…We arrived in Rishikesh well after sunset last night. After shopping for numerous hotels that were either too dingy or too expensive, I made some calls to places in the Lonely Planet. The hotel with availability was across the Ganges on the east bank of the river, which is inaccessible by car. We left the car and driver and crossed the Ram Jhula, one of the two well-known suspension bridges that span the wide river here in Rishikesh. The constant din of India slowly faded behind us as we traversed the dark water on the bridge, which swayed and flexed more than it looked like it should. We then entered an entirely different atmosphere from the other bank. Meditative chants filled the air with sounds of the Ganges splashing on the bank. It was so peaceful that it didn’t even feel like India. I made two hour-long trips back and forth and was mesmerized by the silence and serenity for the entire two hours.

Some photos of the Ganges and Ram Jhula taken this evening to give you an idea:

This morning, I made some calls home from the bank of the river and ate a banana-chocolate crepe from the hotel that was phenomenal. We then set out to explore what we knew was going to be a beautiful town.

Rishikesh is the yoga capital of the world and quite famous for meditations as well. I could immediately tell that there isn’t a typical Indian demographic here. In fact, I think this is one of the most eclectic places I have ever been. It’s like being in Woodstock, Venice, and Hawaii all at once. It also has, unequivocally, the highest concentration of foreigners that I have seen in India other than inside the Taj Mahal grounds. There are people here who look like they have lost everything but found what they need next to people who look like they have everything but can’t find what they’re looking for. There are religious zealots, yogis with more experience than most life expectancies, mid-life crisis sufferers, and hippies my age who look like they just got off a 20-hour Kombi bus ride with everything they own.

We spent much of the day strolling, trekking, and absorbing the spectacular vistas, calming mantras, and billowing incense of this unique and mystical place.

–Our dinner plate. This assortment of dishes is called “Thali”–