Reflecting back on our time in Varanasi now, I think the sunrise was far more beautiful than the sunset on the Ganges. We were truly lucky to experience both, and each time we went offered a different perspective on this wonderful city. The river bank was swarming with life both at 8pm at night, and at 6am in the morning, as people traveled from all over India, and the world, to come and pay their respects or bathe in the water.
After another abrupt awakening in the form of a tuk tuk ride, we boarded another boat and slowly made away along the river as our tour guide explained some of the history of the Hindu religion.
It was slightly foggy as our boat journey began, but it gradually began to clear as the morning became lighter.
People were bathing themselves in the Ganges at the numerous ‘ghats’, or riverfront stairs that mark a place to bath in the river. We also passed a location where bodies were cremated in the traditional way.
After our morning trip along the Ganges, we returned to the hotel for breakfast and yet another attempt to get cash. Eventually, after wading through masses of locals waiting to exchange old notes and trying to communicate with bank managers, we managed to successfully get cash out at the second bank we visited. Using an ATM has never felt so victorious!
After basking in our glory, Chris and I jumped in a tuk tuk our tour guide hired for us and drive about 20 minutes away to Sarnath, an area known for its collection of temples. Our tuk tuk driver dropped us out the front of the above Chinese Temple, and from there we made our way up a hill, passing by other sights.
My favourite temple was possible the Sri Lankan temple, due to its colourful collection of flags.
The next temple was dedicated to Jainism, an ancient religion neither of us had heard of, which originated in India.
Of course, I became distracted trying to take a photo of the numerous chipmunks.
Next, we visited the Sarnath Excavated Site, which featured archaeological ruins and the giant Dhamek Stupa. The Dhamek Stupa is the circular mound in the above photo, and is said to mark the spot where the Buddha gave his first sermon.
Wandering around the site also gave us a view over the fence into the nearby deer park.
Eventually we made our way back to our patient tuk tuk driver and headed back into Varanasi for lunch. We had another sleeper train ahead of us that night, much to everyone’s delight!
Admittedly I didn’t know much about the city of Varanasi prior to visiting, but floating along the Ganges was a wonderful experience, totally worth the pain of catching sleeper trains to get there!