Jungle of Chitwan
Chitwan was great little village south of Kathmandu, home to the Tharu people, the indigenous people of Terai, the south foothills of the Himalayas. Myself and Aimee, my travel buddy for Nepal, spent 2 days here and because I had to work, this portion of the trip felt very rushed, but totally worth it. But we managed to squeeze in a canoe ride down the river, a jungle safari, morning elephant ride, bike ride around town where we bought honey and other souvenirs, an evening cultural show, and a visit to an elephant breeding/preservation center.
The village itself was pretty small, but comfortable and lively. The people we’re very friendly and we stayed at this little lodge run by these young, hip, Nepali guys called The Chitwan Safari Camp And Lodge. Their English was ok, they were super friendly and helpful and made sure we had our safari and activities booked. We felt completely safe and at night, we would sit by the bonfire with them. One night they took me out to see a Rhino in a field, though we didn’t get too close, for fear of the rhino charging us (they can run very very very fast). By the end of our stay, I was Facebook friends with all the guys who worked there.
Getting back to the village, we rented bikes and we were able to travel the entire town in an hour. Chitwan has countless souvenir shops and great little restaurants, and during our bike ride, we stopped by a honey shop and bought an assortment of little bottles of honey. The area is a big producer of honey, as honey production is popular in the Chitwan valley. During the day, it was amazing! Elephants were everywhere, riders would pass by you on their elephants all day long and you would see a lot of “domesticated” elephants and small farms with livestock everywhere. Lots of cute chickens!
Chitwan, being at the edge of a national park, was amazing for wildlife and large animals. We took a day safari, which included a canoe ride and a jungle walk. We saw lots of alligators during the boat ride, but during the jungle walk, not much of anything else (a couple of deer, maybe a boar). Had we done the morning safari, we would have seen more wildlife, but my work schedule caused us to have to do the day safari. But it was still fun to trek through the jungle, though there were TONS of mosquitos and flying bugs.
At night, the town closes down around 8pm, to the point where the locals urged us to be home by 9pm. Mostly because it gets pitch black and there is always a fear that a rhino or wild elephant or animal could actually charge you and kill you. Crazy, no? We did stay out one night past 9 at a bar, but realized that we were the only people there and we did the 5 minute walk to the hotel (using my iPhone flashlight) without incident. But before the town closes, they have a popular cultural show that features music and dance of the Tharu people, including a popular Peacock dance. We ran into these two Aussie girls we had met two days ago while leaving Bandipur, and our paths crossed again and met up at the cultural show. I later ran into them again in Australia!
As for the safari, because of my work schedule, we had to save the elephant ride to first thing in the morning the 3rd and final day. We had to catch a bus at 930, so we did a 7am ride. It was foggy and surreal, and fun for the first 45 minutes, but after a while, you just wanted off the beasts, as you’re crammed on top with other tourists and you start to cramp up and get tired, or want to punch the other tourists next to you. But it was really fun, though the ride was almost an hour and a half, when 45 minutes would have been fine.