here, there, everywhere

Varanasi

In India on May 12, 2009 at 7:45 am

It took 12 hours to get here by overnight train but the ride went fast and was very pleasant.  This was my first time on an Indian train and I was expecting a lot less, at least some livestock in the cabins.  No chickens although I was excited to hear a rooster until I realized it was the ring tone of someone’s phone.

I ended up at a really nice guest house 30 seconds walk from the Ganges River and it’s been an awesome stay for the past 2 1/2 days.  Yesterday morning started with a 5:30am 2 hour boat ride on the Ganges to watch the morning rituals.  It’s a nice way to see what’s happening since you can catch everything from that vantage point plus it means you can avoid the crush of humans on the ghats (banks) of the river.  Lots of boats at that time filled predominantly with curious white people.  Saw one energetic fellow yelling into his cell phone as people bathed in the river and people prayed to the gods.

Click here for a video of a morning on the ghats.

A pretty good hotel room about 100m from the ghats. Varanasi

First view of the ghats. Varanasi

Old man on the ghat. Varanasi

Steps down to the water. Varanasi

Flags on the ghat. Varanasi

What would India be without all the colour… Varanasi

Out on the Ganges in the early morning light. Varanasi

View from the Ganges of early morning activities on the ghats. Varanasi

Despite the legendary toxicity levels of the Ganges, swimming is a huge past time for local residents. Varanasi

Afterward I took a tour of five temples, something of a feat since I find temples as interesting as museums, ie., not at all.  The monkey temple was cool though and I spent more time in the grounds watching the monkeys wrestle and bite each other.  One was playing with what looked like some unfortunate woman’s hair piece.  He actually put it on his head and stroked it in that way that women do.  Then another monkey came, ripped it off the other’s head which resulted in a tug-of-war, tearing the hair in half.  Everyone got some, everyone was happy.  No cameras allowed so I couldn’t get any pictures which was a shame because some of those shots would have made for great storytelling.

Then went to the Muslim quarter to a silk factory and ended up buying a bedspread, BRIGHT PINK.  Yes oh yes it is lovely.

What I think paradise looks like. Silk factory. Varanasi

Got back to the hotel, met a great older couple who produced a bottle of Southern Comfort and loaded up the glasses.  This was the way in which we wandered down to the ghats to watch the evening rituals, a little tipsy and very happy.  Met the caretaker of a burning ghat so sat with him for a bit while he explained what was happening below.  A family had just arrived with the body and was starting the ritual performance.  The sun had gone down so when they lit the pyre it was beautiful in the evening light.

After that went to a classical Indian music concert and promptly fell asleep, bad form since there were only about 10 people there including the musicians.  The tabla player woke me up with “MADAM, ONE MORE SONG!!”  Afterwards he came to ask what I liked so of course I said he was very good, the result being that in my delirious state I was suckered into tabla lessons this afternoon. We’ll see how that goes, I’m not doing any cooking classes so this may be a good substitute.

Tonight I get on the train for a 15 hour ride north to Darjeeling.  I met two young guys from Montreal at the tourism booth in the train station once we arrived in Varanasi and we’re all heading up at the same time so we’ll go together.

No more sleep problems with sleeping pills in hand, G.I. is regular for the first time in two years, and have a rash on my stomach the exact size and shape of my money belt.  All in all life is pretty sweet right now.

The opposite of sticking your tongue on a frosted post, resting your arm on an iron railing in 40 degree weather. Just as you take the shot. Varanasi

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  1. tabla lesson was surprisingly fun. wouldn’t mind taking a few more lessons when i get home actually.

  2. wow….sounds fantastic…long train rides though…..how did the tabla lessons go?

  3. A pic of the monkies would have been hilarious! Glad you are enjoying yourself.

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