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Old 6th April 2021, 13:12   #1
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Default Lost in Varanasi - An Innova Crysta Venture

"Benaras is older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend and look twice as old as all of them put together."
- Mark Twain


Lost in Varanasi - An Innova Crysta Venture-img_20210331_054447_crop.jpg

Beyond the rich historical significance of Varanasi, there are several other angles which make Varanasi a magnet for visitors around the globe, from the pilgrims to the backpacker tourists, Varanasi means different to each one of them.

Varanasi means living in the history through the rituals and traditions
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Varanasi means witnessing the flow of time, . . be it while floating on the Ganges . . from the dawn . .
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. . to the dusk . .
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. . or just getting around the 88 ghats and attaining omnipresence
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Varanasi means waiting for eternity in queues only to get a glimpse of the almighty
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Varanasi means not only celebrating the present as if there is no tomorrow . .
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. . but also remembering our past through offering of rituals to our ancestors
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Varanasi means discovering hidden worlds while venturing through its eternal Galis . . be it day
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. . or night
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Varanasi means spoiling yourself with never ending choices on local offerings . . be it the street delicacies on one hand
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. . or some of the finest handicrafts in the entire world on the other
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Varanasi means attaining Moksha, only if you are fortunate enough to die here
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Varanasi means connecting dots across religions . . as in following the Buddhism trail from Sarnath . .
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. . to all the way till Bodhgaya
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Varanasi . . a place where everyone has something to fall in love with
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We were fortunate enough to have been able to materialize a tour of Varanasi and Bodhgaya around end of this March and early April after our last tour plan back in 2016 got stalled. The last time I visited Varanasi was way back in 1999 and a lot of it has changed in these years.

Here is the trip itinerary :-
[Day 0 & 1] 26 - 27 March 2021 : Kolkata to Varanasi drive :- Link
[Day 2] 28 March 2021 : In and around Varanasi, street foods, ghats (part 1) :- Link
[Day 2] 28 March 2021 : In and around Varanasi, evening river ride (part 2) :- Link
[Day 3] 29 March 2021 : Holi & Kashi Biswanath Darshan at Varanasi :- Link
[Day 4] 30 March 2021 : Varanasi Handloom Visit :- Link
[Day 5] 31 March 2021 : Varanasi early morning boat ride, Sarnath, drive to Bodhgaya (Part 1) :- Link
[Day 5] 31 March 2021 : Varanasi early morning boat ride, Sarnath, drive to Bodhgaya (Part 2) :- Link
[Day 6] 01 April 2021 : In and around Bodhgaya, Mahabodhi Temple:- Link
[Day 7 & 8] 02 - 03 April 2021 : In and around Bodhgaya, Topchanchi Lake, drive back to Kolkata :- Link

Enquired with several BHPians on route, timings and hotels and eventually the plan was all set by mid of February within a week of rigorous planning. Thereafter it was just counting the days backwards until the day of the journey arrived.

Note: All precautions for pandemic protection were followed as per the guideline of this thread (How to travel with precautions as India opens up)

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Old 6th April 2021, 14:16   #2
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[Day 0 & 1] 26 & 27 March - Kolkata to Varanasi

