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Published: March 19th 2020
A trip to Uttarakhand was in my mind for a long time but the chance never came. Until December of 2019. It was always meant to be a solo trip. The kind of one where you do soul searching and try to understand the great mysteries of life.
The starting point for my journey was the beautiful yet chaotic town of Dehradun. My stay there was short. A local friend helped me with the accommodation and offered a ride to Rishikesh. I politely declined because I wanted to experience this all by myself right from the start. After a night's stay in Dehradun, I took an early bus to Rishikesh. The journey was beautiful and freezing and I reached the bus station of Rishikesh at about 8 a.m. There was not much crowd at the station, probably because December is off-season and tourists prefer the cold surroundings of Rishikesh in summer.
I really had nothing in mind about what I was going to do in this holy town. I had no itinerary, no schedule, no plan - just a hotel reservation. The hotel I reserved for my two-day trip was about five kilometers from the bus station. I was
fortunate (or unfortunate - I am not sure which because I spent 60 rupees on a 10 rupees ride) to get a fellow to share a jumbo-size auto. Coincidently, that guy had a reservation in the same hotel. However, we were told our rooms were not ready (no big surprise) when we reached the hotel lobby. I decided to roam around the area for a while. I could not, though. At least not much as I thought. It could have been the cold and the altitude of Rishikesh or the fact that the level of my physical fitness was less than zero. I returned to the hotel in fifteen minutes and asked the guy at the reception to give any room they had - with clean bedsheets, obviously. Though I was not entirely happy with the room, the view from the hotel's roof lifted my spirits. It was simply breathtaking. I could see the mountains on one side and holy waters of Ganga flowing on the other. For a moment, I was lost in that scenery.
I decided to head back to my room because I realized I was so lost in the beauty of the hills that I
even forgot to brush my teeth. After I freshened up, I headed out. The hotel I stayed in was located in Tapovan which is the northern part of Rishikesh town. Tapovan is popular among tourists because of the renowned Laxman Jhula. It was at a distance of about a kilometer from my hotel. However, the first thing in my mind was to go to the shores of Ganga. Mantu, the guy at the reception was kind enough to show me a shortcut to Laxman Jhula and the riverbank. That shortcut, however, was a bit of a rough road. Basically, it was a narrow stairway that started from the back of the hotel to the main road which led to Laxman Jhula. The path to the riverbank was on the opposite end of that road.
So I took the stairway and reached the shore in about fifteen minutes. The riverbank was lively yet serene. A few tourists sat there practicing their yoga and aerobics while a few locals chatted and walked around. I found a spot for myself away from people where the calm flow of the river turned into rapids. I just sat at that spot looking at the
river for I don't remember how long. As the day progressed, I realized I had been sitting at the shore for a good couple of hours. I decided to take a dip in the icy waters because, to me, the water at the rapids looked much cleaner than the water at ghats where pilgrims usually take a dip. I cannot say if that was a correct decision (the freezing water at the rapids almost sent me into shock) but I did feel a whole lot better after the dip. My next stop was Laxman Jhula which was packed with tourists. It is quite an experience to walk the suspension bridge. The view from the middle of the bridge was amazingly stunning. Right next to Laxman Jhula is the Trayambakeshwar temple. It a thirteen-storied ancient temple. The view from the top floor of this temple is as picturesque as one can imagine.
The famed Ganga Aarti was something that I did not want to miss on my trip to Rishikesh. There are three spots in Rishikesh where the Ganga Aarti is held every evening during sunset. The biggest and most famous spot is the Triveni Ghat. I decided to take
a shared ride to the spot. I reached well before time and decided to sit at the banks. Tourists started to fill up the spot as the minutes passed by. Triveni Ghat is a well-maintained and spacious area. Stairs have been made along the banks of the river. Pilgrims offer flowers and incense as a ritual at this Ghat. The Ganga Aarti started just after the sunset. For me, to be present there and to be a part of the experience, it was overwhelming. It was weird in a way, too. The whole place alive with hymns and chants of the devotees. The bhajans and aartis performed live by the musicians filled the air. Yet, it did not feel loud or noisy. It felt peaceful. I felt a sense of peace which I had not in a long time. That experience was something that everyone should experience once in their lives.
The following day, my first stop was Ram Jhula. It is a suspension bridge similar to Laxman Jhula but wider and sturdier. It was built before Laxman Jhula. Light two-wheelers are allowed over this bridge, unlike Laxman Jhula which is a pedestrian bridge. During the second half of
the day, I reached an iconic restaurant of Rishikesh called Chotiwala. A unique feature of this restaurant is a human mascot with elaborate and loud makeup who sits at the entrance to attract customers. The restaurant is popular among tourists and locals alike. I thought that was justified as the food was amazingly good.
As the daylight dimmed and evening approached, I decided to walk the markets near Triveni Ghat. After a while, I left for Tapovan. I personally felt Tapovan was quieter and less crowded compared to the main town area of Rishikesh. The area near Laxman Jhula was quiet with only a few tourists roaming about. I walked around the bridge for a bit. Then I went to the riverbank and sat there for as long as I could. The view from there at night was beautiful yet very different from the scenery during the day.
I had to leave early the next day. Hence, I returned to my room at around eleven o'clock and went straight to sleep. However, the only thing in my mind was that it is not enough. So, of course, I decided to come back - to the crowded streets
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