After the trek, we were mentally and physically worn out - skinny, frazzled, unkempt shadows of our former selves in need of some R&R in a place slightly more chill than Kathmandu. Enter Pokhara, which is everything good about Nepal (yummy momos, low prices, warm weather) without the cacophony of sounds and smells and dust that make Kathmandu about as relaxing as a Bluth family reunion.
Our guesthouse in Kathmandu sold us tickets for the ‘deluxe’ bus to Pokhara, which at $25 each was very expensive by Nepali standards. Still, after two and a half weeks of very much un-deluxe conditions on the trek, we were eager for some creature comforts, so we happily forked over the cash. We were so glad we did - the bus turned out to be very deluxe, with actual recliners (like your grandpa’s favorite la-z-boy) instead of normal bus seats, and functional air conditioning (literally unheard of). They also threw in a free buffet lunch and lots of snacks, which honestly was the best part of the trip. Although the ride took a solid 8 hours, we were blissfully content to zone out and listen to podcasts the entire time and by the time we got to Pokhara we were primed for a very zen week.
Pokhara is known as the yoga/meditation/spiritual hippie capital of Nepal, but despite the fact that we spent 9 full days here, I only made it to one class and Alex didn’t go to any. We just had a lot of things to catch up on, like writing, editing photos, planning our trip to India, and of course lots of TV (yay for functional wifi!), and all those things ate up a lot of our time. But honestly, we just spent 15 days putting our bodies and minds through a LOT, so healthy and active pursuits were very low priority.
The one class that I did attend was enough to tide me over for a while. We were walking down the street in Lakeside, the main tourist area, when I saw a sign advertising a free Tibetian singing bowl meditation class. I was bored and procrastinating (nothing ever changes) so I walked to the studio and signed up. I did a ‘sound therapy’ meditation at Electric Forest once, so I figured I was a seasoned veteran, but this was next level. There were 9 or 10 other people in the class and we all sat in a circle in this tiny, cramped room while this thirtysomething instructor/guru with a tiny ponytail and a very thick accent gave each of us our astrological sign, element, and planet (I’m Scorpio, water and Mars, in case you were wondering). I’m still not entirely sure why that info was relevant as astrology was not brought up for the rest of the class, but I guess now I have that info handy in case I ever get really into crystals or something (in which case, please slap me).
After our astrological education and a quick, hard-to-follow primer on singing bowls, our guru told us to lay down and close our eyes - I think the actual phrase he used was ‘sleep in mother earth’s lap’ but I can’t be sure. He then draped a lavender-scented towel over my eyelids, which was soothing. And then the singing bowls started. For a solid hour I lay there with my eyes covered, trying my hardest to empty my brain of thoughts while he played dozens of different sized singing bowls, all of which vibrated/rang with different tones and frequencies. I’ve read that singing bowls are supposed to help you relax and meditate more effectively, and I definitely felt way more relaxed afterward, but I found myself constantly getting distracted. At certain points I had singing bowls resting on my stomach and forehead, and while the sounds had a calming effect it’s a bit jarring to have something set on your body when you can’t see it coming. I think if I went again I would feel more comfortable and would be able to relax more deeply, but I think once was enough for now. Although I love yoga and meditating, I think I’ll leave the bowls out of the equation from now on.
When I wasn’t trying my best to get zen, we spent the bulk of our time in Pokhara eating food and drinking enormous amounts of coffee. You know, the same stuff we do everywhere. Every morning after waking up, we’d pack up the laptop and head to Himalayan Java Coffee Shop. I think by the end of our stay we’d spent more time there than in our guesthouse. Every day we’d grab a spot on the patio, chug some fresh brewed filter coffee (which we’ve hardly seen since leaving the US) and I’d get to work on blogging. Several hours and lots of caffeine later, we’d meander to one of Pokhara’s many restaurants and enjoy some lunch before wandering around the streets of Lakeside all afternoon, grabbing drinks near the lake, or visiting the Movie Garden, where backpackers gather in this little garden tucked into the jungle behind a guesthouse on the edge of town to drink wine, eat pizza, and watch movies.
We didn’t do any real sightseeing during our time here, which is kind of a shame, since Pokhara is home to some popular places like the World Peace Pagoda, as well as loads of one-day treks and yoga retreats, but those just weren’t priorities. The closest we got to sightseeing was spending an afternoon strolling around the lake. Sometimes we’d feel guilty for this sort of semi-laziness when we’d hear other people talk about their experiences, but then we’d remember that 15-day trek we just did, and go back to being bums.
All in all, we thoroughly enjoyed our time in Pokhara. Compared to the chaos of Kathmandu and the sheer exhaustion of trekking to Everest, the chilled-out routine we adopted in Pokhara was exactly what we both needed, and after nine days we were mentally recharged enough to journey back to Kathmandu and head to the airport for our next big adventure: India!