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R&R in Katmandu and Pokhara

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Ok, let’s be honest. Pokhara and Kathmandu were R&R breaks for us. We ate steak, drank beer and bragged about our trekking exploits. We even went to actual bars! With pool tables and decent music! But we did little sightseeing or cultural exploration. Lakeside, in Pokhara, and Thamel, in Kathmandu, are constructs for tourists, and hardly count as Nepali at all. Signs are usually only in English, occasionally in Hebrew too. The Nepali script is nowhere to be seen.

Given that these are such touristy areas, touts operate in abundance. Their approach has little in common with their Indian brethren though, and while you can get fed up when you are politely alerted to the availability of a product or service for the umpteenth time, it’s rarely necessary to resort to rudeness to shake them off. In the bus stations, it is easy to pick out those who have just arrived from India as they have yet to unlearn the impolite behaviour picked up by necessity there.

Restaurants offer almost uniform menus featuring Chinese, Indian and Western dishes. It can be hard to find something more appropriate to the location, even when you want to. We had read that Newari cuisine was particularly interesting and resolved to try it. The Newars are the traditional inhabitants of the Kathmandu valley and still make up about half the population of the area. Given that, one would think it should be easy to find a good restaurant serving Newari food. This turned out to be a misconception, largely because Nepalis didn’t seem to believe our feeble western palates were up to the task. Attempts were made to dissuade us, but we persisted and eventually got the name of a restaurant. Given that the recommendation was obtained from the concierge at the Yak and Yeti, Kathmandu’s poshest hotel, we suspected that we might be in for an expensive experience, sanitised for the tourist. In this we were not wrong, but at less than $10 each it was money well splurged. The food was delicious, the complementary raksi (somewhat like saki) flowed a little too freely, and the cultural programme was cheesy but fun.

After 10 days of dal bhat (rice & lentils), we returned from our treks craving steak. Buffalo steak is a menu staple, but in fact it’s almost always beef, imported from India. In Hindu Nepal, slaughtering cattle is illegal but eating it is ok. I can only assume that the opposite holds in India – we’ve never seen it on a menu, but they slaughter for export. In the Khumbu region, yak steak features on the menu. Yaks are relatives of the cow, and many so-called yaks are actually crossbreeds. It is therefore also illegal to slaughter yaks, but these surefooted creatures seem to fall off the trail with alarming regularity. We didn’t try it ourselves, but from the reports we heard, it is elderly yaks, at the end of their useful lives, that have these unfortunate accidents.

On our way to various Kathmandu restaurants, we couldn’t help tripping over the odd temple or royal palace. Just as well really, since we did very little proper touristy sightseeing in either Pokhara or Kathmandu. We’re not very good sightseers and tire quickly. Far better to come upon things by accident on our way to scoff eggs benedict in the fabulous Mike’s Breakfast – home away from home for the city’s American ex-pats. We did manage to see some of the key sights though – the historic Durbar Square and the rather less historic Pasang Lhamu Climbing Wall.

Pictures - click to enlarge
picture of lake Fewa in Pokhara Nepal Travelogues
photograph of Durbar square
Lake Fewa - Pokhara

Durbar Square - Katmandu

picture of caelen climbing on a outdoor wall in Kathmandu Nepal Travelogues
Picture of Durbar square - Nepal Travelogues
Climbing in Nepal

Durbar Square - Katmandu