Helen and Randall on the road

A bit about our adventures 2011-2012

Tuesday 17th – Friday 20th April: Varanasi

with one comment

It was an 18 hour train journey from New Jalpaiguri to Varanasi (Mughal Sarai Junction); 22.30 to 16.30 the following day. This was lunch on day 2:

When we finally arrived at Mughal Sarai station we were amused by this advertisement:

And by this very stylish pink-upholstered rickshaw:

Unfortunately our rickshaw was not quite so stylish but at least he was there waiting for us, procured by the guest house we had booked.

On the way into town we spotted this rather alarming-looking dentists:

Our guest house was the lovely Monu’s Family Paying Guest House:

Charming and brightly coloured!

After an early dinner at the Dolphin, a rooftop restaurant on the riverside, we had an early night and an early start, as apparently Varanasi is all about morning on the river:

Dawn at the Ghats, Varanasi

Rubbish at the ghats.

Boats waiting to take tourists ‘for a ride’.

Despite being a hindu holy city, there is evidence of the Mughal period. The city was sacked by Aurangzeb and many of the temples destroyed.

Washing drying at the dhobi ghats.

Snoozing in the sun.

The cruel tutelage of Pai Mei

This is one of the ‘Water Treatment Works’ on the river. I dread to think how much ‘treatment’ is needed for this water!

Local goat.

Free hugs at Cafe Aum

The Aum Cafe, run by an American expat.

Varanasi is a hectic city; although it is known for silk weaving, the main ‘industry’ is pilgrimage and associated tourism so there is stiff competition for the tourist rupee. The narrow (sometimes Randall had to walk sideways!) alleyways of the old city are packed and filthy with litter, cow dung and pester-y people and the whole place is just generally grubby…all the slight cuts, scrapes and insect bites we had got infected over the couple of days, and the woman who runs the Aum cafe told us that e coli and salmonella are rife which didn’t surprise us.

For a bit of relief we headed to one of the nicer hotels to use their pool and wifi, and ended up staying until the evening, so got to see this crazy Indian wedding going on in the courtyard:

The on the rickshaw-ride home we saw several processions for slightly less grand versions – it’s the season for it, apparently:

Trumpets, drums and light-sabers seem to be the order of the day for weddings in Varanasi.

The next morning we rose somewhat later and had a leisurely brunch in the Brown Bread Cafe, a bakery and restaurant that supports the Learn for Life NGO school:

On our final day we had another early morning and, along with Tom the Australian from our hostel and another couple picked up from a different hotel, we took a boat ride on the Ganges at dawn:

We lit flower-filled paper lamps ‘for our karma’ although as a couple of them nearly set fire to someone’s boat I’m not sure how effective that was likely to be.

Along the river we passed the famous ‘burning ghats‘ where a cremation apparently frees one from the cycle of death and rebirth. We’d expected something a bit grander – they were actually pretty sordid:

Piles of wood and piles of ash at the burning ghats.

A pile of ashes. Note the rubbish and wandering animals.

The sinking temple raised a smile:

More interesting buildings on the riverside:

A Sadhu doing his makeup

Crazy busy ghats – all human life is here:

Finally it was time to catch the overnight train to Agra, leaving mid-afternoon, allowing for cow-hazards:

The rest of the photos are here.


One Response

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  1. Ah, it wouldn’t be the land of the elephant without the good old cow hazards!


    April 25, 2012 at 8:28 pm

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