Rishikesh, Uttarakhand, North India

Adi Om
 
Hey Tini... This was difficult to write because I edited it from something much longer and was interupted many times. Should have just concentrated on cost and nature of this place. But here it is...
 
Rishikesh is about 240 Km Northeast of Delhi in the State of Uttarakhan, which borders Nepal and Tibet. It is in the foothills of the Himalayas.
There is a train from Delhi to Haridwar (~5 hours, ~$8) and a bus from Haridwar to Rishikesh (~1 hour, 60 cents).
The train actually goes to Dehradun, but you want to get off at Haridwar. Look for Jan Shatabdi Express 12055 at http://www.indianrailways.gov.in/. This can be confusing. The man in seat 61 might help.

Haridwar

Haridwar is a "holy city" on the Ganges. It is worth staying for a day or two. You can go a bit upstream from the city centre to Har Ki Pori to perform a ritual cleansing in the Ganges and dry off in the sunshine on the ghats.

On to Rishikesh

You will find a bus to Rishikesh near the Haridwar train station and from there you take an autorickshaw about 10 Km upstream to a footbridge across the Ganges called Laxman Jhula.
You actually won't see the bridge from where the autorickshaw stops, but if you walk about 200 meters you will find Monal Hotel (CA$5.89/day), which I used as a base for exploration.
My overall expenses were CA$14.06/day (about US$10 - 3 years ago) - and that's staying in a comfortable Hotel with private hot water bath and cable TV and eating in Western style restaurants.
This hotel is long walk from "downtown", where guest houses are more expensive and restaurants like German Bakery have Western food. But I enjoyed the walk

Laxman Jhula

Now if you walk back to the rickshaw drop you will find a road going down the hill.

 

Eventually you will come to some shops and guest houses and stuff.

 

And soon you will see a German Bakery up on a hill...

 

...and the entrance to a footbridge.

 

The German Bakery is a comfortable place to have a coffee and take in the view.

 

And you may find, as I did, that the clientelle are almost entirely Western women - of all ages - and many of whom are solitary. This is not at all typical of India.
 
Even while exploring the area I saw far more women than men.

 

Eventually I learned from a few conversations and a lot of eavesdropping at the German Bakery that most of these women were here for weeks or months – to live in an Ashram and practice Yoga and Transcendental Meditation. Many were "regulars", as in; “...I’ve been coming here for 2 months every year since ‘89”, etc.
 
Most of them said they were staying in an Ashram - for $2 or $6/day (for overall expenses). Also, I was told that if one stays in an Ashram for a week or more, morning Yoga and meditation classes are free. This information comes from people who were staying at Parmarth Niketan, the biggest Ashram in Rishikesh. Others were staying in Ashrams with basic shared quarters and had to do their own cooking and cleaning and it was "rigorous". Some said that ritual cleansing in the Ganges and Yoga and meditation were compulsory.
According to
Lonely Planet the price of a room with private bath, meals, and Hatha Yoga lessons at "Rishikesh" is about $12/day, but there seems to be many options.

 

There are many Ashrams in Laxman Jhula.... some cheap, some expensive (relatively).

 

 

 

 

There are also many Saddhus in Laxman Jhula, who seem to be nothing more than colourful beggars. But later, after I rented a motorcycle and explored further down the Ganges, I met a different kind of Saddhu far from where the tourist venture.
He spoke English and invited me to his home for chai and ganja. His name is Yogi Padam Nat. He built this place on the bank of the Ganges and has lived here for 25 years.
He has an apprentice named Ganganat and sometimes I would take him to a local market and temple.
After some fact checking I came to believe that Padam is a genuine Yogi Nath, partially because of what neighbouring locals told me, the way Ganganat treated him. and his earrings...
I did not get a good photo of this and cannot find the reference, but apparently, by law, only a true Yogi Nath can wear this kind of earring.

 

 

Now.... moving along before I get too carried away with tangential narratives, I will just add that Laxman Jhula is physically and spiritually beautiful. There is always the sound of soft musical chanting and the smell of incense.
The Ganges at this altitude is clean and full of fish. [And there are monkeys everywhere]
I was surprised to find clean white sand beaches along the shores...
Rishikesh is also “Where the Ganges escapes from the canyons of the Himalayas into the openness of the Doon Valley...” and is sometimes called “The Gateway to the Himalayas”
I had imagined that the Ganges would be dirty, stagnant, and polluted. Maybe this is the case further downstream, but a bit further upstream from Rishikesh it flows swiftly and is aerated by many rapids, which attracts a fair number of white water rafters.

 

 

 

So... I could say more about this place... but this is enough... for now