Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Tiger Mountain Lodge Pokhara

Dusk on the patio - a magical setting
We almost never made it to the Tiger Mountain Lodge in Pokhara. Kathmandu and most of the lower valleys of Nepal were covered in a thick smoke and dust haze which had severely restricted flight movement. The day before most flights had been cancelled but luckily, on the morning of our departure to Pokhara, the haze cleared and Buddha Air flew us into Pokhara, albeit an hour late.

At the airport we were greeted by Krishna, one of Pokhara Lodge’s efficient drivers, with some inviting cold towels and chilled mineral water - a very considerate touch. Krishna told us it would take around 30 minutes to the lodge. We left Pokhara airport and drove east, following the highway to Kathmandu. After about 15 minutes Krishna turned left onto a nondescript lane heading north into the mountains. The road soon narrowed and began to climb - it was an attractive drive with terraced paddy fields, bird calls and magnificent Himalayan griffon vultures soaring high above the valley riding the thermals.

View over Annapurna South and Machhapuchhare looking north
The Pokhara Lodge is superbly placed on a ridge at an altitude of around 1,150 metres east of Pokhara town. The property sprawls across seven acres and has 18 rooms in stone and slate cottages with wooden beams and windows which merge unobtrusively with the surroundings. The cottages are built into the surrounding forest so trees and foliage are right outside every window, framing the mountain views. There are beautifully designed seating areas outside the main bedrooms, with verandas overlooking the white peaks. The large rooms are tastefully furnished – ours had a large four poster bed with ethnic curtains and comfortable cane sofas. Thoughtful details like a torch, an umbrella and emergency lanterns are provided for the visitor. The elegant bed side lamps for reading are also a welcome addition missing in many modern hotels today. And when you return to the cottage at night, a hot water bottle is in your bed ready to warm your toes- a lovely addition in winter! To maintain the natural peace and sanctity of the Lodge there is no television or wifi in the cottages, although wifi connectivity is available in the main lounge and dining areas and it works well.

 A cottage bedroom

The sit out overlooking the mountains
On a clear day the visitor is greeted with an enormous sweep of the Himalaya including the Annapurnas, Machhapuchhare and Lamjung Himal. To the far west lie Gurja Himal and Dhaulagiri and further to the east is Manaslu and Ngadi Chuli. Sadly that first morning as we sipped a cup of iced lemon tea on the Lodge patio, a stubborn band of haze still blanketed the entire range.

Around noon, the sky began to darken as we walked from our cottage to the dining area. Lunch was served in the courtyard overlooking the valley below and the mountains above. The fare was exceptional and presented with a touch of panache. The Nepali ‘alu ko achar” was tangy and tart, and the organic vegetables from the Lodge garden were cooked with a flavour which was both tasty and delicious. While we lunched, the heavens opened and amidst a bout of dramatic thunder and lightning, it even began to hail. It was darkness at noon with the trees bent over in the lashing rain and howling wind. Jhalak Chaudhary, who has been with Tiger Mountain since it opened in 1998, welcomed the rain and so did we. ‘This strong shower will clear the atmosphere and maybe the mountains will be clear tomorrow’ he said. We kept our fingers crossed.




Next to the main living room which features a central fireplace, the Lodge has a small library with a collection of books owned by the late Colonel Jimmy Roberts. Roberts was the founder of Mountain Travel – Nepal’s first trekking company in the 1960s. He led an unsuccessful attempt on Machhapuchhare in 1964, after which the Nepal government put the sacred Fishtail peak out of bounds for climbers. Roberts's library has a very interesting collection of books including some early Himalayan and Alpine journals.



Marcus Cotton, the Managing Director of Tiger Mountain, informed me that one of the best views of the Fishtail mountain is framed through the doorway on entering the Lodge.

Sunset view over Pokhara valley
The rain stopped after an hour and we were treated to a spectacular evening. To the west, the Pokhara valley and the Phewa Tal lake were back-lit by the setting sun filtering through the dark rain clouds. To the east, the hand-cut stone walls of the Lodge were burnished ochre against an angry grey-blue sky. To the north, above a band of cumulus clouds the base of Machhapuchhare appeared fresh with new snow. As we watched in awe, I suddenly noticed a pair of yellow throated martens crossing the path and vanishing into the forest. It was a rare sighting for me, and a bonus to say the least. At dinner Marcus mentioned that a female leopard is often seen around the Lodge in the evenings!

