Monday, 9 April 2012

The holy city of Varanasi & saying goodbye in Calcutta

Everything I had read about Varanasi mentioned how it 'wasn't the cleanest' city in India. Given where I had been and what I have seen I had my doubts about this place - but I loved it. Another mad and crazy auto rickshaw ride across town dropped me at the hotel. It is in the old part of town near the Ganges so I was expecting to start feeling holy very soon.

The dude in red is the train porter with my heavy bag on his head. he wanted 50 cents, I splashed out and gave home $1.

I went for a walk along the river and past the ghats. It is quite sombre seeing the bodies burning but the whole process and ceremony kinda makes sense.

What didn't make sense was right next to the fires were dudes in the river brushing their teeth, women washing (I kept an eye out for my laundry), piles of kids enthralled by their cricket game and cows being scrubbed down in the holy river. But India is certainly a country of contradictions.

Up at 5am the next morning for a sunrise boat ride on the Ganges. The city was coming to life and the morning rituals (and baths) were taking place.

Brekkie at Bread for Life - amazing oats with cinnamon.I'm easily pleased these days!

Sue and I had just sussed out a hotel across town with a pool when a sandstorm hit. Being the bright spark that I am, I sat on my balcony and watched the storm pass, with the door open.

A lightening storm followed the sand as I spent quite some time cleaning up. Then it was back to the Ganges for a sunset boat ride and to see the evening rituals and to light ceremony candles.

The candle ceremony was quite good for the first couple of candles - but the boat dude lit around 60 candles and there were only 8 of us on the boat.

There were hundreds of people sitting along the river and in boats watching the ceremony. It was kinda interesting but we got bored quickly so headed home for dinner. These guys perform the same ceremony every night and they weren't even synchronized!

Cruised around the streets of Varanassi the next day still waiting to become enlightened the it was off to the station for an overnight train to Calcutta. Simon loaded up with food for the journey.

Hotel Victerrace in calcutta is a bit dodgy. It quickly became very dodgy when I realized half the town could see me in the shower!

I headed out for early farewell dinner with my new friends, or that was the plan. Indian wine, kingfisher beers and the odd tequila shot then it was back to the hotel bar where someone produced a bottle of rum. To me indian rum is a cross between cough mixture and mouth wash.

Some Indian men were getting upset by the noise we were making (jealous of our fun) so as we were saying our goodbyes a fight broke out between the Indian men and the waiters with a couple of our group in the middle.

We were packed off to our rooms - congregating in my room which had the best view of the fight that now spilled into the street. It was entering until the Calcutta police arrived. Quite a memorable way to say goodbye to my family in India.

I packed up the next morning, scored 12 runs in my innings of street cricket (the little boy isn't a good photographer!) and treated myself to luxury for 2 nights. OMG I can't believe it - no stained sheets, no holes in the walls and a clean bathroom with great water pressure. Well let's face it, the 1 star places I was staying in made the Novotel Glen Waverley look like the Ritz!

The UK girls came over and we had dinner in the fancy-pants restaurant, a tasting menu with 13 dishes. Well 14 if you count the birthday cake that a lovely Indian lady shared with us.

What a way to say goodbye.

- Posted from somewhere round the world...


  1. There are so many points of hilarity in this post, it is hard to pick a highlight, but the bit about the candle ceremony takes the cake. Maybe they just need someone handy like you to organise them!

    Sounds like you were enlightened by the fancy hotel more than any of that other hippie stuff.

    1. I think the highlight was seeing the cow get lathered up in the Ganges. The fancy hotel is a 2 month treat and NOT something I can get use to, unfortunately.

  2. Varanasi is a great city, I have been there twice. Would love to go again! Lovely post.