Friday, 22 January, 2021
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OPINION

Pokhara Waiting For Tourism Recovery



Dixya Poudel

As the plane landed in Pokhara, I was instantly greeted by the magnificent Annapurna mountain range and a pleasant weather. However, the flight from Kathmandu to Pokhara was different this time. As per safety protocols, we had to wear masks and protective face shields throughout the journey.
Years throughout my childhood and later as an adult, I mostly lived in Pokhara. It is a valley nestled between hills and towering mountains in west Nepal. Now, each visit gives me a wistful feeling tinged with nostalgia. Reminiscing my times in Pokhara, I recall my dreams, hopes and ambitions. The youths are rather nonchalant and carefree about their future. They believe rather too optimistically that life will turn out just fine when in reality, life can be quite difficult. And in hindsight childhood feels memorable, a phase in our lives that glimmers vividly. When I recall my childhood, I think of school days and holidays with my family and relatives. I remember the feelings of joy in the religious and cultural festivals, eagerly taking part in traditions. I recall those rigorous studies during my school years. Most memories of my growing up thus are intrinsically tied to Pokhara, my hometown. Now, that I live in Kathmandu, Pokhara is instead a place I visit and revisit, each time brimming with nostalgic joys. I yearn for those carefree childhood days spent with my family sharing conversations, news and current events. I miss those days when I was a young and spirited child. Childhood innocence is therefore deeply entrenched in most of the vivid recollections from my time in Pokhara. The truth about life is that it is full of surprises. Growing up, I hadn't envisioned living in Kathmandu, the capital city of Nepal. Home was always Pokhara with its beautiful and serene lakes, mountains and hills. It was bright sunshine, mild winters and heavy and torrential monsoon rains in Pokhara.
Pokhara is one where tourists visit in droves and yet now its tourist hub, Lakeside is a quiet place. Instead the tourists travelling across the valley are domestic ones and they too are treading on thin ice due to the fears of the pandemic. Now people are seen armed cautiously with face masks and a respect to social distancing. Students are at home. Parents are juggling work and home all the while trying to keep their families safe. It is an eerie feeling, walking down the streets of the town and seeing people in masks. Where once was a bustling town with foreigners biking, paragliding and hiking, is now a rather silent place.
Thus, the renowned tourist destination is now haunted with memories of yesteryears and resentments of the pandemic days. Residents of Pokhara who depended on tourism for their livelihood are facing the harsh reality of the ongoing crisis. Yet, they show up at their shops daily, stock their shelves and keep the business running. It is certainly a relief that domestic tourism is on a steady rise. And hopefully once the coronavirus abates, there will be a surge in international tourism as well.
At its start, Visit Nepal 2020 showed an expedient turnover in tourism but it is now overshadowed by the pandemic. Undeterred, Pokhara admirably greets each of its visitors in a warm, friendly and hospitable manner. 

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