Varanasi in north-eastern India, we were told, is very crowded and far-off our Rajasthan track, but wanting to experience the holy Ganges ceremony, my dad was suggested that we head up to the holy city of Rishikesh and see it there. Luckily, the Shatabdi train ride was so much better than my train experience in Mumbai, and we were both impressed with the service offered. On the way, we got to discuss a long in-depth analysis of our perception of India and how that compares to our traveling experiences we had – a topic that has, in a way, turned into our main hobby and pass time during the trip.
We arrived at Haridwar, and my dad had his first rickshaw drivers encounter. I didn’t expect this, but I was much more aggressive and intolerant towards them than my dad did. For a reason I – till now – am not sure about, there was something different about the way the Indians approached me that I just couldn’t bare. I could handle how Vietnamese, Arabs and other nationalities less respecting of personal space approached me, but couldn’t stand it when the Indians all jumped at me everytime they saw me.
We headed to the Indian tourist center, recommended by Lonely Planet, where we found a really bored guy carefully inspecting a newspaper and unwilling to say anything more meaningful than pointing the way to the toilet. It was then decided that I head out and find us a way to see Haridwar and get to Rishikesh. I then went out and got ourselves a personal driver who was suppose to also be an English guide but could not say more than “you go, I wait”. I honestly had no idea where we were headed as the names of places written down on the service paper meant nothing to me, but we did get a tour of the main temples in Haridwar.
And some temples those are. Competing with Taiwan’s bizarre and mysterious temples, the Haridwar temples are the amusement parks of Hinduism Buddhism.
We went into tunnels, we crawled on our feet, we saw variations of animal-human Gods, scary, funny, beautiful, ugly, or just plain strange and odd Gods. They seemed to come in all forms and variation in no logic that an ignorant outsider could make sense of.
Then, somehow, an hour or so later, we arrived at Rishikesh.
After settling down in our hotel and resting for dinner we realized that the famous Ganges ceremony might actually be going on that evening.
We quickly made our way across the Ganges by boat and found the Indians and spiritual tourists in the middle of the evening ceremony.
The river, the music, the singing boys, the ceremony. It was quite special.