Kathmandu Diary, A Travelogue by Binay Laha
Journey from Raiganj, India (West Bengal) to Kathmandu, Nepal
Kathmandu Diary, A Travelogue by Binay Laha
From Raiganj, India to Kathmandu, Nepal
It was difficult for me to decide where to move once the Diwali holidays were extended by our school till coming Monday in the first week of the month of November 2022. We three Saroj Sarkar, Nausad Ali and I often thought of moving towards Sandakphu and Phalut. Sandakphu is the highest peak of west Bengal. Phalut is the second highest. Many times I have gone to Darjeeling and other offbeat places but I have never been to Sandakphu. So I was excited. Actually we three were excited.
After the school was closed we have been in talks to arrange our trip accordingly. But all went in vain. On Sunday morning we were engaged in a teleconference about our final plan. Saroj said that he is just coming from the doctor and feeling ill. On the other hand, Nausad said he will go to kolkata. Then I thought this trip will remain unchanged for them but with alteration. I decided to give it a second thought like I did while I went to Vaishnodevi Temple. There I also got nobody to accompany me. But I went. In traveling, much planning does not work and solo traveling is the best always. So I did this, this time also.
I made a plan to go to Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal. I did not have much idea but I know that I won’t fail if I start walking alone. I book my bus tickets and hotels online here from Raiganj on Sunday Night. And I packed up my luggage the night before dinner. It weighs lighter.
My bus from Siliguri Tenzing Norgey bustand to Kathmandu was at 3 pm so I decided to pick up my bus at Raiganj at 8 am. It takes 6 hours to reach to Siliguri From Raiganj. The Next morning, which was Monday, I pick up my NBSTC bus from Raiganj State Garrage bustand at 7:45 am bidding goodbye to my daughter Aratrika and my wife. Aratrika told me yesterday night, “Na gelei parte” means better not to go but she told me in the morning that “Bhalo Kore ghurbe” means travel nicely.
The Bus reached Islampur after a few hours. I took Ghughni Muri there along with black tea. Seeing the tea gardens after Ghosh Pukur my mind refreshed as always as it did while I went to Siliguri. Siliguri is the gateway to the North East. It attracts lakhs of tourists every month. I reached Siliguri at the right time. There I took lunch at Khana Khajana. I took there because the food provided by them are costly but delicious which we have taken twice out of which once during Lepcha Jagat tour and another was at the time when we traveled Lamahata.
While I was taking my lunch I got a call from Greenline bus counter, actually it was this AC bus I booked for going to Kathmandu. The price of ticket was 1835. And the return ticket price was also same and through same bus. I booked it through the red bus app. Nowadays apps are a very important medium for ease of travel. One can book it prior to the journey. I told Greenline over phone that I will go by few minutes and then I will hand over the passport number there for immigration checking. They were very Co-operative in their voice. I reached bus stand and found counter number ten is mine. I talked to them, they told me to take a rest before our departure at their restroom. I asked them how I can get Nepali Currency. They helped in this regard also. Came to know that I will get 1.6 percent in Indian rupees. After this initial talk I came to the bus in super excitement. I met two guys there.
One was Gurung who resides in Kathmandu but basically he is from Kalimpong. He extended friendship with me and told me that he will help me by giving his phone during our journey as I will remain disconnected for the crossing of the international border. I asked him whether he had exchanged money. I told him that it is available at counter number ten.
We both went there and exchanged money. I got 12800 rupees from my 8000 rupees. This has given me extra excitement. After this exchange we came to the bus. There I saw a man who seemed to be energetic but a retiree was talking to a boy who will sit next to him. I thought he was a retired army personal. Both of us were eager to talk. He said that this is his divine tour to Pashupatinath Temple. He was alone. I was alone. A friendship was born with this man. His name is Purnendusekhar Mukherjee. He is basically from Jamshedpur. He said that he may be called as Rupak Mookerjee and he is more familiar in Jamshedpur. We decided to travel jointly. I told him that we would talk at Kakarbhitta, the immigration point of Nepal. The bus started sharp at 3pm.
The bus reached at Kakarbhitta at nearly 4:30. Checking from the Indian side by Customs was done. We all have shown identity card to the SSB jawan. Then we crossed Mechi river and went to the Nepal Immigration center. We went to the washroom at the back of the office. Some people exchanged their money here. The bus started after 30 minutes. We started watching real Nepal. The dream is going to be true. It was Diwali night. The roads were well decorated with lights like any other Indian cities. Jhapa was really wonderful. I have heard this district name from one of my poet friend Sanjay Sapkota who resides here. It was a wonderful journey to cross Jhapa. We crossed many forest then. Then our bus stopped for having tea break. I purchased chips and it was tasty.
