Lumbini, the birthplace of Buddha provides a unique, almost Disney-like way to learn about Buddhism around the world. The crowning glory of Lumbini is the simple Maya Devi temple, where Buddha's mother (Maya Devi) gave birth after reaching for the branches of a Boddhi tree, walking 25 steps, and going into labor. You have to pay 200NPR to get into the temple area and see the stone marking the actual spot of Buddha's appearance on earth--supposedly in a standing position!
The day we went a Chinese dignitary was touring the site so it was full of army personnel and monks stationed there for the occasion.
Your visit may not have the same VIP effect, but the tree billowing with prayer flags and the wandering monks are nevertheless sure to snap you into "I'm in Nepal" mode.
See and Do
The best way to get around the complex is by bicycle, so rent one in town (150NPR) before heading out and seeing what we termed as the "Epcot of Buddhism." Lumbini is much more than the Maya Devi temple and what we found most interesting were the numerous Buddhist temples and monasteries that Buddhist communities around the world have built to show their devotion.
You can visit most of Asia and even some of Europe in one day--on a bike! What more could you ask for?
How about the Forbidden City feel of the Chinese monastery?
Or the typical stupa of the Nepal one?
Check out the gardens of this monastery built by devotees from Vietnam...
And the gleaming gold stupa of the Burmese temple, which brought us right back to Shwedagon Paya in Yangon.
There are temples from Sri Lanka, Thailand, Vietnam, France, and tons of other countries, so allow a day to bike around, take in the scenery, and relax. It's a much needed change from your day of travel--especially if you're coming from India!
The in-town accommodation is quite basic (mostly fans and shared baths) so we went a bit out of town and ended up at the Siddhartha Guest House. We were promised AC and WiFi, and for $40, we should have had it.
What the hotel didn't mention is that they run on generator power, so there's no AC or WiFi after 7am. Really annoying.
Eat and Drink
All the food we had in Lumbini was underwhelming, but what can you expect for a small town in the middle of nowhere. On the plus side, beer was cheap and we didn't get sick.
Getting to Lumbini from India was a challenge, not because of logistics, but because all of our transportation was delayed. The train from Delhi to Gorakhpur arrived almost four hours late with no explanation as to why. From there, we took a rickety bus (88INR) to the border, which took about three hours but seemed a lot longer.
The land border crossing was one of the easiest I've ever done, with no hassle on either the Indian or Nepalese side. After getting our visas, it was a 40 minute cab ride (550INR) to Lumbini. You can do this for cheaper by public bus, but it requires a transfer and a lot of waiting, which is probably not worth saving the few dollars after a long day.
It's easy enough to get to Kathmandu from Lumbini by taking the local tourist bus at 7am. The cost is 1000NPR and you shouldn't plan on being in Kathmandu before 5pm. On the plus side, it's a beautiful ride and the bus has blasting AC.
Interested in seeing the Maya Devi temple without paying for a plane ticket? Check out our Lumbini photo tour.
You can also share your tips for backpacking in Lumbini by leaving a comment!