It was our second day in Nepal. We woke up on a freezing morning after spending our first night shopping in Thamel street. We, except Arini, woke up earlier for breakfast and were led to the restaurant on the 5th floor of Gaju Suite hotel. We were surprised to see “Carribean” theme restaurant at Gaju (for your information, Nepal is a land-locked country which means it does not have any sea). We were also astounded by the festive breakfast menu! We were served cereal, selection of eggs, potatoes, bread and butter, sausages and porridge, orange juice and masala tea (all in one menu). A little bit heavy for breakfast. But, who knew we would have a long journey that day?
After breakfast, we packed our luggage and checked out from Gaju. Kumar, our driver was waiting in the lobby with Hari, our tour provider. That’s the first time we met Kumar. He kind of look like Amir Khan :p if not better! Haha.. If the girls giggled, you knew who we were talking about.
We stopped to buy SIM cards to make sure that we (by we, it is especially the boys!) could always go online and PATH you, guys. It took about an hour until finally we started our long journey to the legendary Himalayan view city named “Pokhara” (read it fast Pokh-kherr-ra, and yes, it sounds like you are roaring). We don’t remember how many kilometers it took, but we spent almost half day to go there.
We passed hills, rivers, bumpy roads, dusts and trucks. The journey reminded us with the view in the National Geographic. Scenic and amazing!
Trying to break the ice, Willy asked Kumar, “Is that a mountain?”
Kumar answered, “No, it’s just a hill”.
We slept and woke up, slept and woke up again, but it was still not there. The only entertainments that we had were our own crispy jokes and silly singing. We did not even eat properly during the road-trip, but who could resist a bite or two of freshly fried samosas?
We finally downed the hills and arrived in Pokhara city. Pokhara was a lot cleaner compared to Kathmandu. By cleaner, we mean no dust. It was foggy but we could still see a glimpse of Himalayas there.
Several months prior going to Nepal, we got confused of where to stay in Pokhara. However, at the end we came out with the idea of staying at Raniban Retreat, a villa with spectacular views of Himalayan. The website was so promising that we imagined that we would stay above the cloud. We even calculated our biggest obstacle: climbing up 500 stairs to get there as Raniban Retreat was located in the highest hills in Pokhara.
After our van went up the dusty hills, we finally arrived in the bottom of the stairs. We saw Raniban’s staff going down the stairs energetically and ready to carry our luggage. The first man we met was Ozuk. “Hello mam!”, he smiled. He just took 2 suitcases and unbelievably climbed the stairs even faster than us (who only needed to bring our hand luggage).
It was almost dawn when we finally arrived in Raniban’s gate. We felt so exhausted and almost could not believe that we finished climbing the stairs. Some of us even took our coat off due to the heat resulted from it. Ozuk welcomed us with orange juices and guided us to our rooms. Our rooms were located in the middle (since they were the cheapest rooms in Raniban). We got two beds (a single and a queen-sized beds), toiletries, towels and a pack of warm blankets.
Our first night was very cold. We mean, it was colder than Kathmandu. We were very lucky to be the only ones who stayed there! Hence, we could act as if it were our very own villa. We had dinner in the restaurant and served with good foods! We heard that the Raniban’s chef was trained by a Dutch chef. No wonder the food was great even if it was in the middle of nowhere.
Post-dinner, we hung around the balcony to enjoy the cold night breeze. Feliks and Arini, who sang Indian songs along the way, randomly had the idea to make a video of them dancing with Indian song “Bole churriya”. Feliks and Arini acted as the main dancers, Randy was the camera man and the others were the lighting guys. You can watch our embarrassing lacha lacha dance video uploaded on Feliks’ PATH.
We then gathered in the boys’ room to calculate our expenses. None of us could move. We sat or slept under the blanket. It was too cold.
After completing the “audit session”, the girls went back to their room before 11pm. Eva went to the bathroom and got locked inside. The door could not be opened. Arini ran to the boys for help, but it did not help anyway (since what they did were giving her a book of menu to read and a mobile phone for a video call! :D). Putu and Arini tried to go the restaurant and it was already dark. They were already closed. We didn’t know where all the staffs stayed and had no contact of them.
The one that we could ask for help was Kumar. We were lucky that Putu asked for everyone’s local number. Putu called him for help. Several minutes later, the staffs and Kumar came. The door itself could be opened thirty minutes after Eva got locked in. Poor Eva L but, there is always a silver lining! If she had not got locked in the bathroom, we would not have got our room upgraded to the most expensive one, a villa with a garden and Himalayan mountain view.
Several hours before sunrise, all of us woke up. We hurried up to put on our coats and shoes, starting to walk in the dark and gathered in the balcony. We were ready to wait for the ultimate view we had been waiting for several months.
