Friday, December 12, 2008

Nepal to India - worlds apart

I left Nepal on the Sunday 07:30 tourist bus for the border town of Sunauli, a 9 hour ride over narrow, rough roads that except for the views in the Kathmandu valley was spectacularly unremarkable.

Bus to Sunauli

A couple of weeks ago when my planning my escape to India, I ran across the Lonely Planet's glowing review of The Glasgow Hotel, which is accoring to the young man working the front desk owned by a Scotsman and was in most respects a decent hotel. However. I happened to be unfortunate to arrive on the night of a wedding party, deafening affairs in this part of the world. It ended reasonably early but then moved out into the streets. Being a small town, it was finished before too long and I actually had a pretty good night's sleep.

I got up around 06:00 and called the front desk to let them know I was leaving and to have my bill ready. No one answered the phone. When I got downstairs I found the two boys working the desk asleep on a bed in a side room. I knocked on their door, but they didn't move. The front door was locked, but I walked down a corridor and found a window without any glass and stepped out of the building. I was several hundred meters down the street before I heard someone say "sir" and when I turned around it was one of the sleeping boys. We went back to the hotel and I paid my bill and went to the border.

Getting checked out of Nepal and into India wasn't a problem but was an experience indicative of the attitudes of the two nationalities. In Nepal the immigration officers were civil. They said "good morning" and while they weren't smiling neither were they cold or rude. On the Indian side there were two guys at the immigration desk, one working, the other drinking tea and reading the newspaper. Neither of them had a word to say and when they finished with my passport they threw it to me across the desk.

Finding the place to catch the bus to Varanasi wasn't hard to do, but this being India a little scam was involved.

India bus stop, complete with stereotypical crippled beggar

There were two young Indian guys corralling foreigners wanting the bus to Varanasi. We were all sitting in front of a little tea shop chatting away the minutes and waiting for the bus, during which time we paid these guys 500 rupees ($10.00) for our tickets. At the appointed time one of them came and got us and walked us to our bus and once we got settled in and the bus started moving the two ticket sellers got on and began asking for additional baggage fees. No one had been told about this previously and we were all quite surprised - and pissed off. There was a lot of shouting. One guy said he wasn't going to pay and he was told that he and his bags would be thrown off the bus and there would be no refund of his bus ticket. So, what to do? Fight with these guys, or pay an extra $5.00? Everyone decided to just pay the money and go on with the journey. Except me. I refused to pay and because I had a small bag - compared with a couple of gargantuan bags that could have held a family-size refrigerator - they let me slide. Small bags are no charge, they said.

Bus to Varanasi

What was so incredibly silly about the whole thing is that they could have just asked for the money up front at the time they sold the ticket. Why wait and try to strong-arm the tourists, generate anger, and invite possible confrontation?

Welcome to India.



  1. Ha, sounds all to familiar. I've been through Sunalai twice now, cant say I miss that dusty little shit hole much. Spent 3 hours looking for a decent hotel and found that none exist then took the horrendous local night bus to Pokhara. When I did the night bus back in 2003 we spent 3 hours of the wee late hours in some small town waiting for the Maoists to give us the go ahead. I'll Never Do India Again, as the acronym goes, Never Ending Peace And Love.

  2. "Anything for a quiet life", huh? People like the others in the bus who gave up and payed to avoid more problems just helped confirm for the conmen that the game works, and will try it out on the next gang of foreigners who arrive. I last went through there in 1998 and there was a bit of a similar thing at the time with young hangers on at the bus. What they were trying to do was charge foreigners baksheesh for putting their packs up on the roof (after insisting the bags had to go on the roof first before asking, of course).One guy said to to the others that it was a scam, and one of the young guys ran up to him in the bus and wagged his finger with fury - "You speak too much, my friend". Scam busted, and he had the audacity to be angry at someone who helped others avoid it? LOL What a lark!!

  3. I met the same two guys on the bus to Varanasi. The actual bus fare is 73 rupees. The rickshaw drivers set it up and get someone round as they take a cut. The guys who do it are mafia - which is why they're so fat and greasy and ride around on motorcycles. If you refuse, and shout etc. there is nothing they can do - they don't have weapons. They work on our naivety. We're not actually able to spot the fact that they aren't official bus employees. They gave me a ticket for the luggage and tried to charge 900 rupees. I was able to read the hindi on the ticket and realized it had nothing to do with buses so just refused. They make a big deal but don't be intimidated.