Vegas on the border

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Vegas on the border

Sunday, 27 January 2019 | Shalini Saksena

Vegas on the border

Gambling in India is illegal. But this doesn’t deter people from entering into casinos whenever they get a chance. So much so that vacations are taken to places like Macau just to be part of the culture. Now, one doesn’t have to travel far, to be part of this favourite pastime, says SHALINI SAKSENA

Think of gambling and Vegas pops into the mind. A little closer to home, it is Macau. A little more closer and Goa comes to mind. But did you know that there a place a little more closer to home that one would have thought where one can indulge in? Eight km into the other side of Nepal’s border, a resort — Tiger Palace Resort, a Silver Heritage Group — in the  small city in Nepal — Bhairahawa, is attracting Indians like never before to its casino. What is even more interesting is the profile of the people who visit it. They are mostly from Gorakhpur and adjoining areas. Yes, you read that right. The main clientele of this resort-casino is from Gorakhpur. The last place from where one would expect people to throng to a casino. But believe it or not, every weekend the casino is packed with Indians from this city in UP who come in with bags full to gamble away. So much so that December 31, 2018 was the busiest night for the resort.

The question that comes to mind is that if Nepal was the destination why not Kathmandu which is the Capital and has much more to offer when it comes to entertainment. There are great eating joints, the Pashupatinath Temple and a bustling market to shop till you drop. This resort has a few tricks up its sleeve. First, it is only eight km into Nepal. A drive of two-and-a-half hours gets you here. Of course, you don’t need a visa. Food is similar as is a landscape, it is the Terai region. We all seek comfort in familiarity. The most important thing is the language. The people speak not just English but Hindi too making it easy for people from this of the border feel at home.

The 2,500 sq feet of the casino is definitely a gamblers delight. Besides the tables, there are slot machines which the uninitiated can try their hand at. Don’t worry if you don’t know anything about how to operate them. The staff at hand will literally hold your hand and guide you through these complicated machines. And if you hit jackpot, the trip is all the more worth it. But remember the most important rule of a casino — You may win a few hands but the House wins each hand.

The usual trip to this place involves driving down with the family or friends and gamble the night away. For the wives who don’t want to gamble or be adventurous enough to try the slot machines.  A visit to the Ostrich farm is interesting for several reasons. One doesn’t find these birds here in India, to see so many is an amazing experience. If you are a non-vegetarian, one can try the Ostrich meat. Interestingly, unlike the duck which has a game smell, this meat except for being a bit chewy is really fantastic. Ask the chef to make it spicy and he will whip it up for you in minutes, a plate will cost you Nepalese Rs 300 with 10 small pieces. One can try the momos as well, 10 pieces will cost Nepalese Rs 250.

Then there is Lumbini, the birth place of Lord Buddha. The ride is a bit bumpy and takes around three hours to reach but the place itself is worth visiting if you want to know and understand the significance this otherwise sleepy town. There are touristy attractions as well like a boat ride along the 1.6 km canal which divides the monastic zone into the two parts — The Sacred Garden — where Buddha was born and the rest of the monasteries of countries like Korea, Cambodia and Sri Lanka, in all 29. A day’s trip may not be enough to soak in the culture and ambience of this region but it does give a sneak peek into the History especially if you have a guide like Suhail Khan who regales you with stories.

Then there is the Chitwan National Park which is three-and-a-half hours away from Bhairahawa by car or one can even go up to Pokhra which is a two-three hour drive, the highway is under construction but once done, it will be a smooth ride.

But if one is strapped for time, one can lounge around the resort itself which has a list of entertainment. For the kids, there is a movie theatre and a place area. For the ladies, there is the spa and an almost wrap around swimming pool. In fact, some rooms open into the pool. Get into your suit and slip in the cool water which also takes you to the bar. One can make a quick stop and have a cocktail — The Mad Mary is a twisted version of Bloody Mary. Instead of using just fresh tomato juice, they use juice of a roasted tomato to give a slightly smokey flavour. Bar Manager of Tiger Palace Resort, Suraj Pandey tells you how they came to this name. “There was this customer who had come to us when I was working in another hotel. He told me to make him a Bloody Mary but to use the ingredients he wanted. His list was so long that it made us crazy — as in mad. The name stuck,” Pandey recounts. If the sweet cocktail is your vice, go for Home Made Expresso Martini. More so, if you love coffee.

Chef de cuisine, Abhishek Biswas who will practically whip up anything that your heart desires, as long as his kitchen stocks the ingredients tells you that glocal being the new mantra, a lot of produce is locally purchased. “This boosts the economy of the place. We encourage farmers to grow produce that we want. While, this does change the cropping pattern, the objective is to ensure that the entire region prospers,” Biswas tells you who had to do a lot of research before he came up with a menu that would suit all palates.

A few must try’s are the chicken sekuwa, a popular Nepalese appetiser and or the locally procured saag and cheese momo. Chicken bara is a great dish to order as well. But if you are a vegetarian, try the paneer doodhiya or alu chilman. But if you want to try the local cuisine go for the Nepalese thali on offer at the Ramro Chowk which opens with buffet breakfast at 6:30 am and closes at 11:30 pm.

But what if you get hungry when you are sitting in the casino? Well, there is a buffet there as well. Also, from time to time, there are offers that are announced. If Lady Luck is with you, at the table, you may even end up with a free drink or a snack right where you sit.

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