Our journey #4: On the road in Nepal

Since our last travel diary, we’ve decided where we will travel after Nepal, which will be Malaysia! We’ve booked tickets, and we will leave Nepal on April 25th. Even though we really like Nepal, we’re looking forward to exploring a new country. Especially because my mom and sister come to Malaysia visit us for about a week and a half. But before we board our plane, there’s still some time to see other parts of this country. So let’s get on the road in Nepal!

Because after spending quite some time in Pokhara, we’d decided it was time to leave for our next destination. And we felt excited about it! Pokhara is a great city, but it is very western. Especially in Lakeside, where all the tourists are. Our next stop is Tansen. A smaller city about 120 kilometers south of Pokhara with a lot fewer tourists. But getting there turned out to be quite an adventure!

Where to next?

Tansen is not too touristy, but it has some lovely sights. But getting there was kind of a challenge. I am not too crazy about taking buses for hours and hours, especially not those local Nepali buses that are super uncomfortable. Yet, a lot of people told us that a local bus probably was the only way we could travel to Tansen, as it wasn’t popular enough for a tourist bus.

So I started searching online for information. Because some people said there IS a tourist bus going to a very popular town called Lumbini and that bus would stop in Tansen too. Luckily, there are plenty of offices in Pokhara that sell bus tickets, so I just decided to visit a few and ask them. They would know best, right?

The guy in the first office I entered, said exactly what I wanted to hear: there IS a tourist bus going to Tansen, and it costs 800 Nepali rupees for one person (about $7). The downside: the 120-kilometer journey takes about 5 hours (!), and that is if everything goes as planned. In two other offices I entered, it was also possible to go to Tansen by tourist bus (but their tickets were more expensive), and one guy told me there were no luxury buses to this town.

I guess it depends on the bus companies they sell tickets for. But by now, I was feeling already confident it would be possible, so we booked the tickets at the first office as the guy there offered me the best price. If you want to travel by tourist bus to Tansen, look for a company that sells Greenline bus tickets. I believe the shop I went to was close to a restaurant called You & I in north-Lakeside.

Traveling by bus in Nepal: something you must experience

There is a special tourist bus station in Pokhara, and even if you don’t have to travel by bus, I’d recommend going there because it’s like watching a show. The bus station is managed in Nepali style, and because we were a bit early, we got the full experience.

As soon as you get out of your taxi, a guy runs up to you asking which bus you want to take. He then tells you it will take some time and says he will come and get you when the bus is there. “Just sit and take a cup of tea”… Really? How can he know exactly who is going where and at what time when there are at least a 100 people at the bus station at all times? It took a while before our bus got there, again: Nepali style. But it was there, and we could travel to a new place!

If you’ve ever traveled by bus in Nepal, you know better than to think tourist buses are for tourists. Of course, they’re not! A tourist bus simply means a more luxury bus that doesn’t stop everywhere (as a local bus does, which can make your journey twice as long). So the bus was still filled with Nepali people, which made it kind of a local experience for us 😉 .

 

On the road in Nepal

Nepal’s roads are among the worst in the world. They are working hard on improving them, which might make it even worse now… That’s why a 120-kilometer drive that would take about one to two hours in a western country takes up to five hours in Nepal! The bus simply can’t go any faster on the rocky, wobbly road and the fact that there are so many hairpin turns from Pokhara to Tansen, also doesn’t make it any better. But we got there in the end! Tansen is a small city with a lot of narrow streets with tons of fabric shops. Tansen is known for its typical fabrics that are being worn all over Nepal. Because the city is located on a hill, those little streets can be pretty steep! So just walking around town actually is a workout in Tansen.

On the road in Nepal: lots of fabric shops in Tansen

Lot’s of fabric shops in Tansen

Our breakfast view in Tansen

Our breakfast view over Tansen

Valerie and Govinda told us about Tansen in the first place and also recommended a homestay we should try once we were there. Horizon Homestay is a ran by a super friendly family and their son. Really, if you’re ever looking for a place to stay in Tansen, go here. They will go out of their way to make your stay pleasant and help you with any questions you might have. They even took us to a family celebration during our visit. We couldn’t have had a more local experience if we tried!

Horizon Homestay in tansen

Horizon Homestay: the place to be when you’re in Tansen

The next stop: Chitwan

After some serious slow traveling during the start of our trip, we traveled a whole lot faster during this last bit of exploring Nepal. After just five days (and people already said we were crazy for staying in Tansen thát long), it was time to go on yet another bus and continue our time on the road in Nepal. But this time, our destination would be the more popular Chitwan National Park. Despite the longer distance between Tansen and Chitwan, the bus was faster as the roads were much better and the area is much less mountainous. But Juul got really tired of this bus quite early on as his seat was very uncomfortable. And despite it being a tourist bus, this one did make many stops along the way.

Unsure about Chitwan

Unfortunately, Chitwan wasn’t what we thought it would be. It was boiling hot (we were warned about this), the tours were a bit mwah, and there were tons of mosquitoes all day every day. We booked a cabin in the Evergreen Ecolodge, based on their excellent reviews on Booking.com. But we were a bit put off by the staff, who seemed totally not interested in their guests. What we did like, was the hippie-like style of the cabins and the whole area.

Ons verblijf in Chitwan

It looks cool, right?

Another good thing about the Evergreen Ecolodge is that they try to keep their plastic waste (which is a HUGE problem in Nepal) to a minimum by providing filtered water, and they are strongly against elephant riding, which is, unfortunately, very common in the streets of Sauraha (the little town that’s the entry to the Chitwan National Park). They also offer nice jungle walking tours, where we did get to spot some wild animals:

 

You could say our first encounter in total with the Chitwan National Park area wasn’t really positive (pretty sunsets though). So after just three nights, we were quite ok with leaving for our last stop in Nepal: Kathmandu.

Exploring more of Kathmandu

During our first couple of days in Kathmandu, we were kinda overwhelmed by the city. Of course, Govinda tried to prepare us for the culture shock, but we didn’t expect it to be this dirty. Luckily, this time we were prepared and buying caps to cover our mouths with was kind of the first thing we did :).

There were only a few days left before our flight with Nepal Air would leave for Malaysia, and there is still so much to be seen! So in just a couple of days, we raced around town exploring the major sights, like the Boudhanath Stupa (one of the biggest in Asia!) and the somewhat lurid Pasupathi. We also found out this lush green park right smack in the middle of Thamel called Garden of Dreams. So, we basically were total tourists during this second visit to Kathmandu, and we were ok with it.

On the road in Nepal: stupa in Kathmandu

boudhanath stupa in Kathmandu

We just loved hanging out on one of the many rooftop terraces around the Boudhanath Stupa and watch it get dark!

Unfortunately, the end of our time in Nepal didn’t go as planned, and we would soon find out why booking a plane ticket to Malaysia with Nepal Air wasn’t such a smart idea… But more on that in our next travel journal!

Did you ever travel on the road in Nepal? What were your experiences?

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