My trip this January did not stop in Malaysia; instead I traveled on to India, where I joined a group from my university for a short research trip of sorts. We spent our first week there in Varanasi, also known as Benares or Kashi, a city on the bank of the river Ganges that is one of the most important and famous Hindu pilgrimage sites. Our accommodations were wonderful, for we stayed at a lovely little place right by a section of the riverfront known as Assi Ghat that goes by the rather appropriate name Hotel Ganges View. The prime location, fantastic home cooking, and kind and attentive staff certainly endeared the place to us, but I was perhaps most taken with the building itself and the gardening taking place in and around it. A converted traditional residence in an extremely densely built-up urban area, it nonetheless has a sliver of a front yard facing the street and a whole series of lovingly detailed rooftop terraces.
A little water feature in the tiny front yard at the entrance to the hotel
A view along the front garden...
... and another view from a slightly different angle
The heart of the complex - apart from the plush dining room with its rows of peacock arches - is probably the large second-floor roof terrace, which features a charming little pavilion, all kinds of traditional artwork, and innumerable potted plants, constantly rearranged by the gardener that appears for a few hours most mornings so that they are all shown off to their best advantage. At the time of our arrival large-flowered chrysanthemums and dahlias were taking center stage, with a supporting cast of cosmos, pot marigolds, and lots of foliage plants.
The little pavilion - even its roof is home to yet more plants!
... and more chrysanthemums..
... and dahlias galore!
An early morning view from another terrace towards the temple next door
Lovely cosmos, much at risk because the neighborhood monkeys loved to nibble on these
There is even a miniature lawn of sorts!
Further up are more terraces, all accessible to the guests and even more filled with plants. On the very top of the building the gardener has his work and nursery area, with a shed and shade house of sorts, where he keeps a huge number of plants not currently at their prime or for which there simply is no proper place elsewhere.
On one of the smaller terraces, this one roofed
One of several special stand for tulsi or holy basil (Ocimum tenuiflorum), this one featuring the god Ganesha
The rooftop shade house and potting shed with many more dahlias
A close-up from the nursery...
... and a more panoramic view of a different section
Plants occupying almost any space where they will fit...
... wherever one looks!
Even the interiors abound in flowers. Between paintings and figurines of gods and goddesses and all sorts of decorative handicrafts, there are bowls of fragrant deep pink damask roses, bouquets of long-stemmed red hybrid teas, and luxuriously scented sprays of tuberoses.
Some single tuberoses and red hybrid teas amongst many gods
If by any chance you are planning a stay in Varanasi, the website of the Hotel Ganges View can be found here. For atmosphere it would be hard to beat.