CLEANSING // Varanasi, India

Nothing can quite prepare one for the experience of a sleeper train. The noise, the struggle of climbing into your third tier bed, the toilets, and the constant movement. But, as they say, sleeper trains are definitely part of the ‘local’ experience. I had taken one previously in China, but the trains in India were a whole different ball game! It is all part of the fun.

Thankfully I had a relatively successful night of sleep on the train, and we were woken in the early hours of the morning to the sound of “chai-chai-chai-chai”. Turns out, a steaming cup of chai is the perfect way to start your morning!

As it also turns out, trains are always late in India, and we arrived at Varanasi nearly two hours later then was forecast. Still sleepy and in desperate need of food and a shower, we were thrust awake with our first tuk tuk experience! Crammed in the back with our giant backpacks and speeding through side streets was certainly eye opening.

All was well when we found out our hotel was the best of the tour by far.

After a few hours of eating, showering, and attempting to get money (unsuccessfully on our part), our tour group took more tuk tuks back into the city centre to wander the markets and indulge in some local food.

Walking through the markets is always an experience!

I was really surprised about the sheer number of what I would consider domesticated animals roaming the streets of India! Dogs, cows, pigs, goats… my heart went out to every sad, stray puppy I cam across. Chris, of course, consistently ignored my pleas to adopt them and take them home.

After a bit more wandering and a trip to a silk store, it was on to the Ganges!

Varanasi must truly be views from the Ganges. It provided a whole new perspective of the city, as well as a moment of peace away from the chaos of traffic.

Exhausted, but happy.

Our evening boat ride (an optional experience on the tour) included being serenaded by a local sitar player (with a PhD in sitar playing, mind you), watching the sunset, and taking part in a flower and candle ceremony.

Essentially, the ceremony involved placing a number of the above floating candles on the water. Try as I might, my night photography skills were awful and I was unable to capture the view of the candles floating away down the Ganges.

All in all it was a wonderfully peaceful evening, followed by a blissful night of sleep to recover from the sleeper train. Well, as blissful as waking up at 5am the following morning to head down to the Ganges again can be!

– Reanna



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