We're still in lovely Pokhara, but just a quick recap of things...
The basic things you may want to know with regards to transportation and food when travelling in Nepal, whether around Kathmandu Valley or Pokhara are :
If you're travelling with young children, private transportation would be a more comfortable option and you may want to book a van or MPV in advance, based on your budget. Most of the taxis and basic rentals there are not very well maintained, which may turn out to be too bumpy for the kids, as most of the drivers treat the roads like the derby. And if you do not book your vehicle earlier through your reliable homestay manager or hotel concierge, you may find yourself in a vehicle where you can see the road below from where you're sitting!
The fares we paid for our rides :
~ 1200 Rupees from the Tribhuvan Airport to Bhaktapur.
~ 3000 Rupees for a full day outing around the Kathmandu Valley to the major attractions, eg. the UNESCO Heritage Sites.
~ 1800 Rupess for a half day outing.
In Pokhara our fares and charges were quoted in US Dollars, and on average we spent about USD75 a day. The fares are based on distance and duration; some may be as low as USD25 but some could even be USD100 or more. Stan had assigned Purna to take care of us during our entire stay in Pokhara, and that personal service was also factored in. This is especially favourable when travelling with kids as they are able to develop a trusting relationship with the person driving them, and so if mommy and ayah need to make quick pitstops for provisions or takeaways, the kids can safely wait in the car.
Even in Bhaktapur and Kathmandu the kids had Uncle Hari, so when we visited the Swayambunath Temple for example, we left the boys in the van with him as they were too tired to visit ANOTHER (this was how the goons emphasised it) stupa. Besides, the temple was very crowded and there were too many monkeys around, and we didn't want to risk any one of our goons joining another clan! Hehehe...
Kathmandu to Pokhara via Buddha Air was USD89 per person (excluding domestic tax), Pokhara to Kathmandu overland by private car was USD200.
Oh, and by the way, there are no trains in Nepal...
FOOD AND PROVISIONS
Food was one of the things darling husband and I were looking forward to in Nepal. From my reading, I was also aware of the hygiene and health issues involved. So in Nepal, we did not go Bourdain, and we kept it to cafes or restaurants that came well recommended, or that belonged to an established chain. Drinking water was either bottled or hot, no ice unless we are assured that bottled water has been used. I made sure we all washed or wet wiped our hands followed by the hand sanitizer before every meal outside our homestays. And of course, always a prayer before meals, insyaAllah, coz at the end of the day, we can only do our best, the rest is up to Him. Alhamdulillah, everything went well :)
With our budget, we spent an average of 2500 Rupees a day on lunch and snacks, in Bhaktapur, Kathmandu and Pokhara. Breakfast was already included in our B&B charges, so we just needed to budget for the other meals. And throughout our whole stay there our main meals of the day were only breakfast and lunch. We snacked mainly on the biscuits and cookies I packed from KL, and in the evenings we were not so hungry when it came to dinner time so we just had a simple picnic in our room. As I mentioned in my earlier posts, this arrangement also helped us to manage our expenses; but there were days when we wandered out at the lakeside town after dinner and dropped in at the local cafes to enjoy their muffins, lassi and masala tea.
We spent about 1200-1500 Rupees on the simple dhal bhats and chapati, and a little more for the heftier lunches, about 1500-2500 Rupees. Snacks at the cafes were about 1000 Rupees. Everywhere we travel, we try not to stinge on food as we want to experience the local delicacy of that particular country, but we always keep within our budget and parameters, eg halal, vegetarian, seafood, no lard used.
The Lonely Planet Nepal book had mentioned the Punjabi Restaurant in Pokhara Lakeside, where it serves pure vegetarian food, so we went there to try their momos. Nepal's local delicacy. But the momos at Punjabi didn't look quite like the ones we saw everywhere on signboards and posters. So we asked Stan and he recommended us the Almond Cafe in Pokhara Town. It was there that I realised that the momos in the pictures were the steamed ones, and the ones we've had at Punjabi were the fried ones. Since we preferred fried to steamed, we ordered the fried ones too at Almond cafe; they didn't look that much different from those at Punjabi, but we found them to be tastier and more filling. Almond Cafe provided us with the best value as we had a sumptuous lunch of pakora, momos, biryani, aloo gobi, fried rice, pizza and ice cream for just about 2000 Rupees.
