Lumbini is a small but extremely significant village located near to the Indian border crossing of Sunauli. It is the epicentre of Buddhism and is where the man himself – Siddharta Gautama was born in 623BC.
It is only really when you travel out of Europe and into Asia that you realise the vast spread of Buddhism and its importance to life. People dedicate their entire lives to practising Buddhism and it is one of the largest Religions in this part of the world.
Our decision to visit Lumbini was purely logistical, the fact of the matter is it is about an hour out of our way en route to the border with India, and it also gave us a perfect opportunity to get ourselves and things together before crossing into the Sub Continent.
The bus from Chitwan to Bhairawa was 400NPR and takes 4 hours, there are no direct buses and so it would mean a change in Bhairawa where it is a quick road crossing and then jumping onto the bus Southbound to Lumbini which cost 50NPR and took 1 hour. On the bus I got chatting to a Canadian woman called Lisa, she had dreamed of taking her children travelling for years and she had decided that this year she would travel with her two children Jhad (14 years old) and Mahara (11 years old) Homeschooling her children she had taken a break from the rat race and was almost two months into a six month trip. It was nice to have an adult conversation and the kids got on from the start. So, we decided to spend some time together in Lumbini and upon arrival it wasn’t long until we had hired some bikes and were heading into local villages via stunning scenery and plenty of stares.
It had been a long day and we were all tired and so we were asleep by 10pm. About 4.30am I awoke to hear the clattering of metal crockery and as I tried to get back to sleep it was scuppered by the fact the room fan had stopped working. The heat was brutal and I noticed Abi too had awoken, beads of sweat blinded her eyes and she too was not impressed. I went outside and spoke to the hotel manager, I asked him if he would put the generator on and he said it would be too loud! He was just too tight and so I threw a strop and woke Charlie up, packed our things and ditched the hotel at about 5.45am. I managed to find a place not too away and before long I was busy catching up with some work on the laptop and the kids were asleep.
We met Lisa, Jhad and Mahara just after breakfast and headed to the UNESCO World Heritage site, and centre of Buddhism. It cost 250NPR to get in and is a huge place. Basically at the North end you have the place of the birth; really it looks a bit snide. A bit like a school gym, but inside is the revered location of the birth. The grounds are generally well kept, but it was a little overhyped. It is difficult to gain the spiritual feeling I had expected because it looks so shady.
Running South from the birthplace is two parallel roads straddling a canal about 2km long each, on the West side there are Temples all commissioned by the various Buddhist societies of particular countries. That was so much better and there were some beautiful temples. The idea was that we would walk down the West Side, and then get a rickshaw back up the East side. This was a fail waiting to happen and the reality was we spent several hours walking the entire route. I personally enjoyed it, though towards the end the kids were getting a little tired and drinks and food was imminent.
As we come to the end of our last full day in Nepal I look forward to a new chapter in the travels, particularly as tomorrow is the start of India and the centre of Hinduism and magical place that is Varanasi. It is a 6am start and given Indian trains are a part of the journey it really is unknown just what time we should be getting into Varanasi. But as I reflect on Nepal it has certainly exceeded any expectation I had of the country. We found the people to be gentle, friendly and willing to help out whenever and wherever they could. They were hospitable, respectful and non confrontational in their manner. Nepal really is trying hard to claw back the tourists that once visited and it seems everyone is in on the effort. It is one of the most beautiful parts of the world we have ever travelled and it is easy to see why many people come here and simply do not leave. Nepal offers a serenity and tranquillity rarely found and we have experienced as a family an intimacy that will remain with us forever. There are few places in the world that can offer what Nepal does and as we sat in the small wooden boat at the centre of one of the most beautiful lakes in Asia flanked by some of the highest mountains in the world we really did have to pinch ourselves.
We came to Nepal looking for a new experience and we leave with memories that will last for the rest of our lives and a reassurance that we really are living the dream.