We are back.
So, the autos sped through some fairly narrow lanes of Varanasi and deposited us in front of a street with a door at its entrance (yes, a door !). The board read 'Sri Rama Taraka Andhra Ashram'. The place where we had accommodation (Karivena Brahmana Satram) was supposed to be in the vicinity.
I called the Karivena Satram manager on the cell and he gave me directions. Apparently, the Satram (travelers lodge) is some 150 m from where we were. The autos wouldn't /couldn't go beyond the spot where we got down. So, I went first through the street-door and after a couple of turns, found my self in an area full of pilgrims from Andhra Pradesh, and a few restaurants doing brisk business in Idli, Dosa, Vada, Coffee and Tea. (Great ! Food won't be an issue in this area, I thought). I found the Andhra Ashram too, and a shop keeper there guided me towards the Karivena Satram.
Thirty minutes later, we were all checked in at Karivena Satram. We took four rooms and each room cost us an unbelievable Rs. 175 per day! We were thinking in terms of at least Rs.1000 per day for a decent room, but Varanasi just surprised us completely. Okay, the rooms were very small, about the size of hotel rooms in England. But they were neat and well-maintained for a pilgrimage place. And more importantly, the Satram was just a 2-minute walk from Narad Ghat.
Now, a bit about choosing accommodation at Kasi. It depends on the kind of traveler you are.
1.If you are used to luxury and simply can not do with out sofas, plush king size beds, hot water showers, room service, valet parking, chinese food and so on, you could book your self in any of the hotels in Varanasi city. But you will be a good 30-45 min away from the Vishwanatha Temple and the ghats on Ganga. If you are going to stay in Kasi for just a day or two, and plan to take just the token dip in the river and the token darshan (visit) of Vishwanatha, you should stay in one of these hotels. Info on these hotels is easy to find on the Internet. Just open a new window, and Google for hotels in Varanasi. There you are !
2. On the other hand, if you are on a religious trip, and your group wants to spend a good 5-7 days in and around Kasi, and maximize this once-in-a-lifetime visit to the holiest of the holy places by bathing in the Ganga every day, and visiting Vishwanatha temple at least a few times, you should forego some luxuries and stay as close to the Temple and the ghats as possible. Especially if you have senior citizens in your group, and they can not walk for long distances, staying near the ghats will be very convenient. And as we discovered, quite easy on the purse as well.
3. Because of the last sentence in the above para, we find hundreds of backpackers (mostly foreign and some Indian) living near these ghats. If any of you interacted with these backpackers earlier, you would know they some times stay for more than a month or two, at some of these tourist haunts in India (Goa, Pune, Kasi, Gokarna, Manali etc.) I haven't seen a German Bakery in Goa, but there is one in Pune's Koregaon Park. I was pleasantly surprised to find German Bakery near the Karivena Satram :-) Its called Shiva Cafe and German Bakery (Narad Ghat).
More in tomorrow's post.