Chitwan is a tranquil haven for the unacquainted eyes of foreigners, a weekend getaway for local city dwellers and uncharted territory for a first-timer like me. The weather was uncomfortably sticky for we had just disembarked from cool Kathmandu.
We were welcomed with stretches of jungles, flatlands, banana groves and waving children, a sight more pleasant during the cool mornings and evenings. Upon reaching Chitwan, you may decide to swerve left to Sauraha, the entertainment hub of the town or veer off towards the secluded jungles.
Where to go
Chitwan has a lot to offer to local as well as international tourists. The Elephant Breeding centre in Bharatpur fascinates every age group. You get to witness the interaction of mother and baby elephants, the preparation that goes to making the kuchiis — elephant sweets made from molasses, salt, and rice wrapped in grass. It is an easy walk or cycle from the main hub.
The Chitwan National Park is home to crocodiles, one-horned rhinos, sloth bears, Bengal tigers, Asiatic elephants and hundreds of protected species. The Bis Hajaar Taal (20 thousand Lakes), is an attraction for wildlife photographers and countless wayfarers. This wetland is surrounded by the woods, which is why the air is serene and remains charming round the clock.
Devghat is a town in Tanahu which has its religious inclinations. Various temples, caves of Hindu gods and goddesses, religious activities have garnered touristic attention. Sauraha and its surrounding jungles are sparse but it is where the party starts. For friends and patrons willing to give way to some weekend fun and frolic, Sauraha is an ideal town with scores of bars, lounges, restaurants and even lodges for accommodation.
All travel destinations in and around Chitwan are easily accessible within an hour, from arranging transportation to managing time should not be a hassle. Resorts/ lodges are more than happy to manage transportation, guides, naturalists or roadmaps to the guests.
Most travellers, especially on a budget, prefer to stay at Sauraha on the north bank of the Rapti River. The alternatives include the upmarket lodges, beautiful natural resorts on the edge of the park and budget lodges and homestays in local villages.
Drench yourself completely in the cultural pool and feast on some Tharu food. A Tharu diet includes rice served with lentils, vegetable curries and a variety of delicacies prepared from fish, pork, mice and surprisingly a type of snail called ghongi. Shiva ghat is a retreat a bit far from the urban clamour, some eateries nearby offer amazing fish delicacies.
Its enchanting forests and its inhabitants are what makes the trip worthwhile. Living up to its name Chitwan is an entirely natural wildlife retreat with so much to offer. The trip for me was quite like a savoury gourmet meal that leaves you content, it left a calm yet enthralling aftertaste.
What to do
Most hotels, lodges in Chitwan accommodate guests and prepare an itinerary suitable to every individual. The activities that you pick during your stay in Chitwan will undeniably bring out the best in you.
Peaceful elephant safari or a rugged jeep safari into The Chitwan National Park and its periphery jungles is one of those activities. Close encounters with the wild one-horned rhino and gharials is a sight no one forgets as you paddle through the Rapti. Usually followed by it, elephant bathing is one of the most soul-satisfying things you will take pleasure in doing. Camel safari is also another activity that has become quite popular in Sauraha. Visitors can catch up on their hobby of bird watching as exotic species are in abundance. Walking through the jungle paths, enjoying the mellow sunset brings a pause to an adventurous day.
But a day in Chitwan is incomplete without a little cultural amalgamation; the Sauraha Tharu Cultural House will positively enlighten you. One must not forget to indulge in some Mithila artwork around Chitwan. The cultural show ends on a high note with guests mingling over dinner.