Three months worth of GoPro footage cut down in a fun little 3 minute video!
Music: Feels Like Home by The Him Feat. Son Mieux
Three months worth of GoPro footage cut down in a fun little 3 minute video!
Music: Feels Like Home by The Him Feat. Son Mieux
It was 4:30am, cold and still very dark when we walked to the taxi stand and said goodbye to Rishikesh for the final time.
The ride to the Haridwar train station took about 40 minutes. We had planned to arrive early to make sure all was good boarding our train to Delhi. We booked in chair class 2, definitely not the worst, but it’s no Via Rail!
When the train pulled up we hopped inside the first car we thought might be ours. Turns out we were only off by about five. That’s a lot of isles to push through but we finally made it to our seats after asking a few questions. Four and a half hours later the train stopped at the New Delhi Rail Station.
If you read How to Get Scammed in Delhi, you will know our first attempt at exploring this city was a bust to say the least. We actually set out to make it to the same hostel, the same way we failed at last time…call us stubborn! We were armed with a screen shot of the walking directions and arrived at The Smyle Inn as planned. In the short treck to the hostel we encountered about 20 more scam attempts. Random people trying to make you think you are going the wrong way, or are in the wrong place, you name it. Basically getting you confused so they can overcharge you for a ride, take you to a fake tourist office, or their buddy’s hotel\shop. You are a huge target when you are walking through Delhi with your luggage and\or looking like a tourist. Know where you are going and ignore help from friendly strangers.
It was mid afternoon when we unloaded our bags into the room, and we set out to explore the Main Bazaar. It was right at our doorstep. Shops galore and typical Delhi sounds, sights, and smells overloading your senses.
It was so much more enjoyable walking around without the burden of our packs. Not long into our walk we were both looking at each other and smiling. It is a crazy feeling being in such a foreign place. We checked out a few shops before stopping to eat. We couldn’t ignore our hunger any longer, and the small bag of chips we had on the train ride wasn’t cutting it. Jeff had read about My Bar & Restaurant on Trip Advisor so we decided to check it out. That’s where we enjoyed our first alcoholic beverage after about 5 weeks of being dry in Rishikesh. It was everything we thought it would be.
Connaught Place was just a few blocks away and a local (the rickshaw driver who had scammed us our first time to the city, actually) had described it as Delhi Central Park. Its a large green space circled by city streets lined with luxury brand shopping and high end dining spots. There is also an amazing underground market below the park, it’s full off knock off clothing and gadgets sure to break the minute you try them. Bartering skills are a must, and expect to pay a quarter or less of the original price. We spent a couple hours walking around the area while our appreciation for Delhi continued to grow. The city really does have both ends of the spectrum, from the amazingly rich to the horribly poor.
We sat on our bed at the end of the day on the laptop and reading our Lonely Planet Guide book trying to figure out what we can squeeze into tomorrow. Suddenly we realized there was so much to do and we don’t have enough time. We decided to explore The Red Fort and the spice market, and walk around Old Delhi. We took the metro line to Old Delhi in the morning and walked to the Fort, meeting some friendly folks along the way who were from Germany, South Africa, and the States but were all living in Delhi.
We then continued walking aimlessly through Old Delhi until our feet ached. It is truly a place that cannot be described in words.
Delhi was a real treat, especially after getting off on the wrong foot. We are lucky to have been able to give it a second shot. India deserves the time it takes to really get to understand and appreciate it. It’s a world away from what we are accustomed to. During our visit we had to get use to a few, what you might call “cultural differences”.
1) Local men in general won’t show affection towards their wife in public but will walk down the street, holding hands (interlocked fingers I might add) with their male friends. We even seen some bros out borderline cuddling. It’s all good of course but why no love for the ladies?
2) Another one that foreigners might initially take offence to is the shameless staring. The local people will look you up and down and stare into your soul while time stands still. You can stare back, flash them a uncomfortable smile, but they just don’t stop looking. We learned to laugh it off, they don’t mean any offence for the most part.
