There are three posts today so if you want something else then there is more below. Anyway…
A few years ago I spent some time doing voluntary work (building a school) in rural Nepal.
It was far and away the best experience of my life. The warmth and the friendliness of the people despite everything they have to put up with is something I will never forget.
When I got home I wrote a 6000 word A-Z of Nepal for the volunteers the next year so they would have a bit more of an idea when they arrived.
This was all 4 years ago so some of the information is out of date. Nevertheless, I am going to serialise it here.
Here is the 5th part, P.
Parts 1-4 can be found by scrolling down at this link.
The A-Z of Nepal
P is for People – aside from the odd chancer in tourist areas it is difficult to describe just how nice the people in this country are. Travellers who have come to Nepal from India often comment on how the difference is like night and day. Well mannered in their own way and courteous at all times, many of them would like nothing better than for you to eat daalbaat with them, no strings attached. Crime is incredibly low and you can feel safe walking down streets at night or leaving your things in your hotel room. They have an infectious habit of laughing when faced with adversity which can put you completely at ease with a situation. Whether they are making money from you or not, most of the people simply want you to enjoy yourself (and enjoy daalbaat).
P is for Pokhara – Pokhara does a fairly convincing impression of paradise. Take as an example this diary entry……….Ke Garne?
picture from http://www.pokharalodge.com/
The Nepali national saying (if there is such a thing) is “Ke garne?” which means “What to do?”. What to do indeed if you have just finished a month in a remote village in fairly harsh conditions. In Pokhara, mid-Nepal, for a foreigner, this is the essential dilemma you are faced with, but it’s a positive dilemma.
An early wake-up at 7am is followed by a stroll onto the hotel rooftop garden for a cup of tea (and a cigarette – if you are so inclined) and to see the entire Annapurna range of the Himalayas before the monsoon clouds roll in. That said though, they only roll in a little so as to slightly obscure the view, Pokhara itself remains in brilliant sunshine.
You may then want to get in touch with home to rave about the views. No problem, Internet is available everywhere and is about 2 pence per minute (if you are feeling flush you can phone home for a pound a minute). Then its off for a leisurely breakfast – with all the other things you can’t get in the rest of Nepal – this may all seem extremely important if you have been in a village and eaten nothing but lentils and rice for more than a month.
Then you may wish to take a boat out onto Phewa Lake. This will cost about 350 rupees (3 pounds) for a whole day. On the lake you are still afforded magnificent Himalayan views and you can simply wallow in the sunshine. You may want to take a CD Walkman and listen to music, which you haven’t done properly for a month either. If the rowing becomes too strenuous it is possible to put in at any number of little jetties (or not if you don’t feel like it). Just a little further along you will come to an excellent restaurant called “Typical Restaurant”. The reason why it is called this, I regret to say, I can’t fathom. Here you will sit in the garden and eat freshly caught fish from the lake which is both excellently prepared and delicious.
If all this relaxation gets a bit much for you, you can get in your boat again and head back to the shore (slowly of course). On this journey you may come across your friends who are happily swimming in the river and/or rowing themselves around. Even if your friends don’t fancy rowing (well, it’s a bit much like work isn’t it?) they can balance on an underwater pipe to stop them from drifting (drifting, it must be added, very slowly, even the currents are relaxed in Pokhara). After you have exchanged pleasantries with them about hampers, scones, and straw boater hats (Henley Regatta jokes are allowed here), you will probably feel its time to get to shore, after all, its been about 3 hours without a cocktail and that has become your most pressing concern.
All this moving about does get tiresome. So, to ensure you don’t have to do too much of it tomorrow, you can go into one of the many excellent restaurants and arrange for the following evening for you and your friends to be served food in a private room at no extra cost and watch a film of your own choice, after all, you may not have seen one for a month.
Later on in the evening after you have sunbathed and read in the 30-degree heat (books of all persuasions from the sublime to the silly are readily and cheaply available in the many bookshops), you might feel a bit peckish. Why not then, go to the best restaurant in Pokhara (the Lemon Tree)? You can have Indian, Nepali, Chinese, or European food – all excellently prepared – hell, why not have a cold beer or two also because those cocktails can get too fruity after a while can’t they?
After consuming this excellent repast you may feel it is time for fun and to play a game or two. So you go forth to pub/club where you can play pool for free and your friends, if they so wish, can set up and perform an open stage set through the P.A. system as you play pool! You may even meet two people from Motherwell (well – you can’t have everything can you?). After your friends have finished their live performance you will be allowed to choose the music in the club. And finally, after a mini lock-in,
you may choose to buy a beer more each by way of a nightcap and toddle off to your hotel safe in the knowledge of a job well done and confident you have only spent about 11 pounds.
P is for Popcorn - for some bizarre reason happy hour in Nepali bars means you get free popcorn with your beer.
P is for Porters - apparently the average porter can carry up to 80kg. This is more than the weight of an average person being hauled up a mountain. And all of this is done of course, wearing flip-flops.
P is for Powercut – frequent but short-lived. Landslides or thunderstorms can cause them in the monsoon season
P is for ‘Pheri Betola’ – which means ‘see you later’.