Most of you know that I am a huge fan of road trips. The unexpected turns, the opportunities to spot hidden wonders along the way, the camaraderie of your companions – all of these make your journey more memorable. Consequently, your destination becomes more exciting and special. Naturally, when ScoutMyTrip provided me with an opportunity to do a cross-country road trip, I jumped up and accepted it before they changed their mind. My latest road trip was the one that a lot of you followed on my social channels. I call it the epic Indo-Nepal road trip.
2500 km over 7 days with awesome company, unexpected adventures and tons of new discoveries, this epic Indo-Nepal road trip is going to be on my mind for a long long time. One post is never going to do justice to this entire trip. This blog post is going to just give you a preview of destinations and experiences that we had along the way. A teaser of sorts to see those green monsters popping out of your heads (Yes, I can be a sadist at times!). Consider this as a motivation for you to tank up and set out on a similar road trip. Let me start by introducing you all to my comrades of the Indo-Nepal road trip.
My Comrades during the Indo-Nepal Road Trip
We met as strangers or just online acquaintances but parted as friends with crazy names. When you are thrown together for 7 days, there is no other way it can be. My road trip gang consisted of 6 bloggers including yours truly and 2 captains who are founders of ScoutMyTrip. The captains took charge of the cars – a Scorpio and a Ford Eco-sport while the rest of us kept them entertained during the journey. Day one from Delhi was all about being polite, while on day two, the true attributes started to come to the fore. By the end of Day 3, each one of us got our unique name and identity and that is how I will introduce everyone now –
- Captain One – Deepak, CEO of ScoutMyTrip. Known for his nonsensical lyrics and a distrust for any phone other than iphone. Captained the Scorpio and that too, in a flawless, expert manner.
- Captain Two – Vineet Rajan, CMO of ScoutMyTrip. Classic case of “looks are deceiving”. Serious in looks but quirky with words. Known for his love for food. In charge of the Ford Ecosport (which he refused to part!).
- Deepak Amembal – our patient and inspiring blogger. Known as Magic Eye and not surprising, given his skill with the camera!
- Sudipto De – the eternal photobomber from Salt and Sandals. My partner in crime in Agra. A serious food connoisseur.
- Saumya Rai – the Selfie Queen from Road to taste. The lovely hostess and guide for the city of Lucknow. Perpetually with a smile on her face.
- Ankit Sharma – the Go Pro Man from Crazemag. You will never see him without his multiple contraptions. Really got lucky in Kathmandu with the Casino
- Ayushi Anand – the silent killer from 365 days of bliss. Even the slightest motion of the Eco-sport was like a lullaby for her.
And then, there was me – nicknamed Indiana Jones in India and Nepali Jones when in Nepal. Not surprising, huh? I am sure there is plenty of nice things that my comrades have to say about me. However, I am too modest to put it all down here. 😉
Planning the route to Kathmandu from Delhi
2500 kilometers with a varied terrain did need some bit of planning. The ScoutMyTrip team had that sorted in terms of where the night halts had to be made, which route was to be taken, where would they need to fuel up and what are the caveats that one needed to take. Every morning was going to be an early one to ensure that we reached a particular halt well in time for us to explore it fully. Here is how it looked after it was planned –
- Day 1: Start from Delhi by 5 am and reach Lucknow by 1 pm
- Day 2: Leave Lucknow by 8 or 9 and reach Gorakhpur by noon.
- Day 3: Exit Gorakhpur at 4 am to reach Kathmandu by 4 pm
- Day 4 & 5: Explore Kathmandu
- Day 6: Leave Kathmandu by 5 am to reach Gorakhpur by 6 pm
- Day 7: Head to Agra and reach there by 3 pm
- Day 8: Drive back to Delhi and head home
What fun is a road trip if you just stick to the plan? I mean, you have to have some adventures along the way to make crazy memories that make the whole deal sweeter. And that is exactly how this Indo-Nepal road trip became!
