Tuesday, December 27, 2011

World Peace Pagoda Hike in Pokhara

After experiencing three trips to Pokhara where its famous mountain views were largely obscured by clouds, I was excited to be visiting during winter months when I would have a better shot at clear days. This time around, I was not disappointed. Without cloud cover, mountains play peek-a-boo from almost anywhere in town.

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The best panoramas, however, involve a little work. One such viewpoint is from the World Peace Pagoda, which sits on a hilltop across the lake from Pokhara. There are two main routes to the pagoda: 1) for a more direct route, take a rowboat across the lake from Pokhara and walk the well-marked stair path about 30-45 minutes uphill or 2) walk around the Damside tip of the lake and up to the pagoda. We decided on the Damside route, in part because we hiked the more direct route on our honeymoon here in 2008.

Having hiked a number of trails in Nepal, we had no trouble feeling out the poorly marked way to the pagoda. With some input from locals and our ordinal instincts, we were making good progress. Still, we were happy to enlist the guiding services of a local willing to show us the most direct route to the top. Given that we were still puzzling our way through a tangle of trails at that point, the help was quite welcome.

About an hour and 20 minutes (and a very brisk walk -- thank you for the demanding pace, local guide) after leaving our hotel in Lakeside, we reached the pagoda.

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From here you can the mountains tower over Lake Fewa and the city of Pokhara below, including the pyramid-shaped Machhapuchhre, or "Fish Tail."

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The view was a little hazy, but it sure beat what I saw when I reached this point in 2008 on a monsoon-clouded August day:

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We descended the more direct stairway route down to the lake for our return back to Pokhara. This took about 20 minutes, and plenty of colorful boats greeted us when we reached the shore.

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The adjacent "Typical Restaurant" sells one-way boat tickets for about $4. We did not eat there, so I cannot comment on the quality of the food, but I believe the name says it all.

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The leisurely paddle across the lake took about 15 minutes. Between the lapping of the placid waters, the stunning views overhead, and the bright but mild sun, these 15 minutes are contenders for the best of our entire visit.

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