Christmas in Varanasi

We arrive in Varanasi on Christmas Day morning from another overnight train having shared a sleeping compartment with a male who was obviously practising for the forthcoming International Train Snoring World Record. We are of course late by about four hours. It doesn’t actually matter to us, but our mad autorickshaw driver propels us to our hotel in double quick time. Thankful we’re still alive we give him a huge Xmas tip. After yummy breakfast on the roof terrace overlooking holy River Ganges we stroll up river.

We enjoy the warm sunshine and are prompted by the street art to sit for a while and remember these great guys.

A very different Xmas dinner this year, followed by the most delicious apple pie and ice cream. Even a few twinkly lights to remind us of the occasion.

A big thing here on the Ganges is the Aarti ceremony. We’d seen smaller events earlier in our travels, but this was like theatre performed for many hundreds of people, sitting on the steps of the ghat and on boats on the river. It was pretty mesmerising and we even went back the next night to see it again.

We were getting used to seeing life around the ghats but we couldn’t work out what these guys were up to.

Walking around town was the usual mix of interest, noise, chaos, colour and animals everywhere. Oh, and more dirt, rubbish and faeces of all types than we’ve ever seen. To really do it justice, we’d need a camera with smell-o-vision. But it was all so fascinating it might just be our favourite place to date.

People washing themselves and their clothes in the holy water.

And yes, there really is a urinal here – not that chaps normally need such an excuse around here!

Early evening and there are two choices of routes home for the cows – through the traffic-packed streets or along the quieter ghats.

A few weeks ago the river flooded to its highest level in a long time. Most of the ghats have been cleaned up to allow access, but the authorities are still struggling to sort this one nearest to us. Hopefully they’ll finish before the next rainstorms arrive.

Well, definitely one of the most different Xmas venues we’ve experienced. Another different venue awaits for our New Year: Bodhgaya – the birthplace of Buddhism, where we’ll be staying in a Buddhist monastic institute. Should be peaceful, anyway 🙂

Apologies for the delay since the last post: no Internet on trains, and when we haven’t been on a train, luck has landed us with indifferent wifi. Hey ho.

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