Exploring the pit stops
Kudos to our Captains, no matter when we started our day, they ensured that they reached us at our destination halts well in time, giving us enough time to explore. The record was our return drive on Day 7 from Gorakhpur, where we completed the Lucknow Agra stretch in 2.5 hours as against a stated time of 4 hours. Each of our pit-stops was a cultural and culinary delight.Each one of them merits a separate post. However, to give you a quick preview, this is what it looked like in Lucknow and Agra.
The City of Nawabs is where I earned my first nickname as we set about discovering the famous Bara Imambara with its famous Bhool Bhulaiya (the labyrinth). How was I to resist a challenge of running through those mazes to discover the unknown? The architectural beauty of the whole complex was just awe-inspiring.
This followed by a Tonga ride through the heritage Lucknow landed us at the Chota Imambara, which had a mausoleum of a Princess designed as a mini Taj Mahal. The evening lights cast a beautiful reflection of the main building in the fountains facing it. An absolute pleasure to capture through your lens.
Along the way, we even discovered the other gems like the Rumi Darwaza and the cursed Satkhanda – a story that you will have to wait up for. Lucknow enthralled us so much that our first deviation to the original plan happened here – where we decided to spend the first half of Day two exploring more of Lucknow and then head to Gorakhpur, via Ayodhya.
Day two did indeed dawn with us discovering the British era of Lucknow at the Residency – a place that I truly felt like Indiana Jones. Complete with its crumbling walls and stories trapped within, I had to be rushed out of the complex lest I end up spending an entire day here.
Agra was our halt on the way back from Kathmandu and we were to reach it by 3 pm. However, having started late, the google maps showed us an ETA of 6 pm. The ScoutMyTrip team took it on as a personal challenge to reach us at Agra fort by 4 pm, which I shall always be thankful for.
Discovering the place where the story of Taj actually started was truly an immersive and satisfying experience. The lives of Mughals, their palaces and their glory is just so evident in what remains of the Red Fort. Sighting the Taj from the windows of the chambers of Emperor Shahjahan made me realize how he must have gazed wistfully at his beloved during his last days.
Our Day 8, the last day was a perfect end to the whole journey with a sunrise at the Taj Mahal, followed by a boat ride in the Yamuna to capture its perfect reflection.
I know you want more details on each of these, but hang in there. New posts coming up soon!
Unexpected discoveries and detours
Day 3 was all about visiting Ayodhya, enroute to Gorakhpur. However, we discovered a small town called Faizabad and that is where our plan changed. A quick visit to the Gulab Bari – the tomb of Nawab Shuja-ud-Daula was an amazing offbeat addition to our trip. From then, we did go through Ayodhya but got lost in the smaller lanes. Thus, we just moved on to Gorakhpur.
Little did we realize that this was a start to all our unexpected detours. The roads to Kathmandu were blocked owing to road repairs and we were forced to take not one, but three detours. This frankly, was the most adventurous part of the trip with enough drama – with and within the cars and the crazy off-roading experiences. Google maps gave up on us to literally say “I don’t know what you are saying, do what you want”. Though the detours were long, the views along the way were just amazing. And though we landed at Kathmandu by 10 pm. we were on a high, having enjoyed every moment of the ride on this Indo Nepal Roadtrip.
The ride back to India was a little smoother as we attempted a different route advised by the locals at Oyo rooms Kathmandu. Though we did manage it easier, I still think that the adventure that we had owing to our detours was far more exciting and fun!
Fun Stays at Oyo rooms
Our stays in each of our planned cities were powered by Oyo Rooms. There were basically three categories of Oyo rooms that we stayed in –
1) Oyo Town House
This was a plush property in Delhi, from where we started our journey. The cute, contemporary interiors of a room with a view set the right tone for the rest of our trip. Having come from Bengaluru, I found it extremely welcoming and I did spend a considerable amount of time unwinding and relaxing here.
