Text by: Julin Rajbhandari

Unlike every other morning, on the morning of 7th August 2019, the grass was wet and the weather was humid. I was among a small group of guests to arrive at the premises of the Shangri-La Hotel Kathmandu earlier than most people. A little later several other people started arriving. We were altogether a group of about twenty people on the road trip to the enchanting valley of Pokhara. The 207km journey was filled with laughter, food and entertainment. The previously shy and somewhat reserved group had slowly started to loosen up once we left Kathmandu behind. The verdant green of Pokhara and the clean air never fails to lift up your spirit. The group was comprised mostly of people from various sectors such as the corporate and travel industry. Sameer Banerjee, the Area General Manager of Shangri-La was on hand to greet us all warmly.
After a long and tiring, yet extremely entertaining bus ride to Pokhara, we received a grand reception at the Shangri-La Village Resort there. Nestled In the heart of the Pokhara city, the resort offers visitors a breathtaking view of the Macchapuchhare, Dhaulagiri and Annapurna Range from the courtyard itself. Entering the premises of the resort transported me to a whole new place. Even though it is close to the main city this place is engulfed in natural surroundings. The vast land that this resort occupies has several rich, greenpatches and trees all around its property. As we enter, the staff starts merrily dancing to some popular Nepali songs which makes the atmosphere lively and for a moment makes us forget our weariness. We were finally assigned our respective rooms and it was heartening to find each room had a balcony that allowed exquisite views of the surrounding landscape. It wasn’t long before we were invited to the Trader’s Hall for a night of casual, but heart-warming time. The night began with all of us putting our vocal chords to the test as we all sang along with the Karaoke music. The flow of food and drinks loosened up the group some more and soon all of us were showing off our moves on the dance floor as well. We had to end the night earlier than we would have liked as we had a very long day ahead of us.

On the second day which started with a scrumptious breakfast, we made our way to Khade Khola on a bus and then walked towards the Kalbang Gadheri village. The scorching sun had us sweating profusely ensuring that all the toxins consumed the previous day were flushed out. After a long walk of about what seemed like 10,000 steps (well that’s what my phone tells me) we arrived at the village. The very excited residents greeted us with flower garlands of vibrant colors and a very energetic dance performance. Out of all the locally grown organic food served to us, I’d have to say the Buckwheat Sel Roti was a very great addition to my list of delicacies. The Kalbang Gandheri homestay community is located around 12 km from the main city in a village of the same name. This place provides tourists a chance to live a Nepali life; to do what Nepalis do. Activities in the village included milking a cow and ploughing a field, giving guests the full Nepali experience. Prakash Gurung , Chairman of the homestay community says, “The idea behind this venture is to provide visitors the authentic Nepali experience and also to encourage the younger generation of our community to not migrate to the cities.” He informs that because of the success of this homestay, the number of younger people leaving the village has significantly decreased as they have come to realize the tremendous possibility of employment in their own villages. Sadly we had to depart soon and head back down the hill to beat the dark. The amusing part coming down was the strange look on everyone’s faces as they tried avoiding the leeches in the freshly wet forest grass. Back at the resort we were given a chance to refill our drained batteries. Shortly after that we indulged in the delightful snacks being served, all the while being entertained by dances of several different ethnic groups of Nepal. But as the famous saying goes ‘All good things must come to an end’ this too had to come to an end. We were scheduled to leave early the next morning with wonderful memories and new friendships.

To me Pokhara had always meant the Lakeside and the view of the Annapurna massif. But this experience showed me an entirely different experience of the Pokhara valley. It was the discovery of another side of Pokhara I’d never known before, especially the homestay and the charming cultural display . This adventure gave us a chance to forge new bonds and make new memories which completely took me by surprise.