We all slept well on the overnight train. I was woken up by hands under my sheet, which freaked me out, I lifted my eye mask and it was just Derek. Phew! It was 6 am. I slept for a bit longer, until I heard we were close to a stop where we had a 20 minute stop. The stop was in Allahabad. Most of us grabbed some chai, which was 5 rupees for a small cup (10 cents).
We arrived in Varanasi on time. Our hotel was across the street from the train station. After passing some stalls selling knock off sunglasses, we had a harrowing road crossing.
Our hotel room is fine, but another one with humidity issues (not quite as bad as Agra, but not as good to do any laundry). After showering, I took our laundry down to the front desk. The guy counted all the laundry behind the front desk on the floor.
Our crazy walk to the ghats of the Ganges.
We had a nap, and then the group met for the “sunset” Ganges boat ride. It wasn’t much of a sunset, which was fine, because everything was just spectacular and fascinating. We walked on the ghats (the banks of the Ganges is a bunch of stairways that are called ghats) and took photographs. We came upon a cremation, which you are not allowed to take photos of. We then had our boat tour. Mainly we watched a prayer ceremony, which was performed by 2 sets of priests. There was an enormous amount of people on boats and up on the ghats. Some vendor boats approached us with tea. You could have tea in a paper cup or a terra cotta cup. One of my coworkers said I had to have some yogurt in a terra cotta pot, and so far this is the closest I’ve been able to get.
Getting ready for a cremation. We weren’t allowed to take pictures of actual cremation.
Tons of people in boats here to watch the prayer ceremony. If you see the guy with the green bucket, that’s the chaiwalla hopping from boat to boat (guy who sells chai).
Here’s Derek’s commentary on the Ganges experience:
Varanasi was probably as equal for me at the Taj as places to see on this trip, in other words high. We took a 20 minute tuk tuk ride from the hotel through the streets of Varanasi, pretty much as everywhere else, crazy driving, disgusting smells yet beautiful smells, the whole sensory system goes into overload whenever we leave the hotel.
We stopped in an street that seems to be a tuk tuk parking lot and we headed through some back allies with motorcycles and cows for company, we seemed to weave back and forth then headed through one longer passageway which was obviously the home for many people.
Then, there it was, the Ganges, it literally took my breath away and I had to stop to capture the moment as I wanted to remember this I stood for a good few minute looking up and down the Ghats, it was another on of those seen and heard of the, so many times, but to be here.
Our CEO gave us about 15 minutes to wander before we were to take a boat ride, a few of use wandered towards a cremation taking place, fascinating to see what you would go to jail for in the western world. We learned a lot about the cremation process later on and also the next morning on our sunrise boat tour.
Back to my commentary…
We left the prayer ceremony early and were each given a candle, surrounded by flowers in what looked to be a bowl made with a banana leaf. We were told to put the candle in the Ganges while making a wish or prayer. It was a beautiful moment.
We went to dinner at what seemed to be the most popular restaurant in Varanasi. There were people lined up outside to get in, just like we see at home. We had a stuffed mushroom masala, which was delicious. Our new friend Jim ordered a cheeseburger (veggie burger with cheese) an it was worth a photo:
It was clearly a wedding night for many. From what we understand, most weddings take place around the same time of year to save on set up costs. We got back to our room and could hear fireworks like they were a few feet away from us plus lots of music.