My first destination in Nepal, per suggestion of the Nepali guy that I met in the train, was Lumbini, the place where Queen Mayadevi gave birth to Siddhartha Gautama or the Lord Buddha, founder of Buddhist tradition. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a Buddhist pilgrimage site in the Rupandehi district of Nepal and one of Buddhist’s four primary pilgrimage places associated with the life and teachings of the Lord Buddha, the others being at Kushinagar, Bodh Gaya and Sarnath, all in India.
From the Nepal border, I walked further until I saw a vacant lot that seemed to be a public transport terminal. I asked for buses to Lumbini but no one there understood me. I stopped for a while and just observed around. I spotted a money changer in one corner which reminded me to change my Indian currency to Nepalese. My 2500 Indian Rupees became 4000 Nepalese Rupees.
I went back to the terminal repeatedly saying “Lumbini” and a guy directed me to a local taxi. The driver instructed me to sit in a small space left on the back seat and off we went.
He dropped me off in Bhairahawa terminal of buses going to Lumbini. I gave him 100 Rupees and got 80 Rupees back.
The local bus was almost full when I got in. In a few minutes, more and more passengers boarded, some already standing in the aisle when the bus left. After an hour, the bus made it to the heavily populated Lumbini Bazaar.
The bus emptied as we all got off. I followed the wave of people all going to the Sacred Garden and after a few minutes of walking, I reached the gate of Mayadevi Temple, the birthplace of Lord Buddha. Following other people, I took off my shoes, placed it on my bag and walked barefooted to the temple. There was a long queue going inside and despite the high sun, I, too, lined up.
I waited patiently in a barely moving queue. When I was near the entrance of the temple, I noticed that before going inside, the pilgrims bend to the touch ground and then jump to tap the ceiling. I remembered the cliche “when in Rome, do what Romans do“, so I also did. The guard smiled after seeing me doing it. It was obvious that I am not a Buddhist so he asked where I came from, to which I replied “Philippines”. He smiled once more.
Inside the Mayadevi Temple are the remnants of old temple that can be traced back to 250 BC with the nativity sculpture on the center that depicts the birth of Lord Buddha.
When I got out of the temple, the queue was still long. I wandered around for a while to the Sacred Pond and to an area full of prayer flags but fatigue and hunger hit me. I decided to get out of the Sacred Garden and went to the main road. I saw the terminal of the night bus going to Kathmandu, I reserved a seat for the 7PM De Luxe bus, 630 Rupees.
The long travel from Delhi to Gorakhpur to Sunauli and then to Lumbini, the day’s heat and the tiring walk in the crowded Sacred Garden all took their toll on me. It was only 4PM and I still had three hours to waste. I sat on an empty seat at nearby store while consuming two bottles of soda and biscuits. After an hour, boredom struck so I walked to the nearby Lumbini Bazaar and killed my time watching people.
Half-an-hour before our departure time, I went back to the terminal and boarded the bus. The bus departed at 7PM but it made few stops in Bhairahawa and Dumikbas for our dinner which came free or should I say, already included in the bus fare. It was my first Hindi meal composed of two pita bread which I dipped in a curry bowl with some veggies on the side. I do not know how it is called, I tried asking the locals but they just smiled at me. Nevertheless, it was good.
I was afraid that the meal might upset my stomach but the night passed soundly. I guess my system can tolerate Indian and Nepalese foods 🙂