By the Banks of the Rapti Holiday at Sauraha

Destination Issue 52 Jul, 2010
Text by Dinesh Rai / Photo: Dinesh Rai, Sanu R.Bajracharya

“Very good place; quiet, not a lot of tourists, which is nice. Sitting by the riverside was fun. The elephant ride was the most beautiful experience. We had a very good guide. We saw rhinos, langurs, deer and the landscape is lovely.” - Romain & Valery from Belgium.

A string of pubs and restaurants are lined up along the bank of the river Rapti. We were told this was the favorite hangout for Nepali tourists. In fact, Sauraha attracts more local tourists than foreigners according to one restauranteur. Sitting here drinking beer and watching the river flow can be a lot of fun for people with plenty of time on their hands.

People going to Chitwan can choose to stay inside the national park or outside. Anyone who chooses to stay outside normally winds up in Sauraha. They usually arrive there after reading about it in Lonely Planet or Footprint. There are more than thirty resorts around this tourist town. Once known for its erratic supply of electricity, it now boasts of satellite TV (54 channels) and uninterrupted internet access. Although many people compare it toThamel, it is more like a miniature Lakeside Pokhara.

Sauraha is basically two streets with hotels spread around in a wide area. With the road (quite wide) yet to be blacktopped, the comparison to Thamel is a bit far-fetched, but a short stretch of the main road has great atmosphere with shops and restaurants full of life. These restaurants have a lively ambience with many of them occupying the upper floor. One thing they have in common is ample space, which Thamel sorely lacks. And a great plus point is the fact that they can remain open until the wee hours. Reason: there are only soldiers around Sauraha and no police. When we left after dinner, there was a boisterous group of Dutch people in their ’60s still dancing at 11 pm; no problem.

The shops sell books (buy and sell), handicrafts such as miniature wooden rhinos and elephants along with the famous pugmark ashtrays. All essential goods like films, batteries, digital cards, etc. can be bought in Sauraha if you run short. Greenline Bus Service has an office here but the bus is allowed only up to Chitrasari across the river, as the local syndicate has denied permission for it to venture any further. Transport can also be arranged through your hotel.

The Royal Chitwan National Park lies across the river. Elephant-ride, jeep drive, canoe ride and birdwatching are some of the activities that can be arranged from Sauraha. Some places offer cultural dances and there is also a special hall for such performances where an entrance fee is charged—seems quite popular with tourists. Food and accommodation in Sauraha are quite good and most of the resorts have ample space for people to laze around outside.

Getting there
Greenline buses go up to Chitrasari from where Sauraha is not very far. You can walk. If travelling by other buses, get off at Sauraha Chowk (on the highway), which is about 7km from the resorts. Microbuses are also available from the chowk to the heart of Sauraha. It is also possible to fly to Bharatpur (from Kathmandu) which is the nearest airport, from where taxis or microbuses are available. There are regular flights from Kathmandu to Bharatpur. (Kathmandu to Sauraha Chowk – 159 km)