Cold start right out of garage by 9-45 pm, although eventually loading up and picking everyone else it was past 11 pm
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Alipore was blocked so we were forced to take Khidderpore, too many trucks created bottleneck
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Crossed Vidyasagar Setu Toll Plaza by 12 midnight, a detour via Andul road and then via GT road to bypass continued traffic of trucks until Dankuni Toll Plaza, eventually after 1 am the roads became much free to drive ahead as we moved forward on NH-2 / NH-19
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After a 45 min halt for a speedy in-car dining at Azad Hind Dhaba of Gurap, around 2-15 pm we resumed once again
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Entering Jharkhand at dawn we were greeted with beautiful 3+3 lane highways, met a few diversions owing to road widening work
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Around 6 am we crossed Topchanchi
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Found this truck with no number plate on the back, local influence?
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Around 8 am we made the breakfast halt at a highway restaurant New India Restaurant near Mahugara - Jharkhand, and had excellent Aloo Parathas and Puri Sabji, got sparkling clean washrooms and very warm service of the staff
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We found them beside the restaurant, we resumed again shortly after 9 am
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Some little ahead found a series of shops selling swords on the highway, we slowed down to get a snap, but the way shopkeepers started approaching thinking of us as prospective buyers I pressed the Gas pedal in haste, a little later I took a short power nap pulling over beside the highway
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The roads in Jharkhand continued to amaze us with the beautiful series of red Palash all along the highway
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As we entered in the later part of the day the usual daily commuters also joined us on the highway
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Around 12-30 pm we decided to halt at Aurangabad, Bihar for lunch, the approach from highway was absolutely congested
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The restaurant in Aurangabad, Salt and Pepper, had very limited Chinese options but the hunger made us overlook everything else
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Resuming post 2 pm from Aurangabad, we crossed Dehri on Sone smooth with no traffic by 2-40 pm
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Owing to road construction in the stretch after Dehri on Sone, it was insanely dusty outside, resumed from here after another power nap by 3 pm
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However rest of the roads in Bihar, although concrete based were good, just that tyre noise was irritating, post a refueling break around 4 pm we continued on our way
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Around 4-40 pm we encountered heavy highway traffic while entering UP during crossing the bridge over Karmanasa River
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Therafter traffic eased and we got excellent highways until Varanasi
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Entered Varanasi around 5-30 pm and moments later were greeted by Airabat
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While the roads near the outskirts were like regular and wide, the closer we came towards Godowlia, the congestion increased
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Finally we arrived at the Godowlia crossing by 6 pm, road construction and closure made us take an alternate Sonapura route to Godowlia
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With some local guidance entered peacefully into the parking lot of our hotel Ganges Grand, right at the Godowlia crossing
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After a speedy check-in and fast unpacking, though tired after the 19 hours and 700+ KMs of drive we decided to make some use of the evening and ventured out to the famous Kashi Chat Bhander which was just 30 seconds walk from our hotel
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Super crowded, but the youth major crowd majority seemed to obey safe gathering norms well, for most of it, witnessed the uber high craze of this shop
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Tomatar ki Chat being readied
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We tried both the Tomatar ki Chaat along with Aloo Tikki Chaat
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The Pani Puri we tried was also excellent
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Found a private corner with no one facing us and literally dived forward at such appealing delicacies, before returning back to hotel for dinner and calling it a day
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A video on Kashi Chat Bhandar from a Youtuber

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Old 12th April 2021, 02:28   #3
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[Day 2] 28th March - Roaming in Varanasi (Part 1)

Afterall its Varanasi, so ditched the breakfast buffet at the hotel, setout traversing through Galis in search of the local street food wonders
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Crossed some appealing gems in the Galis, but did not stop as our destiny was fixed at something else
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Within 10 minutes reached the famous Ram Bhandar
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They were struggling to meet the demand even at their closing of breakfast hour, there was queue to place order
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After much waiting got hands on their Badi Kachori with Sabji
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The Jalebi was even better, sadly we missed the Chhoti Kachori as it was already past 10 am
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A video on Ram Bhander from a Youtuber


By 10-45 am we left Ram Bhander but did not wish to give up yet on the morning adventure, so went on searching further
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while we went past some amazing structures
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and managed some quick clicks
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until we reached another famous place, the Lakshmi Chai Wala, their renowned Bread Toasts with both white and yellow butter are excellent
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Make special request for the butter to be slit inside and not on top, that is the specialty, it is hence toasted twice
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Special Tea with toasted bread and masala is an excellent option here
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But the crown of the place, came at the end, the Malai Toast with thick layer of milk cream, mild toasted and topped with sugar, people seemed to wait just for this, so did we, and it was definitely the best item of this place
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A Happy tummy leaves the Customers happy, that is what it matters at the end
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A video on Lakshmi Chai Wala from a Youtuber


Being too heavy footed to walk, we hired rickshaws to go to the Dashaswamedh Ghat
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It was quite sunny and hot outside but we liked being here even at noon
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We spent around half an hour strolling at the ghat and also booked the evening river ride
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While returning back to hotel from the ghat, we did some shopping and also quenched our thirst, copper items are really cheaper here
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Unlike the one at the Wall Street this one is not inanimate, we came back to hotel from the ghat in 10 mins walk and rested until evening post lunch
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Set out again from the hotel a little before 6 pm and headed for the ghat to avail our evening river ride, the crowd seemed to be way more in the evening
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The fragrance of Holi was already in the air
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Old 12th April 2021, 02:30   #4
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[Day 2 - Part 2] 28 March - In and around Varanasi, evening boat ride

