Eating my way through Japan

Japan is a really cool country to visit with super polite people, fancy toilets - they’re even heated, insanely fast trains (riding the Shinkansen i.e. bullet train was a tourist attraction in itself for me) and a really unique culture that I never could begin to understand without seeing it for myself. I’ve been intrigued by the idea of going to Japan for a while but I always have resisted since it’s not necessarily a cheap vacation and I was afraid I’d starve the entire time and live off of granola bars. Luckily, my fears were somewhat unfounded. Traveling in Japan obviously isn’t as cheap as going to somewhere like India or Ecuador but it wasn’t absolutely ridiculous by any means (the trip was about 1800 dollars for 10 days in Japan - including my flights, lodging, the Japan Rail pass which is an absolute must to get around the country economically and other daily expenses like food and tickets to museums and other attractions). And, I only packed 3 or 4 granola bars and came back alive and healthy, sporting a few extra pounds if I’m being honest. There are a bunch of different posts on what to do in Japan and the top attractions to see in each city, so I decided to focus this one on how to go about scavenging food if you’re vegan/vegetarian (there’s not that much dairy except for in pastries and breakfast foods so these are kind of interchangeable to an extent in Japan). I mostly based a lot of what I wanted to do off of this post, but before I jump into food specifics, here are general tips for traveling in Japan. 

Must dos: 

  • Get a Japan Rail pass if you’re staying for more than a few days so you can get around the country easily for much cheaper than it’d be to buy individual train tickets. You need to do this before you get to Japan so do it at the very least 1.5 weeks before so you can get it in the mail in time.

  • Stay in ryokan, which is a traditional style Japanese inn. They’re a bit expensive but huge breakfast and lunches are included within the price and it’s really an experience that’s worth paying for. We stayed in Fukuzumiro in Hakone and I’d highly recommend it not only for the vegan food options that are hard to find at ryokans but the amazing people and service and the peaceful onsens (Japanese baths/hot springs). If you don’t have a chance to go to Hakone there are a fair few in Kyoto as well.

  • Stay in Kyoto for at least a few days and bike around for a few of them. Check out the Nijo castle, Arashiyama monkey park and bamboo grove and DO NOT miss Fushimi Inari. Also go to Alpenrose bakery for delicious bread. 

  • Eat at T's Tantan in Tokyo station before catching a Shinkansen and if you’re not vegan get a donut from Siroteca donuts for dessert afterwards. Try to catch a view of the city from either Tokyo Tower, Skytree, or Tokyo City View (Roppongi Hills). We went to Roppongi Hills and it was amazing to see just how big the city is and we had a view of the Tokyo tower which was cool. 

  • Find a way to eat okonomiyaki in Hiroshima before or after visiting the beautiful peace park and visit Miyajima island and try to catch the sunset there. If you’re looking for a cheap, clean Airbnb check out any of Yukako’s rooms, she’s an absolutely amazing host and meeting her briefly was a highlight of the trip for me. 

Now onto food:

Our first night in Tokyo, we made the mistake of just walking into a restaurant that looked cute and hoping we could communicate well enough by showing them a notecard that described what I didn’t eat in Japanese and with slow, deliberate English. Even though a really nice gentlemen stepped in when he could tell we were struggling to communicate with the waitstaff, I ended up being served a fish soup and then a Japanese root vegetable completely covered in fish broth. Luckily, my boyfriend, Kaustubh, served as a happily obliging garbage disposal so it didn’t all go to waste but we learned right off the bat that finding fish-free food was going to take some planning ahead here. We started using Happycow.com which was super helpful and we almost always were able to find a place near where we were planning to be for the day that was either vegan or had vegan options. Also, finding veggie food ended up being a lot easier in Kyoto than Tokyo and was even really doable in Hiroshima, so the hardest part was just the beginning of the trip in Tokyo and somewhat in Hakone where we stayed one night to see Mt Fuji. 

