Amazing Varanasi

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February 28th 2010
Published: August 9th 2017
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I re-entered India through the Sonuli border. Chaos ensued as always. I got took a share jeep for the 2 and a half hour trip to Ghorakpur where i had to catch the train that night for Varanasi.
As usual i was crammed in the back which can only really fit four people in but of course they had to squeeze 7 in. It was another uncomfortable trip. Some lady vomited out the side. We stopped for a bite to eat along the way which was good, my legs needed a stretch and my bum was becoming numb.
Finally we reached the train station of Ghorakpur, but it was only 2pm and i had to wait till 11.15pm for my train, so i had some time to kill. One guy from my share taxi was a Tibetan monk who was studying in Southern India. His name was Lovesang. He was so friendly and helpful to me as soon as we got to Ghorakpur. He helped with my bags, even though i declined. He helped me store them at the train station. From there we went across the road and had a drink together and chatted. He was no nice to chat with. I find the Tibetan people so friendly.
Eventually he had to catch his train to Delhi. With seven hours still left, I found an internet cafe and ended up on the computer for about four hours before i got hungry. I grabbed dinner and then proceeded to wait at the train station for the remaining few hours.
While i was waiting for the train, i met two Japanese travelers named Naoki and Haru, who were in the same carrage as i was. As it was late i went straight to bed. The train was 2 hours late into Varanasi but when we did arrive, the three of us caught a rickshaw into the main ghat area.
I remember as we we stopped in the train, over a small area of water, looking into the water and seeing how black it looked with all the rubbish lying around. The water was bubbling and looking like it was raining. I have always been told that Varanasi is a very dirty city.
The others knew of a place to stay, so i tagged along as we walked through the small and crowded laneways to Baba Guesthouse. Primarily most people that stay here are either Korean or Japanese. The guesthouse is run by a Korean lady. It has a dormortory availiable, it was fine, but it was on the roof and got pretty hot and therefore had a lot of mosquitos hanging about. Undecided of where were wanted to stay, we checked another place. Haru decided to stay at the other place and Naoki and myself stayed at Baba and shared a room at a cheap price, $3 a night each.
We were both tired and drained so we rested for a couple of hours. We were meant to meet Haru for lunch but totally over slept. So Naoki and myself grabbed some late lunch and took our first walk onto the ghats. The Holi festival was just 2 days away and i had already been bombed with a dye waterbomb that landed just on my feet. I was wearing sandles so my feet got covered in blue dye. I assumed it was kids that did it. Most of the adults and teens know to wait but the kids just do it anywhere and anytime. You get hassled as you always do along the ghats to take boat rides on the river.
So we went back to the guesthouse, I went to the internet while Naoki rested. He also went to find Haru. When i came back, the three of us went for a walk along the ghats. There is a Puja ceremony that happens everynight at the Dasaswamedh Ghat. It wasn't starting till 6:30 so we went for a walk to the cremation ghat. It's so strange yet powerful. People crowd to watch people burn and all for religion. There were 11 cremations happening at once at one more was being prepared. It's not too good a sight when you see a guy using a stick to push arms or legs back into the fire because they have popped out. Around the cremations are wood piles stacked for intended use. Cows and dogs roam just feet away, chewing on the rubbish. It's quite a sight.
I took my beanie with me and somehow lost it as i had put it in my pocket thinking i would get Holi colour on it. Being in India, as soon as something hits the ground its snapped up before you look down. I had no idea where it went and couldn't find it. I was pretty angry for loosing it.
We then walked back to watch the Puja Ceremony.
People sat in all avilable places to see. On the otherside, boat loads of people view from the Ganges. It was nice to view at the start, but then it dragged on towards the end. Seven priests perform a synchronized ceremony with bells and lanterns of fire to music. Haru who had previously been in Varanasi said that it was a different performance to the last one he saw, apparently there was meant to be dancing. Eventually we got bored, so we went to get some dinner. We went to a restaurant which was Ok but i could look into the kitchen which didn't fill me with great confidence. It turned out fine, but i hear that quite a few people get sick in Varanasi.
One thing that really annoys me is in the small alleyways, even when its so crowded full of people, the locals still ride motorcycles through. Honking their bloody horns as if we are at fault for being in their way. It's so annoying and dangerous. We went back and hit the sack pretty quickly.
The next morning we both were woke early, around 5:30 to echo's of people banging around and talking. As our room was out the front of the bathroom it became a noisy morning. Naoki and myself got some breakfast and waited for Haru to turn up. Haru had been to Varanasi before so he did not join me and Naoki on the boat trip on the Ganges. Naoki and myself walked along the ghats and tried to get the best price for an hours boat ride on the Ganges. We got one guy for 50rs each after about 20 min of negotitation. At at the start he kept twisting our words around saying two people 100rs which in India means two people at 100rs each. Our boat guy was a oldish teen.
We went as far north as the cremation ghats and back and went over to the otherside and down south for a little bit. Our boat guy was pretty lazy, we still had 15min left and he started heading back which would have taken 2min to get back. We rode him and got him to keep going, but he didn't put much effort into it. I remember near the end he stopped rowing and took a drink from the river. I almost gagged. It river is so dirty, its been said that it had more than 1.5 million parts of faecal matter as apposed to safe drinking water levels of 500. But for the locals its nothing.
The boat trip was nice. I realized how much i liked Varanasi though. It' such an interesting place, that the ghats are full of activity, people revolving their lives around the Ganges, bathing, washing, drinking, you name it, they probably do it here. Another thing that i think makes Varanasi amazing is the other side of the river which is completely empty, nothing there.
It's wierd to think why nothing is there as we are in India and every availiable space is occupied in some form or another. It's prime real estate on the other side, yet its empty, nothing but small trails leading into distant villages. People are ferried to the otherside to also bathe or to wash the water buffalo.
After the boat trip we met with Haru and grabbed some lunch. From there I went and did the internet and calling thing. We were up on the rooftop watching the sunset when two Japanese girls came up already covered in the Holi Festival colours. Holi was due for the following day and I knew that kids would have been responsible for attacking the girls, who didn't seemed to bothered. We watched the sunset over Varanasi city. I talked with a oldish guy from New Zealand. I started getting jelous that Naoki was staying in Varanasi for longer as i was having a great time.
Holi Festival is meant to be a bit dangerous than other places in India. The Indians favour attacking the foreigners with the colours, but they also "play fight" which means they push each other around and rip the shirts of one anothers back. This is why most guesthouses lock the gates of the accommodation to protect, as well as advise to stay indoors.
Holi runs from 8am and finishes at 1pm where they all wach themselves in the Ganges. It's still a bit iffy for a couple of hours afterwards.
We had dinner at the guesthouse which consisted of Korean food. I had no idea what anything was, so i chose the dish with the weirdest name called Kimchi Sujebi. It was a noodle soup dish that was pretty spicey.
Afterwards we went to bed, unsure of what to expect the following day.

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