3) Lastly is the picture requests. Not only do Indians seem to love having you take pictures of them with your camera, lots will want a picture with you. We felt like celebrities walking through town, often being stopped for pictures. The less shy folk will want different poses and even throw their babies and young children at you to hold for the camera. We just learned to have fun with this as well. One afternoon in Ram Jhula we did have to leave an area pretty quickly, a crowd started to form and we thought we might get swarmed (seriously!).
India, you’ve been interesting to say the least!
Britt & Jeff.
On January 9th, 2016, I started my journey into becoming a yogi with the 200-Hour Registered Yoga Teacher training at Vinyasa Yoga School in Rishikesh, India. The course started off with a hawan on the Saturday night (read more about that here) to get us acquainted with our teachers, fellow classmates, and some Indian culture. We received our class schedules and were told we were starting the next day (Sunday, our scheduled day off) because we had only a short time to fit everything into the month.
Our daily schedule was as follows:
5:30-6:00am Tea and fruit time
6:00-8:30am Vinyasa class
45 minute break
9:15-10:15am – Pranayama (breathing techniques)
11:30-12:30pm Yoga Philosophy
15 minute break
12:45pm-1:45pm Physiology and Anatomy
1:45-5:00pm Lunch break
5:00pm-7:00pm Hatha class
30 minute tea break
(Thursday’s we only had Vinyasa and Hatha classes, and Sunday’s we had off completely.)
The next morning when my alarm went off at 5am, I thought someone was playing a cruel joke. As a rule I’m a morning person but getting up at 5am when you are fighting jet lag isn’t my idea of a good time. I dragged myself upstairs to make it on time for tea, made small talk with my classmates, and laid my mat out in the yogashala in preparation for my very first class. I breezed through my first yoga class with ease, marvelling at how flexible and strong I already was.
Just kidding. I thought I was going to die. I was shocked at how weak and out of shape I was. I try to make exercise a priority at home, but during the last month (okay, maybe two months) I had majorly fallen off the bandwagon of running and yoga, all the while fully indulging in the delicious drinks and eats that come along with the holiday season. During the class I was constantly comparing myself to the others, thinking “all these people are so much better than I am, I’m the fattest one here, I’m so bad at this”, and all the other things our ego puts in our heads to tell us we aren’t good enough. I left the class feeling defeated and negative. Not a great way to start a month long course.
But, as things always seem to do, it got better. Once I got used to being exhausted most of the time, and with the support of Jeff, my attitude changed and I started enjoying my time. We both had tried to come to India and into the course with no expectations, which as we all know can be harder then you’d think. The following are the expectations vs. the realities that I encountered during my time at Vinyasa Yoga School.
Expectation: I’m going to be so flexible and skinny when I’m done and I’m going to be able to bend my body into a pretzel and do the splits.
Reality: Hell frickin’ no. I’ve noticed a change in the way I look, but can’t say I’m more flexible. After the first two weeks of the course, I found myself less flexible and poses that I used to be able to do before I came (poses that stretch your hips) were really difficult. Our classes focused more on strength then flexibility, so I did notice my strength improved considerably over the month, and I am able to do some poses that I never could (forearm stand). I wish our course would have focused a little bit more time increasing flexibility, but now I have something to work towards! It will come with practice.
Expectation: I’m going to be so good at teaching after this.
Reality: I feel like I have a lot more self exploration and personal practice and learning to do before I will be ready to teach as a job. That was one of the complaints of the course and a few of us didn’t feel like we had gained enough knowledge of how to actually teach. I can only speak for this course as I don’t know if it is synonymous with teacher training in general, but I know I’ve got some more work to do 😊.
Expectation: Since I’m doing so much yoga and eating vegetarian, I’m going to feel so good all the time and sleep like a baby.
Reality: For the first week I had insomnia. If I was lucky I would get 3 hours of sleep a night, which isn’t near enough for the activities we were doing, and I could only fall asleep during class! That improved and then the second week I got a nasty head cold, and the third week I got the flu. Almost everyone got sick at some point, which is common when you are sharing a small space with so many people. At one point I got a knot in my shoulder blade that was so nasty I couldn’t practice yoga. The course kicks your ass, and during the first couple weeks your body is detoxing and getting used to the four hours of yoga you are putting it through, so getting sick is likely. Homesickness is also inevitable , but luckily Jeff and I had each other and with technology these days keeping in touch with family and friends is easy.
