The holy city of Varanasi India

Varanasi India
A guru (master/teacher) hanging in the street
India, wow! What a place. My very first stop in India was quite an ambiguous one, providing the culture shock of a lifetime as I witnessed some outlandish behavior and unhygienic delights. From dead bodies passing by my face to cow poo infested streets and an abundance of heavenly delicious chai tea.

Just coming out of a hectic 32 hour transit from Nepal to Varanasi India where I nearly lost all my worldly possessions (aka my bag), I was on the edge of breaking down. My tuk tuk driver couldn’t find my guest house, and it was nothing short of a nightmare. Finally getting closure on the guest house’s location, policemen directed us through the thin alleyways where tuk tuk’s and cars would no longer fit. I dragged my bag behind me dodging street venders, cows and their immense lumps of crap, infested by what seemed to be the largest fly colonies known to mankind.

The famous Ganges River
It was all far too overwhelming. I stopped to catch my breath and despite my thoughts of being prepared for the situation, I was shoved aside to make way for bodies of the deceased, being carried through the thin alleyways towards the Holy Ganges River. It turned out to be the culture shock of a lifetime for me. I have even heard of people heading to India for 2 weeks and not making it past the first 24 hours as they brought their flights home forward. I couldn’t stoop to that level. Making it to the guest house, sleep was the highest priority to re-energize and digest the craziness of it all, where afterwards I could make my decisions of what to do and how long to stay.

My tuk tuk driver let me drive in the hectic Varanasi traffic
Varanasi is one incredibly busy city, I felt it was even more hectic and busier than New Delhi. As it was warming up for the summer I couldn’t even handle walking down the main roads. Not just because of the heat but also the noise of the traffic that pulsed around the clock. My advice whilst in Varanasi would be to walk the little alleyways beneath the shade. Walking the banks of the famous Ganges River can be done either by day or night but is most pleasant at sunset.

Another great way to see the Ganges River is to get in it, yes get in it. No not swim in it of course that would almost be suicidal being the most polluted river in the world. But take a boat ride, and with my accommodation I was lucky enough to get a free boat ride either at sunrise or sunset. I opted for sunset, lasting about an hour this is where I learnt a lot about the city.

Trainee boat rower on the Gange
Trying to escape the crowds you can find an abundance of little food vendors and restaurants. One of my favorites was New Star where you can get Tahli. A traditional Indian dish of rice, vegetable/chicken curry with lentil soup (called Dahl) for only 45 Indian Rupee which is less than AUD$1.00.  After which I would let my stomach settle and head to the Blue Lassi shop (Lassi is a traditional yogurt-based drink). Becoming famous over the years, the Blue Lassi shop is home to the best Lassi in India, which I can certainly vouch for, so if you find yourself there you won’t be disappointed.
Varanasi India
I asked my captain for a go
Varanasi has a lot of cheap guest houses to choose from. If you were stuck like I was just head to the Ghats (Ganges Rivers Gates) and you will be directed by either locals or signs on the buildings walls to where you need to go. Accommodation is extremely cheap not just here but in all of India costing between 200-800 Indian rupee (AUD$4-16) per room. In Varanasi I shared a room at the Shanti Guesthouse with a fellow traveler only costing us 200 Indian rupees each per night. The guest house was cheap and reasonably clean for India but if you are looking for something nice I wouldn’t suggest this guest house.

Varanasi India
Street shopping
As much as I was overwhelmingly shocked by the Holy City and its culture, I grew to love it in just the 4 days I spent there. I learnt so much about the city and the holiness of the famous river and why and how life prospers around it. If you travel to Varanasi don’t turn your nose up at it, accept it, be a part of it.
Sure you will probably be stunned, amazed and shocked by their way of life but deal with it and move on to see the beauty in the people there, the locals will love you for it and your time will be much more enjoyable.
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