Kolkata, India -After the trek around Annapurna, I moved into a quiet guesthouse near the massive Boudhanath Stupa in Kathmandu, read books about Tibetan Buddhism, and joined hundreds of locals in the daily rounds circumnavigating the Stupa in the morning and evening, spinning prayer wheels and chanting mantras. All told, I stayed in Nepal for over two months. Then came time to leave. I heard about a direct bus from Kathmandu to Bodhgaya, India. Bodhgaya is the holiest pilgrimage site in Buddhism. It is where Siddhartha Gautama sat down under the Bodhi tree and got enlightened over 2500 years ago. The tree is still there (a descendent of the original), and I wanted to go sit under it.
I was hesitant about the bus at first. We would be traveling at night, which is not advised for many parts of Nepal and is downright risky in the state of Bihar, India. Many Indians won’t go to Bihar at all, let alone travel by night. It has a reputation as a desperately poor and lawless place, where the wild dacoits roam, robbing busloads at gunpoint. Plus we would be crossing the border at Raxual, notorious for its sleazy and corrupt border guards. (“Don’t even think about it” is pretty much the sentiment on the travel forums.) But hell, if you got scared every time someone told you it’s dangerous, you’d never go anywhere (especially if you listen to the US State Department travel advisories). And anyhow the nice Nepali girl at the ticket office assured me it would not be a problem. Sensing adventure, I paid the twenty bucks and got the ticket. Continue reading