#ThePilgrimageWithVK #ChasingWaterFools #MyBikiniKindaLifeInIndia
What is India without one of the world’s largest and most polluted body of water? Okay, enough with polluted. The sacred river to the Hindus. This holy river starts from the Himalayas and crosses to the Indian soil until Bangladesh and associated with relevant Hindu ceremonies. Honestly, before heading to see the Ganga and experience its holiness, I had so much hesitation. I have heard stories of traveler dipping and getting sick. But as soon as we got out from the bus and landed in Varanasi, my energy changed. It went bad. The stingy, noisy and over crowded holy city just took away my sense of ME.
From the bus/train station, we decided to stay near the Ghats to witness the Pujas. We took a rickshaw and paid about 60 rupees for both of us. The interesting streets of Varanasi teeming with people and things being sold greeted us.And yet again, got scammed by an Indian man who said he owns a hotel and near Vishwanath temple with clean ac rooms, wifi and cheap. I knew he wasn’t telling the truth. But hey, I was not alone.Yes just upon arrival in the “hotel”, it was clear that, he was not connected with the hotel and asked money from us because he “helped” us. Oh my Indiaaaaa! Whatever. The room was so so, AC room with toilet at 750 rupees. Non AC with squat toilet 300 rupees. Took the AC, it was just too much for me…I mean the place.
Too much exhaustion, I ended up snoozing to dreamland while VK had to get us food in the dark alleys of Varanasi. Yeah, at least I got to be a patient for awhile.
The next day, I gave it a try, a stroll and hopefully a dip in the holy river. Not until I got to experience the hottest event of my life. Forty three degree Celsius even before lunch! It was just crazy! So we ended up hanging out somewhere that served a very special and authentic drink.
The Bhang Lassi experience. A yogurt milk drink with weed! Okay no, not for me. VK tried it. Not a fan of weed, I mean, I don’t do weed. Not my thing. So I was there to witness and document it. Plus, I wasn’t ready to take too much Indian bacteria. I was dealing with tummy problem already. It wasn’t that bad according to VK. Things went slow. The Cannabis side effect.
Ganga and the Hindu Pujas are synonymous. So we wanted to see it across the river. For a fee of 50 rupees each we can paddle to the other side, take dip and then watch a puja. Was I ready? BIG NO. I was dealing with tummy issues and the hotness of the place. So I skipped it, but he went. Or so I thought. He ended up hanging out with a bunch of locals selling weed, which was according to him overpriced and smelled like horse shit. Wow, now that was new!
So nothing happened in Ganga. But I was eager to feel the energy of the Ganga river. Yeah, the safest way to do it, was where all the pollutants do not exist. Up in the mountains. But the Himalayas were yet far from my sight. Rishikesh, another sacred city.
Located at the foot of the Himalayas. This town is also known as the YOGA center of North India. Two birds in one trip. Or so I thought. Yes, it was my spiritual decision to reach this town based on recos and purpose. If I didn’t make it in Varanasi, maybe I can do the Ganga holy dip here. And I just didn’t do the dip. It was splendor.
We went by train to the pilgrimage town of Haridwar but I didnt really bother to stop by. My goal was the hippie town. From Haridwar train station, the bus stand was just across, maybe a two or three blocks walk. We paid 600rupees each for a train sleeper seat. It was a grueling and grilling 18hour train ride. Believe me, the journey was worth it. We arrived early in the morning and was greeted by a beautiful and cold sunrise. Sorry not in the mood to take pictures. I was just reveling the moment. We were seated in the local bus on the way to Rishikesh with our new friend, the Aussie Timmy. It was literally following the waters of Ganga.
Small town but confusing for someone who was tired and no concrete plan. We were three now. We want to stay in an ashram but there were too many. We didn’t have the energy to go around asking. So we ended up getting a place from where the rickshaw dropped us. Yeah we still had to take the rickshaw from the Rishikesh bus station to the backpackers area. It was because of my idea that maybe, the further we go, the cleaner the water. India to me: Seriously?. We stayed near Laxman Jhula, a popular yoga and backpackers hub. We got a room from the main road for 500rupees per night for three people with toilet. No wifi. Who needs it when there were so much to do.
Food was amazing but not too cheap unless we eat raw. Like eating veggies straight from the market. Or meeting a bunch of hippies who live in the forest for like a lifetime. And I am not describing the Indian Babas. I’m talking about foreigners roaming around and telling stories about how they found meaning in life while visiting India. And yes. decided to stay in India, for good. Couldn’t blame them. I, too was falling. There was something pulling me towards the freezing waters. The fast current didn’t stop me to take a plunge and whispered my little prayer. Was it my imagination? I was totally enjoying the cold water. I was rejuvenated. Enchanted Ganga.
So what happened to the yoga certificate? Gone. I was too busy meditating and meeting people while hanging out at the river.SOLO. Yeah me time. A lot of it. My company? Timmy was busy walking to the other side. While VK finally met his guru. Indian Baba. He was busy hanging out with him. I wasn’t into it. I met my meditation teacher in Bohdgaya. Not interested in someone who doesn’t share the same values as mine. But I was happy he found what he was looking. Guess that’s love. Happy for someone else.
This could have been my paradise. But something happened. India, you never failed to scare me. I was doing my usual afternoon Ganga immersion when there were others. An local guy and a foreigner woman. Well, we started friendly. Conversation about life, relationships and labels (background). Until out of nowhere one baba came by and joined us talking about marriage. He was telling us, he fell in love with the other woman. And here came this guy, asking me to marry him. Goodness! This wasn’t my first time to be asked but it was scary and weird. We, women walked out. That was it. I needed to move. There was no way I’m hanging out here for long. I made my decision.But I couldn’t find my teammates. I knew somehow he was with his teacher maybe meditating in the cave. So I decided to speak with Timmy, and voila, we were going to the same destination, Dharamshala. To meet the Dalai Lama!
Goodness, India, it was not about the destination, nor the journey anymore. Not even the experience. Not just the people but most especially, their stories. The woman from Ukraine who have been living in the jungles of India for the past three years. Relying on friends’ help and the ashrams. Or the unlimited babas who were trying to convince me to go with them. Arggghhh. But the one that touched me was the story of the Russian woman who fell in love with India. She has been staying in India for twenty years and renews her visa every year. The only way to get a residence visa is to marry a local. Well, she has been asked so many times. She told me, her favorite reply was, “don’t bullshit me.” Why? Because most if not all of these men wanted to take her to bed. SEX. According to her, most Indian men see tourist women as porn stars or easy. She was speaking in a subtle and calm. While I was secretly hating that idea. The stares, eagerness to ask for facebook contact and the unwanted conversations. Oh dear India.
- train and bus station are just facing each other
- The Pujas are held every afternoon around 6pm
- AC double room ranges from 750-900 rupees per night
- rickshaw from stations to the Ghats cost 50-80 rupees per trip
- Street food is recommended from 40rupee dal to expensive meals
- 2-3 days stay should be fine
- Haridwar is the nearest railway station
- bus to Rishikesh leaves every 30mins
- tuktuk from Rishikesh station to Laxman Chula cost 200 IDR per trip
- have a prebooked ashram, hostels etc
- Food 100IDR per decent meal
- water rafting adventure is available priced at 800rupees per person