After five weeks in India, it was time for me to move on. Thus, I crossed the border of Nepal in late August and arrived in a country where I plan to spend the next two months.
There’s not much to say about my last days in India. After my friend Tino returned to Finland, I spent three days slowly traveling from Delhi to the Nepal border. None of my last hotels in India had working Wi-Fi connections and I didn’t do much in the evenings.
The most interesting moment of the “long departure” happened during a six hour train journey between the Indian cities of Lucknow and Gorakhpur. I traveled in an extremely crowded second class carriage of an Indian train, where I was given a “seat” on the upper luggage rack. There, I talked with a 20-year-old Indian guy who spoke only little English. Still, his questions revealed me how some Indian people see Western cultures.
First, the young gentleman wished to know if Finnish women work in porn films. Then he asked if Finnish women could find him handsome and if I knew a Finnish girl who would marry him. Soon after, he also asked about the age when Finnish girls start have sex. Then he went on to complain about the conservative “fucking culture” of India.
I’ve noticed that many young Indian men see Western countries through the lens of Hollywood and other media. Sometimes this influence makes me slightly worried.
Time to slow down
The border crossing between Nepal and India was very easy. It took me less than ten minutes to get my three month visa and cross to the other side. A cycle rickshaw ride to the closest city, a change to a bus and I had made my way to Lumbini an hour later.
Lumbini is famous for being the birthplace of Siddhartha Gautama, better known as Buddha. Despite the religious importance and the international recognition, I was surprised by how relaxed Lumbini is. It was just what I needed after the hassle called India.
For a pilgrimage site, Lumbini feels quite small. It is not a crowed town – in fact, it’s not really a town at all. The religious sites and monasteries are spread in a site called Lumbini Development Zone. The Lumbini Development Zone is a vast area that has been built up in its current form since the 1970s. There are more structures built in the zone all the time, but the architectural ensemble still has a harmonic vibe that won’t hopefully disappear any time soon.
While visiting Lumbini, I stayed in a village called Lumbini Bazaar. The village is less than a kilometer away from the birthplace of Buddha and it is also the place where most tourists stay. Still, even the Lumbini Bazaar was much smaller than I had imagined. It mainly consists of one main street and that’s about it.
A positive surprise
I am deliberately slowing down after India. I stayed in Lumbini for four nights, which made it my longest stop anywhere after my five nights in Vernar, Slovakia in the middle of June. Most visitors stay in Lumbini for just a night or two and there isn’t really that much to see in the area, but I didn’t mind. I enjoyed the easy days and slow conversations I had with other travelers, many of whom were visiting Lumbini to participate in meditation retreats.
Unlike the other visitors, I was there just for traveling and leisure. I rented a bicycle from my guesthouse for two days and cycled the area and nearby villages, enjoying the freedom and easiness of it. My bicycle was quite clunky and the saddle was way too low for someone of my height. Still, it was good enough for a few days and I truly enjoyed these trips.
The only problems I had with Lumbini were the classic ones: insects, internet and weather. As in India, the Wi-Fi once again worked like a dream — in other words, it was something elusive and distant that I really, really wanted. And like a dream, I could never know for sure if it would appear in the future or not.
The insects weren’t too bad, but the heat was almost unbearable at times. The village of Lumbini Bazaar suffered from frequent power cuts and my guesthouse had not attached the fans to any back-up generator. Falling asleep in a room with temperature of 35ºC (95ºF) is very difficult, so I usually had to wait for the electricity to come back up again before I’d even try to sleep.
Fortunately, my friendly guesthouse managers gave me a table fan with rechargeable battery on my second day, which made the situation slightly better.
Scratching the surface
My stay in Lumbini started my third visit to Nepal. Nepal is the country where I’ve spent the most time after Finland. While I mostly want to explore new destinations during this trip, I’ve decided to make Nepal a country where I try to delve deeper and deeper every time I come here.
Lumbini showed me that there are plenty of interesting places in Nepal that I haven’t explored before. And it was just the beginning.