We have arrived in Varanasi after a 15 hour train ride (ran late by three hours for no explained reason) but our hotel is fantastic! Right on the river side, heres a site where you can see some photos of it: http://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g297685-d652869-Reviews-Hotel_Alka-Varanasi_Uttar_Pradesh.html
Click on the photos tab to the right of the page and have a look through. Our room doesn't have a view bur it does have a hot shower, tv and the mattress is approximately 18cm thick, slightly thicker than the 10cm we have been sleeping on. There's monkeys all around our hotel swinging round the pipes etc, and we just ate at the restaurant here looking over the ganges one curry, two naans a coke and a beautiful view for $4.
I think this is my favourite place so far, even though there's heaps of people the area where our hotel has a motor ban around it so it's so peaceful. We walked along some of the ghats (riverside sacred areas) and a hindu ceremony was being performed the whole place smells like insense!
Photo from earlier tonight, on the banks of the ganges.
I was pretty nervous getting onto the train, alex booked us into cheapest sleeping section possible so in a room approx. 1.5m by 3m = 8 people sleeping. However, luckily I had the top bed! Nadine and Steven if you're reading this your silk liners have been lifesavers! Can't believe anyone would travel without one!
Railway stations are pretty crazy here but such a good way to see a bit more of India. We went through heaps of rural villages (stick huts etc) and I swear the driver stops some of the time to only let chai-wallahs and other men selling food on. Constant yelling CHAI CHAI COFFEE CHAI COFFEE COFFEE and a jumble of other words we can't understand but imitate anyway. Seen at least ten people pooing - pants down, squatting whilst riding the trains too! One small boy even being held over the tracks by his sister as he pooed at a railway station - lucky rats!
Forgot to add a couple of other photos from Agra - we had a loco cycle rickshaw diver who drove us to his friends 'gem shops' which we later read is a common occurence in the lonely planet. And he even had a guest book!
This is a wee family we met down a back street in Agra, bubba on the left has the biggest cheeks you've ever seen!
Mini farm opp. house above
Wall of cow poo pats
We have been drinking so much chai, it is delicious, much sweeter than in NZ
Best be off to book in some activities for the next wee while