Day 6 – Agra – Banaras – December 4th, 2017
Agra Airport is where it got interesting. My flight was to leave at 1325. I had breakfast, got my things together and left. Again, I like to be early, it just calms the nerves. The airport itself is shared with the Air Force so that was pretty cool in itself. How can it get any cooler? The funniest part is that I ran into the CEO and CFO of the company I work for. No joke. As 3 Audi Q5’s roll up, I could only guess that it was someone of importance. Low and behold, the first person walking in is my CEO. A surprised greeting it was for both of us. We exchanged a few words and then they were on their way. A small world indeed! Luckily for them they had the company plane ready to go. So how else can this get any more interesting? I ran into Oscar at the security check-in, the guy I met at the Airbnb in Delhi. Banaras was the next stop and Oscar was also staying at the same place as I. What a weird day but it was good to have another person there with me in Banaras as Banaras is insane!
When we arrived, we shared a cab and made the long drive into the Holy City. As with any populated city, the traffic is claustrophobic. If you are one who does not like being in confined places then avoid cities in India altogether. The alleys are narrow, the traffic in side streets is insane even if you are on foot. The cab dropped us off in the centre of the road since cars were allowed no further. Next goal was to find the Marigold Guest House. You really have to look carefully in the alleys as you can easily miss the place and wander away, not that that’s a bad thing either. Oh, since I had a wheeled duffel I was always looking down, to avoid the cow dung that is everywhere. I really did not want that on my luggage!
The Marigold Guest House was actually not bad. On first appearance it didn’t look pleasant but the room was cozy, and the location was just perfect! Banaras has the most Ghats out of any place in India. A Ghat is defined as steps leading to a river. I was at Munshi Ghat, and just a 30 second walk to Dashashwamedh Ghat, where one of many Ganga Aartis is performed.
After we checked-in, we left our bags and headed out down the steps and just made it midway to the Aarti. Seeing this on TV is one thing but to experience it in person is totally insane. In a good way. More on that later. The first goal was Beer and dinner. Ganpati Restaurant turned out to be pretty good with some sweet views as well. We had a satisfying dinner of kashmiri pulao, egg curry, naan and BEER.
Next, we headed down and wandered the endless alleys. Filled with textiles, jewelry, clothing, food etc it never ends, the small shop/stalls pretty much sell the same things. Unlike Thailand, the shop owners were not pushy at all. Passing by the small shops that sell sweets, it’s hard not to stop and try. The gajar halwa was amazing, nice and hot! The Banarasi tea in the clay pot was interesting and not overly sweet. Walking back towards the steps and back up to the room, it was not as hectic anymore. The Aarti was long finished and you only had locals relaxing, drinking tea or having a snack.