Some overall tips on being vegan/vegetarian in Japan:

  1. Plan ahead - You don't have to know all of the places you’re going to eat before you get to Japan but at least the night before try to get an idea of where you’re going the next day and if there’s something on Happycow nearby that looks good to you. If not, make sure you go to a 7-11 or Lawsons and get some rice, red bean bao and snacks that will hold you over while you’re out exploring. Convenient stores are key when you’re vegan in Japan. It’s a bit hard to just walk into places and expect to people able to find something you can eat. If you don’t really have a choice a lot of places have veggie tempura with rice but for me that’s an unsatisfying, super unhealthy meal. 
  2. Be patient - Even with planning, sometimes things won’t work out the way you like. You’ll rush to a restaurant 15 minutes before closing after a full day of exploring and they’ll say the kitchen is closed or even with google maps and the address you’ll be unable to find a place. That’s ok and expected when traveling (also I say this now but in the moment when these things happened I was hangry af). So be patient and be ok with a less than ideal, makeshift meal once in a while. Some bread at the grocery store and fruits or just rice will have to do sometimes. Don’t think about your carb intake, just think about the fact that you legitimately need calories to be able to do all of the exploring you want to and you can watch your macros or whatever you like do when you get back. 
  3. Choose good company - It’s really important to go with someone that’s ok with eating vegan/vegetarian while in Japan or with eating meals separately some times because a lot of the places you’ll end up finding something to eat will be fully vegan, not just a place with vegan options. And sometimes you’ll end up going places that aren’t necessarily the most conveniently located relative to your plans/destinations of the day (I thought of this as a positive most of the time because we might not have seen some of the areas we did if we hadn’t been looking for vegan food). It’s a really shitty feeling to think that you’re inconveniencing someone, making them do things they don’t want to do/eat things they don’t want to eat and in general feel like people are annoyed at you, so just go with people that won’t care and will be really nice and positive. Kaustubh was a champion and was probably more concerned about me eating than I was so I lucked out, but I can imagine the trip wouldn’t have been as fun if I went with someone a little less patient that likes to be on a rigid, logical schedule/path. Also, don’t be super extra about being vegan - not just in Japan, but in general it’s unnecessary and people already think we’re annoying enough. 

Here are some of the better places we ate broken down by city/region with somewhat random ratings so you know which places to prioritize:

Tokyo

Nagi Shokudo (3.5/5) - A little bit hard to find, but this place is relatively close to Shibuya crossing which you’ll most probably visit if you’re in Tokyo so it’s worth going to if you’re looking for something to eat in the area because there really isn’t too much there. It’s pretty tasty and even has some baked goods if you’re looking for a treat after getting some curry or soup or fried soy balls. It’s really small and the ambience is quite nice. 

T’s Tantan (5/5) - An amazing vegan ramen place in Tokyo station. Definitely the best ramen I’ve ever had and really conveniently located to grab a bite while waiting for a Shinkansen. Must visit and I think even non-vegans would like it. 

Siroteca Donut (5/5) - Not vegan, but vegetarian with really cute and delicious donuts right next to Ti Tan Tan’s. Also a cool place to get fun little treats for coworkers, family or friends back home.

Hakone

Fukuzumiro (5/5) - This ryokan was an amazing place to stay at and they were really accommodating about my dietary restrictions and Kaustubh was able to still enjoy fish and other non-vegan things. Also, the service was incredible and it was beautifully situated right next to a stream. The hot springs were really relaxing and staying here was one of my favorite parts of the trip.

Kyoto

Omen (4/5) - Really conveniently located udon noodle shop place if you’re exploring Gion (the geisha district) or doing the Kyoto Free Walking Tour (would definitely recommend) . Delicious udon and good service but they just don't really have too many options, it’s a pretty plain udon noodle soup, but tasty nonetheless. 

Shinrin Shokudo (4.5/5) - This is a really cute Japanese curry place close to where we were staying in Kyoto (~15 minutes from Nijo station). It’s not vegan or vegetarian but they normally make one vegan curry every night. I thought it was quite tasty and the ambience was awesome - I think the place is an artist’s old studio or something like that. Also, the waiting area was beautiful and filled with all different types of plants. I probably would’ve enjoyed it more if we weren’t starving and had to wait about an hour, but the place was really busy. I’d recommend going here if you’re looking for a hip spot and a change from ramen, sushi or udon, but I wouldn’t say it’s an absolute must.  