Pokhara at night from the lodge
Dinner at Tiger Mountain is a four-course sit down affair with wine and a change of plates in a style not seen in today's hotels. We savoured a meal of curried apple and mint soup, mixed vegetable salad with a jaggery dressing, piquant pork with mashed potatoes, crunchy beans and zucchini, and finally, homemade chocolate brownies with vanilla ice cream and toffee sauce! After dinner, outside on the stone-flagged balcony the stars were visible and to the west the lights of Pokhara shone against the grey-black hills.

View of Machhapuchhare and Annapurna III from the swimming pool

The rain miraculously cleared the haze and sunrise next morning was crystal clear from our bedroom window. I walked up to the swimming pool and was greeted by Macchapuchhare reflected in the water. From Dhaulagiri to Lamjung Himal the entire range was visible covered with crisp fresh snow. As I photographed the white mountain reflection in the pool, I spotted a Himalayan whistling thrush and a pair of white-cheeked bulbuls foraging in the shrubs nearby. The raucous calls of the Himalayan tree pie shattered the silence of the morning.

Marcus Cotton (right) at breakfast with a guest

Breakfast on the patio was another excellent experience. The Lodge served fresh juice, muesli, yoghurt, eggs to order, sausages, mushrooms and homemade breads of various kinds with homegrown mulberry jam and orange marmalade, washed down with delicious organic coffee.



Tiger Mountain follows a sustainable tourism model and supports the villages around Pokhara Lodge. Local vegetables, spices and fruits are bought from the villagers. Schools are supported with educational materials and teachers, and other programmes include rural health, education and community forestry. The surrounding forests are protected by guards sponsored by Tiger Mountain, and the Lodge tries to ensure that all its operations have the smallest negative environmental impact.

There are a variety of guided day walks in the hills around which offer opportunities to visit the neighbouring villages and forest. Some popular hikes are the Pokhara Valley Rim, and Thulakot and Ramchekot circuit. The Lodge organises butterfly excursions, and bird watching walks with expert naturalists as the area is particularly rich in bird life.



We spent the next morning after breakfast sitting in the sunny courtyard looking at the great white peaks. It was a perfect day after the rain - calm and still. My wife Paula started to sketch the mountains around the valley. Around me in the forests below a multitude of bird calls could be heard, high in the sky soared the eagles, kites and vultures, a butterfly landed close by and flew away as soon as I tried to take a photograph. It was a glorious morning to do nothing and soak in the amazing mountain views.

At dinner on the second evening I met a couple from Britain who had returned to the Lodge for the sixth time. When I asked them why they kept coming back to Tiger Mountain their reply was: ‘The peace and tranquillity bring us back. There is no routine to follow and you can do exactly what you want. The service is so inconspicuous and discreet it is as if everything is happenings behind the scenes. It is most un-hotel like, if you know what I mean. And the views are to die for!’



For a few days rest in the shadow of some of the greatest mountains in the world Tiger Mountain Pokhara Lodge receives top marks. Unobtrusive and unpretentious, the team go about their work quietly and efficiently, making sure guests are comfortable but never bothered. Personalised service, which has more or less vanished today, is a hallmark of this property. Highly recommended as one of the leading boutique properties in the world today!

The Information
How to reach
The lodge is located on Kandani Danda ridge around 30 minutes drive from Pokhara airport. Pokhara is connected by many daily flights from Kathmandu, flying time is 30 minutes.
Best Time
October to December and March to early May would be the best season for Pokhara Lodge. Although cold, January and February feature some of the best mountain views. It closes from mid June to early September during the monsoon months.
Rooms and Tariff
There are 18 rooms in self contained cottages with verandas overlooking the mountains. US$250 per person per night plus taxes including all meals, pick up and drop from Pokhara and guided walks around the lodge.

Contact
Tiger Mountain (P) Limited
GPO Box 2018, 31 Chundevi Marg, Maharajgunj, Kathmandu, Nepal
T +9771 4720580
Kandani Danda, Lekhnath NP Ward #5, Kaski, Nepal

Reservations tmktm@tigermountainpokhara.com
Tel +977 (0)1 472 0580


3 comments:

  1. Looks like a Tempting Place !

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  3. This is awesome post. Thanks for sharing this post

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