July 28, 2011
If you go to Nepal, anywhere in Nepal, people will ask you where you are from, which cities you have visited and where you are headed next. And if you have not been to Pokhara, they will talk, well, gush about how beautiful and amazing it is. If you don't go to Pokhara, you might as well say you haven't been to Nepal. So, after lollygagging for two days in Kathmandu, Maureen and I head out to Pokhara for our "mini-vacation" before the real work takes place in two days.
When we get off the bus after an 8-hour ride, a swarm of hotel lobbyists and taxi drivers flock over to us like bees to honey saying things like, "Our hotel is by the lake," "You get a free taxi ride and if you don't like the hotel, you can just pay for the taxi and go find another place," "We have a room for only 500 rupees (approx. $7) a night!" Maureen is totally amused by the scene and laughs and I am calculating in my head what the best deal would be. I have my guard up because I don't want to get ripped-off but Maureen, in her total optimism, picks out a 500- rupee room that is by the lake and they even offer a free taxi ride. My brain is overloaded with information but the offer sounds better when Maureen says it instead of tanned Nepali men who come up to my chin with eyes shooting laser beams at my wallet.
Hotel Grand is the abode of our choice. We decide that I would be in charge of bargaining and Maureen will be in charge of reinforcing and nodding. Our guy takes us to a room that is 700 rupees a night. My don't-be-a-stupid-tourist flag goes up and I immediately inform him that that is not what he said at the bus stop. He gestures a things-like-this-happen motion and tells me all the 500-rupee rooms are taken. But consider the view, he says as he opens up the curtains. I can see a mountain. I tell him I can go outside and look at the mountain for free. He doesn't budge. I don't mind paying 700 rupees ($10) a night but I don't like being toyed with. I sort of call him a liar and he seems apologetic. Maureen and I deliberate and we decide that our fatigue outweighs justice so, we stay. The whole drama seems anti-climatic and my sense of heroism is wounded.
To put the unpleasantness behind, we go out to get dinner by the lake. We have the most delicious chicken masala curry I've ever had. We look around and Pokhara is beautiful. The mirror images of the mountains on the lake and the blue sky make the view absolutely heavenly. We take in the scenery and are as happy as two forgetful clams. We go out rowing on the lake for a couple of hours and treat ourselves to a full-body massage. The power is out (it usually goes out periodically at night) so we get our service in candle light. I really want my shoulders and lower back worked on but the guy focuses mostly on my ass and legs. But, whatever. He wants us to come back the next day. No way, Jose.
We look at the list of places to visit in Pokhara that Manish gave us in Kathmandu. (He and his girlfriend come here every time she visits from Malaysia. Apparently, Pokhara is a great place for romance.) I tell Maureen that this trip would be even more amazing if we had two guys to hang out with. Maureen wholeheartedly agrees. So, we place our order out to the universe and ask for two guys (one for me and one for you) with some wavering faith.
To be continued...