Sunday, 15th January 2023, turned out to be a devastating turn of events for the pilots, cabin crew members and passengers flying the Yeti Airlines flight 691 landing in Nepal’s tourist city of Pokhara, the gateway to the popular hiking trail in the Himalayas, Annapurna, after a 27-minute trip from Kathmandu. It was confirmed that all 72 occupants on board were killed, making it one of the deadliest accidents involving an ATR 72 (twin-engine turboprop).
My phone was full of messages when I woke on the morning of the crash to see if I was okay. A few days earlier, I posted a picture of me enjoying lunch with monks in Pokhara on Instagram and Twitter, a surreal moment I shared. Unless people had followed my social media stories in detail, the assumption would have been that I was still in Pokhara, which wasn’t the case.
I immediately messaged people I had connected with during my time in Pokhara to see if they were okay. It’s an instant reaction from people with a heart. I had to send out a post to tell everyone I was safe at home, saddened by the incident.
One of the reels I had posted about Pokhara also went viral due to the unfortunate incident. Not precisely how I would like things to flourish.
Local Nepalese started commenting on my post, saying, “Use vehicles, don’t use domestic flights in Nepal.” “Never board any flights from Nepal, especially the domestic ones.” “Don’t use airlines from Nepal…” “First tip is, do not board a flight; I repeat, do not board a flight.” The comments went on and on.
The anticipation of travel gives me butterflies in my stomach. We all have to be cautious before jetting off anywhere. An incident like this can tarnish a place’s reputation, marking it unsafe to travel to if you are constrained with time or don’t like to travel via the road. As I returned from Pokhara not long ago, I am here to tell you that this incident should not stop you from visiting this beautiful city.
Pokhara ticks all the relevant boxes, with breathtaking scenery such as the Annapurna mountains being a sight of dreams, adventure activities (I will come on to my bungee jump), and food choices galore with Dal (lentils) Bhat (rice) leading the way. The accommodations are stunning, too, especially if you are near the lakeside. It is the perfect place to recharge your batteries, whether you’ve returned from a trek of Annapurna or endured a bumpy car ride (an experience to remember) on Nepal’s finest roads.
I was ushered around Nepal by tour agencies, Going Nepal & Nepal Luxury Escapes, both owned by one owner, Liladhar Bhandari. Bhandari came up with my itinerary for the trip, and one of the places suggested was Pohkara. A friend told me about bungee jumping there a few years back, so I had that in my mind before the trip. Once I got told about the scenery, the place was sold to me, and I couldn’t wait to go.
The fastest way to travel to Pokhara would be by air, and various reputable airlines fly into Pokhara daily. After the incident, I spoke to Bhandari, who told me, “I respect what my fellow Nepalese friends are saying about our airlines on your socials, but there are other airlines, such as Buddha Air. They are a very trustworthy airline in Nepal, and my clients and I are always flying with them.” Which again re-emphasises that there are other safer airlines around.
However, I advise anyone travelling around Nepal to do so through the road. The roads might be bumpy, but that is all part of the experience. You will witness villages and cities that you would never think to go to and get the chance to stop in one of them for either tea, coffee, or perhaps lunch. Most of the time, you will get an incredible view of the landscapes.
Not to mention it’s sustainably travelling the country as well.
While driving into the city, you can enjoy the stunning clear view of the snow-capped Annapurna mountains, most notably Mount Machapuchare, also known as Fish Tail Mountain. The mountains are around 20 kilometres from the lake.
Once I arrived in Pokhara, there was an instant serene feeling compared to Kathmandu. That feeling was felt when I went for a canoe ride across the lake. During my relaxing ride, I got another picturesque angle of Annapurna with the lake, in which I snapped about 200 photos. The ride took me over to the other side of the city, and I took a short hike up to the top of the hill to get a stunning panoramic view of Pokhara. It was breathtaking.
If that wasn’t enough for me to fall in love with Pokhara, then the sunrise certainly did it. I woke up at 4.30 am to head over to the top of Sarangkot. I’ve seen some sunrises in my time, but this is up there as one of the best I’ve ever seen. I was in awe of what I had witnessed. It was the most beautiful sunrise overlooking Annapurna. A truly magical experience.
There’s much more to Pokhara than its relaxed appeal. I mentioned my bungee jump; the city boasts a thriving adventure sports industry. I had a choice between going on a bungee jump or paragliding, and I couldn’t decide between the two. I got told that Pokhara is arguably the best paragliding venue on the planet, with white-water rivers surrounding your glide.
That said, I decided against it and went ahead with the jump. I had paraglided in Turkey a few years ago, but I had an incredible adrenaline rush from my last bungee jump in Costa Rica a year earlier. I wanted to feel that rush again, and I couldn’t have been happier with my choice. That feeling is unlike anything else you will ever feel. You will have to try it to believe what I mean.
Once I came back down to earth, I was hungry to try some traditional Nepalese food. The food in Nepal, in general, is exquisite wherever you go and underrated around the world. In Pokhara, there is so much in terms of variety. Dal (lentils) Bhat (rice) is a ubiquitous dish for the locals to eat, and people will consume this for breakfast before they go out for a long day of work to give them the energy to last the day.
My favourite would be the traditional Thakali dish, which includes Dal Bhat. Here is the best thing about ordering this dish; you can refill your plate as much as you want at no extra cost. Talk about value for money.
Last but not least, as I’ve said, Pokhara is the gateway to the world-famous trek in Annapurna. Annapurna is the tenth-highest mountain in the world, and many people will come through to Pokhara before heading out for their hike. I didn’t quite fancy the trek, but that’s not to say I won’t return in the future and give it a go.
My time in Pokhara was phenomenal, from the serene atmosphere and magnificent sunrise to the adventure rush from my bungee jump. Not to mention eating away at the local Thakali cuisine. As I have eluded to, there are plenty of other reputable airlines to fly to the city if that is the way you want to travel to Pokhara. I’m saddened, and my heart goes out to the families that lost their loved ones during the accident.
Don’t let this incident tarnish your image of the place and Nepal. My next dream is to return and paraglide through the clouds in this spectacular city of Pokhara.