Itadakizen (5/5) - Fully vegan restaurant with the best sushi I’ve ever had and an interesting vegan ramen that’s a lot creamier than the ramen I’m used to in Seattle. It’s a short menu and non-vegans probably wouldn’t enjoy it as much because they can’t just get regular sushi, but I was really glad that I went. The waitress was really nice as well. 

Arashiyama-kan (4/5) - This place was a pricy and the food was decently tasty, but what was awesome about it was the really cute older couple that owns it. The husband was the server and he would use google translate on his iPad to talk with us (he’d speak Japanese into the iPad and a robot voice would speak in mostly understandable English to us). We couldn’t really say too much back so we’d just smile and nod but I thought it was so cute that he had found a way to share his vast knowledge of Japan with his customers and admired his effort. I think his wife did all of the cooking and it was awesome they ran just them. Also, it’s right by the monkey park so it’s really conveniently located to grab lunch in Arashiyama before heading back to center city Kyoto. 

Hiroshima/Miyajima

Okonomiyaki (100/5 - not a typo) - We really wanted to try okonomiyaki (a Japanese style savory pancake) in Hiroshima since that’s the region the dish is from and found a place in Hiroshima center city on Happycow that apparently had vegan/vegetarian options. The traditional dish has fish sauce and egg and pork, so definitely not veggie friendly. Unfortunately, we were 0 for 2 in our attempts to go to this restaurant - the first night it was less than 30 minutes until closing time so the kitchen was closed and the second night the entire restaurant was closed since they’re always closed on Tuesdays. Still, we didn’t give up on our attempts to try okonomiyaki and found a place on Happycow that was vegan friendly in Hiroshima station. What we didn’t realize was that the entire floor within the station was filled with little okonomiyaki stalls and it was impossible to find the particular one that had been reviewed on Happycow (we were also short for time and ultimately missed our train, but the pancake was 100% worth it). Eventually, we just ended up asking in one of the stalls if they could make a vegan Okonomiyaki and even though they didn’t speak English super well, we were able to communicate what I couldn’t eat and they even had a vegetable sauce to replace the fish sauce. I’m not sure if we somehow just ended up at the place that was reviewed on Happycow or if it was another one, but that okonomiyaki was probably my favorite thing I ate in Japan, even though I felt like I wanted to vomit since I ate it so quickly because I was trying to make my train. Kaustubh really loved his non-vegan one too. 

Art Cafe Elk (3.5/5)  - I think I would’ve liked going here for breakfast or dessert more than for dinner (they have amazing looking vegan pancakes) but I decided to include it because the owner was incredibly nice and it’s a good place to go if you’re looking for a break from Japanese food for a bit. They have Japanese food as well but also some more western options. I ended up getting the yakiudon which was really good and well flavored, I just wish there were some more vegetables/tofu with it, it was mostly noodle. It’s also conveniently located in center city Hiroshima

Yamaichi Bekkan (4.5/5) - From my understanding, this place is a ryokan as well but has a restaurant for people that aren’t staying there. There was some pretty good vegan miso soup and veggie sushi. I was very happy to have an avocado roll - I hadn’t had avocado in a while and for anyone that knows my dietary habits well, that wasn’t acceptable. I was really happy with my food and full but it wasn’t particularly remarkable from my end, meanwhile Kaustubh said it was the best sushi he’d ever had in his entire life so if you’re not vegan or going to Japan with someone who’s not vegan make sure you check this place out. It’s a great place to fill up before hiking Mount Misen on Miyajima Island. Also, if you’re not vegan and looking for a dessert after definitely get some momoji cakes which are originally from Miyajima and these maple leaf shaped cakes (apparently momoji means maple leaf) normally with some cream filling.

 

A Glimpse Into Nepal

Several months ago (May 2017 - clearly writing timely blog posts isn’t my forte), I had the amazing opportunity to go to Nepal. Throughout the past couple of years I’ve traveled to several countries over 6 continents (not quite sure if I’ll ever make it to Antartica tbh) and Nepal stands out as one of the most beautiful ones I’ve been to, not just because the Himalayas, but also the vibrant people and culture. Highlights of the trip include trudging forward on our trek after hearing some words of motivation from an encouraging sherpa, getting my eyebrows done by a hardworking cosmetician who refused to accept an extra twenty cents as a tip, looking up and seeing more stars than sky and staying in a traditional Newari type hotel in Kathmandu. Full disclosure: my sister and I went primarily for the trek so didn’t do as much city exploring as most people would likely do so while I still have some general insight into Kathmandu and Pokhara like places to eat and a few sights, this post won’t be the most helpful for those types of recommendations. Also, I tried to keep the post concise, but I ended up failing pretty miserably, so if you want a more barebones itinerary, please refer to this.

