Along the river we spotted many locals in deep spiritual mode, submerged in the murky river. They seemed at total peace and this seemed to be such an ordinary every day thing to do that It became so surreal to be there experiencing their beliefs with them. Varanasi was a great deal different to Delhi in the sense that It had a spirituality about it and after a few days here this was very apparent. You could almost set the honking horns and busy rickshaw traffic aside and just concentrate on what miracles where in the making right in front of you. It was surreal. Our trip was over an hour and was a very tranquil journey for us all. Making small talk with the two Japanese men and the Indian guides just brought the trip nicely together. We were all experiencing the same thing, which was lovely. We made our way back to the guest house after the trip and after noticing the time was 7am we decided to go back to bed for a few more hours. Our room was pretty cosy with a balcony and the rooftop of the hotel was friendly and sociable with a view of the Ganges. We ate mostly in the restaurant there where we quickly became known to the staff. It was also here, on our last night that we met fellow travellers from Spain, one of whom had been living in Ireland. It was definitely a small world. We chatted, had beers and watched the fireworks (usually occurs during a wedding we were told) off the balcony and after a while it was bed time for us all. One thing that struck us was the way the owner of the hotel was a very friendly upon arrival but then became quite two faced and slimy the next minute. He asked for a copy of our passports and after we had climbed the numerous stairs of hell in the heat to get the them , he insisted on a copy of our visas which meant he kept our passports to photocopy. Something neither of us were too keen on. On a separate occasion when I gave him a business card of mine he became uber friendly and told us he had many contacts who we could meet . On a few occasions he was quite forceful with suggestions for example- buying over expensive train tickets and taking another person’s belongings to Agra with us. He was not the ideal host that was for sure, but the rest of the staff made up for it with their kindness.
So for a lot of the trip, we had been depending on the Lonely Planet guide books for advice and information, but had noticed a few times that some great places hadn’t always been mentioned. Sometimes it is nice if you have the time to go off and explore some hidden treasures. With a tip from Eliza’s mum, to go to Sarnath, a place she had travelled to when she was in India before, and some info from the Lonely Planet, we decided to do just that. After our well-deserved nap, we got ready and set off via Rickshaw to the next town. En Route we and stopped off at the trains station to book our train to Agra for the next evening, Its nice to be organised and stress free. Our day In Sarnath was great, we visited the Thai temple, the archaeological museum and the monastery excavation grounds, followed by super tasty Indian meal In The Green Hut- also recommended by the L.P and I could see why, and taste why. I was really getting used to Indian food now, something I wouldn’t necessary have been keen on at home. Here, I had accustomed to what I liked and what was good to order, which was pretty much everything. It seemed to be that once you were in a decent restaurant you could order anything and It would be amazing. I was happy!
Our trip home from Sarnath was the definition of crazy. Yes, Rickshaws are unpredictable and traffic is always crazy in India, but this was a constant string of one hour near death experiences. Our young driver and his sidekick uncle seemed to think he could impress us with his reckless driving even though after a short interrogation I had told him I was a primary school teacher with a husband named John, who I and married one year ago. Their reply to this was ‘Oh I like this name, ‘John’…’John’…’John’, ‘Nice name John’. It was quite a funny situation to be fair, apart from the fact that when he picked up two college students along the way, he told them I was a teacher to which they were very happy about. I kind of felt a bit bad but I mean this could be my life, they will never know! Unless they ever read this of course. !
