So the monsoon is here and you are stuck in Pokhara. The mountains are invisible, the flights are cancelled and the road is blocked by landslide.
Not to worry. There's more to do in Pokhara than just boating on Phewa, mountain viewing and muddying yourself in rice planting festivals. Pokhara has become a town of museums.
At last count there were five museums. Affordable, interesting and educational, you get to learn about the kingdom's ethnic diversity, history and adventure. Next time you are in Pokhara, stick around and check them out.
Gurkha Memorial Museum
Recently re-located right next to the British Gurkha Camp, the Gurkha Memorial Museum finally has a place of its own, albeit incomplete. There could be no better place for the memory of those brave soldiers who died so others could live.
Kathmandu was too distant from the ancestral homes of the warriors of the two world wars, so the museum was moved here in 2001 (See: 'Gurkha memorabilia', #35) when the British Gurkha Camp donated some land. The building is incomplete because money ran out but the ground floor is ready to showcase memorabilia from the beginning of Gurkha history. Battle scenes from the world wars, regimental displays, medals and honours received by the Gurkhas, even a replica of the Queen's Truncheon awarded to the Sirmoor Gurkha Battalion for their service in the relief of Delhi during the Indian Mutiny in1857 will be on display after the museum's soft opening on 9 July. Upon completion, the museum will boast a gallery with regimental displays, along with detailed citations of the 13 Victoria Cross winners, a theatre, library with books and reference materials on Gurkhas unavailable elsewhere and even a caf? for visitors. And it won't be just British Gurkhas since the independence of India also gave birth to the Indian Gurkhas and the Singapore Police, formed by ex-servicemen. They too will have space to exhibit their displays.
British museum expert Guy Wilson who advised on other technical aspects. The trust is in need of funds as only 40 percent of the work is complete even though there have been generous donations from the older generation of Gurkhas. Khagisara Pun, wife of Rifleman Khara Pun of 2/1 Gurkha Rifles, who was a POW in Singapore in World War II gave Rs 100,000 as soon as she heard the museum was in need of money. "There is greater bondage between the older generation because of the shared experiences," says Major Yam Bahadur Gurung chairman of the museum trust. This altruistic quality is what made Gurkhas real heroes.
Opening hours: Everyday except Saturdays.
Entrance charge: Tourists Rs 50, SAARC Rs 20, Nepalis Rs 10, Children Rs 5.
The Annapurna Natural History Museum
Located inside the Prithibi Narayan Campus and popularly known as the 'butterfly museum', this museum is famous for its entomological collection. In addition to its amazing butterfly collection of 583 out of the 660 species of butterflies and moths from Nepal and southeast Asia, the museum also has a good collection of stuffed birds, small mammals and insects from the Annapurna region. And for some reason, there is also a doll section with dolls from all over the world.
This is the oldest museum in Pokhara and a result of the affection American Peace Corps volunteer late Dorothy Mierow's had for the place. She started the museum in 1965 for campus students so they could learn more about their own cultural heritage. Today it is run by the Annapurna Conservation Area Project and King Mahendra Trust for Nature Conservation.
Opening hours: Sunday-Friday, 9AM-5PM
Regional Museum Pokhara
The Regional Museum in Naya Bajar is a sad waste of government resources but not a waste of time. Built on prime land, the museum could have incorporated more than just life-size models of different ethnic cultures of the region. Models, photographs, objects and artefacts related to the everyday life of different ethnic cultures chiefly Gurung, Thakali and Tharu along with relevant information are displayed. But that's about it. The tour ends abruptly with a life size replica depicting, aptly, a death scene.
Opening hours: Everyday except Tuesdays, 10AM-4.30 PM
Entrance: Tourists Rs 10, SAARC Rs 5, Nepalis Rs 2
International Mountain Museum
Funded and built by the Nepal Mountaineering Association, the International Mountain Museum is in a class of its own. It is dedicated to mountain dwellers worldwide and offers a glimpse of life in the mountains as well as the history of expeditions.
The Mountain People Gallery consists of models of the lifestyle of different mountain peoples of the world. The Mountain Gallery has fascinating geological facts pertaining to the origin of world mountain systems. The Mountain Activities Gallery has exhibits of actual equipment used for historic climbs. Pioneer explorers like Ekai Kawaguchi and late Toni Hagen have been given special sections, which they truly deserve. There is even a section on the yeti. ICIMOD has a gallery with conservation as its main theme. The museum is working on a three-dimensional scale model of the entire Himalaya.
Opening hours: Everyday except Saturdays.
Entrance: Tourists Rs300, expats and SAARC Rs100, Nepalis Rs50, students Rs10.
Tamu Ghoibo Museum
You'll have to find your way to this one if you're interested in the detailed life of Gurungs/Tamu people. Established in 1990 by the Tamu Pye Lhu Sangh and located on a ridge overlooking the Seti River in Shakti Ghat, Ranipauwa this small museum offers a detailed description of the different subclasses of the Tamu people. On display are ritual objects of Tamu shamans, models of different ceremonies related to their cultures and prayers in the Tamu language. The gumba/museum also serves as a public meeting place for the community and any rituals they need to conduct.
Opening hours: Monday-Friday, 10AM-5PM.
Entrance charges: Rs 10 for adults, Rs 2 for children below 10, cameras extra Rs 5.