An escape into the sereneFish Tail Lodge, an upscale accommodation in Pokhara, is noticeably less expensive in recent times yet provides the same luxuries and breathtaking mountain views.
There is a lane separating Basundhara Park and Komagane Park in Pokhara; either side of the lane has vast open fields with an odd tree here and there along with small groups of people soaking in sunlight on wintry days. Instead of a door to Narnia, there is a boat (or a raft) waiting to take you into another world when you reach the end of this lane. The entrance of Fish Tail Lodge is an unconventional one; you can’t walk there but instead need to cross Phewa Lake to reach it. When it’s daylight, there are hotel staff waiting on both river banks and when it gets dark, there is a bell on the opposite riverbank of the lodge which you can ring to call a boat.
Situated on a peninsula on the popular Phewa Lake abutting a dense forest, Fish Tail Lodge appears as a place straight out of mythological folklore. Established in 1969 AD, Fish Tail Lodge has had a long history as an upscale lodge in Pokhara. There is peaceful silence in the air —which is only broken by the chirping of birds every now and then— even though the lodge is only about 300m away from the lively Lakeside Road.
A trinity of natural wonders await you on the lodge: the verdant, lush Rani Ban hides a variety of furry and avian creatures (squirrels can accompany you during breakfast and lunch on the decks if you are lucky and while you stroll around the garden); the calm, relaxing Phewa Lake adjoins the lodge and you feel as if you could jump into the lake for a swim right from the lodge deck; the sight of Annapurna range, especially Machhapuchhre, beams clearly at you while getting illuminated by the morning and evening sun.
The lodge consists of five one-storied roundhouses: four of the roundhouses have accommodation rooms whereas one of the roundhouses, the first one that you encounter when you reach the lodge, houses the front desk and the Circle Restaurant and Bar. There is also an oval-shaped swimming pool, spa and pool bar, fitness centre, a conference hall, and something called a ‘Hawa Ghar’, which is basically a small roundhouse with big open windows ideal for meetings for small groups.
The lodge is operated under the endowment of the Jayanti Memorial Trust (founded as a legacy to the late princess Jayanti Shah) whereupon all of the profits generated by the lodge is spent to further the trust’s mission of promoting prevention against cardiac diseases and providing assistance to cardiac patients all over Nepal. Till now, the trust has been able to serve 2,500 people.
There are four tiers of rooms available on the lodge: Standard, Deluxe, Heritage, and Heritage Suite. In total, there are 61 rooms available; 44 Standard rooms, 12 Deluxe rooms, 4 Heritage rooms, and 1 Heritage Suite. The four roundhouses which contain guest rooms are aptly called Annapurna-I, Annapurna-II, Annapurna-III, and Annapurna-IV: they all consist of 12 Standard rooms each.
The Standard rooms are 180/35 sq ft rooms which are cosy and feature scenic artworks on the walls. All of the usual amenities of an upscale establishment are available; flat panel television with satellite program, wireless internet, in-room electronic safe, tea and coffee maker, and an iron and board.
I stayed in one of the Deluxe rooms, which had similar amenities to the Standard rooms albeit the room was a bit bigger(the Deluxe rooms are 193/37 sq ft). Each Deluxe room also has a private patio with a view of the garden. Relaxing on the chairs on the patio, one feels as if one is surrounded by nature yet still in the lap of luxury. Each room also has its own dedicated wifi but I had trouble opening my social media accounts as the internet speed frequently slowed down to a crawl (the internet speed of the restaurant and bars were thankfully better).
The Heritage rooms and Heritage Suite are pricier and have housed many popular foreign dignitaries such as Jimmy Carter, Prince Charles, and Sanjiva Neelamber Reddy among others. The Heritage Suite also stands on an isolated house of its own with a living room.
The kitchen workings of the Circle Restaurant and Bar lies in the capable hands of executive chef Aga Thammar Murthuza who has decades worth of experience in the culinary world and arrived at Fish Tail Lodge six months ago from the kitchens of Hotel Annapurna.
