Traveling in India is pretty intense, it could be very exhausting because of the crowded places and different rhythms here. You need to be ready to negotiate most of the time, to ask directions because maps are not enough helpful, to expect the less from each place to stay, and to deal with people that are asking you the same questions or selfies with you.
Varanasi was the place where I felt all these things on a really high level. Because of its spiritual importance, this city is very crowded and tourism is one of the most important sources of money. So our journey here started with hard negotiations with ricsa drivers…we saw immediately the difference between Delhi and Varanasi. Surrounded by many drivers we were trying to negotiate as far as possible according to the distance to our destination…one guy let the price down to make us follow him without knowing where we were going. When he understood the point to reach, he changed the price too. We ended up taking a bike ricsa which attracted a lot of attention to us.
After losing ourselves in the labyrinth of small streets of Varanasi, we started to ask people for directions because our google maps weren’t enough good to reach our Guest House well hidden behind Manikarnika Ghat. Booking told us that the Guest House will have a washing machine but of course, the reality was different. More than this, the locker of the door didn’t work and because of the different sizes of the walls, the door got stuck and we had to scream from inside the room until somebody came and helped us. So check your door before getting inside a room.
Walking along Gange is challenging too, I’m still hearing on repeat mode: “Madame, boat?”. At some moment, one guy broke the cycle of “Madame, boat?” with “No boat, Madame?”. I was happy to say that it’s true, we don’t need a boat and the guy proudly said back: “I knew, that’s why I said no boat”. I got more confused than before after this conversation.
We wanted to have the boat experience on Gange so we negotiated for one boat ride to see the sunset. It was a beautiful experience and I felt at peace during our journey. The peaceful state of mind stopped when an old man approached our boat and gave us one flower and candle to put on the river. Karen didn’t take it at the beginning but the guy kindly put it in her hand. I wanted to ask how much money he wants but I stopped myself considering that this will ruin the moment. Of course, he asked 100rupees and hold the boat to pay for it. Karen was in a crisis of laughing, I was angry and the guy wanted the money. Don’t take anything from people on the street in tourist places, even if they will tell you that they don’t ask for money because, in the end, they will still do it.
Why this aggressive tourism? Probably because of us, we don’t know to travel, we spend too much money on stuff, we don’t understand the culture and the beauty of spiritual places like Varanasi will be ruined by these things.