Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Ghats... and an argument with the locals (Varanasi)

So we got to Varanasi around 4:45am. We headed to Om Resthouse... which by the way, I completely recommend! Such a friendly staff, good atmosphere! They even have a friendly dog! Anyway, so by the time we got there it was probably around 5:30am. Claudio decided he wanted to take a nap until noon... But there was a Spanish girl who was on the same bus as us who said she wasn't going to sleep, so we decided to explore the area together.

The place where this resthouse is located is just so confusing. There are these narrow streets that aren't in any kind of grid format, so it's very easy to get lost... which I did, more than a few times!! Anyway, so we walked around, and ended up running into the ghats. Sat by the ghats for a bit, then went to the nearby restaurant and ate on their terrace where you could see a great view of the river. There were also three Spanish girls there, so we ended up eating with them.

After breakfast, we went in search of a place where I could add money to my phone, since I really didn't even have enough money to make a phone call. WELL. I was nearly ripped off 1000 rupees!!! ($20+) I realized what had happened after the fact. So I went to this guy and said I wanted to recharge my phone with 1000 rupees. There was a sheet a paper which you write your phone number down... well, instead of writing it in the proper place, this guy flips the sheet over, and tells me to write my number on the back. Strange, no? Why wouldn't I write my number with everyone else? Then, he "calls" someone up, and "gives them" my number and the amount I want to put on my phone. Then he hangs up and tells me that I'm all set. Now what's supposed to happen when you recharge your phone is that you get a text message immediately telling you the new balance you have on your phone. I did not get this, and I told him this. He was like it'll come in like 10 minutes. And then he waved me off. I found this to be rather strange. And of course two hours later, I still had the same very minimal balance on my phone. So I went back to him (getting VERY lost in the process, because as mentioned, the streets around the resthouse are incredibly confusing!!), now there were two people, and told them I still had no money on my phone. They say "service is down, connection is down" and that the money will be on my phone later. And again, tried to shoo me away. Of course I was not going to have any of this, and I demanded my money back. They didn't understand what I was saying (or pretended not to) and continued to tell me to go away. Then finally, the one guy just hands me 1000 rupees. Now why would he give me 1000 rupees if this money would be on my phone later? Because they knew they were trying to cheat me of money! Ugh.

Anyway, after this happened, I went to meet people for lunch. Then Claudio and I went to the train station to try to get tickets for later that day to head to Khajuraho (and succeeded, thank goodness!!) On our way back, we had our bicycle rickshaw driver drop us off at some random place, because he claimed he couldn't go any further because of a road block... and I thought I knew where we were. Of course I didn't know exactly where we were, and the rickshaw driver could have gone another way to get us to our resthouse. So then we start walking... walking... walking... nothing is looking familiar, haha. So then finally I was like, okay I'll pay 10 rupees to have us dropped by another cycle rickshaw closer to the resthouse. WELL. Problem was, the rickshaw driver claimed to know where the resthouse was, but ended up taking us further away from the direction of it!

So we got off the rickshaw, and I refused to pay him, because he took us further away from it. Well, this kind of attracted attention, and soon there were a few locals who started to crowd around us. Most who didn't really understand English. I was trying to explain that this guy took us further away, so why should I pay him. Then there was this Indian who knew a good amount of English who said that I should just pay the driver, and that he would take us back to the resthouse. So then finally I said I'd pay 5 rupees, but then I realized I didn't have the change. So the Indian paid the 5 rupees, and then started to take us in the direction of our resthouse (or maybe it wasn't the direction.)

Meanwhile, as we're walking I'm trying to explain to the guy that it was a load of crap that I should have to pay him when he didn't even go anywhere near where I wanted to go. This dude excuses him saying that he is just trying to make money. As if that is any reason. So then we're walking along, and he stops at a shop, telling us to take a look, trying to get us to buy something. (So that is why he was kind enough to take us to our resthouse... to try to make money off us.) We said we weren't interested, and that we just wanted to get to our resthouse. Well Claudio had enough of this, because he realized that they were just going to continue to take us to various stores to get us to buy things, so he wanted to ditch them. (There are two of them now.) They were walking a little bit ahead of us, expecting us to follow, so then we made our move, and started running down a random street, HAHA. Of course we had NO idea where we were, but we just kept turning down random streets. I was so scared they were going to find us! haha. Then finally, we came across the lake, and we were able to figure out the direction of the resthouse from there. And then suddenly, BAM, one of the guys that was "taking us back" appears out of nowhere, and asks us why we stopped following them. And then when we said we didn't need any more help, he demands money!!! Now, I was going to pay his friend back the 5 rupees that he paid the cycle rickshaw for me, so I gave this dude 10 rupees and said bye. And then he was like "money for my friend"!!! WHAT?! At that point we just started walking briskly in the direction of our resthouse. Then we run into the other guy who was "helping us." Then he starts yelling at us, also demanding money. Soon both of them were yelling at us, saying how they did us good by showing us where we wanted to be. We had to get past them in order to get to our resthouse, and while they were still yelling, I made an attempt to move past them in this very narrow street... I was actually afraid they were going to physically stop me to get more money out of me. But they didn't, and we started walking fast again towards our resthouse. I was really afraid they were going to follow us... but we never saw them again, thank goodness!!

And this, all over 5 rupees. But it's not about the money, it's about principle!!! I realize this makes me seem like an incredible cheapskate, but you can't be pushed around! I've had enough of that!

We finally reached our resthouse, rested for a bit, went out to eat (where I tipped this little Indian waiter boy 50 rupees--doesn't seem like a lot, but it is to them!), and then we went off to catch our overnight train.

And no, I didn't really do the typical Varanasi thing, haha.

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