We humans are strange animals. We are different and divided, yet our hearts long to connect to other souls. Deep in the mid-hills of Nepal, I stayed in a picturesque village named Tansen on my way between Lumbini and Pokhara. The kind people of Tansen offer their local hospitality through quaint homestays.
Tansen is a Newar town. Historically, Newars have been highly acclaimed in the arts and cultural realm. From their elaborately detailed wooden window frames to their delicious samaye bhaji meals, everyday life in Tansen reflects the many nuances of Newari heritage.
The village committee arranged a warm welcome for their guests. Fresh roses and hibiscus were plucked from the gardens and made into small bouquets as gifts, along with a piece of cloth woven on handlooms. Amid a riot of colors, grooving instrumental music and exchanges of pleasantries, we were welcomed into the village.
Many Himalayan towns in Nepal look very similar: narrow serpentine lanes lined with wooden houses, ascended to Deodar woods atop the mountains. Secret hiking trails await, the roads and trails are full of surprise bends and sharp turns. Local vendors sells organically grown berries, hot chillis and tomatoes.
At this time, there are more than 30 homestays at Tansen, with more than 400 beds for hosting guests. It started small, but has become more successful over time. A visit to Tansen, located two hours’ drive from Pokhara, is a highlight of a trip to Nepal, and a great way to experience Nepali culture.
I stayed at the Amatya Homestay, the ancestral home of Mr Purushottam Amatya and his wife. Empty nesters, the Amatyas have a three-storied home. While the ground and the first floor are mostly used by the family, the third floor is well equipped to host four guests.
The home decor suggests that less is more. Warm yellow light brightens up the rooms. A box bed with a spotlessly clean sheet looks inviting after a long road trip. The floor is carpeted, and from the window you can watch the village life of Tansen.
A washroom with a commode (a luxury item in the region!) is installed on the second floor. There is a kitchen, and guests are more than welcome to join the hosts there. A Newari cooking class, anyone?
Every home-cooked meal has an instantly recognizable aroma. Amatya Homestay felt very much like home! What started as very simple fried potato and daal quickly escalated into a full-fledged feast with different curries, mangoes and more. I asked for quite a few helpings. Traditionally, a Newar meal is cooked with mustard oil and a plethora of spices–cumin, coriander, bay leaves, cinnamon, etc. My Bengali tastebuds rejoiced. Shiny brass utensils are used to serve meals for guests.
In terms of things to do in Tansen, a short walk from the homestay is “downtown” Tansen. A lively marketplace thrives, with the Palpa Durbar Museum a centrepiece. Man Mohan Shrestha, a retired professor and another homestay owner, guided us through the town, describing the Newari history and culture. The Durbar Museum is stacked with antiques. A huge ghee cauldron that was used by the Nepal Army battling against the British can be found among the relics.
While the Himalayas dominate Nepal’s tourism scene, the village of Tansen stands out in my mind and I remember fondly the kind people of Nepal, who did not hesitate to open their doors to strangers, and won our hears with their generous smiles.
Article and photos by Madhurima Chakraborty.