Sunday, 6 May 2012


After leaving Ghazipur we followed the main road to Varanasi. Once we got a glimpse of the Ganges we road down towards it and found we had ridden into an area where they do funerals, and there was one going on at the time. A big fire was going and they had brought down a body wrapped in shiny fabrics but we didn't see them actually burn the body. There was a lot of discussion and the body was put on a boat, but that's all we saw. It was very hot just standing there and we had attracted a crowd of locals who were there for the funeral who wanted to talk to us. Seemed odd that they were more interested in us than the funeral (we are funny looking). I spoke to one guy for a bit and he said it was his brothers wife that had died. I also noticed at the time that there were no females here and I tried to ask why that was but he didn't understand me. All the people there were from the one village nearby though. We set off again after that though.

Varanasi has a whole extra level of nuts traffic. It's still flows, but there are cars and bikes and horns everywhere. Luckily in the places we've been so far in India the towns are quite compact so you don't have to ride far into the mess, but it does take a while to make progress.

I've noticed they don't use mirrors in India. On bikes they are ether folded inwards or removed, and on cars they are folded in. I think this is the reason for the horn use, but they can be very loud. The entire population must have hearing damage.

Once we got into Varanasi we headed towards the railway station where there should be a good lot of hotels with parking for the bikes. On the way into this area we went on this overpass that had relatively light traffic, but on the overpass was a naked guy just smiling at all the traffic going past... I almost crashed from laughing.

We found a street filled with hotels and had a look at a few. The best seemed to be 850r/night ($17AU) with aircon, tv, and bathroom. We kept looking though because we were both in desperate need of wifi and I was still iffy from Nepal with headaches and lack of sleep. We found an internet cafe and checked to see what wikitravel was saying. I jumped on Agoda and had a look at places, and we found one that was $30/night, with wifi, and very comfortable looking... Yes, that will do nicely! We didn't book online but went out to see if they'd give us the same rate, but it was 4500r/night at the hotel and 1500r/night on agoda and they wouldn't match that. So we found a nearby internet cafe and booked and then marched back with the booking voucher and we got in for the 1500r/night! Take that Zeeras Hotel! Now I have a room tiled with Marble floors, a shower that doesn't get the bathroom floor wet, and toilet, a sink that doesn't drain onto the floor, a tv, and a fridge, and the most comfortable bed I've had in a while!

Light traffic.

Note no mirrors. No helmet. High speeds.

Some kids that wanted me to take their photo. They rode off a way then came back and asked for 100 rupies. I countered with "I took your photo, you give me 100 rupies!", then they left.

The Wifi didn't work in the rooms however, so we had to sit in the lobby to use it. They had network points in the room but they didn't have cables, so we went on an adventure to find some. That took a lonnnggg time and visiting many shops because people didn't understand what we wanted (in a world of wifi, who uses network cable any more?). Eventually we stumbled upon a small computer shop that had some and we each bought a cable for $3 (wow, expensive, but totally worth it for precious precious internets). Once we got back to the hotel however we found the network ports didn't work of course. Typical. I complained about that and then a wifi access point appeared on this floor within a few hours. Now we had internet in the comfort of our air-conditioned rooms away from the 41degree heat outside! Success!

I'll have to go back to cheaper rooms after this however...

We found a Burger King while wandering around!

They even stole the logos!
The Burger King did not have any burgers for sale, just curries and rice. 

Down the road from the hotel is the biggest mall in Varanasi (still tiny, I still remember you Chadstone).   And in this mall was a McDonalds. MORE SUCCESS! We ate there twice in one day. It's OK, only chicken or vegetarian meals and very very slow service. The McChicken was the best, but like everything else in India the salt was piled onto the food. No wonder my blood pressure has gone up again. There's also a very noticeable class divide here too, inside the mall are well dressed indians, outside are the poorer class.

Touts are meant to be quite bad here too, but they're not up to Cambodian (Siem Reap) standards. The Tuk Tuk drivers will come up to you and go on a big spiel on the tours they can offer. They always try to get your business for tomorrow because most tourists say "not today" to get rid of them I guess. We've seen a few fighting in the street. One of them came up to Drew and said that another tuk tuk driver goes home and drinks every night, like that was a problem! I've found the best drivers to be the ones who aren't chewing the betle nut/leaves, easily recognisable because they don't have red gums and bad teeth.

When I had to get some more drugs we got a Tuk Tuk away from the hotel, and we were having trouble explaining exactly what we wanted ("Pharmacy" when we should have said "Medical Shop"), so some guy ran over and translated and then jumped in the Tuk Tuk and came with us. We joked and said "No silk shops! No shirts! Just medical shop!" and he assured us that we were just going to the medical shop, no where else. We went to the medical shop, got my drugs, then back in the tuk tuk just near the street where he jumped in he says "Oh you come have a look at my silk shop!". Of course. The driver seemed reluctant but we went in, had him show us everything, even the shirts he says that he makes but we've seen in other shops. We left not buying anything and then we were tout free back to the hotel.

Mr Silk Shop guy on the Left with non-betle nut chewing driver.

Another silk shop we ended up at thanks to a different tuk tuk driver.
The next afternoon we headed down to the Ganges to look at the ghats that line the river. There are a lot of them...

Panorama from Assi Ghat.

Cow just chilling out on the dirt.

These kids wanted us to take photos of them of course. The one in green picked which pocket I had my phone in of course...  I told them 10 rupies for a photo and they almost gave it to me, but then afterwards they wanted 10 rupies from me.

More Ghats.

Washing things in the cremated-body faecal-matter filled Ganges.

Ganges photo of the year.

Another Ghat.

Janki Ghat, like it says there in the yellow square.

A couple of cricket games going on in front of one of the ghats.

Not sure what the guy on the right is saying...

Corner of a ghat.

General view of the river.

Interesting ghat/building. In front of this they did cremations, not when we went past though.

Wood ready for the cremations.

I don't think I have any shooz :(


Swimming everywhere.

Manual drill, Hadn't seen one before, asked if we could take a photo of him using it and he was OK with that.

Drew repairing Indian-Australian relations.

The photo I wanted, the guy on the phone got angry and said no photos, I assured him I was just taking a photo of thing above his head. Ha!

The small alleys away from the river. No car horns.

There's a guy on the left of this photo contributing to all the urine stains in this area... Might have to burn my shoes in a ceremonial fire once I'm finished this trip.

Poeple sitting, lots of boats.

Looking north towards the sunken ghat and the bigger cremation area.

Red moon. Pondering.

The festival that happens at 7pm every sunday. Lots of bell ringing and flames.

All the tourists and locals in boats here to watch it from the water.
All the way along the river there are constantly people asking if you need a boat. We kept saying no, but like the Tuk Tuk drivers the would follow and explain what the did and how it's not something to be missed and trying to get us for sunrise tomorrow too. About halfway up the river I found the best tactic to deal with this is to look serious and say "Oh you need a boat? There's a guy just back there who's selling boat rides, check with him". They seemed to understood what I was saying and were confused as to why I was telling them this, but it stopped their spiel right away. It worked on the guys selling hash too, much to their confusion.

Here's a bit of the tuk tuk ride back from the river:

Today the task is to get to Allahabad, 120km up the road. I think it's possible, but it's a long way out of this air-conditioned room with working toilet...

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