Fun moments in Varanasi

#1 Apr 15th, 2010, 23:46
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  • burntcloth is offline
#1
#1: Guy takes you on a tour of the burning ghat (Manikarnika), and at some point insists you can take a picture from this one high place for many convincing-sounding reasons. Then, he takes you to the old lady who blesses your head and is something like Mother Teresa who pays for poor people's cremations (lie, because poor cremations happen at the other ghat upstream). If you don't fall for that one, he will tell you that he could get in trouble for that photo you just took. He might get arrested. (Really? I'm supposed to believe that after you told me to take the picture?). So I'll delete the pictures. That makes him upset, and he even grabs for the camera! Then, finally, there's the threat that you yourself could get in trouble for taking that picture. And the end of all this, he's still going to ask for money for the tour!

#2: At the ghat just downstream from the main ghat (Dasheswamedh)watch for guys who want to meet you with a handshake. But they won't let go of your hand. Then, he'll start giving your hand a massage, then your arms... You could go along with it, and then be stuck arguing later over a grossly inflated price.

#3: You might eventually get a 60Rs boat ride, but it ends up being with boatmen who are kids, who can't row very well, so they don't go very far, and the whole trip they keep trying to do things that will cost more or complaining about the price even though you've already negotiated.
#2 Apr 17th, 2010, 09:16
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#2
Employing kids under 14 is not legal. Wonder where are the authorities!
#3 Apr 19th, 2010, 05:11
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#3
i was last time in varanasi in 1996 and experienced precisely the same harrasement . But i knew instinctivly not to take photos- despite the 2 guys telling me there working for mother terisa ect .being a solo traveller and having 2 locals stand over you in a holy place is very offputting,i still recall it after so many years.i have been to Hardiwar /rishikesh a few times over the years and have been treated very well in comparison.the water is cleaner,the food exellent,no dust and lodging ,transport easy to organize.train station a easy walk to river.What is sad to me is the locals can see these people rip off tourists,yet they stand by and watch it day after day.guess you need to be a indian to understand india.
#4 Apr 19th, 2010, 05:29
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#4
Quote:
Originally Posted by challis View Post guess you need to be a indian to understand india.
No, not even then. At least for some of us.
#5 Apr 19th, 2010, 07:32
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Wow, I had none of that in Benares.
I got the guy who rowed up the river for 15 minutes and said it was an hour. Hmmmm, but I got the pics already, so all's okay.
Didn't want to see the burning bodies, Just thought it was bloody rude. I wouldn't want a load of tourists gawking at my earthly remains while they stick me in the incinerator.
I found a couple of brothers who had a little shop next to the hotel, who spent a few days on a sort of roster system, showing me around, where the good chai was etc.
All i had to do was be pleasant and take 'em for dinner in the local eating place.
Good deal really. Coz they didn't pressure me. It was a pleasure.

I understand that sleazy covert stuff, it really gets to me, and It's all over the world.
#6 Apr 19th, 2010, 08:03
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#6
Brings to mind an experience while negotiating a sunrise boat ride in Varanasi. We settled on a price, I got in, and immediately the operator started asking me for more money. For another 10 minutes as we continued along the river he kept asking and I kept saying no. Finally, I lost it and dropped an "F" bomb on the guy; at this point his young pre-teen assistant perked up and asked "Oh, you want to F*** me, mister?" I hollered, "NO! I don't want to f*** you, I just want a f***ing boat ride". For the next half hour they left me alone. Oy!
#7 Apr 19th, 2010, 12:40
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#7
And you still don't get the full hour.!!
#8 Apr 19th, 2010, 23:31
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#8
Quote:
Originally Posted by palerider View Post And you still don't get the full hour.!!


Yeah, but I got an India story that I've told many times, so I guess that made up for the lost few minutes. I must say that I didn't find it very funny at the time, but it was early on in my first trip to India and I hadn't quite learned to roll with the punches yet.
#9 Apr 20th, 2010, 03:43
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#9
I must say that during my rapid photo taking session on the Ganga, there were about twenty guys in boats making a beeline for me.
The guy rowing did slow down just enough to let them catch up.
Hmmmm.
#10 Apr 20th, 2010, 04:33
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#10
Two years ago I had some similar experiences:

