Nepal's

TANSEN
by David Woollan

Global Mark : to come

Ratings by criteria : 

Charm Scenery Parks Culture Minor. Market Relax Fiesta 

Cost

AVER.
                   

Ratings by backpackers :

Surveyed Liked  Comeback  Recommend  Range AVER.
         


Description & Comments ?
  Also known by its old name of Palpa, this hill town lies a little less than 130 kms, as the road wanders, southwest of Pokhara. For nearly 300 years, from the early 16th century, Palpa was the headquarters of the old Sen Kingdom, one of the various territories that now is Nepal. A walled area in the center of town that you enter through a huge door, Mul Dhoka (main gate) is the old palace grounds and the only real evidence of this former kingdom, however. The town lies at 1250 metres and will feel wonderfully cool if you have just left the terai or come in from India. Just to the north of the town the forested hill of Srinagar provides views of the surrounding valleys and of the Annapurna and Dhaulagiri mountain ranges.
Excellent day walks can be made from here; to Ranighat in the north, to Ridi in the west or simply wandering about the homesteads of the Madi valley in the south. 

What to do? Wander the many trails of Srinagar Hill, passing small Hindu shrines and climb to the summit, the TV antenna at 1659 metres / Walk through Nepal's biggest doorway and enter Durbar Square in the center of town / Buy a meter of "dhaka" cloth which is woven here or buy a "chunni", a lady's scarf, another speciality of the region / In the late afternoon wander down to the Tundikhel (playground), the only level area in town and watch the football, cricket or volleyball games / Get a map of the town from Hotel The White Lake's travel agency / Look at the elaborate wood carvings of the Amar Narayan temple / Wander out to the United Mission hospital (2 kms east of town) and talk to some of Tansen's expatriate community / Take a bus to Palpa Bhairab Temple where, on Tuesdays and Saturdays, many animal sacrifices take place.

What you may not like ?  The long bus journey along the Siddhartha Highway, unpaved and potholed for the most part (although some repairs were underway in Oct 2001) / The lack of good accommodation / The frequent electricity cuts / Maoists have closed down most alcohol sales. 

How long ?  Three whole days. One to wander about town and climb up Srinagar, and a couple of days for day walks in the surrounding valleys.

Where to stay ? Every year more and more tour operators add Tansen to their itineraries and it may happen that Tansen's top two hotels, Srinagar and White Lake, are fully booked when you visit. If something a bit better than very basic accommodation is important to you, book your room in advance of your visit. As is usual in Nepali towns of any size, there are a cluster of primitive hotels around the bus park. Let's forget about those and move to…..

  • Hotel Srinagar (20045, 20595), Kailash Nagar, Tansen. Out of town, providing fine mountain views. Fine rooms with telephones and attatched bathroom. Conference room, restaurant and bar. Sgl $24, dbl $32. Tansen's no.1 hotel, used mainly by tour groups and the many NGO's that operate from this town.
  • Hotel The White Lake (20291, 20502) Silkhan Tole, Tansen. The next best hotel in town but that's not saying much. In need of a paint job. Hotel's internal parking is noisy. Hotel's restaurant is a depressing echo chamber. Rooftop garden provides good view of the Madi valley. Basic room with attached bathroom, Sgl R400, Dbl R600. "Deluxe" rooms, sgl R900, dbl R1200. A definite plus: hotel has its own generator. (The "white lake" refers to the clouds shrouding the Madi valley that you look down onto from town on winter's days). Note: This hotel formally also had a guest house which now, unfortunately, is a school building.
  • Gauri Shankar Guest House (20150), Silkhan Tole, Tansen. Also restaurant. Situated by a noisy metal workshop and noisy road junction. Very basic rooms with attached bathroom, sgl R250, dbl R350. Also rooms with common bathroom, dbl R200. A depressing place to stay
  • Hotel Bajra (20443), near Bus Park, Tansen. An airy but noisy hotel with a restaurant next door. Acceptable, basic but clean rooms with attached bathroom. Sgl R200, dbl R250. Also dbls with common bathroom R200.
  • Gautam Siddhartha Hotel (20280), Taksar, Tansen. A basic lodge with small dining room. Small rooms with common bathroom. Sgl/dbl R150.
  • New Hotel Dhawlagiri (20367), Lahare Pipal, Tansen. As basic as you can get but not as noisy as most of the rest. Rooms with common bathroom R100.
  • Hotel Sangam, Badigyan Tole. Live in a family house and rent one of their rooms for R100. Common bathroom.
  • Hotel Gulmi Jumiya Mayan (20611), Badigyan Tole, Tansen. Another family house that will rent out a room for R100. Common bathroom.

Where to eat ?  Nanglo West Restaurant on Shital Pati is the best place in town. Very pleasant indoor and outdoor areas are attended by smart and efficiant waiters. European, Newari and Nepali dishes are nicely prepared and the beer is cold as well. You can choose from a good bakery selection as well.
The very small Friends Restaurant inside a shopping hall on Makhan Tole serves a good cup of coffee, biscuits and ice cream.
There are no end of sekuwa and momo restaurants, and the cleanest and best of these seem to be along the sub-highway road that leads to the bus station.
Hotel The White Lake's restaurant is in an unattractive echo chamber of a room, but the food served is not too bad. If the weather is good, make your order and ask to be served on the roof garden.
For the cheapest meal possible try a surprisingly good serving of chaat served on a leaf. The chaat walahs wander about town with their perambulators; try finding them on Silkhan Tole where the market area begins or around Tundikhel, the playground.


