At peace on the river
Varanasi Travel Blog› entry 49 of 68 › view all entries
November 26th, 2009 – by: ronin2k
The holy city of Varanasi was my last stop in India. Like Amritsar, Varanasi was a destination I was really looking forward to Visiting. Varanasi is one of the oldest cities in the world, people have lived here by the Ganges River for over 5000 years. That alone is truly amazing.
What brings devotees and travelers here is the mighty Ganga (or Ganges River). My first view of the Ganga was very surreal. I made my way down through some back alleys of the old town, following a rickshaw driver down a narrow corridor that opened up into steps that looked over the river. Upon looking out over the river I realized how quiet and peaceful the area was. It was definitely a pleasant change from the chaos of modern India just about 500m from the river.
We hired a boat to row us down the river to watch the sunset and check out the various ghats along the river, which include the ones that people bathe in and wash clothes, to the one that cremations occur at. Seeing the cremation ghat was sobering for lack of a better word. We watched has at least 11 fires burn with human bodies. They say only the chest bone remains of a man and the hip of a woman once fully cremated, because these are the strongest bones in each. Amongst all this death, the whole experience was quiet and peaceful, even with all the other people sharing the river that night. Just think about this cremation ghat (1 of 2) I was viewing, a fire has been burning here everyday for at least the last 5000 years!! FIVE THOUSAND! Incredible.
When you come to Varanasi to see the Ganga, you go at night and at dawn to see the devotees come pay their respects to the river. That morning I headed down to met our guide at the hotel entrance. Once down I saw their were two others that were joining me and Emile that day. I said hi and sat down. Within a minute or two, one of the girls smiled and quickly asked if I was in China back in July!? I looked at the girl and said yes and then soon realized it was this girl, Sabrina, me and Emile met back in Yanghshuo, China!!! What a small world we live in. To meet up with someone again, 5 months later, and be at the same hotel, in the same city, at 5 in the morning to take the same tour!! CRAZY. As the morning went on I thought back and realized me and Emile had given her and her friend and father advice on a tour of the rice terraces in Guilin! And we all ended up spending much of the day together on a that tour in China, 5 months before! Very small world I tell you, very small.
We ended up staying 3 days in Varanasi. The rest of the time was filled with more shopping. I had a package to send home, so I figured I better fill it up! Varanasi is renown for its silk textiles. After much convincing by a local salesman, I ended up buying some raw silk bed covers, very nice ones for about 40 bucks. The same back home would be well over $200 I'm sure.
So all in all Varanasi was a nice place to end my trip, but the end of my trip in India also meant the end of my trip with Emile. I can say I've definitely made a good friend in him. We've has a blast in India. Traveling with him, made me stick to the true backpacker lifestyle, sleeper buses, local buses and all. Without him I'm sure I would have been more of a highflier, taking quick flights around and miss seeing the real India, as I did by bus and train. Anyways, its not totally good bye though I'm planning to spend new years with him and his friends in Stockholm, Sweden! So one last hurrah before I head home to the Great White North.
Next up Kenya and Tanzania, Africa!! I can't wait.
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