I can’t believe I was questioning every bit of my solo travels through Bihar, the state that once had the world’s first-ever residential university. But I did for quite some time because of the stereotype I grew up with, probably like a lot of you about Bihar travel. That’s why when I told people around me, my roommate was from Bihar I heard, eh but to this day she was the best roommate I have ever had. She was clean, helpful and all that unlike anyone else. Moving to places and travelling has helped me unlearn and learn. Through general conversations, I had heard the not so good stories about doing a Bihar trip and from others, they were neutral.
When I heard the fabulous news of this wonderful roommate getting married, the first thing I said was I am coming, no conditions. With time, the fear of this lesser travelled state grew and so did the conversations with local people – my seniors and my classmates as well as my Indonesian friend. The wedding was in Patna and I didn’t have to worry about the arrangements there as such. But I had to explore my bucket list of Bihari places, Bodhgaya and Nalanda because I knew I wasn’t getting a better chance than this, ever again. This Indonesian friend had been to Bodhgaya a few times and she had had a fantastic experience.
So I had to choose between flying into Bodhgaya from Delhi versus Mumbai to Patna versus taking the train from Delhi to Gaya considering the environment. The latter was out as trains only seemed to arrive in Gaya in the middle of the night and that didn’t seem convincing safety-wise for a solo traveller like me. I realised over time that I wasn’t spending time in Delhi before this trip and taking the train from Patna to Gaya was going to be okay.
The other dilemma was wanting to do a Nalanda travel so badly but there seemed to be no public transportation there and It didn’t feel very safe to take a taxi alone either. Also, it was between Patna and Bodhgaya, was it really worth travelling back and forth? I almost gave up on the idea but thankfully that was just almost.
This awesome angel, my batchmate who I hadn’t spoken to since 2012 and was going to the wedding too; and I got talking. It turned out she runs a travel page @euphoricbint, she was game for wherever along with early mornings and long days. Her enthusiasm charged my travel brain and we decided to make Nalanda happen as well as everything else that could fit in our day!
I flew Spicejet like I do most of the time because I get free priority check-in and my bag comes out first for free too. So the bag is out on the conveyor belt, way before I even get to it thanks to my Spiceclub membership.
I took an afternoon flight after meeting a friend for lunch and landed in Patna when it was pitch dark. I booked an Ola, got to this super locally popular tree and I met my driver there. My roommate kept a tab on me through the live location and in flat 15 minutes, I made it to hers. There, I had finally begun my Bihar travel.
The bride to be, her sister and I chilled for the rest of the evening. She got me to book my Ola for the next morning, in advance. We caught up on all the stories, had dinner and crashed.
I left the house at about 5 am on the pre-booked cab and arrived at the crowded and beautifully painted Patna station in some 20 minutes. My real solo travels through Bihar had finally begun. Soon after, I made it to my Shatabdi train and I found my chair car seat. It was a tad bit uncomfortable but conversations with this lovely lady sitting on the neighbouring seat made it doable. Thank god for her, she woke me up when Gaya station came and I was sleeping like a baby.
I walked out and finally found a shared rickshaw to some midpoint and the driver helped me transfer to another one until the Bodhgaya market. I think this entire trip just cost some 30₹.
I was a bit intimidated when I got there. I bought a lot of fruits at the first shop I saw and headed to my accommodation with the help of google maps.
Accommodation in Bodhgaya
I made it to my decently spacious yet basic room two floors up. The windows were grilled and the room along with the bathroom was very clean. I would totally recommend this to be a part of your Bodhgaya travel.
The owner marked all the touristy places on my google maps and also told me about the best of food places in town.
Food in Bodhgaya
I believe I found the best of desserts at the Be Happy Cafe And the best damn Thai food in Siam Thai. That’s probably why I don’t have a single picture of the food from the latter. It was so good, I could go back to Bodhgaya just for it. Please go give it a try on your Bodhgaya travel.
My guesthouse owner also told me about this amazing guy who makes litti chokha right next to the Mahabodhi temple. I finally got to taste the famous Bihari dish and he was kind enough to share all the details.
Sightseeing in Bodhgaya
I think the ABC of sightseeing here is that everything has openings and most of it is shut in the afternoon. It can get a little too difficult to plan it out so I guess more than one day is ideal. As I remote work too, I spent 2 full days there.
Interestingly, you can’t take electronics into the Mahabodhi temple and have to leave them with the guys at the locker section and I found it quite safe. Like I read it at a lot of places and I agree as well, please contribute to the locals thereby letting the men with cameras take your pictures inside. They give you a print back in some 30 minutes for 100₹. I went here twice but surprisingly, it didn’t move me at all. My solo travels through Bihar was already very exciting.
