Doris's Dear Diary - Naked man - Naked zoo

Trip Start Sep 02, 2012
Trip End Oct 10, 2012

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Where I stayed
Hotel Victerrace Kolkata (Calcutta)
Read my review - 3/5 stars

Flag of India  , West Bengal,
Saturday, September 22, 2012

Wed – Varanasi. Had an uneventful
overnight train journey, relatively comfortable - apart from the
toilets – the plan is that you try not to eat or drink, to avoid having to go!   Holding your
breath, trying to squat and hovver above the seat all at the same time whilst trying not to
hold or touch anything on a moving train, is a bit of an art form I
can tell you.
We arrived in Varanasi feeling a bit apprehensive
about our hotel after what we had seen on the journey from the station.
Piles of rubbish everywhere and when I say piles, I do mean PILES!   Fortunately, the Hotel Haifa was really
good and the restaurant food was superb.
Apparently it's renowned for good food and people come from other
hotels to eat there – in fact it's the first time our restaurant where we've been staying, has
had people in it other than our group – this one was rammed - always
a good sign
Varanasi is the holiest place in India
and the vast river Ganges is the place where the ashes are scattered
after cremations.  This ceremony is performed for the bereaved family
by a holy man on the ghats of the river.
We had a couple of boat trips, which were magical.  We did one at sunset
where we lit candles and placed them on the water and as they floated
away we were told to make a wish.
Afterwards we watched a religious celebration performed on the Ghats. The
following morning we had another boat trip and we saw the sunrise over
the Ganges.  There were hundreds of people swarming about - some bathing in
the water, some making food and cooking, many babies and young
children having their heads shaved.   It was amazing and fascinating – so much going
There was so much to see here and I was so annoyed with myself for having
squandered most of the afternoon trying to send a parcel of my stuff home –
mainly to make room in my case to buy more.  Thought this would be simple –
but why would I think that as nothing else here is straightforward or simple!
Thankfully DJ was helping me, god knows how long it would've taken
without his input.  I'd put all my stuff in a backpack, which then needed
to go in a box.  After a whole reel of gaffer tape had been used on
that – and an hour later – it then had to be put into a mesh bag,
sewn up, then melted wax put over the stitching – that's 2 hours gone!   I
then went with DJ to the post office in a tuk tuk.  After queuing for ages, we finally reached the counter and were then sent round the back of the counter into the office bit. DJ was told to go
off to get the customs forms for me and he was gone absolutely ages
– thought he'd had enough and buggered off!  Eventually he came
back – it turns out they were out of custom forms, so they sent him out to
get them printed himself!  What a set-up this is!
I had 4 identical forms to fill in – no carbon paper – listing the 17 items
individually plus all manner of information which took about
hour.   Finally the paper work was completed, the wrapping had
passed inspection, it was time to post the parcel.  Guess what – they
didn't have United Kingdom listed on their system!  Never heard of it!  We tried
'England' – no not heard of that one either – 'Britain' (you'd
have thought there was a clue there) but no – 'Great Britain' –
oh yes that's the one – you know, the one that used to govern India!
I was rapidly losing the will to live!
If the 40 degree heat didn't slow your
reactions down so much, you could take photos of stuff
just about every other second.  If it's not a camel or cow or summat
blocking the road, it's some man urinating by the roadside. Maybe
someone on the pavement getting his hair cut, or having a shave or
someone with a typewriter at a desk in the middle of the pavement
doing a bit of office work. There are people sitting on the floor with sewing machines,
there's the poor disabled beggars – the ones unable to walk, wearing 2 pairs
of shoes – a pair for their feet and a pair for their hands. It's all incredible,
you feel dizzy cause your brain's whirring trying to look at all this stuff.
We were on our way to the zoo (and I use that term very loosely!) to try and
get a bit of fresh (or fresher) air when I spotted a completely, absolutely totally completely,
naked man taking a casual stroll down the street – just nice as you
please!   How novel!  I just can't remember the last time I saw that sight in Dronfield.

The zoo – mmm... Well there were
some cages.....and pretty much virtually bugger all else!   Think I spotted a
rabbit in one of the cages, and to be fair there was the head of a little croc popping
above some water, but we weren't really that impressed.  Well to be fair, why would we be cause we're now used to seeing a full compliment of zoo animals every day
out on the streets!  We jossle along with the camels, water buffalo, cows,
goats, monkeys, elephants, dogs and rats as they meander about - we're an integral part of the zoo every day!  Actually, apart from the empty cages, it was very pleasant being away
from the hustle and bustle for a while, we enjoyed the trip.
After 2 nights in Varanasi, it was time to leave and catch our last overnight
train with our travelling group to Kolkata. We arrived about 9am the following
morning and took a proper taxi to our hotel. The railway station was a
few miles out of the city and Fred commented that the outskirts
looked 'different' – meaning clean!   And he was right - it was
clean – what a shock, we couldn't get our heads round it!  We
arrived and couldn't believe how clean the streets were!  People were
out there sweeping and putting rubbish in bins!   Unbelievable –
where did they learn to do that?  Had a lovely trip to Mother
Theresa's orphanage and met some inspiring people. We then strolled
down the road to where Mother Theresa's museum and home was,
Ginger was there in front, as always, being greeted by a lovely lady
who was showing us the signs on the wall about Mother Theresa and the
next thing she's wanting us to have our photo taken with her.
Such a lovely lady!  She showed us the entrance to the museum – what a lovely
lady!  And when we came out, the smiley lovely lady was there again
with a smiley disabled lady, who was wanting some milk. Ginger to the rescue
says 'of course' I'll buy you some milk' and 'is there a shop
nearby?'   Well, silly question really, of course there was a shop nearby, (no danger there)
and of course they sold milk, but the lovely smiley disabled lady specifically wanted
Ginger to purchase a tub of dried milk - for summat like 9!!! -
when has dried milk ever been that expensive? - (must have been that
powdered milk with gold nuggets mixed in, we all hear about!)  So
after us all piling into the shop all smiley smiley, and trying to be
helpful doing a good deed (inspired I suppose by Mother Theresa),
along with the smiley disabled person and the extra extra smiley
lovely lady – Ginger suddenly puts her hands up when she realises
the scam and with a 'no no no' we all storm back out of the shop and
the smiles are quickly wiped from their faces. (This has happened before and
the idea is that you pay for the item, then the person returns it to
the shopkeeper afterwards and gets a 'commission'.)
Oh dear – it did put the mockers on
our inspirational afternoon!
Kolkata was clean but we found the
locals not too friendly. We had our last supper – we were leaving
behind Christina – who was going back to Germany, Ewan – who was
flying to Singapore, then Bangkok and Maddie, who was going to Nepal
(Anya had left the day before). The rest of us were flying to Chennai to join
the next trip. They kindly all got up early the next morning to wave
us off.  Bye bye x

My Review Of The Place I Stayed

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