Almost famous, already great

Getaway Issue 148 Mar, 2014
Text by Utsav Shakya / Photo: Sugesh Ranjit

Three hours away from Kathmandu, in the historic town of Nuwakot is a home saved from time to function as a quaint little getaway that’s fit for all.

The houses thinned after the turn-off towards Nuwakot at Galchhi on the Prithvi Highway. Fields stretched out on both sides of the road as our white Toyota van weaved along a narrow black topped road. Every time we suspected we were lost, we’d ask someone to point us toward Famous Farm. No one had heard of it. There were plenty of farms around but none that was ‘famous’ struck a chord. Our New Year’s eve retreat turned out to be as under the radar and off the grid as it seemed to be.

The idea to stay at the Famous Farm came out of procrastinating on Sasto Deal, a popular local discount website. The idyllic pictures seemed too good to be true. We decided that the beginning of a new year and the coming together of old friends was a good enough occasion, and started to wait for the day.

Expectations weren’t high. How great could a place, seemingly in the middle of nowhere be we thought. I packed a sleeping bag in case the place didn’t have warm blankets. Friends bought extra bottles of whiskey. Someone mentioned a power bank. All our concerns were pacified as soon as we stopped at a simple wooden sign at the end of a dirt track announcing our destination.

The idea of something famous
The lodge is a cozy cluster of traditional Nepali homes that were previously left to ruin after their owners migrated. Although the design of the houses might seem Newari, they belonged to a senior army officer of the Khadka caste. The idea of the lodge is not just clever tourism as is easier to notice but… “breathing life back into empty and tired but wonderful buildings - or the ruins of them”, says the literature on their website.

It’s a part of a larger idea that the team behind it are calling - Rural Heritage – Travel with Tradition. The idea is to ‘save’ old homes and engage communities in order to make the project belong. This is what adds the defining charm of a Famous Farm experience. The name comes from locals speaking of how this place would be a famous farm some day. The team’s other projects, such as The Old Inn – an old home turned rustic lodge in the cobbled, sleepy town of Bandipur off the highway to Pokhara, and the outdoor adventure hub The Big Fig on the Prithvi Highway, are offshoots of these governing ideas. 

Services and hospitality
No two rooms of Famous Farm’s twelve are alike. Most are large, while some are quite small; the fact that they open onto tiny little balconies with amazing views and overhanging orchids more than compensates. The décor is basic as one should expect at a farm. The beds are clean and comfortable, the bathrooms modern and functional, and the predominant use of mud, bricks and wood is a unique experience.

The staff, all Nuwakot locals, mostly commute from their homes. They aren’t hospitality school-trained but more than make up for it by making a genuine effort and being very friendly. One staff member, who was cleaning the place when I woke up the next morning, asked if I wanted a coffee. He thought nothing of promptly dropping his broom, skipping off to the kitchen and making me a piping hot cup of coffee himself. When I inquired if he’d done the needful, he brushed it off with a smile and continued cleaning the place.

A feast of a meal
Much of the vegetables that you’ll be served at the dining table are grown in the area; all of it is organic. The breakfast is generous with freshly made bread, home made jam, eggs made to your preferences, fresh juice and great coffee. If you enjoy your drink in the evenings, the breakfast will act as a cure for your hangover.

The dinner is a ‘bhoj’ – meaning a feast of rice, meat curry, an assortment of vegetable dishes, greens, daal, freshly made pickles, and papad. After the journey from Kathmandu to get to the Farm, a bhoj for dinner is a great idea.

Right in the middle of somewhere
Our idea of what factors place someone or some place in the middle of somewhere or nowhere are educated not by geographical location but by the things we need and by familiarity.If one were to spend enough time in the hills of Nuwakot, filling one’s day with honest work, healthy meals and music and art and literature, it wouldn’t be surprising to feel lost in the middle of a city.

Nuwakot has a rich history. It was the starting point for Gorkha king Prithvi Narayan Shah’s bloody campaign to occupy small, bickering states and rule over a larger country. The town also fell on the ancient Tibetan trade route. In another time and age, Nuwakot is where it all started. Today it might seem like nothing much happens here, but that too is a subjective matter. For now, the fact that its quiet and serene is working for it.

TripAdvisor, the user generated content website that reviews travel related services gives Famous Farm four and a half stars. I’d stop short of five only because as humans we always want more. For that I’ll just have to go back again to the Famous Farm.

What to take
Liquor:  The folks at the Farm are accommodating enough to allow you to bring your own favorite bottle of wine or single malt whiskey. Not that they don’t have a well stocked bar of their own.

Camera:  A great camera is a good idea – there’s plenty that makes for great memories at the Farm.
Binoculars:  The Farm looks onto a beautiful Valley. With great weather, expect to be awed by the Himalayas.
Book/ portable music player/ drawing book/ writing material: The outdoors of the Farm are designed for lounging. Make the most of it.

What to do
Nuwakot’s Saat Talle Durbar Museum
Shah king Prithvi Narayan Shah is said to have brought in artisans from Lalitpur to create this architectural wonder atop an adjacent hill. Pay for a basic ticket, and an appointed guide will give you an impassioned tour of the fortified palace museum. Ask to be shown cool fortified doors and a three-feet tall prison that surrounds an entire floor.

Langtang Himal
Most people name drop Everest and Annapurna while talking about trekking in Nepal but Langtang is a lesser trekked trail with panoramic vistas that rival the big two.The Famous Farm can make for a relaxing day (or two) of your longer Langtang trek itinerary.

The Famous Farm is designed to help you relax. There are little hideaways throughout the lodge’s premises. Catch up on sleep, read a book or enjoy the free gifts of Mother Nature at her best.

Getting There
Three different routes can get you to Famous Farm, all measuring roughly about 79km. You can go there from all around the world.

  • Going west out of Kathmandu on the Prithvi Highway, take a right at Galchhi and up the Trishuli Valley.
  • Going North out of Kathmandu through Balaju on the Langtang road via Kakani, descend to the Trishuli.
  • An alternative route from Kathmandu through Gongabu, via Shivapuri National Park and down to the Trishuli Valley.
  • All routes converge before the Nuwakot Bazaar turn-off. After an easy to miss turn in Battar exactly 1km on the right beyond the Army Camp, the road winds up 6km to the Bazaar and then it’s another 250m on a dirt track to the hill.

Directions Courtesy: Famous Farm Information Booklet