Crossing East Nepal by land?
A picturesque tour crossing some of Nepal’s most interesting but least visited places. We travel from Kathmandu valley to the hot lowlands, further east towards the tea farms. Here we cross the international border to India and drive a short distance in India to get to the border of Bhutan where we at Beyond Borders Ethical Adventures give over the responsibility of the tour to our respected partners in Bhutan. During this week we have time to, among many other things, see Hindu ceremonies and Buddhist monasteries, watch birds and animals, visit the female artists at a women’s art cooperative and maybe also pluck some tea leaves at one of the huge tea gardens we cross! Since we travel in areas not developed for tourism the accommodation is relatively simple, even though we always choose the best option available. In exchange, we get a unique insight into Nepalese culture!
The tour goes mainly on some of Nepal’s best roads but also shorter distances on really bad ones. Due to the good road conditions, we can spend our time on the road with lectures and Nepalese poetry and folk stories. Much of the everyday life in Nepal is also lived out on the streets which people use as their backyards, which makes the journey even more interesting.
- Day 1: Luxurious resting and Kathmandu city life
- Day 2: Buddhist pilgrimage sites
- Day 3: Hairpin turns and Hindu ceremony
- Day 4: Art cooperative and dolphins
- Day 5: Boating on the river and traditional village life
- Day 6: Tea gardens and textiles
- Day 7: Crossing borders
Day 1: Luxurious resting and Kathmandu city life
Arrival in Kathmandu. Your local guide and driver for the journey will pick you up at the airport and bring you to a nice hotel where you check in and get some rest. If the time is enough we start off with a walk around the local markets selling spices, glass beads and many other items and down to Durbar (Palace) square which is full of beautiful temples and stories surrounding the old palace. In the evening we eat a welcome dinner at a restaurant nearby the hotel.
Day 2: Buddhist pilgrimage sites
After breakfast, we will drive for 3 hours to the beautiful area of Namobuddha where we check in at a wonderful yoga retreat. An hours walk away from the resort is an enormous Buddhist monastery and pilgrimage site where Buddha in his former life is said to have sacrificed his body to a hungry tigress and her cubs. In the evening we visit a homestay nearby where we have dinner before we go back to the hotel.
Day 3: Hairpin turns and Hindu ceremony
We wake up to hopefully a clear and beautiful morning so that we can enjoy our breakfast with clear views of the Himalayas in front of us. Today’s 8 hours long journey starts with spectacular views of the Himalayas and continues through clean, green valleys along the Sun Koshi River, the “Golden River”.
We travel on what is probably the best road in all of Nepal’s hilly region and finally we reach the lowland Tarai with deciduous forest and fields with grazing buffaloes. Here is our destination for today, Janakpur. This is the place where the Hindu goddess Sita is said to have been found as a newborn by King Janak and this is also the place where she married
the god Rama. This is the story of one of the most famous Hindu eposes called “Ramayana”.
After checking in at our hotel and get some rest after the long journey before walking down to the pond Ganga Sagar. Every night a prayer ceremony is performed in coordination with the ones performed in, among other places, Kathmandu and Varanasi. After having watched the ritual and maybe sent out some candles on the pond we drive back to the hotel.
Day 4: Art cooperative and dolphins
After breakfast, we hotel make a walk to see the enormous, cream-cake-like Janaki Temple. The temple pulls many pilgrims from India and Nepal and is considered one of the most important Hindu temples in Nepal. It’s an interesting place to look around with devotees chanting hymns, sadhus (wandering holy men), and pilgrims. From Janaki Temple we catch a motor rickshaw to the small village Kuwa. It is located a kilometer outside of Janakpur, which long time ago was the capital of the kingdom Mithila. In Kuwa lives the ethnic group “Mithila” who are famous for their naive art with the same name. Here people live in simple mud houses often without water or electricity.
We start with a walk through the village to a women’s cooperative producing Mithila art. It used to be painted only on the walls by the women of the house but the art has now developed into decorating various products like textiles, cups, trays, and so on. These items are exported and sold within Nepal and provide the Mithila women a chance to be self-sustaining. The artists are friendly and love to talk and show their work. There is also a shop where it’s possible to buy art at reduced prices. On our walk across the village, we also see everyday life. Much of the household work is performed outdoors and we meet and talk to the ample tattooed women and the curious children and they often invite us in to serve us tea and show their own walls and the art on them. From Kuwa we travel back to Janakpur for lunch and to pick up our bags.
After lunch, we start off our journey towards Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve. Koshi Tappu is a 3.5 hour journey east from Janakpur and the flat landscape reminds more of India than of the highland Nepal. We cross the large Koshi barrage which blocks the huge river Sapta Koshi from overflowing India. This is the only place in Nepal where we can see Gangetic river dolphins. We try to reach in time to see the sunset from the bridge; it is a mesmerizing view of dolphins and fishermen in small boats!
We reach our tent resort and check-in. The resort is a camp where we stay in comfortable safari tents with high beds and shared bathrooms. If someone feels uncomfortable sleeping in tents there are also a few rooms available in the mud house where the dining hall is located. For dinner we have grilled fish from the camp’s own fish farm and light the bonfire.
In the night you might be disturbed by the trumpeting of the wild elephants and the voices of villagers trying to scare away them from eating the grains. If we are lucky we can see them in the morning close to the camp. Nearby our resort is the army camp. The army is responsible for guarding the wildlife reserve and they are using working elephants. There is no option for us as visitors to use elephants for riding or safari, both because of ethical and practical reasons, but we are welcome to visit the army elephants, and we will also see them passing by the resort now and then.
Day 5: Boating on the river and traditional village life
Koshi Tappu is famous for bird watching and the best time to see the birds are in the early morning. Anyone who wishes can take a morning walk together with the nature guide to see the great variety of birds living in the reserve.
After breakfast, we start a tour of the river flowing next to our camp. Hopefully, we meet not only beautiful birds but also crocodiles, water buffaloes, and elephants. We come back to our camp for lunch and then we set off for a walk in the nearby village. Most of the houses in the area are built with mud and elephant grass and the villagers live a traditional life, making their money from farming or from weaving straw mats.
In the evening a local dance group from the village will come to show us their traditional dances special for their ethnic group. After that, we make barbeque in the garden.
Day 6: Tea gardens and textiles
After breakfast we hit the road again. After the next large town, called Itahari, the architecture starts changing. The traditional houses in east Nepal are made by wood, often standing on poles. We start to see the green and lush teagardens, famous for east Nepal, along the road. We drive all the way up to Kanyam where the weather again is chilly and the views consists of endless green hills filled with tea gardens. Here you will spend your last night at a simple hotel. On the way we will see women weaving the colorful ‘Dhaka’ shawls from east Nepal and we will top to meet them and of course have some tea! The afternoon will be spent walking around in the teagardens.
Day 7: Crossing borders
Early morning we start the drive towards the border between Nepal and India. The process is not very smooth so it is good to reach in time. After crossing the border we make a 4-5 hour long drive to reach the Indian-Bhutanese border by Phuentsholing where our service ends for this time!