After what seems an eternal bus trip, we make it to Lumbini, said to be the birthplace of Siddharta Gautama, better known as Buddha.
The “town” itself and its surroundings are pretty deceptive; the vegetation and mountains of the North are now replaced by the flat, grey, bland and full-of-trash villages of the South. At first we wonder “what’s the fuss about this place”?, but of course we haven’t yet seen the worthy part – the one linked to Buddhism.
Long time in the past, Buddha’s followers erected a cult complex in this place in his honor. Ashoka the Indian emperor also pilgrimaged to the site and erected a pillar there, but then, disaster happened! and the place was left in ruins. After some more destruction by human invaders and to the natural flow of the elements, the site remained abandoned until it was excavated in 1896. Now, a simple white building covers the area next to a pond and a big tree.
All the Buddhist nations gathered and decided to erect a temple or monastery in the area around Buddha’s Birthplace. Therefore, there are temples built by the governments of Sri Lanka, Burma, Vietnam, Thailand, Japan, India, Nepal… Some are still being built, like the Thai. Each temple has their own cultural features and characteristics. So much so that when we entered the Chinese temple it seemed we where back in the Forgotten City in Beijing!
- Take an extra pair of socks with you and shoes that are easy to remove; all temples, including the garden around the Birthplace, require you to walk barefoot.
- We highly recommend renting a bicycle if you don’t have much time in Lumbini; the complex is huge and you’ll have to walk a lot, probably missing many temples. You can rent them at the main street in Lumbini for 100 NRP per day.
- If you rent a bicycle, keep in mind that the whole area South around the Maya Devi temple (Buddha’s birthplace) can only be visited on foot. Guards will ask you to park your bicycle tenths of meters before. The rest of the complex with temples from different countries can be visited by bicycle and there is where you’ll appreciate having one.
- As we had bikes, we went back to town for lunch, but it should be better to take some with you so that you can be more relaxed.
- Next to the Lumbini Guest House, there is a small establishment serving samosa and chana… Don’t miss it!! The prices are unbeatable (10 NPR a samosa) and everything is delicious. Sure it’s street food, but they have so many clients that it’s always fresh. By the way, their Nescafe coffee is also amazing, because they will use the steamer to froth the milk and add some chocolate powder.
- If you don’t believe in street food, the restaurant inside Lumbini Guest House is also good.
- Don’t trust what the LP guide says about the Lumbini Village Resort… The owner is a scammer and there are much better rooms in Lumbini for a reasonable price. You can read our review here.
- If you want to visit Bardia National Park from Lumbini, there are buses that run all day from Lumbini to Butwal and then from Butwal to Ambassa (Ambassa is 14 km away from the park lodges but your hotel should be able to pick you up from there). Don’t trust those who say there is only one bus from Butwal to Ambassa at 6:30 am, they only want you to pay a fortune for a taxi to the bus station!