Organizing a train to our next destination wasn’t so difficult, as we realized that most Indians speak excellent English, and are great business men, with the ambition to be respected as professionals.
A ten hour train ride later, after many games of gin and bamboozling sights from our window, we arrive in the ancient city of Varanasi, the ‘home’ of The Lord Shiva, and also home to many winding, colourful and cobbled streets full of animals, children playing cricket, and orange robed babas.
We arrived at night, and the taxi ride through this city was even more shocking than our first! I feel like a little culture shock bombarded my relaxed disposition, and I felt a little overwhelmed by the loud taxi driver, the hotel owner who had no consideration for privacy or personal space, and the many other men ogling my western everything. But, a well needed rest and a delicious Indian breakfast set us up for a day of exploring the many Ghats (a flight of steps leading down to the river).
A lovely man from the hotel took us everywhere, from the hotel to the main Ghat where we saw men bathing in the dirty (but very holy) Ganga river, then along to the next ghat where they burned bodies next to the river – not in coffins, just wrapped in a white sheet – as a special ceremony for the fasted route to the liberation of the soul. Thousands of people per year either come to die in Varanasi, or to be burned once they pass on. We weren’t allowed to take photos here, but it was an experience in itself I will never forget.
Next was a walk through the textile area, where we saw people making silk – which takes up to 30 days to make one piece by hand – and I bought a beautiful cotton silk scarf for a fraction of the price that it would have been back in the west.
After dinner, we all jumped into a boat and watched the fire ceremony in front of the main Ghat.
I like to be chauffeured around, but I prefer to explore on my own, and that’s what we did the next day, dining on delightful Indian cuisine and exploring the dusty streets.
Varanasi was beautiful, and an experience not to miss out on, although my kind of place is one where you can open your mouth without fear of ingesting some sort of airborne disease, and one that has a more relaxed energy.