There is so much to say on this vibrant place that I’ve done a few separate posts that will be up soon: Varanasi travel tips, What to Expect at the Ghats in Varanasi and below is my little introduction to Varanasi and to the crazy we got ourselves into.
Man, Varanasi did NOT go as planned!
I had been a little pampered traveling with Chloe. In India, traveling alone is just as stressful as it is exciting because when things don’t go quite right and you’re stranded it always seems worse when you are alone. Now that Chloe was headed to Rajasthan and I was going to Varanasi, I had a pit in my stomach to be back on my own (or maybe it was the Dengue side effects still).
Getting to Varanasi was a headache to say the least. It involved a long train from Agra to Allahabad. I slept well overnight. I think I grossed people out as I hadn’t showered in 3 days… but I was tucked into my sleeping bag with my backpacked chained to the bottom post (make sure to pack a bike chain in India).
There’s almost always a stop-over on very long, non-direct train routes. From 3-7 am, I slept on the floor of a train station in the dirt, exhausted until my train to Varanasi came. By the time I got to Varanasi I was just delirious. I was starting to feel really sick again because I still hadn’t taken a rest to recover from Dengue Fever.
I’m not gonna lie, I was pitying myself quite a bit- all alone in a shitty train station with my stomach doing somersaults, but then a family invited me to sleep with them on the cow-shit covered floor which was really nice so I curled up next to them.
When you get into Varanasi, the first thing you need to know is there is a backpacking area to stay in that has budget guesthouses. Just ask for Old Town or Main Ghat. Don’t pay more than 200 rupees for a rickshaw.
The rickshaws can only take you so far, then you must walk down the narrow lanes, holding your backpack, while you hop skip and jump over cow shit. You can try to avoid getting head butted by a cow (or fail like I did).
Where I Slept
I wanted to stay at famous Alka guesthouse but it was booked. He owns another, so I stayed at it’s sister, Teerth Guesthouse, for 700 rupees a night. It was just as good.My friend, Ashley (who I met in Pushkar), showed up a day later and we split the cost.
The guesthouse was clean, had decent food, and had a great location. Staff was very friendly. They have a guy who will come do massages in your room; obviously I took full advantage of that. Contact details: D. 8/9 Kalika Gali, Varanai, 221001, e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org to book.
We met many people who stayed at popular backpacking guesthouse, Ganpati, and loved it. It was more ideally located, but over my budget.
Varanasi gave us head-aches and butt-aches.
Varanasi is the most spiritual place in India, where pilgrims come from all corners of the country. Travelers stand near the Ghats watching the cremations in awe. That’s something for another post though.
On top on Varanasi being an overwhelming place to be, we had some really interesting things happen to use there.
- I spent 12 hours in the hospital after I passed out at my guesthouse. I hadn’t been eating because I was so sick and well no food means no awkward moments on buses and trains. I should have stopped traveling to recover a couple weeks after Dengue fever, but instead I kept going. The doctors in Varanasi were shocked by my lab values, and although they wanted to admit me, after I got my fluids I went back to my hotel to sleep. I took a handful of pills that initially caused me to vomit for hours, but finally cured me within a week. As a nurse, I hate that I was that “Left AMA (against medical advice) patient”.
- Before leaving Varnasi, we had to get to the train station at 6 am to get in line for the opening of afternoon tatkal (sound confusing? It’s explained on my post about booking trains in India) in order to get the limited available tickets to Delhi where we each had flights booked out of. She was off to SE Asia and I to Goa.
- Another horrible thing happened- A dog along the river bit Sophie, another girl I met. Now, these dogs are known to chew on bloated bodies that wash up to the shore. As you can imagine she went to the hospital asap.
- THEN Ashley was pick-pocketed at the train station after we got our tatkal tickets. When she went back to look for her wallet, I headed toward the hotel and…
- …got head-butted by a bull (tell you more about this later!). Big time. Like, he destroyed me.
So obviously, things didn’t go super smoothly in Varanasi but it didn’t stop me from loving it there. I’ve never been somewhere so interesting and shockingly weird, but in a good way. There is so much to say on the place which is why I’m doing separate posts on different topics.
Varanasi is the place in India where the dead are brought to be cremated and find salvation. Tourists come from far and wide to take a peek into the interesting ceremonies at the Ghats on the Ganges. We put aside our problems and spent a few days exploring the most ancient city I’ve ever been to.
More to come!
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