Nepal – Lakeside Characters, Fewa Lake

Pokhara, Nepal, March 2018: Over the course a few weeks one gets to know of the characters that regularly frequent the Lakeside – characters that rely on the lake and its trappings for their very existence. As the days story unfolds, beggars and tramps will roll up looking eagerly into the eyes of those white tourists. Sellers mooch towards their pitches on the lakes edge – snack sellers, umpteen folk selling plastic beads, fruit ladies ply the lakeside path and then there’s the doughnut man limping past every morning with a dozen or so bags balanced on his head – don’t trip matey!

A reality check perhaps for those of us who can enjoy life without the challenges faced by the local natives here in Pokhara and across Nepal. No government handouts around here, no nanny state to hold the hands of its population. Each and everyone has to survive on their own merits.

Begging, inevitable in an undeveloped country like Nepal. Here on Lakeside about half a dozen regulars pass-by. From characters dressed in orange robes to grandma to the alcoholic barely able to stand.

Hawkers selling stringed beads, snacks fruits and shoe shine. Pitching up from mid morning one gets invited to “come and look, good quality”. Well, a nice enough display of brightly coloured beads and threads of string but the quality aspect  is somewhat debatable! As for the snacks, personally I’d avoid buying theses on the grounds of lack of  hygiene. The fruit, well, id only buy something that needs to be peeled.

Lakeside is evolving. With new shacks popping up every season there’s plenty of work for carpenters and bamboo thatchers as seen below. Then there are the Indian boys with their ‘twangers’. Yes, they wander along tugging at a chord – twang! Exactly why confounds the wildest imagination, but i’m sure there’s a good reason!

Fewa Lake, essential to daily life, washing their laundry, bathing and local transport as the villages on the far side of the lake are only accessible by rowing boat – a new twist on the school run! When the chores a done, a spot of fishing to catch some lunch.

And so life go’s on, with or without tourists. Locals surviving on what natural resources can provide for those that society leaves behind.

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Nepal – Himalayan Sundown at Pokhara Airport

Pokhara, Nepal, March 2018: A 10 minute bus ride to Rastrabank Chowk followed by a 15 minute stomp up to the end of the runway at Pokhara airport  – a great spot for some mountain viewing. From here, one can see practically the entire Annapurna mountain range and since the weather has been unusually clear all day then today is an opportunity to catch a Himalayan sunset.

As the sun begins to sink a hue falls upon the glistening mountain peaks. A subtle pink turning into a deeper shade of orange as the sun sinks to the Southwest. A majestic and serene scene indeed. Mesmerizing to begin with then the mists and shadows fall obscuring the Eastern facing slopes until finally its all in the grasp of dusk. Time to head on back to base.

Waiting for the sun to set….

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Changing colours at sundown…

 

In Summary…

Sunset begins at around 5.30 this time of the year and lasts for about 45 minutes. Bus from Barahi (Map) to Rastrabank Chowk (Map) is 15 rupees. From Rastrabank walk up to Mustang Chowk (Map) and the airport is straight ahead. Turn right then next left to find the end of the runway (Map).  A great little expedition requiring almost no effort – great for non-trekkers like me!

Nepal – Holi Festival in Pokhara

Pokhara, Nepal, March 2018:  Today is Holi and that means its going to be a messy affair, especially later on if last year is anything to go by! Holi is a very big deal here in the Lakeside district of Pokhara with business’s gearing up for a financial windfall as thousands are expected to arrive here around lunchtime. With live music gigs at Centre-point, Camping chowk and at smaller venues along the lake front the scene is set for a very noisy, colourful, crazy afternoon!

The origins of Holi are somewhat lost in history for the most part with a tenuous link to the Hindu Lord Krishna. The modern and updated interpretation of Hloi however is ‘A Day Off Work’ Yes, another public holiday to herald in the Spring across Nepal. Coupled with the fact that everyone at some point in the day will be covered in coloured water and brightly coloured paint powder then defining Holi is pretty straight forward, ‘A Festival of Colours to mark the start of Spring and the season of Love’.

When the festival occurs depends on the Hindu calendars lunar interpretations, but generally speaking its after the full moon between late February and early to Mid March.

From around mid morning sellers are on the streets flogging bags of paint powder for 150 rupees while kids charge up their water guns, fill up buckets of coloured water and fill balloons with water in readiness for some good old fashioned mischief making – all under the guise of Holi of course.

Selling paint powder for Holi…

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Water….water….water…

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So, as thousands of Pokharas residents head on down to lakeside its time to change into something I can discard later, grab some lunch and tease the kids for a while.

Lets get messy….

As the music pumps and the powder flies its a good idea to keep ones mouth shut for the time being. Moving between gigs is when the water also flies with kids bombing tourists and small boys trying to smear powder across girls faces but often just tall enough to reach the breasts – Yes, quite a few slapped faces today I should think!