Expectation: I’m going to find my inner peace.
Reality: India isn’t really a peaceful place. With the pollution, poverty, horns and droves of people it can be difficult to focus on anything but. (India is a lot more than those things though!) We’ve realized that inner peace is exactly that. You do not need to fly halfway across the world to find it.
Expectation: I will learn to meditate properly.
Reality: Aside from the fact that during the first couple weeks every time I’d lie down for meditation or for savasana at the end of class, I would fall into a deep sleep, I’ve learned that meditation takes a lot of work and practice, and it isn’t really something can be taught to you. It isn’t a black and white subject and is your own personal journey.
Expectation: This experience is going to be challenging and life changing.
Reality: Finally I was right. This experience challenged me in ways I didn’t know were possible. It has helped give me the tools to hopefully become a teacher someday, and has helped put me on the path to healing the issues that we all have but sometimes don’t want to deal with. India as a country ripped my heart wide open and I’m so grateful for Jeff being there to support me through it all, and for the beautiful souls that I’ve met during my time at yoga teacher training in the little yogi town on the banks of the Ganga.
The following are some pictures Jeff snapped during our graduation ceremony.
If you have any questions more specific to Vinyasa Yoga School in Rishikesh, email me!
We’ve spent almost 5 weeks in Rishikesh, mainly the Laxman Jhula area and were able to do almost everything that peaked our interest. We agree that for someone just visiting town and not enrolled in some type of program, one or two weeks is plenty of time to experience most of what this area has to offer.
Most travelers spend their time here bent in a yoga pose, deep in meditation and/or smoking their way to enlightenment in one of the many cafes overlooking the Ganges. Bungee jumping and water rafting is also possible for the thrill seekers (sounds fun but we passed on it). Treks are supposed to be amazing as well.
A lot of our usual shenanigans we already covered here, Rishikesh: First Impressions.
Here is a few different activities we enjoyed.
Unguided Hike and Waterfall Tour
Word on the street is there are two waterfalls within walking distance of Laxman Jhula. It was my day off yoga and we decided to go find them on our own. Guides are available but really cramp our style. Heading north on the main road leaving Laxman Jhula we noticed we were being followed. Turns out we did find a guide, this mother and pup team joined us for the full trek. Here’s a picture of them napping at the waterfall.
About 20 minutes out of town we came across a small temple. This is where we were told to start walking up in the jungle to find the first waterfall. The police were setup at the temple and told us the area was closed and we cannot see the waterfall. Not really understanding why, we walked up the road a bit further. Five minutes later there was a small food stall selling chai. Just behind it was a trail leading into the jungle. We decided to explore and felt confident with mama dog guarding us. Our intuition told us it looped back to the waterfall trail the police told us we couldn’t go on. We were right, after a fairly intense 15 minute uphill hike we came to a big cave and the waterfall, which we had all to ourselves.
There is a bigger waterfall close by which we tried to check out the following Sunday but were never able to find it. Mama joined us on this hike as well, minus the pup this time.
There is nothing better then wind in your hair, one hundred and ten cubic centimetres of pure Honda goodness beneath your seat and the arms of your lady wrapped around your waist. We spent the day winding around the back roads with Macklemore’s hit song Downtown on repeat in our heads. 350 rupees ($7 CAD) well spent!
We enjoyed the road on the hillside that runs from Laxman Jhula to Rishikesh on the east side of the Ganga. It was away from the in-town crowds but still poses some safety hazards like road side cliffs, blind corners, animal crossings and potholes. Rishikesh isn’t the safest place to rent a scooter, but luckily they aren’t necessary to get around either. Just a fun way to spend the afternoon.
Ganga Aarti Light Ceremony
Every evening at dusk on the banks of the Ganga at Parmarth Niketan ashram, locals and tourists gather for the daily Ganga Aarti ceremony. Aarti is a devotional ritual that uses fire as an offering to the Goddess Ganga, goddess of the most holy river in India. The ritual takes place facing the river, where lamps are lit and circled around by the pandits (Hindu priests) while songs in praise of Mother Ganga are played. The idea is that the lamps acquire the power of the deity.
