Our 4 days in Varanasi came to an end not a moment too soon. We went on a dawn boat trip up (and down) the Ganges on Thursday, watching the people washing themselves, their buffalo and most probably the hotel laundry as well (I could have sworn I saw one of my T-Shirts drying on the bank). They also have early morning cremations which we saw a couple of but thankfully you don't actually see the bodies as they are covered over with wood. It was an awesome experience. It was a very auspicious day in Varanasi so there were loads of weddings going on. The wedding party hires people to walk to the wedding venue with strip lights on their heads and a brass band, closely followed by a man with a big generator on a cart. Truly an experience especially when there are 2 or 3 at the same time, plus the inevitable rickshaws, buffalo, cows, cars, donkeys etc, absolute pandemonium but well worth a watch (preferably from inside an AC car otherwise the fumes are pretty overwhelming.
The same day we ventured out of Varanasi town and headed off to the Cantonment area where all the posh hotels are and there we found (well the Lonely Planet did) a hotel with a lovely pool, coffee shop, silk shop, restaurant etc. So we had a wander around and came back the next day (Friday) to spend the whole day in the peace and quiet. If you tried really hard you could almost NOT hear any car horns, bliss.
Varanasi suffers from some serious power cuts that invariably last all day, which isn't a problem but during the night it is so hot that its difficult to sleep without AC. We thought that our AC wouldn't work (and didn't work) due to the powercuts but on our way to the airport wioth a Russian couple they told us that the hotel saved money and just didn't switch the AC on in rooms where noone complained - their generators could take the AC units. Bunch of cut-throat rip off merchants. If you want a tip NEVER stay at the Hotel Siddarth in Varanasi its crap!
On Saturday we ventured to the airport (unfortunately with the mad b****** hotel driver) and actually made it without hitting anyone. The whole process was very easy (apart from having to hide our 500 Rupee notes as you can't take them into Nepal (!) but you can exchange them for a price at the airport (yeah of course you can!))
We arrived in Nepal and were amazed at the differences, there are still lots of horns but the attitude is much more relaxed. Paul & I actually sat on some steps today for a cig and a coke and no one (I mean NO ONE asked us for anything which is a real shock coming from India). So on Saturday we wandered around Thamel, ate our first beef in over 20 days (I think it was buffalo) had a cold beer and then saw the Man Utd match on the telly. There are many bad things about 'westernisation' but we quite like it actually.
And today (Sunday) we walked to Durbar square and got our 2 month pass so we can come and go for the next few weeks for free. We have just finished wandering around Thamel and now we are heading back to the hotel to talk to our tour chap who is arranging white water rafting, jungle safari in Chitwan Park and through trip to Pokhara.
We will let you know how it goes, until then - take care and keep posting :-)