A worker is plucking tea leaves.

Nepal //

The Eastern Terai and hills

Lusher and more tropical than the west, the Eastern Terai – the southern flatlands east of Chitwan – are also more populous, more industrial and more Indian. Although the foothills are usually within sight, the main east–west highway sticks to the plains, where the way of life is essentially identical to that of Bihar and West Bengal just across the border; in many parts of this region, Nepali is the second or even third language, after Maithili, Bhojpuri and other North Indian dialects.

Most travellers only flit through on their way to the border crossings of Birgunj (for Patna) and Kakarbhitta (for Darjeeling); outside these places, there’s little tourist hype. The cities are generally unappealing, with one outstanding exception: Janakpur, a famous Hindu pilgrimage centre. Birdwatchers, meanwhile, can check out Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve, straddling the alluvial plain of the mighty Sapt Koshi River.

While the few visitors that reach the eastern hills tend to be trekkers bound for the Everest or Kanchenjunga massifs, or rafters running the Sun Koshi, the area also offers great day-hiking. It’s served by just two all-weather roads: one climbs to the lovely Newari town of Dhankuta and rowdier Hile, the other crawls up to Ilam, Nepal’s tea-growing capital.

Buses make good time through the Eastern Terai on the Mahendra Highway, and the almost-completed Dhulikhel–Sindhuli Highways will make getting to the east even easier. However, most places described in this chapter are located on side roads, and require various degrees of extra toil to reach. Tourist facilities are minimal, but the haat bazaars (weekly markets) are well worth looking out for.

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  • The people of the Eastern Terai