Review: Radisson Hotel Varanasi - By Michael Straus

Michael Straus has worked for nearly 20 years in sustainable food and agriculture and environmental issues. He is currently a contributing editor for Reuter’s syndicated eco-travel site, He’s been traveling in Asia for the pas
Feb 28, 2011 11:53 AM ET
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Review: Radisson Hotel Varanasi


Early one smog-enshrouded morning in VaranasiIndia, my pollution-spewing tuk-tuk 3-wheel taxi zooms across the cow-and-car congested city streets and delivers me to the sparkling 5-star Radisson.

To say the least, this is one of Varanasi’s top hotels. The accommodations are flawless–from immaculately clean, tasteful rooms and reliable WiFi, to excellent fitness, spa and dining facilities. My own reaction is a combination of relief and unease, for this is my first visit to India and I am still shocked by her vast disparities—such as the juxtaposition between the numberless alms-seekers holding out creased palms on the ghats overlooking theGanges River and the liveried waitstaff at the hotel’s Sunflower Café who insist on unfolding my napkin when I am seated before the sumptuous morning buffet.

I am certainly not the first to note that India is a study in contrasts, and that Varanasi–3 thousand years old and among the world’s most ancient continuously inhabited cities–is perhaps all the more so. Best known for the timeless and holy Hindu ritual of cremation on the banks of the Ganges, Varanasi is also beset with high poverty levels, poor water and air quality.

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