I could have stayed forever.
It’s just the perfect place in every way. Yes, maybe my vision is rose-tinted after freezing on Everest for 17 days. But POKHARA! A small city clustered around Lake Phewa, nestled in the foothills of the Annapurna mountains. The snow-peaked mountains reflect off the lake and dominate the horizon without feeling imposing or too near. A thriving strip of restaurants and cafes serving Himalayan coffee and international delicacies compose the central part of Lakeside. Bookstores, outdoor shops, bars, local vendors and artisans mushroom alongside. Men pushing carts sell fresh juices and smile cheerfully as they pass. Tourists cruise by on bicycles. Hotels and restaurants abound, but in an unintrusive, laid-back way. NGOs and women’s cooperatives sell wares from coffee to handbags. It may be the most ideal place on the planet.
And the food. Oh my, the food. We’re talking everything from cheap, filling Tibetan momos all the way up to thin-crust authentic Italian pizza and homemade gelato. We’re talking thick, juicy steaks and German bakeries. Proper coffee, French pastries, fish from the lake, happy-hour cocktails and every imaginable flavor of lassi: All dangerous, all delicious. Dozens of beautiful restaurants with tiki-torch lit lakeside dining at affordable prices are too inviting to pass up. Massages, spa treatments, live music, laid-back funky clothing stores, wifi everywhere, international newspapers: This place is the life.
All that hedonistic goodness, plus bikes for rent for $2/day, boats to paddle around the lake, plenty of strenuous but fun day hikes, paragliding, waterfalls and more. I can’t describe the soul-healing powers of Pokhara. I’d come here and stay forever, and many expats have done just that. It was a wonderful place to spend a few days, and in sum I lounged for about a week here on either side of my ashram experience.
I stayed first at the Peace Eye guesthouse, a lovely institution that’s been around since the original hippie discovery in the 1970s. Half a double room set me back $4 per night with a hot shower. The restaurant downstairs served up delicious vegetarian food and tempting lassis and coffee drinks. A live classical band played the night I arrived. The book exchange was exceptionally good. Just down the street was the AM/PM Organic Cafe, known across Nepal for superior coffee and pastries. They also sell local honey and soaps and stock international newspapers. Walking by in the morning, one might think they were in Paris in 1970 judging from the elderly gentlemen wearing berets, young bohemian women with flowing hair and lively debates taking place over a cigar or cup of joe.
Sure, I feel guilty being enchanted by such clearly Western influence. But the Nepalis here too are laid-back, lounging types and the vibes here are a world apart from frantic, desperately poor Kathmandu. Pokhara is the best of all worlds, and the finest funky banana pancake hangout I’ve ever come across. I’ll be back someday for sure.