The ceremony commences with a Hawan, a fire ceremony in which we burn our ego to reveal purity, allowing us to learn without doubt. During the ceremony, the Hindi word “swaha” is chanted to the fire by all in attendance, which translates in English as “take it” (asking the fire to take our ego). During our time in India, we were able to attend three of these ceremonies, as they seem to take place quite often.
The ceremony is completely free and everyone is welcome. It is a great way to spend the evening and immerse yourself in the culture.
Hair Cut and a Shave
Maybe not the most thrilling experience but getting a haircut and shave is worthy of mention. There are plenty of salons to choose from. We managed to find this highly recommended, yet extremely small shop located underneath a set of stairs in the Tapavon area. This guy is a true master of his trade. Armed with scissors and a straight razor, he does great work and includes a head massage. Cost is “as you wish”, 100-200 rupees is customary ($2-4 CAD).
We really enjoyed our time in Laxman Jhula and the surrounding area, but as we said, 1-2 weeks would be enough time if you weren’t enrolled in a course. The town has an almost magical vibe about it, but there is as much darkness as there is magic. The more well-known it gets, the easier it will be for people to exploit the spirituality and the faster that magic will disappear. Until then, it will remain the little yogi town on the banks of the Ganga.
We will leave you with some pictures we snapped from around Laxman Jhula.
Britt and Jeff 🙂
My wife dragged me half way across the world, and left me alone while she does Yoga 12 hours a day. The overwhelming loneliness has inspired this heart wrenching short film. Enjoy!
We couldn’t help ourselves from indulging in some western pop culture while half way around the world in India. So Chaurasi Kutia or more commonly known as the Beatles Ashram, was definitely on our to-do list. We took the 20 minute stroll from Laxman Jhula down to Ram Jhula, wandering the back roads, stopping to say hi to some animal friends along the way.
Rishikesh was relatively unknown up until 1968 when the Beatles arrived here seeking peace and spirtuality in the height of their popularity. They wrote over 40 songs, some of which were later featured on the “The White Album” and “Abbey Road”. The guru they came to see Maharishi Mahesh Yogi was famously known for Transcendental Meditation. John Lennon would later write “Sexy Sadie”, a song exposing Maharishi for trying to get with one of the bands lady friends (allegedly).
Maharishi started building a massive ashram in 1961 focusing on this type of meditation practice. It operated until 1980 when he left to continue spreading his teachings around the world, at which point the Indian government took back the land. It has since been part of Rajaji National Park and left to be consumed by the forest surrounding it.
Still a popular tourist spot, up until recently people would sneak in through the unguarded fence, wander around the many vacant buildings and sit in some of the 84 meditation chambers that still stand today.
Beautiful graffiti style art is painted inside and out of the partially crumbled structures, especially in the Satsang Hall where you can see murals of the famous band and their memorable lyrics written on the walls.
The rumours were confirmed when we arrived. Sneaking into this place is no longer possible or necessary. The Indian government has recently started to clean up the grounds, cutting brush, posting signs and making paths. Realizing the popularity of this unofficial tourist attraction, they are now charging guests to get in. We were disappointed it was no longer free. They charge 600 rupees for foreigners (150 for locals), equal to our daily food budget while visiting India. Maybe it was the luck of Buddha, or our Canadian charm, but as things would have it we met a group of very friendly American tourists when arriving at the gates. Before we could decide whether or not the experience would be worth the rupees, one of them had paid our way. Feeling very grateful we joined their tour and exchanged contact info before they left. We snapped some pics of their group and plan to send them as a thank you.
We then spent the next couple hours alone exploring the living quarters, the yoga hall, the meditation chambers and the roof tops, imagining what this place was like in its prime.
We think the decision to revitalize this place is a good one, it sounds like they have big plans for it. Its a little hard on the wallet in comparison to other local costs, especially for a couple cheap backpackers. But the experience is great, there is so much to take in, and you don’t have to be a Beatles fan to appreciate this place… but who isn’t?
