We woke up in Butwal to an amazing view from our hotel room. We could see the mountains in the distance, the sunrise, and we had a great view overlooking the city.
Breakfast at the hotel restaurant was like dinner. Food was good (although a bit cold) and disorganized. We all pre-ordered our food the night before and said we’d be there at 7:30. Food came out sporadically with the last meals coming out at maybe 7:50.
We piled on the bus and headed to Lumbini, the birthplace of Buddha.
Apparently at the birthplace of Buddha site, if you’re with a group, you have to stop at a gate that has a 45 minute walk to the site. Otherwise you have a 10 minute walk. So our CEO put us in groups of 5 so we could buy tickets as individuals instead of a group of 15. We had to walk separately from each other and pretend we didn’t know each other. As if they didn’t know what was going on! Along our 10 minute walk, I realize I’d could smell jasmine. I had never seen jasmine growing before, but a man in our group pointed out the flowery shrubs. Suddenly I really wanted a cup of jasmine tea. The air was just so fresh. So nice compared to India.
We had to take off our socks and shoes to wander the grounds. It was a very cool experience. Where Buddha was believed to be born has a building built around it, protecting the ruins. We couldn’t take pictures inside. Inside you could see what was left of the walls, then a taller brick wall painted in gold. People would end up touching their head to the wall or touching the wall with their fingers, then transferring the gold paint to their foreheads. Outside, the group met to learn about the birth of Buddha and his journey to enlightenment. We wandered amongst prayer flags for a while after that.
After Lumbini, we drove another hour along some windy mountain roads and stopped for lunch at some hole-in-the-wall. Once we got inside, we were surprised to find a spectacular view. A family who had been sitting up at a table with the amazing view moved so our group could all sit together and enjoy the scenery.
We continued our drive and ended up at the Chitwan National Park in a Barauli homestay. The homestay is where the local tribes put together some money to create a place where they could host tourists. Our accommodations were small duplexes with concrete floors and walls and a corrugated tin roof. There was a full bathroom and electricity. There were two beds in the room, one a bit bigger than the other, both with mosquito nets.
Once we settled in, we met our group for a bike ride. We ride our bikes for about 30 minutes through the community, greeted by happy children along the way. We stopped at a river where we saw elephants and rhinos. We were told later that it is pretty rare to see rhinos in the park, even though there are about 300 of them. We took some pictures of the sunset, had some masala chai with cookies, then headed back. This time, we got a shortcut where the ride was only 10 minutes. Most of us hadn’t ridden a bike in ages.