A journey into the seat of Consciousness : Rishikesh
Rishikesh is a holy town with so many Ashrams and it is famous for yoga world wide. Also know as the yoga capital of the world.
Yoga is not just about body contractions but the study of the mind, body and spirit. The trishul which is a recurring symbol in Hinduism signifies this philosophy. It is believed that the true 'enlightened beings' or Maharishi's have lived here practising the ancient art of holistic living.
How to get there?
Once you get to Delhi either by train or flight; you can catch an overnight bus to Rishikesh.
Quick Tip to save money : After you check the prices for your flight, check it on incognito mode. You will often get a better deal.
Redbus is a reliable bus booking website, they provide live tracking of the bus. I would recommend Shakti Travels or Mahalaxmi Travels. You can book your bus and select your seat on the Redbus website. Both seat and sleeper options are available. (Avoid Dhruv Travels as they do not receive calls and are not punctual.)
Website for bus booking : www.redbus.in
Quick Tip : Avoid the late night bus, as Delhi bus stop can feel deserted. Try and get the bus by 10:30 pm. It's best to stay around busy areas. Do not go wandering to find your bus. Please carry a PeeSafe. The bathrooms can feel a bit dirty.
A 10 second spray helps quick sanitation of the seat.
Once you find your bus settle in and get some rest. The six hour bus ride will leave you at Nepali Farm which is about 45 minuets away from Rishikesh.
Quick Tip: It will be cold and windy if it's early morning. Do stay adequately warm. Cover ears and hands.
At Nepali Farm catch the nearest auto. They charged me Rs 350 after some bargaining. It will depend on your hostel address or peak season charges.
Where to Stay in Rishikesh?
I stayed in two hostels.
Zostel Rishikesh -It costs about Rs 500 for a bunk bed in a female dorm.
Then I shifted to Moustache Hostel . It costs about Rs 650 per night in a bunk bed dorm.
I loved this hostel. It really had a vibe of being the chill hippy zone. We had lovely music sessions on the roof top. The spirit of nomads coming together and sharing stories was a beautiful experience.
It's those sort of evenings where a group of nomads come together and celebrate life.
I really do recommend this place!
On Maha Shiv Ratri these two artist painted this magnificent Shiva wallart. Instead of going to the ghats that night I felt really happy being at the hostel.
I met a small group of Bengali travellers who took the initiative to hold a small puja on the terrace on the night of great shiva.
It was a cold night, but yet there was an energetic feel to the cold windy night. According to mythology, Gods and demons came across a poison which was capable of destroying the entire world, and they ran to Shiva for help. To protect the world from its evil effects. Shiva drank the deathly poison but held it in his throat instead of swallowing it. This made his throat turn blue, and he was given the name Neelakantha, the blue-throated one. The snake around his neck helps to keep his neck cool and making it bearable to hold the poison. Shivaratri is the celebration of this event by which Shiva saved the world. (Quite a story!)
What to do in Rishikesh?
Rent a Scooter. It completely makes you mobile and you can truly explore the little gullies of Rishikesh. A two-wheeler costs Rs 300-Rs 350 per day. Scooters are very fuel efficient and has storage space.
Quick Tip : Make sure you examine the scooter and take photos are videos of the vehicle. This is a standard procedure I follow in my travels to avoid the shopkeepers penalising you for damage you didn't cause. In case you find anything badly scratched or broken point it out to the owner.
Then, you could ride to Neer Gargh which is about 5 km away from the hostel. Neer Garh is breath-takingly beautiful. You could take a dip in the water, so carry a towel and swim wear.
Quick Tip : There are three levels of waterfalls. So the higher you climb, fewer idiots you will find.
If you are truly adventurous keep climbing up to Uddi Baba's secret pool. It's about a 3 km scenic trek. By the time you reach Uddi Baba's camp you will be feeling warm and the pool will be isolated and cold.
(You can book tents at Uddi Baba's camp too.)
This camp serves Maggi, chai and aloo parathas. You could have lunch there after your swim and bask in the sun while enjoying the beauty.
Quick Tip : If you are not staying the night then leave as soon as the sunsets. You do not want to do a down hill trek when it's dark.
In Rishikesh, you could spend a day exploring the shops around the town.
These are my top picks for places to check out on the other side of Laxman Jhula.
