Playing some catch-up today…the notes from this post are a follow up to the last one; the afternoon of March 11th.
The second half of our first full day in Varanasi consisted of a long and leisurely breakfast, where we met with three other people (Steph, Jenn & James) who will be on the group tour with Kamla and I (right now we are on a private tour in Varanasi). We sat on the balcony of the hotel breakfast lounge, sipping cup after cup of chai, mango juice and lemonade and talking about the places we have been, and what we are looking forward to as we make our way from Northern India to Southern India.
At one o’clock in the afternoon, we met again with Amit and our driver, Alup. We visited multiple Buddhist temples, hailing from different cultures (Thai, Sri Lankan, Tibetan, Indian) as well as the not-too-old 80-foot Buddha statue. I learned a lot about Buddhism and the life of Lord Buddha yesterday. The inside walls of the Sri Lankan temple were painted by a Japanese artist, depicting the life story of Lord Buddha from birth to death.
We ended with a visit to Deer Park in Sarnath, where Lord Buddha gave his first sermon after enlightenment. It’s pretty humbling to be standing in such an exceedingly old and significant place. Sarnath is one point of a four point pilgrimage for many devout Buddists. It begins with the birthplace of Lord Buddha, then to the spot where he achieved enlightenment, on to Sarnath where he gave his first sermon to his five disciples and lastly the place of his passing. We asked Amit to drop us at a good place to eat supper before we said goodbye for the day, so him and Alup brought us to Taste King before heading to their respective homes (actually Alup was sweet enough to come back an hour later and take us to hotel himself). As my first supper in Varanasi, Taste King restaurant did not disappoint. I had Mutter Paneer as it was under the specials section – deeeeeelicious! Throughout the day we encountered a lot of young school kids. They are very bold and curious; one asked me to write my autograph in his notebook. He seemed to be collecting first names of different tourists, as there was some names written in a Chinese alphabet already in his book.