I have some recommendations for you if you’re in the Pokhara area: Tashiling Tibetan Refugee camp, World Peace Stupa, and Sarangkot Mountain Lodge. Let me explain.
The nights are cool and the days can be hot here. Today was hot and glorious (if you’re one of us who loves the heat) and a sightseeing one at that.
We stopped at the Tashiling Tibetan Refugee camp to learn more about Tibetan heritage and culture. The camp was established in 1959 with help from the US government and houses 500 refugees. The original refugees walked from Tibet but most of the current residents are second and third generation (if you have read my stories of hiking for just four days in these mountains, I hope you might appreciate how challenging and intimidating an effort this was and we had “modern” hotels, conveniences, trails, and roads!)
Life is challenging. These refugees do not own their homes and can only go to India and US but are prohibited from entering all other places including China and Thailand. They have their own community including schools and a hospital in an effort to preserve their culture. Because of this they do not mix with the locals and thus are not trusted by locals because they keep to themselves. They have a small open air market to sell handmade crafts, scarves, blankets, masks, jewelry, handbags, and more as a way to sustain themselves so we browsed, purchased, and made friends.
Next we went to the Hindu Temple to Shiva in a cave under the city behind the bazaar. The temple is a rock formation of a phallus, surrounded by a man made vagina. I’m told Hindus worship this but are not allowed to talk about it or question it. The cave was stifling and claustrophobic so I (and others) left early and went up for fresh air. It was a Saturday and crowded with worshippers. Note- if you are a tourist, you do not need to remove your shoes despite seeing Hindus doing so on the stairs. In fact, I urge you to keep them on and go on a weekday when they are fewer people.
Next, we visited the Sacred World Peace Pagoda (Shanti Stupa) on Ananda Hill in the suburbs of Pokhara. A Buddhist style pagoda built by Nipponzan-Myōhōji, the grounds are patrolled by the silence police to protect the sacredness and ambiance of the space. You remove your shoes on the walkway and walk clockwise around each layer of the stupa. Each circumambulation is a blessing and done meditatively. You can do as many as you wish. We were not allowed inside but the outside was enough. Amazing energy, art, and views. And while I was meditating on a bench, some Nepali women sat next to me and proceeded to make it a photo op. I love how open and trusting people are here. All of this to the backdrop of drums from the Japanese monastery down the hill.
We ended our day with an adventurous ride up a mountain grade so steep that we stayed in first gear on a bus that felt too big for the road, trying not to look out the window at the sheer drop offs at the edge, and hoping the civil engineers had been valedictorians of their class.
We were rewarded with lovely accommodations at Sarangkot Mountain Lodge, a fantastic way to complete our time in the mountains. Rooftop pool, excellent food, dynamo breakfast views from the patio, and one of the world’s longest and fastest zip lines next door.
We noted through our travels in the mountains that, while people are very poor, they are safer and far happier than many with privilege and wealth around the world. My experience over the years, and especially here, has been that Hindus and Buddhists are overall kind, compassionate, peaceful people. Coupled with guns being outlawed here in Nepal (anyone found with one is automatically sentenced to 20 years in jail), there is virtually no violent crime. You can feel the peace in the streets, even with chaotic driving.
Thanks for reading and thanks for sharing the love. If you want more like this, find me on Instagram @adventureswithwen
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