After a stint of crazy near misses, honking horns and forcing the little Rickshaw through the floods on the streets of Varanasi, we finally made it home. We had dinner that evening and this was when we met the Spanish girls. The next day would be our last and we had no plans really, a go with the flow day we thought. We had our bus booked for later that evening so we had the day to spend exploring the rest of Varanasi. We had a late breakfast in our local on the rooftop and then headed to see The Golden Temple. En route, and after a long walk in the blistering Indian heat, we took one trader up on his offer of showing us some cheap clothes. Sure why not? We followed him through the windy narrow market alley ways until we reached the shop, where we were invited to take our shoes off and join them on the floor to look at the collection. Standard India! The owner of this shop was half Thai and half Korean and we laughed about crazy Kao San Road In Thailand while he showed us item by item of clothing, in many colours. Between us we bought a few pairs of baggy pants, a silk scarf and a top. The original trader offered to walk us to the Blue Lassi shop nearby which I had asked him about. This was voted ‘Best Lassi in Varanasi’ and was a must see, recommended by the Lonely Planet. A few streets away, we reached The Blue Lassi shop which was so quaint and very backpacker friendly. You could spot all the travellers in their from outside, which is always a good sign. From the outside you can see the man who makes these amazing lassi’s, mixing up his next sweet batch. It was very unique. We took a few steps up to the shop and upon entering the shop we noticed many signs on the walls from travellers, passport photos and all sorts of memorabilia, a great place to stick up a ‘WorldTravellerz.com’ card I thought. We took a seat beside some other tourists and were kindly greeted with menus and smile from the staff. We ordered a mango lassi and an apple lassi which, when they came out, looked incredible. I had seen lassi’s on the menu in Thailand and through South East Asia but I had never had one. I had also ordered one a few days before which was banana and actually very sour and not very nice. With mango being my ultimate favourite fruit, I knew this was the right choice. The taste of the mango lassi was a perfect mixture of a creamy texture with strong mango flavours and bits of the pulp mixed in, It was by far the best local ‘drink’ I have had In a while. Im not quite sure how a lassi is made or what the ingredients are but it resembles a thin type of milkshake but with that something special. We couldn’t leave without asking permission to put up a card and a note to the Blue Lassi Shop, to which they happily obliged. We then took a picture with the ‘Lassi maker’ at the front of the shop before we left. Next on our list was the Brown Bread Bakery which Eliza had read, donates money from purchases to charity, so we decided to go in for a cup of herbal tea and cake. This place was pretty cool and the platforms lined with cushions and a table in the middle for ultimate comfort reminded me a bit of Vang Vieng in Thailand and their many comfy restaurants. The only downside that even this bakery didn’t have any baked goods- none- just bread, and we were not hungry enough for a meal so we settled for a cup of herbal tea each- well of he choices they had anyway. After a bit of a chill time in the booths, we finished our tea and headed off to see the Golden Temple. En route to the temple we saw a tourist with his guide in front of us who seemed to be going there too, so we decided to follow him so as not to get lost. After walking for a bit down a few alleys the tourist came to a stop and said to his guide, ‘Ok great, so I will be back in a few minutes’. We were thinking, why would he only want a few minutes at the temple but we ignored our thoughts and carried on following him, a sure enough way to get us to the golden temple. After entering what looked like a guest house, we carried on into the lobby behind the tourist before I said’ Oh god I think this Is his hostel’. Mortified, we quickly turned around and got out of there as fast as we could, before the tourist saw us. Too late though we thought. We carried on to the actual Golden Temple, which was a bit of a let down considering we were only allowed trough security down the ally and not allowed into the temple, so we saw nothing, A waste of 20 rupees. Feeling hungry at this stage, we decided to head down to The Ghats where we planned to eat at the Dolphin rooftop restaurant. When we got our table and ordered our food, we had time to take in the amazing view over the Ganges, something we had seen a few times now but didn’t tire of. This place was pretty high class by Indian standards but for us it was still very cheap. Our food was lovely and the view was great but It wasn’t without its mishaps. At the end of our meal we paid the bill as you do, but when our waiter took it he said with a big smile ‘Oh you enjoy your meal’ and we said yes we had. It wasn’t until a while later when he didn’t return, we realised that he had taken all the extra money as a tip. Deciding to wait a bit longer in the hopes that we were wrong, we sat there and admired the view before I took the plunge and asked for my money back. With a shocked face and he told us he assumed it was a tip and went off to fetch the money. We felt bad but we probably would have left a tip had he not presumed it. Off we went home to get our things and catch our sleeper train- something I would hope to be a better experience second time round. Next stop Agra- home of the Taj Mahal…. We couldn’t wait!