21 January 2015

The Great Indian Rail Yatra Part One: Varanasi (SUPER LONG PHOTO ESSAY!)

This December, the Good Thing and I decided to go on an "adventurous" winter vacation. We would take a train across North India, see a few sights, and then catch a train from Jhansi all the way to Goa. We--well, I--called this our Great Indian Rail Yatra. It was going to be EPIC.  We booked all our journeys about two months in advance, but nothing was confirmed by the time we were ready to go. Probably a good thing, because at the last minute, we ditched our Goa plans to go off to Gulmarg and learn how to ski (but that is a story for another post.)

Our journey was still somewhat epic, but in the totally miserable, everyone is stuck on a train for a thousand hours variety. Here, for your viewing pleasure, photos! And please don't travel by train in North India in the foggy months. We learned that the hard way.


Benares.

We stayed at the Holy Ganges View, which we thought was the same as the Ganges View, which is very posh and much more expensive. However, despite being a budget hotel, the Holy Ganges View is clean, warm, and fairly centrally located.

I got my coffee fix at the Open Hand Cafe and the identical menu rip-off Mark Cafe opposite.

Pretty good firang type meals all over Assi Ghaat, but also had great street food just by stopping anywhere there was a kadhai and a throng of people. 

So, we've lost a day in Benares thanks to the late train, and as soon as we wake up the next day, we make our way to a sign that says, "Green Lassi" and get ourselves very mildly baked. After this, we are, of course, HIGHLY suggestible, so when a man attaches himself to us, we don't even have the wherewithal to shoo him away. Instead, he hounds us into a sari shop where I almost spend three grand on a synthetic sari which was very ugly in retrospect, and then, to up his guide chops, takes us to some random temple, not even famous or anything, where there is this cement skull, which we spend some time giggling over. Bhaang is fun.

The highlight of this trip was meeting this baby goat. I asked the man who had her what her name was and he said, "Chanchan" and everyone laughed and the Good Thing and I have been checking out baby goats so we can have one at home also called Chanchan. (Note: this has not stopped me from eating mutton. Mutton and Chanchan are two different things.) Can goats be litter trained?

So this dude took us to a chaat place, but mostly because I said, "I want to go to a chaat place." (He's also been calling the Good Thing ever since, but I think that's because he thinks we're reliable suckers.) 


Walking through the alleys of Benares. My stoned-ness had worn off by this point, so I felt a lot less loving.

More alleys. At this point I'm like, "LALALALACOLDNOW CAN WE GO HOME." But we can't go home, because we're taking a boat ride, dammit! As one does in Benares.

The Good Thing was totally Puppy Baba, if such a Baba existed. All the little strays flocked to him. My heart broke in teeny tiny pieces.


More lanes and colour and shit. India! Colour!

Here's the mighty Ganga, looking deceptively unfoggy, but HOLY SHITBALLS WAS IT COLD 

Guide/hanger on on left with Boat Mafia Guy on right negotiating prices. Want to guess how much over market price we paid? BENARES YOUR LASSIS ARE PART OF THE SCAM.

Row row row your boat gently down the STREAM OF DEATH.


Whee! Ghats! 
 
Whee! Tanks!

Whee! Cremations! (Another dude got into the boat to ask for money at this point. I managed to shoo him away.) (UGH THE WORST PART ABOUT TRAVELLING IN TOURIST TOWN INDIA IS EVERYONE ASKING FOR MONEY ALL THE GODDAMN TIME. Normally, I am saved because brown = cheap, but the Good Thing-and-Me combination must've broken all those rules.) 



Sunset aartis were not ruined by all the touts, however.
 

Also, I liked the carvings and shit. This is the next day. We went for a long walk and I found my lost temper and was happy for it.


But obviously the puppies won the day.

 
Old school windows are every amateur photographer's dream.


Boys playing pithoo around an old temple.





And back to the station! Merry Christmas, all! This is how we spent it--in deep despairing fog.




























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