“The only choice for smart people”, Janakpur, November 30th, 2011

When Gabor left from Kathmandu I stayed in Nepal for two reasons. First flying out of Nepal is much more expensive than using budget airlines based in India. Second I got time on my side to take on the journey and “going with the flow” has become my theme on this trip. So I was open for everything except for extreme long bus rides. Therefore while waiting for my first ride of the day I checked my lonely planet (LP) for possible breaks along the journey towards the eastern part of Nepal. “One of the last trains where you can legally ride on top.” got my attention and 7 hours later I was in Janakpur. What was going to happen the next 4 days was special and I decided to report about in seven chapters, the 7 T’s of a presumably boring place. Lets start with the TOWN.

More people, more noise, more trash, more poverty, more dust and one nice temple, I could tell I was close to India. That may sound hard but remember, perception in the only truth, and India will get its second chance in a few days after I visited in 2006. There where also less things -- less hotels, less atmosphere (I did not see any of the old stylish buildings mentioned in the LP)  and especially less tourists. I only met one who told me that nobody knows anything about this train. Early next morning I made my way to the train station. No train but a fairly reliable information about a afternoon departure and a certainly impressive walk. It’s always along the tracks where you find reality, the “TRASH” of society.

I suppose people hope to catch a bit of the passing freedom and middle class besides the real reason of pure logistics. It sounds sarcastic but after photographing the dogs, the trash and this amazingly charismatic girl I went back downtown to the one restaurant with decent food. It calls itself “the only choice for smart people.” Problem is, its true. I had pancakes for breakfast, what did the girl have????

Enjoying my food I was wondering about the TRAIN. Should I take it or not? Instead of 3 there is only one per day meaning not allowing a same day return. However, the train goes to India, foreigners are not allowed to take that border. The last stop in Nepal is Khajuri, a small village with no road connection and no hostel???? I decided to take it on and I would not regret it:

Wow, I am sitting on top of a moving train. For me that was wild, for the locals it was wild that it was moving. The engine seems to break down constantly. This 1912 piece of engineering is the one and only lifeline her. Transport, communication, everything is done via this railway people told me. Riding on the very front of the engine was not necessary but really cool. My excitement stocked for about 20 minutes at arrival in Khajuri. It was true, no hostels, no road and the sun already about to disappear. “Go to the army camp” the locals said and so “knock knock knock” I asked for entry at this new base for the “armed police force (APF)” of Nepal, founded during the civil war. This is a border observation post, Gyanmarie Paudel, inspector and in charge of the post, told me after checking my passport and making sure I go back the next day. Then he ordered one of his soldiers to give me his bed and another one to prepare a fish dinner for me. While waiting for the food he introduced “Caremboard” to me, the local board game you see everywhere.  We talked about him being a UN soldier in Liberia, Africa, the situation in Nepal and my trip. Very disciplined and without alcohol, at 10pm it was time to sleep. What can I say, what a day, going with the flow.

At 6am I got up and experienced the TURN of dawn of my life. Look at the photos and simply trust me that it was exactly like this, breathtaking………….

Still at the camp the train came earlier than expected and already from the distance I saw that yesterday was fun and games, today the train was truly full. Probably not true, but let’s say I found the very last space on the roof and for the 3 hours back to Janakpur I could not believe what’s happening. Each station more people got into or onto the train, still others walked through the masses selling cookies.

So here I was back in Janakpur and of course in my restaurant, the only choice for smart people, remember. While waiting for pancakes and wondering which bus I take to where, Steven came in. He is one of the very few travellers I met, who are on the road longer than me, in his case 18 months. So he tells me about this festival he came for, supposedly the biggest Hindu festival of the year (people get off work for it) and the reason why the train was so full (Indian Hindus) and the hotel prices triple. We made the deal that if I find a nice room for decent money I stay the 3 extra days for it. Going with the flow. I found a room and the one day we needed to kill till the festival start we used for the TOUR to surrounding villages. Both being passionate photographers it was a blessing.

Then the day of TRADITIONS had come. Ram and Shiva, two gods of Hinduism married here in Janakpur and every year this wedding is being replayed with a procession. On top all the celebrations take place as well as the habits of washing, food, levelling casts via color throwing and so on…….

Many people, too many for my taste. I took a break playing chess with some older local men. I actually won twice against the first guy, was winning against the next for the second time as well when a third one helped and crushed me in no time. It’s a life learning, whatever you do, there will always be somebody better in it.

Back to the TURN of dusk and therefore to the procession. It was impressive but not as much as I expected. Maybe that’s also because one spectator thought it was funny to spill his entire bowl of powder colors into my neck. It took me an hour to get half way clean again.

Steven and I wrapped up the day with a good dinner at our restaurant, right, the only choice for smart people. We have similar mind sets and enjoyed to become philosophical about varies things. Here is one for you or at least the once of you who have travelled a bit and seen different cultures, religions and ways of living. A local instead of asking where I am from he asked me: “Which country do you belong to?????”…………………….

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  • gabor says:

    …going with the flow and taking a free fall besides the normal way of life, we have to endure … :-) !

    “German Pussy” is waiting in Singapore, you know?! Have a nice trip back to your South-east-asian basecamp; greetings from Munich.

  • Stephen says:

    That photo of the sari woman washing in the water in the first village is incredible. Good work.

    Figure out, yet, where you belong?

    • frank4444 says:

      thanks Stephen for guarding my back when taking the foto. Well, have I figured it out, I thinks so and it is not Hongkong, smile. FRANK

  • Frank, you need to add a warning to your website: DO NOT TRY ANY OF THESE THINGS AT HOME

    Loved the photo of the single guy covered & painted head to toe in red & gold with a ceremonial aretefact slung over one shoulder. Or was it you after the paint attack? Also the Ram’n’ Shiva wedding re-creation – they both look so happy!

    • frank4444 says:

      Hi Juliet,
      thanks for your coment. Yes, they were extremly excited about their honor to present the couple this year. But I understand them, the noise, the dust, the heat for hours and hours. FRANK

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