My First Solo Trip to Banaras

satyamguru

New Member
Now is the time. Its never too late to start something. I read the quote on the internet and thought of sharing the experience I had for the last couple of years on my travel journey.

This journey happened not long before. It was March of 2016. I wanted to experience the Holi at Banaras. Although that was not the most important plan moreover I wanted a break from my professional life and to discover myself.

This is my first travelogue. I hope you will like it. As it was a solo trip, so you will be reading long stories of my experience. Some teaser pis....


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DAY 1

It was another normal Wednesday morning. Yet different. I had to wake up and get ready for my next travel. packing has been done. Checked if I have left something. Think not. I got ready in an hour to board the BBS-NDLS Duronto express and I was going till MGS (Mughal Sarai Junction now renamed to Pt. Deen Dayal Upadhyay Junction). From there I will be going to Varanasi, also known as Banaras. I reached the station at 7.30 AM and the train left the station at its usual time i.e 8.10 AM.

I was excited yet a little scared as it was my first solo travel. I was yet to observe what does going to happen. 13 hr of the train journey and no one with me, I knew that it was going to be boring. So I have taken enough measures to overcome the boredom like reading books, watching movies and tv series and last but not the least enjoying the nature from my window. Talking about nature, I have to say India got a great landscape, yet undiscovered, if you want to see a great landscape and a sunset in the valley of the mountains, you should once take BBS Duronto and the train needs to be in the right time to cross the valley near Bihar's Jadupur after Koderma. I am very sorry and depressed that I cannot express anyone what I have seen, as I was so much into nature and as it was my first journey on this route. From my window the sun is playing hide and seek with me from behind the mountains with thin teak and sal forest. I was going to get my camera but each time I was going to get it the sun hides behind :( :( :(. After Jadupur, and few miles before Gaya Junction lies a mighty mountain with a temple on its top. The sun setting on one side of the mountain and you are on the other side of the mountain. The four flags on the four sides of the temple illustrate four birds are constantly flying and yet stays in the same place. I don't know what much to say. One must board this train to witness what I have witnessed. I was so depressed that I got the scene in my sight but didn't capture. I don't know if I am going to get another chance of getting the very scene or not.

In the evening the attendants came to wish and celebrate Holi with the passengers, and of course it involves tips. I have a total of Rs. 30 as change, which I ended up giving that as the tip.

An hour later the catering staff came and also asked for some tips. I told them I don't have a change, but one of them insisted to give the change. I knew that if I allow him to change the money, he will keep the tip amount as he wants. But what can I do? Do I have a choice? Nope. So I ended up paying. Let’s Say... he ended up paying me Rs. 450 out of 500.

Anyways, my train got delayed by 15 min and I was at the station at 9 PM on that very evening. Searched for any OLA or UBER. Didn't get one in the near vicinity. So I need to take an auto or taxi to Banaras. So I started negotiating with the auto drivers and ended up fixing a price of Rs. 250 for 17 KM ride.

Finally, I reached Banaras, now it’s time to look for the guest house I booked. At 10 o'clock in the night, Banaras was so much crowded with tourists. I walked into some of the Galis (lanes) to look for the guest house. I asked some people to help me to find my guest house. I walked.. and walked.. It was 10.30 and I was still not getting the address. I was walking down the lanes with 15 kgs of luggage and I am so tired. Then I asked another man, a pan wala.

Me : Bhaiya, Ye suraj Guest house kahan ayega ? (Brother, where is Suraj Guest House)
He : Address kya diya ? (Whats the address)
Me : Lalita Ghat, Near Nepali Hindu Temple.
He : Bas, sidha is gali se jaiye, Manikarnika Ghat ayega, Niche Utar jaiye bas Lalita Ghat. (You go by this lane, you will end up at Manikarnika ghat, take a right and you will be at Lalita Ghat)


It was 11 PM and the clock is ticking, my tiredness was getting over me. But I had to go and look for the guest house. I took the straight lane and that happened what I was not willing to happen on that very night. I ended up at the core of Manikarnika Ghat, the cremation ground. The Ghat was very lonely at that time and only a few relatives of the dead people were there along with some sadhus and sadhaka's of Goddess Kali with fearful face with burning eyes. Till that time I was covered in ashes from the cremation ground. I didn’t know whether I should take it as sacred or unholy. I again asked some people and in reply I got the same answer that I have to go past Manikarnika ghat to get to my guest house. I asked if there is some other way I can go, in the answer they told you will be get lost in the lanes if you go in some other way. So I started walking down to the cremation ghat and proceeded towards the Laita Ghat. I called up the guest house and got no answer. I called their landline and the owner's daughter picked up the phone and ended up saying “Call My father”.