Before I get into a day by day rundown, here’s what I’d tell anyone that’s looking to do a trek in Nepal:

When deciding what trek to do there are a few things you should consider.

  1. Time Off - Since we had a limited amount of time to be in Nepal doing something like Everest Base Camp or the Annapurna Circuit wouldn’t have been feasible for us. The Poon Hill trek was the perfect trek for us to get a glimpse of the Himalayas and all the adventure Nepal has to offer in a short amount of time, but if we had more time, we definitely would’ve opted for the Annapurna Circuit because both of us had heard amazing things.
  2. Fitness Level - To do a trek like Everest Base Camp or some of the other more rigorous treks you should be in pretty great shape. Although the companies help you with acclimatization and you often ease into the trekking, it’s a lot of elevation gain daily so there really are no off days. I hike very regularly and am pretty active so I thought the Poon Hill trek would be relatively easy for me because it’s considered a beginner-level trek, but it definitely was not. It was a challenging, albeit doable, trek, so make sure you’re prepared physically for whatever adventure you choose. To be fair, I didn’t get a porter and carried all of my own stuff for the trek and packed way too much, with a porter I think the trek would’ve been a lot easier so that’s definitely an option worth considering if you have the budget and don’t want to lug around all of your stuff. 
  3. Solo vs. Guided vs. Group - If you’re opting to do a more rigorous trek and not super budget conscious, it might be a good idea to do it with a guide or through a company. We felt that we could definitely do the Poon Hill trek without a guide because it’s very frequented and not super long and we both are experienced hikers. I definitely would’ve gotten a guide if I were doing anything more challenging. We met an amazing guide that I’d highly recommend named Ram, if you want a more independent experience (i.e. not large group setting) but feel like you need a guide. Definitely get in touch with me if you’d like to be connected! We also met a group that was with Intrepid Travel and they all had great things to say about their program and their guides, so I would recommend checking out the packages they have to offer.
  4. Season - There are peak seasons for trekking in which prices go up and you need to book accommodation and packages ahead of time. Planning ahead is not something my sister and I are good at, so luckily we were still trekking during monsoon season which many people avoid because of the frequent, sporadic rainfall. If you hate rain and are afraid of having to alter plans, perhaps traveling during monsoon season wouldn’t be the best idea for you, but if you hate crowds and are cheap and super flexible, it’s probably for you. 

A few more quick points before I jump in:

  • Make sure you buy your trekking permit as soon as you get to Kathmandu (unless you’re going with an agency who would be doing it for you)
  • It’s completely possible to do a trek without a guide or porter and just depends on your preferences/budget
  • Not to miss in Kathmandu: Patan Durbar/Staying at Newa Chen, Monkey Temple, Dhokaima Cafe
  • The bus from Kathmandu to Pokhara is a bit rough, so be prepared if you get motion sick or plan ahead and buy a flight if your budget permits
  • Even though May is rainy season in Nepal the trek was definitely doable and only hindered a bit by rain, if anything I enjoyed it more cause it was probably less crowded than normal, even though it was still pretty busy
  • There aren't that many mid-length treks, so if you don’t have over 10 days allotted for trekking, the Ghorepani/Poon Hill trek is one of the best bets and apparently you can add on 1-2 days by going to a hot spring in the region for a total of 5-6 days of trekking rather than 4-5
  • Nepal is amazing, the people are so nice and humble and you’ll have a blast. Make sure you eat a bunch of momos and take advantage of the unlimited Daal Bhat!

