Day 8 (October 24, 2014)   Varanasi


   We’ll have a sunrise boat tour to enjoy the pictures from the early activity of this city on Ganges River, then, we should visit all our missing spots of this city until the time to get the airport, as our flight to Kolkata leaves at 5:50 PM.

   About two hours later we’ll arrive to the second biggest city in India, formerly known as Calcutta.

Varanasi map

   The spots marked at map are:

 0- Hotel Alka
 1- Ghat Dasaswamedh
 2- Ghat Manikarnika
 3- Ghat Scindhia
 4- Ghat Man Mandir
 5- Ghat Munshi
 6- Shri Kashi Vishwanath Temple
 7- Shri Kashi Visalakshi Temple


   As scheduled since yesterday, we are by hotel desk at 5:30 AM for our boat ride. It is supposed to be a morning ride but it is still too dark. We must not pay anything here as it is included in the tour we’ve hired for today.

Sun rises over Ganges

   We get into the rowboat and see how the dawn begins to get light to the magnificent Varanasi’s riverside to Ganges. There are still offerings floating on Ganges and the shore across the river, which is basically a sand flat big area, is where the festival activities have been taken place, as fireworks and crackers, all night long and are still on.

Diwali celebrations at Gange's shore
View of Varanasi from Ganges

   We go down the river until the crematory ghat Harishchandra. People’s worships to the river are frenetic at this early time of the day and is focused in specific ghats, while others are quite empty.

Offerings to river Ganges

   We keep getting pictures of everything as we’re feeling this as a very special moment, with beautiful landscapes.

View of Varanasi from GangesView of Manikarnika from Ganges

   The boatman takes us up until Manikarnika and there it turns around back to the hotel, to finish this wonderful trip. The ride has been exactly one hour.

View of Varanasi from Ganges

   We have around three hours for taking our breakfast, get the baggage ready and rest in our nice room before checking out and leaving for the rest of our tour.

Varanasi tour by Alka Hotel   We’ve taken the one day tour even knowing we cannot complete it but, with the 15% discount for being two persons, is even cheaper than the half day tour and we can ask to be taken to the airport after lunching. It’s weird; I guess sooner or later they’ll review these rates.

   At 9:30 AM we’re at desk for check out: it’s 3500 Rs by room, 800 Rs by airport pick up and 2380 Rs by tour for two persons.

   When our young guide arrives, around 10 AM, we follow him and the two hotel boys carrying our bags over their heads by the narrow streets of the Old City until the roundabout where the car is waiting for us. The first visit, and the furthest one, is to Banaras Hindu University. Here we find a clean and large campus, with lots of green areas. Our guide tells this uses to be a very busy place, except for a few days in the year, but today, the day after Diwali, is one of them.

   Inside the campus we get out from the car to visit the New Vishwanath Temple, a pink building with a tall central tower. We buy an offering made of flowers by 20 Rs and take off our shoes to get into a white hall with small square fenced area in the middle with a silver metal cobra in it. There are some people around, but only one inside the fenced area, which seems to be the priest of Shiva, the God this temple is dedicated to. This priest cleans the flowers on the top of the cobra with the water from a hose to take our offering and put it over it. Pictures are not allowed inside.

Temple New VishwanathBanaras Hindu University

   Back to the car, with our shoes in our feet again, we leave for the next visit: Bharat Mata Temple.

   Before reaching the entrance we can see a man seat on the floor with two monkeys customized and trained to do anything for money. The small one as so lovely we cannot avoid giving it a bill, which is quickly delivered to its master. We hate we love it, life is full of paradoxes.

   This temple is dedicated to Mother India, the Goddess as personification of the country: Bharat Mata. It is a square based building with the center occupied by a huge relief of Indian subcontinent all made in marble. There is even a subway to get a “sea level” view of the country. It is needed to take off your shoes to get in here too.

Temple Bharat MataInside Temple Bharat Mata

   The next is our last visit: Durga Temple, also known as Monkey temple. How many temples are here with that name? As the other Monkey temples, it is dedicated to Monkey God Hanuman and monkeys are free all around. Pictures are not allowed and our guide asks us to leave the cameras in the car.

   The pass way as entrance allows the visitant to interact with the monkeys then we must leave our shoes to visit the inside. As we already noticed the previous days, orange is the color for this God and it is all around here, in the walls and the objects. If that is not enough, there are places to take some orange powder to be able of make orange any other thing. The visit is quick and we go back to the car.

    Before going to lunch we must pay the price for this cheap tour: the stop in a silk factory.Silk Factory There we’re quickly shown the room where the looms are, which is empty today due to Diwali, and we’re taken to the store to choose what we’re going to buy. But we don’t want anything, and even less at those prices, so the visit finishes here and we can go to lunch.

   We’re taken to a very good looking place, with luxury, which seems to belong to some hotel. The place is huge and there is a lot of staff, which is weird when we’re alone. Even with that, the food is taking its time, as in anywhere else here. Our guide orders dome French fries with ketchup which insists he must pay apart in spite of we are willing to include it in our bill. We pay 1400 Rs for our two dishes lunch and dessert.

   Here is where the guide says good bye and we’re left with the driver, which take us to the small Varanasi airport. Just in the entrance to the airport we must pass a security control where all our baggage is scanned. Then, there is a passport control to get into the area with the check in desks. There is just a small row of desks, though, for only four airlines. JetKonnect/Jet Airways one is still closed.

Varanasi's Airport

   When they open it we’ve already checked the few shops in the hall and purchased some boxes of typical Diwali sweets to bring to home. Before checking in we must pass the bags through a scanner of the company, there the bags get a stamp and only then they can be checked in.

   There is another security control more, the classic one to access to the boarding gates area. We must put some tags in every piece of cabin baggage and they get the stamp in a similar way than we made for the big bags before.

JetKonnect's plane   We keep waiting for our flight, this time in front of the boarding gate and, when it is the time, we occupy our seats in the small plane is going to take us to Kolkata (Calcutta) in less than two hours. The arrival is unforgettable for us because to the typical view of a city from the sky by night, with all its lights as stars in the land, we can see fireworks in different areas of the city. When the plane turns we can have an overhead view of the near city with the colorful explosions between the buildings.

   Once at Kolkata airport we follow the local people to see how the most of them are joining to a couple of lines in a desk with the police shield on the top. It seems this is for the secure taxis: we’re charged 280 Rs after saying our destination and get a paper with our data, copied over the paper behind.

   We still follow the other people to see how they go across the street to a stand with the same shield on the top and go to there. We deliver the paper, they keep one copy and give the other to us, assign a car to us and talk to the driver. I can read in my copy we must not pay anything else, so it seems we’ve found out the best way to leave the airport.

Festival in Kolkata's streetsFestival in Kolkata's streets

   There is a terrific traffic jam in the city which allows us to look around when we pass through the festivals, with the lights in the streets and decorations with mythological icons.

Festival in Kolkata's streetsOur room at New Kenilworth Hotel

   We’re finally delivered in our luxury hotel, which we only leave to walk to the ATM for cash and then check if we can get a closer look of a festival, but don’t find any. We’ll have our dinner in the terrace of the hotel restaurant thinking we should get dome mosquito repellent for this evening.