Saturday, December 29, 2012

Nepal : Sarangkot, Pokhara

Rise and....well it's still dark actually. We woke up at 4.30 to set off from our hotel at 5am to catch the sunrise at Sarangkot. We arrived at the car park at around 5.30am. Entrance per person is 25 Nepalese rupees. It would take about 30 mins to hike (stepped path) to reach the observation point. There was no lights so we used our iphone's flashlight. We didn't take a guide too as we thought the route was simple enough. There were signages, but they were few and far between. But we managed to reach the view point before sunrise.

the trek

We could not really see much as it was still dark. But I could see glimpses of white coloured mountain tops. Once the sun came over the horizon, we saw the majestic peaks of the Annapurna ranges: Annapurna I, II, III, IV, Machhapuchhre and Hiunchuli. The view was breathtaking.  Weather was just right, not too cold.

There were not too many tourists there, perhaps most of them preferred the more 'real' mountain hiking. There was a group of Koreans, some locals, 3 fellow Malaysians and 2 Mat Salleh couples.We took our time soaking in the view and taking pictures of the beautiful Annapurna mountain. 

glimpse of the peaks before sunrise


Annapurna peaks

We decided to have some tea at one of the stalls on the way down. It was perfect, having tea and toast with the Annapurna mountain as the backdrop. We were asked by the stall owner if we wanted to do paragliding. The take off point was nearb, about 500m above the Phewa Lake where the paragliders would land (not in the lake though, but nearby the lake). It would cost us USD 70 for 30 min glide (not flight, because there's no engine, you will navigate based on the wind direction). Actually, you don't have to worry about navigating, as this would be a tandem flight -your flight instructor will navigate, you just enjoy the view! As long as the weather is fine, paragliding is a go!

bfast by the mountain ahhhhh

mountain flight

However, we declined the offer, as the paragliding will only start at 10am (it was still 8am) and our driver is waiting for us at the car park and we had some sightseeing to do in Pokhara. So we left after having tea and decided to proceed with our sightseeing straightaway.

We were first brought to a temple - just at the foot of the Sarangkot hill - (I think it's the Bindhyabasini temple - based on google). The temple site offers a great view of the city and the snow capped Annapurna ranges. Devotees were seen offering their prayers - it was after all Deepavali day. The temple is dedicated to the Goddess Bhagwati, another form of Goddess Durga. Info here

the temple

view of city and mountain from the temple

Next we were taken to the K I Singh pool of the Seti river, which is nearby to the temple.  Entrance is 20 Nepalese rupees per person. Nothing much here, just a small pool where the water is sourced from the wight coloured Seti River. No bathing here, we could only scoop the water to freshen up. The river is deep down a narrow gorge. We would be seeing more of this at Devi's Fall later.

narrow gorge

the white coloured seti river

Our driver then took us to the old Pokhara town. We didn't stop here, just passed by to take some pictures of the architecture and design of the old buildings which are made of red bricks. 

old Pokhara

In town already, we were then taken to Devi's Fall. Entrance fee is 20 Nepalese rupees per person. Devi's Falls flows from the Seti river and it vanishes underground into the gorge. Quite eerie. But a nature's wonder. It's not a really big area so we finished covering it in about 30 mins.

Devi's fall

From Devi's Fall, we crossed the road to Gupteshwor Mahadev Cave where Devi's Fall flow into. It is also a sacred site for Hindus as there is the Lord Shiva's shrine in there. Entrance fee is a bit expensive here - 100 Nepalese rupees. The cave is not as extensive as the ones I've 'sperlunked' (is there such a word? lol) before (Gua Tempurung, Gua Batu Maloi, Halong Bay caves, Kunming caves), in just 30 minutes we've reached the end where we could see the stream flowing into the cave from Devi's fall just across the road. We had to turn back as there is only one point for entrance and exit.

cave entrance
inside the cave
Devi's fall flows into this cave

Last stop for our sightseeing tour today is the Tashi Palkhiel Tibetan Refugee Settlement. There is no entrance fee here. We saw some of the refugees weaving carpets which are also available for sale to raise funds for the refugees. We saw a poster of self immolation of Tibetans in their home country as a sign of protest to China's oppression on separatists who demanded for independence from China after the Chinese Civil War in 1950. There were terms of the incorporation of Tibet into China which were not agreed upon which resulted in the Dalai Lama being exiled. As of now, 95 people have self immolated and perished. Read more about the Self Immolation here and Tibet history here and here

refugee camp
Weaving carpet

We finished our tour at just about 11am and went back to our hotel. We were famished already by now. Luckily the hotel still saved the breakfast for us (which is included together with our room rate). Nice! We had toast with eggs and potatoes  and tea. 

After late breakfast, we plonked ourselves at the hotel common area at the top floor which has a view of the Sarangkot hill and the Annapurna mountains. It was really nice to just chill and relax in the cool but sunny weather watching the paragliders flying down the hill. Maybe I'll do it one day ;)

nice view from our hotel roof top

After chillaxing, we had our baths and then headed back out to the Phewa Lake which is just a 5 minute walking distance to take a boat ride. We wanted to kayak, but there wasn't any - only boats are available. It would be quite tiring to row the boat ourselves, so we took the boat with 'driver' (that's what they advertise it there ;) for 300 Nepalese rupees per person for an hour's ride. It was sunny (it was after all 2pm in the afternoon!) but the weather is cool, so it wasn't that bad. There's a temple at the middle of the lake (Barahi temple) but we didn't go there. We just went around the lake -not covering the whole lake as it is huuuge - about 6km2 and is the second largest lake in Nepal.

Barahi temple

That's Sarangkot hill where we viewed the sunrise. The mountains are blocked by clouds
see the reflection of the Sarangkot hill and mountain (blocked by clouds)

hotel by the lake where you have to take the boats to cross over

hotel by the lake accessible through roads

We had late lunch / very early dinner at the same Punjabi vegetarian restaurant from the day before. We had paneer kadai mushroom (quite spicy - I asked to tone it down), chama (chickpea) masala, naan bread, rice, tea and coke for 810 Nepalese rupees. Ah nice. 

We walked back by the lake to enjoy the view while waiting for the sunset. Then we walked around the shops- very touristy - ala Krabi and watched the local people preparing their kolam and ligthing up candles for Deepavali - it is after all the festival of lights.  Children especially were enjoying themselves the most - groups of them going from shop to shop, greeting the owner and asking for a treat (sort of like Halloween's treat or trick) and then singing together. There was a lot of singing and dancing where the tourists joined in as well. It was a jolly merry making occasion.

sunset by the lake

 After feeling tired, we walked back to our hotel and continued chillaxing at the hotel garden while sipping hot mint tea in the cool night climate. Awesome! We could still hear singing and dancing and fireworks. We then went back to retire for the day, but could still here people celebrating. From my room I could see a group making a bonfire and singing. Such a happy day. Shiny happy people :)

Deepavali lights

singing and dancing

our hotel deepavali lights


our hotel garden cafe



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