. . continued from the previous post

We witnessed the last lap of Ganga Arati preparations at the Dasashwamedh Ghat
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We approached our ride for the evening in a small boat while it was parked a little away from the jetty . .
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. . and boarded the Bajra finally, as promised in the morning they had put clean blankets and pillow covers on the top deck
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The Bajra sailed slowly towards Assi Ghat, the guide explaining to us the history and significance of each ghat and any famous anecdotes associated
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With evening slowly settling in the ghats were also getting lighted up
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Initially we were sitting politely on the chairs but got into the mood of Varanasi and took a relaxed position on the mattress and the pillow soon. From Assi Ghat the Bajra turned back
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When day light was almost gone, the entire trail of the lighted ghats appeared as a golden necklace to the Ganges
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We went past Dasaswamedh Ghat to the other side towards Manikarnika Ghat
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The view of cremations at Manikarnika Ghat is thrilling, per our Hindu belief to die and be cremated here helps to achieve Moksha, a release from the continuous cycle of life, death and rebirth
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The sheer glow coming from the lighted ghats helped capturing some wonderful moments
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Finally we came back to the Dasaswamedh Ghat and started watching the Aarti from the Bajra
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Numerous boats were also lined up in the same way, people coming from all over India watching the grandeur of the Ganga Aarti
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We floated lighted Diyas in remembrance of our ancestors in the Ganges, we bought them from a hawker who came boat to boat selling these
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Several Bajras like ours also lined up for the final watch of the evening, we got tilak from the Aarti sitting right at the boat, a priest came over to all the boats and Bajras to offer the same
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Although not part of the initial deal, we negotiated drop at the Assi Ghat for some additional fees, and by that time it was past 730 pm and the evening Aarti had finished
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The pre holi plays had already started and people were flocking at the Assi Ghat to watch the grand Holika Dahan on the eve of Holi
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On the Assi Ghat itself there are two pizza cafes, finding no place in the Pizzeria Vatika Cafe, we eventually settled in the PizzaTown just ooposite to it which offers indoor and outdoor dining with clear view of the Assi Ghat and Ganga Aarti
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In the open compound of the PizzaTown
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Finally the Pizza arrived, although pure Veg, was indeed tasty including the mocktails and the garlic breads
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Wrapping up our dinner we headed back for the main road for returning to our Hotel by walking some connecting Galis
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We bought some Gulal (Abir) for tomorrows holi celebration and then got a Toto finally after lot of refusals as no one was willing to go towards Godowlia
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But there was a huge Holika Dahan in the middle of the street ahead and our Toto driver was contemplating taking an alternate route
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After much debate the Toto driver decided to go past it, we felt the intense heat from the fire almost burning our skin as we went past the same
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Found another Dahan closer to our hotel on the way, eventually we reached Godowlia by 9-30 pm. We bought some Thandai from Babloo Thandai shop right at the Godowlia crossing and packed up for storing inside our minibars since shops will be closed tomorrow, the shopkeeper put lot of extra malai to make it more enticing and we had to ask them to not to put bhaang as we do not intend to get high. Came to our rooms and called it a day.
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Here is a Youtuve video on Thandai making at Varanasi

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Old 12th April 2021, 02:39   #5
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[Day 3] 29 March - Holi celebration and Vishwanath Darshan

It was the Holi day, we came down to the breakfast table, dressed in all whites, to quickly grab something before beginning our private celebration, the hotel was running under reduced staffing hence service was slow
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Our hotel had recommended previously that we can play in the backyard, hence some self preparations before we ventured outside
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A small change in plans, we decided to take a peek at the front hearing some loud music, came out and found that everyone had eyes focused ahead . .
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. . because Yahan to "Pawri" ho rahi hai, Mega Holi Celebration
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A DJ event for Holi organized by the locals, right on the Godowlia Crossing, while Police on standby at one corner to ensure peacekeeping
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Here are the two accounts of Holi celebration, first one being our celebration on the pavement in front of the hotel and the other one being the mega holi celebration at a distance happening on the street. Pardon the cropped images from the videos in some shots which ended up in some degree of pixelation.
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After a solid fun hour we concluded our play outside and headed for our rooms
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What we tucked away last night in the minibar came to great use for the occasion, Banarasi Thandais with extra malai, it was the perfect climax of Holi celebration. Lunch was at the hotel and we decided to take a stab at the Vishwanath darshan in the evening
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We set out in the evening for the Vishwanath Temple, there was as expected severe crowd and queue at the gali leading to the temple
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A Shehnai and Tabla session was going to start their evening performance in the Gali
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So were several shops which were slowly opening up
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We kept our belongings in a locker store, bought Puja ki Tokri from there and finally entered the Temple complex to offer puja at both the Biswanath and Annapurna temples. Security was very tight everywhere and even on the day of Holi lot of people have come for the Darshan. It took us overall an hour and half from entering to Gali to coming out finally post our darshan. Inspite of several folks temping us to either promise skipping of queues at the exchange of trivial money or guiding us for the darshan we politely denied them as it is fairly simple with no hasstle.
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Close to the gate, we attempted to have some Kachori at a local place but did not like at all, so eventually headed for Kashi Chat Bhander, Tomatar ki Chaat and Chura Matar was waiting for us
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Dahi Papri Chaat also joined the party later
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And ending the evening with Kulfi, we returned to our hotel, called it a day after some light dinner at night
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Old 12th April 2021, 02:41   #6
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[Day 4] 30 March - The Banarasi Saree and Paan, evening Aarti