Thousands gather for Holi celebrations…

In Summary…

Holi day is a great festival for tourists to get involved with. Its a cultural experience like no other. However, with the vast amounts of paint powder flying around and considering that there are next to no reliable quality control measures in Nepal some powders may well be toxic So here’s a few top tips to follow for a happy, healthy Holi.

  1. Asthmatics should probably avoid large crowd concentrations.
  2. Before revelling in Holi buy a face mask or 2.
  3. Girls be prepared for some intimate touching by young boys.
  4. Keep that mouth closed as much as possible – eat and drink later.
  5. Don’t wear those designer jeans or the prized Tee-shirt – obviously.

 

 

 

Nepal – Shivarati Festival in Pokhara

Pokhara, Nepal, February 2018:  A festival celebrating Lord Shiva – a God of the Hindu brand of religion. The origins are somewhat murky depending on what one reads or who one believes, but everyone agrees on one thing – The National Holiday! Yes, a chance for those who are devoutly loyal to Lord Shiva to trot down to the local Temple for prayers, and the giving of garlands and various other offerings according to the belief. The kids are delighted with a day off school and certainly don’t plan on catching up with homework, and who can blame them. In simple terms, everyone’s happy with a day off!

Here in Pokhara, perhaps the most famous temple is that on Barahi Island, situated in the middle of Fewa Lake.Go(ogle Map) The lakefront is heavily populated with locals waiting for their boat to Barahi. Little blue painted rowing boats mostly, and some rather dubious double boat structures serve to triple passenger capacity to the point of no return! Its a 10 minute ride depending on how enthusiastic the boatman is. Price discrimination is alive and well practiced here with white skinned people paying 3 -4 times more than the natives. Nonetheless its an interesting cultural excursion.

Approaching Barahi Island…

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On Barahi Island with the crowds….

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Exploding Sugarcane: The national holiday celebrating Lord Shiva (Shiverati) culminates after dark with the heating of sugarcane before giving it a good wack on the road. A crack followed by a cloud of rising steam amidst cheers from the crowds gathered around the bonfire is the scene repeated at various locations around Pokhara’s Lakeside district.. Exactly what this represents with respect to Lord Shiva is hard to discover, and i’m still non the wiser. I suspect its just a bit of fun, mainly for the younger generations who have a spare 150 rupees for one long cane of sugar. Children are seen gathering the remains of discarded canes and sucking, vigorously extracting the sweet juices.

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In Summary…

Shiverati Festival occurs February to early March according to the Hindu calendar. A boat from Lakeside across to Barahi Island Temple will cost around 500-600 Rupees for non Nepali or Indian for a return journey. I suspect trying to swim there would be frowned upon! Id definitely recommenced getting involved, especially with the exploding sugarcane after dark.

Nepal – 4 Flights and 28 hours to Pokhara.

England, 2nd January  2018: 4 flights across 2 days should hopefully get me to Pokhara if all go’s to plan. Yes, i’m about to embark on another migration southwards and eastwards to first Nepal then onto Hong Kong and Japan. I’m breaking with tradition this year by starting at my local airport rather than London! So, at 6.15 am its a freezing cold  stomp in the dark, to the city centre bus station and the airport bus.

Flight 1 Norwich International to Amsterdam Schipol: KLM Royal Dutch Airlines Embraer Jet, 35 minutes flying time costing £86 (£172 return) arriving Schipol at 11am. A pretty nice flight on the Embraer Jet, a small commuter plane and today packed to the rafters! Plenty of legroom and I managed to sneak 3 bags into the cabin – backpack, kitbag and laptop bag!

Flight 2 Amsterdam Schipol to Istanbul Ataturk: Turkish Airlines Airbus 330, 3 hours flying time costing £255 (£510 Return) departing Schipol at 1830. Another flight packed to the rafters but its only a relatively short trip to Istanbul.

Flight 3 Istanbul Ataturk to Kathmandu: Turkish Airlines Airbus 330, 6 hours flying time incorporating the £255 as the fare from Amsterdam to Kathmandu. Departs at 0145 arriving Kathmandu 11am. A good flight, well, any plane half full can be deemed a good flight. So, with plenty of space and great tasting food one can say this red eye trip is quite satisfactory.

Approaching Kathmandu…

Flight 4 Kathmandu to Pokhara: Yeti Airlines British Aerospace J41, 25 minutes flying time at a cost of £87 one way. Leaves Kathmandu at 1245 arriving Pokhara 1315. I was booked on the 1445 to Pokhara anticipating a possible late arrival and long immigration queues – wrong on both counts! The staff at Yeti Air kindly rearranged my flight to the next available -30 minutes time, no fuss, no price penalties, they just did it.

On the way to Pokhara…

And once again in Pokhara, Nepal.

