That was it for India. I previously mentioned that lots of people either love or hate India. Without wishing to sound like a contrarian, I’m probably somewhere between albeit closer to loving than hating. Some of the reasons that people give for like India include that it’s dirty, you constantly get hassled by beggars and hawkers, there’s too many people, etc. I experienced this to an extent but probably to a lesser degree than expected so it wasn’t too bad. During my stay I wasn’t scammed or ripped off, at least not that I noticed! I’ve heard some people, especially youngsters, complain about the lack of nightlife but if you sign up for a tour that largely visits spiritual places, you can hardly expect there to be much disco dancing! I can see a little bit of merit in the argument that some Indians can come across and rude and perhaps don’t always respect personal space. After a few days I began to realise that if you didn’t drive like a bit of an arse in India then it would be difficult to get anywhere on the roads. In Delhi rush hour there are just too many people around to form orderly queues. That’s not to excuse rudeness, which is one of my major annoyances, but it may go some way to explain such behaviour. That said I’ve really enjoyed many aspects of the country. The sheer energy from the hustle and bustle, the great food and the rich cultural history have been absolutely fascinating over the last ten days. Having a tour guide passionate about the places has also enhanced the experience. This was a great time of year to visit. The weather was steadily around 20C during the daytime, compared to the usual summer temperature in excess of 40C. There was also no rain.
So it was goodbye to India and hello to Nepal. Or namaste as is the local greeting. With the border closing at 6pm we set off on the long drive from Varanasi at 5 o’clock this morning, just to be on the side of caution. Everything ran smoothly and with a quick and efficient border crossing we were in the Lumbini hotel by 4pm. This included the weird time zone change that we experienced. Nepal Standard Time is 5 hours 45 minutes ahead of GMT, a quarter of an hour ahead of Indian Standard Time. And what a hotel it was. First of all we drove down a track and the gates of what appeared to be some compound opened. Two guards behind the gate saluted the minibus as we passed. The hotel grounds had the appearance of a countryside retreat. There was some sort of Japanese-theme happening, presumably as a result of the Buddhism influence in the city. Inside the rooms the beds were raised on wooden platforms and guests were provided with kimonos. So far the hotels we’d stayed in on this trip have fallen into the basic but fine category. This place was overtly swanky.