The last week of this trip we decided to go to Rishikesh, a holy Hindu city in Uttrakand province. Known as the “Yoga City” Rishikesh has three things to offer: meditation, Hindu temples and yoga. For two tired travelers, it sounded like the perfect place to reconnect and prepare mentally for going home.
Rishikesh itself was lovely, and as we crossed the Ram Jhula suspension bridge to the other side we were greeted by a world without cars, alcohol or meat. Busy with Hindu pilgrims the village like atmosphere was enchanting. Monkeys swung from the trees, cows and sadhus (religious beggars) shared the shade, and advertisements for yoga, mediation, spiritual healing and all sorts of “finding your inner peace” workshop ads decorated the walls.
There are two parts of “yoga” Rishikesh, each with a different personality. Interestingly enough, each is named after its suspension bridge. Ram Jhula, where we stayed, is the lower part of the city. Across the Ganges, it’s a village like area covered with ashrams and religious centers. There are a few hotels and restaurants, but the area is a little more relaxed. Lakshman Jhula, or the upper bridge, connects to an area of Rishikesh that’s more commercial. Although it has it’s share of yoga studios, there are way more restaurants, shops, hotels and hence more people. Looking for more peace, we stayed in Ram Jhula.
For the next few days we filled our time with yoga classes, some of which were really amazing, others which left us wanting, reading and generally enjoying the peace and quiet. Our hotel, nestled down a residential back alley was cool and quiet. Despite having to dodge cows and their patties, we enjoyed the slow pace and the gentleness of the locals. Walking the streets proved to be the best treat. Unlike other places in India I wasn’t stared at or approached to have my picture taken. Looking for the Ganga Aarti one night, I was stopped dead in my tracks when a Masai man, (those are the ones in Kenya) in full regalia walked into the reception office. Escorted by a western woman, he looked incredibly uncomfortable. Smiling at him as we left the office, I greeted him with a hijambo (hello in Swahili). His face lit up like a lamp and a huge grin broke out. The woman addressed me in Swahili, and I professed that I only knew a few words. Never the less, seeing that man made my day and I think seeing me made his.
We naturally used our time in Rishikesh to do some Yoga. There were a few ‘intense’ places where fasting and meditation were a strict part of the experience so it took us a couple of days to find a yoga class right for us. In the end, it was filled with mostly western yoga teachers, leaving us as the lone greenhorns, but the strenuous classes combined with some good wholesome food left us feeling great when it was time to head home.
IF YOU GO: Searching for transport options from Delhi will be difficult as there are only a couple of ill-timed trains that travel to Rishikesh. Instead you should plan to travel to Hardiwar via train from Delhi (there are a lot of trains along this route) and then get off and go via bus (20 rupee / person) or tuk-tuk (about 300 Rupee up to 4 people). There are buses that run direct from Delhi to Rishikesh. Lodging options are plentiful and we had a nice hotel for about 300 Rupee ($6).