The tour guide explained Rishikesh is very lucky to have been visited by the Beatles. It has put the town on the map and made it the tourist destination it is today. But it is not only the band to thank, it would not have been possible without the work of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the man they came here for.
Our day wrapped up by taking part in the Ganga Aarti Lighting Ceremony at the banks of Ram Jhula (another great experience we want to write about), and of course stopping again to visit some smaller animals on the walk home.
Britt and Jeff 🙂
Its January 15th and we have been in Rishikesh one week. Rishikesh is a meat-free and alcohol-free city located in northern India, nestled in the foothills of the Himalayas along the Ganges River. The river is considered holy (known by the locals as The Ganga), and the city is known as “the birth place of yoga”, and is filled with places to study and practice yoga. There are many temples and ashrams (centres for spiritual studies), and the city attracts hippies, backpackers and people seeking personal and spiritual growth from all over the world.
Britt is 6 days into her month long Yoga Teacher Training Course at Vinyasa Yoga School (she will post an update on that soon). Our time has been spent exploring most of the area around Laxman Juhla, a large suspension bridge crossing the Ganges. We have yet to venture downstream to the further reaches of town.
During the day, the streets are filled with scooters, cows, and folks eating, shopping, taking classes, and taking in the sights. Here are some pictures of our favourite things to do here.
Walking the Streets
Yoga and Meditation
Taking in the View
Dip in the Ganga
Hanging with the Locals
This is a list of our favourite things to do, thus far. We have only been here a week, and we still have about four weeks to go, there is much more to do here.
I’m a list maker. I make lists for everything. Grocery lists, to-do lists, you name it. So it was natural for me to want to make a packing list, three months before we started packing.
We’ve never been overly light travellers, nor have we ever been on a trip longer than two weeks before. Most of our travelling has been done on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica, where the pack list doesn’t need to be too complicated. A few bathing suits, couple pairs of shorts, some tank tops. The less clothes the better, in humidity where your hair frizzes instantly and your wet clothes never dry.
This packing list is different. WAY different. The main differences being:
Disclaimer: We are totally new at this. These are not our suggestions of what we think you should bring backpacking. For all we know, we may be outrageously overdoing it. It is just a product of the research we’ve done, combined with the type of people we know we are and the certain creature comforts we will think we will need. When we get home from our travels, we will update you on how things worked, what we needed and what we didn’t. Any suggestions, let us know! 🙂
Both of our packs are made by Osprey. We have had them for a couple years now and have held up great. We went with Osprey packs mainly because of the lifetime warranty the company offers. They are both 60 litres. Jeff’s is the blue one, the Aether 60, and mine is the green one, the Volt 60.
For our carry ons/daypacks we have these JanSport knapsacks. They were cheap, are decent size, have a sleeve for your laptop or tablet and a space for your water bottle. We are going to dress them up with buttons so we aren’t “that couple” who matches.
As I wrote up above, it was a bit of a struggle deciding what to bring, due to the fact that we are going to be travelling through a few different climates. Where our first home base will be (Rishikesh, India) is pretty chilly right now, in January (as low as 5 degrees at night). Thailand is relatively hot and humid most of the year. I also had to take into account the way I need to dress during my yoga teacher training, and what to wear when we visit temples and places that require you to dress modestly. Below are two separate lists, what clothing Jeff is bringing and what clothing I am bringing.
I know, its crazy. It looks like way too much, and it very well may be. But when you pack all of those clothes into these handy dandy garment bags from the dollar store, all of it compacts into this.
I read quite a few blogs where fellow bloggers were raving about packing cubes, like these. Although we would have liked them, we personally couldn’t justify the price. These bags cost $1.50 each, are breathable mesh and are easy to find things in. They probably won’t last half as long as an actual packing cube, but it won’t hurt our feelings to toss them if they rip.
Perhaps the most important section, the stuff that is going to keep us clean and healthy while we are away, the toiletries and hygiene items.
Also really important, the things that we are going to use to document our trip and to stay in touch with family and friends.
The stuff that didn’t fit into any other category…
And that’s it! Our three month pack list for Asia. We will update along the way to let you know how we are making out with the items we packed. Thanks for reading!