Around Varanasi, a visit to Jaunpur, Mirzapur, Sasaram

#1 Feb 6th, 2015, 03:28
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This year we travel from Himachal Pradesh to Bhopal so we come near Varanasi. Since we visited this town twice before we decide to go to the surrounding towns mentioned in the thread title.

October 22 Jaunpur
We have tickets for the train to Jaunpur but as we enter the station of Lucknow the board shows a delay of four hours. It is crowded on the platform and there is no place to sit. Moreover my wife has some stomach problems and instead of hanging around we decide to take a taxi. The price at pre-paid taxi booth is 3800 rs for the four hour trip. An old driver comes with a car nearly as old as himself. He fills the tank, put air in the tires and we are off. The road is reasonable with occasionally large potholes.
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And with quite a lot of traffic jams and a short lunch stop it is 4.30 PM as we arrive in Jaunpur. We have telephonic reserved a room in Hotel River View and without a problem we get that for 1080 rs. Regrettably with a view on the street instead of the river. The personal speak little English but they are friendly and show us around. There is a restaurant, a garden bar and beer shop in the complex.

October 23
We leave the hotel and arrange transport to the center of the town.
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Near the Shahi bridge we order the cycle driver to stop and walk to the bank of the Gomti river. Many men take a bath while fishermen are on the river. From here we have a fantastic view on the bridge with the blue structures. Tonight is the start of Diwali, on the bridge merchants sell all kind of goods.
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We look around and somewhat further we ask a shopkeeper for a cyber-café, he escorts us toward it.
With our vague map of the city as help we try to find the Jami Masjid. I see the remainders of a mosque and assume that we found it. Somewhat disappointed I take some pictures. As we walk back, a man points into another street and there we find our goal.
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It is an imposing building, the base is a meter or five above street level. It has a high portal instead of minarets. Inside it is quiet, the only other visitor is an old man who studies the Koran.
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We go back to the hotel for some rest. In the afternoon I go out on my own. According to my map there are some other sights near the hotel. The only one I find is the tomb of Feroz Shah. I wander around in the narrow streets and arrive at a cluster of Muslim monuments. A man tries to explain them to me and I think it are some burial memorials.
A group of boys has gathered around me and say they know something 'nice'. I go with them to the edge of the town. Here live the farmers and there are some local Muslim shrines. Around one of them a group women have some service. They invite me to look and give me some chips.
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Since it is Diwali the restaurant is closed and we get a simple meal in the room. The road to the center is rather dark and we decide to enjoy the fire-work from our room.
Last edited by vonkla; Feb 6th, 2015 at 22:41..
#2 Feb 6th, 2015, 04:41
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October 24
For tomorrow we want a taxi for Mirzapur and ask the man at the desk to arrange this. He refuses or maybe he doesn't understand it. We walk to the town for a travel agent and pass hotel Raghuvansi. It looks more sophisticated than ours. My wife asks if they can help us. No problem, the price is 8 rs per km and the car will arrive around 10. We pay an advance of 500 rs.
We continue to the Shahi bridge. Here and in the rest of the town it is not as crowded as yesterday. But her live many Muslims and their shops are open. Yesterday, on our way to the hotel, we passed the fort and now we stroll in that direction.
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Along the imposing wall we reach the entrance porch, a ticket costs 100 rs. The area between the thick walls is mainly covered with grass, here and there are some buildings. Two men with sticks escort us, we think that they are self appointed guides and try to get rid of them, without success. Some English speaking students join us and explains that these men will open the buildings for us.
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We leave the mosque aside but visit the Turkish Haman. It is an interesting maze of corridors, rooms and stairs. All the other visitors are kept out until we leave.
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The guards stay behind and with the students we visit the rest of the fort. From here we have a magnificent view over the Shahi bridge. When we leave the fort the students stay behind with their friends.
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From the walls we have seen the Atala Masjid, the other great mosque. When we are at the entrance the Friday prayer just has ended. We are asked to wait a little to give everyone the change to finish his personal prayers. After a minute of ten we enter.
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The building is in the same style as the Jami Masjid and again very imposing. Also here an English speaking man explains everything. In front of the mosque are some eateries where we eat our lunch before we go back to the hotel.
#3 Feb 9th, 2015, 02:03
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October 25 Mirzapur
After the rebate of the advance our hotel bill is 1101 rs. The man insists to receive that last rupee. Just after ten o'clock our taxi arrives, it is a Bolero, much bigger than our regular cars. As often the driver doesn't speak a word English. For 1000 rs. the car is refuelled and we are on our way. The road is bad, the first 20 km takes an hour. The country around us is flat and green.