Another fine morning in Varanasi, started sharp at 9 from the Hotel and in a short 10 min walk arrived at Gauri Sankar Kachori Wale
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Their famous Chhoti Kachori seemed to be in high demand as we stood in queue, they were crushing the kachoris using two plates one above the other without touching them with bare hands
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The production line seemed to be strong and promising
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After around 10 mins of wait got hands on our plate of Choti Kachoris, dipped in Sabzi and topped with Hari (Green) and Meethi (Sweet) Chatnis, tasted heavenly while we engulphed them at the blink of an eye
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A video on Gauri Shankar KAchori Wale from a Youtuber


Something sweet was on the mind, crazily searched for the seasonal delicacy, Malaiyo but got lost in the Galis trying to search for a shop which locals told may still be offering it
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Ended up finding them around Ghasi Tola, they are very much part of the locality as others. Nevertheless we gave up searching for Malaiyo as we learnt until 15th March it was last available since the morning dew is essential in the making of it.
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A video from a Youtuber on famous Malaiyo of Varanasi


As we navigated our way out to the main road with the help of a local, went past some old wonders . .
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. . and had some memorable clicks . .
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. . while we went past KaalVairo (or Kaal Vairava / KaalVairava) temple with its eternal queues . .
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. . through the busy galis until we reached the main road again at Rabindranath Tagore Road, the local had Kolkata connection and conversed with us all the way and even bargained the Toto fare for us
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On the recommendation of the Tota wala, we arrived at S.P. Silk Museum in Jaitpura, for authentic Banarasi sarees and dress materials, around 2 KM from the Varanasi Railway Station
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The place was beautifully planned with residential area, handloom and showroom all integrated in one place
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Initially we were skeptical, but the collection was indeed jaw dropping, prospects soon became buyers . .
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. . while the collection seemed never ending . .
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. . from Kathans to KhinKhwab to Brocade Kurta pieces, even I ended up buying one for myself . .
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The weavers were also along playing a full time role in carefully folding away the ones being opened relentlessly
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Two and half hours of experiencing pure Varanasi handicraft bliss seemed to pass in no time. Before we left the owner gave us a live tour of the handloom as he meticulously explained every tiny detail on how silk quality differs from Mysore to Local Banarasi threads, from 5% silver threads to 15% ones and what contributes to higher cost, impact of lockdown on labour, the nearby village where they have the bigger factory and that they make custom sarees based on individual specification, how local boutiques in other cities order from them, and what not.
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We returned to our Hotel by 1-30 pm and had our lunch, Biriyani at the hotel was okayish
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Our evening plan was to witness the Ganga Aarti at Assi Ghat, so took a Toto from Godowlia Crossing and reached Assi Ghat crossing loads of traffic, a small halt given at Ksheer Sagar of Sonapura for their famous Peda (Pera), handed over our contact number for informing us the moment Peda stock arrives in the evening. Assi Ghat aartis are not as grand as Dasaswamedh Ghat but the crowd is manageable with more open space . .
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. . but the attraction is that three Aartis take place simultaneously one beside the other, the crowd is majorly youth owing to the nearby colleges
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The Aartis are truly grand, no matter where and the focused crowd loved watching them with undivided attention
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Our next stop was the nearby Root Cafe & Restaurant which offers a great view of Ganges and Assi ghat from its top floor
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The view of Ganges from the top of Root Cafe
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We spent a good 2 hours there . .
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. . enjoying the chinese (pure veg) offerings for an early dinner. We had to leave receiving a call from Ksheer Sagar that Peda has arrived.
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Ksheer Sagar of Sonapura let us enter through the back door as the front shutter was already down being past 9 pm, but they honoured their commitment and nicely packed all that we wanted. While returning to hotel there was one local delicacy we did not want to let go, the Banarasi Paan, and nearby to our Hotel right after Kashi Chaat Bhander we found Gama Paan Bhander where we found exactly what we intended to have, before wrapping up the day.
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A video on Gama Paan Bhander on youtube

