Varanassi Part III – First Day Out Walking
November 14th is the actually date of this day in Varanassi
After the long train journey and a good night’s sleep, we made plans to check out the ghats near our guesthouse as well as the furthest off ghat, assi ghat, which I had heard was beautiful and a lovely place to walk around and also to eat at the Haifa Restaurant. I did not get up as early as my friend, but by a reasonable hour we were out and about after a breakfast in the rooftop restaurant of the guesthouse. The weather was overcast which meant there was not much of a sunrise, but you can see in the pictures you already received, that we were still blessed with a beautiful display of nature.
We began our walk going towards the Main Ghat and again, as you can see from the pictures, it is impossible to walk more than two steps without stopping to look at something wondrous-perhaps not always pleasant-but always eye catching and breath stopping. We spent a pleasant time strolling about-something which I love to do, and luckily, so does my friend – not rushing around but slowly walking to be able to “inhale” so to speak and assimilate as much as possible, all that there is to see and experience.
Luckily the sun was not shining most of the day, and although we were dripping with sweat the entire day, and could drink enough water, except for a short 15-20 minute stretch when the sky cleared, at least we were spared, mercifully, the heat of the direct sun beating down on us.
WE walked, and walked, and
walked and walked, and gaped, and stared, and photographed, and watched, and spoke to people….all the time dodging beggars, babas , merchants, urchins, and touts trying to sell us something or get something from us. It was not easy, but certainly not boring.
WE finally found our way to assi ghat, which seemed to continually distance itself from wherever we were, but it was worth getting there as it was a refuge of quiet and relative cleanliness, and much less hassling, than the rest of the ghats. WE were extremely hot, tired and needed to pee by then, so began our search for the Haifa restaurant…noting things that we would come back to see later, after we had eaten and rested for awhile. We were not disappointed when we got there…it was clean, cool, had a lovely toilet and wonderful menu…and we were so hungry that we ordered a ridiculous amount of food –everything looked just so delicious on the menu after a couple of days of basically eating nothing much. Hoummous, falafel, tabouleh, lassi, veg shish kebab, shahi paneer, cheese naan to start with! – and everything was delicious but of course too much for us to finish.
We relaxed there for quite some time and then headed out to continue our exploring. R, my friend, has a lot more energy than I do, and wanted to do shopping and just walk around. Well, I was willing to do that on the condition that we took a boat back (the only way to get back without doing the same walk in reverse), but it seems she was afraid to get on a boat…not because of the boat, but because of the water. She figured if something happened and she wound up in the water, she would be dead very soon afterwards just from being in the water and perhaps swallowing some of it. She needed time to work up her nerve to get on a boat (which we of course eventually did), but was not prepared to do it that afternoon, so I had to decline much more strolling around because we still had a long walk ahead of us back, as well as an evening at the main ghat and puja.
We stopped at one shop which had a sign up in Hebrew (several shops did in this area), where, among other stuff, they sold sheets etc. The name of the shop is “the bed”. In short, I asked about sheets and he asked where I was from, and when I said Israel, first of all he began speaking in Hebrew –but not the few simple phrases that many Indian merchants know, but fluent Hebrew! It was so funny actually…but he said he had sheets made to special order for Israelis, including “gumi” (contour sheets) which only Israelis ask for. Even my german friend was surprised to see this “amazing” idea!! I always had contour sheets in the states, and Israel, so never realized it is not the norm in much of the world. Anyway, he showed me fabulous sets in silk and cotton, or pure cotton and in the end I bought myself one set (didn’t think I could carry anymore), of lovely silk and cotton sheets, blanket cover and pillowcases – very luxurious. He then began to give me a list of the who’s who in Israeli show business, actors, singers etc., telling me that all these people sleep on these same sheets! So I am now a match for “high society” in Israel!
We then continued walking a saw a beautiful hotel along the way, and decided to go check it out. It was truly luxurious, (we of course used the toilet), and the rooms started at 3500 rupees per night. But if I ever have people who want to be in Varanassi and need this type of accommodations, this place is perfect.
We then slowly made our way back to the main ghat, where we found a lovely concert going on (you can again see pictures, and later video), performed here every year for one week – to raise money for an organization which fights human trafficking and seeks alternate options for rural Indians to support themselves and their families honorably. The artists were all amateurs from all over India, and it was quite lovely. From there, we strolled around further and each bought a lovely painting from a local artist who was selling his works…wish I could have bought more, but framing the picture I bought will cost me 10 times more than the price of the picture and knew that one was enough. Quite talented however and also pleasant to speak to. We never saw him again after that evening.
We then found our way to the small puja, which was very pleasant to experience…an enormous amount of people watch it from boats as well…it was very nice, but I enjoy the puja in rishikesh a lot more.
I was then exhausted, and headed back to the guesthouse, just 2 minutes away, a perfect location, and my friend continued her exploring for some time longer.
While she was out, I had used up all my memory cards for my camera, so transferred as much as I could to my memory stick so I’d have room for the next day. Then I went up to wait for dinner, and while I was waiting, my friend returned as well, and sitting up on the rooftop, overlooking the Ganga, I was given a wonderful head, arm , shoulder and upper back massage by a very talented fellow …thoroughly enjoyed it at the end of the long day, and after an light dinner, I went back to the room, showered and happily went to sleep. It was after 11 by then.
“I will need a vacation after this trip “ is all I could think of that night!!
more in Part IV…