Lumbini, Nepal (4th Nov 2007)
As per usual on this trip we were up before sunrise (4am) for a scheduled 5 hour drive to Lumbini in Nepal, the birthplace of Buddha. The journey itself wasn't too bad considering how we could have gotten there. The only downfall was that a five hour drive turned into the best part of an 8 and a half hour mission! (not the ideal way to spend our 1 year anniversary!) After clearing some very casual and informal looking customs and obtaining our Nepalese visa our group leader, Raj, explained that the delay had been because some of the border guards had beaten a rickshaw driver within an inch of his life for trying to charge a tourist too much money; this lead to a brawl between the guards and a group of Tuk Tuk drivers followed by everybody in the queue getting out of their cars and refusing to move thus blocking the border crossing. This meant for us that the last half a mile or so to border control was on foot as our people carriers couldn't get any closer.
On the drive to the hotel we came across some very suspicious looking gentlemen in the road who pulled up a piece of rope as a blockade and forced upon us a toll to pass through, not the first time this has happened to us on the trip and obviously something Raj was used to as he climbed on top of the bus to make sure all our bags were still intact, not the most reassuring and inviting welcome to a town! After checking into the hotel and a half hour rest we were off with the group for an orientation of the area. We were taken by cycle rickshaw (by a driver who seemed to expect one dollar from us even though he was getting paid by our guide) to Maya Devi temple and pond. Within the complex there is a sacred garden and it is here that it is believed the mother of Buddha, Maya Devil, once bathed and after experiencing labour pains gave birth. A structure has been built over the most sacred part of the ruins, a stone indentation where it is said the Buddah was exactly born. We went on to visit a few other temples and shrines and as with a few other of the religious sites we have visited it felt like we were almost intruding on the followers of Buddhism and their sacred time spend there. We walked back to the hotel before having tea with the group and heading to bed, looking forward to what would hopefully be a lie in, in the morning!