Saturday, 20 October 2012

Varanassi - India - May 2012

We got over the border from Sunauli with a few tiny problems, but they were soon sorted. It appeared we had not got our exit stamp from the Nepal side, so we had to go back to Nepal (only 300 yards away) and get our exit stamp, so the Indians could stamp us in, in India, yay. Probably the most relaxed border known to man, with people just walking back and forth with no one stopping them.  We looked for food but people were only serving sweet and tea, so while looking for the bus to Gorakhpur we stopped at the Soda shop and got a lovely ice cold soda pop each. We then headed off to get the bus. On the bus we were at the front and had the heat from the engine but got to keep an eye on our luggage. The drivers were really lovely as they made sure they stopped us near the train station and hotel area.  After looking at some bad rooms for high prices we settled on a shabby room for 350INR and settled in after some diner. The next day we tried to get sleeper tickets from a special booking office but they had no tickets so we had to get 2nd class seated (unreserved) for the trip. We left later that day at 3pm for Varanasi.


After leaving Gorakhpur we traveled via train for 5 hours in 2nd Class seated and it was not that busy so was quite comfortable. We arrived in Varanasi and had to negotiate with the tuk tuk driver and when we had reached the price we desired we left for Assi Ghat and the driver took us to a hotel and we checked the price and looked for more hotels. The only problem was the fact the driver would not leave our side as he was waiting for his commission at the hotel we went to. After searching many hotels we settled on the first one we came across as the price was right and it had air con. The driver after we settled had left presumably with his commission.  As it was getting late we had dinner at the hotel and slipped of to get some much needed rest.

On our first day we decided to just explore the area and we realised that we were not staying in Assi Ghat, but just a little above that, but we were happy with our hotel and the comfort of our bed, for the price we paid. While walking through the waterside of the River Ganges we saw some great graffiti and some people and animals bathing in the river. While walking towards the burning Ghats some guy tried to attach himself to us, giving us advise and trying to be our guide. We politely said that we didn’t need a guide and said we would not pay him so please leave us alone. Eventually he left us alone. After a while of walking we seemed lost, however found our way back to an internet cafe that served food and drinks. We then navigate our way back to our hotel through the many back alleys. When we arrived back at the hotel we had a nap and rested for the remainder of the day in our air con room, as the heat outside was very hard to take.


The next day we decided to buy an Indian sim card, to allow us to call hotels and to aid in using the Cleartrip website (that allows you to book our train tickets online). We decided to head to the Ramnagar Fort and did this on foot, in the hot summer sun, stopping along the way to buy water and rest. When we arrived at the river side we had to cross the pontoon bridge that looked very unstable. Then we walked to the fort and went inside. There were many different things inside, from lovely old cars, finely crafted weapons and regal carriages it really was quite lovely. We then carried on following the signs and got to the place were you had a very lovely view of the Ganges. After this we stopped for a limca and a fanta then left and headed back over the bridge. Once over the bridge we decided to get a cycle rickshaw back to the hotel. However the man riding this cycle rickshaw was out of breath after 3 or 4 meters, so we paid him and walked until we found an auto rickshaw and haggled a price, and got a ride back to our hotel. Again we rested in our air con room to recover from the heat and later that afternoon we headed to Assi Ghat and found a very nice soda shop selling pump soda for 20INR per cup and it was lovely and refreshing. We carried on to the water side and found this pizza place recommended in the LP Guide and we ate there and the pizza was very lovely. After this we slowly made our way around to the waterfront where many different people tried to sell us a boat tour around the Ganges. We haggled and haggled and finally got our boat ride. We set off down the river in daylight and then came back in the darkness. The ride was very lovely and seeing things from a different view was most awesome. After boat ride we made our back to the hotel to relax for the remainder of the evening.    


The next day we woke up and feeling a little worse for wear and having packed some stuff ready to send home, headed to the post office to send it back to England. We found the Post Office ok and a gentleman helped us and gave us all the details we needed to get our parcel sent, that included goin to see a gentleman who wrapped up our parcel in cloth and sealed it with sealing wax. It really was a funny experience as the parcel looked like a sack with red wax all over it (not normal looking). It cost 2700INR to have the parcel send direct via air, the other option was by sea and air, but someone said that often they split stuff up into bigger or smaller packages and this can cause things to go missing, so we went with direct air deliver. After this we headed back to the hotel for some rest and later headed out to Sarnath just 13 km up the road. We got a tuk tuk there and made our way around the place where Lord Buddha gave his first sermon. The place was very small but still very lovely and before we knew it we were at the local Tibetan temple and after getting some drinks were back in Varanasi resting and sleeping the rest of our day away.

The last day in Varanasi was very chilled and we slept in a little, then went for a walk around the place again along the Ganges and back to the burning Ghats, but we decided to see how far the Ghats went and they went on for a long time. While trying to find our way home, we decided not to get a tuk tuk and seemed to get lost. While finding our way back we saw lots of people holding a body that was on a wooden style stretcher but wrapped in shiny orange cloth ready for burning at the Ghats. While in Varanasi its a very common sight that makes you realise how much the Indian people face death. Its very in your face but death is as much part of life as anything els is and they understand that. We found our way back to the hotel and rested and packed our bags ready for our train ride the next day that would take us to Gaya.




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