2) Oyo Homes
This is a novel concept that the Oyo rooms have introduced – a home stay in a nice residential location, with a host that really looks after you. The Oyo Homes that I experienced was in Agra. Besides the location, I particularly loved the tasteful interiors.
3) Oyo Rooms
Our Lucknow, Gorakhpur and Kathmandu stays were in the Oyo rooms. Between the two, I particularly am partial to the Kathmandu Oyo rooms for its comfortable rooms, plush interiors, breakfast on the roof-top and the warm Nepali hospitality. We were greeted in a traditional manner and treated to simple yet tasty Nepali cuisine on the day we arrived. Their staff was extremely polite, courteous and helpful. Adding to our comfort at Kathmandu were the facilities that the Oyo rooms offered – the good Wi-Fi connection and 24 hours of hot water. The last one is extremely important after a long day on the road.
The food on the Indo-Nepal Road Trip
When you travel with foodies, there is no escaping the best in each destination. While it was easy at the key pit-stops, it was the road journey that was an adventure. Along the Agra-Lucknow stretch, there were just no restaurants along the road. Luckily the distance being short, we did not really mind it. The Gorakhpur – Kathmandu stretch had plenty of Nepali restaurants where we sampled the Chowmein and fried rice. We even managed a lovely Nepali lunch at one of these places on our way back from Kathmandu.
The one thing that helped us along the way was the information that the ScoutMyTrip team had already gathered. We were prepared for which stretch we would be able to find food and where we would not. The same went with information on the petrol bunks – food for the car! An information point that is essential for every road-tripper – for food for the car is more important than your own.
The Final destination
There is just so much to share about Nepal – our final destination. The food, the culture, the history and places that we saw. However, I must stop here. This needs complete justice and this shall be my next post! With this slide show as a teaser, I conclude my account of just the road trip part of my Nepal journey. I am sure by now you know why it was epic. Do I see some green heads? Do you want to also, try out this Indo-Nepal road trip? Message in, let me know!
Travel Tips for planning your own road trip
- Start with planning a route to your desired destination.
- Once the mapping is done, check places along the way where you can make a night halt
- Avoid night driving, start early
- Do a little research on the road conditions, food joints and fuel stations along the way
- Get a travel insurance
- Ensure that you have serviced your car well before the trip. Check the tyre pressures and tank up before you start.
- The best place to start your planning is through ScoutMyTrip – where they do not just suggest a road trip, but also, help you get all the information on roadside assistance, road conditions, suggested detours, hotels etc.
- You can either book your stay well in advance or try booking it on the go through the Oyo rooms app. That way you can be a little more flexible on where you want to make your night halt.
Travel Tips for an Indo-Nepal Roadtrip
- Aim to cross the border in the morning as you will avoid the long queues.
- You will need a permit for the car once you cross-over to the Nepal side. For this, you will need to pay INR 1300 for a permit for 5 days.
- The documentation for the permit would be your car registration book, car insurance, Driver’s license and Driver’s ID card.
- There is no visa required for Indians to enter Nepal. However, do keep your passport handy.
- There are plenty of agents around the border who can help get you the car permit. They generally charge INR 100 for the same. You can go through them but ensure you pay them after they have got you all the required documents.
- You can avail the local SIM of Nepal at the border itself. Ncell is the company recommended for the same as their network through Nepal is quite strong.
- For the Local Sim, you will need to shell out INR 175. The Sim will be issued against a Government ID card and 3 passport sized photographs.
- On return, you are liable to be checked by the Indian border security force. Again, keep your permits and IDs handy. Your luggage too, will be inspected.
- They say that INR currency of denomination 500 and 2000 are not allowed within Nepal. However, I am not sure if this is true. To be on a safe side, carry only notes of denomination 100. Remember INR is accepted well anywhere in Nepal.
P.S: I was invited by ScoutMyTrip to join in for this epic Indo-Nepal Road Trip. However, my opinions are unbiased and based on my own experience!