England – Back on Home Ground

London, England, June 2017: Its been a long flight, leaving Kathmandu nearly 24 hours ago with a change of aircraft at Abu Dhabi. Etihad flight 11 is a red eye, leaving at 2.30 in the morning! I try to avoid these flights but a I needed to change my ticket and this was all that was left! Etihad operates a standard economy cabin with the same amount of leg room and seat size as all the other operators – not very much of either. Unfortunately for me I didn’t eat much much in the ultra expensive Abu Dhabi airport in the hope of some decent food on the flight. So it was pretty disappointing to be served with 1 small plastic sandwich shortly after take off. Yes, the inside was pretty grim being furnished with processed everything. Zero points for Etihad on the EY11 bound for London!

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Over London at last!Yes, in about 20 minutes we’ll be on British soil for the first time in 6 months. Here are some views of the city as this Airbus 380 meanders towards the final approach the London’s Heathrow airport.

Turning around London’s East End here are some pretty good views of the City Airport.

So how many London landmarks can you spot from these photos?

And that dear readers ends this travel season for 2017. I need to recharge my bank account and plan for travel season 2018 – perhaps you can inspire me with some interesting destination suggestions. Once again thanks for tuning into my random jottings and I hope the casual nature of the dialogue wasn’t too boring 🙂

Nepal – Goodbye, Farewell, So Long….

Pokhara, Nepal, June 2017:  After 3 weeks of teaching mathematics and English spellings to the local kids, its time to say goodbye for another season and head home to England where hopefully the summer will have arrived. Its always hard to say goodbye to Nepal and especially to those here in Pokhara. But goodbye it is as the long road ahead beckons. First its that 7-8 hour bus ride to Kathmandu for a night stop. A late afternoon flight to Abu Dhabi the next day to connect with a red eye flight to London in the early hours of day three!

Its off season so the airport queues are somewhat less than they otherwise would be. The security queue is nice and short which enables me to grab some time for a little plane spotting before jetting off to Abu Dhabi.

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These poor Air India passengers are made to wait in the rain for transport to the terminal.  Below, a selection of the operators arriving and departing TIA, Kathmandu Airport.

At last its time to leave Nepal and head towards London via Abu Dhabi on this Etihad Airbus. The plane is practically empty, surprising since these Middle Eastern flights are usually packed with migrant workers. A seat on the right, by the window should provide some nice views leaving the Kathmandu Valley….

This flight circles the airport as it climbs up out of the valley before setting course towards Abu Dhabi following the Himalayan Mountain range – and what a view!

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Goodbye Nepal, nice to have been here once again….

Nepal – Mountains And More Mountains

Pokhara, Nepal, June 2017:  well, I’ve made it to June in one piece. Having started out in January flying from London to Nepal and onward to various points in Southeast Asia this years trip is almost at an end. Just over 3 weeks and I’ll be jetting off back to London, but before then I’m going to enjoy just a little bit more of the Himalayas and some of the Nepali local life.

Despite June being on the cusp of the rainy season, there are thankfully still enough gaps in the weather to grab some rather nice images of the Annapurna mountains, especially early morning and after a spell of rain.

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June is also a good time for other forms of nature, especially bugs, snakes and lizards. The Bananas start to ripen, sweet and delicious with no added chemicals! Here’s a few of my latest Nepal natural history shots…

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June is also when the mosquito’s get hungry and have a special desire for white skin! The good news is that mosquito’s in Nepal are big and you can usually see them coming during daylight. The big black and white striped variety can be dangerous so watch out!

I’ve written plenty about Nepal, including my earthquake experience. Rather than have me write repetitively, please feel free to use the search box for my previous Nepal posts where you will find an interesting insight into local life.

 

Nepal – Landslide on the Prithivi Highway

Kathmandu, Nepal, June 2017:  Kuala Lumpur, Kathmandu and Pokhara – yes, after having recovered from a nasty lingering virus I’m ready to tackle the now infamous Prithivi highway to Pokhara once again. It’s a journey not for those with a nervous disposition or the unadventurous  – for you, I’d recommend taking a flight, about £80 one way and 25 minutes. By bus, £6 and upto 8 hours, more during the rainy season.

you can see photos from a previous post here, but be warned – not if your the nervous type 🙂   Read Post now…

A broken down truck, usually with a flat tyre is enough to bring the Prithivi highway to a grinding halt. This time its a landslide, well that’s the word on the bus as it comes to a gentle stop behind a thousand other vehicles. An estimated 2 hour delay is going to make this a very long day! So, stuck miles away from any town or village, the only thing to do is stroll up and down in the stifling heat of the day. Actually its not that bad since the natives work up courage to say a few words and then as if by magic a truck appears with ice-creams and frozen lollies. Oh and the nearby monkeys provide some acrobatics for a while!

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And so some 4 hours late, with raging thunderstorms all around, the bus pulls into Pokhara bus park – at least here in one piece with sanity still intact.