Pick up to the airport at 8.30pm. Arjun had helped us last night by getting the hotel to store our excess luggage for the short 2 day visit to Varanasi. Peter and Gordon had asked before and the hotel said they didn't have storage, but they did. Seemed they try to restrict storage as much as possible because it is a large hotel and they could run out of space fairly quickly. So we just took Daisy's small carry-on size bag and my back-pack for the short local flight on a local airline called IndiGo, which I think is a clever name.
We were met at Varanasi airport by Raj, who is our guide for this leg of our tour. Our initial impression driving from the airport was that traffic was quieter here, but that impression soon changed.
The Amayaa hotel seems really nice and we had about 2.5 hours before being picked for the Ganga Aarti ceremony, which gave us time to have lunch and have a swim in the pool if you wished. The restaurant menu has a wide range of international food, Western, Chinese, Italian and of course Indian. We both had Fish and chips.
4.30pm we met Raj in the lobby to attend the Ganga Aarti ceremony. It starts at 6.30 but Raj explained we had to get there early to get a good spot. The journey there was an experience in itself. The van dropped us off about 15-20 minutes walk away but what a walk. It was through the main street lined with all sorts of shops and street vendors and the street was filled with more people than cars or motor-bikes, all trying their best to get to wherever they were going. When we got the Ganges. Talk about an assault on all the senses. Many people were already there seated, but Raj took us up some stairs and we got front row seats on a balcony overlooking the growing sea of people and the seven platforms where Hindi priests go through their ritual with smoke and fire. The wait was easy as it was just entertaining watching the people and listening to live chanting and music before the priests arrived. During the ritual the crowd is often encouraged to clap along. It was altogether a captivating, spiritual experience. Similar feel as the whirling dervishes in Turkey but way more interesting.
On completion we rushed back to where the van was parked along with thousands of other people and motor-bikes and occasional car. We had a quick dinner before retiring early for a 5am start tomorrow.
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