Hiking to Rani Mahal
Tansen, palpa district of Nepal
If you want to go hiking in the jungle looking for an abandoned palace then you have come to the right post. This is a quick account of our hike to Rani Mahal; the abandoned palace in Palpa District, Nepal. Getting to Tansen (the nearby hill station by the boarder to India and Nepal) is not as easy as jumping on a bus to Pokhara…Tansen doesn’t see many foreign tourists, and isn’t particularly a destination for Nepali either. The hill station is popular with northern indians escaping their summer months. Jordan and I spent ten days in the hill station of Tansen in the Palpa District of Nepal. One of the first things we did was the hike to Rani Mahal.
Pictures clockwise from left: View from guesthouse over tansen. local woman smiles. red and orange clay wall decorates this traditional building. a noteworthy tree on the hike to rani mahal.
To get to Tansen is our first challenge. We wait in Pokhara for a bus for a few hours. Then spend another seven or so hours crammed into the bus listening to joyful Nepali pop music. We are ejected into the night at the bottom of the steep hill below Tansen. A young army fellow walks with us and we all catch a lift in a big decorated truck. I climb up the ladder and am hauled into the cab by several aunties. When we get to the hill station our army friend takes us to the nicest hotel in town, he hasn’t understood what we mean by ‘homestay’. The hotel is nice but has blown our budget for the week, and the next day we set out to find a cheaper hotel, and the local legend Man Mohan.
Jordan has walked this trek out to Rani Mahal when he first visited Nepal. We want to do the walk together, carrying a tent and staying one night at the abandoned palace. It is end of the road camping and for that we need a map.
Man Mohan lives high on the hills of Tansen with his daughter Jenny in a tall, blue and pink town house. On the roof there is an enclosed room, a picnic table, a bathroom, and an incredible view. We rent his guest room, and sit at the table to ask him about the hike. Jordan has recognised Man Mohan immediately. The map is one that he has made himself. He doesn’t have many copies left. A red line on grey paper, showing the hills behind us and the jungle beyond. He has included several legends like ‘noteworthy tree’ and included information about Rani Mahal on the map.
Pictures clockwise from left: Shrine on hillside in tansen. local woman smile. Details from the inside of rani mahal. loooking at rani mahal from the river.
We leave the next day to hike to Rani mahal and it is a hot day walking through rice paddies, along dirt roads, and over the hills. Luckily the track is in good condition and easy to follow. We pace ourselves in the heat, knowing that there is no hurry (I love walking with a tent). By 3pm we have come around the final corner and are looking down to the river, and the palace.
We leave our packs at the entrance and climb the whitewashed stairs up to the palace. One guard says hello. There isn’t much for him to do. The rooms are bare, but with afternoon sun streaming in I can imagine this place furnished and lively with ladies in the garden.
There is a swing bridge across the huge grey-brown river beside the palace. It can carry a motorbike rider or a person on a horse. It also provides an nice view of the palace, whitewashed and set against the mountains.
Pictures taken on the hike to rani mahal. clockwise from left: local children. local man smiles. local woman smiles. rice paddies on the hike to rani mahal.
The next day we head back up the road, taking a different, but more strait forward track back to Tansen. Tenting was uneventful, we stay close to the river bed, right beside the palace. We ate Dahl Bat for dinner at a the one restaurant tucked close by the river, within a stones throw of our camp. The next day we head back taking a different, but more strait forward track back to Tansen. The hike is a steady climb back out of the river valley. We walk spotting monkeys and picking up quartz.
By 5pm we are back at Man Mohans feeling sunburnt and very lucky for the jungle trek. Hiking to the less travelled places can feel like a real adventure.
Staying a few more days Tansen I explore the city. There is seriously amazing bakeries to be found. Beautiful temples including a one decorated in very sexy carvings (ooo er). There is a market in town which sells all sorts. Silversmiths, Incredible samosas, and the hills to walk on, which are so pretty.
To hike to Rani Mahal I would recommend doing what we did, seeking out Man Mohan on the top of the hill to ask directions. Consider staying a night out there if you have tenting equipment.
To learn more about Rani Mahal in Tansen Nepal see the wikipedia page or this post by Subodh Rana which is all about the history of the building. To read about more hiking in Nepal please check out my other posts linked here: The end of the road and back again, camping on the Annapurna circuit. Five things: Pokhara, Nepal . Six things: Kathmandu, Nepal
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