We left Varanasi super early, at 4 am. Our train was already at the station. We were going from the first station of the line all the way to the last station (Gorakhpur). I think we sat at the station for an hour before we left. We had bucket seats, as our CEO calls them. It looked like some people hung out between the cars until a seat opened up, clearly no ticket for that car. It also looked like there was a guy orchestrating it all. He sat next to one of the guys from our tour and was beyond obnoxious. This guy acted like our friend didn’t even exist, climbing over him all the time, standing and leaning over him with his armpit in his face, etc.
There was no food on the train, we had to pick up something the night before, but the only thing we could find was cookies and chocolate. A chaiwalla (guy selling tea) did jump on the train at one point and we were able to get some chai, 20 rupees this time (maybe extra cost for the added convenience of them coming to you on the train). Basically it’s a guy with a bucket of cups and a jug of either pre-made masala chai or in this case, most of it was made except you got a tea bag. Also, very small cups. I wasn’t expecting how small the cups would be, but they make it so sweet it’s actually the perfect size.
Here’s a chaiwalla:
I was able to track our location using google maps and it looked like we were pretty well there. We were one station away (3 km) and we waited an hour for whatever reason before we moved again.
Once in Gorakhpur, we watched our bags get fastened to the roof of our bus.
The bus was pretty cramped, we had definitely been spoiled up to this point. No leg room, tiny aisle, hardly any room on the seat. Also, there were no seat belts. It was a harrowing one-hour drive until we stopped for lunch. The passing on these highways is just plain scary. We hadn’t had breakfast yet, and it was maybe around 1 or 2 (remember, we’ve been up since 4 and had only had cookies, chocolate, and sweet tea). I was really craving a fresh salad, but I knew I wouldn’t be seeing a salad again until we got back to Canada.
After lunch, we drove another couple of hours to the border of Nepal. Again super scary driving. We drove past miles of trucks waiting to pass the border. It can take days, apparently, for these trucks to go through. We stopped at one building to get our passport stamped for exiting India. Then we had our bags put on a cycle rickshaw while we walked the rest of the way (faster than driving and was less than 1km). Plus it was pretty cool passing through the border on foot.
Then we had to stop into another little hut to get our Nepalese visas. We filled our 2 forms, provided a passport sized photo, and $25 US in exact change without any marks or rips. We probably waited 20 minutes and we were off on our new bus, which had a lovely lavender colour. Unfortunately, it was just as cramped as the last bus, but at least it had seat belts.
We watched our first sunset in Nepal as we drove to our hotel in Butwal. We noticed right away the style of driving changed. We yielded at traffic circles, less honking. Aside from driving, we noticed there were sidewalks that people used, very different from India. The architecture was certainly more different. We saw more buildings complete, whereas in India there were a lot of buildings half built that looked abandoned. Our CEO said the half built structures in India was down to to the currency issues.
Generally, it was a lot quieter. Shops were closing up at around 6 whereas in India, shops seemed to stay open very late.
The hotel was fabulous. Upon arrival, we all received red markings on our foreheads. The hotel room was clean, everything worked, and we had enough towels. Still a bit stingy on the toilet paper. The restaurant had amazing food and was very clean. Unfortunately the service seemed very disorganized. We got our drinks menus, then no food menus until a little while after we ordered our drinks. And if you ordered a cocktail, it was quite a wait. The food at this place was apparently transition food. Not quite what we would expect to see the rest of our trip in Nepal.
As we went to use the elevator, the power went out. I was afraid the doors of the elevator would close on us, but they just stayed open. We felt pretty lucky we didn’t get in that elevator just a second earlier. They had the backup generator working pretty quickly though.