Day 1

Kathmandu 

The journey to Nepal from Seattle was, unsurprisingly, long and boring, but it’s definitely worth the flight time. Both my sister and I arrived pretty early to Kathmandu on Sunday 5/13. We made our way to our hostel from the airport. The price of the airport taxis seemed to be set and regulated, so even though the fare was a bit higher than expected (800 Nepali Rupees, ~8 USD) I don’t think we were getting ripped off. The hostel wasn’t in Tamel where a lot of backpackers and tourists stay because my sister heard from a friend that Tamel is pretty hectic and crowded so we opted to stay in Swayambhu, a bit outside of the heart of the city, where the popular Monkey Temple is located. I think staying here especially for our first two nights was a good idea since a lot of our time was spent sleeping to get over our jetlag. Our intention was to stay in Kathmandu one night and make our way over to Pokhara and start a trek the next day, but we quickly learned our plans wouldn’t work for two reasons: 1) Nepali elections were taking place Monday the 14th, so all roads were basically closed so getting in and out of Kathmandu would be impossible and 2) There isn't really a 6 or 7 day trek which is what we were hoping to do, or at least none of the people in Kathmandu we asked for recommendations knew of one. The trek we ending up doing was 4 days, some people even did it in 3. Apparently there is a hot spring we could’ve added on that would’ve been 1-2 extra days which would’ve been good to know but probably wouldn’t have worked out anyways since we had to spend an extra day in Kathmandu due to the election. Most other popular treks such as the Annapurna circuit, Annapurna Base Camp and Everest Base Camp are much longer (10-17 days) so none of them could’ve fit in our time frame. 

We used this day to get our trekking permits, which you definitely need to have. There are a couple of permit checkpoints throughout all of the treks so it’s good to keep the permit easily accessible on the trek. The permits cost $40/each, which was definitely one of our biggest expenses throughout the trip. I’d recommend having a fair bit of Nepali rupees or at least USD upon arrival. We struggled to find ATMs and often times my card didn't work for no apparent reason, so not having to worry about taking out any money and just converting cash would’ve been a lot nicer. 

Day 2

Kathmandu

Due to the Nepali elections a lot of roads were closed down, so we opted to walk to the nearby Monkey Temple, which is overrun with savage monkeys who definitely do not fear humans. The monkeys steal any and all food from the tourists (the locals seem to be better at holding on to their stuff) and I even saw a monkey unwrapping and chowing down on a KIND bar. I decided to purchase watermelon from a local vendor, but after eating a total of two slices of watermelon a monkey ran by and knocked all the watermelon out of my plate and started eating it. Although, I was pretty annoyed cause the watermelon was tasty, it was kind of hilarious. The monkey temple also had a pretty awesome view of Kathmandu itself so was worth visiting outside of just the monkeys themselves.

Day 3 

Kathmandu > Pokhara

Because our trek started in Nayapool, which is closer to the Annapurna region and a bit Northeast of Kathmandu, we needed to make our way over there. Nayapool is a pretty small town with limited accommodation, so some locals recommended we stay in Pokhara, which is a lakeside city filled with lots of tourists about one hour from Nayapool There are multiple ways to get from Kathmandu to Pokhara. The three main options are to take the tourist bus, a local bus, and a plane. The plane is somewhat expensive (compared to the $8 tourist bus) and requires planning ahead and the local bus apparently is a pretty hectic experience with a lot of stops, but apparently can get you to Pokhara a little bit faster than the tourist bus. Taking those factors into consideration, we opted for the tourist bus and just asked our hostel owner to help us purchase tickets and show us the stop. If, as the locals say it is, the tourist bus is smoother than the local bus, I definitely DO NOT recommend taking the local bus. I felt extremely sick the entire ride to Pokhara because of the terrible road conditions. It may be a good idea to bring some motion sickness medicine to plan ahead for this bus ride. Upon arriving at the tourist bus station we were swarmed by people trying to sell us rooms and we were able to find accommodation for 400 rupees each or 4 dollars, but apparently that is the mid-range of the prices in Pokhara. The town has a bunch of backpackers and hippies and there are hostels and guest homes everywhere making prices pretty low. There were some cute restaurants and shops at the lake that we explored and we especially loved having some delicious (albeit expensive for Nepal) smoothies at am/pm organic cafe. I’d recommend finding accommodation in the area near this cafe, it was a bit less crowded and hectic than some of the other areas of Pokhara where people seemed to be partying all night. 

