between the lake and the mountain

Everyone who wants to travel in Nepal is suggested destinations that are already thriving with tourist activity. Just a little more effort can get you and your friends to a Nepal outside of these touristy places that so many romanticize about but very less actually find and enjoy.

The image of the Annapurna range, particularly Machapuchhare or Fish Tail reflected on the Phewa Lake in Pokhara is a common and widely recognized sight. Recently we found out that what lies between these two great and popular landmarks is even more fascinating. The way we market tourism products or destinations has chosen to focus on the image of the lake and the mountain but it is now time to “sell” all that is in between. For example, did you think that the towns of Baglung and Kusma have good hotels where you can spend an extra night? At Kusma, there is an amazing suspension bridge that almost everyone likes to walk across and over the Modi River and take a picture doing so. It is a picture perfect spot, and a picture is worth a thousand words.

In Baglung, how about spending a whole morning trying your hand at making and understanding lhokta paper craft and its historical rise and fall? Remember the good old days when all government offices used stationary items made out of lhokta paper from Baglung and surrounding areas? Remember the more recent UNICEF cards? Would you like to spend another day walking over numerous suspension bridges and doing an insightful study tour of how the famous and skilled blacksmiths of Baglung designed and hand crafted chain bridges centuries before the steel cable displaced their profession? Or how about spending an afternoon on the banks of the Kali Gandaki River looking for shaligraam (fossils) or even panning for gold? All of these are great ways to get out of the big cities and be in the Nepal that so many foreigners romanticize about. The best part is that all these can be done with the knowledge of the comfort of the hotels in Baglung or Kusma and Beni.

Build on what we have. Let us move the conversation in Nepal away from what we do not have. If the tourist is already impressed with the lake and the mountain it takes very little effort to ask, “Would you like to see what is in between?” The Kali Gandaki River itself is a great adventure sports destination just like the paragliding that is doing so well already in Pokhara. The round trip could take the visitor to Palpa as well and even down to Lumbini.

If you have a guest who wants to see a village and its school and library or even a health post or hospital, go to Kusma, walk across the beautifully constructed suspension bridge and hike up to Phalibas. It has one of the best community libraries, health services and high school. The village setting, the agriculture and the well managed forest, are worth the hike. All we are trying to do is give great reasons for visitors to stay longer in Nepal. Let us not forget to mention the great view of the Annapurna range and of Dhaulagiri as one drives from Pokhara to Baglung. Daal bhaat of a high quality is served all along the highway as well as some excellent millet brandy. Next time you travel, go beyond Pokhara.

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