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Old 12th April 2021, 02:43   #7
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[Day 5 - Part 1] 31st March - Early morning boat ride, Sarnath and transfer to Bodhgaya

This was a busy day, we would be leaving Varanasi and heading for Bodhgaya, so 5-30 am sharp we arrived at Dasaswamedh Ghat to get on our pre booked ride
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But we were not alone, so were many others like us to witness the sunrise
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and those who wanted to offer prayers were also there
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the lights were still on as we headed in our boat towards Assi Ghat to witness the morning Aarti
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The other ghats were mostly empty and tranquil, while the early morning cool breeze refreshed our souls
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We spotted the Brahmins at the Assi Ghat jetty performing rituals as we approached
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We did not want to wait for the entire morning Aarti to finish, after which the free morning Yoga sessions would have started at Assi Ghat. Instead we decided to go at the middle of the Ganges and wait patiently for the sun to come up
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and the sun did show itself shortly, what a moment and place to witness the sunrise
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Thereafter we went to the other side of the Ganges opposite to Dasaswamedh Ghat, which was the dried up river bed that shows up during summer and winter but gets submerged in monsoon and at a point when water rises over threshold the boating on Ganges also halts
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We had our morning chai there and bought empty cans available in abundance for carrying Gangajaal, but ditched the camel and horse rides owing to COVID times and boarded our boat again
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Our boat headed towards the 88th and last ghat of Varanasi near the Malviya bridge, crossing Dasaswamedh ghat (41st Ghat, Assi Ghat being the 1st)
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While we came near the Malviya bridge, our boatman stopped the noisy diesel engine and let the boat drift freely as it slowly came under the shadow of the Malviya bridge, it was such a serene environment with just the sound of the flowing water of the Ganges that everything seemed to have come to a standstill. Out boatman also helped in filling all the empty cans we bought with Gangajaal.
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He was getting impatient and hungry so we turned back towards Dasaswamedh Ghat
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Last edited by Aditya : 5th May 2021 at 10:31. Reason: Font formatting
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Old 12th April 2021, 02:46   #8
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[Day 5 - Part 2] 31st March - Varanasi morning boat tour, Sarnath, drive to Bodhgaya

. . continued from previous post

We headed back towards Dasaswamedh Ghat
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A floating toilet for boatmen
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We were told these wall paintings were done by tourists of different countries
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We bid good bye to our boat at Dasaswamedh Ghat by 8-30 am and headed first to Lakshmi Chai Wala for some Chai and variety of their toasts and thereafter taking a short walk and some local sweet buys on the way, we reached Blue Lassi Shop near Manikarnika Ghat
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The wall inside the shop is full of photos of tourists all over the world who have come here and praised it, some have left their comments too, its like a living scrapebook
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We got lost amidst the menu of 120 varieties of Lassi but eventually placed order for Dry Fruit Zafrani Lassi and Regular Zafrani Lassi, we were informed there was no ice, as it was yet to arrive, we agreed while the Lassi making was underway
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Finally we received the trophies of our wait and indeed the wait was worth. We savored the lassi in small sips to make it last longer, tasted heaven.
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Here is a video on Blue Lassi Shop by an Youtuber


We returned to our hotel and checked out by 1 pm and headed for Sarnath. The Sarnath Railway station looked deserted but the design was indeed retro
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While a lot of local people "dressed like" authorities wanted to stop our car by creating distracting gestures, I ignored them like king, yes, and eventually parked my car right in front of the Sarnath temple entrance, hired a promising young guide and went inside for a tour
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After a rapid 40 minute tour of the place under the scorching sun, ditched the visit to the weaving center and we headed out for lunch at the nearby Hotel Pinnacle Gate. We were up since early morning hence dined leisurely over some excellent Chinese cuisine during the next 2 hours. By 4-30 pm we resumed our journey towards Bodhgaya
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Crossing the Malaviya Bridge bidding good bye to Varanasi
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Rest of the journey was uneventful owing to excellent roads, but approaching Dehri-on-Sone there was a substantial traffic of trucks. Thanks to the excellent Ground Clearance of the Crysta and the Multi Terrain Monitoring system that we could ace the traffic by taking the service lanes or the gaps left open which were too narrow for the trucks and the local private vehicles would not dare to take them owing to the deep craters
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Soon we were cruising past the Dehri-on-Sone, came across a similar named truck with no registration plate at the back like we had seen while coming to Varanasi
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We entered Bodhgaya around 9-45 pm with streets deserted
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Eventually by 10 pm and 274 KMs of drive from Varanasi we checked into our prebooked Hotel Maya Heritage of Bodhgaya. There was limited menu available in their pure Veg restaurant Nirvana Cafe during closing hours so we grabbed whatever we could find and dined in our rooms before crashing after a long and hectic day.
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[Day 6] 1st April - Bodhgaya Tour, Mahabodi Temple

