This is the blog of Martin and Caroline as they go out and see some of the world

Wednesday 18 April 2012

Better late than never - Varanasi, Agra and New Delhi - India

Although we are home I am sorry as it has still taken forever for us to update this with the Indian part of our trip.

We had a long journey to the border of Sunauli by bus, we crossed the border and caught the bus with the blue stripe down the side to Gorakhpur.  On the bus there were quite a few of us who were heading out to Varanasi so it was quite nice to know that we would not be alone waiting for the train as the first train journey in a new country is always hard until you learn the way of the place.  Once we reached Gorakhpur it was like we were the new attractions in the zoo.  People seemed bewildered by us and just seemed to stop and stare, a few brave people got up the courage to come and talk to us and their English was brilliant but this was frowned apon by the train police and they were sent away from us which was a shame.  Once we were on the train we shared our cabin with a lady from Hong Kong who was on the bus with us and a guy from Israel.  The journey was not too bad except that the train driver blew his horn non stop the whole way. 

Once we arrived in Varanasi we shared a cab with the lady from Hong Kong to try and find a hotel.  It seems that no matter what hotel / B&B / Hostel you ask to be taken to the cab driver will only take you to the places where he gets commission from.  We ended up walking away from the place that the cab driver took us to but found a really nice place on our own, it had a big gated garden and it was like a haven in the chaos.

We checked in and went and walked along the bank of the Ganges which was very close to our hotel. 

We were not too sure what to expect but everyone we had spoke to told us how wonderful Varanasi was and how spiritual it was.  We did not however see that side of it.  The whole place was so dirty, smelly and overflowing with rubbish.  They do not seem to notice the streams of pee that run down into the Ganges where people relieve themselves whenever and where ever they feel like.  It is shocking after seeing what goes into the river to see them washing themselves, their clothes and their teeth in there.  The amount of poor and disabled people was hard to take in and the amount of stray and starving dogs was hard to see aswell.  We set aside an amount every day that we would give to beggars but it is really hard to know where to stop.  We speant one day just walking round feeding the stray dogs but it is all just too little to do any real help.

Every evening there is a display of fire and chanting that is to give thanks to Mother Ganges.  We were offered a boat to watch the display from the water and when we said maybe tomorrow we were told that it was only on for that one night and we would miss it if we did not take the boat tonight, it seems they will tell you any cock and bull story to get money out of you.  We never did take up the offer of a boat to watch it and I dont think we missed much.

We were so glad that we got to watch a burning ghat ceremony in Nepal as in Varanasi it is just not the same, it is not as peaceful and meaningful here.  It all just seems one big mess. 

We had hoped to go West to Rajastan but once we were looking on the internet all the trains out that way were full but the man at our hotel managed to get us a train to Agra.  We were quite pleased to be leaving Varanasi but typically on our last day we found the cleanest place there to eat and wished we had found it on day one.  The food was good and the banana Lassi's were lush.

We headed off to the station and onto Agra.

Once we got to Agra we made a point of asking the taxi driver to only take us to the hotel that we wanted to go to and no other.   Once we got to the hotel we found that it was very far away from the Taj and not really suitable so we let the taxi driver take us to one of his hotels.  We ended up finding our own place which was the best of a bad bunch.  We found the entrance to the Taj and decided to go first thing rather than that day as we heard it was less busy first thing. 

The lines for the Taj was not very busy at all when we arrived in the morning and by the time we left it was getting really busy so I think we made the right choice. 

The Taj was amazing and was one of the best places we had visited.  We were blown away by the place and seeing it at sunrise was fantastic as it seemed to change colour as the sun hit it.

We took a rickshaw to visit the Red Fort and when we were there we hired a guide and speant a day seeing the sights and sitting in the lovely green garden.

On the way back the ricksahw driver that had been waiting for us asked if he could take us to some shops as he would get paid for taking us to certain shops.  We had nothing else planned for the day so we said OK.  During part of the journey it must have got a bit much for our driver as he asked Martin to take a turn with the cycling.  Then the drivers friend turned up and they decided they would both like the money so I went in the other rickshaw and Martin stayed in ours and we were driven to about 3 shops until we had had enougth and said no more shops.

We were in India for wedding season and two stag do's passed our hotel in the evening.  The groom's were plassed on top of a horse and walked around the town with lights, music and lots of people dancing around them.  I have to say the grooms did not look happy even when people were putting money into their hands.

On our last night in Agra there was a holy festival of some kind and there was music and prayers blasting out from huge speakers all night at full blast, they did not stop until about 6am which was when our taxi arrived to take us to the train station and the streets were full of people walking home to start their day after a night of parying in the streets.

The train ride from Agra to Delhi was probably the nicest as we got to sit and talk to people and discuss the differences between arranged marrages and the class systems in India.  It was a nice trip and they made us feel really welcome.

Once we got to Delhi we were approached by a man asking if we were looking for a hotel, we had an idea of where we wanted to go but he was quite persistant in us trying some of his hotels.  As we were walking and talking  to the man a police man came out of nowhere and started hitting the man with a long bamboo type cane and telling him not to talk to us.  It was a shock to see but no one else seemed to bothered.  We found a reasonably priced hotel and booked for 1 night.  It was not great but after Agra it seemed quite nice.  We went out exploring and later that day found a hotel that was recommended by the Lonley Planet and although it was 350 rupees a night more expensive we booked into it for the following nights.  We had a hot shower, a clean tidy room and a plasma TV with an English movie channel. 

We had decided to do all our shopping once we got to Delhi but the choice was not exactly great, everything was the same in all the shops but it was nice to get out and have places to walk to.  We did notice that beggars seemed to be quite rich in Delhi as we saw a lot of them counting their cash and yet the people dressed in rags that walk around collecting rubbish to sell ask for nothing from you.

The stray dogs are not as bad in Delhi as it seems that alot of the dogs are neutered and you can tell.  There are not as many strays and they all seems quite well fed and not as scared of the people who pass them by.

There was anothe festival while we were there but this one was celebrated in the day time thank goodness.

We had started to run out of money and the trains were still full with about 100 people on the waiting lists so we decided to head home.  We had hoped to spend about 3 months in India but it was not meant to be.  We would like to go back there one day but go in our motor home and have a bit more freedom to explore.