We left Agra and got the sleeper train to Varanasi – The home of spirituality! This time we got AC2 class which was much more comfortable. There are only 6 people in the same space as there would be 9 in AC3.
I learned something interesting at the train station. I thought there were hundreds of homeless people at train stations, all sleeping and huddled in blankets. As we waited for our (five hour delayed) train, I realised these people weren’t homeless. They were smart. They knew their train was going to be delayed so brought blankets and snuggled up until the train arrived. They were nice and warm and comfy whilst we were cold with sore asses!
We arrive in Varanasi and there is something fairly obvious here. Much to Andrew’s dismay!! Cows are EVERYWHERE! Well there is nothing like a bit of immersion therapy! By the end of varanasi we were literally stepping over them in the street.
Arriving in Varanasi there are snakes everywhere – I can tell – I mean people, not actual snakes. They are looking round with crocodile smiles preying on the weak and uninformed tourists to squeeze money out of them. I have decided that I think my “spidey sense” is quite good for these people. I can tell even from a glance. The first person we spoke to as we stepped blinking in the sun, off the train, was an authentically attired hindu man. He was “being kind”, pointing us to the exit. He walked with us offering “friendly advice”. If we wanted to get in his tuk tuk it would be 500 rupees. Armed with my special set of skills (and google) I knew he was scaly all over so we didn’t go with him. A nice older man offered us the right price (according to google) straight away and I got good vibes so we went with him.
Our lovely man was driving safely (well in Indian standards) when a motorbike came careering through a gap and went straight into the front of our tuk tuk. Luckily on the city roads, you never build up much speed so the impact was not too bad. We were worried for our old man driver but he was fine. I thought, this is going to take ages now! They will have to swop details and take pictures. We might end up paying more fare because of the delay. However the young biker eyeballed the man, they exchanged an irritated glance and both rode on!! Our tuk tuk driver laughed and said it happens all the time with young idiot drivers and they never stop!!
We arrive at our hostel and it’s OK. It has a good view of the ganges.
I don’t really like the guys who run it. Again my spidey sense is going. Some friends that we met in Agra have had this tour and said it was good, They said the guide was nice, they even ended up giving him their iphone as a gift. We meet the guy and I immediately don’t like him. I don’t think he is inherently a bad person, but I do think that he is rinsing the guests.
In varanasi we go on a tour with a tuk tuk to Sarnath (the home of buddhism).
It’s a good place to visit. (Our tuk tuk was more than quoted by the tour guide).
We also spent a day with the tour guide. We went on a boat to see the sunrise on the ganges which was admittedly great.
And to a temple within the university grounds.
And at night we went to the evening ceremony at the ghats.
We bumped into Troy too whom we met in Jaipur (He is such a genuine lovely guy!) and we got a tasty lassi from blue lassi which is famous and appears in the lonely planet guide!
The whole day on the “tour” the guide is disinterested and doesn’t offer any information. We paid 1600 rupees and he gave us no value. We could have walked round ourselves – I wanted to buy a tour so we could learn insider tips about the spiritual city. However he only offered little bits of info and when we watched the evening ceremony, he nipped home. Charming! And I never saw him with an iphone! I reckon he has sold it (sorry guys!).
He does talk about karma and in hinduism, apparently it is OK to practise bad things (from ripping people off, up to killing a man) as long as you have no other choice. He runs the household for him, his wife, two kids, mother and brother, so I get it. He has mouths to feed. But I just wish people would be more transparent. We heard him last night doing the sales pitch to another couple. He was lying, saying tuk tuk costs are included etc. We paid for him and us to travel around in tuk tuks all day which added another 300 rupees to our bill. Hell we had to pay to buy our shoes back from the temple! They are my fucking shoes!!! And I’ve just paid over £3 for pringles at the airport!
So in summation – Varanasi, is supposed to be the place of spirituality and rinsing yourself of sins in the ganges. However it is a place of scamming and rinsing money from tourists.