having indulged in a sunrise boat trip down the river ganges, whilst engaged in conversation with the 'con-man,' (see TOURIST TRAP) learning all there is to know about the Indian burning ceremony... I happen to glance over to the water's edge... where I see two dogs... chowing down on what appears to be (and IS) a human thigh bone. I mean, this thing was black and charred, a meaty, ham-bone-looking-thing... I had initially thought that there was something 'romantic' (probably not the best use of a word) in the Hindu's having their own, very different way of doing things at the end of one's life. But I cannot express to you, my revulsion at what I was watching. It was the most god-awful, sickening, vile, disgusting thing that I think I have witnessed to date (and I've seen some pretty horrific things) Those two animals... having lunch.... on somebody's loved one. Words just cannot describe.....
Since Varanasi was known for its silk, I decided to have a silk jacket and trousers made from a tailor in the Raddison where I was staying. They told me they would have it made in a few hours and several others also decided to do the same thing. This experience was very disappointing. The jacket was poorly made and didn’t fit properly at all. I gave them another chance to get it right but really, there was no way they could without a total remake. I decided not to take the clothes and there was no dispute as they could clearly see the jacket fitting poorly. The others were not happy with their items either but took them. I am sure there are some very good tailors in Varanasi, this one unfortunately was not one of them.
Like all other tourist areas of India, you will find the usual touts in various forms. If you arrive in a group, you will be besieged by postcard sellers and other trinkets and crafts.
You need to also be careful of pickpocketers especially in the temples. Be sensible in not flouting any valuables or sums of money.
As with anywhere in India, take care on what you drink and eat. In Varanasi, be careful in the evenings when the sun has gone down. During the day things are fairly safe but at night, everything changes. Marijuana is popular and while violent crime is rare, there is still crime to be aware of. Power outages in India is also popular and it may be difficult to negotiate the narrow Gali’s in total darkness if you find yourself out in one. Women should also remember to dress conservatively and not draw attention to themselves.
Just be aware of your surroundings, the culture you are visiting and behave accordingly.
The Ganges unfortunately is also one of the most polluted rivers in the world. Much of it is made up of untreated raw sewage (around 300 million gallons per day), rubbish, food and animal and human remains. Because of this there is a huge amount of waterborn diseases suffered here such as cholera, dysentery, typhoid and hepatitis.
Taking a bath in the holy water of the Ganga river washes away your sins - purifying your soul. So, people thought, why shouldnt it be good for cleaning the clothes, too? Not only common clothes get washed in the "cristalclear" water, no even the doctors coat, mouth and head cover for operations get "cleaned" in this river water. And additionally these clothes were put on the "clean" ground of the Ghats to dry in the sun.............
Think twice about giving your clothes to the laundry :-)
Not to mention ending up in a hospital in Varanasi.
CITYJUNGLE - that fits perfectly to every city in India.
India is a ZOO!!!! On a five minutes walk through a typical Indian town, you will meet 10 wild dogs, 2 wildboars relaxing in the open sewer, 3 cows and one waterbuffalo crossing your way (you WILL step into their holy sh*t at least once!!!), one monkey jumping on your head.....a camel if closer to the desert, a couple of bats when there is sunset.....and at least one ELEPHANT!
And thats all in the city with traffic and so on.....a cow is holy - and it is aware of that, meaning they just take a nap in the MIDDLE of the street, and cars have to see how to get by - hitting a cow with your car would give you really bad Karma!
Ok, but it is monkey time, now!
Omed went to our toilet, hearing strange noise - he switched on the light and here they were:
A complete monkey family with a baby sitting at our wire-netting-window of our toilet. Omed nearly made into his pants ;-)
It is a rather terrifying fact that nearly 70 % of India's available water is polluted, and about one third of all deaths are caused by that contamination.
It may well be true that the ganges has a very high amount of Oxygen in it compared to other rivers and it may well be true that organic wasye decomposes much faster in it. It may also be true that batheing in it and drinking it frees you the cycle of re-incarnation in some forms of Hindu Theology - but I'm not going to risk testing the veracity of the statement yet !
Apart from the tons of chemical pollutants, untreated sewage , chemical fertilizers, PCBs and heavy metals one of the other main sources of pollution is partially burnt corpses. 20-30,000 are burnt by the river in Varansi every year, and many more at point mainly upsteam.
The authorities have tried to cut down on the practice of using the ghats, but it is widely ignored. Using much cheaper electric pyres has had only limited success. In a piece of great lateral thinking 32 million dollars has been spent on breeding thousands of three-foot long dead flesh eating turtles (you just can't make this stuff up). One downside is that although the turtles wont tackle live flesh they have been known to come out of the water and run off with corpses brought to the waters edge in body bags ready for cremation. What a way to go.
