[this is an ongoing series about travel in Nepal. To get the full effect, I suggest you start at the beginning. But you do what feels right, friend.]
The Hotel Snow Leopard was located at the south end of Pokhara’s Lakeside district, a touristy area the Lonely Planet book described as “an extension of Kathmandu’s Thamel neighborhood.”
But when I ventured out of Hotel Snow Leopard that first night in Pokhara, I didn’t see many similarities to Thamel. The streets were wider, and emptier than in Thamel. No touts hassled me, and I wasn’t once offered drugs. The cool, crisp mountain air didn’t burn my throat upon swallowing. The full moon serenely lay on the surface of Fewa Lake, casting a calming blue-white light across everything.
Our story continues with Part 2, in the northern town of Pokhara, nestled at the base of the Annapurna Mountain Range in Nepal. If you’d like to figure out how we got here, I’d suggest starting with Part 1.
PART 2: POKHARA
We arrived in Pokhara around 4 p.m., heart rates elevated but otherwise unharmed.
My bus pulled into a big dirt lot, which apparently served as the local bus terminal.
I shook myself awake from the light sleep I’d been enjoying, and gathered my things.
I went through a brief panic when I thought I’d lost my hat, before realizing it had just fallen on the floor, probably when I shifted while asleep. I picked it up, put it back on my head, and shouldered my backpack. I was the last one left on the bus.
The touts were on me immediately as I stepped off the bus, grabbing for my bags and yelling offers for lodging.
I had done almost no research before getting on that bus this morning. I had no idea where I was, what there was to do in this town, or where I should stay.
So I took a tout up on his offer.
As I wandered through the shady local streets, I heard snatches of what sounded like several different languages. I wasn’t really in the mood to shop, so I just kept going straight ahead. When the streets got too narrow for my liking, I turned down the next alley. In this way, I passed the afternoon.
Eventually, I emerged from the narrow, crowded alleys into a more open space. I felt the sun beat down upon my skin, and I warmed ten degrees. Those shaded alleys had been chilly. Here, there were souvenir stands and sunglasses vendors. It felt more like Thamel than the local streets I’d been wandering all afternoon.
Idly, I wondered if I had walked in a giant circle. Maybe this was Thamel.
I tried to keep a mental bead on the direction of Thamel as I wandered, but the narrow, winding alleys of Kathmandu soon made this impossible.
Add in the fact that everything looks the same shade of dusty and run-down brown, a the total lack of street signs or even street names, and it’s easy to see how I quickly became hopelessly lost.
[this is a serial feature. Read the previous entry here, or start at the beginning here. Thanks!]
The next day I resolved to escape Thamel.
I awoke with a sore throat and a cough — a common traveler’s affliction in Kathmandu.
The past two days had been exhausting; and without a trek to take, my motivation to go back and tangle with the shopkeepers and hustlers was low.
I strolled over to Himalayan Java, where I again purchased the big breakfast and two coffees. I brought along my computer and researched treks. Remembering the woman I had met in Himalayan Java yesterday, I expanded my search to include the Annapurna treks.