The day began at 4.45am with a boat ride from our hotel to Assi Ghat to witness the morning Aarty Ceremony.
Here hundreds gather to watch the trainee priests say Good Morning to ‘Mother’ – the Ganga river, then do an open yoga session which included laughing, lion breathing & chanting.
It was fascinating! 😮
After a delicious Masala Tea, our guide took us back out on the boat to witness the sunrise & tell us lots of ancient Hindu mythological stories about how Varanasi & the Ganga river came to be.
The rest of the morning was spent walking around the Southern end of the city, visiting temples & eating the most beautiful street food!
After an early afternoon rest due to the heat (it’s about 45 degrees Celsius here right now!), we met our sevond guide for the day Sudarshan.
This time we visited the Northern end of the city, saw more temples, heard lots more fabulous stories & ate more street food.
As the evening approached we boarded a boat and headed to the cremation site which is an incredibly moving experience.
Lastly we witnessed the evening Aarty Ceremony where thousands gather to watch the trainee priests say Goodnight to Mother.
My description of the day has been pretty matter if fact but there is nothing matter of fact about Varanasi.
An intensity spiritual city the feelings you experience particularly when sailing along the Ganga & witnessing the rituals & ceremonies are almost indescribable.
I felt deep joy, gratitude, sadness, love & excitement all in one go!
I found myself exploring my emotions, my priorities, my desires & asking myself if I was on the right path, if I was loving enough, if I was giving enough.
I found myself reassessing that which I perceive to be important & searching for that which would add the most value to the world & bring me the greatest fulfilment.
The whole experience has left me with a sense of calm, a feeling of gratitude & a renewed love of life & people (as if I needed that last part).
I know, sounds a bit whacky. But seriously Varanasi will do something to you and that was just in one day!
I will definitely return and spend a few days there to truly reap the spiritual benefits of this magical place.
And now I have family there! Our guide for the afternoon and evening was quite simply a beautiful soul & highly recommended.
He was born & raised in Varanasi but left to study Mechanical Engineering in Chennai. After securing a good job with Renault his father fell ill and he was forced to return to Varanasi.
He now works as a tour guide & engineering teacher & consultant. An intelligent & articulate young man with clearly an extremely kind heart.
Sudarshan from Roobaroowalks.com. Highly recommended! 😁
When I asked if it was safe for me to return alone (it felt super safe by the way but always good to check in case I can’t persuade Rhett to join me), he said of course & you will not be alone, you have family here now. 😁
This morning we arrived at New Delhi train station for our early morn train to Jaipur.
As we approached the baggage check area a chap checking tickets (supposedly) told us that the train was cancelled.
He told us we’d have to go to an office near the old Delhi station (30 mins away) get a refund & book new tickets for another train at 7.15.
We were clearly not convinced so he took us to another chap who was apparently the ‘tourist’ guy who proceeded to explain to us in very good English & very convincingly this was indeed the case and explained very clearly where we needed to go & what we needed to do.
He even negotiated a low taxi fare for us.
But clearly something didn’t sit right.
We got in the taxi & started to head off & Natalie searched up train cancellations from Delhi & the word SCAM filled our screen!!!
With less than 8 minutes to go we shouted at the taxi driver to turn around & drive us back asap!
He was awesome & managed to skip past all the traffic even running alongside us pointing the platform entrance (he was clearly not part of the scam).
We had to run to get on the train & my poor sister couldn’t catch her breath!
Thankfully we made it & as I write this I’ve just had a nice cup of tea on the train to Jaipur. ☕️
Beware any westerners catching trains from New Delhi. On reading further, they’re organised crime groups who have been running for years!
So many tourists have been stung for hundreds after being told the train is cancelled then full then having to book a car to get where they want to go! 😮
I have to admit I am feeling a little gullible right now as we did fall for it stupidly without checking the station boards (mainly because he was telling us how urgent it was or we’d miss the next train) but thankfully this wonderful internet world allows people to share similar experiences!!!
Plus I’ve done my exercise for the day! 😁😁😁
Funnily enough I’m quite glad it happened as it adds to the whole experience, but I may be thinking quite differently had I missed the train!
No-one said that travel is always easy, but it’s always fun!!! 😂😂
Yesterday we arrived in Agra on the Gattiman Express from Delhi.
That’s an experience all in its own! The Hazrat Nizamuddin train station in Delhi is both busy & chaotic, but with big signs everywhere we were able to find our platform fairly easily.
They say grab a porter to show you where to go which you can do if that makes you feel a bit more comfortable but it’s not rocket science. 😁
Anyway nice comfy train, and lots of food so don’t have breakfast before you go!
Once in Agra we jumped in a tuk tuk to our hotel with a friendly chap called Ali. In no time at all he’d sold us his services for the day and after a quick check in we were on route to the Baby Taj!
We spent a few hours visiting the Baby Taj (Tomb of Itimad-ud-Daulah), the park opposite the Taj Mahal (Mehtab Bagh) with amazing views of the Taj, the Agra Fort & an amazing Indian restaurant for a Kingfisher & a snack.
All in all a great afternoon which cost us 2000 rupees for tuk tuk & driver with tip (about $25).
We stayed at the Grand Mansion hotel a lovely hotel with a rooftop pool with views of the Taj Mahal. Also huge benefit, only a 10 min walk from the Taj! 😁
So this morning we set our alarm for 4.30am and by 5.45am were walking through the gates of the Taj Mahal.
It was magnificent!
It’s as beautiful as you imagine it to be and I was so happy to get there so early as were able to get pics with no people.
Quick tip, a guide for the Agra Fort is well worth the money (about 1000 rupees), a guide for the Taj Mahal is not necessary.
Before you go just look up Wikipedia and you’ll learn everything you need to know about this magnificent tomb!
I feel so blessed and lucky to be experiencing these amazing wonders of the world!
I also have to remind myself I’ve worked my backside off for this and created a business that gives me the opportunity to travel the world and see all these amazing things. 🗺✈️
If you’d told me back in 2010 this was possible I’m not sure I would have believed you. So if you’re at the start of building your lifestyle business, keep going.
You can have the life you want if you’re prepared to put in the work! 😁
So now for us back to Delhi to see what awaits us there! 🚈