Janakpur isn’t really on the regular tourist map, but it sounded like a nice place to go for a couple of days to break up the arduous bus journey across Eastern Nepal. As more and more locals told us it was THE place to celebrate Diwali in Nepal, we got more and more excited! Although we did very nearly change our minds and not go (see previous blog.)
Janakpur was beautiful! But it could have just been the Diwali decorations. The streets were wide and clean and green with banana tree branches everywhere. And the town just seemed alive.
The markets were pumping and full of colour and we were greeted over and over by locals “welcoming” us to Nepal, and little kids who just wanted to hang with us because we were cool.
We visited the amazing Janaki Mandir which was stunning! And, along with another lady we met at the guesthouse, visited a couple of less famous temples and some of the surrounding villages where we sat and watched as kids herded their goats after school.
After Diwali, when the banana tree leaves were cleared away, it wasn’t as nice as before. It magically transformed into a normal town… But hey, it was still a great place to spend a couple of days. Especially if you want to get off the very-well beaten tourist trail.
After safely arriving in Dharan thanks to the kungfu tout (see previous blog) and having spent a pleasant afternoon exploring the market and town, we packed our bags again ready to take the 9:30am bus to Janakpur the following day to celebrate Diwali. We had already confirmed with the bus touts that there was not only a 9:30 bus to Janakpur, but an 8am and an 11am bus too.
So when we arrived at the bus station at 8:30 and were told that, in fact, the only bus to Janakpur had already left at 5am, we were a little frustrated.
Over breakfast we consulted with the restaurant owner we had just befriended and he advised us to take a local bus to Itahari, from where there would be a bus every half an hour to Janakpur. Or, that we might in fact, be able to make it all the way to Narayangadh (for Chitwan National Park). And so we boarded a local bus with a few chickens and a pig, and headed to Itahari, in 2 minds about where to go.
At Itahari bus station we casually enquired about the next bus to Janakpur only to be told it wasn't until 3 pm!! WHAAT? What happened to every half an hour? Where were all these other buses going? After telling them we were planning on going towards Chitwan if we couldn’t go direct to Janakpur, we were instead advised to take a bus going to Birgunj and get off at a random junction town that wasn’t on our map. And so we did.
Once aboard the bus a stranger struck up a conversation with us and told us he was going to Janakpur! So we were on the right bus afterall? Although we would still have to change buses again. So do we go to Janakpur then? Or continue on to the random junction town on the way to Narayandagh? Hmmm.. We let the stranger convince us. Apparently Janakpur was THE place to experience Diwali in Nepal. And so we decided for the 3rd time that day to change our destination and head to Janakpur with him! And then he changed his mind and said he wasn’t going to Janakpur afterall, but to a town near to it. lol
After 6 or so hours we were dropped off at a tiny junction town with no more than a handful of huts. We were soon surrounded by a curious crowd who told us where to wait for the bus and even hailed the bus for us!! With no English spoken by them, and no Nepali by us, we communicated with smiles and got on the bus when we were told to.
A further 30 minutes later and we were dropped off by the side of yet another road with only a handful of shops. Was this Janakpur? 2 guys from the bus started haggling with a rickshaw driver for us, and after the price was settled upon, got back on the bus and continued on their way. We couldn’t believe the bus had actually waited for them to haggle for us!!
As soon as we sat in the rickshaw another guy came running over and joined us. He was a doctor and gave us a guided tour of the town and surrounding villages, as well as an explanation about Diwali and what we should do.
What an adventure of a day. 3 buses and a rickshaw later and we were finally in Janakpur, apparently the most amazing town in Nepal to celebrate Diwali and it didn’t disappoint. It was a truly beautiful experience. The whole town was lit up with candles, and banana tree leaves and coloured sand adorned every shop front. We walked the streets for hours. Streets that normally would seem dirty or dodgy, suddenly seemed beautiful as the shadows danced in the candle light and locals danced and sang and played with fire crackers. We met many lovely people and were “welcomed to Nepal” countless times. It was a truly amazing experience and made the arduous journey more than worth it.
But most of all, it was an amazing lesson in trust. Trusting our sixth sense. Trusting locals who were trying to help. Trusting in ourselves. And surrendering to the adventure at hand.
Nepal, whilst not a difficult place to travel, is certainly a lot raw-er and, so far, off the beaten path than India or Sri Lanka were. And we are LOVING it!
It was our first morning in Nepal. After a lovely nights sleep at our friendly guesthouse in the not-so-dodgy border town of Kakarbitta, we headed to the bus station to grab a bus to Dharan. Our guesthouse guy had told us there was a bus every 10 minutes, so we declined his offer to help us find a bus.. How hard could it be?
No sooner had we arrived at the bus station when we found ourselves surrounded by people. Some touts, some curious bystanders, all of them shouting at us questions and directions. The more we weren’t able to hear, the louder they got. 2 touts were quite vehemently trying to get us onto 2 different buses and each had it’s own team of bystanders trying to help them to convince us. We stood there bewildered and getting deafer by the moment.
And then he appeared.
The kungfu bus tout.
Out of nowhere he appeared and landed a flying kick into the chest of tout number 1.
He then swiftly turned around and gave tout number 2 a forceful push to the chest sending him flying.
And then, in almost a Victorian English accent said “Excuse me sir and maam. How may I help you today?”
We replied we wanted to go to Dharan. To which he told us “Then I suggest you board this bus here. Have a pleasant journey. Welcome to Nepal.” And then he was gone.
Never to be seen again.