1. At the Manikarnika ghat, a guy comes up to me and tells me he and his family runs the ghat and they have been running the ghat for as long as the ghat has been in existence. He tells me I can't take pictures at the ghat, I can only observe from a particular spot, he gets a bit friendly and explains what the customs of the ghats are and a little of the ceremony as someone was being burnt at the time. He then tells me that they don't charge for the cremations, but need donations to continue the good work and asks me for a donation. Against my better judgement I give him 500 rupees, he takes the money and insists that I give him more as he feels I can afford more, as I am from the USA. I told him I can't afford more, he then asks if I wanted a tour or something, I said no, then he ask if I wanted to buy silk saaris spun from Varansi silk made right in front of me, I said no. He then got mad, and as I was walking away he tried to make me look bad and told people that I was desecrating the ghat as I was walking on holy ground, I totally ignored him and was just pissed that he took my money.

2. In the morning at about 9 AM, I tried to take a boat ride, at this time the rush for the sunrise tours were over and their were an abundance of boat men doing nothing. Now, you don't negotiate with the boatmen, the owners of the boat are on shore and you negotiate with them. One of them agreed to something like 300 rupees, after finishing the boat tour, the owner told me the 300 rupees was the cost of the boat ride, but did not include the wages of the boatman and that I will have to pay him and walked away. I obviously didn't want to penalize the boatman, so I paid him 100 rupees.

3. About 10 years ago, I was also in varnasi with my cousin, again I was negotiating for the morning boat ride. We saw two american women that were also trying to get a boat and the prices were ridiculously high, seems the earlier you go the higher the price as more people want to experience the boat ride as the sun rises in the morning. Well, I asked the girls if they wanted to ride with us and split the cost, they agreed. The boat owners would not let the girls ride with us because they already knew that the women had come separately and knew that it would result in a lost fare. WTF do they care who you are with, anyway there was no avoiding it, we had to go on different boats as they informed everyone not to allow us to ride in the same boat. All these boat owners are in on the same scams. As a matter of fact Varnasi is one big scam after another.

4. Also 10 years ago, I stayed in some cheap hotel, in the morning after having breakfast at the hotel, the hotel owner told us that the guy outside with the bicycle rickshaw was going to be there exclusively for our use. I thought that strange, as I didn't ask for a rickshaw, I enjoy walking as that is the best way to see and experience a place. I told the hotel owner that I didn't want the rickshaw, anyway on walking outside, he pointed us out to the rickshaw guy and the guy followed us around town despite me telling him several times he wasn't needed or wanted. After about 2 hours, I felt bad for him and used him for a 10 minute ride, he wanted 1000 rupees, i gave him 50 and told him to go away. At this point he realized he wasn't going to get much from me.
#11 Apr 20th, 2010, 08:27
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#11
Wow, I never had the scam at the Ghats. maybe 'coz I was wearing dhoti and kurta.?
Maybe 'coz I swore at him in Hindi, which surprised him.
It is hard, the rickshaw guys are merciless.
But I found the markets around the temple to be quite, good, and the police are there to protect you from the worst of it.

I can't understand why people want to see a body burning.
I always think what it would be like if it was my mother or sister.
It just creeps me out.
#12 May 28th, 2010, 07:53
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#12
Never had any problems in Varanasi, but I guess it was because we'd been travelling for three months allready and knew how to handle all the touts. Our auto tried to rip us off but we had pre-payed, and knew better.

We also chose to stay at Assi ghat far up the river (recommended), maybe the climate is a bit more merciful there. We found us a very nice boatman who took us up and down the river twice for the price agreed. Although he seemed to have a deal going with someone claiming to represent widows in need for money to buy wood for their cremation. We gave him a few Rs just for his presentation of the burning ghat, he might have been honest, but probably not.
#13 Sep 20th, 2010, 12:27
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#13
My last trip i stayed in ASSI as well....had no real problem with scams in that area, i think due to the heavy amount of hotels, western cafes run by westerners (open hand) and program houses for year abroad students. Boat rides, and rickshaws in my experience can be really hit and miss, stand your ground and you are all good, the second you show that you are unsure of what to do and you are gonna get caught and forced to paying more.
#14 Oct 21st, 2010, 03:23
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#14
Nice posts people. Arming myself with info on all the rip off artists for my trip in a couple of weeks.
o
#15 Oct 21st, 2010, 03:43
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#15
Smile, no need to shake hands in India, maintain eye contact, Namaskar and keep your arms to yourself, continue to smile, and Namaste repeatedly if necessary...

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