BIRGUNJ may not be one of the best places in Asia to spend time, but it certainly beats Raxaul, its evil twin across the border. The town has exploded in the last decade on the back of cross-border trade with India; its population has almost tripled since 2001. Unless you have business interests, there’s no reason to come here except to cross the border to or from Varanasi or Kolkata. Even then, you’re more likely to use Sonauli because of its better connections within Nepal. You could probably kill a few hours in the market area around Maisthan, a mother-goddess temple just off the main drag.

The border is 2km south of birgunj, and Raxaul, the Indian border town, sprawls for another 2km south of it. Horrendous traffic jams are a regular occurrence – if you’re driving it can take hours physically to get through, leaving aside the paperwork.

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