Sometimes you just need to explore behind a town to see its real beauty
I’ve yet to hear anyone speak nicely of Lumbini itself beyond visiting the temple park area, the main road/street and of course the obvious quasi tourist / pilgrimage hospitality sector. Well, it is really just a one street town. Maybe that’s why.
However behind all that bland concrete is a maze of open fields, broken paths and overwhelmingly friendly local people. Many happy to see someone explore this side of the town. A few also wondering if I was lost! The only thing to spoil it were a couple of western tourists. But anyway …
Urban exploration in Nepal: just keep walking
Lumbini temples over with I was happy with my accommodation and the food here is quite nice. The only real downside for me are the power cuts which seem never-ending.
Everything in Lumbini is pretty basic. Get over that and you’ll be fine.
Lumbini is certainly not a town I’d recommend you’d visit just for being an interesting town itself. Certainly come for the Maya Devi temple and the other Lumbini temples within the park area. But outside that, well … there’s not much to do.
In such cases it’s up to you to find something interesting. And that’s one of the real gems of long-term travel. Going beyond first impressions. Going beyond expectations. Going beyond travel to just simply explore a place.
For this I recommend a packed lunch, lots of water and just keep walking without anything but a mental map and a big smile!
Getting off the beaten path has a new meaning
Immediately after you leave the main road in Lumbini where all the cheap guesthouses are the road crumbles from paved to semi paved to fractured beyond recognition until finally veering off into dozens of little dirt paths.
These little dirt paths will lead you to simple mud huts with thatched roofs to tin roofed schools and the odd little stupa.
Along the way you’ll meet the dark sun weathered faces of older local people sitting in the shade. You’ll have the bright faces of little children popping up from behind windows and running out to greet you.
“Namaste!” will be the word for the day as the toil of tourism leaves you and you are filled with the simple life.
Fields of farmers and everyday life
Walking along the beaten paths behind Lumbini will soon reveal open fields. This is the Terrai region of Nepal which are also Nepal’s flatlands that border India. Flatlands are easy to walk along yet can can be brutally hot. It’s also not a place little cafes or the like are easy to come across. So again bring your own water or food if you want to spend a day out here.
I’m not alone here though. just as I am leaving a small village I spot for the first time a couple walking along a dirt trail who also look like tourists. I’m photographing a field and then a couple of children as they walk past. I stand up and smiling while about to say hello when they flatly ignore me to walk on by.
The lady shakes her head as they turn around from a distance to look back. I wonder what their problem is? Is it me in “their territory” or something else. Maybe they think I shouldn’t be photographing local children?
I don’t know but it’s a sad time when other travelers don’t say hello anymore. Or have the courage to say what’s on their mind.
Having an evening snack behind Lumbini town
Annoyed by the “foreigners” alone I make a point to spend more time with some of the locals. Not the tourism locals but the people on the streets on my way back.
The ones who are as curious about you as perhaps you are of them.
There’s a momo cart back along where the road starts and I stop. People of all ages start to queue up. I join in to the smiles of some teenagers also queuing.
An old man sitting in the evening sun gives me a thumbs up as I dig into the little dish of dumplings. I walk over and offer to share some with him. He politely declines. His wife pops her head out the door and waves. She’s preparing dinner. The man’s not allowed to spoil his appetite!
We all nod and laugh at the understanding. You don’t need to speak the local language when it comes to things like this.
Nothing to do today? Just explore beyond the town
I don’t want to live in Lumbini. There’s really not much to do here aside from farming and possibly getting grants to build yet another temple inside Lumbini park.
As a tourist I mightn’t want to stay longer than a night here to get all this done.
However I do think that if all we do in travel is visit a place because of its famous “sight” then we are missing out. Yes the tourism infrastructure may not be there. But in its place is a touch of reality. A touch of the good life and good people who are simply going about their daily lives.
That to me is worthy of exploring beyond a town.
Nothing to do today? Just keep walking … and don’t forget to say hello!
Back in the big city
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