While trying to write about Rishikesh, I kept drawing a blank. How exactly do I describe it? I spent a week here, yet didn’t see most of the tourist sites. I attended a few yoga classes, kept thinking I should stay in an ashram for a while, but never really got around to it. In part, because I doubted my ability to wake up at 4:30 am in the winter, and in part, because I was so content with what I was doing.
I spent most of my time either sipping coffee and eating chocolate balls in a cafe overlooking the river, or taking long walks.
Countless hours of just watching the river. Sparkling in the sun, its surface rippling with the breeze. Calm and serene for the most part, gushing over rocks in places, always flowing. The sound of the river is like music. Nestled snugly in the hills. The hills feel like guardians, making me feel safe and comfortable.
I read a lot, wrote some, and thought a lot. My mind felt calm, and I felt light. Life felt simple. Wake up, warm bath, hot coffee and chocolate ball and breakfast in a bakery close by. Sit either in the balcony and enjoy the view, or enjoy the cosy warmth inside on very cold days. Share the table with friends or friendly strangers. Then walk, for the sheer pleasure of walking. Find a sunny spot, sit, laze, read, soak in the sun. Watch the monkeys play, and the adorable furry calves. Have lunch whenever hungry. Enjoy the very simple things. Being bundled up in the cold, waiting for the sun, some foggy days, and ofcourse the rain! Everything looks just wonderful in the rain. The river, the hills, the streets washed clean. Walk again, or read, or think, or write, just be. Have a green tea and gaze out of the window at the bakery on the other side of the bridge. Feel the gentle sway of the bridge when crossing it. Have an early dinner and snuggle up in bed. I might not be able to do this always, but for a week, it was blissful.
My trip was so enjoyable also because of the people I met. Warm, happy people, who it was a pleasure to get to know. Listening to travel stories, getting to learn about different parts of the world, new ideas and a fresh perspective. It’s amazing to meet people who inspire you.
I also loved being around so many animals. The baby monkeys playing and the big ones jumping on the roof. The monkey who decided to join me for dinner and took off with the jar of sugar and the bottle of sauce. The cow who wanted to shop at the souvenir shop and the dog who snuggled up in the other chair as I enjoyed my chilli mushroom. The best part was that the animals there seemed healthy and well fed.
I feel strangely at home in Rishikesh, and I know that sooner or later, I’ll go back.
Rishikesh is famous for yoga. If you would like to learn yoga, there are some great options. And some not so great ones. Please do some research before you join any classes. It’s a great place to be even if you have no interest in yoga.
I stayed in Shiv Shakti Hostel for the most part. It’s cosy, comfortable and has very friendly staff. I also stayed at Bunkstay for two days, a good option too.
White water rafting in Rishikesh is a lot of fun. I didn’t do it this time, but have done it before.
January in Rishikesh is not tourist season, which is a good thing. I think it would be best to avoid the tourist season.