As you might remember from my first post about Varanasi, our initial accommodations were one the worst parts of our experience the first couple of days. But, as fate would have it, the guesthouse we found right after turned out to be one of the main highlights of our time in Varanasi.
After looking at about 6 different places and disagreeing on whether it was a doable option or not, we both happily gave each other a nod “yes” when we walked into Shiva Guesthouse. It was clean, the room had some space and charm, and the people who we talked with were friendly, laid-back, and genuine.
The guesthouse is the family house of Shiva, his brother Kailash, their mother, their sister, and a niece and nephew. Shiva and Kailash are always interacting with the guests and the women (no surprise there) are in the background making it all happen.
They offered a family style dinner each night in the rooftop kitchen that was SO good. The restaurant food in Varanasi is not wonderful so these home cooked meals were heavenly. The mother would start in the afternoon and cook all day long. When you walked in the door you were hit with amazing, mouth-watering aromas.
The first night we had dinner, we couldn’t stop gushing about the food; as Shiva continued to fill up our plates with a smile on his face and tell us about each dish. The rooftop setting was beautiful. The second night we were there- a storm hit and during dinner we were blessed with a light show in the sky that was magical. We sat and talked to Shiva and Kailash about Varanasi and how it has changed over the years.
One night, I wasn’t feeling well and we stayed in the room instead of going to dinner. Shiva came knocking on our door to check if we were ok and said “I just know you love food, so I wanted to see if you were ok.” 🙂 He convinced Shane to come up for dinner and sent a plate of rice and some ginger honey lemon tea down for me.
Shiva and Kailash helped us out with everything we needed while we were there and really helped us learn so much more about Indian culture and life in Varanasi. They were great to just sit around and chat with and share some laughs. It really felt like home.
Shiva invited us to a special lunch that his mother was making with food we hadn’t tried before. Another guest saw us eating and asked if he could join and Shiva said “I’m sorry- invite only” Ha!! We felt special. 🙂
We even met some of their friends and took an awkward photo with them after trying some amazing curry fish that Shiva swore was not from the river. 😳 During the middle of the night, we heard all kinds of primitive sounds from our window by the narrow alleyway. The monkeys and dogs seemed to have a nightly war that was so brutal it made my eyes pop wide open and my heart start to pound.
We loved hanging out on the rooftop, taking in the views and seeing how much life there was above the buildings; children flying kites, women hanging laundry, monkeys stealing laundry, people praying, singing, smoking, and eating.
On our last day in Varanasi, we brought our family some Indian sweets to say thank you. They told us how happy they were with us and that we weren’t “like most Americans.” The mother insisted that she give us a home-cooked lunch before we left and we insisted on a family selfie.
Kailash walked us out of the narrow alleyways to the main street to find a taxi (this is no small feat!). After 10 days of walking the streets of Varanasi and talking to as many locals as we could; our walk out was full of waves, handshakes, good-byes and see you agains. I was beaming. It was a rocky start, but we fell in love with the maze of winding alley ways, immense character, spirituality, and most of all- the people of Varanasi.
Thank you, Varanasi!