Vacationing at Two Ends of the Spectrum – Poor Developing Village and 5-Star Fancy Resort

Truly a unique experience… Primarily for the vast difference in the two places we vacationed in and secondarily for the difference in our family constitution…

We’ve never vacationed with only a subset of our family – just haven’t done it before, although we know many who have. But the children have far more days off of school than Prakash has days off of work. Determined to take advantage of the kids’ holidays and see more of this amazing country we now live in, I set off to find other travel companions! Two dear, kind, smart, thoughtful ladies, Pema and Bahar, recently entered my life and we hit it off early on. Brutally honest yet very caring and supportive – this describes the friendship that has blossomed just over the last 4 months. They too have husbands with limited time off work and eager children wanting to DO and SEE more on their holidays. For the first time, we 3 moms and 7 kids set off on a vacation leaving the dads behind. There was a hint of guilt (would he feel left out or mind us having so much fun without him?), but mostly anticipation and joy… Needless to say, our first vacation without the dads was a huge success because we formed a new “family-type-unit” and all members collectively took care of one another.

Our whole troup!

Our whole troup!

Vacationing in a luxurious 5-star resort surely also played into the successful holiday! Private endless pool, one villa with three spacious en-suite bedrooms (the bathroom was larger than our bedroom at home!), unlimited helpful staff (admiring and engaging our troop of munchkins, providing anything and everything we requested and more, along with radiating warmth and generosity), over the top meals (I think I ate enough for 3 people!), and entertaining, well-organized, amazing activities (elephant safari, canoe ride, bathing with elephants, ox cart ride, slide shows of nature in the jungle and cultural programs of village dance and music).

Cold river water splashed from an elephant's trunk - once in a lifetime experience!

Cold river water splashed from an elephant’s trunk – once in a lifetime experience!

Perhaps one of the best elements of the trip was how little we had to think or plan or organize – it was all done for us (I’ve heard cruise vacations are like this, we just haven’t experienced that before). Everything from meal times, meal item choices, activity times, activity choices – it was already planned out and decided, we just had to show up and enjoy! How simple and relaxing…

Such a neat experience to see wildlife atop an elephant!

Such a neat experience to see wildlife atop an elephant!

Before the kids and I met Bahar and Pema and their kids in Kasara Resort, the five of us – including Prakash – visited Tika Dai’s village. He is our house helper – he gardens, cleans, runs errands, plays with the kids and overall helps our lives operate smoothly and relatively effortlessly. His wife, one of his five children, his 2 brothers and their families, and his parents all live along one lane in a small village in the town of Meghauli in Chitwan. He graciously invited us to stay with them and see what village life is like.

The morning fog is intense in the Terai - doesn't lift until after 11am and significantly impacts crop yield, airport safety, drying of clothes, etc, etc, etc...

The morning fog is intense in the Terai – doesn’t lift until after 11am and significantly impacts crop yield, airport safety, drying of clothes, etc, etc, etc…

Day 1 of a two-day trip to his village was super-action-packed. After the six hour drive, we were welcomed by Ganga Didi and Hari (his wife and son). Quickly his nephews, brothers and sisters-in-law walked over to greet us too. We ate lunch then walked to his parent’s house just a few hundred meters away. Proximity AND independence – truly brilliant in my opinion… Since our Nepali is fairly cursory and their English is relatively nil, communication was limited but our emotions and sentiments were clearly conveyed – they were so happy that we took the time to visit them and their village and we were so happy to meet them and wanted to express our appreciation of the contribution their son makes to our family.  We listened to stories of how Tika Dai’s brother was attacked and killed by a tiger about 20 years ago and how another brother was attacked and severely injured by a crocodile about 10 years ago (he survived but has permanent brain damage).

Tika Dai's Mom, Dad and younger brother (the one who was attacked by a crocodile years ago).

Tika Dai’s Mom, Dad and younger brother (the one who was attacked by a crocodile years ago).

After a small stroll along the creek, we came back for a cup of tea. It was interrupted by an excited phone call from Tika Dai’s mom saying one of the female goats has started birthing her babies! The kids dashed over and we all got to witness birth in a village setting – a very natural, normal, non-sterile, everyday kind of happening. We were hurried off however, as an elephant ride had been reserved for us that afternoon. How amazing to see wild rhinos, crocodiles and deer within 1 mile of Tika Dai’s house – put into perspective how dangerous it can be to coexist with wildlife so close to home. We drove home, freshened up, ate in a flash and in no time about half the village came by for an enchanting evening of bhajans and music (devotional songs and a band composed of all village instruments – harmonium, dholak or drum, and several hand percussion pieces). Prakash sang for the first half and their “village singing group” sang the remaining. What a special, memorable, heart-warming evening…

Music session with villagers - what a special opportunity!

Music session with villagers – what a special opportunity!

All guests were offered a bit of fruits and tea and then they all slowly dispersed back to their homes. We sat and chatted a bit more with Tika Dai and his family – we were all on an emotional high, no one ready to end the enjoyable evening to go to sleep. I was amazed how much it felt like we were visiting family and not friends… Reminded me of fond memories visiting my grandparents and paternal uncle in their village each time we’d vacation in India.

Day 2 was short for Prakash. He enjoyed a long solitary morning walk, visited the 7 new baby goats, said his goodbyes to the whole family and was off to Kathmandu after lunch. The kids enjoyed exploring the house, playing on the swing and watching cartoons in Hindi on TV (yes, they had cable TV and enjoyed it while the electricity was on!). Later that afternoon, we went to the riverside – skipped stones, splashed and scared hundreds of frogs away! Tika Dai’s brother proudly took us around the village on his ox-cart – bumpy and slow, but a pleasant experience. The next morning, the kids and I said our final goodbyes and were off to the resort!

Clean water, stones, tadpoles and hours of fun by the creekside...

Clean water, stones, tadpoles and hours of fun by the creekside…

Two vastly different destinations, only 20 kilometers away from one another, both wrapped up in one vacation. So close geographically, yet so far in many other aspects… Both emanated warmth, generosity and care in their own ways. We are looking forward to visiting again next year – the villagers asked us to come annually as long as we still live in Nepal, to enjoy more evenings of blissfully divine music together :-).