Dry & Vegetarian
There is no alchohol for sale in Rishikesh, and the city is strictly vegetarian.
The lack of alchohol has obviously not been a problem- the supply of other forms of relaxing substances makes up for that. Chillums are for sale in every side stall.
There is a place nearby, 11kms south on the Haridwar Road, that sells meat and alchohol if the need for these is felt by any traveller
We were itching to get a good view of the Himalayas, so booked an old Ambassador and a young driver, Peri. We worked out our route with the Divya's manager, to take in Dahnolti, the best spot for a panoramic view of the Himalayas. Having got the fairest price we could for the daylong drive and arranged an early breakfast in the hotel. It took almost an hour and a half to drive to a spot where we could drive across the Ganga and find the road to Mussoorrie.
The day started well as we started the climb up through the Garwal Himalayas, getting some spectacular views of the valleys below. We were fortunate to have avoided a landslide, which had closed the road for three days, but the army had cleared enough space for one vehicle to pass at a time. It was about 11am when we reached Dahnolti but the clouds had come down early with the weight of the coming afternoon's rainfall. Peri suggested we wait for a break in the clouds, which didn't happen. Dahnolti is just two streets but we found a tiny restaurant that served lentils and rice, managing to stretch to an omelette for Sam, who'd had a lentil overdose.
One of the oldest temple complex in the area. The famous Indian epic Ramayana and Mahabharta are described here on the walls.
Geeta Bhawan Place of Guru Shri Ram Sukh Daasji, (the great thinker of his time) Popular among the Hindu Brahmin Community. Twice a year people gather at this ashram to read the Ramayana together.
Everybody coming to the area of Rishikesh should go and see the evening prayer at Geeta Bhawan's ghat (Bank of the river). It’s a special experience to see how Hindus worship the river Ganga. The evening prayer will take about 30 minutes and you can take your camera along with you.
"Getting to Rishikesh from Badrinath"
[Story continues from our last stop: Badrinath]
Leaving the soothing mountains was sad but we had to go. The last stop was the least planned one: Rishikesh, or Swarg Ashram to be exact. This bus ride took the cake. After coming down the steepest first 15 km the driver paused near a temple, prayed from his seat, took the prasad handed to him and passed it to the passengers behind. That’s where his thankfulness for safety ended as he and the bus conductor kept pausing everywhere to cram extra passengers in not bothered if the bus may topple in Landslide Valley. Mum, from all the passengers, single-handedly made sure the people-stuffing did not get out of hand =) A few cherries on the cake were the 13 inch wide seats, 3 active loud urchins in the bus, the guy in front of me was a compulsive smoker, and the woman behind me thoroughly road sick throughout the trip and once did her thing inside the bus. When we reached the big active landslide again (we were told it had been cleared) there was a holdup again. A bulldozer was sweeping the huge debris off the road. Then I suddenly understood what a ticket operator had told us earlier of this passage “If you’ll pass you will pass or you won’t”. He meant pass right after it’s swept clean, just enough for the time being, like sliding dirt under the carpet. Okay… By then all the males were running back into their cars, trucks and buses, a sign that the dirt-slipping was almost complete. One car at a time is now ready to play this game, unless of course it becomes active right then! As the bus engine roared onwards, someone yelled to close all the windows. Gee, why didn’t I think of that; that’ll sure help. As we passed by sand and tiny grovel was still rolling down. Throughout the day 3 more landslide related stops were made. We later found out the bus also had faulty brakes throughout Landslide Valley!!
Pause for lunch at 4pm turned out to be a race as all the roadside joints did not have any food left by then and all passengers were scrambling to find one that did. I know roadside cafes but on all the routes I saw roadside towns (more like villages) built strictly alongside the roads and no further. With only the headlights to guide, which was perhaps the one thing on the bus that worked, we finally made it at 9pm. I did not thank the driver this time.
"Swarg Ashram, Rishikesh"
Though the SA (Swarg Ashram) area is only 3km away from Rishikesh, they could be worlds apart. It was difficult to stay in a regular ol’ city like Rishikesh even for an hour after having spent most of our time in SA. From the two days we spent in the area the first day I could not get a grip on the place. I did not get what it was about. It is definitely the bead capital of the world; I don’t know why they have so many beaded necklaces though because hardly anyone there on the street I saw wore any. It’s also the yoga and possibly hippy capital of the world. But obviously that’s not what the place is about. By the next day it slowly started to dawn on me. This is an enclave away from the rest of the world. Kind of like the life of the mountains but for the lowlands. And everyone here is just trying to find more of this elusive thing we call peace and sanity. By the time we were to leave back for Haridwar, I knew I would miss this place far more than I had thought, and I was right.
Another event on the trip that is clearly vivid is after the second day’s river prayers in Rishikesh walking in the dark to our hotel in Swarg Ashram (SA) I felt my pockets and realized I did not have the camera. I took a chance and asked mum if she had it. When she said no, I panicked! All those pictures! I’m never going to get them again!! I immediately turned back and retraced my steps. I wanted to run off but mum said you need a torch and since there was no time to get it from the bags in the hotel she bought one while I got a taxi. My nerves were in a bunch through the ride back. I raced down the alley and stony beach in Rishikesh to the spot where I took the last picture. Not there! Since the beach was more illuminated than I thought I knew my chances were slimmer and began to fathom how I could ever manage to rid my memory from the scar of this klutzy mistake. And then a couple meters from the river’s edge lay the tiny red thing a bit wet amidst the rocks. I raised the camera high with the torchlight pointing towards it to let her know I found it! =)
Ananda Spa in the Himalayas
"A treat for your body, mind and soul !!"