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Around one o'clock we cross the Ganges and reach Mirzapur. Without a problem we find hotel Galaxy. The one-way distance is 80 km., with the agreed price this makes a total of 1280. We already paid 1500 rs. and of course we don't expect a refund. In contrast the driver wants another 200 which we refuse to pay and let him grumble. Our room is rather small and costs 1400 rs. No restaurant, we lunch in our room.
In the afternoon we explore the town, the center is compact, pleasant busy and absolutely not tourist. In other words it suits us. Soon we reach the Naar Ghat, not broad but with steep steps to the Ganges.
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It is surrounded with all kind of temples. We stay there a while before we continue to the Pakka Ghat. It has a similar structure. Here you can cross the Ganges in a rowing boat.
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When we walk back to the hotel we wait for a large group monkeys that crosses the street. Somewhat further a cow is dying. Just as by a broken truck some stones are places around it.
To-morrow we want to visit Chunar Fort. The man at the desk calls a car owner and my wife settles the details. For 2500 rs we go to the fort and, as far as we understand, some other destinations. For dinner we go to a veg. restaurant in the neighbourhood. The menu is only in Hindi but we succeed to get a decent meal.

October 26
Half past nine the our taxi arrives. We clarify again that we want a day trip and not only a visit to Chunar fort. The man agrees, he is just the car owner, the driver waits outside. Needless to say that he does not speak English. His boss assures us that he has given him instructions for a full day program. We have to pay the trip in advance.
The road to the fort is good. Suddenly the driver takes a side-way and via a narrow viaduct we avoid the railway crossing. Shortly after that we stand high above the Ganges at the entrance of the fort. The driver joins us and he has to give a lot of information to a guard before we may enter, there is no entrance fee.
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The fort is underwhelming, we visit a small temple, a deep well, a marriage hall and a building at the river side. We know these particulars since an English speaking boy has joined us. The view over the Ganges with the pontoon bridge is fine, although it is hazy so so we cannot see far away. In the background a new bridge is under construction. The terrain is much bigger but we are not allowed to walk further. In half an hour we have seen everything. When we leave the boy suddenly says he is an official guide and wants 200 rs., we are friendly and give him 50.
The driver wants to go back to the hotel, we order him to phone his boss. He talks with him and we go to a remote temple. Maybe it is an important one, but for us it is not really interesting.

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Again the driver mentions this is the end of the trip. Now we talk to his boss. The man gives the impression that he has no ideas for other destinations. I have read something about Tanda Falls and that will be our next destination.
We leave the main road and continue over a small path through the rice fields. Then we enter the hills and now we drive through an arid area with cactuses.
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The Fall is a combination of many rapids in the Sirsi and is very attractive. It is busy with people who picnic and bath, rubbish in the surroundings is the result. We continue along the reservoir of the river and make another stop at the dam.
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From there we return to the hotel.
In the afternoon we are busy with tuning the upcoming weeks of our trip. One of our plans is a visit to the Sonepur Mela. For that we want to reserve a hotel in nearby Hajipur. There is something wrong with the phone numbers we have. Then I find another one on the net and we have a room during the beginning of the Mela.
#4 Feb 9th, 2015, 03:25
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October 27
As many towns Mirzapur has a clock-tower, it is called Ghanat Ghar. The manager tells us in which direction we have to go. Just on our way we hear a regular sound coming out of a building. We look inside and see men knotting carpets. It is done by a semi-industrial method.
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We are allowed to look around but the men stop with their work and just stare at us. Only for the photo they act as if they are busy. We walk further and enjoy to observe the work of many other craftsmen.

