03.03.2015 - 03.03.2015
As soon as we arrived in Varanasi, we were all so thankful for showers and clean clothes! We had some lunch at the hotel, then met up again to go and explore Varanasi city. Our hotel was quite a way out of the city, so we jumped in tuk tuks to drop us a bit closer. The assault on our senses when we arrived was amazing! It was so busy, and bustling, and bright, with all kinds of smells going on. Being right next to the Ganges in the main city in India for cremations, in one of the busiest areas, the mixture of street food, dirty streets, river air and whatever else was quite something! We wandered down the streets in our crocodile formation, taking in the market stalls, with their clothes, scarves, food, jewellery and almost anything you can imagine. We eventually made it down to the river. It was a beautiful sight, even though the river itself is rather unappealing! The multi coloured boats floating nearby made up for it. We were led down the riverside, past more stalls here and there, people washing their clothes and blankets, a man washing his cows, and towards the end, a cremation. It's a great honour to have your ashes spread in the ganges, and people will arrange to have their bodies transported from miles away for their cremations. Along the river side there will be a ceremony taking place somewhere at all hours of the day or night. We didn't want to into the family's time of grief, so we walked on past to get to a place called Blue Lassi - one of the best, if not *the* best lassi shop in the world. Oh my - they were incredible! I had a coconut lassi, which was made fresh in front of us, and served in clay pots. Yum!
When we were all filled up, and very happy, we went to a place full of amazing silk (and non silk) scarves. We were taught how to tell what is real silk and what is fake, so we know never to be conned into spending too much money on a supposed genuine silk scarf. The next couple of hours were spent emptying box after box after box of beautiful scarves and clothes and blankets. Oh I could have spent so much money in there! They were stunning. However, I managed to restrain myself, seeing as I have about a thousand of them back at home, no to mention no space in my backpack!
When the girls had all found their ideal purchases, we headed back to the river for a sunset boat ride, to watch the evening prayers take place. Sitting out on the river was so peaceful in comparison to the hustle and bustle of the city. Even though we were surrounded by other boats, and had the haunting music from the prayer rituals. When the ceremony was over, we sailed out away from the crowds to a quieter part of the river to light our prayer candles. These were small thin wooden bowls, filled with dried leaves and a candle. As you lean over the boat and release the bowl, you make a wish for your ancestors, your family or your friends. The river looked so pretty with all our prayers floating away. We docked the boat, and went out for some dinner, and then back to the hotel for an early night after our train ordeal the night before.