May 21:  Varanasi

Up at 4:15am.  Left hotel at 4:45am for the sunrise boat ride.




The Sun.  My camera's zoom and the filtering pollution resulted in an observatory-quality image.


I want to stay at the Mountain Dew hotel!

Funeral pyres.

Cows standing amid human ashes.

That smoke is mostly dead people.  All those piles of wood (and many more stored further up that ghat) reminded of the fire logs next to the Del Taco in/near Culver City.  I don't know it's there anymore.  I can't find it on Google Maps to ascertain whether the fire logs are still there.

The white areas are human remains.

Lucy, Jane, Gabi and Emma.



From here we went to the Brown Bread Bakery for breakfast.  More controversy, as we had to pay our way back, even though the round trip to the boat was covered.  It's a few pennies, people.  Chill.  I had scrambled eggs and sausage and a giant apple juice.

View from the Brown Bread Bakery.

Now when I hear Jon Bon Jovi sing  "got an old coat for a pillow, and the earth was last night's bed", he sounds like such a baby.

Seven of us walked around downtown and along the ghats after breakfast.

Gary Dell'Abate has evidently opened a silk shop in Varanasi.

As we walked, we saw an eviscerated puppy.  He was there, and his intestines were next to him.  So sad.

I can't just encaption this "cows", because Karen's in the background. 

Mmm, I'm salivating over all that fresh succulent beef.  Also, check out the cows on the right.  (I love this joke.  Sorry, Janie.)

We watched a cremation!  We weren't sure if we were supposed to be standing so close to the pyres, and we were close enough to feel the heat and get a light dusting of ash.  The burning of the body takes 2 hours so we just watched up to the ignition point.  The body (in a sheet) was draped over the pyre, covered with a few more logs, drizzled with something ritualistic, and ultimately lit branches were shoved into a cavity under the pyre so that the whole thing would catch.

Cool leaning temple.

Actually pretty much everything here is leaning and sinking.  This is a rare case where "epic fail" is not an exaggeration.

Somewhere near here, a spiritual-looking guy offered me marijuana and/or hash.  I suppose I should have asked it was Tibetan finger hash.

We left the ghats and looked for the post office so Janie could ship her sari home.  We kept asking locals for directions and one of them tried to take us somewhere that was not the post office.  No idea what his scam was.  Eventually we found it.  Also we went to a bank so we could color down (I used this term with Elana, forgetting that I coined it...I mean it as the opposite of "color up" in the casino chip sense) our notes bigger than Rs 100.  Indian rupees are accepted in Nepal (I was surprised to read this on a Gap message board, because I thought it was illegal to take them out of India), but larger notes aren't.  I had Rs 5,500 in 500s, and after the exchange I didn't worry.  Because my wallet was fat.  Lyrics.  Also I got a Fanta, and added it to my shopping list for home, because it's possibly the most refreshing beverage you can drink on a hot day.  I only get Fanta overseas, because that's where I get hot.

Back to the hotel 12:05pm.  I found a cut under my nose.  No idea how I got it.  Napped 12:30pm-4pm  Went down to the Internet room but both computers were in use.  Went back up the room to shave, and halfway through the battery emptied (I'm supposed to let it run all the way down and then charge it to maximize battery life), but when I plugged it in to finish the other side of my face, it didn't work for some reason.  So I hacked off half my stubble with soap and my emergency nonelectric razor.  Internet 4:53pm-6:03pm.  Randy Savage.  Showered.  Got my laundry back.  A guy delivered it to my room, I counted the items, and he gave me the bill.  I said "what do I owe you, 275?"  He said "well, that's the bill".  He didn't need to add "capisce" at the end for me to know what he meant.  I gave him 300, he stalled a bit, so I gave him 20 more, which I deemed appropriate because he brought the laundry to my room instead of me having to go to the front desk.  Except I'd gone to the desk twice already and it wasn't ready, so perhaps I misdeemed.

Ryan determined from his GPS that we walked 11 miles this morning.  Or was it 11 km?

We all gathered and went to the hotel next door for dinner at 7:45pm.  I had Thai fried rice.  But it came with peas.  Ew.  I've refused to eat peas ever since I went to Howard Johnson's as a kid and my burger and fries came with a pile of peas and the pea juice soaked the fries and made them taste like pee.  When I get fried rice at Kung Pao Bistro (the link is to the WeHo location; the only evidence of the Studio City location is the separate menu) I specifically ask for the bad stuff to be omitted.  Actually I don't have to ask.  As soon as I walk in, the woman asks "what you want honey, chicken or shrimp?" and after I make my choice and pay she goes to the back and instructs the chef "chicken/shrimp fried rice, no pea no carrot".  Anyway, here at dinner I picked the peas out of my fried rice one by one, and explained to Felix the reason.  Oh yeah, Felix was some random guy from Montreal in our hotel.  There was some dispute as to whether he was more into Emma or Abdulla.  I made Felix guess my age and he said 32, which I guess is OK, as long as I maintain a 10-year gap, but it's a big jump from the 3-guesser average of 26 a year ago.  I hadn't been sleeping enough though, so maybe I looked worn out.  He said I looked young because of my skin, and would look even younger with sideburns.  I still remember arriving in LA in 1991 and saw so many douches at UCLA wearing sideburns in tribute to their role models, Jason Priestly and Luke Perry.  Didn't expect the fad to outlast 90210 this long.  I had 2 strong Kingfishers and 2/3 of a weak one.  A bunch of people ordered cocktails and then annoyed the waiter by modifying them to exclude ice because the cleanliness of the water in the ice could not be determined.  I considered pulling an Alton Benes just to make a point.  Oh yeah, people also kept complaining about the cold, and asked the staff to turn the AC "down", which is ambiguous because it could mean lowering the temperature, which is probably why it took so many requests.  I wore jeans and was comfortable.  Think ahead, whiners.

Lucy said she got malaria in Mozambique.  And she'll still alive.  And we're not in Mozambique.  Why again are people taking malaria pills?

We found out that Elana changed her post-tour plans and decided to stay with our group and go to Nepal..  Nice!  Also, Janie said I look like Simon Cowell in my passport photo.  I'll accept that.

In addition to being Elana's last night with us, which it now wasn't, it was also Megan's birthday, which is also why I wore jeans and a button-down shirt.

This isn't a great photo.  Blowing out candles requires the cooperation of unsightly and rarely-used muscles, like when Jerry's nude gf opened the pickle jar.  Not that the above photo is unsightly, but it's not a Facebook profile pic.

[When I chatted with Varun after the tour he said there was a big fight after this.  Rear!  I missed it.]

Bed 11:15pm.  Yet another early start tomorrow (5am departure).  And I had trouble turning the AC on in my room.  Hopefully the beers were enough to make me sleepy.