"Nepalganj Blues" Nepalganj by Saagar

Nepalganj Travel Guide: 26 reviews and 16 photos

Bordertown blues

Nepalgunj doesn't really have much going for it. Sorry to say. Unless you are an anthropologist, sociologist, political scientist or ditto societal enquirer. Funny kind of place, but not funky... However, it is vibrant in its own way. So do not be discouraged if you need to come here, because if you find the town's pulse and settle down to its speed and atmosphere you'll find a tune with this place. However, getting stranded here is no fun - a mental preparation for it is best. Get ready for Nepalgunj! And be surprised - a lot of tourists come through here! Mostly in transit from India or to the mountain districts of western Nepal.

Three things characterizes Nepalganj more than anything else: 1) this is a bordertown, hot, dusty, full of shadowy businesses. 2) This city is the staging point for almost all of western Nepal, lowland as well as hills and mountains and thus is the hub of all business thriving on food marketing, transport, crisis and disaster and the state control apparatus. 3) This is the capital of western Terai and generally western Nepal, thus the abject poverty, the matrix of people, livelihoods and politics is amazing.

There was once advertised a competition for the dirtiest airport toilet in the world. Nepalganj was decleared exempt from the competition. Things have changed since then, so despite my fairly good-humored negatives and ironies here, do not fear this city. It is genuinely interesting, but lacking seriously in touristic attraction.

There are a number of initiatives that present another face of Nepalgunj than the fairly sombre travellers' picture I have presented so far. The surroundings of Nepalgunj, or rather, by using Nepalgunj as a staging post, lots of exciting opportunities arise. A local travel agency knows much about what to see and how to do it: www.raikatours.com. Buddha Airlines also has an informative page on Nepalgunj: www.buddhaair.com/nepalgunj.php?place=Nepalgunj . The official Nepal tourism pages have references to Nepalgunj here: wwww.visitnepal.com/ and if you add: travelers_guide/entry_points.php you will find details on the Nepalgunj border crossing to/from India.

A couple of local information web sites have sprung up lately; check these out:
www.nepalgunj.net and www.nepalgunjonline.tripod.com/

In transit in Nepalganj

Transit is the word - very few visitors, read tourists, come to Nepalganj for fun. This is a major border crossing to India. The big city and capital of Uttar Pradesh, Lucknow is only four hours away by shared taxi. Longer by bus or train or a combination of the two. You can hop onto the Indian rail network only 17 km from the border.

If you want to go to the mountains of western Nepal, such as the Kailash trail through Humla, to Rara Lake in Mugu and Jumla/Dolpo, Nepalganj is the place for air transport unless you can catch the odd charter out of Pokhara or Kathmandu.

If you are going to any of the western hill districts, roads fan out from Nepalganj and neighbouring Terai districts. It is probably also the last good collection og hotels before you move anywhere west of here in Nepal, if you include the now recovering (from civil war) Bardiya tourist resorts. In fact, Bardiya National park is the main attraction nearby Nepalganj.

Things to do in Nepalganj

If you come in from India you will immediately recognize the more relaxed mood and less frenzied life of Nepal. It just isn't as uptight and criminal and cheaty as the big neighbour UP. You will get a friendly reception. You can cool down after the stress of India, before moving onwards in Nepal. But no need to linger...

There are a few temples and such local places of interest, but no other attractions. There is a zoo, but go nowhere near it. The main Surkhet road bazaar has the main services needed for communication, ticketing and simple purchases. Much more interesting is the old bazaar with some finer buildings and many Moslem people, tongas, rickshaws, stalls and generally a very lively place. Nepalganj is the Islamic capital of Nepal.

There is human desperation to be viewed at first hand, but that is not an attraction. Just be conscious that this area holds many internally displaced people from the past fighting and maoist insurgency, newly freed slaves (Kamaiya) in large numbers and landless and deprieved peoples and castes of many categories. Consider this when wielding your camera and flaunting attitudes. One interesting caste here are the grass cutters, professional families that cut lawns and parks, chuck up the mowed grass and sell it as fodder for the tonga horses. It is a whole little industry. They have their special place set up for their activities on Grascutter Lane.

On a more travellers' interest note, Nepalganj has many restaurants and hotels, of which only a few distinguish themselves. Good food is definitely available. But terrible stuff also, so beware.

The main thing to do in the vicinity is to visit Bardiya National Park, probably the best place for viewing wildlife in Nepal Terai. Nowadays the maoist insurgency and army terror had made it very difficult to uphold law and order in the park and park- and tourism-related businesses are also falling apart. Consider it very carefully before going to Bardiya National Park these days, at least if your knowledge is based on a guide book... Seek local advice.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Best food and touristic services in Western Nepal
  • Cons:Extremely hot, dusty and unhealthy town.
  • In a nutshell:A place mostly for transit
  • Last visit to Nepalganj: Jun 2009
  • Intro Updated Aug 14, 2009
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