Sunday, November 14, 2010

Diwali in Rishikesh

For the first time in Woodstock's collective memory (in light of the high staff turnover, it isn't a very comprehensive memory), school was cancelled on Diwali. This meant a three-day weekend - hurrah! It also happened to be the weekend of Kate's 25th birthday, so we decided to get out of town and celebrate. 

The number of times I've been to Rishikesh is becoming difficult to recall. It is the easiest destination for a weekend getaway and I rather enjoy that it is becoming a city that I know well. Each time I go, I try to do or see something new. This time I did three new things. A little adventure (as well as luxury) keeps life exciting!

The first new Rishikesh experience was taking the local bus. I've taken local buses other places in India, but never in or around Mussoorie (with the exception of local buses hired for a Woodstock group). The trip from Mussoorie to Dehradun is notorious for making even the strongest stomachs queasy with twists, turns, jerks, and jolts. You know a bus has been driving in the hills by the presence of puke stains dripping down the outside of the bus and/or the sight of heads hurled out the window and actively puking. There have been many close calls of almost getting showered in vomit while walking around Mussoorie! Anyways, due to stories of vomit pools swishing and swaying around the bus floor, we decided to splurge on a taxi down to Dehradun and start our bus journey on flat land. The bus is a whopping Rs33 (75 cents) and takes about 80 minutes on a good day. Our trip to Rishikesh took a bit longer due to traffic on the eve of Diwali. The trip back was short due to the borderline reckless driving. All in all, the bus proved to be a fun and cheap experience! I will do it again.

Our bus, puke free!

The birthday girl and I are excited to be on the bus!

Don't worry, there's a Frist Adi Box With Bus!

The second new experience proved to be even more delightful: Rainforest House. I've been meaning to visit this guest house ever since it was recommended about 6 months ago. It is run by a British man and is located 3km up the Ganges from Laxman Jhula (the main bridge in Rishikesh). It proved to be idyllic: a well-decorated and incredibly peaceful guest house centered around a mango tree and nearly on the shore of the Ganges. We were delighted!

I should have taken this before we slept in the bed :)

Kate swinging on the mango tree

The beautiful cafe

Simplicity and elegance

Sunrise over the Ganges

Morning prayers on the Ganges

Travel buddies!

Thirdly, I experienced Rishikesh on Diwali. This Festival of Lights is notorious for chaos. Knowing that Rishikesh is a Hindu pilgrimage town, we were more than curious to see how the city would celebrate. Surprisingly, they didn't do a whole lot. In fact, if I hadn't known it was Diwali I probably wouldn't have even noticed that it was a festival day. Although, there were more than the usual amounts of firecrackers and wishes of "Happy Divali" from shopkeepers. I've started taking Hindi lessons and so am interacting much more with shopkeepers (How are you? What is your name? Where are you from?). Even this pitiful amount of Hindi warranted multiple invitations to see "boom booms" from various shopkeepers. As much as watching huge firecrackers shot off in the middle of a tiny (one-lane) and busy street intrigued me, I declined. 

Diwali decorations

Many shops hide their regular merchandise in order to maximize firecracker sales! (Photo from Mussoorie)

Water guns are also a popular Diwali purchase!

A relaxed lunch at Freedom Cafe on the Ganges

Sunset over Ram Jhula on Diwali.

Evening aarti

While the hindus were celebrating with lights and prayers, we celebrated by stopping here for some banana nutella crepes.