Just got off the train in Haridwar, from where i had planned to go straight to Richikesh, however, it was already starting to get dark when i got off the train and so me and some others from on the train headed to a nearby hotel. Listed in the LP guide as 'mid-range' it was certainly a step up from my last room in Delhi but also a little more pricey. I managed to get the price down from 950 rupees to 700 rupees (da da da daaaaa) because i was alone and although air cooled just meant a ceiling fan and a fan in the window bringing in air from outside (i turned this off because it was actually heating the room), the room was actually far nicer. 3 times the size with a proper washroom, windows and a TV! It also had a weird hybrid toilet. it was like a normal western toilet bit with wide bits on the sides of the bowl jut incase you wanted to stand on it. I was a tad worried by the fact that the toilet door has a bolt on the outside (weird but i'm going to use it to lock away my stuff when I'm outside the room).
One thing i noticed about Haridwar when i arrived was the silhouette of monkeys climbing along and down the building by the station. Thankfully the balcony of my hotel room has a large cage surrounding it to keep the monkeys out.
The train ride here was ok, not quite at the point where the view out the window is much more than fields and the occasional small village. I bought a mobile phone in Delhi before i left, i thought it was a good idea as i was in need of a calculator and alarm clock and when i get a SIM card (for which i need a passport photo, something i have no idea how to get) ill have a way of contacting hotels and sending the odd text home.
The plan now is to find food but until tomorrow i think ill stick with the many veggie options the hotel restaurant has to offer.
Changed plans in the end. Met up with a Spanish couple who were also sat by me on the train and who i had talked to briefly when checking in. They told me they were going to Har-Ki-Pairi Ghat (where Vishnu is said to have drunk some heavenly nectar and left a footprint), here Hindus place small leaf boats with candles into the river Ganges in worship. They invited me along to see this and to find somewhere to eat. We took an auto rickshaw to the Ghat. expecting to see a river of tiny lights but were greeted instead by about 200+ Indians sleeping on the riverbank and about 100 beggars and people asking for money. Some were normal beggars, a few had disabilities and a many were holy men looking for unofficial donations (official donations are taken by uniformed collectors).
A tad confused by the lack of pretty lights we decided instead to find some food. We found an Indian fast food place but decided against it and instead found a popular Indian chain restaurant called Chotiwala. We ordered a selection of different dishes (all very nice) and i got talking to Oscar and Mireia, a couple from Catalonia. living near Barcelona. after a lovely and very cheap meal (less than 2 pounds each for a table full of food, a few drinks and Chai after) we headed back to find an auto rickshaw to take us back to the hotel, problem was, they had all left. We managed to find a man with a cycle rickshaw and he (very bravely) offered to take us back to the hotel. Usually we would have haggled over the price but knowing what the man was in for taking us the few kilometers back to the hotel we just said thank you and climbed aboard, Mireia and Oscar took the two seats behind the driver and i climed onto the narrow bench on the back of the rickshaw, facing the traffic behind. This was both exciting and a little scary as i could see all the traffic shooting around the rickshaw and down the road (luckily it was about 11/30pm so there wasn't much traffic). At one point before we got to the main road the driver started apologizing profusely as he had to jump off and take a second to catch his breath, Oscar jumped off and helped him push whilst i used my foot to help to get to the top. Once on the road it was easier going and we were soon at to the hotel.
Now im back in my room, watching Casino Royale (the only thing i found that was in English). planning on getting up early tomorrow, don't know what i'm going to do, maybe explorer Haridwa. and then i need to decide whether to stay another night or travel the few hours by bus to Richikesh, the world capital of yoga and meditation.
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