We are currently in Varanasi, the place where everyone bathes and washes everything on the huge steps (ghats) next to the Ganges.
We had quite an adventure just getting to our hotel Yogi Lodge and managed to not get drawn into quite an elaborate con by the tricksters who jump on you as soon as you get off the train. Basically because our hotel is known for not giving money to drivers to take you there, none of the tuk tuk drivers will go there. Instead they take you to one of the many impersonator hotels nearby with names such as the Real Yogi Lodge, Yogi Hotel or New Yogi Lodge and you then get charged more on your bill so the driver can be paid. Our hotel had told us about this and said they would collect us themselves and wear a yellow Tshirt with the hotel name on it.
When we got off the train as usual we had loads of drivers trying to take you to a 'good cheap hotel, very nice'. One of the men followed us around for ages and managed to hear which hotel we were going to. He said it was a good one and then left us alone. When I phoned the hotel from the phone booth there was another man standing next to it and obviously listened to my phone call with me giving my name. A short while later the two men came up to us with a third man holding a piece of paper with my name on it and Yogi Lodge. We were a bit suspicious as there was no yellow Tshirt and asked him a few questions. He insisted he was a worker at Yogi Lodge, but we sent them off. Fortunately later on the real man turned up with the Tshirt and my name and we made it to the hotel.
Honestly, you have to be so alert here not to get ripped off. Yogi Lodge give everyone a sticker after you stay there. I think it is almost like a medal for managing to ever get there and feel quite proud we stayed one step ahead of the touts!
Anyway, Varanasi was a good place. Like many of the cities it is full of tiny little alleyways with loads of cows, people and vehicles. We stayed in the Old Town and it was very lively there with a market nearby and lots of little restaurants in the maze of the backstreets.
We got up at 5.00 in the morning to do a boat trip on the Ganges and saw the burning funeral pyres they have here to cremate their dead next to the river. Lots of people were setting candles in the centre of floweres floating on the Ganges which lit up the night. Then as the sun started to rise sending a pinky haze over the water, you could see all the locals coming down to bathe in the water. They believe the Ganges water is holy and so bathe in it for purity.
The water looks awful as it is full of rubbish that they have to try and push away before climbing in and bathing or swimming. Lots of people in orange robes sit cross legged on the ghats and meditate and some of them will chant and hit tambourines. By the time you are finishing the boat ride the ghats are packed with people all clambering to get to the water and looks like a mass of colour from the river.
It was really good to see.