For a real adrenaline rush, gun your bike and head off beyond Naubise. Go on, do it, and see what Nepal has to offer. That's what I did last month, and what an adventure it's been.
As I navigated across the country, passed through 60 towns from the far west to the east and crossed over into Sikkim on my 500cc Enfield Bullet, I realised the first rule of road tripping in Nepal: make a plan, but be flexible. Bandas, chukka jams, landslides, are common and strike without warning.
Rule number two: don't be fazed by flat tyres in the middle of the jungle or Maoists threatening to burn your bike during a banda. Look around, ask for help. Nepalis outside Kathmandu are very helpful.
Once you escape the traffic bottleneck between Thankot and Naubise, the raw beauty of the countryside will take over and you won't feel any pain.
There are some really bad roads (Surkhet-Dailekh) but the highways in the west are surprisingly well maintained compared to rest of the country. In Bardiya, you'll have to ride through the national wildlife reserve at 40 kmph, not faster, not slower, or risk being penalised at the army anti-poaching checkpoint.
For the more adventurous, take the Karnali Highway to Jumla, but it may be a better idea to let them at least gravel the road first.
For the best and shortest route to the east from Kathmandu, drive down to Hetauda from Dakshinkali. The roads are being re-surfaced but the rough ride is worth the risk, passing lush green hills reflected on the Kulekhani reservoir.
It's one long day from Hetauda to Kakarbitta on Nepal's eastern border with India. But you can also make a pit stop in Janakpur then head out to Lahan the next morning. You can keep going east and hit India, or head north to Dharan, Dhankuta and up to Khandbari.
The reassuring throb of the Bullet takes you through this incredibly diverse country, and you notice how much things are changing because of road access. But also how much of the Nepali soul remains the same.
PICS: NARESH NEWAR
A three hour drive from Nepal's eastern border takes you to the beautiful tea estate town of Mirik. A further three hours and Darjeeling with its toy train and sweeping panorama of Kangchenjunga beckons. Kalimpong and its flower nurseries should not be missed either. From there it is on to Gangtok in Sikkim, and one notices how much more economic progress this place has made. Everyone speaks Nepali, it feels like Nepal, only more prosperous.
A united Nepali nation
As leaders in Kathmandu scramble to finish a new constitution behind closed doors, they should listen to the people I met from Mechi to Mahakali. It is a country of breathtaking beauty and heartrending poverty. Especially in the west, you can see that poverty spares no one. The Brahmins and Chettris are as poor as the Janjatis and Dalits, their fates are entertwined, as are their hopes and their stories of survival have remained unchanged for centuries.
All castes struggle under the poverty line, and it is poverty that binds them together. In the western Tarai town of Kusum, a destitute young Brahmin widow with two children who lost her husband during the war runs a tiny roadside restaurant. A Madhesi milkman bicycles four hours in the scorching heat everyday to generate income by selling milk to her. A young Dalit fisherman sells his fish at her eatery. A Chettri woman works as a maid to feed her children.
At tea shops and lodges along the way I ask people about federalism. They are fed up with politicians, they think federalism is just a slogan, and having suffered violence during the war they don't want the country to be divided along ethnic lines.
In Janakpur, I meet Madhesi families tired of extortion by armed Madhesi groups. This should have never happened, they said. In Rajbiraj, Madhesi and Pahadi families said they have lived together for generations and don't want to be separated.
A tiny tea stall by the highway in Butwal is run by three men: a Brahmin, a Madhesi and a Gurung. One makes tea, one waits on customers and one washes cups. Here you go. This is the model of a united Nepali nation practiced by ordinary people without any need to carve the country up.