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After a while we ask someone for the Ghant Ghar and we walked already far too far. We take another road and after a while we arrive.
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It is not a stand-alone tower but a part of a church and naturally somebody convinces us to look inside. We ask a policeman how we can reach the Bariya Ghat. He escorts us towards the road that leads to the Ghat.
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Everywhere in the town we see cycle rickshaws that transport sacks filled with wool. Close to the ghat these cycles are loaded. One of the man asks us to take a photo.
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Next he points that we must enter the building. Some men sit there at a desk and we ask them if we can visit this spinning factory, as we think it is. They offer us a chair and we have to wait. After a while we sign the visitors register and are guided to the director. He explains that he runs a carpet export firm, the wool we see goes to weavers in the villages around Mirzapur. He goes with us to a hall where his employees show us the different types of carpet.
After lunch in an eatery we walk back to the hotel. We need some money and I visit four ATM's, all of them out of order, before I find a working one. To-morrow we leave for Sasaram. We had RAC tickets but they are confirmed.
#5 Feb 13th, 2015, 20:23
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October 28 Sasaram
At seven we have our breakfast and half an hour later we go down The receptionist arranges a rickshaw for us and within a quarter of an hour we are at the station of Mirzapur. The train is delayed by an hour. The sleeper calls is already overloaded awhile together with us many others board. Wiesje has a middle seat and squeezes herself between the other four persons. My side upper is occupied by a young man. He refuses to go and I only can get rid of my backpack. Of course he has no reservation but neither my RAC ticket shows a seat number. Another passenger checks my PNR on his mobile and convinces the young man to leave. As I climb up another man joins me, so I sit rather cramped.
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Next stop is Mughal Sarai where we stay for an hour. A group somewhat aggressive looking man have so the time to load an enormous amount of luggage. Al kind of packages, cooking utensils, stools and so on, no idea where they store it.
After the next halt many passengers grab their belongings, we join them and stand for half an hour in the queue. We can hardly move but the people of the catering manage to continue their work.
Half past one we arrive in Sasaram. There are no rickshaws in front of the station, we walk the 50 meter towards the main road. With the help of some bystanders we get two cycles to hotel Maurya. The city is one big street market.
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In the hotel just one man of the staff speaks English. With his help we get a spacious room for 1900 rs. For our lunch we go to the restaurant. They don't have the dishes that we want and the food we get is not very tasty.
In the afternoon I go to the market, they negotiate mostly fruit, vegetables and sugar-cane. When I walk back the Shea Shah Tomb shows in the distance. In the hall off the hotel sits an armed guard.
When we go for dinner to the restaurant our English interpreter asks if we have complaints. We tell him about the lunch, the dinner is good. When we are back on our room he asks again if everything is fine.

October 29
Apart from the famous tombs there are some other sights around Sasaram we like to see. The man at the desk of the hotel does not speak English neither do the other men who site there. Again the English speaking staff member comes to translate. After a lengthy discussions the conclusion is that the Kaimur Hills area with the falls is unsafe and Rothas fort too difficult to reach. What remains are some temples and an artificial lake. When they mention a price of 5000 rs we don't even start to negotiate.
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Instead of that we walk to the Shea Sha tomb. A student asks if he is allowed to come along with us so he can practices his English. The tomb is constructed with the use of large stone-blocks and is enormous impressive as it rises from the lake.
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Inside are several graves and at the outside some remains of the original ornaments are still visible. By stairs one can go down to the terrible dirty water. But these stairs are in such a bad conditions that we don't dare to use them.
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We spend quite some time the to admire the tomb.
In a distance we see the tomb of Hasan Khan Sur and walk towards it.
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This tomb is constructed on the same way, but is smaller and not surrounded
by a lake.
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Many young people hang around and practice their limited English. But we understand that today the people worship a local deity and that everyone is free. Many take a ritual bath in a river but we find that too far away. Instead of that we go back to the main tomb and walk around the lake.
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We end in a kind of park, a dilapidated stairway leads to the remainders of and old city wall.
We continue through the shopping streets. Men are constructing a tableau with deities, doubtless to collect offerings for the festival.
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The center is not attractive and we return to the hotel. Due to the festivities the dining hall is closed. But a bit further we find another good restaurant. The rest of the afternoon we stay in our room. According to the hotel staff to-night the other restaurant is also closed and here we can only get an omelet without bread and coffee, a minimal diner.
As far as we understand tonight a procession goes through the town. I go out to have a look. The streets are cleaned and extra lightened but there is nothing to see.

October 30
We pay the bill and with two cycle rickshaws we go to the station and take the train to Gaya.

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