After finishing our trek in Sagarmatha National Park, we had just under three weeks left in Nepal before our flight onwards to Thailand. We considered heading east to the Annapurna Region for more trekking but ultimately decided not to, mostly for financial reasons. The info from our guidebook (Lonely Planet’s Trekking in Nepal from 2016) was out of date in terms of overall costs by 2019 and we had spent more than we expected for this leg of the trip. Plus, I had received an email from one of my freelance writing contacts about a job opportunity while we were heading down the mountain in Namche. We decided to find a good spot to relax with a reliable internet connection so that I could take the job.
Initially, we thought we would just stay in Kathmandu since we liked our guesthouse and the price was right ($20-25/night for a nice, clean room in a good location with breakfast and internet included). We stayed there for several nights and alternated our meals between some great local restaurants. Two standouts were a family-owned place called Hity Cafe that served momos, Nepal’s most famous dish and Thamel Falafel, home to the best falafel wrap I’ve ever had (the secrets are apparently pomegranate seeds and crispy fried eggplant).
Shout out to momos – What are momos? A delicious two-bite dumpling filled with anything you can imagine. Vegetarian and buff (as in buffalo) are the two most common fillings though. They come steamed, fried, or (our personal favourite) kothey, meaning steamed and then fried on one side. Momos are cheap. Momos are delicious. Momos are filling. We ate A LOT of momos in Nepal. Here are some of my favourite Nepali momos:
At our Kathmandu guesthouse, we met a retired American named Bill who entertained us with funny stories of his travels around the world, mostly to meet up with his numerous also-retired ‘lady friends.’ When we told him we had some extra time in Nepal, he suggested we visit Pokhara. Many others had recommended this city to us before but the thought of more long, bumpy bus rides had put us off until that point. The tipping point was Bill’s assessment that costs in Pokhara were cheaper and the food was better. Sold!
We booked an AirBnB for a week and ended up extending our stay since we liked Pokhara so much. It was a bigger city than we realized with a more relaxed vibe than Kathmandu (or ‘Dust-mandu’ as our AirBnB host called it). Most of the tourist activity is centralized around Phewa Lake on the west side of the city but there is plenty to see in the surrounding area too.
It attracts different types of tourists, such as middle-class Nepali and Indian tourists who like boat tours and upscale hotels, backpackers who like adventure activities like paragliding, and trekkers who pass through on their way to the Annapurna trekking region.
Our AirBnB was just outside the main tourist area so we got the chance to experience different sides of the city and it felt a bit homier than anywhere we’d stayed up until that point. We had a little kitchenette to cook for ourselves and a little balcony to look out over the city. The balcony was great for watching the daily monsoon roll in. It was amazing to see how much water could fall out of the sky every day. It only took a few minutes, but all of a sudden visibility was terrible and the whole city was dark. Some days it would only last an hour or so but other days it would continue into the evening. Funny story – The day we arrived in Pokhara had been unusually sunny and hot so we weren’t thinking about monsoon rains at all. On the second day, we walked 30 minutes to the grocery store and by the time we came out, it was monsoon! We learned to get our errands done by 1pm from then on.
We also found some great restaurants in our neighbourhood. One of our favourites had amazing Indian-style tikka chicken and garlic naan and was run by a friendly young local guy. We went there a bunch of times and affectionately called it the House of Naan. Another cool feature of our neighbourhood was that there were hills behind us overlooking the city with some short hiking trails. We found some interesting abandoned buildings and religious shrines. I guess we did get some additional hiking in after all!
Finally, we headed back to Kathmandu to catch our flight to Thailand. One final Nepal highlight for me was going to the cinema in Kathmandu three times to see Avengers: Endgame and having a totally different experience with each audience! It only cost us $2-5 each time and we both love Marvel so why not? Each time the film started with the same Nepali commercials for concrete, cell phones, and cooking oil followed by extremely long and detailed trailers for upcoming Nepali films. The first time we went was during a weekday afternoon and the cinema was mostly backpackers and foreigners. The second time we went it was a weekend evening show and the crowd was mostly young Nepalis. Going to the cinema was clearly a bigger deal for them because everyone was dressed up in nice clothes and we felt underdressed! The third time we went to a weekend matinee and it was mostly Nepali families. Those kids seemed to know a lot more about what was going on in the movie than the parents. In hindsight, it was interesting to see what jokes translated and what was lost in translation. Tony Stark’s reference to Thor and The Big Lebowski? Did not translate and we were the only ones laughing at that during the second and third viewings with the Nepali audiences. Rocket comparing Thor to melted ice cream? That was a universal hit (especially with the kids at the third viewing! LOL).