The menu has been designed to incorporate Nepali, Indian, Southeast Asian and Continental cuisine. Murthuza also informed that a new menu with more varieties of cuisines is in the works and will be available around the beginning of 2022.
Though the interior seating area of the Circle Restaurant and Bar is perfect for chilly night lunches, the outside area with two decks overlooking the Phewa Lake is an ideal place to be whenever there is daylight. Even on wintry mornings, the temperature is bearable and as the sun rises upon the sky, you can sometimes catch a glimpse of migratory birds which fly away from their nests in the dense forests in the early morning and come back home in the evenings.
There are buffets available for breakfast, lunch, and dinner with timings depending upon the occupancy but I went with continental cuisine for lunch. Starting off with cream of mushroom soup, the bar was set high as the soup achieved a balance with just the right amount of creaminess not overpowering the taste of the mushrooms. The Chicken Caesar salad was fresh and tasty with a combination of shredded lettuce, croutons, seared chicken pieces, and cheese. I am usually averse to seafood yet with the mindset of ‘when in Rome, do as the Romans do’, I settled on grilled fish for the main course as the Phewa Lake on the side of the deck glistened under the afternoon sun. The grilled fish was the main highlight of my meals at Fish Tail Lodge: the perfectly cooked fish packed a punch of flavours with each bite and I had second thoughts about my reservations with seafood. The lunch ended with a slice of apple pie alongside a generous dollop of ice cream which satisfied the inner child in me.
A standard room usually starts at Rs 8,000 per night for domestic tourists including breakfast but the lodge frequently provides exclusive offers to its guests. Currently, there is a Christmas-exclusive package offer for 2 nights and 3 days along with breakfasts and Christmas eve gala dinner for Rs 18000 for 1 person and Rs 22000 for 2 persons till December 24. A ‘Toast to the New Year’ is also occurring from December 30 to January 1 which includes 2 nights accommodation along with breakfasts, New Year eve gala dinner and access to DJ event.
The Covid-19 pandemic, lockdowns, and the road ahead
As the hospitality industry was heading towards normalcy after the end of lockdowns in July, the emergence of the Omicron variant in recent times has once again created unpredictability for the hospitality industry. Roshan Khawas, general manager of Fish Tail Lodge says that the Covid-19 pandemic crippled the economy of Pokhara which mainly relies upon tourism. “The Lakeside area, which used to hustle and bustle with all kinds of tourists, was eerily silent on evenings and nights for months,” he says. “We had never witnessed such a thing before.”
Even Fish Tail Lodge was forced to close down for 18 months during the pandemic-induced lockdowns. And like many other hospitality businesses all over Nepal, the Fish Tail Lodge has also adapted to the new market conditions. “There was an influx of domestic tourists in Pokhara after the end of lockdowns due to the strategies of local adventure sports businesses. Paragliding packages, which usually started from Rs 5,000, were slashed down to Rs 3,000,” says Khawas. “We also recognised the new market trends and have started to focus on domestic tourists with frequent offers for Nepali guests.”
Though the hospitality industry, in general, is still in a recovery mode, the lodge has been able to climb up to a break-even point in terms of finances. Apart from the marketing strategies to target domestic tourists, a new identity of Fish Tail Lodge is also starting to surface—one as an ideal wedding venue.
“The location of the lodge is in a perfectly isolated area,” says Khawas. “After the lockdowns and in the recent wedding season, there have been many bookings for wedding parties.”
In recent years, though there are many upscale accommodations around Pokhara now, Fish Tail Lodge still holds its own against the contemporary competitions. Unbeatable scenery, experienced staff, impeccable service, and delicious food are just some of the competitive edges of Fish Tail lodge. You can hardly find such a relaxing environment right at the heart of Pokhara, just beside the bustling Lakeside area.