At Punjabi Restaurant
At Almond Cafe...
Gobi was another delight; gobi is cauliflower and you can see them everywhere, markets, stalls, neighbourhood shops. I ordered gobi everytime :)
Around the Kathmandu area, Ajaya suggested we eat at Nanglo, which is a very nice local place on the richest shopping street in Kathmandu, Durbar Marg. Nanglo's main restaurant serves a wide range of Nepali and Western flairs, while its Chinese restaurant serves Chinese, of course! Nanglo also has a bakery, where I bought an old fashioned coconut macaroon. After a satisfying lunch of dhal bhat for mommy and ayah, fish and chips and pasta for the boys, we had ice cream at Cream Bell, which is just next to Nanglo; I had their fig ice cream, yummmmms! I saved the macaroon for my midnight snack :)
You can stock up on provisions at Bhat Bhateni, a hypermarket like Giant and Tesco, which had chains in both Kathmandu and Pokhara. We'd gotten ours at the nearby convenient stores and minimarkets, and then Purna introduced us to Bhat Bhateni. I bought pomegranates at the Bhat Bhateni supermarket and they were simply delish! I had seen carts full of pomegranates lining the streets in the Kathmandu Valley and Pokhara, but I wasn't brave enough to ask Hari or Purna to stop so I can buy the rich ruby red fruits. So when I found them in the supermarket I was delighted! They were sweet and juicy and very cheap, at 300 Rupees for 3 pcs.
Bhat Bhateni's supermarket also sells our usual Nescafe, Kopi Hang Tuah in the packet, Milo, Lipton Tea, Maggi Mee, Ayam Brand Sardines and Tuna, peanut butter, nutella, jam, a variety of biscuits and cookies, our popular brands of toiletries, etc. They didn't have Hi-5 or Gardenia bread, but they do have their own locally made ones. So, a Malaysian need not feel homesick in Nepal :)
In Pokhara, we asked Indira, Stan's wife, to order our loaf of bread from their preferred bakery. I just LOVED the toast they served for breakfast, the bread was heavy yet fluffy on the inside and buttery crispy on the outside, SO yumms! But when we had the same bread for our picnic dinner in our room, the bread felt different; we still enjoyed it, and it was brown, coz of the type of wheat the baker uses. So I think what Indira does is she steams the bread slices before pan toasting them, so the bread has more volume and moisture. Seriously, if you're a bread person like me and you're having breakfast at The Mountain House in Pokhara, do order their toast :)
Digressing from transportation and food, one of the things I noticed especially in Nepal was their fridge, they sell cool refrigerators in Nepal! The first time we walked from Krishna House to Bhaktapur Durbar Square, we passed several tailors, food stalls and shops selling clothes, shoes, groceries, household items and electricals, and that was when I saw their FRIDGE! There were red fridges, black fridges, bright red, maroon red, shiny black, matt black and those with UV designs! They came in all sizes, small, big, single door, 2, 3 doors. And they were reasonably priced too. I wouldn't need to buy a SMEG to own a stylish fridge in Nepal! At first I thought that maybe that shop in Bhaktapur catered to a special clientele in that area, but when we were at the Bhat Bhateni electrical department, I saw more fashionably coloured fridge! Even the electrical shop near Almond Cafe had these very cool refrigerators. Many of the refrigerators were Whirl Pool and the rest were other brands like Samsung. There was also a very nice teal coloured one at Bhat Bhateni. Cool eh? I mean here in KL, you don't see a row of red refrigerators, big and small. You'd see a red SMEG or 2 at Harvey Norman or Best Denki, but that's about it.
If I ever lived in Nepal, it would either be in Bhaktapur or Pokhara Lakeside, and the first 2 things I would get is a fridge and a Tibetan carpet :)
Stay tuned for my next posts, I'll share with you what I know about the hand knotted Tibetan carpet.
Till then, take care and think red fridge :)
To be continued...
Jules' Quote Picks
Cynthia Kersey has been writing about Unstoppable People for over a decade and found that living an unstoppable life always involves giving. People who give and are involved in a purpose that is greater than themselves are the happiest people and live the richest and most meaningful lives imaginable...
(Thank you Abang Zu for sharing this...)
(Thank you Abang Zu for sharing this...)