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Stop the world and let me off



It's been a rough 12 months. Conventional wisdom has it that the dawn of the new year needs to be celebrated with lots of food, drink, people, noisemakers and funny hats, in as exotic a location as one can manage. We beg to differ. Sure, the food, drink and stunning locale all make sense. But does a year like the one just passing need to get any more hectic than it has already been? Perhaps not. So this year, the annual NT guide to celebrating the festive season has some rather different suggestions. We asked where one could go to get away from it all, really and truly. Where one would see few people, catch the news two days late, if at all, and be able to pass the hours just watching unbeatable vistas, walking, reading or talking to a loved one-without being startled by the collective clicking of a busload of tourists' cameras. We realised that the best place to truly block out the world was. Nepal. We're willing to bet that no beach in Thailand, and no jungle in Indonesia will come close to offering the pure relaxation that our eight picks do. Go on, get out into the country. What are you waiting for?

Adventure Tented Camp, Pokhari Thumko
If you can't go too far, don't worry. There are splendid views of both the mountains and the Valley from Pokhari Thumko, barely an hour's drive from the eastern edge of Patan, from the Ring Road towards the old town of Lubhu. At 2,000 m and approximately 15 km south-east of Kathmandu, the Adventure Tented Camp offers the perfect combination of sweeping views of snow-covered peaks and magical sunrises, sunsets, and night views over the Valley. You feel like you're in deepest forest here, surrounded in season by luxuriant rhododendrons, magnolia, wild orchids, and an astonishing variety of other greenery at all other times. A great place for nature lovers and birdwatchers, the Camp is also the ideal starting point for short hikes and bicycling over to Panauti and Phulchwoki, among others. The thatched roofs give a whole new meaning to camping, and the Country Kitchen provides delicious cuisine from all around the world. The resort has special discounts for the holiday season. 418922

River Side Springs, Kurintar
A resort with a difference, River Side Springs is perfect for families as well as couples and groups of friends. A two-and-a-half hour drive from Kathmandu (102 km), just beside a lazy bend in the Trisuli river, the resort is a good way to begin or end a holiday. You can make a short trip to Manakamana temple, get out to Pokhara or stop in on the way back from a tiring jungle trip in Chitwan. Or, if you're short on time, you could just stay here and enjoy the white sand. The resort is extremely well-equipped, and even the hard to please will have little to complain about-there is a large landscaped swimming pool, an a la carte restaurant, a gymnasium, a mini movie theatre, and pony rides. 241408

Horse Shoe Mountain Resort, Mude
In Mude village in Sindhu-palchowk district, 110 km northeast of Kathmandu, the Horse Shoe Mountain Resort is a spectacularly scenic place. It is confusing-so nice you want to tell people about, but so very nice, really, that you don't want it overrun. Run by a retired army major and his wife, the Resort is at a height of 2,800 m, has simple, clean rooms, and a very homely restaurant and bar that serves Nepali and continental food. Their trump card, though, is the Finnish sauna. Short one-day hikes to nearby villages, and trips to the Dolakha Bhimsen and Kalinchowk Mahi temples can be taken from the resort, while the sunrise and sunset, and mountain views are worth just sitting around. Special Christmas and New Year discounts are available. 011-63174.

Everest Panorama Resort, Daman
There are few places you can get absolutely brilliant views of the Himalaya without having to trek for hours. Daman is one of them, and the Everest Panorama Resort is a worthy addition to it. 80 km from Kathmandu along the Tribhuvan highway, Daman is one of the premium mountain viewing locations-at 2,500 m above sea level, it offers views of the Himalaya from Dhaulagiri to beyond Everest on a clear day, and such days there are plenty. There are walks to be taken among pine and oak forests, with an abundant variety of bird-life. The Resort has luxury facilities such as modern rooms with central heating, cottages and private balconies, all facing the mountains. In addition, you can walk up the viewing tower equipped with powerful binoculars, and in the evenings, sit at the cosy bar with a comprehensive range of local and imported drinks. There is lots more-a friendly restaurant, a mini golf green, a tennis court, a children's playground, a jacuzzi, sauna, and indoor games including a pool table. You can take a short hike to a nearby monastery or to the surrounding Tamang villages, or go fishing in the nearby Indra Sarovar. 415373

Shangri-La Village, Pokhara
This isn't any old resort with a mountain-view, it actually complements the majestic Annapurna range. The Shangri-La Village Pokhara, a "boutique resort", is just about a five-minute drive from Pokhara airport, but you'd never guess it. The traditional Nepali architecture is appropriate, comfortable and beautiful, and the garden is stunningly landscaped, with water bodies strewn around here and there. It is hard to think of a more perfect place from where to sit and take in Machhapuchhre and its neighbours. The Village is a deluxe resort with modern facilities including rooms with individual temperature controls, data ports, minibars, television with satellite connections, private balconies, and terrace gardens. Hanging around the swimming pool and outdoor jacuzzi are a perfect way to spend the afternoon as more energetic people go on short hikes and less wired ones take a nap. The Village offers special Christmas packages. 412999

Nagarkot Farmhouse Resort, Nagarkot
Calling the Farmhouse a resort is inaccurate. This is possibly the most soothing retreat in the country. Just two km from Nagarkot proper, the Farmhouse feels like the former home it is. And few hilltop resorts can offer what it does. Surrounded by thousands of fruit trees, it is a typical Nepali building with traditional art and huge windows from which to look through to spectacular mountain views. There is a cosy and homely restaurant with an open fireplace, which truly feels like sitting in a friend's home. The food is all local and organic, and set meals are the order of the day. If you're feeling spiritual there is also a meditation hall and a white Buddhist stupa. There are day trips, short hikes and mountain bike-rides to be taken along the Valley rim, but the Farmhouse is also the perfect place to just be. 271545

Temple Tiger Jungle Lodge
There are many places to stay in Chitwan, but few like Temple Tiger Jungle Lodge and Wildlife Camp. A two-hour drive from Narayanghat, and another 15 minutes more across the Narayani River in a safari jeep, the Lodge is in the heart of the Royal Chitwan National Park. One of the few deluxe jungle resorts, Temple Tiger offers the usual jungle trips a lot more. For one, you don't have to venture out into the forest for a glimpse of the wildlife, you can do just as well from the Lodge itself. It has individual villas furnished with twin beds, attached baths, and private balconies with hammocks and umbrellas, well suited to relaxed wildlife watching. And if you want a real thrill, the Lodge has trained naturalists and ten elephants to guide you. If you go now, there is a new addition to the stable, so to speak, a calf called Ojaswao Prasad, the first time in recent years a healthy baby elephant (a cross between a wild and a tame elephant) has been born in Nepal. In the evenings you can relax with the excellent food and listen to the sounds of the jungle and the low tones of men recounting their war stories, such as wrestling with tigers. Special offers are on. 244651

Nepal Wildlife Resort
The Royal Bardia National Park is about as far as you can go from the Valley and the idea of Mountainous Nepal. The Nepal Wildlife Resort at the southern border of the park sits right beside a tributary of the Karnali river. The Resort has all the facilities of a jungle lodge. The fact that it has no electricity and has to make do with generators in the evenings only adds to the safari feeling. There are plenty of safe and exciting opportunities to go wildlife-spotting, and it is particularly exciting to look across the river from your porch and spot a wild boar, blackbuck, tiger or even Asia's largest wild elephant. There is more to do in the evenings than just the time-honoured safari tradition of having a couple of chhota pegs-Tharus from surrounding villages come to dance for guests at the Resort. 246923



LATEST ISSUE
638
(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)


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