Teahouse Treks

The Nepali word bhatti translates well as “teahouse”. It is a bit pretentious to call some of these village establishments a hotel, but the Nepalese use of English translates restaurant or eating place as “hotel”. Since the word hotel has, therefore, been pre-empted, Nepalese use the word “lodge” for sleeping place or hotel. Thus, in the hills of Nepal a “hotel” has food, but may not provide a place to sleep, while a “lodge” always offers accommodation. Many innkeepers specify the services they provide by calling their establishments “Hotel & Lodge”. To avoid all this semantic confusion, most people use hotel, lodge and teahouse interchangeably. In reality you can almost always find both accommodation and food at any trailside establishment.

The most popular way to trek in Nepal for both Nepalese and Westerners is to travel from teahouse to teahouse. Hotel accommodation is most readily available in the Khumbu (Everest) region, the Langtang area and the entire Annapurna region. In these areas you can operate with a bare minimum of equipment and rely on teahouses for food and shelter. In this manner, it will cost from US$3 to US$10 a day, depending on where you are and how simply you can live and eat. It becomes much more expensive at high altitudes and in very remote areas.

Most Thakali inns (found along the Pokhara to Jomsom Trek) have bedding available – usually a cotton-filled quilt. Sometimes the bedding has the added attraction of lice and other bed companions. Bring along your own sheet or sleeping bag to provide some protection against these bugs. During the busy trekking seasons in October to November and March to April, it may be difficult to find bedding every night on the Jomsom Trek. Bedding is not usually available at hotels on the Everest trek or around Annapurna, so on these treks you should carry your own sleeping bag.

Although many hotels in the hills are reasonably comfortable, the accommodation in some places may be a dirty, often smoky, home. Chimneys are rare, so a room on the 2nd floor of a house can turn into an intolerable smokehouse as soon as someone lights the cooking fire in the kitchen below. Often it is possible to sleep on porches of houses, but your gear is then less secure. The most common complaint among trekkers who rely on local facilities is about smoky accommodation.

By arranging your food and accommodation locally, you can move at your own pace and set your own schedule. You can move faster or slower than others and make side trips not possible with a large group. You can spend a day photographing mountains, flowers or people – or you can simply lie around for a day. Hotels provide a special meeting place for trekkers from throughout the world. You are free (within the limits imposed by your trekking permit) to alter your route and change your plans to visit other out-of-the-way places as you learn about them. You will have a good opportunity to see how the people in the hills of Nepal live, work and eat and will probably develop at least a rudimentary knowledge of the Nepali language.

You are, however, dependent on facilities in villages or in heavily trekked regions. Therefore you must trek in inhabited areas and on the better known routes. You may need to alter your schedule to reach a certain hotel for lunch or dinner. You can miss a meal if there is no hotel when you need one or if the hotel you are counting on is closed. A few packets of biscuits in your backpack are good insurance against these rough spots. Most of the major routes are well documented, but they are also well travelled. A hotel can be out of food if there are many other trekkers or if you arrive late. You may have to change your planned destination for the day when you discover that the lunch you ordered at an inn will take a very long time to prepare. You will usually make this discovery only after you have already waited an hour or so. It is wise to be aware of these kinds of problems and to prepare yourself to deal with them.

If you deviate from popular routes, be prepared to fend for yourself at times. If, however, you carry food, cooking pots and a tent to use even one night, you have already escalated beyond the teahouse approach into a more complex form of trekking with different problems.


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