Day 4 

Pokhara > Nayapool > Ulleri

 Pretty views all around right from the beginning of the trek. 

Pretty views all around right from the beginning of the trek. 

On Day 4, we got a taxi from Pokhara to Nayapool, which took about an hour and had some pretty bumpy roads along the way but amazing views of mountains that we hadn’t really been exposed to yet. Once we reached Nayapool we got some snacks from a small convenience store and headed on our way to the trek. We had no set itinerary except for basic outlines of what towns we’d want to stay in each night. We were told that it wouldn’t be too difficult to find accommodation (Nepali teahouses) because it wasn’t peak season, and that held true. 

We asked a couple people for directions and eventually stumbled on a walking path and were assured this was the right place to start for the Poon Hill trek, even though it didn’t seem like it to us, but sure enough we hit at TIMS permit checkpoint in 1-2 kilometers and from then on knew we were going the right way. Our end destination for the day was a small village called Ulleri with a couple of teahouses, that most people doing this trek stop at. The trek was much different than what we expected. Most of the path is stone stairs, with a few dirt roads interspersed throughout. Also, the trek went through small mountain villages throughout and was not really remote. I never had the feeling that I was in the middle of nowhere, away from most civilization. Also, funnily, the paths we were on were also trafficked by mules, which sometimes had their own ideas of the best way forward that were not in alignment with those of their herders. The start of this day was not too taxing, but the last couple of kilometers was just climbing up a lot of stairs and by the end of the day we were pretty exhausted. We didn’t stay in the first teahouse we stumbled upon in Ulleri, as much as I was tempted to. And I’m glad we didn’t because the place we ended up staying was a bit higher up in the town and had a wonderful rooftop were I attempted to take my first starscape photographs of the trip. 

The teahouses provided simple accommodation (normally just a barebones bed and a shared bathroom, that sometimes had a hot shower) and a restaurant. All of the teahouses along the trek we went on are regulated and have the same menu with some basic Nepali dishes and some western dishes as well. Tip: if you’re hungry and want good fuel for all the trekking you’re doing, stick with getting Daal Bhat. There’s a Nepali saying that goes “Daal Bhat power 24 hour” and it totally makes sense, it’s energizing food. All Daal Bhat is unlimited refills, and honestly probably the tastiest food at all of the teahouses, because it’s traditional Nepali food that most people are used to cooking. If you’re unfamiliar with Daal Bhat, it’s basically a full meal that comes with a potato curry, rice (bhat), and a lentil based soup (daal). Momos, which are basically Nepali-style dumplings, are also a tasty option. Overall, I’d stick with eating mostly Nepali food when on the treks if you want the best quality. The pizzas and sandwiches are pretty bad, at least at the teahouses I went to. I’m vegan and never eat meat, but I think even if I weren’t I’d stick to mostly meatless dishes to avoid potential sickness and to keep costs low. Overall, choosing a teahouse isn’t too difficult and most of them are pretty similar, but I did like to ensure the one I was staying at would have a good view from the rooftop and I’d ask to see the room before committing. Normally we would pay right before leaving for the next day, and we always just paid for our dinner and breakfast and that would include the accommodation (this is important to negotiate beforehand). 

Day 5

Ulleri > Ghorepani

 Meeting Rambhaiya, an energetic and encouraging guide was a highlight of this day and the trek. 

Meeting Rambhaiya, an energetic and encouraging guide was a highlight of this day and the trek. 

The next day, after getting our first taste of teahouse accommodation, which was a lot better than we expected, we headed on our way to Ghorepani. Ghorepani was definitely one of the biggest towns along the trek, which makes sense, since Poon Hill is a 45 minute climb up from Ghorepani, so people probably stay there a bit more than some of the other places. The walk from Ulleri to Ghorepani was, again, mostly uphill and required climbing a bunch of steps, but didn’t seem as bad as the day before, maybe cause we were a bit more used to the grind. We did definitely struggle at the end but got some encouragement from an amazing sherpa called Ram Bhaiya, who told us we only had 20 minutes left to go before reaching Ghorepani and helped us find a teahouse with a good view where I tried to take some more starscapes, although it was a bit too cloudy for an standout shots. 

