Thursday evening I boarded the local night bus with a small bag of clothes, leaving Kathmandu and most of my belongings locked up at my guesthouse. The ride itself could have taken six hours, but many chai breaks, dinners, and stops along the main Nepal highway later, we were dropped off near Lumbini shorly after 6AM. It was a 12 hour journey with beautiful Hindi soundtrack blaring over the speakers throughout the night. Lumbini itself is tiny, and after breakfast we toured the grounds, which were relatively empty, uncelebrated and not entirely developed. A sort of EPCOT of Buddhist monasteries, the man-made lake at the eastern end of the grounds is surrounded by Myanmar, Korean and other internationally sponsored monasteries, close to the humble brick building housing the birthplace of Buddha. Much to say about the Vipassana course itself, and not enough time or space to do it justice. It was an incredible and highly recommended experience. The Lumbini Center is located within the main grounds and extravagant it is not. Luxurious it is not. In fact, DEVELOPED even, it is not. A high brick wall surrounds the simple grounds, which include four brick buildings (men's quarters, women's quarters, meditation hall and dining hall) with concrete walls and floors and screen windows, all surrounded by manmade pools of water. For the next ten days, our mornings began at 4am, and ended at 9:30pm, with close to eleven hours of sitting meditation per day in the humidity and heat (40 degrees Celsius) of Lumbini, just fifteen minutes away from the Indian border. No reading, no writing, no talking and no human interaction (the last two were not so difficult, as the six other Nepali women in the course spoke no English). And still, we came out smiling, elated, floating, even not ready to leave by the end of the course.
I left Lumbini on a bus full of goats, headed to Bhairawa for the connecting transportation to Kathmandu, which ended up being a minibus packed full of 12 people. We made it past Mugling and just an hour from Kathmandu encountered a roadblock, so we parked on the interstate, and entertained ourselves for the next seven hours waiting for the accident to clear. 11pm back in Kathmandu, preparing for the next trip to eastern Nepal.