Our guide said it was like we had walked into a movie set and the director screamed “action.” It was a perfect representation, everyone and every vehicle were in motion.
For three hours we walked through the streets and alleyways of downtown and northern Varanasi. It was at once surreal and a bit intimidating. Intimidating because I felt like I could get mowed down by a motorbike or Three-Wheeler at any moment. Our 30ish guide encouraged us to find the flow of the city and just move with it. Let me tell you that is easier said than done.
The alleys were just wide enough for a motorbike, a person pressed against a wall, and maybe a sleeping dog, trash, or a randomly placed step. If a cow appeared, all bets were off. One time a large (possibly aggressive ) monkey blocked our passage. The pathways are uneven and wet. Sometimes shopkeepers were dumpling water to clean the area in front of their shop, often they were sweeping – but both the water and the swept trash have nowhere to go except a few feet ahead. When the “wet” was not from water it was best not to think about it.
Most shops were closed, getting cleaned, painted and ready for the Diwali
celebrations to start in a couple of days. There was plenty of activity to freshen up the tiny stores and hang lights for the festival. Sweet shops were open and ready to sell the traditional treats often used as gifts during the festival.
A highlight was a visit to a local flower market. We made our way up narrow, high steps to walk on the surrounding flat (rail-less) rooftops and view the scene below us. This is a wholesale market and sellers and buyers were haggling over prices for bulk purchase of garlands, aromatic leaves, and flower petals used for rituals and celebrations. It’s one of the few examples of Hindi and Muslim, women and men, doing business together. It was a highlight for both Sarah and me.
We had an interesting ride in a Three-Wheeler (BTW that’s what they call a Tuk Tuk here), before walking through more alleys. But evening had faded into night. What was interesting during the day became alarming in the dark.
Time for relaxing in our lovely hotel and a delicious traditional local dinner (remember, no alcohol here) before packing for our very early morning departure for Agra.