To Buddhists, Bodhgaya is a site of pilgrimage; for non-Buddhists it is a travel experience and a way to support one of India’s poorest regions.
For Buddhists, Bodhgaya is the most important of four pilgrimage sites related to the life of Gautama Buddha. Today the Mahabodhi Temple is a UNESCO World Heritage Site which contains the Bodhi tree, a direct descendant from the original under which, it is said, Gautama Buddha obtained Enlightenment. Leaving the serene temperament found within Temple grounds the gates open to Bodhgaya’s market where everyday challenges are faced by Bodhgaya’s citizens working in shops, restaurants, selling fruits, vegetables, flowers, candles and souvenirs and begging. The page’s video introduces Bodhgaya, both inside and outside the Mahabodhi Temple complex.
Welcome Guest House
Address: Opposite Jai Prakash Park Gate, Bodhgaya 824231
Phone: +91 631 2200377 Mobile: +91 977 108 1686
Travelin’Ted review for Trip Advisor
“OKAY FOR ONE NIGHT … PERHAPS”
Welcome Guest House offers an excellent location; steps away from the Mahabodhi Temple (now a UNESCO World Heritage Site around which the city of Bodhgaya was built) and Bodhgaya’s main market which spreads out on either side of the Temple gates. Bodhgaya is one of India’s poorest areas and has also suffered from violence. As in much of India the building was badly in need of upkeep from unattended abuse, moisture damage and lack of cleaning practices. In room 301, at first glance the room looked clean, the toilet seat was broken, only one window had a screen, the curtains were thin enough to see through if one side was dark and the other lit. The ceiling fan was okay for December (an in-window air-conditioner was offered since we were paying for an air-conditioned room with bath). The room lacked a closet with hangers, instead offered hooks on the back of the door. A large table, two straight back chairs, a small tv and two single beds furnished the room. We had to ask Pabu, who showed us to the room, to replace the bed sheets with clean linen; then ask for towels; then toilet paper … each time he hung around supposedly waiting (unsuccessfully) for a tip with each “extra”. Once the room was supplied with clean linens, towels and toilet paper we felt the price provided reasonable value for our one night stay as well as having a place to wait with luggage in reception until we left for the overnight train from Gaya to Delhi. Before leaving we used a shared bathroom on one of the other floors … it was dirty and the water from the sink went down the drain pipe which only protruded a short distance below the sink and then splashed on the floor wetting the washer’s feet and legs. In the grimy hallway, mice searched garbage piled up beside room doors. With peddle/auto rickshaws costing so little it might be a more pleasant to spend more, stay elsewhere and commute to the temples.
SIGHTSEEING IN BODHGAYA
The main reason for travel to Bodhgaya is to visit Mahabodhi Temple,a UNESCO World Heritage Site which holds within it’s complex the Bodhi Tree, a direct descendant of the tree under which Siddhartha Gautama, meditated and attained enlightenment and later became the spiritual teacher known as Gautama Buddha.
As a result of the it’s Buddhist importance the city of Bodhgaya was built up around the temple and tree and of interest to the visitor would be the monasteries from different countries and Bodhgaya’s market place.
FOOD & DRINK IN BODHGAYA
To the palate of many Westerners, the highly flavourful, spiciness of Indian cuisine can be unagreeable. But even for those who prefer a blander diet, India is still doable.
India’s population has the lowest individual consumption of meat in the world and animal based ingredients, other than milk products and honey, are seldom used in traditional dishes. Ghee (clarified butter) is the traditional cooking medium. For the traveller who wants their animal protein most restaurants have meat options unless they advertise themselves as vegetarian. Most popular meats are chicken, lamb and goat as religious practices forbid beef products to Hindus and pork to Muslims. Finding truly fresh fish in Northern India may be challenging. In place of animal protein most of India turns to dhal (curried lentils or pulses). Yogurt and other dairy products also play a big part in providing protein.
If a steady diet of Indian spices and dhal are not appealing the traveller will find, on most menus, an oriental style noodle dish with influences from Nepal, Bhutan and Tibet.
In Northern India, flat bread and rice are the staple starches. Bread, more commonly referred to as roti and chapati (the latter being a thinner unleavened, whole-wheat version) is often used as a vehicle to get food, such as dhal, from plate to mouth.
Vegetables are plentiful and inexpensive. Other than in American style hotels, salads are a rarity and the savvy traveller would be best to avoid anything which is not cooked or, in the case of fruit, peeled.
Vegetable pakoras are a popular finger food in India and can be ordered spicy or non-spicy. Made from chickpea flour and a variety of vegetables, then deep fried, pakoras are a tasty option for the non-spicy traveller and can be accompanied by yogurt or sweet & sour sauce for dipping.
For some excellent recommendations on restaurants consult a Lonely Planet guidebook – money well spent.
It is advisable for travellers in India to consume only bottled water. A nice change, when available, is bottled carbonated water. Buying water in large two litre bottles from a small vendor is usually the least expensive. With the proprietor watching, check the cap to ensure it is sealed.
Chai (tea) is a much consumed beverage often accompanied by heaps of sugar and generous pours of milk. Although tea is by far the most popular drink, coffee is gaining in acceptance.
Street stands offering fresh squeezed juices can seem tempting however lax hygiene practices – reusing cups which have been sloshed through a basin of tepid water – can ruin a vacation.
Lassi is a traditional drink of blended yogurt and water available ‘savory’ or ‘sweet’. The savory contains spices such as ground roasted cumin, whereas, sweet is made with sugar, honey or fruit. Sweet lemon, a variety of citrus, tastes more like orange to Western taste buds than lemon.
GETTING AROUND BODHGAYA
Train travel is a great way to experience India. Day travel will allow you to see the countryside as it whizzes (sometime plods) by. Night travel can get you to where you are going and provide an inexpensive place to sleep. If you have limited time in India it may be best to make reservations prior to leaving your home country.
Lonely Planet India
Note: There are very convincing scam artists at railway station entrances ready to ‘help‘ you by telling you the ticket office for foreigners has changed locations, after which they put you in a rickshaw and then hop in for the ride to their ‘travel office’ some distance away. The real foreign office was exactly where it should be, inside the railway station.
The motorized auto-rickshaw provides an exhilarating experience and offers a wonderful way to get around a city while affording some protection from the elements. The driver is supposed to use a meter but generally a bartering exchange is carried out before you get in … if the price is not agreed to BEFORE the cost at the end of the ride could be substantial. We were often able to squeeze four people and four backpacks into an auto-rickshaw.
Bicycle-rickshaws offer a slower paced view of a city and are good for short distances. They have limited protection from poor weather. The pedal-drivers work hard for their money.
Taxis are best for longer distances, wet weather conditions or for transporting over-luggaged tourists. Like the auto-rickshaws, taxis have meters which are seldom used. Before getting in, or putting luggage in the trunk, agree on the total cost to get to your destination.
Insisting on hiring another cab or rickshaw usually either “fixes” the meter or lowers the price. If your hotel offers to make transportation arrangements for you, it may be cheaper to decline and walk out to the street and flag down a rickshaw or taxi.
If you like your driver you can make arrangement to have him pick you up at another time and/or place; most often they will be there, particularly if you paid them fairly or tipped above the agreed price. For sightseeing you can arrange to be taken from place to place for the day at an agreed price payable at the conclusion of the day’s travels. Drivers may also be a good source of information as to where to go and what to see.