I set out from Pokhara for the Chitwan National Park on Day 10 of the Great Himalayan Drive – not knowing that I would eventually take another week before I would reach this destination.
The reason was Bandipur – without doubt a lesser known gem of Nepal Tourism. I was cruising along when I suddenly decided to swerve my car towards Bandipur on an impulse. Once an important trading town where the Newars of Bhaktapur settled in the 1800s, it is in many ways a boutique and increasingly popular tourist destination of Nepal. Here go some impressions that will stay with me forever:
* For once, a community has the sense to make their village / town a vehicle free zone. You leave your car outside and walk. The town has thus managed to preserve / create a certain character rarely to be found in fuel-fumes infested settlements. No one honks from behind as you amble around.
* There are high quality places to stay for all budgets. I stayed at the Old Inn – literally a piece of art in itself. Will write a review about it later.
* The locals are friendly – actually, they are so most of Nepal. And the environment makes it more conducive to chat them up. It is a world at peace with itself – with all the time in the world to stand and stare. Or for children to happily play all day long. And none of them complain about having school on Sunday. Yes, Government schools close only on Saturdays. The ‘upmarket’ Notre Dame School is closed for the full weekend though (only students who fail their courses have to go for additional classes). The tourism office was also closed while I was there – an Old Inn staff said he had gone to attend a wedding.
* Talking about weddings, there was one happening down the valley. I could see a brightly lit house from my room balcony with songs and music that went on all night. I had no choice but to listen to these – but fortunately they did not bother me even though I am a light sleeper. But they seemed to playing the same tune all along like a stuck record – it may have worked like a lullaby I guess. ☺
* You can head out to multiple walks around, from a few hours to longer. Along slopes and valleys of the surrounding mountains. Including to the Siddha Caves, supposedly the biggest in Nepal.
* Even if you don’t play chess, you will feel like on the big board made on the street by Old Inn. Will write more about it later too.
* Wake up early morning and you get spectacular views of the snow peaks around on a clear day – I missed these though due to clouds.