On the banks of the Ganges River
We took the train from Gorakphur to the holy city of Varanasi. The train ride proved to be much more enjoyable than either of us were predicting. We had our own sleeper cot, both on the upper bunk, and we spent most of the night sleeping as our train left at 10:30 pm and arrived in Varanasi at 6:00am. We checked into a gloriously, but reasonably, inexpensive hotel. We were living large as we even had the luxury of using the hotel pool and working on our tans.
For some great photos and history of Varanasi check here: http://www.varanasicity.com/
The banks of the holy Ganges River, where millions and millions of pilgrims flock to bathe in its waters looks like...well...that millions and millions of people have come and had a bath. To put it mildly, it was dirty. Someone forgot to tell the locals (or maybe they knew but didn't care) that many of Varanasi's sewage pipes flow directly into the Ganges River, not far from the ghats where many people take their "holy dips". On top of that, many of the ghats are used continuously throughout the day for various cremations, with the remains being pushed over the sides into the ever flowing brown waters of the Ganges. Though much of the banks are littered with garbage or waste and the smells can be intoxicatingly noxious, the place was bustling and alive with the Hindu spirit.
We walked the banks at night, a much more enjoyable time. Many of the ghats had turned into stalls where people prayed, sang, sold anything imaginable, or just sat in ponderment (if that's not a word...it should be). In India it is unfortunately customary to try your best to ignore everyone....as everyone is looking to somehow get your money. Which is why we were delighted when a young boy befriended us as we walked the banks. At first ignoring him, we soon we chuckling at his jokes and were soon thereafter laughing outloud at his business opportunity. "You know, everyone here has a silk store. They always try to sell you silk. Not me. I have a shit store!" Unsure of whether or not we heard him correctly, he went on to say, "I have cow shit, bird shit, bat shit and human shit. I have all kinds of shit. You should come look at my shit. I have very nice shit." Anyone who has travelled in India before can attest to the badgering of silk shop salespeople, even when you are clearly not interested in going anywhere near their store. Needless to say, our new friend was a delightful change.
Since it was Tanya's birthday (Oct. 16th) just around the corner, we left for Agra, home of The Taj Mahal, on the evening of the 15th. She had always dreamed of being at the Taj Mahal for her birthday....and I had just the surprise in store for her when we got there!!
D and T