Crowded, dry and dusty, Butwal has all the hallmarks of a typical Terai town, its bustling streets dominated by bell-ringing rickshaws. Sitting on an ancient trade route from the Indian plains towards the Himalaya, Butwal remains an important trade and transport hub at the crossroads of the north–south Siddhartha Hwy and east–west Mahendra Hwy.
About 28km northwest of Tansen by road (or 13km on foot), the Newari village of Ridi Bazaar sits at the sacred confluence of the Kali Gandaki and Ridi Khola rivers. Ridi is a popular destination for pilgrimages, and the site is further sanctified by the presence of saligrams – the fossils of ammonites that are revered as symbols of Vishnu.
The most famous sight near Tansen is the eerie Ranighat Durbar on the east bank of the Kali Gandaki. Fancifully referred to as Nepal’s Taj Mahal, this crumbling baroque palace was built in 1896 by Khadga Shamsher Rana in memory of his beloved wife, Tej Kumari. Khadga was an ambitious politician who was exiled from Kathmandu for plotting against the prime minister.