I haven’t taken interest in Buddhism as much as the architecture of Asian temples. Bodhgaya works well for you can see all of them in one place. I spent a lot of time touring all the other temples, admiring the Big Buddha which reminded me of the one in Kamakura, Japan, checking out the museum and shopping for Tibetan essentials. The Aru balm from the Tibetan om cafe has been the Best Buy and a lot of regrets now that I didn’t buy more.
People in Bodhgaya
I met a Danish woman at the Thai restaurant and learnt that she was an avid traveller. She even authored a travel book in Danish. She and I exchanged plenty of travel stories. And who would’ve thought, she was also going to Nagaland just around when I was asking with touring some offbeat places there. Unfortunately, I missed her by a day there.
I met a young girl from Ladakh studying Buddhism and she told me how she would spend her summers back at home whereas winters here because it would get so cold there. I loved the conversations I could make on my solo travels through Bihar.
In and around Bodhgaya
The post office here was quite a disappointment. They didn’t attend to foreigners well nor had enough knowledge.
I found postcards at a small book shop and they were of pretty good quality.
The best way to get around was to walk or take a shared or your own rickshaw.
Back to Patna
I packed up my bags and walked towards the Main Street in the morning. Luckily I found a shared rickshaw going directly to the station. I had conversations with locals including an incense stick maker and an old woman.
I got off right outside the station and headed to Pramod sweets. I bought tilkut which is similar to gajak as everyone suggested and some other sweets. They were delicious and do make sure this is a part of you Bihar trip.
Once I got to the platform, I filled up my bottle from the paid water dispenser and headed into a regular train. Thankfully this wasn’t a Shatabdi and I had a nice sleeper seat in a 3AC coach.
I arrived in Patna in the evening and boarded my Ola cab. I got to the Oyo near my friend’s house.
Oyo was once again a disappointment as the accommodation was paid for online but when I got there, they wouldn’t recognise my booking. I had to pay cash and it was not well maintained. This is where I decided to never book with Oyo again.
Next morning I got my friends and they had a ritual of crushing the turmeric along with song singing. We then headed to the venue and welcomed all the friends I hadn’t seen in very long. We enjoyed taking the many pictures and her Haldi ceremony.
It was pretty much the last day in Patna and my friend and I had decided to do the Nalanda travel, the historic town that once housed the world’s first-ever residential university.
Cab cancellations and a hit
We woke up very early to find out that our prebooked ola cab had cancelled on us and so did all the following cabs that morning. Thankfully, I had met some of my friend’s relatives who had the exact same experience and then called a certain cab driver Arun Kumar +91 9308479371 with whom they had a very good day. I had taken that cab drivers number and luckily when we called him in the morning, agreeing to drive us for some 2000₹.
At first, he drove us to this roadside thela aka shop in Patna that sold delicious kachoris. They were so cheap and totally worth it.
Then we headed straight to Nalanda Museum by Archeological Society of India. We stopped by at the rustic cafe for quick aloo parathas and tea. The entrance was a pathway with dense tree cover and the museum was really small. The most impressive thing was that they had information in Braille. It was totally worth the quick tour.
The Nalanda University
We entered the green and well-maintained area of the UNESCO world heritage site. It’s quite an instagrammable place with red bricks and ruins. Oh, you will love it and definitely go back in time. After a lot of thinking, we decided to go for a guided tour. We walked through the alleyways and took a whole lot of photos. We learnt about the natural air conditioning system from those days and the planning behind building such a well-established university. It was heartbreaking to hear that it was set on fire once and rebuilt twice. It amazed us to find out that we were seeing only 10% of the actual university.
Black Buddha and Jain temples
We drove around more than planned to find the Black Buddha surrounded by Thai pilgrims and gold on the head. It was beautiful.
We stopped by old and new Jain temples as well. The designs of glass pieces inside were interesting.
Sweets, chai, litti chokha and paan
Right opposite the Jain temple, the driver introduced us to yummy milk pedhas. Then we stopped by at a stall where we had chai in mud glasses and ate some litti chokha. The last stop was the best one as we stuffed our mouth with paan.
Patna to Delhi
We made it in time for the baraat, the reception, the wedding and another sleepless night full of celebrations and pictures.
Next morning, I headed to the Patna airport on the Ola cab. During check-in, I asked for an available window seat. The airport was tiny and unorganised. The staff had no clue how to handle passengers belongings.
When I boarded. I found out that I was given an aisle on the left. After talking to the air hostess, I was moved to the business class seat on the right only to realise that I could catch the beautiful views of the Himalayas on the way to Delhi and I comfortably caught up on my sleep.
Overall, my solo travels through Bihar were eye-opening with great food and history to catch up on. I learnt a lot Mostly, I found very hospitable people and in general, I felt a bit intimidated yet safe. Nalanda is a must-visit and a Bihari wedding is a must-attend.