Morning surprise, the special corner window that allows direct all time view of the Mahabodhi temple from the room, also allows sunlight to fall directly on your face at 630 am sharp, a natural alarm mechanism
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Yet we wanted to be lazy since the hangover of Varanasi was not yet over, eventually made it to the breakfast table by 10 am
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By 12 noon we set out for the local tour, learnt that majority of the Pagodas and Temples are closed owing to the pandemic, yet amidst them we managed to visit all we could
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By 2pm we arrived at the Lotus restaurant after knowing that the Tibetan Refugee Market nearby is also closed due to Pandemic. The Chinese food was nice and we liked it.
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We resumed our roaming arond post lunch
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There was not much left to cover so by 3-30 pm we returned to the hotel
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By 6 pm we left hotel and took a Toto and arrived at the MAhabodhi temple. After lot of security checks we entered and took and guide for an organized tour
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Under the famous Bodhi Tree inside the Mahabodhi Temple complex
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Touring the Mahabodhi temple is such a mind refreshing activity that once can sit for hours inside to find tranqility and peace
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By 8 pm we left the Mahabodhi Temple and arrived back at Nirvana Cafe, attached to our hotel Maya Heritage for some evening snacks
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We ordered very light dinner at the night through room service and called it a day
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Old 25th April 2021, 04:18   #10
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[Day 7 & 8] 2nd and 3rd April - Bodhgaya local tour, return to Kolkata with a visit to Topchanchi Lake

We spent majority of the next day resting at our hotel, only in the evening we made a visit to the 80 feet buddha statue
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Then we crossed the dried up Falgu River heading for the Sujata Temple
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Google Map led us through some very narrow village roads that was very difficult to navigate through unless we received the local help
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Finally before sunset we arrivd at the Sujata Temple, had skipped getting down at the Sujata Stupa on our way
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While we returned since there was road closure in some places that Google Map did not warn us, we were led through some very congested market roads at the back side of the Mahabodhi temple
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Eventually we were back on route and reached hotel to leave our car and headed out in a Toto towards Mahabodhi temple
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We left our Toto in the midway and did a serene walk through the empty roads until we arrived at Siam Thai Restaurant, had our dinner, and returned back to hotel before 9 pm to complete our packing and prepare for our checkout in the subsequent morning
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Next morning we ditched waiting for the breakfast at the hotel and checkedout early around 7 am. The roads were empty and soon we reached the highway
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We made our breakfast halt at a eating joint in Chouparan of Jharkhand, a place full of shops selling the local delicacy Khirmohon
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With rabri on top, its a great moring starter, they did allow us to also have our own food along. We packed some Khirmohon for our homes we resumed on our journey back
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Around 11 am we approached Topchanchi Lake
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We decided to make a quick tour inside the lake and found the place to be really beautiful
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After roaming for around an hour inside and enjoying the nature we arrived at Shaan-e-Punjab restaurant right adjacent to Topchanchi Lake (I picked up this place from one of the previous TLs of BHPian travelmania)
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Inside Shaan e Punjab
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The person riding this may be a local muscle. Enjoying a piping hot and tasty North Indian meal we resumed post 2 pm from here.
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Except being pulled over once around Dankuni by the police for electoral duty registration of my car (upon lot of request they let me go), the remainder of the journey until Kolkata was absolute smooth and we reached our homes before the estimate shown by Google Maps around 7-30 pm completing a 495 KMs drive from Bodhgaya and thereby bringing an end to a wonderful vacation.
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Old 25th April 2021, 15:20   #11
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Miscellaneous Points