Owner's Daugher : Papa ko phone kijiye. (Call my father).
Me: Par unka phone to nahi lag raha. (But he out of reach)
She : Mai aur ek no de rahi hun, aap call karo. (I'm giving you another number, you can call on that)

So I called on that no and someone picked up. Asked me about the booking. At the other end, they were discussing something about the booking. I smelled something is fishy. Finally he told me to ask some local people about the address from Lalita ghat and disconnected the call. I looked around and people were sitting and drinking their hearts out and no one is in normal condition to speak and asking for an address was far beyond. I looked for another few minutes and found the Guest House.

Finally, I was there and I was so tired that I was looking for and asking about my room. The owner's son is silent and no one else to ask about my room. He goes into one room and comes back after 10 min just to tell me that I have to manage in the dorm as there are no rooms available. I was just shocked and asked

-- What about my booking?
-- Sir, It is the festive season. So every room is booked. Please manage in the dorm. I will arrange a room for you in the morning.

What can I say, Its 11.30 and I had to compromise. So I agreed. I entered the dorm. Three foreigners were sleeping. He showed me a bed where the clothes of the fourth lady were there.

I asked him

-- Yeh kiska kapda hai ? (whose clothes are these)
-- Madam ji ki hogi (These are of Madam's). Aap utha lijiye ye bed ab aapka hai (You take those off the bed as this bed now belongs to you. Her bed is below and you can put that there.)

Saying this he is gone and started talking to a lady in the dorm. I was like “Really??? I have to do all this??” Anyways what can I say to people like this?

I was shocked when I found out that I forgot my shorts on my bed at home. What am I gonna wear that very night?? I cannot just wear a towel and sleep!! Oh No! What shall I do? Anyways I decided to wear jeans for the day. So I was ready to get myself washed up. I entered the bathroom and searched for the bathroom door. Yes, you read it right. I searched for it. There was no door. Only the door screens. What the.... I have managed to get myself ready to stay with a couple of ladies and now I have to manage with a bathroom with no doors?? I called up the owner / Owner's son Gaurav or whoever he is and he told me that he is not there.

So I had my bath and crashed into bed.
 

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Big Daddy

Super User
Where did you start from? Sounds like W. Bengal. As soon as you enter Varanasi, you get this feeling of dark cloud around you. There are too many dead tantrik souls haunting there. These souls are extremely jealous of the living.
 

satyamguru

New Member
Where did you start from? Sounds like W. Bengal. As soon as you enter Varanasi, you get this feeling of dark cloud around you. There are too many dead tantrik souls haunting there. These souls are extremely jealous of the living.
I started from Bhubaneswar, Odisha. Yes I felt the same. When I reached manikarnika ghat, the ashes of dead people are all over me. I was bit scared as well as a new kind of feeling was haunting me..
 

satyamguru

New Member
DAY 2

The next day I woke up at 9 AM due to the tiredness and started looking for Gaurav. As usual, he was not there. I called up, he told me not to worry, and he will arrange a room for me. I need to leave my luggage on my bed and they will shift it to my room. Convincing enough. I had no specific plan but I need to get ready to go somewhere. I waited outside of the dorm as the ladies were changing. Around 10’O clock I got a chance to have my bath. I took my towel and entered the bathroom. I was shocked again entering there. The bathroom is filled with toilet papers and the floor is flooded with 3 inches of water. Again whom to tell? No One. So I managed to have my bath and at 11 AM I was out for my Day 1 of the tour.

I walked down the lane of Banaras and it was a great feeling and experience altogether. There were so many lanes that you will get lost an end up in where you started. You need to follow your instinct, choose which direction you want to go and above all ask a local. You won’t get much from the locals as they tell you to take a right or left and go straight. But how that will help in a place of the lane like a MAZE.

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It was noon. The sun is just burning up. I decided to go to Ramnagar fort for a visit. So anyhow I was out of the maze-like lane. I picked up an auto form Godwalia chowk to Lanka, and from there to Ramnagar Fort. You can see many vintage cars at the Ramnagar museum. I liked the Bournemouth car. It is so huge as compared to cars we drive now-a-days.


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I had a great visit to that place and got back to Lanka. It was 3 PM back then. Should I go back and have my lunch and get back to the guest house and sleep? No. I had to go somewhere else to utilize the remaining time I had. Lanka chowk is the entrance to the Banaras Hindu University and which has several colleges and also the newly constructed Biswanath Mandir. I decided to go there. I went there by auto and decided to get back from there by a Rickshaw to contribute to keeping the rickshaw tradition alive.

