Lake Side - one immense tourist trap
The Lake Side community is built up solely for tourism purposes. This is not Pokhara city. But fair enough, Lake Side is an important part of Pokhara's economy.
What is disapppinting is that I have met people who thought Pokhara was a very touristy town and there was nothng genuine... They must have missed Pokhara alltogether. Honestly, I enjoy Lake Side very much, and so do local people in Pokhara, too. They come people watching here and check in at their friends' or relatives' restaurants for a snack and a drink while looking at the wird tourists and the new buildings springing up. It's true - reversed tourism!
Unique Suggestions: Take the city bus on a complete round of Pokhara. From Lake side it goes up via the Baglung Bus station and Bogor (old town) down Chipledhunga, along Mahendrapool, over Prithvy Narayanchowk near the Kathmandu bus station, past the airport and through Dam Side and Lake Side again.
Or, get off the bus, say, near the general post office and roam around for a while and look at the markets and the colorful and beautiful people inhabiting this town or on visits down from the hills for shopping. Pokhara has a lot of services on offer, and generally more easily than in overcrowded Kathmandu. The central streets are quite clean and well-maintained. The restaurants up here offer Indian food, Nepali-Indian snacks and sweets and fruits and also everything needed for food on the trail.
Don't miss this part of Pokhara! You'll find out you're out on a branch, not the real world down there in Lake Side - but gee, how nice it is!
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Tibetan vendors in Pokhara
I will be very positive - the Tibetan vendors on Lake Side and elsewhere in Pokhara are so sweet and soft-spoken that they hardly constitute a hassle.
But if you do not need any of their stuff, don't stop. Because they are excellent traders and may well convince you to buy sand in the Gobi.
They will ask you hello, how are you, want to stop for a moment, no need to buy, please see some things... etc. etc. Some of the things they sell are really nice, most of it probably very newly made, but in Nepal even the junk is genuine adaption of someting of real use or origin.
Unique Suggestions: Watch the quality, discuss the price thorougly. Do a bit of "market research" before you settle to buy something of any value. Make sure that the price is approximately right before you buy. Do not encourage anybody to sell things that apparently is old and genuine family heirloom now sold out of desperation.
If you do a good deal, the lady with the nice chuba or bhakku with colorful apron will probably be less smiling than in the initial stages, but she would never had sold you anything without profitmaking! And, they will remember everyone they have traded with and you'll be greeted with a genuine hello next time - want something more today?
Fun Alternatives: In the Pokhara vicinity there are at least 4 Tibetan refugee camps cum settlements (since 1959). These places are where the Tibetan street vendors come from, on their daily rounds of Lake Side. The one in Hyangja and the Tashiling one are close to town, and accessible for a visit. They have nice gombas, monasteries, schools and a variety of handicraft shops. People here do good carpet weaving, too. Come here, see the places where they come from, take your time buying something you like, enjouy a bit of shopping and trading, and you have done well for yourself and probably for the community, too.
Around the settlements you may notice some new slum-like dwellings - these are the new refugees from the Maoist conflict and people evicted from their places of origing for other, probably economic reasons, and they make a living serving the Tibetan community to some extent.
Be Careful with Taxi Low Fees at Bus Station
Upon arrival, there are a lot of people getting around you saying "taxi, taxi, where do you want to go?" Actually it's not taxi business they are after, it's more hotel. They want to sell their hotel rooms.
Those people are not taxi drivers even. Their job is to get passengers onto a taxi, then the taxi driver pays him for his work. The ride to the city (like the lakeside) can be unbelievably low price because they drive you to a certain hotel and the hotel would pay the taxi driver again for bringing in a guest.
Well, it's OK if you happen to like that hotel. However there are many cases that you are not fully satisfied with the rooms or at least you want to have a look at others before you decide. Then there came a problem of the taxi driver. As he would claim that you have to pay such and such more for the normal fare... Nobody is happy in this case.
Unique Suggestions: Say you have a hotel reservation, or you only want to go to a certain place. Ask just the taxi fare to the place.
Make sure you speak to the real taxi driver intead of a middleman.
Buying pashmina shawls
There are plenty of shops in Pokhara Lakeside that want you to buy pashmina shawls. Many of these shops are owned by Kashmirins who have moved after the tourists: from Srinagar in Kashmir to Pokhara. Their trading custome of Northern India travelled with them, so you have to bargain hard. Actually, it is sometimes easier to make a purchase in a Nepalese-run shop, they make you feel more comfortable and do not start sky high from the real price and do not get upset with you. On the other hand, instead of a shawls of dubious quality, the Kashmiris have brought with them other fine handicrafts of wood, silk and leather.
Unique Suggestions: Know about shawls or be sure you want the item you are bargaining for. If you know about the various qualities and the general going price you can bargain from a known point. If you really want something you can pay any price and still be happy.
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