and Annapurnas in full show

    I love reading/writing about this stuff, gives me the opportunity to travel a bit more, if only with my mind!
     
  12. The Fat Controller

    The Fat Controller Forum Member

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    Hey guys. Really interesting reading this. Me and my gf are thinking of travelling to North India and then onto Nepal in April. We reckon about 10 days in Nepal. We are both keen on trekking, having done the 3 peaks in the UK so are really interested in doing something around the Annapurna region. From reading the above it looks like this is possible within the 10 days. Just a few questions. Do we need to pre book stuff - as in the treks and also getting to the area from Kathmandu, or can we just turn up and arrange a trek? We would probably want a few days in Kathmandu so do you think we could fit a 6/7 day trek in Annapurna region? Also we're far from professional trekkers so hoping we can find a easyish to moderate trek!

    Cheers, appreciate anyones time in getting back.
     
  13. twirly

    twirly boring

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    From reading around it seems that you don't have to book transport to the Annapurna region too far in advance, you can get the Greenline coach from Thamel in Kathmandu to Pokhara or various other bus companies (Greenline seems most expensive but most well known). You can also fly from Kathmandu via Buddha Air and Yeti Air which run several flights per day, which from memory cost about £60 one way.
     
  14. The Fat Controller

    The Fat Controller Forum Member

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    Ok great.Thanks for that. Do you know about booking a trek in advance? Or can we just rock up at pokhara and book a trekn on the day we arrive? Just watching a documentary on bbc iPlayer about the sherpas and everest.Got real itchy feet now!

    Thanks again.
     
  15. bez23

    bez23 Adverse camber

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    Either will do it. Wherever you're staying in Pokhara would sort you out, any number of places in Kathmandu will offer to hook you up with a guide.

    Our buddy Tirta Raj Subhedi comes highly recommended. I'll PM you his email address and details. We've sent other folk out to trek with him, and everybody has loved it. It's great for the guide if you can work it out between you too - less middle men, more money direct to the guide.

    If you do get in touch with him, tell him Bez & Kate gave you his details. He'll know who you mean.
     
    Last edited: Jan 15, 2014
  16. The Fat Controller

    The Fat Controller Forum Member

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    Thanks so much, that's very kind. Can't wait!
     
  17. janinho

    janinho psypizza and tomatos

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    Remember to do the Anapurna region trekking permit though.
    It takes little time (a couple of passport type pics, a passport copy, a form to be filled up on the spot and some $$). You can do it easily in the relevant office in Pokhara (south side of the lake, near the dam) in no time, but the opening hours are a bit tricky if I well remember so you might want to check that out as without permit you will not be able to trek (there are few check points during the trek).
    I believe you can apply for the same permit in KTM as well, but I have no idea where.
    Thorn tree / India Mike forums should provide you with all the relevant info
     
  18. bez23

    bez23 Adverse camber

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    Good call. I put as many passport sized pics as I could on a sheet of A4 for both of us and got it printed at Boots. It was well handy for permits, visas, the Kathmandu visitor permit for Durbar Square. For whatever endless administration craziness that could be thrown our way - we had the pics. One less thing to worry about.

    Also definitely take a couple of hundred dollars with you in $10 bills. Sometimes necessary for permits, always welcome as ready currency.
     
  19. twirly

    twirly boring

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    We had a wonderful time, it's a really beautiful country. :Smile3:

    We went from Kathmandu - Lumbini (birthplace of the Buddha) - Sauraha (Chitwan NP) - Pokhara and back to Kathmandu.

    We found that it wasn't necessary to get the more expensive Greenline from Chitwan to Pokhara, the 'tourist bus' was fine, it didn't break down (unlike 3 other vehicles we were in during our trip, haha) and there were toilet stops and a stop for buffet food half way there. Great scenery! The route from Lumbini to Sauraha is interesting too, but in a different way, as it is mostly flat farmland and villages.

    In Pokhara we tried paragliding for the first time which was awesome, there are lots of companies to choose from in Pokhara but we chose Sunrise after reading really good reviews and were impressed.

    We stayed on a hill above the north lakeside of Pokhara, so we sort of got our hiking fix, in addition to going up to the World Peace Stupa after a boat ride across the lake! North side is more ramshackle than the centre but quite a nice vibe and more natural - it was pretty awesome to see so many birds of prey up close. Freedom Cafe is pretty cool. We also visited Devis Fall and the nearby cave which are ok if you're at a loose end. Next time I'd probably go on a rafting expedition with Paddle Nepal or one of the many companies advertised around the town as it sounded good to be able to camp out in lesser visited locations around the country. You can also go canyoning which sounds seriously fun but I'm not sure I'm brave enough and it's not covered by most travel insurance policies, haha! :Smile3:

    We also saw a lot of rare birds and mammals in Chitwan, and in Lumbini. If you're interested in that kind of thing I'd recommend Lumbini Buddha Garden and the manager & guide there, Dinesh! We had a good night drinking by the fire there and learning a lot about Nepal's wildlife! We borrowed bikes for free (albeit rusty ones) and cycled around the monastic zone and to the Maya Devi temple. If you go, take a detailed map! We expected there would be a bit more tourist-friendly infrastructure there as it is a UN world heritage site but it was a bit confusing and we seemed to draw a lot of unexpected attention! It's a very overtly religious area but actually seemed to be mainly Hindu and Muslim outside the main buddhist temple zone, and a temple nearby had 'Hare hare Krishna' chanting all night on a loudspeaker!

    In Kathmandu we thought Swayambhunath was really magical, I had a bit of an intense day there, Boudhanath was good but not so magical (armed police were around it for some reason, perhaps the political situation?) and Pashupatinath provided an interesting insight into the culture, although it was a little disconcerting to be at public funerals.

    Apparently the load shedding of electricity has increased recently - there were daily long power cuts - but luckily we had a solar charger. We went to what was meant to be a psy night at Funky Buddha in Kathmandu and I was loving the tunes for about 30 mins but then unluckily the power was cut, and their generator was broken or something, so we missed out! Good place to go though, once the genny is running again!

    Well, overall Nepal blew me away, I loved it and would definitely go back if I had the chance! Next time I'll go trekking. :Smile3:
     
  20. bez23

    bez23 Adverse camber

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    Awesome stuff - sounds like you had a great time.
    I'd meant to ask if you'd get me some particular stickers from the Sticker Shop near Durbar Square in KTM. Too slow on the draw :bg:
     
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