Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Lumbini, Nepal

After our wonderful stay at Chitwan it was time to go to our final destination in Nepal, Lumbini. Lumbini is a famous town among all Buddhists around the world as it is in fact the birthplace of Buddha. We had heard some mixed reviews about Lumbini but since it's quite close to the Indian border and it made sense to spend a couple of days there, we were excited to see it for ourselves.

First though we would be taking a local bus. I loved travelling on the local buses in Nepal, they are so vibrant with colourful hangings, pictures and beads all around the ceiling. The people that got on and off the bus were equally as vibrant. There was a big group of Nepali people on this bus that were returning to their homes after spending some time at a worship house for a guru in Chitwan. They were such nice people and were so excited to chat to us.

About three or four hours into our trip we heard a smash at the front of the bus. It was quite crowded so we couldn't see properly but all of a sudden we saw the front windscreen just collapse! A rock had chipped the glass and made it just collapse. Luckily the people sitting/standing at the front didn't get hurt and in true Nepali style the bus stopped in the middle of the road, some men pushed the rest of the windscreen out onto the road and we were off again with no windscreen. I have to admit I was secretly delighted because we now had a lovely breeze coming in through the bus which helped a lot in the 40 degree heat. I was a bit worried for the driver though as we were driving on high mountain roads and the wind that was coming in was quite strong that I couldn't keep my eyes open if I looked straight on so I can only imagine how the driver felt. But this is Nepal after all so we made it to Lumbini in one piece.

Lumbini was an interesting town. It was mainly one main dirt street and was quite devoid of tourists. Lumbini isn't a place that many western tourists visit and when they do they usually stay outside of town. Since we were on a tight budget we found a little guesthouse on the main street.

The main problem that Lumbini had was that it never had any electricity. Most places in Nepal never had any electricity which was fine but it was about 40 degrees celcius when we were staying there and no electricity=no fan which means we were just dying from the heat for our entire time there.

Anyways...back to Lumbini.
What makes Lumbini so interesting is that because it is Buddhas birthplace it is very sacred for many Buddhists. The government has set off a huge plot of land near his birthplace for Buddhist countries all over the world to build temples there. So in this one small area you can go around to all of the temples and see the differences.
We decided to rent bicycles and cycle around. That day we got to see Chinese, Vietnamese, Japanese, Cambodian, Burmese, Nepalese and Laotian temples. We probably saw more but I have forgotten due to the extreme heat that we were cycling around in!

Jason cycling around Lumbini.

...and me cycling around.

This is the Chinese temple (I think)

Beautiful view of the special zone.
The buildings were so beautiful and peaceful...there were
 no other tourists around.
The Burmese temple, this was my favorite,
the way it glistened in the sun was breath-taking.
I can't remember which temple this was...maybe Cambodia?!


It was great fun though and we were usually the only people in the temples. It was so interesting to see the differences among the different countries. There was also many other temples, including a Korean one, but we got lost along the way and couldn't seem to find them, we also couldn't face cycling around during midday in the heat so we decided that it was time to go and see Buddhas birthplace.

His birthplace is still intact and you can see the remains from the area. They are covered and protected by a building. It was amazing to see the exact spot and to see all of the offerings that people have left for him. It was a huge sea of red around the area that he was born due to people putting the same stuff that tikkas are made from around it.
There was also a beautiful old temple next to the building which was nice to walk around.

The group of stupas that are around Buddhas birthplace.

Jason taking in the stupas

The building where Buddhas birthplace is being preserved.

We also got to see the Ashokan pillar which has an inscription on it that is said to be the oldest in Nepal. The inscription grants Lumbini a tax free area in celebration of Buddha being born there.

Overall it was a lot of fun to cycle around to the many different temples in the serenity of the huge temple area of Lumbini. I would definitely recommend it to someone, especially if you are making the trip from Nepal to India or vice versa as it breaks the trip up a bit and the border is only about 40 minutes away. But be prepared to sweat...a lot! (that is, if you are silly and go during the hottest months of the year, like we did)

Accommodation:

Unfortunately I cannot remember the name of our guesthouse and have searched through my many cards that I have kept from our travels and don't have one from that particular one. But if you get off of the bus just in front of the main street it is the first guesthouse on the left. It was cheap enough and had a rooftop restaurant. I have also heard that the Korean temple does temple stays there which could be interesting. You can spend the night but cannot have any alcohol, smoke or play card games there and must stay quiet while there.

Getting there and away:

We booked our bus to Lumbini through our guesthouse in Chitwan. The only bus that goes from Chitwan is a local bus that leaves once daily, I think. You may be able to get tourist buses from Pokhara or Kathmandu as they are more popular places.

From Lumbini to the border we caught a tourist bus that goes there early in the morning (about 8:30 a.m) It was waiting at the top of the main street in Lumbini. It stops a couple of kilometers from the border so we had to get a cycle rickshaw to the border itself for a little bit extra. There are plenty of rickshaws waiting when the bus pulls in.


























































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