After that wonderful things happened. Some drunk laborers came to our bus and occupied many seats at the back. They started passing slangs in bhojpuri. One drunkard was very excited to dance and told Nepalma Madhubani banaila and added his wish to dance. In their notorious galloping of words a couple, being afraid, moved to the front seats. These couple have a speciality. The lady was from Darjeeling and the lad was from Kerala. They can not speak each other’s ethnic language. So they were speaking in English and in Hindi. However love was their language. I know about this couple from Gurung through his pnpc. (pnpc is a bengali proverb, which means to criticize someone lightly, behind their back) I thought that bengalis only do pnpc, but now I came to know that other ethnic people do also pnpc. This pnpc is everywhere. Leaving pnpc our bus reached at Kalyanpur for dinner.
I thought it would be 11 or 12 o’ clock. But I checked the mobile, it was only 9 pm. Coming down the bus I went to the hotel where once again I and Rupak babu talked regarding the rates of food which seem to be very expensive. A thali of rice and plain dal and sabji was costing 250 rs. I doubt to leave this meal but I took to meet my hunger. Then the bus restarted and drowsiness covered my eye and body. So I slept. When I woke up I saw that the bus was standing still and it was not getting started. We stood there for two hours. Then once again I slept. I was feeling within my sleep that the roads were very bad and sometimes dangerous. When I permanently woke up it was dawn. The AC of the bus was nearing freezing. I saw the hills and forest in fog. There was no visibility of sun rays. It was damaging weather for me. I don’t like foggy weather. However when the bus stopped for morning tea and breakfast it became near 7:30. I saw local people gobbling chicken rice and daal. I took tea and paratha type items. It was too costly. I left my back seat and sat beside Rupak babu in the first seat. Now we were making our plan for the day .The bus reached Kathmandu at 11: 30 .
The entry to Kathmandu was amazing. Saw that this is a very big and wonderful city. The roads are neat and clean and I discover that it is a valley. Coming down from the bus we booked a car to go to hotel Shraddha that I booked online through oyo. The car took a lump sum amount from us and sent us to our destination after showing some of the places on the way. Coming to Hotel Sradhha the room was managed for Rupak babu. We fixed some extra rupees for it. The room no 104 was wonderful. Window was adjacent to the main road known as Gaushala from where Pashupatinath Temple is hardly one and half kilometer only. We took the vegetarian lunch at Shraddha at 400 .It seems to be very costly once again. After taking lunch we took a siesta before exploring Kathmandu in the afternoon.
We both thought not to sleep more to not to waste our time. Having taken a cup of black tea we hired a car to go to some of the points. We were tired but we were enjoying different wonderful places of Kathmandu, the capital city of Nepal. We have been taken to Rajgate but it was closed for Diwali. We spent few moments there and then we were moving towards Swayambhu Temple. We were watching Kathmandu while reaching the higher point. Swayambhu came at last. We reached swayambhu crossing many hundred stairs. Swayambhu is a beautiful temple. Hundreds of foreigners were there. Kathmandu city is clearly visible from Swayambhu Temple. After Swayambhu Darshan we took a cup of black tea at 35 rs. Rupak babu wanted to have milk tea but the rates sounded too high.
We came down from Swayambhu and found our car passing across the hilly road. Then we went to a monastery. But we did not stay there as we have to go to Pashupatinath Temple by 5:30 .This was our long wait to visit the place rather than others. So we told our driver to go faster so that we won’t have to miss the Divine Darshan. We reached Pashupatinath Temple on time. Keeping our shoes to the Shoe counter we entered the premises bare footed with bhakti in our heart and divinity in our mind. The premise is wonderful. Neat and clean it was . So big it was. We just entered the Main Temple and saw in our own eyes. We got the divinity. We move around twice. We got satisfaction. That is this satisfaction for what lakhs of devotees come to worship Pashupatinath.
Rupak babu told me that I should also go to Chardham-Kedarnath,Badrinath,Jamunotri and Gangotri. I got a sound knowledge from him. Rupak Mukherjee has been traveling India widely for nearly 40 years. This is the first time he came to Nepal and traveled with me. I am fortunate that I am getting his companionship. This meeting of two souls is indeed divine and felt this was done by the grace of Pashupatinath God. I wondered why I have long been an atheist and how I reconvert myself to be a complete devotee of god. I find God in every deity. I find God in every human being despite their religious differences. God is omnipresent and Almighty. That day we returned to the hotel after this divine intervention. We had dinner in a hotel adjacent to our hotel .We slept soundly that night. Getting up in the late morning we once again went to Pashupatinath Temple in an unknown call. There I met Maheswar Chowdhury who is a lawyer of the Supreme Court of Nepal. I handed over to him a copy of Indology which inculcates, ‘Act local think global ‘since its inception. Felt that Indology got her global reader. Rupak babu came after 45 minutes. Then we hired a car and went to Tribhuvan University. The campus was wonderful and natural, surrounded by the city and Himalayan hills. We enjoyed this campus tour. After that we went to China Market. We just crossed this market as the big market was closed. We watched a long tower crossing the China market and then we came back to Hotel Shraddha Palace. We took lunch at a Marwari Hotel at Gaushala named Annapurna .Took Nepali thali at 150 and tasty Jelebi at 20 rs.