It is at Laxman Jhula Road, near Sant Sewa Ashram, which makes it easy for first-time visitors in locating this establishment. This music shop has a variety of instruments. They have a great collection of Singing Bowls and Hapi drums.
The shop keepers are really patient as they let you try different instruments before your find the connect. For a musician this store is a must visit.
Shopkeeper : Ankit +91 7500758898
2. 11: 11 Cafe
For those who are vegan this cafe has such great value for money meals.
3. Smilence Cafe, on the roof top of hotel Dhram Yatri Nivas.
This cafe has great vibes in the evenings. The main attraction of this place is Ankur who plays the drums and encourages guests to join the jam. Every evening different music is created and travellers sing and dance freely.
In the same area, little shop which serves steaming hot momos for only Rs 60 per plate.
I really enjoy a strong massage so I opted for a deep tissue massage which costed me Rs 2300. Two girls who were well trained did a great job in relaxing my muscles. A steam bath was included in this package. This place has many Ayurveda treatments do select what is best suited for your body.
Quick Tip : It's really important that you get an appointment to avoid waiting.
6. Ganga Beach
Just sit on the beach do yoga, take a dip, get some sun and relax. See what good company I found :
Those who are interested in the study of wellness, spirituality, tantra, yoga and various esoteric knowledge, yoga will find several book shops which will hold your curiosity. The Laxman Jhula as many book shops you could visit.
I got myself 'Yoga and Psychotherapy'. It's a fascinating book by a psychologist and a medical professional. It's a comparison of modern western therapy and ancient healing methods.
Quick Tip : If you wish to visit the well known Parmarth Niketan I would advise you to visit during early morning to avoid tourist and have the beauty of calm scene atmosphere.
What are the other places to explore around Rishikesh?
Yes! There is so much to explore.
From Rishikesh you could follow the highway through Neelkant Bridge Road. The ride is splendid.
In Ghattu Ghat there are many camps which you could stay in. These camps are peaceful and reasonable.
I stayed in Titto's Camp. They provided me a tent and three meals and snacks. It's about Rs 1000 per night. Better deals are available if your are in a group.
In case you want a local guide who could take you to Neelkanth Temple or show your the hidden waterfalls. You could call Bipin a young aspiring local tour guide who showed me around.
( +91 9410164881)
I spent lot of time by the serene riverbed.
What about River Rafting in Rishikesh?
Rishikesh is famous for river rafting. I booked a 16 km rafting experience from MB adventures.
Rafting starts from Rs 600 and goes up to about Rs 1000.
Additional cost for GoPro pics is at Rs 200 per head.
Any more tips?
Yeah there are few more tips I follow :
* Girls, if random men tourist come up and ask for a selfie, clearly say 'NO'. They are often in it for the cheap thrill of putting their arms around you.
*Do you intoxication responsibly. Know you limit. No matter what do NOT drink and drive. The hilly twisted roads could be fatal.
*In times of doubt talk to a local. Their lively-hoods depend on tourism they go out of their way to help you.
* Keep a xerox of your ID Cards in your main bag along with a safety money.
(At least Rs 2000)
*Must carry an efficient torch.
*For those girls who are on their period, using the menstrual cup is advisable. There is no hassle of disposing your pads, especially in the wild. The menstrual cup is so much more comfortable and environmentally sustainable. You could even swim with it without a worry.
*Do Not litter.
* If you plan to go to any temple, it's the best you go before 9 am. Then it's quite without the buzzing shopkeepers.
* Avoid buying plastic bottles. Carry your own water bottle and keep refilling during meals. It's cost effective and eco-friendly.
* Have a limit of number of photographs you should take. It's a trip to experience and every corner does not require a selfie. Take a few if you like but LIVE the moment.
What was the total cost?
Apart from the flight fare, you could plan your Rishikesh trip comfortably in about Rs 15,000. Mind you, it does not include shopping.
Any final words?
It's liberating to travel. Travel with a free mind and let your curiosities drive the experience. Solo travel may seem 'boring' at first but it's truly therapeutic. It's like your own vipasana.
What is truly beautiful about Rishikesh that it's the seat of consciousness. For those who seek for answers beyond the physical realm it's a good place to explore.
The world is very beautiful. Go and explore.