Thursday, 15 December 2016

Border Crossing – Sounalli to Gorakhpur – Nepal to India by Rickshaw, Foot and a Local Local Bus

I started the journey early in the morning in Lumbini at 8 am checking out and saying good bye to the friendly family owner of Lumbini Garden Lodge and headed to the main street 100m down the road to wait for the bus. Immediately I was approached by someone offering to take me to the border of Sunuali for 800 nepalese rupee. Its better he said by taxi for the bus will take forever.

Now that I was traveling alone again, I was determine to do it the local way as terrified as I was. The bus came shortly after and I hopped on only to get off again for I needed to chuck my backpack on the roof of the bus. It was a mini bus where they pick up people along the way all the way to Bahraihawa. 50 Ruppee for the 1 hour ride where I was standing all the way in a sardine pack bus.

Once we arrive at Bahraihawa everyone got down and thankfully my bag was still there and not drop off the road somewhere behind. I gave the nice kid who climb up and returned my precious backpack a tip of 5 ruppee.
Rickshaw Ride to Border town Sunualli

Rickshaw hoarded around the bus and the first person asked me if I want to go to the Sunuali border. How much I asked and he cheekily said 1000 rupee. I gave him my best smile and a slow hand wave goodbye. Not 10 steps down another rickshaw guy asked the same question and this time he gave a more reasonable price of 100 ruppee. Imagine the bus ride of nearly 30km cost me only 50 ruppee and yet the rickshaw ride of about 5 km was going to cost me 100 ruppee. I took it anyway for I could spare the money and also I was lazy to scout for the dirt cheap ride.

Pedal pedal pedal … it was a quiet ride, peaceful till we were near the border. The rickshaw finally asked me a question. Where are you from? Malaysia I told him and not surprising, he used to work in Malaysia for two years in Malacca. He said that in another two months he will be going back to Malaysia to work once his visa permit was finalized and this time somewhere in Johor.

Sunuali border was as I expected a busy little town filled with money changer and people trying to sell rides everywhere into India and into Nepal. First order of business was to get a money changer and dump all my Nepalse rupee for Indian rupee.
Sunuali Border Town

First one I went to did not have any Indian rupee, and so did the few others along the way. I was now going from shop to shop a small worry starting to build up for I had to get rid of the Nepalese rupee before crossing. I have read in the internet that across there was no money exchange and no ATM. I needed to get rid of Nepalse rupee and get some Indian rupee to survive. Finally one shop had some Indian rupee and I change the large amount of 7000 Nepalese to 4200 Indian. I still had small change close to a 1000 Nepalese ….

Next was immigration. It was one of those border that you could just walk though and no one will check if you even cleared the immigration. Asked a few uniformed officers and they directed me to the Nepalese immigration office which was deserted of any people. Walking in a nice chap took my passport and thought I was entering Nepal …. Exit I told him and he processed it and gave the departed stamp next to my Nepalese Visa …. I wont have any problems entering next time with records of overstay.
Exit Gate from Nepal-Sunuali to India-Gorakphur ( Nepal Imigration on the LEFT )
For some reason I decided to ask him information on busses to Gorakhpur and he said to avoid all the touts selling rides to Gorakhpur from the Nepal side. … go into India and take the bus from there its about 93 Indian rupee he said. What about money changing I asked and he told me the opposite which was to change everything I had in the Nepalese side for there are many cheaters in India money changer.

U-Turn I made after than going back to find more money changer to change off my balance of 950 Nepalese to 564 Indian rupee not knowing I still had 20 Nepalese in my back pocket.

With money sorted I walked over to the Indian side. If I first thought Nepal was grime, India side was filled with rubbish and covered with dust. At the gate the officer waved me over asking me for passport. Imigration I asked and he said no, police check point. Looking at my bag and using his hands to feel and molest it he was thinking if this innocent looking guy was carrying anything illegal. He decided to spare me the full search and wave me though.
Walking Over to India side of the Wall
Immigration was a 100 meters down the road on the left he said. I walk up to a small little shophouse with a sign that said Immigration and that all foreigners entering India should report here. Walked in and I was literary in their office. I think I was the only tourist for the day. Put down your bag they said and take a seat. I passed them my passport and they assumed I was leaving India …. No enter I/ said. … Oh.
After the Gate ... Spot the India Immigration Signboard ??
Walking Closer ... Immigration on the LEFT
One guy went around rummaging the place and came out with the arrival card. After filling up he took my passport and I saw him start up the computer. Five minutes later he stamp the entry into India and I was on my way.
Note : I Got my India Visa in advance in Portugal ... its somewhere in the blog
India Immigration Office
Welcome to India.

I ignored all the touts walking straight looking for the bus stop.

Gorakhpur? Gorakhpur?

Yes I said hesitantly and the guy offered 100 rupee same price as the bus to bring me to Gorakhpur. Bus very long 4 hours but car only 2 hours. Why I did not take the offer I had no idea but I was stuck to the idea of going the local way now. I mean I had taken the local bus from Lumbini to Bahraihawa, a rickshaw to the border and now I was determined to finish it by a local bus to Gorakhpur. I found the bus further down and it was 93 rupee to Gorakhpur.
Walking down the main street to find the Gov Bus

I was lucky the bus did not wait long and soon we were on our way. The ticket attendant took my 100 rupee and never gave back any change. Expected I guess. So it was a 100 rupee ticket then. Along the way we were stopped 3 times by police checks near the border. One couple was pulled off the bus for they did not have any papers as far as I understand. They were from Nepal. Police or Army with guns would stroll up into the bus and poke at bags and question the passengers.
The Local Local Bus to Gorakphur
My backpack next to me was also in question. As I did not understand a word he said I just said yes it is mine. Soon I understand he wants to inspect it and I opened the top drawstring before he said stop and plunge his hand as deep as he could into my bag. My only thoughts as that time was if he was planting a bag of something into my bag. OK he said and we drove off. I immediately reopen my bag and plunge my hand to check if there was any forigned objects in it ….. Thankfully none. 

Second checkpoint and one of the officer asked me a few question which I had no clue what it was. English?? I asked and the look of surprise was shown in his face. Passport he said. I gave him my passport and with his best English or the only words he seems to know in English was – Where are you from? Malaysia I answered and he returned my passport feeling smudge.

Third checkpoint and another officer targeted my bag just before decided to leave the bus. Open he said and as I started unclipping the buckles and opening the drawstring he waved me stop and dun bother sign and left the bus. 3 checkpoints on the road and finally over with.

The bus ride took 4 hours exactly to reach Gorakhpur.
Gorakhphur - India

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