Day 6 

Ghorepani > Poon Hill > Tadapani

We didn’t get to stay at the teahouse too long because typically it’s best to go to Poon Hill for sunrise, so we were up before 5 AM making our way up to the view point. I completely forgot about how annoyed I was at having to wake up so early and climb up 45 minutes worth of stairs by the time we reached Poon Hill because were rewarded with one of the most unforgettable views of the trek (after all, this is supposed to be the highlight - I’m not convinced it was for me though). We hung around Poon Hill for a bit and got some lemon teas, before heading back down to Ghorepani and preparing for the upcoming trek to Tadapani. Ghorepani to Tadapani was probably my favorite of portion of the trek and at one point we saw piles and piles of cairns by a stream and weirdly enough that was one of my favorite views of the trek, even though I had just gotten to see sunrise over the Annapurna region of the Himalayas that morning. I just really liked the sense of community around this trek even though it attracts people from all different pockets of the world and the fact that people just built on what was initially just one cairn (although I could definitely be reading into these cairns are a display of human unity way too much). It rained a bunch towards the end of our trek to Tadapani and this ended up being one of the harder days of trekking for us, probably cause it went a fair bit downhill and hurt our knees a lot. When we reached Tadapani, we again opted to find a teahouse that’d have an awesome view so we kept going up past the inital few teahouses we saw, and I’m really glad we did because I got this starscape photo that I’m really happy with (I think the heavy rains made it so that all the clouds had cleared up by night time). We also met an awesome group of trekkers that were going to go to Annapurna base camp with Intrepid Travel after finishing the Poon Hill trek. They were all super nice and let us borrow some massage rollers, which I didn’t realize I direly needed until after I used them. 

Day 7

Tadapani > Gandruk > Kimche > Nayapool

Gandruk

I was really dreading the last day of our trek because I really didn’t want to leave the mountains and I had such an amazing trek, but all good things come to an end eventually so we make our way from Tadapani to Ghandruk, where we stopped for lunch at a teahouse called Excellent View Lodge and had the most amazing Dal Bhaat we had of the entire trek. We hung around there for a bit and enjoyed our last bit of time in the Himalayas before continuing down to Kimche, where we were able to find a bus back to Pokhara. Once we made it to Pokhara, we found a hostel, ate dinner and passed out after a pretty full few days of trekking. 

Day 8

Kathmandu

 Nepali Vendor in Patan Durbar

Nepali Vendor in Patan Durbar

We caught the dreaded bus back to Kathmandu in the morning and luckily it felt slightly less bumpy this time around and I didn’t feel like I wanted to die. We decided to stay in a different area in Kathmandu for our last night in Nepal and I’m really glad we did. There are three Durbar Squares in Kathmandu, which are all UNESCO World Heritage sites. From my understanding, Durbar Squares are basically plazas across from where Newari (indigenous people to Kathmandu area) palaces were built. We heard that the Patan Durbar square was a great area to stay in and a friend recommended staying at Newa Chen, which offers traditional Newari accommodation (very low ceilings, central courtyard, simple floor mattresses). I’m so glad we stayed there, even though it was one of the more expensive things we did on the trip. The location in Patan Durbar was awesome and it was a great to have a glimpse into how some Newari lived. Newa Chen is pretty close to a place called Dhokaima Cafe, which apart from the daal bhat at Excellent View Lodge on the trek, definitely was my favorite place to eat in Nepal. Today and the next day, I mostly explored the Durbar Square and enjoyed staying in beautiful Newa Chen. Exploring Nepal (at least for the first time) was a once in a lifetime experience and I'm happy to have ended it there. 

 

Thanks for reading if you've made it this far and please comment or get in touch with me if you have any questions at all! Would love to talk Nepal/travel/trekking/etc! 

My Top 10 Hikes of 2017

For my first post, I thought it'd be helpful to share places that I've loved to hike (and therefore photograph) this last year. The first 6 places are in the Pacific Northwest and all doable as a day-trip from Seattle, with the exception of the 6th (Eagle Creek to Punch Bowl Falls), which is much more doable as a day-trip from Portland. The last 4 are hikes from the 4 different countries I was lucky enough to travel to in 2017. I hope this post can inspire some of your hiking bucket lists! Or if you hate hiking, I hope you like the photos :-).