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Varanasi is famous above all for its silk -- every Indian bride wants a Benarasi silk sari in her trousseau, and around 3,000 kilograms (6,614 lb.) of silk are consumed by the weaving units daily. Wander through the Old City, or ask at your hotel or the tourist office for recommended wholesalers. Resham India (tel. 0542/243-1673), comes highly recommended as does Taj Estate (tel. 0542/245-2228). Or head for Ushnak Mal Mool Chand (tel. 0542/227-6253), a recommended sari shop in Chowk. Another recommended stop is the contemporary, friendly Open Hand Shop and Café (B1/128-3, Dumraun Bagh Colony, Assi; tel. 0542/236-9751; www.openhandonline.com) -- it provides a respite from the cloying traditionality of the city, allowing you to browse through its varied selection of textiles, furnishings and accessories over some pretty decent coffee.

For an excellent selection of Indian fiction and books on philosophy and religion, not to mention good CDs, visit Kashi Annapurna Book House (B1/185B, Main Assi Ghat; tel. 0542/231-5992), a small enterprise near Ganges View Guesthouse.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.