For how hot Chitwan is during the day, it does tend to cool off considerably come night time! So much so that getting a good night’s sleep comes very easy.
The next morning, we got up bright and early and pretty much rushed through breakfast – eager to make the most of our time in Chitwan (*we were also eager to see as much of it as possible before the scorching sun came out in full force).
We started off with a walk around the Amaltaari (the village we were based in) and carried on through to Milan Chok (another little village nearby).
One striking thing as we explored this little part of Chitwan was how friendly the people were – like the kind of friendliness you’ve been brought up to be sceptical about back in Europe. Overtly friendly without any reason or ulterior motives.
Oh and then there’s how camera-happy everyone is! The kids, in particular, loved getting their photos taken and would giggle in delight once shown the photos on the screen. I can get a bit awkward about asking people to take photos of them (Lloyd is so much better at this than I am) so it was so refreshing to not have to worry about this at all (as, ironically, I also love taking candid portrait photos of people).
At one point, I had to stop to ask our guide, Suman, if we were expected to give the kids something (definitely not sweets/candy or biscuits or anything that could rot their teeth but you know, some loose change perhaps?) to which he said no.
He said “No one’s expecting anything back from you really” and that they actually recommend not giving money to anyone lest they start to expect it or become dependent on it. He did say though that if you wanted to donate or do something charitable, it’s always best to do so going via the village elders (or perhaps even organisations like UNESCO) as they can help prioritise what budgets should be spent on what.
With that in mind, we just set about getting to know the people more (usually with the help of our guide who had to translate for us) and stopped off every so often to visit different homes when the owners invited us in.
It’s funny but this is a part of Nepal I just hadn’t pictured prior – there’s just so much focus on the Himalayas that these places just get missed off “the popular list” and it’s so lovely to be able to get some little insight into what life is truly like in Nepal!
Most of the people you’ll find in Chitwan are Tharu people, who migrated from India many centuries ago and settled in Chitwan. They’re also famous for their resistance to malaria (which used to be rampant in Chitwan sooooo many years ago) – a fact which was key to their ability to thrive in Chitwan when they first migrated.
From the village, we made out way down to the river, passing by the ladies harvest the grass for the cows and buffalo (cows are sacred in Nepal as it’s predominantly Hindu).
By the time we made it down the river though, the heat of the sun was starting to get a bit too unbearable so we made our way back to the hotel to cool off.
Later that afternoon, we decided to hop on some bikes (which we got from our hotel) and head off to see more of the villages.
As you’re on a bike and the wind is blowing in your face most of the time, it’s easier to ignore the heat but once you stop (especially if you’re not under the shade), you very quickly start to wonder why you thought it was a good idea to go on a bike in the first place.
After a while we gave up on that idea and just headed back to the hotel to take solace from the sunshine in the shade until the sun started to set when we headed off towards to river, set up a make-shift picnic spot and settled down to watch the sun set with some rice wine and ice-cold Nepali beers.
As it turns out, it was a cloudy evening – heralding the promise of potential rain and so there was no sun set to be enjoyed, just good company and that ridiculously refreshing breeze that comes just before it rains. Boy, did that breeze feel good! 😆
After dinner that night, we were told by the hotel owner that a dance group from one of the villages were going to be coming around that evening to give us a taste of Nepali music and dancing. I’m partial to a good old boogie so this was an easy yes from me.
What we didn’t expect though was that everyone in the village would also be coming out to join in too.
The lucky ones who arrived early snagged all the seats while the other sat wherever there was space.
The dance started off slowly (yet entertaining) with us sat down, watching. By the end, every one of us joined in (at which point I put my camera down) and pretty much danced the night away!
Now you’d think dancing in that heat would be somewhat uncomfortable but when you were surrounded by those laughing faces and beaming ear to ear yourself at your terrible attempt to mimic their dance moves, all of that stuff disappears in the background – only for you to emerge, hours later, sweating from your head to your toe but absolutely loving every bit of your experience so far!
Suffice to say, if you ever find yourself in Nepal, you absolutely have to make some time on your itinerary to spend in Chitwan!