Tuesday, February 10, 2009

1-2 February – Varanasi, India

We admit that we (=Ola) were a bit nervous about Varanasi. Many people we have spoken to have warned us about Varanasi. Nowhere to camp. Dirty. Smelly. Chaotic. Thieves. Disease. Hot. Ugly. Noisy. Disgusting. Absolutely not for children. And the terrible things floating in the holy river Ganges...
We loved Varanasi. For us, it was the perfect end to our two and a half wonderful months in India. We could never have imagined that Varanasi would be so peaceful (morning walk north from Assi Ghat), cool (25 degrees at noon and 12 degrees at night), dignified (everywhere except maybe at the main ghat), beautiful (grand architecture of riverside palaces south of main ghat), with so much good food (we will remember the Lotus Lounge), colorful people (washing clothes, bathing, fishing, resting), reasonably clean river (it is actually not as bad as we thought it would be) and tremendous photo opportunities.
Our 5 km walk from Assi Ghat (washing and bathing) to Manikarnika Ghat (burning bodies) was among the best walks we ever did.
And the sunset ceremony is bizarrely unique, if somewhat strenuous for your ears.
All that said, Varanasi for sure attracts a lot of weirdoes and goofs, both Indian and Western. But that is part of the package. Just smile and be happy!
And by the way, we do not mean to say that the Ganges river is exactly clean…

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