Tuesday, February 10, 2009


Hello from Varanasi! I arrived two days ago, and I loved it right away. The train ride was long and cold- I used all of my warm clothes to cover myself, and somehow i managed to sleep. I arrived to Allahabad at 5am, then went to book my onward ticket to Varanasi but the guy at the counter didn't understand and made me a ticket for right away. It worked out perfectly though, because I wasn't too keen on hanging out in Allahabad anyway, so I hopped into the ladies car of the next train.

I checked into my hotel, took my first hot shower in a few days, and went out to explore. The main attraction is the ghats along the Ganges River- these are the steps facing out toward the river. It is a major pedestrian thoroughfare and great for people watching.
The Ganga is very holy for Hindus, and everyday there are people bathing in it and washing clothes. If you die in Varanasi, you are very lucky because you will be released from the cycle of death and rebirth and you finally get to rest in peace. There are hospices around the ghats where people come to die. After they die, their body is covered in flowers and dipped in the Ganga. Then a funeral pyre is built on the banks and they are cremated. After about 3 hours, the oldest son puts the fire out with water from the Ganga and the ashes are spread in the river.
Yesterday I saw a few funeral processions and pyres.

In the old part of Varanasi on the other side of the ghats, there is a network of alleyways lined with homes, shops, restaurants and guest houses. It's pretty fun to wander around here and look at stuff. My guest house is in one of the alleys. You'd think you would get lost, but if you can find the river, you can always walk to the nearest ghat and take the steps up. From there, it's a familiar path.

These last few days I've been adjusting to India. I've been eating and walking as slowly as possible, trying to look around and take it all in. There are constantly people moving every which way, and it's easy to get overwhelmed. There are still a lot of touts trying to sell you stuff, but I am learning to feign deafness.
There are a lot of Korean tourists here in Varanasi. So far I have met only one American person, a guy who is from LA but now lives in China. There aren't a lot of solo travelers out here.

After Varanasi I am heading to the state of Rajasthan, which is supposed to be very beautiful. The guidebook says it's the picture perfect India that most people expect to see. I bought a shawl that can be used as a blanket for the 15 hour train ride, so it should be a bit more comfortable. Well I hope everyone back home is doing alright. I'll post pictures again soon!


Derek said...

I like the monkey jail picture! Did you feed feed it?

Jenny said...

no! it's bad to feed the monkeys. they steal stuff off the window sill, hence the bars on all the windows. sometimes they bite if they get mad at you. this one is cute because it's a baby monkey.

Cities I've Visited