Hotel Selection Varanasi
  • Many of the hotels adjacent to ghats or having direct view of ghats have no parking as ghat area does not allow cars or have narrow alleys leading to them making car access impossible.
  • Some very good hotels like Brij Rama hence maintain boats to transfer guests from other ghats.
  • Some of them do make arrangements to keep guest cars elsewhere, may be at a nearby hotel or multistoried apartment with parking and provide services to transfer luggage to and from hotel through boarders.
  • Also these hotels with ghat proximity mostly serve veg, make sure to check with them before booking if you want to dine in hotel all the time and have meal type preferences.
  • Many hotels claim to have Rooftop restaurants with Ganges view but look thoroughly in their picture gallery on Tripadvisor or Google since a lot of them may have obstructing building at the front making the practical view of the Ganges as good as nothing.
  • In Varanasi the best way to look at Ganga Aarti is being present in front of it, there are ample spaces to accommodate lot of people, Dasaswamedh Ghat is congested but Assi ghat can house more people comfortably as there are 3 Aarti happening side by side (literally different ghats but adjacent to one another)
  • Assi Ghat morning Aarti is a bonus and post the Aarti there is a free Yoga class open for all in case you want to avail it. A few hotels and guest houses can also arrange Yoga sessions on demand if you want to.
  • Assi Ghat approach road remains so congested during the beginning and end of evening Aarti that is is best to avail boats from other ghats to commute, just that the cost can be upto 10 times unless you bargain or share boats.
  • Several hotels with excellent reviews are available around Banaras Cantonment, 4 star and above in reasonable rates but far from Ghats
  • Do not be too hung up on in-hotel parking as we realized after reaching there that parking space being scarce on the road, the best way to roam around Banaras is either walking or through Totos. Yes Totos do not enter the Galis but people with 2 wheelers do, incase you want to keep a rented 2 wheeler during your stay or have your own.
  • Some of the Hotels we shortlisted are below :-
    • Rivera Palace :- 3 star property at Anandmai ghat, 4.5 Tripadvisor rating, serves non-veg, Parking 60 metres from Hotel, luggage carry service available, around 100 metres from the ghat
    • Hotel Banaras Haveli :- 3 star property near Assi ghat, Trip advisor 4 rating, serves veg but lots of non veg eateries around, rooftop restaurant with river view. parking at hotel, 100 metres from ghat
    • Hotel Temple on Ganges :- 2 star property neat Assi Ghat (next to Banaras Haveli), Tripadvisor rating 4, serves non veg, nice rooftop restaurant with Ganges view, parking available, also recommended by BHPian ABHI_1512
    • Sri Omkar Palace :- 3 star property near Chousatti ghat, Tripadvisor rating 4.5, Riverview from the room, serves non veg, Parking at hotel Ganges Grand
    • Hotel Ganges Grand :- Tripadvisor rating 4, serves non veg, underground parking available, 600 metres from Dasaswamedh ghat, also recommended by BHPian turboNath.
    • Palace on Ganges :- Tripadvisor review 3, we dropped owing to several recent negative reviews
    • Guleria Kothi :- Heritage building, good views, costly and no parking
    • Hotel Sita :- Excellent property on Chausatti ghat, 200 metres from their parking, has Ganges view rooms with balcony and lift.
    • Hotel Surya Kaiser Palace :- Near Varanasi Cantonment, own parking, recommended by dip27in and neversaygbye
    • Hotel Hari Vilaas :- Near Dasaswamedh Ghat around 1.4 KM from Godowlia Crossing, own parking, serves pure veg, recommended by BHPian Shourya_Lahiri
    • Amiritara Suryadi palace :- Newer property on Shivala Ghat (next to Assi Ghat), expensive but very good rooms with Ganges view, no lift, no parking but 100 metres from main road, recommended by BHPian ABHI_1512
    • Apart from the hotels we also inquired about guest houses on the Ghat or very close to the Ghat with view of the Ganges like Kedareshwar Guest House, Eden Halt (parking near Pandey Haveli), Bhadra Kali guest house and Scindhia Guest House, Ganapati Guest House (recommended by ABHI_1512, great morning views) but all of them do not have own parking and some walking required to reach the property, in house food and meal options are limited but most important the good rooms are mostly towards the top and there is no lift so lot of climbing up and down is required
  • With all the above options considered, we finally swayed between Banaras Haveli and Ganges Grand, while Banaras Haveli ticked on everything but for its veg only menu we dropped it (especially kids demand eggs sometimes for breakfast) and went for Ganges Grand.
  • From our practical experience of staying in Hotel Ganges Grand I can say
    • Rooms are Spacious and offers window view of busy Godowlia Crossing and are in tip top condition with well fumigated for sanitization.
    • Very strategically located to have proximity to Ghats (10 mins walk), Viswanath Temple, Majority famous street food shops and market area around and always having ready Toto, rickshaws right in front of it.
    • Restaurant serves good variety of Non-veg and for Bengalis or people who love eating fish they have all time Bhetki fillets available to make various fish items which is a great thing.
    • The underground parking is a bit congested and some other properties also keep their vehicle here so there is rush and car accumulates lot of dust if parked for days. Their valet ensures you car is tucked in properly.
    • The only thing that need improvement is the tour planning if they are going to plan and book on your behalf so we decided to do it ourselves and trust me its not a big problem.

