Nepal has the most beautiful mountain range in the world, and the entire country is one large national park. It’s a trekkers dream, and no surprise why thousands of people flock just to hike here.
Although hiking and trekking is obviously recommended, I didn’t do any of the organized ones like Annapurna Base Camp (ABC) or Everest Base Camp (EBC). January is too cold to be 8,800 meters up, and its icy and dangerous. I was also driving around on a Royal Enfield for the entire duration of the trip, so although I saw some of the same sights as the trekkers, I experienced it differently.
Places to stay: Hotel Fewa Holiday Inn ($10~) is on one end of the strip, and the people who work there are super welcoming. If you want a place to stay where you feel like part of the hotel family, this is the place. The beds are comfortable and clean, if you time it right you’ll get a really hot shower (they even provide toilet paper!). If you go right to the other side of the strip towards the Berlin Guesthouse ($10~), you get towards the budget traveller area. I stayed for $5/night with the hottest water and best wifi I’ve encountered so far.
Places to eat: Hands down the best place to eat in Pokhara is Samrat Tandoori Restaurant. It’s not on the lakeside strip, but about eight buildings down the main road coming out of the strip next to the money exchange. Make sure to get a plate of chicken tikka, a quarter chicken tandoor, and a garlic nan. I ate there over five times throughout my stay and never once got sick either. If you’re looking for your western fix, Godfather’s Pizzeria has the authentic brick yak cheese pizza and smoothies. Try the Frozen Banana or the Rain in Pokhara smoothies.
Places to see: I went paragliding using Frontiers Paragliding. They all start and land from the same place, but differ in prices. Just remember, you get what you paid for and paragliding isn’t the place to be trying to save pennies. If you’ve got a Royal Enfield, you can get it fixed at the Boom Enfield and the boys know what they’re doing. You’ll probably get overcharged but you’ll get the full service.
Places to stay: The Trekker’s Inn in Tatopani ($5~) is dirty and inhospitable, but will get you through the night. You have to pay extra for the wifi so just skip it and wait until Jomsom where it’s free. Hotel Majesty ($5~) has scorching hot showers, but shoddy wifi and it’s mandatory to eat all your meals there (that’s how they make money). Hotel See You Later ($5~) is a beautifully renovated old family house 20 kilometers from Jomsom, with thick blankets and hot showers (when they have power).
Places to see: Whether by motorcycle or foot, make sure to go up to Jharkot and Muktinath. You can explore Muktinath on a Tibetan pony to explore the temples 3,700 meters high. Don’t plan to rush it because sitting at the temple drinking tea above the world is quite the ~spiritual journey~
Places to stay: The Sparkling Turtle Backpacker’s Hostel ($10~)is by Monkey Temple but further out from Thamel. It’s a good place if you want to meet fellow travelers and maybe organize trips together, but you will not sleep a wink. Surprise surprise, Monkey Temple is full of monkeys, and they fight with the dogs all night while the employees watch Bollywood movies loudly at night. Khangsar Guest House ($6~) is a cheap place to stay right in the middle of the action, but the bathroom is something out of Trainspotting. As long as you don’t go in the bathroom, it has decent wifi (excluding those two hours in the morning and evening that everyone is on it) and a too-shot shower.
Places to eat: Right at the exit of Thamel is the Momo House. They only do a few things (chowmein, momos, samosas, bhajis) but no matter what you get you won’t pay more than about $2/person. Their homemade momo sauce is the bomb and their chowmein is cooked to order. New Orleans Cafe has lovely drinks (try the Black Russian with ice cream), their portions are large and reasonably priced, but their staff will roll their eyes at you and give you attitude. Attitude aside, it has a lovely cosy atmosphere with a roaring fire and lots of foreigners to chat to and exchange stories with. La Baguette in the Hotel Arts has Europe-level coffees and cakes as well as the fastest wifi in town. If you’re like us and have to book tickets and pay bills online and you’re tired of the wifi shutting down on you periodically, this is the place to have a blueberry cheesecake and a cappuccino, plug in your computer, and work away. The owner is super nice and even served us some complimentary French Press coffee that he brought back from England with him.
Places to see: Monkey Temple is mainly an attraction for the monkeys, but worth seeing. Don’t forget to go around back to the market to take a look at all the prayer flags hanging in the forest too.
Places to stay: Hotel Everest Window View (~$20) is the nicest hotel I’ve stayed in Nepal. The beds are fluffy, white, and comfortable, the bathroom so clean you don’t have to wear flip flops, and the wifi connection is fast and reaches the room. The view from the roof is worth bundling up yourself in the morning for.
Places to see: The viewpoint tower is worth the trek up to. Keep in mind that it’s a trek to get up so timing is crucial as to not miss the sunrise. Plan to stay a few days in the area because some mornings are better than others so patience is key. Stay until you get -the- fogless sunrise because the first light on the Himalayas is once in a lifetime. Don’t be in a rush to get back down and enjoy some bhajis, a hardboiled egg, and chai around the fire pit from one of the many vendors below the tower. While in the area, make sure to hit Bhaktapur ($15 entry fee (the UNESCO World Heritage Site was hit badly by the earthquake so it goes to a good cause)) for some authentic street vendors and beautiful ruins.
Places to stay: Unfortunately, I can’t recommend any places to stay. The area was hit particularly hard by the earthquake, and many villages are totally abandoned- including the hotels. The few that are open looked like they were on shaky ground so I didn’t stay. However, in Tatopani there is a hot spring so that area seems to have the most lodges and tourists.
Places to see: The whole road up to Kodari is hauntingly beautiful. You’ll feel a little spooked like I did when you pass abandoned barber shops fully intact sans the broken glass, cars balanced along the mountains, and buildings repossessed by nature/monkeys, but it’s a much needed reality check. The Tibetan Boarder is a bridge over a river dividing the two countries. The orange prayer ribbons in the middle of the bridge signify the boarder so you can be standing in China and Nepal simultaneously. The gate to the bridge is locked shut, but if the immigration officers are in a good mood and you give them a big smile, you might just be lucky enough to be sneaked through like I was. Just remember: on the Chinese side there’s surveillance cameras everywhere– filming you coming over the bridge, the innocent Nepalese villages, and the monkeys criss-crossing the boarder without passing immigration.