A place called joy

Getaway Issue 149 Apr, 2014
Text and Photo By Amit Shrestha

Joy Source Mountain Resort at Lamagaun in Pharphing is a delightful getaway comprising of two charming cottages. But perhaps more important than what is inside is what’s around it – farms, hiking trails and the opportunity to volunteer for a day of teaching.

Not too long ago, I needed to break away from the daily grind and fill my mind with something more substantial than the feeling that I was simply “surviving” in Kathmandu. So what were my options? Nagarkot? Very cliché. Sundarijal? Too trite.
Instead, I looked South, towards the lesser visited trails deviating from Pharping Bazaar. That was where I got lost and found myself looking up at the purple houses that make up Joy Source Mountain Resort. I had stumbled upon something extraordinary, I reckoned. A couple of months later, I found myself at Joy Source once again, this time with a mission to write about it.

Joy Source Mountain Resort is located 24 km south of central Kathmandu and 7 km southwest of Pharping, on the way to Kulekhani Lake. The road from Pharping to the resort passes through a thriving Newari village which features clustered houses that resemble the long braided hair of a woman. It is a promising getaway for spirits of all kinds – from long-distance cyclists to romantic poets, from family men to reckless youth.

Owned by Suresh Basnet and Dayan Cutler, Joy Source is a unique resort in the sense that it is more personal than commercial. It hosts two idiosyncratic boutique cottages – Ganesh, and Blue Buddha. Ganesh is a double-storied chalet, framed on a hilltop, overlooking Lalitpur and Pharping. The interior is customized in the fashion of a cosy summer cottage, and is able to accommodate four people. Everything about it – the paint, the furnishing, and the artwork - is thoughtfully and deliberately designed to echo the source of the name. Blue Buddha cabin, on the other hand, is an exhibition of harmony and tranquility with nature. With meditation and yoga in mind, it was designed to satiate the needs of people who seek time away from the tediousness of city life.

Parqueted floors keep the cottages warm, and sizable windows offer both a picturesque view and ample sunlight. There’s something special to discover at every corner. The doorknob and the mirror, the mattress and the lamp, each of these represent a distinct culture; from materials knitted by local women, to Mithila art bought from Tharu communities. The underlying idea here is to empower local communities whilst creating a mélange of accommodation facilities that are far from typical. To put it in one simple sentence – Joy Source does not belong to the group of regular resorts that are strewn in and around Kathmandu. The efforts put into making the cottages stand out are apparent in every inch of the facility.

The resort is a part of the greater vision of Crystal Earth Community, spread on a sizable 32 ropani of land that houses organic and animal farms, a free school, a home for underprivileged children, handicraft training and production facilities for local women, a bakery, and an organic product manufacturing center.

A majority of the food served at the resort comes from the organic farms. Local delicacies and fresh baked goods will keep you delighted while you cleanse yourself with what Cutler calls “Superfood.” One of the highlights is wheatgrass juice that helps in the removal of harmful toxins from the body. The charms of the mornings are heightened with homegrown herbal tea of lemongrass, holy basil, and mint, among other flavors.

What to do at Joy Source? Well, the choice of activity depends upon the individual. One can either lay back and soak up the sun while enjoying the mountain views, or switch to a meditative mood and practice yoga in solitude. The community also offers a great opportunity to socialize with the children at Bird’s Nest Kids’ Home, or volunteer for a day of teaching at the Dolphin Magic School. The institution is a testimony of Cutler and Basnet’s belief that all children have the right to free education and a future with possibilities.

For outdoor lovers, Joy Source can be a hub for several unaccounted short hikes around Kathmandu Valley. If Chisapani and Nagarkot have become too banal to even think of, look South. Pharping village is a cultural tour in itself, with traditional Newari hamlets, and Buddhist monasteries. Among the many hikes, these are some of the more notable ones.
Lamagaun – Dhadikhel – Chaukatdevi – Humane (5 hours, all season)
Lamagaun – Kharpa – Champadevi – Hattiban resort (6-7 hours, all season)
Pharping cultural tour: 14 Buddhist monasteries, Dhaksinkali temple, Manakamana temple, Vajrayogini temple. (all day, all season)
Lamagaun – Asura cave (4 hours, all season)
Khulekhani Lake (7-8 hours)
Lamagaun – Jatipokhari (3 hours)

All of these hikes can be organized by the community, and catered to individual needs. With a local guide, transport facilities, and necessary meals all provided for, all you need to carry is your water bottle, a camera (if you want to), and a curious heart because you are bound to encounter a few surprises along the way. For those short on time, a day picnic can be an alternative. These hikes endow you with panoramic mountain views from Manaslu in the west to the Khumbu range in the east. On a clear day, one can also spot Mt. Everest on the far east corner of the range.

Joy Source Resort is 24 km south of central Kathmandu, on the way to Khulekhani. It can be reached either by bus to Pharping, and then a taxi to Lamagaun, or a pick up service which can be arranged upon request at a rate of NRs. 2500.

The cottage prices:
Nepali nationals: For 2 people – Nrs. 8000 + government tax – 1 night+breakfast+organic tea and coffee+WIFI
For Foreign nationals: Euro 80 + tax – 1 night+breakfast+organic tea and coffee+WIFI

Alternative offer:
For lunch buffet/one-day picnic-style stay:
Vegetarian – NRs. 750.00
Non-vegetarian  - NRs. 950.00
These prices include free organic coffee and herbal tea (as much as one can drink).

What to take home with you?
The community is economically supported by a garment manufacturing factory that also provides employment to the local women of Lamagaun. One can take home the exquisitely designed clothes and garments, or organic products like soaps, all made by the locals.

E-mail : dharmadakini@gmail.com
Phone: +977-1-6211836
+977 9851026162 (Suresh Basnet)
Lamangaun, Pharping,
Kathmandu Nepal.

Note: From the first week of April, Crystal Earth Community will be setting up a showroom at Moksh, Jhamsikhel that will provide information on the resort and their products.