Our first day in India was spent touring around New Delhi. Day zero in India, I was a little caught off guard by the nuances of Delhi life. The sheer constant go, and the "all encompassing" busyness of the city. It took a moment or two to for me to adjust.
After a day in Delhi, we boarded a plane headed to Varanasi. In my mind, I had built up Varanasi to be a relaxing retreat destination. One where I would enjoy twice daily yoga practices, in between meditations of self reflections and discoveries. Upon landing, I was fast to realize the Varanasi of my imagination doesn't exist.
We were met at the airport by our local guide, Mister D (I told him all about Mr. T, and his iconic catch phrases), and our driver. Our guide, was wonderful. He went out of his way to share his culture with us, and to ensure we saw both the highs and lows of India.
On our first day in Varanasi, Mister D, arranged a yoga class for me, and took T to see the wonder of a snake charmer. My yoga class, was a meditation practice, which I have come to realize was to help prepare me for the days to come.
The ancient city of Varanasi, is the epicentre of Hindu culture and religion. Built along the bank of the Ganges River, each year hundreds of thousands of Hindu's make the pilgrimage to Varanasi to purify their souls, by bathing in the holy Ganges.
By our first evening in Varanasi, the crowds of Delhi were forgotten and replaced with the swarm of traffic, festival seekers, livestock, and overt poverty. For me, the time spent in Varanasi was an emotional roller coaster. My feelings for India ranged from complete distaste to bewilderment to pure affection.
Things to do in Varanasi:
- Take in a night ceremony on the Ganges
- Show up for a silk weaving demonstration, and splurge on a new scarf or bed sheets
- Opt for a sunrise cruise on the Ganges River
- Stop at the Mother India temple for a history lesson
- Walk through the narrows of the old city
- Eat at Surya Restaurant for a beautiful relaxed experience, with food to match an at city family restaurant for a more "authentic" experience.
- Visit the Buddhist shrine at Sarnath, for a meditation break.
- Stay at Clark's Hotel, for a reprieve from the chaos of the city.
- If you're feeling adventurous, opt for a ticket on the night train (back to Delhi or to your next destination.
[…] In Varanasi, my world view was turned upside down. I battled with the feelings of disgust I had for the fates of the people I saw living, begging, and bathing in the fifth of the streets rotting with waste. I found solace in the kindness of strangers, and their curiosity. Our stay in Varanasi was a challenge. Both T and I had dove in, past our comfort. I found myself forced to focus on the positive, forced to find the beauty in the small things. The Hindus pray to thousands of gods. I prayed to the god of small things. […]