“Morning, do you want a coffee or tea?” Ozuk offered us. We just did not get it why he was always ready when we needed him. Maybe he had superpower of having the ability to hear when people needed his help. 😀
It was still dark. But, we could already see glimpse of Himalayas. It was getting clearer and clearer that time. All of us were amazed with (maybe) the most beautiful morning which ever happened in our life. We knew that we were blessed.
Later, Ozuk was ready to serve us breakfast. After discussing for what we would order, “Okay, okay hot chocolate 6, please!” Eva said. Ozuk replied, “YESS! MAMM” and ran to the kitchen. “Oh my this kid, can I adopt him?” Arini wished.
Following the phenomenal and breathtaking sunrise, we decided to move on and stuck to our plan to go sightseeing Pokhara. We (this time) went down the infamous 500 stairs, tried not to imagine the hardship we had to go through again when climbing back to the homey rooms at Raniban Retreat (yeah, we love that place), we drove down to Pokhara City. Our first destination is a place called the “Davis Falls”. The name apparently is to remember a tragic accident happened to a woman named “Davi” in 1986 who swept away by a sudden big current when she was playing at the natural underground water fall. In the area, we could not see very clearly the waterfall, as it was located like 5-10 metres below the sightseeing spot. Duh!
Outside the Davis Falls was one of the main attractions of this place, the local souvenir shops located in front of the Davis Falls area. We got a really good bargain for our souvenirs there.
We also went down to the Gupteshwor Mahadev cave, a natural underground cave where the Davis Falls water running through. We had to go down several flights of stairs to reach the entrance of the cave. “STAIRS again” we mumbled. Like other caves, it is humid, dark and muddy. There is a shrine located inside the cave, which is forbidden to be photographed. When we finished looking around the cave, we went up back by climbing other STAIRS. Again. “This country is really fond of stairs” we thought.
After having fun at the waterfall, we went to our next destination, the second largest lake in Nepal, the Phewa Lake. From this lake, if the timing is right and you are lucky enough, you can see the Himalayan range reflected perfectly on the lake’s surface. But too bad it was not so clear when we visited. It got foggier and foggier as the time flew. There is a small beautiful temple located in the middle of the lake called the Taal Barahi Temple which can be visited by a small boat (You can choose to row the boat yourself or have a driver. As lazy ass as we were, we of course opted to sit calmly and take pictures without having to row :D). A small island in a middle of a lake, seems familiar? Oh! Beware of the birds though. You will not want to have them poo on you!
At first, we planned to do a paragliding in Pokhara as we heard that it was famous with this aero sport. However, faced with the cost and our limited budget, we decided to hold ourselves and went back to our Raniban Retreat. Besides, it was not too clear! “What was the point of paragliding if we could not enjoy the view, right?” we justified our decision. 😀
We arrived at the front yard of Raniban Retreat in the evening. We tried our luck to visit the World Peace Pagoda as our last stop before retreating to the lovely Raniban Retreat. After a 15 minutes’ walk up and down the hill and STAIRS (for the love of god), we arrived at the front door of the World Peace Pagoda. For those who do not know what it is, here is the photo:
It stands alone on the hill in Pokhara with a view of Phewa Lake and the Anapurna-himalayan mountain range. When we arrived, it was close already actually. Though only around two minute late, we were not allowed to get in. However, again, we were lucky we had Kumar! He managed to negotiate with the Pagoda keeper saying that we came from faraway to see this Pagoda (see? he is good in making excuses! :D). It was successful! We were asked to be hurry before the keeper changed his decision,
Breathing deeply the cold fresh air, we could already feel the calming peace when we stepped up the stairs to the World Peace Pagoda. It was simply amazing. As the time passed by, we noticed the moon shyly hanging next to the tip of the World Peace Pagoda. We could not feel more peaceful than that.
With peace in our heart, we return to our retreat.
On our last day in Pokhara, we visited “Tashiling”, a Tibetan refugee camp in Nepal. It was a very sad story that all of them were runaway from Tibet to Nepal for freedom. They even put, in front of their carpet showroom, pictures of Tibetan people who burned themselves as protest to Chinese government. Even if they had these sad stories, they were trying to stay alive in Nepal by pursuing their creativities. They had small stores selling unique accessories, yak pashminas, Buddhist gifts, etc. We all bought gifts for our friends and families there in cheap prices.
We had a break after shopping in Tashiling for lunch. We visited maybe the only one place to eat in Tashiling. It was a small house run by an old man. The menu board was interesting. It was written with an interesting quote (see below). We ordered momos, thukpas (Tibetan noodles) and Tibetan butter teas. It took him a long time to prepare our meals. We knew he was preparing our meals alone and we wished we could help but we did not get the chance. The food was great and we had our best momo from Tashiling during the whole trip.
Pokhara gave us great time and lots of memories. We would love to stay there longer but we knew we had to leave and move on as it was not even the end of our journey. (ars/pww)