New Year in Varanasi has been a sobering affair. Christmas was a succession of warm days followed by cool nights that allowed for deep untroubled sleep, but new year was met by a cold weather front that left Varanasi draped in cold, damp air that left many people wandering about draped in blankets. Any locals unlucky enough to be sleeping rough were in danger of their lives as they are often not healthy enough to cope with such a cold snap, spirits seemed dampened too as rooms are unheated and places where people often frequent are outside.
And so it was that we entered into the New Year spirit.
For a few days before, however, we had a few ales with an American (well, Scottish Anglo East Indian American to be more precise) couple who were great value and better company. we spent the 30th in the hotel next door (The Alka Hotel) upon which it rained for much of the day that turned almost torrential as the night drew in. An Aussie couple we had met earlier and whom we had enlightened as to the magic of Kite Flying, joined us on the roof of The Ganpati Hotel, we huddled under a small umbrella against the beating rain with a few bottles of beer, it felt like heaven at the time.
So New Years even came and we all felt as cheerful as a barrel of eels, so Isis and I turned in early to huddle in cold damp beds and weather the storm.
At midnight I was woken by extremely loud fireworks going off. I pulled myself out of bed and found that next door was having a great big firework party with cake, Champagne and all of the trimmings. We could see the party from our balcony, let’s go we said.
The problem was that the hotel we are staying at refused to open the gates and let us out. It was like fort knox and apparently they have had recent trouble with the police about some unrelated issue (waste water going into the river) so they weren’t risking people breaking the local ‘no beer and drunken louts around the holy Ganga’ rule.
So we just watched. An American girl called Amber, who had been trying to break IN for a few hours finally woke someone up to let her in and we chatted for an hour over a coke. We then wished each other a happy New Year and I pootled off to my chilly room where Isis was still snoozing like a teenager. That was our new year.
But on new years day we partied like it was 1999 and went to Dominoes pizza. Isis actually requested we go to Pizza hut (we saw a poster) but when we found out it was a long way away towards the cantonment quarter of Varanasi we decided to stick closer to home and make do. It felt like all of our Christmas’s put together.
But on another note I must say that we are getting to be aficionados of Japanese food here in Varanasi. In the first week we were here we discovered the I:Ba, or Iba japanese restaurant near to Assi Ghat, but then we strayed into the back lanes and stumbled across a little place that is great value, is run by a polyglot Indian who trained in Japan and France as a chef and makes wonderful food at incredibly cheap prices (don’t know the name as it was written in Nippon Lingo, but get lost in the lanes to the right of Main Ghat and you’ll stumble across it, maybe after a week or so but you’ll get there).
Then last night we went to the best yet, The Megu Cafe at Kalika Gali (near Meer Ghat) seemed to be the best food, reasonable prices and nice atmosphere. It was fully booked after we came so we arrived just in time – one Japanese girl had the kind of kitten face mask on that seemed so Tokyo, but a little out of place in Varanasi. If you come here you just have to suck that shit up and shut up.