Now its time for my lunch. I got back to Godwalia. I had my lunch at Keshari guest house. In lunch I had Rawa Onion masala Dosa, as in festive seasons you will not get any lunch menu, and while eating I collected some information about the aarti ceremony at the Dashaswamedha Ghat.



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By the evening I was at the Dashaswamedh ghat. The whole evening I was at the ghat for the Ganga arati. It was awesome and very spiritual.

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Devotees are getting ready to witness the famous Ganga Aarti that takes place daily

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Boats are filling up so as the pandals.

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The boats are filled fast

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Around 8'o clock, I was back at the guest house to have a bath then I was planning for going out for dinner.

I reached the guest house and checked the dorm if my things were shifted to a new room or not and saw that my luggage are there where I left it in the morning. I was shivering in anger. After all I have paid for a single room and I am managing with a stinky dormitory. Even last night their pet dog gave birth inside the dorm. I called the manager and asked him about the room. He blabbered a moment, looked here and there, discussed with his father, and all he had to tell me that” you have to manage in the dorm.” I was shocked to hear his comment.

I requested him to allot me the room that is adjacent to the dorm. It was empty as I have checked before he even arrived at the guest house. He told me “Sir! That room is for another madam coming from Russia.” Now my anger is at the peak. I replied with my anger with control, "I am waiting since the day before and I have a valid booking, how can you assign the room to someone else when I am at the beginning of the queue". I firmly replied that I cannot stay the night at the dorm and requested them to either replace the room or arrange another room at some other hotel or guest house. Now he has no choice but to allot the same room for me. I was so tired that I decided to take a quick nap before having dinner. When I woke up its was half past 10. Quickly I took a bath and gone out for dinner through the ghat route as during the night it became so quiet and I didn't want to take the Galli (maze route) route of Varanasi.

The night times were so quiet and peaceful that you literally will want to stay and hang out there for a few hours which I did. I then decided to head back to my room. It was around midnight I reached my guest house. The next day I had to travel a long way to Sarnath. Due to the bumpy road on the way to Ramnagar fort, I had a really backache and gone for the most needed sleep for the day.

To be Continued....
 

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Big Daddy

Super User
They should have given you a refund for the day you spent in the dorm. I think your pictures should be organized because I think there is one picture of Vishwanath temple in the mix of other pictures of Ramnagar fort and Ganga ghat.
 

satyamguru

New Member
They should have given you a refund for the day you spent in the dorm.
I was so frustrated that I have decided not to ask for a refund.
I think your pictures should be organized because I think there is one picture of Vishwanath temple in the mix of other pictures of Ramnagar fort and Ganga ghat.
I have reorganized the pictures and added some new pictures to my visit to BHU
 

satyamguru

New Member
DAY 3

As it was the final day, I check out from the guest house with my entire luggage on my back and traveled towards Sarnath. To reach Sarnath, one has to take an auto-rickshaw from Varanasi/ Varanasi Cantt. I reached there around 10.30. Being one of the most important Buddhist places among all the Buddhist places, the number of tourists come here is not so dense. The place is so peaceful and serene that you can go back to history and feel the ancient time for yourself. The carving in the Dhamekh Stupa is so beautifully maintained and the stupa is so huge that you will feel yourself so tiny. It was great visiting the huge Buddha statue created from around 140 stones and is beautifully maintained by Indian tourism. There is also the remains of an Ashoka Pillar. Things I missed there was the Sarnath Archeological Museum. A small, but impressive collection of artifacts excavated from the site. It remains closed on Fridays I was so unfortunate to visit this place on Friday. As my return ticket was not confirmed and it was a long tiring journey to home so I had to skip some important places like Sri Digamber Jain Temple.

The thing goes like this. I booked an e-ticket for my return journey with Waiting List and as per the rule of Indian railways, the e-ticket will be canceled if not confirmed, So I booked another ticket from Varanasi Cantt ticket reservation counter before I visited Sarnath. When I was in Sarnath, I got an SMS that the e-ticket is confirmed but the counter booked one is not. So before the chart preparation I had to cancel the ticket booked from the counter. So I hurried from Sarnath to do the cancellation and succeeded with the same. Now it’s time for me to chill and have something to eat and it was a festive time in Varanasi, none of the hotels was serving a proper Indian meal. So I left for Mughal Sarai. Finally it’s time to wait for a long time from 4PM to 2AM in the morning for the train to get there. I waited and have some IRCTC made chicken biryani I was so hungry that the chicken pieces tested like fiery grilled chicken of KFC. Anyway the time came and I bid farewell to Varanasi for the time and traveled back home.

Unfortunately I am unable to post any pictures here, as its COVID time and my HDD containing pictures for day 3 are somewhere else and I am stuck elsewhere.

This brings the end to this travelogue.
 
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