In the afternoon we went to the Tribhuvan International Airport by bus spending only 20 rupees .The airport was wonderful to look at like a beauty queen. Marigold gardens were everywhere. The roads and the taxi stand were fantastic. We came down to Pashupatinath once again entertaining at the back gate walking down from the airport. I don’t know what had happened to us, especially to Rupak Babu who was absolutely caught by the divine magic and spell bound by a strange call of God.
We have decided not to move to any other places but to stay and take rest till lunch in the next. But we knew it would never happen. Tomorrow was the last day. But Rupak babu had not yet booked a bus ticket. Once I thought that I will cancel bus ticket and we both will book flight ticket from Kathmandu to Bhadrapur which is only a 45 minutes journey. Long bus journey from Kathmandu to Siliguri would be very tough. However, Rupak babu’s ticket was booked online by his sister’s son at Asansol in the district of Paschim Bardhaman.
The next day was the last day. The bus will leave from Kathmandu bus stand to Siluguri as per our ticket. So next day we have decided to not sit at hotel. We started walking around Gaushala Market and then we moved to airport again. Coming back from airport we took bath and then told the hotel manager to arrange our bill. We took our lunch at Annapurna Hotel. We eat Golabjamun also. I can remember that Rupakbabu said “Misti na khele bangali kibhabe thakbo” means how can we remain Bengali if we do not take sweets after lunch. I understand that a Bengali will remain a Bengali everywhere in the world. We will never change our food habits.
After clearing the payment at Hotel Shraddha Palace we took a little bit of rest in our room no 104 .We were not supposed to leave the day. We were not ready to leave Kathmandu. But We have to do it because we have to return to our material world from this retreat. Travelling is always a retreat to me. As soon as we decided to go to Kathmandu Swayambhu bus stand we came to the reception. We bade goodbye to the manager and then we left the hotel. We came down the street, walked slowly and caught a cab. We sat peacefully. We reached Swaymbhu Bus stand after 30 minutes after watching Ratopul and Thamel. Reaching bus stand we saw a different picture. Our bus has been changed to a private AC bus and it will reach Kakarbhitta, was said from the counter. We disagreed with their proposal but accepted by force as it was a very long journey. But the bus given to us rather than Greenline was nice and new. Rupak babu became very happy.
The bus started at the right time and it took two hours to cross Kathmandu city. It took more than four hours to cross my active nostalgia. Good to share that this was passed by watching a south Indian movie named “Arabinda Samantha” which was a story of the rivalry between two villages. It was a completely bogus and cock and bull story. But I saw that everybody in the buses were enjoying themselves despite the differences of Nationality. The movie was dubbed in Hindi and Hindi is a very common language in Nepal. The Bus stopped for Dinner at Jugedi. I took a chichen meal here for the first time in Nepal at 350 rupees. On the other hand Rupak babu is completely vegetarian. Our bus took us adjacent to kakarbhitta at 5: 30 am. But sad to add that we have got no linked green line bus there. Being compelled we booked a Bolero giving 250 per head from Kakarbhitta to Siliguri Junction. Checking was there at checking point. We showed our identity card. We left Nepal and entered India keeping an everlasting feeling and experience in our heart. After half an hour I bade good bye to Rupak Babu and he bade goodbye to me. This divine tour will not just remain in our heart but it will remain as an unforgettable treasure in the entire life of us .Goodbye Kathmandu.
N.B: Hotels in Kathmandu may be booked online. Those who do not like to travel 15 to 17 hours by bus may book flight tickets from Bhadrapur to Kathmandu and vice versa. The aged one should avoid bus travel.
Bio of the writer: Binay Laha is a poet and a traveler. His notable works include “Ballads of experience,” “The wife of Red soil,” “Act local think global,” ”Darjeeling to Manali”, etc. He is the editor of Indology Magazine, the first English Magazine of North Bengal. He may be reached at [email protected]. You may send feedback of this travelogue through the above given email or through (whatsapp no-91+9564926834). He may also be available through his You tube channel “Bohemian Binay”.