We are pleased to present a new Solo Travel Destination Post from Bobbie, a member of the Solo Travel Society on Facebook. Bobbie lives in the United States, and submitted the following report about Sauraha. Do you have a solo travel destination that you would like to recommend? Submit your description here, along with a few photos, and share it with fellow travelers!
Solo travel rating: 1.5 (1 is easiest, 3 is most difficult. Please see chart below)
Languages spoken: Nepali, Bahing, Maithili
Sauraha, Nepal, which is located far from the teeming streets of Kathmandu, is a subtropical oasis and gateway to UNESCO’s World Heritage Site, the Royal Chitwan National Reserve. Unlike much of Nepal, Sauraha suffered very little structural damage and no loss of life from the catastrophic earthquake of April 25, 2015.
Nestled along the sandy banks of the Rapti River, Sauraha is a visual feast for the solo traveler. Those who visit this unique part of the world are rewarded by the sights of huge Asiatic elephants plodding lazily down dusty pathways as they make their way to the river to bathe, Hindu women in brilliantly colored traditional clothing hawking their goods from small gift shops, and bearded goats sticking their noses out of their pens in order to bleat a warm welcome to passersby. Lush, flower-laden gardens invite tourists through their gates, revealing secluded and inexpensive vine-covered hotels; an occasional barefoot hermit wanders down the streets as he silently contemplates life; and tourists sip tea beneath rich, overhanging foliage as they chat with Sauraha’s friendly natives while awaiting the canoes that will take them across the river and into the jungles and grasslands of Chitwan.
The village is easily accessed by bus from Kathmandu for about $20 or from the Bharaptur Airport which is only about 10 km away. Hotels are inexpensive and one night’s stay will seldom cost more than $15. A variety of foods are available, and one can easily find a delicious yet low cost meal in eateries such as KC’s Restaurant and Bar, which is noted for its excellent menu variety, friendly staff, and extremely high reviews on Trip Advisor.
No journey to Sauraha is complete without a visit to its main attraction, the Royal Chitwan National Reserve which is renowned for its preservation of the One-Horned Rhinoceros, Bengal Tiger, and Gharial Crocodile. Home to 68 species of mammals, Chitwan provides a refuge for elephants, wild boar, bison, antelope, deer, leopards, sloths, and the ever-present monkeys that swing throughout the branches of its trees.
As a senior citizen and a single woman, I discovered a sense of safety in Sauraha that has not always been present during my two years of solo travel. Having taken a short reprieve from my volunteer position teaching English to tiny Buddhist monks in the Azom Drocul Monastery not far from Kathmandu, I arrived in the village of Sauraha only a few hours before the Gorkha Earthquake shocked the entire world with its massive fury. My illusion of safety had been shattered. Stranded, with no way home and no road open so that I could return to the familiarity of the monastery, nothing in my life had prepared me for what I was experiencing. The compassionate citizens of Sauraha treated me as one of their own, ensuring that my every need, both physical and emotional, was met.
The rewards of travel are measured by the memories retained, friendships made, and experiences gathered. However, one of the greatest rewards seldom mentioned is the profound changes that occur in the human psyche because of unique situations encountered on the road. Only a few hours after the people of Nepal had fled their shattered homes in absolute terror, at the request of local villagers I found myself in a caravan of trucks climbing the treacherous, mud-drenched Himalayan roads, heading towards the epicenter of the quake. With a team of ten Nepalese men and one female tourist from London, I was traveling into mountains of Gorkha, the site of some of the hardest hit villages of the quake in order to deliver much needed aid to the survivors. As I wandered through collapsed homes and schools, passed out tarps and plastic mattresses to the elderly to provide them protection from the monsoon rains, gave bread to hungry children, and handed out packages of rice to people who had lost all their possessions, I discovered that I no longer was a visitor in a foreign land. I had become one with the people of Sauraha, who, like myself, possessed a passion for the sanctity of life.
The author, Vivian Green stated, “Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass. It's about learning to dance in the rain.” No matter where my travels might lead me, the beautiful people of Sauraha will never be far from my thoughts or my heart. It is they who taught me the incredibly important lesson of “learning to dance in the rain.”
Solo Travel Destination Rating System
Safety – 1 (1 very safe, 2 safe in most areas, 3 be cautious at all times.)
Language – 2 (1 English is first language, 2 English speakers easy to find, 3 English speakers rare)
Navigation – 1 (1 easy to navigate by transit or car, 2 poor transit, car necessary, 3 not easy to get around)
Culture – 2 (1 Similar to North America or Western Europe, 2 Different from above but relaxed and easy, 3 Challenging)
Average Rating – 1.5 (1 is easiest, 3 is most difficult)