So, I spent 3 or 4 days with this bunch of saddhus out front of Daswadeneh ghat. They had virtually no english, but we hung out going over the sacred texts, traveling on the river and watching them in their daily alms collection and various activities, mostly involved with smoking hashish with the chillum.
I'd advise you keep your wits about you, but this side of Varanasi shouldn't be missed.
While every tourist in Varanasi makes it a point to visit the ghats in Varanasi, most miss the view of the city and the ghats from the opposite bank. That's yet another beautiful place to be in. Just take a boat for a trip to and back from the opposite bank as you hardly find a boat while being back from there. That's a sandy place, almost like a desert. You can play with the sand and at the same time have a nice view of the city and the famous ghats and historical buildings along the ghats.
There are sweetwater dolphins living in the Ganges River. I know, that they exist because I saw them! It was not really spectacular seeing the small fins on big dark grey backs in the water. But I knew that this is a very rare sight. So I was overwhelmed.
Sorry, they vanished too fast in the muddy water of Ganges River. No way for me to take a photo.
This is an unusual thing, a steep slope near Meer ghat where you can try to climb. It is difficult to come down or even move up once you have climbed up the slope. One can try and see how much he can climb at one go. It's definitely a proof of your physical fitness. My husband tried to do so. Here's a photograph I took of him in action. The little boy accompanying him is the son of the Guest house that we stayed in. He helped us explore so many unknown things at Varanasi
I may be bias but this was what happened to me.. so lone female travellers be warned...
I had used this IDD call service from this young guy's shop @ Lalita Ghat, and on bumping into him and his frens at night, had smiled at him in recognition... next thing I know, I was pulled into their gang and everyone started to be overly friendly with numerous handshakes and attempts for hugs etc... luckily my guy fren who was in the area came along and told them off!!!
the lesson!! A smile may be nothing to us but may be misintepreted especially since some locals have this sentiments that foreigners are much more "open"!
Of course, this does not mean that everyone is as "friendly" as those I bumped into.. :P So, I apologise if I have offended anyone.. :P
If you ask me what is Off The Beaten Path here in Varanasi, probably I would say this modern luxury houses, because tourists don't come here to see this, so this is definitely a tip Off The Beaten Path for you. This is a location somewhere in the middle of the city but don't ask me which exact location it was, all I knew was that this kind of place has no tourists, so why not visit now.
Sarnath is where Buddha gave his first sermon and is around 10kms from Varanasi. One of the most amazing sights to see is the Dhamek Stupa which stands at 43.6 metres high and 28 metres round and was built in the 5th century. The Archaeological Museum is also in Sarnath and is open Thursday through to Saturday.
Our guide, who took us to our Ganges at sunrise boat trip, took us here afterwards before we visited the New Vishwanath Temple. The modern temple, which is dedicated to Lord Ram, was built in 1964. Its walls are imprinted with verses and scenes from the Ramcharitmanas, the Hindi version of the Ramayana. Its author, poet Tulsi Das, who the temple is named after, lived here while writing it.
Located 13km (8 miles) north-east of Varanasi, Sarnath is one of the four holy places associated with the life of Lord Buddha. It is the deer park where Gautama Buddha first taught the Dharam, (the Way of the Higher Truths). At this time Sarnath, from Saranganath, meaning "Lord of the Deer", was called Isipatana which means "the place where holy men fell to earth" and was later known as Mrigadava or "deer-park". Buddha came here about 5 weeks after attaining enlightenment at Bodhgaya. It was here that he gave his first sermon to five monks and his preaching soon spread to a larger community of monks which numbered 1500 when the Chinese traveller Xuan Zang visited in AD 640. The spot where he preached his first sermon is marked with the magnificent Dharmekh Stupa which has carvings that date back to the 5th century AD. The area around this has unearthed several monasteries and other stupas that fell into ruin when Buddhism went into decline. There is a 3rd century BC Ashoka Pillar here that commemorates Emperor Ashoka's visit to Sarnath and his conversion to Buddhism. The ruins and stupas lie within an enclosed compound that you have to pay to enter. As the sight is very holy to Buddhists, monks live here in modern monasteries from different Buddhist countries. I came here from Varanasi via auto-rickshaw on a tour that costs Rs150 for travel to and from Varanasi plus visiting time.
Looking for internet? Just follow the signs or ask. There are very small internetshops with two till four computers in it. The connection is not too good, but just enough to send some e-mails. An hour on the internet costs you 1,5 dollars.
On the picture: An internetcafe.
Looking for a bank that will change dollars into rupies or that allows you to get money with your creditcard? Go to the Barodabank and bring along your passport. The Barodabank is hard to find and you have to get there early (10 or 11 am at least otherwise you will have to wait for a long time). You can find the bank in the main streets of the old city. At one of the two main crossings is a sign on a building. Walk under the gate (first you will have to go through a shop) and climb the stairs. On your left hand you will find the Barodabank.
In the center of Varanasi almost nothing grows. The muddy and sandy banks of the river and all the dirt cause that. Outside the heart of the town you will be able to see more of nature. All sorts of trees and flowers grow here.
The residence of the Maharajali of Varanasi, Ramnagar Fort, looks down upon the Ganges not far south of the Asi Ghat. The best views of the fortifications - especially impressive in late afternoon - are to be had from the other side of the river, which is reached by a road heading south from the BHU area and over a rickety pontoon bridge. During the monsoon the bridge is dismaniled and replaced by a ferry, still preferable to the long main road that crosses the main Malaviya bridge in the north before heading down the eastern bank of the river.
A 17th - century fort, Ram Nagar is the home of the Maharaja of Banaras,Personal collection of the Royal Family housed in the Ramnagar Museum The museum’s collection includes of interesting vintage silver and brocade palanquins, howdahs, a replica of the royal bed and an armoury of swords and guns. (open 10 AM. to 5 PM) Ramnagar is also very famous for its unique Ram Lila.Museum entry fee for Rs 4 per head
If you have a bit of time.... just leave the map at home and just wander, the streets, by lanes and narrow paths of Varanasi. You will find fantastic photography moments and unbelievable sights of every day life.
I did this for a very short time and regretted not having enough time to explore more.
This is a great way to experience the local life there..
Somit is one of the genuinely nicest guys you could ever meet, and his dedication to his work is even nicer. The young man runs Saraswati Education Center, Yoga Training Center, and Somit P. Guesthouse.
The education center is where a lot of underprivileged children, especially the abandoned ones, find shelter, camaraderie, and positive growth. You could donate money, books, pencils, notebooks, food, whatever you like.
The guesthouse is a bit cramped with several stairs and in between Varanasi's famous serpentine alleys. The prices are low and the personal attention to every guest there is thoughtful. However, even its best room might not be for everyone.
I have not been to their yoga training, but that should be more legitimate than any other place in Varanasi. Definitely better than the overpriced and overrated (Lonely Planet recommended) Sunil Kumar Yoga Training. If you want to do yoga, give Somit a try.