I had a really nice, quiet and restful birthday in Pokhara. It’s just how I wanted to spend my birthday. We woke up to a beautiful morning and went down for our usual breakfast at the dining room. We ordered our breakfast and to my surprise, the receptionist brought a bouquet of flowers and greeted me happy birthday. I casually mentioned that I was spending my birthday in Pokhara to get an additional discount on our hotel room when we checked in but did not expect to get flowers for my birthday! It was really nice of the hotel to do that. Later that day after a great Korean lunch, we went down to the bakery and bought pastries to share to the staff as a thank you. It just doesn’t feel good not giving back for such thoughtfulness.
We spent the day just relaxing and we had Korean food for lunch and dinner! The FaceTime with my mom sharing all that Korean food at the Easter lunch with my sister made me crave for that comfort food. Amazingly, the Korean restaurants in Pokhara are very good. We tried two restaurants and both were exceptional and inexpensive compared to the Korean restaurants at home. It was a peaceful day with Doug and that’s more that matters to me. Every day is a special day with him, birthday or not.
It was time to head back to Besi Sahar to be reunited with our mountain bikes again.
The highlight of staying in Pokhara was our trip up to the World Peace Pagoda. We followed the map to Fish Tail Lodge, rode the little free ferry boat just to find out that the lodge doesn’t connect to any of the trails that lead up to the World Peace Pagoda as shown in the map or that we aren’t looking at the right places. The lodge did have a great view of the Annapurna Range and it’s a secluded in an island offering lodging with a restaurant. A lot of famous people stayed in that expensive lodge of $250 per night like Prince Charles. We left the lodge to continue on to the Dam Park about a mile away. The Dam Park had a small dirt trail used by locals living around the area. A lot of children and women were washing clothes by the dam as we crossed over the bridge. It’s interesting to see women half naked bathing in the river and yet, they aren’t allowed to wear revealing clothes like short-shorts or mini-skirts.
The dirt trail continued following the side of the mountain where we can see a larger town to our left. It was starting to be more jungle looking and we met a couple of young teenage boys. They started following us on the trail and pointed us to certain trails. We followed one boy and he started to make conversation. He asked, “Where are you from?” and “How long are you here?” The boy we met is Raj.
Raj is 17 years old and is trying to earn money for school by guiding tourists through the jungle up to the World Peace Pagoda. We’ve heard a few of those working for school stories on our treks so we just treated the conversation casually and expected that Raj was looking to guide us through the jungle for some rupees. Raj is a business man and a very persistent one. He was telling us how other boys would guide tourists through the jungle for money. I asked him if that was his intent, in a direct manner. He muttered, “No” and looked down on his feet. I started to get more curious about him wanting to be a guide at such a young age. According to him, he can be a guide and guided tourist up to Annapurna Base Camp. I asked him, “How many years have you worked as a porter before becoming a guide?” He said, he didn’t need to be a porter and there are ways to get around it. My understanding is, porters generally work for a few years until they learn good English then they qualify to become guides. The more I get into asking Raj questions, the more intrigued I am of this boy. Whether is the story about school or being a guide was true or not, he left me with some admiration of his youthful strive to do business. Most kids his age that I know back home are not that way. We got to a junction and Raj stopped us then pointed a trail into a maze of trails in the jungle. I recalled a drunk man by the boat rental down the lake telling us that a lot of tourists get lost in the jungle without a guide and wound up somewhere by the lake then paying a lot to flag a boat down to get back to the main streets which is the other side of the lake. We looked back at the map and decided to pass the town then take the road up to the World Peace Pagoda then use the trail going back down. Raj’s offer didn’t feel comfortable. I looked at Raj and thanked him for the chat so we can continue on our way. Raj told us that the jungle is a better way and in 45 mins, we will be up in the Pagoda. He suggested that he become our guide. I nicely said, “Namaste, Raj and thank you for your offer but we will take the road. You are a very smart young man. I will remember you.” We walked away then looked back and got a glimpse of Raj doing more business on his cell phone.
We climbed the road on a very warm, humid day. The road is not that hard until we got to the cut off to the World Peace Pagoda road. It was steep all the way but was not that far. We were high up and saw the village we saw earlier from above. We got to the cafes and restaurants all surrounding the stair steps up to the Pagoda. We made it up and there was the Pagoda, a Japanese monument. A white dome like temple covered a golden pagoda.
We didn’t stay long as it was getting hot and the views of Annapurna Circuit was covered with clouds. I did enjoy the cool breeze though. The walk down was into the jungle. We followed a few tourists, passed them then lost them. We ended up down on the same trail path where we met Raj and guess who we saw again. Raj was walking up to us. He quietly asked us if we made it up the Pagoda. We smiled and said yes. He walked away and said nothing more.
The one little tour we did in Pokhara that really pumped us up for the Khumbu trek was a visit to the International Mountaineering Museum. The museum was really worth the price of entry, 400 rupees. We were not sure what the museum would look like and it did not disappoint.
Once again, we walked far towards the airport from our hotel and then into a maze of side streets filled with school kids just got out of school. A brown street dog started following us and it was half limping. The dog didn’t look hurt but just kept following us. We walked and had a few taxi drivers asking if we wanted a taxi. This is very common in Pokhara.
The museum’s highlight was the mountain section. There were display of great images of the highest peaks in the world and a short excerpt of how the climbers felt at the peaks taken from books they’ve written or described in books written about their expedition. Reading the excerpts gave me goosebumps. The display of gears climbers used from the old days were incredible. The equipments and gears were heavy! It made me feel like a wimp worrying about my shoes going over Thorung La. It just made us realize that these climbers didn’t have the high tech or modern gears as today but yet, they all made the summit. The oxygen tanks were massive!
The museum is definitely a must for mountaineering enthusiasts. I won’t give away too much!
Our stay in Pokhara was what we needed at least for a bit until we go back to Kathmandu to get ready for the Khumbu. We paid the hotel bills at dinner and ordered our packed breakfast for the next day’s long bus ride to Besi Sahar. Doug was able to purchase the bus tickets earlier so we are all set.
Morning came, we walked to the bus station just to find out that there is a strike in Nepal for three days. There are no bus allowed on the road to Besi Sahar however, the tourist bus are allowed to go to Kathmandu. Oy.