India Trip - Day Nine - Varanasi
January 25, 2008
I have a bit of a lie in today and donít get up until 08:20, freshen up a bit and go down for breakfast for 09:00 to meet Anuj and the group.We have breakfast at a hotel which is about a ten minute walk away. I have something simple, four slices of toast and a bottle of water. The service is extremely slow, so much so it is funny, it is as though they cook one persons, bring it out and then start to cook the second persons. My toast took 40 minutes then another ten for the butter and I was not the last served.
After breakfast we go back to the hotel and I get a cycle rickshaw back to were we where yesterday. A go alone as today is a rest day so we are all left to our own devices until 17:00 when we go on the river for a flower ceremony (the boat strike finished today).
I spend a good few hours walking up and down the river taking photos of everything, people, boats, animals, buildings and clothes.
I donít want to seem cynical but this place is totally different to what I expected, I mean this place is meant to be the centre of religion for many people yet it is full of hawkers trying to sell you anything from postcards, make up, scalfs, boat rides and even drugs. One person even wanted to buy my hat. Even if you point your camera in the general direction of a local they demand money. Maybe about 40 years ago in more innocent times it truly was a spiritual city but now I just see an over commercialised location preying on tourists.
I saw a number of funerals taking place in the first area there was five and the second there was seven. I even saw a body being dumped into the river, this was because they were younger than 15 years old. I respect the family wishes and refrain from taking any photographs to show the people back home.
I head back to the hotel by auto rickshaw at around 14:00 and have a couple of cokes in the restaurant and surf the internet for a while in the cyber cafť just outside.
At 16:45 we meet Anuj in reception as he is going to take usdown to our boats. But Caroline is stuck in traffic and calls the hotel to say she will be late. The rest of us walk down to Assi Ghat along the waters edge and board our boat and wait for Caroline.
Once we leave the shore we float down the river taking photos and videos until it gets dark.
As soon as night falls we light many candles and float them down the Ganges making a wish with everyone. The scene is quite spectacular with a stream of sparking lights and illuminated Ghats in the distance.
We then pull up along side the ceremony we saw the previous night but this time we are viewing it from a different perspective.
I admit I donít know the history behind this but I feel that it is being done purely for the tourists. I know that it is being attended by a whole host of locals who come to prey, but it remind me of Asian villages that you go to when you are on an excursion and they come out to dance for you, this did at one time have some important significance but it is now purely done for tourists.
After the ceremony we disembark the boat and head into town and have some dinner, I go for a plain vegetable fried rice and coke as I am very paranoid about getting ill before our long train ride tomorrow evening to Agra and donít want to be sick as that is the last thing on earth I would want with the toilet facilities on the train.
We get cycle rickshaws back to the hotel and again we have a crazy driver who narrowly misses anything that moves.
Back at the hotel I go to bead ready for the early start in the morning to see the sunrise.