Recently, Adam and I found out a friend may be coming to India for a work trip, so we are hoping to get a chance to swing down to Delhi and see him. It will probably entail renting a taxi – the trains will likely be just too booked – but it might be nice to see a face from Toronto, and hopefully we can do a little socializing and learning Delhi.
This evening, we were also invited to Rishikesh for 2 days with another couple here at Woodstock. They had an extra room reserved after a guest was unable to make it out to India, so they invited Adam and I. I’m looking forward to that as well, but…
The bigger, confirmed holiday:
Adam and I have managed to secure some train tickets for mid-January, so we can go thaw. We are happy – it’s not always easy to get train tickets, especially in winter, to a warmer place.
We are taking the Doon Express from Dehra Dun to Varanasi (and back); it will be about 20 hours on the train, but we have our own berth in a sleeper car (2A/AC2 class), which means we get AC, and it will be just us in our berth (as compared to being in a 4-person berth). This is the full train route – note we only go about half way, to get off at Varanasi. The total travel fare is running us just shy of Rs5000, and our guest house budget is about the same/a little more. We are starting our trek the evening of the 12th, and return to Dehra Dun on the 20th — this means that we get a great opportunity to warm up, and then return in time to get settled back in for the New Hire Orientation and the start of the next school term.
For anyone who is interested in more information about the Indian train system, this is a great website. I have looked at it often, and it’s been quite useful to figure out how to negotiate the train system. We will have to pack our own meals, from what I can tell (there’s no ‘pantry car’), but I figure if I can get a handle on how to make up the the chicken tikka sandwiches that the school makes, I can make some of those, some aloo paratha, rice, and some other snack-type things and we can get a tiffin-box, and be good to go. Admittedly… the idea of one of these tiffin boxes utterly fascinates me and I have coveted one since we got here, for no other reason than ‘it’s shiny!’ and ‘would be great as a lunchbox back in the West, too, and DEFINITELY recognizable!’ Actually having justification to buy one is even nicer. 🙂
Adam and I are looking at seeing the ghats, perhaps going to Sarnath (that and Bodh Gaya are a big deal for me, as I’m Buddhist), and I’d like to make sure we see Ram Nagar Fort for Adam’s military history interests. Sarnath is a half-day trip we could manage, Bodh Gaya would be a full day as it’s a ways away. We’re also hoping to be able to maybe get out of Varanasi proper to do some shopping; carpets and silks are what the area is known for, and if we get ourselves out of the tourist-tout central, we can hopefully get some better deals. Since we really only have 4.5 days there (we get in on 13/01 at 16:10, and leave 19/01 at 10:36), I think that the ghats and Ram Nagar will take us at least 2 days; Sarnath + shopping would be a third, and then perhaps Jaunpur, Allahabad, Mirzapur, or someplace else for a day trip for the 4th.
We will be staying at the Ganga Fuji Home, which has been recommended by our Rough Guide to India (2008), and a number of other sources. We’re not looking for a fancy place or a four-course meal – but a place where the travel guide says is clean, serviceable and near to locations where we won’t need to take a rickshaw to get anywhere. They will also pick us up at the train station – which is excellent after hearing the stories about rickshaw-touts and hotel/lodging problems.
The 14th is a holiday/holy day, Makar Sankranti, which celebrates the end of winter, start of the harvest season (particularly in the South), and an auspicious period. It’s traditionally celebrated by kite flying, which is something Adam enjoys – I’m particularly happy we’ll get to be somewhere like Varanasi for it! It’s also one of the big bathing days, though I’m not particularly inclined to go into the Ganga… however unique an experience it might be. I think we’ll be able to keep ourselves occupied, and it’s well within our budget for an affordable holiday, as well as a place that has been around for thousands of years, and is at the heart of a significant amount of Indian culture.