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A Little Bit of Japan in Dhampus

A Japanese inspired resort with a 180° panoramic Himalayan view

My journey to Hananoie [Han-a-noy-ee] Permaculture Resort began the previous morning as I left Pokhara to make my way first to Tsukinoie Hotel in Dhampus, a peaceful and friendly village at the base of the Annapurna range. Among the many lodges available here, Tsukinoie is the more luxurious option, with simple but comfortable rooms. The restaurant and five twin rooms all have a view of the beautifully manicured garden framed with many bright flowers facing the Himalayas. The hotel manager, Tul Bahadur, diligently ensures excellent hospitality. I was impressed by the simple yet tasty Nepali and Japanese inspired meals made fresh from the garden. And, I was very nicely surprised by the offer of a Japanese style jacuzzi just before sunset. The jacuzzi is private, but open to the elements, and on a clear day you can enjoy the mountain view from the bath. A truly unique experience.

The following day, after a good sleep and delicious large breakfast, I enjoyed the two-and-a-half-hour easy walk to Hananoie Permaculture Resort, a hotel with an eco-friendly ethos located in the center of five hectares of permaculture farmland in Astamkot. Astam is a mountain village at 1600 m altitude, and less than two hours from Pokhara. On arrival, I was greeted in the salon by the resort's manager and friendly staff with a delicious homegrown tea infused with lemongrass, rosemary, chamomile, and basil. All ingredients come from the farm and make a tea so good, you will wish it was for sale. As I was shown to my room through the hotel's grounds, the wild flowers, butterflies, birds, and big sky immediately inspired a sense of calm and a welcome reminder of what makes this part of the world so incredibly special. All the cottages, restaurant, and salon face a 180° panoramic view of the Annapurna range, and down to the 600 m depth of the valley below. After the recent rains, I was taken aback by the countless shades of luscious green, and looked hopefully at the clouds for a peek at the Himalayas. 

The resort is made up of five cottages, each split into two tastefully furnished twin rooms, made from all natural materials. With slated roofs, coconut fiber insulation, and clay walls, the cottages are rustic yet extremely comfortable and cozy. On your private balcony, you can expect to be visited by a variety of birds throughout the day, and from here is the ideal place to appreciate the epic view of the mountains at sunrise. All rooms have attached bathrooms, hot water supplied by solar power, and locally made environmentally-friendly soap that decomposes easily. The drain water is purified by natural method and recycled. 

All the meals you will enjoy at Hananoie are included in the cost of your stay, with a choice of Nepali or Japanese cuisine. Every meal is made from the fresh products of their organic farm, including seasonal fruits, vegetables, and livestock of chickens, buffalo, and goats. They make their own honey, jams, butter, yogurt, and tea, and the Japanese food is honestly as good, if not better, than anything I have enjoyed in Japan. The resort chefs are trained by Japanese chefs and will graciously cater to any dietary requirements. I was excited to see a glimpse of the Himalayan mountains as I headed to dinner, and as the clouds cleared, I enjoyed the spectacular view throughout my meal from the restaurant. During the evening, as the temperature dropped, the sky continued to open, and it was the perfect time to sit under the stars with a cup of tea, or taste the local “raksi”. 

 

What to do

What sets Hananoie apart are the many activities on offer. You can roam the farm, and there are lessons on beekeeping, candle making, baking bread, and traditional methods of making honey, butter, and yogurt. Staff will also provide lessons on aspects of permaculture and sustainable living, such as mixed planting, yeast fermentation, and soil preparation, and share with you their knowledge of Nepalese agriculture. Your host at the resort, Durgar Datta Adhikari, will be pleased to show you the local village where he was born and raised. I was fortunate to get a private tour of Astamkot with Durgar and visit the local school where his wife teaches, and meet with his parents, whose beautiful farm is located at the top of the hill. The resort staff make a donation each year to the local school to which you can organize a visit during your stay.

 

However, given the high standard of comfort within the resort, and the stunning local scenery, you may choose to just relax and enjoy what the resort has to offer, with bird-watching and walks around the local village. Before sunset, I recommend to try what is arguably the best feature of the Japanese style Jacuzzi, or 'goemonburo'. The bath has a two-person capacity, and the water is mixed with herbs from the vegetable garden and heated by a combination of firewood and solar power. The hot water will soothe your body, especially after a mini trek, and leave you feeling with a deep sense of relaxation. All the used water is then reused in the vegetable garden. 

Whether you are keen to reconnect with nature, looking for a short rejuvenating weekend away, or dreaming of the perfect romantic getaway, Hananoie will not disappoint. Sometimes, higher-end resorts can miss the personal touch, but this is not the case at Hananoie, where every detail is designed to put you at ease, and all the staff are friendly and will kindly share stories of growing up in the local area. The resort staff are active members in the local community, and the development of the resort in the year 2000 provided electricity and a pipeline of drinking water to the village, as well as a significant contribution towards the five-kilometer road that links Astamkot to the highway. They continue to provide maintenance of the road and pipeline, and their donations and education have brought an end to the environmentally damaging practice of bee-hunting. Villagers now bring wax from abandoned bee hives that Hananoie purchases to make the beautiful candles you will find in your room. On departure, you will be gifted their homemade lip balm made from mountain honey, and contained in a beautiful wooden cylinder case. A beautiful product otherwise only available in Japan. 

 

How to get there

To get directly to Hananoie Permaculture Resort, take a thirty-minute taxi ride from Pokhara to the trailhead at Milan Chowk. Hananoie staff can then organize a jeep from there at a reasonable cost, or the two-hour mini-trek from Milan Chowk through local villages with stunning views of the Annapurna range is a highly recommended alternative. The resort can arrange a guide or porter, if required. 

For those with a little more time to visit Dhampus on the way, you can take a taxi from Pokhara to Phedi. An hour-and-forty-five-minute walk will bring you to Dhampus, where you will find the hidden gem, Tsukinoie Hotel. The first part of this mini trek is a steep incline up rock stairs, but it begins to ease half way as you pass through beautiful villages and farmland. It is then an easy two-and-a-half-hour walk from there to Hananoie, or if you prefer, you can of course request a jeep service.

Schedule:  
(From Pokhara to Pokhara)
Day 1. Drive to Phedi and then Drive or Hike to Tsukinoie (Dhampus)
Day 2. Drive or Hike to Hananoie (Astam)
Day 3. Drive or Hike to Milanchwok and then drive to Pokhara. 
Cost:   
From USD 240/Per Person (minimum 2 pax); rates for 1 person or larger groups available on request, as well as for one-night stays, and with travel from Kathmandu. 
(Residential fare is available, too.)
For inquiries contact:
Nepal Kaze Travel (P) Ltd.
Kamalpokhari, Kathmandu.
Tel: 01-4439117  /  01-4439118
Email: nptrek@mos.com.np/ 
 info@nepalkaze.com