After a big sleep, we awoke with a small, but important mission: to find a Nepalese guidebook. This was a formative part of our plan for that day, which included figuring out how to get ourselves to Bardia National Park, which we had already decided was our next stop. Although simple in theory, it proved to be quite a complicated mission due to the lack of book vendors in the tiny, one-street town. Fortunately, this also meant there were fewer options, which greatly reduced our search time.
After we finally secured an old copy of the L.P., we settled down at a nearby restaurant to begin planning how to make the most of what was left of the day. We weren't there very long before we were joined by a chatty professor from a university in Arizona, who had a strong interest in Buddhism and was following a route of important Buddhist sights in Nepal and India. We quickly discovered he was chock-full of information on Lumbini. So much so, in fact, that our newly acquired guidebook was somewhat redundant! On his astute advice, we rented bikes with the aim of exploring the nearby temples.
The decision to rent bikes was a very wise one, as we would definitely not have had time to see half as much if we had been on foot, and the weather was pretty warm (we had been looking forward to cooler temperatures in Nepal, but I guess that won't kick in until we get into the mountains). Our first stop, and our primary reason for visiting Lumbini, was the birthplace of Buddha, marked by an ancient Boudha tree. It seems like there is some debate as to whether it genuinely is the birthplace of Buddha, but there is no doubt that it is a wonderfully peaceful spot. We spent quite some time lazing underneath a tree, looking out onto the meditating monks and the prayer flags that surround the area, and watching the turtles basking in the nearby pond.
This little haven of peace and quiet was like a breath of fresh air after the stresses of India. Monique even zoned out and did a spot of meditating herself.
We eventually dragged ourselves away to explore the rest of the area which was like a world tour of Buddhist temples – every country with a significant Buddhist population has a temple in its traditional style. We didn't have time to stop by them all, but we did check out the Korean, Chinese, Thai, Cambodian and Vietnamese temples. It was really enjoyable to cycle through the lush green vegetation alongside a lake and stop periodically to check out a temple (some of which brought back memories of temples visited on our last trip to South East Asia).
At the far end of the large and spread-out complex of temples is the World Peace Pagoda – a striking white stupa surrounded by grass and tree that was quite lovely against the perfectly blue sky.
On the way back we encountered an excitable group of locals dancing around a truck as it slowly moved down the road blasting out lively music. It turned out to be a wedding celebration, and we enjoyed sharing in the celebratory atmosphere as the touring party moved past us.
It was a really enjoyable day, and a great start to Nepal. Just two days in we had already decided that we definitely didn't have enough time in Nepal.