I often tell people if you can only choose one country to visit, then choose India. It’s colours, tastes, doors and sounds, just something you may never experience before! I’ve never been to a country so special like India and Varanasi is for me the most special place in India.
People say Varanasi is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities on earth, I wonder if that’s really true but for sure Varanasi is one of the most famous city in India because the Ganga river and the fanscinating Aarti ritual at Dashashwamedh Ghat. I loved Varanasi and see it as my favorite place in India, however I also heard many stories how people hate it. I was there at the almost end of Monsoon season. I remember when I was there in the hotel, there’s a South Indian family with a 13 year-old boy. The boy refused to get out from his room after having seen Varanasi streets.
I find Varanasi extremely charming especially during the low tourist season. I would like to show you around.
After checking in the hotel, I put on my colorful saree which I bought in a tailor shop in Hyderabad. It was the first time I wear saree, I just checked some youtube saree-wearing tutorial, later some warm-hearted locals told me in fact I didn’t do it completely right but I thought I did it quite well. Afterwards I went to the rooftop to have Indian breakfast. The view seems chaotic but colorful. Breakfast was great, It was Indian pancake with dipping sauce, I really miss the salty breakfast. I loved it!
After breakfast, I went to one of the ghats close to the hotel. I had always dreamed to visit Varanasi because of those Ganga and ghat photos. It seemed so nice to walk on the stairs down to the water. However during the Monsoon season, water became quite high, I could barely see any stairs, let alone walking on them. However it was still nice to see the cows hanging out on the riverside and some guys morning bathing in the holy river.
One thing I absolute respect is the way Indians keep their culture and traditions. Or in fact their culture is deep inside their mind and spirits. No matter how many tourists coming every day visiting, it’s still so authentic and spiritual, people are practicing their traditions regardless of the outside world going-ons. This also makes it in my opinion the country most rich in culture and tradition.
The main street in Varanasi is super busy even during the Monsoon season, I can’t imagine how it could be during the high tourist season in the winter. Many shops can’t get enough customers at this time so shop owners were standing outside trying to attract tourists to get in. I’ve been to Morocco and experienced this way of selling things but here in Varanasi it seemed even more intense.
This little boy was talking to me in Japanese all the time, his Japanese is quite fluent but I couldn’t understand much, so I didn’t bother. He was quite interesting actually, even told me he’s been studying Japanese for long, one day he will go there find a girlfriend. I didn’t have any plan to buy souvenirs from his shop, but he was really patient and he followed me walking through the whole street (reminds me of those hair salon boys in China).
In the end I thought it was funny enough and couldn’t help laughing and then he finally went back and left me. (Later, at night time, he spotted me again in Aarti ritual …)
Afterwards, I took a walk down the small streets and found a great lassi place, they make hundred different kinds of lassis, quite creative. The owners told me he can speak Korean and had been living in Korea for years. He was very nice, noticing my saree wasn’t totally worn in a right way, his aunt helped me re-do it. She was very surprised I did it my own by following Youtube videos.
Varanasi is somehow very popular within Asian tourists as well, many restaurants here even serve Korean Shin Ramyun, very interesting. Look what I found, a hostel totally Asian, their advertisement was written in Korean, Japanese and Chinese.
At around 6 o’clock I went to Dashasvamed ghat, waiting for the famous Aarti ritual to start. Aarti ritual is a Hindu religious ritual of worship, in which light from wicks soaked in ghee (purified butter) or camphor is offered to one or more deities. Ganga aarti is done at two ghats simultaneously. Aarti at one ghat is performed by 5 persons and at another ghat by 7 persons. It was a very beautiful and spiritual experience.
I went to the rooftop to watch the ritual, I was so focused in the fantastic ritual and totally indulged in this spiritual ritual, meanwhile I saw someone waving hand at me, it turned out to be the Japanese-speaking Indian boy from earlier, I didn’t go into the his shop now he caught me here again.
Henna is a dye prepared from the plant Lawsonia inermis. It has been used for centuries dye skin, hair and fingernails, as well as fabrics such as silk. It’s widely used in Arabian countries, North Africa, some places in East Africa and Southeast Asia and in Indian.
There was this little girl called Srilatha who was smiling at me and asking if I want to do henna. I went inside her house and chose a pattern from her drawing book and let her doing henna for me while the mother was preparing some flower for the coming festival. Srilatha can draw henna very well but she hadn’t gotten any sign for her shop yet. During our henna time, she asked me how to put her henna shop in TripAdvisor.
After henna, I had to wait for a hour until it got dry, henna tattoo will become darker after henna gets totally dry and removed. After my henna got dry, I went again to the main street to look for some food. The street was even busier than last time I walked by. Cows, bikes, people, sellers. Take a look at the video I took, I was too focus on filming, in the end I was even tripped by a bicycle. I was lucky that I didn’t fall down.
In my last post some people asked about my favorite thing in Varanasi, I think North India has the best food. I’ve never been a vegetarian and always regard myself as a meatatarian, but here in Varanasi even me can become vegetarian because they can somehow make the vegetarian dishes super tasty, tastier than the meat dishes.
I’ve been eating Aloo Dum Banarasi every day during my stay here in Varanasi and Aloo Dum Banarasi is so far my all time favorite dish. I think I already mentioned in my recent posts that I’m such a big fan of Indian food, in Belgium or before in China I’ve tried so many different Indian restaurants but the best is still in North India. Food there somehow has a special scent that can’t have in other countries, I don’t know why.
Love at first taste – Aloo Dum Banarasi in a restaurant in Varanasi main street.
Aloo Dum Banarasi thali in a family restaurant in Varanasi suburb area, I was seriously eating it the whole time. 我真是是天天再吃这个，吃完了主菜第二天换个餐厅来了个拼盘。
After a satisfying lunch, I found many coconuts in the market. One of the things I miss about India is the super cheap coconut I can find everywhere in the streets. I basically drank it, together with Chai tea instead of water every day.My original plan for the afternoon was supposed to visit the most famous Golden Temple – Kashi Vishwanath in Varanasi. However there were so many securities outside and didn’t seem so tourist friendly and you have to keep everything away to get in, hand in the passport. I heard from the guesthouse owner that in the suburban Varanasi, there’s a temple called New Vishwanath Temple close to the university which also exactly the same temple, just not in gold. So I decided to visit New Vishwanath Temple, I can by the way check out that neighborhood, so why not?
However the way to get there was not even close to smooth. It should be 20 minutes drive, but my tuk tuk took almost 1.5 hours due to the heavy traffic jam, tuk tuk driver was one time can’t stand this, he jumped out buying some chewing tobacco to kill time. It was just then that I realized those chewing-gum-like like bag that you see everywhere in India was actually chewing tobacco.
Clever boy, bicycle is much more efficient during the traffic jam.
I learned in India that you have to be patient sometimes, the temple was beautiful and the area was amazing, it got many little shops, markets, food, everything I like about India. It was worth the long wait 🙂 This was the area I had the best ever Aloo Dum Baranasi.
New Vishwanath Temple was huge, with my favorite color – pink and beautifully decorated. I can imagine how beautiful the golden temple can be and why people love it so much. The temple is located in a university area so there were many young people around, making it energetic and vibrant.
Words in the end: I love Varanasi, it’s full of surprise and greatness. I hope you can get a big picture how it look like from my experience in Varanasi and I would highly recommend you to visit the town because even if I tried to show its colors and architectures but I can’t show you its taste, smell, plus its amazing vibes. So, come here one day, you won’t get disappointed.