Tag: Yoga

Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai is a wonderful little city and one of our favorites stops of the whole trip. North of Bangkok, we traveled to Chiang Mai via night train. Not only were we quite impressed with the space and cleanliness of the train compared to our experiences in India (not to mention the guy that came to make our beds for us!), we also had the opportunity to meet two guys named Chad from the United States. One of the Chads had been living in Chiang Mai for nearly two years and it was great to be able to ask him some questions about Thai culture and what we shouldn’t miss on our visit to his adopted city. We later met up with the Chads several times over our next few days in town and got a little insight into (and visits among) the ex-pat community – which is thriving in Chiang Mai, and quite intriguing!

Meet Chad and Chad

This jazz bar is a popular ex-pat haven

After the business and chaos of Bangkok, Chiang Mai felt like the perfect spot to spend a few days and relax. And relax we did. We met some great fun people, did a couple amazing yoga classes, ate lots of amazing Thai (and Burmese! And Mexican!) food, and cruised the whole city on our rented motorbike.

Cruising Chiang Mai on our moto

Northern Thai specialties Chad introduced us to at his favorite local digs

I don’t know what it was about this little university town, but we grew to love Chiang Mai in a few short days. It was culturally exotic and rewarding while also feeling livable and comfortable. We had never imagined ourselves seeking out the opportunity to live in Asia before, but if we were to do it, Chiang Mai would be at the top of our list!

The Vibe of Rishikesh

Rishikesh vista

Rishikesh is special and fascinating for a number of reasons. First, its location at the foothills of the Himalaya and the headwaters of the Ganges (or Ganga, as they call it here) sets a beautiful backdrop. Flatness to the south, mountains (similar in size and feel to the Flatirons coming out of Boulder) cut majestically up from the wide and pale green Ganga (also a very holy body of water to the Hindus). The river here is relatively clean, and swimming in it is a common (and cold) activity. 2nd, its location away from normal Indian craziness (but it’s all relative). Rishikesh is actually the main city across the water and to the south a bit, and it’s regular old Indian mayham. The 3 main areas where travelers and pilgrams hang out are separate communities north of the main town and across the river – Ram Jhula, Lachsman Jhula, and High Bank. In all 3 of these, there is very limited traffic – mainly only scooters and motos, and then a jeep service between Ram an Lachsman. This is a very important factor in the development of the spiritual center this place has become. Most importantly though, this place is special for it’s spirituality, and the people that it draws in the pursuit of it.  Yoga capital of the world, the region is dotted with Ashrams where pilgrams come for serious study. Ashrams range in their price and focus, but most require adherence to a schedule of study, a dress code, a conduct code, and that participants be serious in their dedication. We considered staying in one of the lite Ashrams for a couple days, but decided that we could get the yoga/meditation we wanted just by dropping in.

The entrance to Parmarth Ashram

There is a lot of focused brain power and spiritual energy in this place. A LOT. For all of the reasons above, Rishikesh is the perfect storm of elements to create probably one of the world’s most significant hubs of people energy. And you can feel it. Lots of Boulder people would dig the vibe here. Sarah gets a bit annoyed by all the travelers dressing the part (lots of people here wearing hippie clothes that wouldn’t be caught dead in them back home), but I think it’s just people getting away from their lives and getting into the vibe here.

Students of the ashram

The streets are lined with these unique beggars. Dressed largely in orange, this skinny old dudes with huge beards and long hair would very unobtrusively ask you for a donation as you walked by. As many people come to Rishikesh to cleanse and build up their karma, it’s a good place to be a(n apparently spiritual) beggar.

Rishikesh Beggar

There is NO alcohol in this city. None. Can’t have a beer with dinner, no wine, no hard stuff. There is one restaurant up in High Bank that has beer, supposively. Good for the budget though. Oh yeah, and no meat either. It’s so easy to eat vegitarian when meat is not an option. Haven’t missed it once since we’ve been here. Nobody offers it, nobody eats it, and the food is delicious.

Sunset on the Ganga

A Yogi’s Dream

Our next stop was Rishikesh, a hippie/yoga enclave in the northern state of Uttarakhand. Rishikesh made headlines in the late 1960s when the Beatles spent time in an ashram here writing their famous White Album. The Beatles ashram is now out of commission, but there are many others that are going strong. Thousands of Westerners and Indians visit Rishikesh every year to live the ashram lifestyle (à la Eat Pray Love), dedicate themselves to yogic study, and/or take in the beautiful scenery of the Ganga (Ganges) River flowing through town. It is a very spiritual place full of hippies and wannabe hippies, as well as true Indian gurus and wannabe gurus.


We spent a week in Rishikesh, relishing the relaxed vibe and relative peace and quiet that seems impossible to find in other parts of India. Though we considered staying at an ashram, we decided that we’d prefer the flexibility of making our own schedule so we opted for a guesthouse instead. That’s not to say we didn’t go with the flow and dive into what Rishikesh has to offer.

Parmarth - the most popular ashram in Rishikesh

Ted and I found ourselves doing yoga on several occasions – which were Ted’s first yoga classes ever and my first since college. We were entertained by our various teachers, each with their own style and expertise. One class had over 30 people in it as apparently our instructor was a renowned yogi – what did we know? Our second class was led by a rather feminine man with an adorable lisp and I could barely contain myself from giggling as he commanded us to relax our right nostril and our left nostril while focusing in savasana at the end of class. Another teacher was particularly into using breath when moving through the poses – he had us nearly hyper-ventilating. Needless to say, we learned that each yoga class is very different depending on who is running the show!

Prayer at the banks of the Ganga

We spent a few evenings doing guided meditation at an ashram which was a brand new experience for me. I have a long way to go towards ‘stilling my mind’, but I have to say that overall I enjoyed the experience very much and am intrigued to learn and do more.

And we both took dips in the holy Ganga River (as it is called). It was a quick dip as the river was freezing. Please note that this is not the dirty polluted Ganges that you are imagining. Up in Rishikesh, the water is a beautiful blue-green color, flowing from the Himalaya before it has yet to be contaminated with the filth, sewage, garbage and animal run-off that destroys it further south. The Ganga is of great religious importance to the country’s hundreds of millions of Hindus. We regularly saw entire families by the river edge swimming and splashing themselves with the water of this great river. Many families fill up jugs with the sacred water that they then take home with them for future use.

A cold dip in the Ganga

Plastic jugs for sale - take some holy water home with you

So, though we didn’t do much in Rishikesh, per se, we did our best to take advantage of what this spiritual center had to offer and found that we quite liked what that entailed.

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