Day walks ? Having girded your loins by walking up to the TV tower on Srinagar a couple of times, you should be ready for something a little more challenging. How about….

  • Tansen to Ranighat and back (about 15 kms) :

This is an excellent walk that will take you through tiny Magar communities to a derelict palace on the banks of the Kali Gandaki river. For much of the way you will follow the small Barandi Khola (river) and there are many plunge holes and other fine places to stop for a swim. A very good map of the walk can be purchased for just R10 at Hotel The White Lake, Hotel Srinagar or the Nanglo West Restaurant. You will descend from 1500 metres to about 600 metres so be prepared for the climb back up in the mid-afternoon. It is probably easiest to do the walk in the reverse order to that described on the map, i.e. start at Kailashnagar. A prominent sign points "way to Ranighat". Walk down the hillside and pick up the wide dirt track on the right hand side. After about three minutes walk you must take a small track on the left side and this can be a little confusing. Best ask one of the many people using the main track (Ranighat jaane baato kun ho?) to make sure you don't get lost here. Then it is all plain sailing as you descend quickly to the small village of Aule. Here you can buy soft drinks and chow chow (instant noodles) and then continue your walk. Just after Aule you'll be following the small Barandi Khola. The path follows the river bank to just past the settlement of Hatti Dhunga. A further half hour walk brings you to the palace of the former governer of Palpa (1891-1902), which was built by the British Army at the turn of the century.
After looking around the temple you can either return to Tansen along the route you have just taken or take the longer, circular route as described in the map. Cross the small bridge near the tea house (not the huge suspension bridge) and walk up the steep, stone staircase. Pick up the track and follow it some 4 kms to the village of Deurali. You will be ascending slowly. Here is a good place to stop for a cool drink and then continue to Gorkhekot. The track bends to the right and you pass the United Mission Hospital and the outskirts of Tansen.
Allow six or seven hours for the walk.

  • Tansen to Ridi (26 kms round trip or walk there and take the bus back) :

The "d" in Ridi is a retroflex consonant and sounds more like an "r" to Western ears.
As in the previous walk, make your way to Kailashnagar Chowk. At the chowk turn left and walk past Hotel Srinagar (the prominent white building). Keep on the road until you come to the police checkpoint. Take the road to your right and after about thirty muntes you'll reach the small settlement of Chandi Bhanjyang. Turn left here and continue descending through the canyon. As you exit the canyon the track turns north and you descend continually for about another hour and a half to the bazaar town and the Kali Gandaki river. 
Ridi is famous as a cremation site and is considered sacred for the fossil-bearing stones found here.
Buses leave frequently from here to Tansen (about a two hour trip) and there is simple lodging.

  • Tansen south to the Madi Valley :

Unless completely shrouded by cloud, this is the valley that you can see to the south of Tansen. Feeding into the valley are two rivers of size (and no end of streams). At the southern end of the valley lies the important town of Butwal, about 25 kms distant, but in between are only villages and small settlements. Pack a daypack and try your luck at wandering around these small, rural Magar communities. The easiest way to head south and descend into the valley is to make your way to the bus station. Follow the noisy road the buses use when they leave and enter Tansen and after about five minutes walking turn left and follow the road that passes the district jail. Keep on this road as it crosses the main road again at Kaji Pauwa Chowk. Descend continually to the valley floor in about an hour or so.

Getting there and away ?
"Tourist" buses leave from outside Hotel Mountain Top, Lakeside at 0630, 0730 and, during the peak season also at 1030 hours. These buses are bound for Sunauli, at the Indian border. For Tansen you must get off at Bartung Chowk and from there take a jeep for the 4 kms to Tansen. The fare is R200 to Sunauli, R150 to Tansen. Seats can be booked in advance from most of the travel agencies in town. Choose a seat on the right hand side and you'll have great views of the Kali Gandaki river gorge.
Alternatively you can catch buses that leave on the hour, from 0600 to 1200 hours, from the Old Bus Park near Prithvi Chowk in the centre of Pokhara. There are buses going directly to Tansen, or you can take the Sunauli bus and get off at Bartung Chowk. The fare is R100.
Total travel time from Pokhara to Tansen is about seven and a half hours.
Leaving Tansen is a little more difficult. The "tourist" buses that left Pokhara have now become public buses. In theory at least, you can book a seat from agencies in Tansen on the bus that departs Sunauli at 0700. Catch a jeep to Bartung Chowk and wait for the bus there. It should arrive around 1000 hours. 
Buses leave Tansen bus park bound for Pokhara at 0700 and 0900. Be sure to arrive early because the buses get terribly crowded.
Or you can make your way by jeep to Bartung Chowk and pick up the Pokhara bound buses as they pass, but you'll probably have to stand for most of the way.
Buses also run to Kathamandu and Kakarbhitta.