In late July, 2016 I spent more than two weeks in Biratnagar, Nepal, teaching critical care skills to nurses and medical students at Nobel Medical College. This is Nepal’s second-largest city, in the eastern Terai, generally acknowledged as the center of industrial activity for the country.
Nobel Medical College was my host. http://www.nobelmedicalcollege.com.np/
As with my recent series about Janakpur, this will be more than one part. First, I’ll describe the highlights of the town, then go to the classes and finally some photos of the ICUs there.
This is a favorite business hotel in Biratnagar. the two restaurants on the premises were very good. out back was a party palace.
http://www.hotelnamaskar.com.np/ I stayed at Hotel Namaskar my first trip here a few years back, and on that occasion I was sponsored by “CNE Planet,” the brainchild of Raj Mehta and Dipty Subba.
Dipty is very organized and has shown initiative in continuing education for nurses in Terai. The “puggri” is not native to Nepal, but I use it as a prop for the class. It helps to get people out of their comfort zone and into the Land of Make Believe when we do complicated simulation scenarios. Naturally the headpiece includes real diamonds, rubies, emeralds and sapphires….
Hotel Namaskar is near “traffic chowk” and I never did return to it on the long 2016 trip. Traffic chowk is more pedestrian-friendly than the spot I was in, as I recall.
I didn’t shoot these, but they represent the town pretty well, in my humble opinion. You can enjoy these even without Nepali language. It’s a large sprawling city on a plain flatter than a pancake. On a good day, you can see the Himalaya.
Hamro Biratnagar (“Our Biratnagar”)
going down the street video
Biratnagar in New York Times
This city does not often receive international attention.
This one has a backstory. Biratnagar fell prey to an epidemic of Hepatitis E in 2014, a year before the earthquake, but nobody was interested from international media. Eleven hundred people contracted the illness in Biratnagar – hey! what does it take for a city to get some attention?!?!?
The New York Times seems to have re-edited this video after the 2015 quake, adding the first section based in Kathmandu, because of the threat of an epidemic; creating more interest in the Biratnagar section, where an actual epidemic happened. The miracles of modern technology allow a person of skillful means to slip the bonds of chronological time.
The Biratnagar section the NYT video includes brief glimpses of hospital scenes; yep, that’s what it looks like in a Nepal hospital!
here is the link straight to the video, which is 6:38 long. http://www.nytimes.com/video/health/100000003883905/nepals-waterborne-worries.html
evening street market
Below is a more typical scene. Throughout Nepal this is how people get vegetables.
The east-west highway goes through Itahari. To the north is Dharan and to the south is Biratnagar. If you are in Biratnagar in summer and you need to beat the heat, go to Dharan. Here is a 24 minute travel video in Nepali that shows trip to Dharan from Biratnagar.
And now some photos I took myself.
If you arrive by bus, get off when you see this temple – the road to Nobel branches off here.
Kanchenbara is the name of the Chowk where a side road branches off to Nobel Medical College. You’ll know you’re there when you see the yellow shikhari-style temple.
Yes, look for the yellow temple, but if you are colorblind, you’ll know you are at Kanchenbara when you see this🙂
the shop with the NCell sign is the cyber café and also does photocopying. in Kanchenbara.
If you need photocopy, get it at the cyber cafe located here.
I knew that it would be difficult to find “organic coffee” (i.e., not nescafe…) in Terai, so I brought my own supply but by this time I’d been away from Kathmandu for eight weeks. I always look for “organic coffee” and peanut butter, and – I found it for sale in Biratnagar.
simple pleasures. Nepali-grown coffee is quite good. I had been running dangerously low on the supply I brought eight weeks previous. Now – I knew I could endure anything that may come my way!
The place to obtain these is the department store at Mahendra Chowk, about 8 km south of Kanchenbara.
At Mahendra Chowk. This place has “organic coffee!” and yes, that’s a Baskin-Robbins on the right. life is grand!
Near the Chowk is the central Bajaar. On a hot day the open-air plaza is shaded by blue tarps, providing a sort of psychedic effect.
Was it hot? funny you should ask we’re talking eastern Terai in late July – yes, dear. This is the Bajaar near Mahendra Chowk.
In the vicinity of the Bajaar you can find both the Hanuman mandir and a mosque, with several adjacent shops selling Islamic supplies.
An unusual Hanuman mandir for Nepal. Usually Hanuman is outside.
Biratnagar does not have a religious focal point to rival Janaki Mandir in Janakpur, but people here are similarly devout.
The mosque at the Bajaar near Mahendra Chowk, Biratnagar Nepal.
Biratnagar has a sizeable Muslim community, with loudspeakers announcing the call to prayer at dawn.
the fun in exploring a bajaar is sometimes to guess what on earth a particular item is used for. These are clay pipes for “chillum”
In Terai the pedicab business took a hit during nakibanda, the petrol “blockade.” Electric-powered jitneys, funded by business interests from India, moved in. But the pedicabs retain their charm, including colorful paintings on the stern. this depicts a Nepali kingfisher.
I stayed at the Guest House operated by the Medical College. This was quite new. Spotlessly clean and a western toilet. Here’s what my room looked like:
ithe room faced west. I loved drinking my coffee on the balcony in the morning. it was sparkly clean and the guest house staff was attentive. there was wifi.
I used the air con.
dinner at 8:30 PM around this table. the common areas at the Guest House were ample.
Dinner was at 8:30 PM, served buffet style then seating around a large table. Like other medical colleges of Terai, most of the guests were supplemental faculty from India. Dinner in Terai is always fashionably late; I have to admit I never really got used to that convention seeing as how I’m usually in bed by nine. The menu was typically “dal baat” with other thakali items. Sometimes chicken or fish also.
Never heard of Kabadi, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kabaddi the competitive sport, until I joined other guests waiting for dinner. They watched this for hours. who knew?
After watching the above, ask yourself what Kabadi teaches us about the national psyche of a country where this seems to be a major sport. Here is a link to the rules of Kabadi: http://www.wikihow.com/Play-Kabaddi
Breakfast wasn’t til 8 AM, too late for my tastes; we arranged a simple breakfast every day at 7 and I also got my own coffee at 0530, which was nice. People told me that some previous group of westerners had asked to relocate to some other hotel somewhere; it’s a mystery to me as to what the problem was. The staff was eager to please.
The big entertainment was to watch daily progress on the rice paddies surrounding the Guest House.
from my balcony at the Nobel Medical College Guest House. The water was six inches deep. They do *not* depend on rain to fill each paddy, it surprised me to learn about the engineering of the water – more to it than meets the eye. Also, I saw egrets. Turns out they were “Indian Pond Herons” – a new species for me.
a nursery bed awaiting transplant to the large paddy. The color of newly-grown rice is dazzling. the rice-growing process provides many stories and legends and there is an annual festival when it begins.
There will be two more entries about my time in Biratnagar – one for the classes and hospital, and another for the critical care areas. stay tuned!