Pokhara vs Kathmandu - The Great Debate!
By Jenny Lama
Most returning tourists to Nepal as a general rule are either pro Pokhara or Kathmandu. It's a very rare case the one wants to spend equal time in their two favorite cities, however, I do believe that those people are out there, as being one myself. Why one or the other you ask, well each are individually unique and have quite different atmospheres. What most tourists don't see is outside the square of each of these cities, mainly thinking the city begins and ends in Thamel for Kathmandu and Lakeside Pokhara for Pokhara, when actually there are diverse and spanning cities that widely circle each tourist hub.
Why Kathmandu? Well sure this bustles with a busy, noisy city atmosphere, but it is Nepal's main arrival venue for a majority of visiting tourists so one cannot simply bypass, without getting a taste of crazy yet fascinating Kathmandu. Its little pocket of tourist heaven one will find in Thamel. It seems somewhat sheltered from the actual fast pace business district of Kathmandu, where traffic, shopping malls and construction of bigger and better buildings blend into one big bang of progress. Thamel is a delightful area, honeycombed with alleyways, nooks and crannies, where tiny shops line the narrow streets, as taxi, rickshaw, motorbike and tourist push and weave their way around and around the main narrow roads.
Restaurants of all cuisines blend in with amazing disguise, into traditional buildings and authentic architecture as one truly feels like they have stepped into another world that simple hasn't bothered to catch up with our own modern and developed countries, however as Thamel masquerades as an ancient jewel in the midst of travel, Kathmandu strives forward into the fast pace of today without us even noticing. From this lively hub one can be assured to find fascinating culture, great night spots, local markets and anything on the menu from is mass of multicultural restaurants. Temples adorn street corners and hillside views, Buddhist and Hindu alike, the sound of bells and chanting can still be heard in quiet hours of the morning, although a majority of the day is taken up with sounds of dogs barking and horns honking, Kathmandu is still a very spiritual and amazing place to spend a lot of time in.
Why Pokhara? To me the air seems a little easier to breath here, time slows down just a little bit more and the peaceful lake Fewa seems to pull this sleepy lakeside town into a blissful relaxed siesta. The sun seems to shine a little brighter, maybe it's because the roads are wider and the buildings aren't quite as tall. The paved sidewalk makes moving around a little easier after dodging taxis in Thamel. The side shops are a generally a little bigger, and unless you venture into Pokhara's actual city you won't find as many pokey alleyways, however they are there to discover. The huge variety of restaurants are still boasting multicultural delights, but the sounds of honking and dogs barking is a little dimmer, here you are more likely to get stuck behind a buffalo taking its morning stroll to the lake.
The nightlife is very laidback in Pokhara, a few tourist favourite spots line the main road that runs through lakeside from the airport, after the road eventually turns to gravel the pace gets even slower, but out here you can find local spots that you never want to leave. You can casually ride bikes or even horses along this road, just disappearing into another time. Temples still adorn this lazy little town from hillside to hillside. One can find the best views paragliding beside the Himalaya amongst birds of prey here, a simply divine experience. Of course again as Thamel disguises Kathmandu so does Lakeside for Pokhara, a city not far from this sleepy little town bustles with business and shopping, the real Pokhar. You will find the same thing if you venture to Chitwan National Park which boasts its own little tiny town, there is a Chitwan city that goes with it believe it or not.
Tourist hubs are Nepals masterpieces, enjoy them, but also get out and see the cities and outer districts, because that is where you will see the real Nepal, and not one that has been particularity designed for you and me, albeit paradise for adventurous travellers.
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