No preparation can fully prepare you for Varanasi’s sensory overload. We recommend it highly … if you dare.
On the banks of the Ganga (Ganges) River, Varanasi is the holiest of the seven sacred cities in Hinduism and Jainism; the spiritual capital of India and played an important role in the growth of Buddhism. One of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world (the oldest in India) it provides the visitor with a camera-clicking capsule of Indian city life along the sacred river. The video concentrates mostly on images of daily life while walking the many ghats (steps leading down to holy water) in Varanasi, places where most visitors want to spend their time, and finishes with a sunrise boat ride as the ghats and people of Varanasi wake up to another day … just as they have done for hundreds of years.
Sahi River View Guest House
Address: Shivala, Varamasi, UP 221005
Phone: +91 542236670
Website: no direct website
SIGHTSEEING IN VARANASI
Walking the Ghats. (Note: Sahi River View Guest House is located at Assi Ghat which is on the southern end of the main Varanasi Ghats. At a strolling, stopping, sitting, watching pace, it took us three hours to walk to the northern end of the main Ghats.)
FOOD & DRINK IN VARANASI
To the palate of many Westerners, the highly flavourful, spiciness of Indian cuisine can be unagreeable. But even for those who prefer a blander diet, India is still doable.
India’s population has the lowest individual consumption of meat in the world and animal based ingredients, other than milk products and honey, are seldom used in traditional dishes. Ghee (clarified butter) is the traditional cooking medium. For the traveller who wants their animal protein most restaurants have meat options unless they advertise themselves as vegetarian. Most popular meats are chicken, lamb and goat as religious practices forbid beef products to Hindus and pork to Muslims. Finding truly fresh fish in Northern India may be challenging. In place of animal protein most of India turns to dhal (curried lentils or pulses). Yogurt and other dairy products also play a big part in providing protein.
If a steady diet of Indian spices and dhal are not appealing the traveller will find, on most menus, an oriental style noodle dish with influences from Nepal, Bhutan and Tibet.
In Northern India, flat bread and rice are the staple starches. Bread, more commonly referred to as roti and chapati (the latter being a thinner unleavened, whole-wheat version) is often used as a vehicle to get food, such as dhal, from plate to mouth.
Vegetables are plentiful and inexpensive. Other than in American style hotels, salads are a rarity and the savvy traveller would be best to avoid anything which is not cooked or, in the case of fruit, peeled.
Vegetable pakoras are a popular finger food in India and can be ordered spicy or non-spicy. Made from chickpea flour and a variety of vegetables, then deep fried, pakoras are a tasty option for the non-spicy traveller and can be accompanied by yogurt or sweet & sour sauce for dipping.
For some excellent recommendations on restaurants consult a Lonely Planet guidebook – money well spent.
It is advisable for travellers in India to consume only bottled water. A nice change, when available, is bottled carbonated water. Buying water in large two litre bottles from a small vendor is usually the least expensive. With the proprietor watching, check the cap to ensure it is sealed.
Chai (tea) is a much consumed beverage often accompanied by heaps of sugar and generous pours of milk. Although tea is by far the most popular drink, coffee is gaining in acceptance.
Street stands offering fresh squeezed juices can seem tempting however lax hygiene practices – reusing cups which have been sloshed through a basin of tepid water – can ruin a vacation.
Lassi is a traditional drink of blended yogurt and water available ‘savory’ or ‘sweet’. The savory contains spices such as ground roasted cumin, whereas, sweet is made with sugar, honey or fruit. Sweet lemon, a variety of citrus, tastes more like orange to Western taste buds than lemon.
GETTING AROUND VARANASI
Train travel is a great way to experience India. Day travel will allow you to see the countryside as it whizzes (sometime plods) by. Night travel can get you to where you are going and provide an inexpensive place to sleep. If you have limited time in India it may be best to make reservations prior to leaving your home country.
Lonely Planet India
Note: There are very convincing scam artists at railway station entrances ready to ‘help‘ you by telling you the ticket office for foreigners has changed locations, after which they put you in a rickshaw and then hop in for the ride to their ‘travel office’ some distance away. The real foreign office was exactly where it should be, inside the railway station.
The motorized auto-rickshaw provides an exhilarating experience and offers a wonderful way to get around a city while affording some protection from the elements. The driver is supposed to use a meter but generally a bartering exchange is carried out before you get in … if the price is not agreed to BEFORE the cost at the end of the ride could be substantial. We were often able to squeeze four people and four backpacks into an auto-rickshaw.
Bicycle-rickshaws offer a slower paced view of a city and are good for short distances. They have limited protection from poor weather. The pedal-drivers work hard for their money.
Taxis are best for longer distances, wet weather conditions or for transporting over-luggaged tourists. Like the auto-rickshaws, taxis have meters which are seldom used. Before getting in, or putting luggage in the trunk, agree on the total cost to get to your destination.
Insisting on hiring another cab or rickshaw usually either “fixes” the meter or lowers the price. If your hotel offers to make transportation arrangements for you, it may be cheaper to decline and walk out to the street and flag down a rickshaw or taxi.
If you like your driver you can make arrangement to have him pick you up at another time and/or place; most often they will be there, particularly if you paid them fairly or tipped above the agreed price. For sightseeing you can arrange to be taken from place to place for the day at an agreed price payable at the conclusion of the day’s travels. Drivers may also be a good source of information as to where to go and what to see.