Varanasi – known as the place where Gods reside. One of the oldest inhibited city that is still growing with time, that still welcomes all the spiritual souls from all over. Hence being an agnostic person, my visit to this city was looked upon with questions by many of my friends. I should obviously admit that I love to visit and experience places and cultures, no matter I believe them or not practice them. I feel its great to know other cultures, practices and always pay respect to others believes.
With these and the intention to attend the great festival of Dev Deepavali, I went to Varanasi for 5 days. I would share the photo story of the same soon.
As a part of sharing my experience, I must say I fell ill there due to indigestion and chilled weather.Hence I could not savour any of the local foods of Varanasi. But I can surely share those food experiences that saved me to survive that condition. Surely that would help many who cannot munch on spicy foods all the days.
How to Reach:
Though well connected with train, I preferred flight from Mumbai to Varanasi to save the time. The city is around 25 km away from the airport. Taking a cab is wise. Many of the times 4-wheelers are allowed only till a point. If your hotel is booked near the Ghats, you may have to take a rickshaw to reach.
Where to Stay:
Varanasi has full of options for budget hotels. I would personally suggest hotels near Assi Ghat if you prefer good modern cafes and crowds to spend time among. You can also get good hotels near Dashashwamedh Ghat. Keep an eye on the ratings of the Hotel before booking.
I stayed near Godowlia Chowk,which is 5 mins walking from the Dashashwamedh Ghat.
What to Do:
This is the most debatable part of a trip to Varanasi. The itinerary totally depends on your religious beliefs and how you want to spend your time in the city. The city is full of temples –starting from the famous Shri Kashi Vishwanath Temple to the Durga Temple and others, you will find at least one temple in every 3 mins of walk. If one is truly religious, Varanasi is a heaven. It is a heaven otherwise too for travelers like us in other aspects. Let me elaborate on that.
1. Watching the sun rise over the Ganges from the boat
After 2 attempts of trying to wake up before the sunrise, I made it finally to the Ghat through streams of devotees.I felt the road towards the Ghat to be more crowded at 4 a.m. than at 5 p.m.Once there, getting a boat at a bargained price was another task. The bargaining had started in the last evening and decreased to a 500 INR for 2 finally, which we felt a good one for that touristy time.
The trip started among the chilled water and winds flowing through the ears. But the experience was mind-blowing as the lights of the dawn started appearing till the sun went out.
Tip: Hire the small boats with hand driven oars and tell the boat man to drive slowly.
2. Experience a walk in the morning till Assi Ghat
You can start from Dashashwamedh Ghat or can visit Manikarnika Ghat if you want to. Manikarnika has huge base for burning dead bodies and is known as the Burning Ghat as the fire always remains on throughout the year.
Each of the Ghat have their own stories,there are people doing their own rituals, dhobis washing clothes, sadhu babas meditating, cows bathing, or children playing – you won’t find anyone doing nothing, except few who just relaxes or relishes the view of the horizon.
3. Experience the evening Ganga Aarti at least once
I visited the Aarti session on all the evenings I was in the city, not due to my religiousness, but to witness the magnificence of madness of beliefs that surrounds with the crowd.
4. Walk through the old alleys of the city
The city has stopped at an old age among these narrow alleys. I was not so lucky to be able to wake up early another day to visit these during the morning. But I somehow managed to get few snaps with my mobile phone during the day time, while it becomes relatively crowded.
5. Indulge yourself with the street delicacies of Varanasi
Starting from the lassi and thandai, the chaats and the famous Benarasi Paan (Beetel leaf) – all are at the best forms at the road side shops around the chowks.
What to Eat:
As I mentioned earlier, I would only tell what a person with a moderate digestive power can have in the city regularly.
I ate full plate Thalis mostly at Shree Café and Niyati Café; and Dosas at Dosa Café. Also, the restaurant of the Hotel Ganges was pretty decent and went well with my capability of digestion.
I had also tried once the Tamatar Chaat from the Kaashi Chaat Bhandar. Obviously it was spicy, but I liked the taste.