If you are a city dweller with a stressful lifestyle like mine and looking for a break then this is the ideal place for you. I was looking for a relaxing holiday after a busy 2006 and wanted to rejuvenate before i started 2007. I wanted a different vacation for a change; On this vacation I wanted to do ‘nothing’.
I wanted to sleep long hours. Get up to beautiful mornings with fresh clean air. I needed a tranquil environment. I wanted good food, good wine, good weather, good service, and good room with a view…….. I wanted to get pampered. I was looking for a Spa with relaxing massages, a pool, a Jacuzzi, steam, Sauna and the works… I wanted to spend some quality time with my husband. I wanted to just sit back relax and rejuvenate. Was I asking for too much??
Apparently not !! Ananda Spa located in the foothills of the Himalayas offered all this and much more !!
Imagine......sitting in the Sun on a mild winter afternoon overlooking lush green hill tops...... a serene environment where you can hear the birds chirping and can smell the herbs in the fresh air......you have had a yoga session and a very relaxing aroma massage .....It is noon and you get a little hungry......you are being served hot delicious food with utmost courtesy……you are sitting across the table with your loved one as you cherish life and all its beautiful things!!
Imagine......a wooden bench in a secluded corner on a cliff, with amazing view of a valley......it is twilight time 6:05 PM......the brilliant orange red Sun descending slowly and giving way to an array of glorious colors ......you and your spouse holding hands......it seems so peaceful...
Imagine......sleeping like a child and then waking up …not at a preset time or by an alarm clock ......but by bright sun rays escaping through the curtains of the French window of a big balcony …which overlooks green hill tops and a long meandering river (not any other river but the great Ganga )….waking up to a day with no to do list or an agenda …..Noticing the lovely morning and all great creations ……
I didnot imagine this I lived it !!This is ingrained in my memory now….and the moment it starts to fade, I have promised my self that I will visit Ananda again!!
"Pamper yourself all the way...."
There are plenty of ways you can spend your time at Ananda. You can choose from a variety of packages based on your needs. They have specially designed packages on stress management, weight management or anti aging (!). They also offer packages on yoga, fitness and Ayurveda.
We took the Himalayan Romance package for 4 nights which included one massage (for him and for her!!) almost everyday, all meals and the airport transfers. Costed us US$2000. We were put up in one of the best rooms on the top floor facing the east…where you could see the rising Sun from your balcony. By the way the package also included a Rose petal bath (!!!!) arranged in the bathtub in the luxury of your own room where the bathtub is juxtapose to a window with the view…Out of this world and very Romantic!!
There are around 70 types of massages that you can avail at the spa. There are plenty of options from the traditional Kerala massages to Aroma, Thai or Swiss massages. The spa is very tastefully designed and one thing striking about this place is that every corner and every window has an exquisite view. The color theme is based on reds and yellows with fresh flowers and incense sticks adding to the serenity. Each massage room has a name indicating the treatment and purpose. The couples massage room is named "the Kama suite!!!" and I will leave the decor to your imagination. You will find musicians playing a flute or a Tabla and the sounds resonating across the halls in the spa. And of course the Spa comes with the Jacuzzis, Steam and Sauna rooms, a heated Swimming pool and the works.
I am sure by now you can imagine all the pampering I received during my stay. It is so easy to get used to it and couldnt think of getting back to the routine waiting for me at home.
For those who are looking for more action there are a lot of things to do though I decided to give them all a pass and stuck to the options in the second category only.
• You can take a trek on the hills around the resort.
• You can visit the “Ganga aarti “on the banks of the river Ganga which happenes every evening. It will take you about five hours including travel time.
• You can go water rafting in Rishikesh. One of the best places for rafting in India (grade 5 rapids )
• You can visit the holy temple of Haridwar.
• You can visit the twin cities of Deharadun and Mussorie.
• You can play golf and take lessons from a professional
• There can join the yoga session in the morning and the afternoon
• There are cooking classes where the chef dishes out healthy items
• There are meditation sessions( sadhana )
• Vedanta …discourses based on the ancient Hindu scripts on Vedas
• Over and above all these you can schedule a personalized yoga or sadhana session.
• You can also schedule a discussion with an Ayurveda expert
"You want to go, this is what you should know"
The best time to visit Ananda is during Spring and Winter. However, This Spa has guests visiting all through the year. You see a lot of local tourists during summers and a lot of foreigners during winter. The temperatures during winter are 23C (gets colder in the night…drops to about 10C ). Light winter clothing should be ok.
To get there ::Ananda is an hour drive from Haridwar (nearest train station ) or Dehradun (nearest airport ). Both these palces well connected through Delhi. The property is spread over a couple of hills. It has a Palace ( once the residence of Maharaja of Tehri Garhwal. You can either choose a deluxe room or Viceregal Palace (rooms in the palace cost twice as much). Every Deluxe room has a Balcony which promises a view of the valley or of the Palace.
The spa provides crisply ironed white cotton kurtas to wear during your stay. I quite liked the idea. It is pleasing to the eyes to see all people dressed in whites rather than find somebody dressed in florescent green or yellow. It integrates well with the natural green environment.
Ananda was one place where the food was healthy and tasty too (rare combination isn’t it) … They go the whole nine yards …with a sumptuous breakfast spead, Appertizers/ main course followed by dessert for Lunch and Dinner. You could eat it all without a trace of guilt because the food is not greasy, deep fried, coated with butter or filled with cream…….and again I repeat it was very tasty. The menu includes India, oriential and continental cuisine. They have taken utmost care to cook up a healty menu by using the fresh veggies grown in the premises of Ananda, use jaggery instead of sugar, roast rather than fry……
I recommend you try the NZ lamb rack, Thai green curry, Goan fish curry and giner lemon tea.