When you think of Nepal, it's usually the northern half that comes to mind, the extraordinary, world-famous Himalaya. But what about the southern half of the country? Most of it is the very opposite, a hot, subtropical plain known as the Terai, which stretches north from the border with India. The Mahabharat Range and Chure Hills stand in the middle, as if mediating between snow-capped peaks and a flat horizon.
For the traveler, this area has a split personality. From west to east, the Terai offers a succession of beautiful and well-managed national parks: Sukla Phanta, Bardia, Chitwan and Koshi Tappu. Meanwhile, the major population centres do not have the same sense of calm, with broken, trash-strewn streets, haphazard construction and an omnipresent cloud of dust. The people are as cheery as ever, but mountain villages aside, the cities of the Terai are mainly transit points to the national parks, India or somewhere else.