The sprawling town of Dharan has three distinct characters. On the western perimeter you’ll find an affluent, almost middle-class suburban feel, with quiet streets lined with well-maintained bungalows, neatly paved pavements, rubbish bins and a country club with a golf course. Up until 1990 Dharan was the Gurkha recruiting area, and its wealth can be largely attributed to money brought in by these world-famous Nepali–British soldiers. The eastern side has steep streets and a relaxed village feel with banana plants, bamboo-forested hills and rustic shacks. Dividing the two areas is the lively Dharan Bazaar, which has a more typical Terai flavour, with its flat and dusty market.
Dharan is also one of the shakti peeths, marking the spot where part of the body of Shiva’s first wife, Sati, fell after she was consumed by flames. There are several important Shaivite temples northeast of the centre in the village of Bijayapur. A short walk from here is the Budha Subba Mandir, set among dense bamboo thickets down the path, with a curious collection of rocks covered in mud – said to represent the reclining body of Mahadev (Shiva). You’re likely to encounter chickens being sacrificed. To reach Bijayapur, take a right at Chata Chowk (a 10-minute walk from Dharan Bazaar), which leads to steps at the bottom of the hill; from here it’s a 20-minute walk. An autorickshaw costs Rs 300 return.
Several net cafes around Bhanu Chowk (the square with the bus stand and the clock tower across the road) offer fast net access for Rs 20 per hour. Nabil Bank and Himalayan Bank have ATMs.