After the heat and dust of the Terai (the flat, low lands at the foothills of the Himalayas), we knew it was time to head north towards one of the tourist capitals of Nepal, Pokhara. But, having all the time in the world for once, we wanted to go slowly and visit some places on the way. The first of these was Tansen, which is a stunning town nestled below a 2,000m ridge. Tansen is filled with ancient, decorative Newari buildings, many of which are being well looked after or even restored. It is a busy, working town and subsequently isn’t too dressed-up for the tourists. We stayed with a local school master, Man Mohan and his family. Everywhere we went people knew of him, probably because they’d all been taught by him at some point! He was a font of knowledge and we relaxed on his rooftop for many days, eating mo:mo’s, dal bhat and drinking various Nepalese beers.
We had the pleasure of meeting a few people passing through his guest house too and managed a 21km day walk to Rani Mahal (or Rani Ghat). The 1,000m vertical drop to this abandoned palace was well worth the pain. In a similar fashion to the Taj Mahal, the Rani Mahal was built by the Chief Governor of the region after his favourite wife died in 1892. Needless to say, it is quite a way from anywhere and they had to remove a cliff to build the thing, but he persevered and finished it within 4 years. It was lavishly furnished with marble and carpets but now only the basics remain. It perches on the banks of the raging Kali Gandaki river which comes all the way from huge mountains, near the Tibetan border. It is a fantastic spot. I’d build my palace there, sorry I mean, Nickiy’s palace!