Try to avoid the Ganges unless you happen to enjoy typhoid, tape worm infestation, cholera, viral hepatitus, gastro-eneritis or ameobic dysentry
The first night I ate a plate of Chicken Masala probably not well cooked or some other reasons, I got fever that night and the next day diarrhea and vomit for 3 continuous day. The bacteria here were too strong to challenge, I was defeated the first time ever in my travel so far and spent 3 days on the bed only waiting for time to pass, what a torturous moment that was, can't believe it was here in the holy Varanasi.
Here in Varanasi, the electricity is absolutely not stable and many times blackout daily. If you want to eat something at night or boil water, better to bring your own cooking stuffs. Camping stove is very important for Varanasi but its up to you, I only suggest.
Here in Varanasi, the mosquitoes are about double the size compare to those in my country. The moment we step out from the railway station, we went to a tuk-tuk and the moment we put our luggage into the back seat, a whole bunch of mosquitoes in huge sizes flew out. The driver saw our expresson and laugh "...hahaha, this is Varanasi mosquitoes...hahaha..."
Sorry, no pictures for you, mosquitoes are to difficult to snap.
While strolling on the ghats, this guy appeared from nowhere to ask me to take his photo. My battery was low that moment, so I told him 'no battery'. He was very angry to hear that and shouted "Terimah...!!! @#$%^*& blah blah blah...!!!" repteated many times. I knew it was nothing good from him, but still I turned over and took this photo.
I was nearly into trouble while trying to explore the back alley here. All roads along the ghat are actually back alleys width about 10 feet most, some 6 feet or less. If you are first time to Varanasi, these alleys could be a problem. I was sick that day for diarrhea but insist to explore these alleys, I walked into a place near Shivala Ghat. The place has a beautiful ancient construction of stupas near the river and a guest house named Shiva Gangga. I walked into the playing field where kids playing cricket and the moment I saw a bunch of young men in gang up there. One of them waving hand to invite me up but I said I will walk back after looking at the river. Then as I walk, three young men run to me to shake my hand and began to offer me 'a better view' claimed by them. They actually wanted to drag me into the abondoned construction beside to rob me in the dark but I refuse to go in there while kept saying the Shiva Gangga Hotel peoples are still waiting for me. One of them probably without patience try to pull my hand by strength into that construction but I pretend to enjoy the riverview by saying "Oh look at this view...." then as I get retreat a few step back, I walked quickly towards the original entrance where kids playing cricket and I said the hotel guys are still waiting for me. One of them followed me all the way with mouthful of Ganja smells finally gave up when I get near the hotel and he said, do you have a cigarette, no I don't smoke in reply.
The River Ganges is very Holy, and very venerarated, But it also has one of the worst pollution and microbial ratings in the world.
Studies conducted in 1983 on water samples taken from the right bank of the Ganga at Patna confirm that escheria coliform (E.Coli.), fecal streptococci and vibrio cholerae organisms die two to three times faster in Ganga than in water from other rivers
The principal sources of pollution in the Ganga are domestic and industrial wastes. Conservative estimates put the effluents flowing into Ganga at approximately 1.7 billion litres each day out of which 1.4 billion litres is untreated.
The Ganga basin is home to over 300 million people, out of which 20 million live in densely populated cities directly along it banks. Most of the urban centres lack proper sewage treatment facilities. 88% of the pollution originates in 27 cities located along the banks. While industrial pollution accounts for only about a quarter of the whole problem, it is by no means insignificant since most of it is concentrated in specific areas and the effluents are more hazardous. The state of Uttar Pradesh alone is responsible for over 50% of the pollutants entering the river along its entire journey to the sea.
Domestic and industrial pollution, combined with deforestation, use of pesticides and fertilisers and other factors, have rendered the water of Ganga unfit for drinking or bathing.
Upstream from Varanasi, one of the major pigrimage sites along the river, the water is comparatively pure, having a low Bio-Oxygen Demand (B.O.D.) and Fecal Coliform Count. However, once the river enters the city these levels rise alarmingly. Measurements taken at the city's various bathing ghats during a few years ago show that the average B.O.D of the water rises by over 1300 percent. The average Fecal Coliform Count at the ghats is over 6000 times what it is before the river enters the city.
India is a crazy place. But one of the biggest concerns is water, in particulat drinking water.
If you are like me, and don't really enjoy foreign stomach microfauna, helping you with your weightloss, then you will be a little cagey about drinking the water in India. Never drink tap water. That goes without saying. Often this water comes straight out of an OPEN well. Even if it doesn't, the filtration systems, and chemical treatment is not even close to par. So its best to drink bottled water.
If you are in the main centres, and tourist centres this is a good idea. water is mass produced and usaully treated and then blasted with UV rays.
However if you are in Rural areas, and smaller towns, then often bottled water cannot be trusted. the bottles are refilled and re-sealed with un-treated water. I read a report that reported a water factory pumping water into bottles straight from a nearby stream. So one should always be vigilant.
If you are cagey about bottled water, you caould always drink soft drink (Soda) as they are manufactured under strict international standards. but then that may mean having to brush your teeth more, which takes us back to ahhhhh - bottled water.
I drank Chai. lots of it. and I drank tea. lots of it.