The hotel lived up to expectations, and we had a nice cool (a relative term) sleep but woke up with quite a few mosquito bites on our arms. We really aren’t used to the low-altitude regions as we are now in a sub-tropical climate with bugs everywhere and salamanders crawling on hotel walls. Most of all, we forgot there should be mosquitoes, as they don’t really exist up 3000m in the Himalayas.
The town of Bhairawa is really strange, without much to offer the prices here are extremely high. Especially when the reason you got here was because you got gypped, there’s definitely a sour taste in our mouths. The bus to Lumbini was a short walk away, and this time we paid the local price and got to the exact location. Yay for smooth public transport!
Lumbini tourist area is small and consists of one short street full of restaurants and hotels. The “Lumbini Development Zone”, which encloses all of the temples and the Maya Devi temple, the supposed “exact” birthplace of Sautama Buddha. It’s an UNESCO World Heritage site. It’s interesting because in addition to the temple and several bodhi trees, the temples are built on both sides of a massive reflection pool, with the Maya Devi temple on one end and a peace pagoda on the other in the distance. These temples on either side are built by different countries, and each country seems to have brought their own style to the table. If you thought Buddhist temples at the birthplace of the Buddha was supposed to be serene, this place felt like an amusement park.
Reaching the Chinese monastery first, the entrance was flanked by souvenir stalls and eager rickshaws everywhere. It also seems like we got to Lumbini on some sort of student festival, as the whole place was jammed with kids on a field trip. We were told that, at the Chinese monastery, they would serve food, so we didn’t eat lunch and had a light breakfast since we were afraid the ‘bumpy’ road would not aid digestion. Seems like we got gypped again, as there was NO place that served food at all in the whole development zone! So we grabbed some street chowmein, and walked on. The whole area gives a very strange vibe, with beggars hustling around most street corners, and a boat shuttling tourists on the reflection pool.
At the Maya Devi, the centre of it all, lay the ruins of an historical castle/temple of sorts, but all that is left is the fossilized remains of the temple wall and the ‘exact’ spot where a supposed footprint of Sautama Buddha lays. The lineup wrapped around the whole temple, and when we actually got to see it, all I saw was a few beetles crawling underneath some glass. Not sure what was going on, Jiajia noted, “No, there’s a footprint underneath.” Maybe we’ve been too spoiled with the things we’ve seen so far on the trip, but the whole area just seems rather unimpressive. Outside the Maya Devi temple was a small pond, where the Buddha’s mother was said to have taken a foot bath before going into labour and giving birth to baby prince Buddha. Around the pond was a few bodhi trees where pilgrims sat around in meditation and prayers. Even there, the high school kids still outnumber everybody and their raucousness.
Anywho, we’re on our way back to Kathmandu tomorrow on a 6am bus!