Dora Bitsi

Dora Bitsi

Jan 20 2016

AsiaQuest Diaries – Cold Trains and Holy Cities- Amritsar and Varanasi


This time of the Year India is in wintertime. In the morning the weather is smooth and warm but during the night the temperature drops significantly creating fog. This plus the fact that time is relative here, gave us a hard time during travelling by trains.

As we have written previously, Indian trains are one of the most interesting places you can be when you need to cross big distances. We traveled at night in the sleepers coach. There are vendors passing in every stop selling food you dont even know what is. The best you can get is sweet masala chai, a milk tea with a special spice mix of cinammon and clover among others and the only thing that kept us warm during those long hours of travelling! On the negative side though? People are loud even if you tell them not too and the standards of the train are veeeery basic. Cold wind is coming through the windows and from time to time when the train stops in stations an incredible stink fills the wagon because the rails are so dirty from pooh. To be honest, I (Dora) had some terrible nights.


Cold And delayed Trains.. Not a good combination!

Other than these unfortunate events, our tour to the North of India continues in Amritsar or Amrit-Sarovar (The Pool of Nectar) and also the metropolis of Sikhism.


Amritsar is named after the Holy Sikh temple located in the city. The temple is surrounded by a large lake or gurdwara tank, known as the Sarovar, which consists of Amrit (“holy water” or “immortal nectar”). It was our third time to visit , but we couldn’t miss the incredible atmosphere that surrounds the temple.The Harmandir Sahib (The abode of God), informally known as the Golden Temple is the holy scripture of Sikhism and it is located in the city of Amritsar, in the state of Punjab. It was mainly built as a place of worship for men and women from all walks of life and all religions to come and worship God equally.


The best part is that accommodation is offered in the grounds of the temple to foreigners as well and the premises are clean! We spent three days there relaxing and people watching as the colourful crowds were encircling the glowing golden temple!  Once in Amritsar, be sure to not miss the Border ceremony happening everyday in the afternoon for the past years! This time he got a super selfie with an official ! For more info on that check our previous post.

Fun Crowd congesting for the Border Ceremony.

Fun Crowd congesting for the Border Ceremony.

On our last night though, the Indian-tummy bug got as, and we had to travel with diarrhea and upset stomach almost all the way until Agra. After a very early 10 hour train to Delhi, we were happy for our short connection for our next train to Agra and the Taz Mahal. However , Incredible India was there again to remind us to take nothing for granted. Hungry, sleep deprived and still quite sick we spent 5 hours sleeping at the foreigners ticket reservation centre until the train finally departed in the afternoon.


This meant we had only half a day to see the Taz Mahal. The Taz Mahal, an ode to love, is actually a mausoleum made out of white marble and the finest example of Mughal Architecture. Shah Johan, emperor during the Mughal Empire’s period of greatest prosperity, was devastated when his favourite of three wifes and beloved companion, Mumtaz Mahal , a Persian princess, died during the birth of their 14th child.

Praying to Ganga- The Goddess of the River

Praying to Ganga- The Goddess of the River

Our last stop in India was Varanasi.Varanasi is probably, as said, “the oldest living city on planet earth”. According to legend, the city was founded by the Hindu deity Lord Shiva, several thousand years ago, thus making it one of the most important pilgrimage destinations in the country.


The old city lies in the north shores of the Ganges , the sacred river of India, which is  worshipped as the goddess Ganga. The whole city is built on the banks of this river with numerous Ghats (steps) leading down to the holy river.We were lucky to experience the procession before the cremation of a man and capture it for our documentary. As we analysed in a previous post where you can read about Varanasi’s connection with the circle of Life and Death, this is the holiest place for someone to be cremated as it is said that the person gets freed from the circle of reincarnation.

Cremation site in Varanasi

Cremation site in Varanasi

After meeting the first Greek in our trip so far, Maria, and having some nice non-spicy food we were ready to leave the Indian madness behind and head to the great Nepal!

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