The name conjures up images of holy men in long beards and orange robes, and rightly so. The place is unique, built as it is on the holy river Ganges. On the train on the way we were talking to a middle class indian journalist woman who put her hands together in prayer as we crossed the river on the way in. There is a slightly bizarre way of being both modern and traditional here.
We had been warned that the tuk tuk drivers were a nightmare from the railway station, which was true but when he told us we would have to walk to the guesthouse we had booked, we did not believe it for a second, and yet it was totally true. He was actually telling us the truth.
Varanasi is an absolute labrinthe of alleyways when you get down towards the Ganges, around the golden temple is chock a block with armed police, which seems a bit exaggerated but who knows what kind of stuff could happen without, there could be people littering or jaywalking, who knows what? br />
These alleyways however are amazing, there is a shop called the Blue Lassi which does the second best lassi I drank in all of India, the best being in Gypsy in Johdpur. An absolute orgasm of smooth, rich tasty goodness. Every few minutes a Funeral procession goes down to the river, pushing throught the already crowded alleys to the burning ghats, where fires have reportedly been burning for three and a half thousand years.
The water front in Varanasi is the real attraction, ghats galore and people leave you alone to explore, as long as you don’t try to photograph the ghats where they burn the dead bodies, Varanasi being the holiest place a hindu can be cremated.
Bidis are small, cheap hand made cigarillos and here in Varanasi there is the Biri factory. Bidis can be bought everywhere in India for four pence for a pack of twenty but here you get to see the man making his biri by hand at an incredible rate, he told me 500 an hour, they cost nearly 40 pence for twenty but they were much better.
Varanasi is a fantastic place as are many places in India, we will going back, love the spiritual vibe!