Hotel Selection for Bodhgaya
  • Hotel Maya Heritage :- half rate for late checkout, Tripadvisor rating 4.5
  • Anand International :- Tripadvsior rating 5
  • Bodhgaya Regency :- late checkout available, Tripadvisor rating 4
  • Oaks Hotel and Mahabodhi Hotel were also good options but a bit far from the Mahabodhi Temple.
  • All of them has own parking and non-veg restaurant but we chose Maya Heritage for being closer to most of the attractions by walking distance and is next to the Market and has direct view of the dome of the Mahabodhi temple from its rooms.
  • From our practical experience of staying at Maya Heritage I can say
    • Rooms are spacious and sparking clean and well fumigated for sanitization
    • Staff is less but service is still good as most of the hotel was empty
    • Nirvana Cafe at the front is pure Veg and their own full scale restaurant inside is serving good non-veg, food is good
    • Parking inside is limited but manageable
    • Laundry Service is very fast and dry cleaning is good
    • Direct view of the dome of the Mahabodhi Temple from the Room

For the road
  • Apart from our usual stuff of tyre inflator, puncture repair kit, etc this time I got an additional Michelin Tyre Pressure Gauge being more handy than an entire inflator device for instant checking of tyre pressure. Worked great but engaging and disengaging from the valve end up losing some air.
  • Assuming car wash opportunities are limited during trips and cars gather lot of dust on them, this time I got the car polished from the TKM dealership prior to the trip and this helped minimize the abuse of dirt on the car.
  • We covered a total distance of 1493 KM from Garage to Garage in the entire trip.
  • Over longer distance travel the Crysta gave excellent performance be it in keeping pace with the traffic, or taking bad roads or going over craters with ease like a king adding minimal driver fatigue.
  • We could have made the drive (Kolkata - Varanasi - Kolkata) quicker without the detours, but with kid on board I guess the trade off is fine.


That's all for now. Hope you liked reading this TL. Until next time Hasta-la-vista !!!

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Last edited by Aditya : 3rd May 2021 at 21:45. Reason: As requested
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Old 3rd May 2021, 06:36   #12
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Thread moved out from the Assembly Line. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 3rd May 2021, 21:16   #13
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Default re: Lost in Varanasi - An Innova Crysta Venture

As-usual an exhaustive report from you.
Loved reading your detailed narration with so many beautiful pics.
It almost gives us a feel as if, we the readers are travelling along with you.
Keep travelling and keep sharing these awesome travelogues. Rated 5*.

I visited Varanashi a couple of times, but in 2017, I was at Varanashi during Holi. During our return journey, Jharkhand was red with Palash too!

Sharing few pics from our visit to Varanashi in 2017.

Lost in Varanasi - An Innova Crysta Venture-17359142_1443211932417362_698791920801622533_o.jpg

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Last edited by Samba : 3rd May 2021 at 21:26.
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Old 4th May 2021, 06:44   #14
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I was curious with the title, 'Lost'. But when I went through the detail, I am truly lost for words. So detailed and candid.

Amazing job in taking time out and putting this together. Big thank you

I have also bookmarked this for future (given the rich real/practical information, including the ones on hotel/accomodation) that you have shared

Last edited by vb-san : 4th May 2021 at 07:16. Reason: Back-to-back posts merged. Please use multi-quote option when replying to multiple posts. Thank you!
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Old 4th May 2021, 09:48   #15
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Default Re: Lost in Varanasi - An Innova Crysta Venture

Excellent travelogue and pics. Brings back memories from my September 2018 trip. We were about 24 of us and had a blast. Stayed at the same hotel - Ganges Grand and visited almost all those eateries in 3 days!! Did you get the Kheer Kadam packed for home?
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