Sunday, March 05, 2006


My housemates and Josh and I spent the weekend down the mountain in Rishikesh and it occurred to me that Rishikesh isn’t India. Not really. It’s a yoga center, pilgrimage site and hippie magnet and everywhere you turn there are young hippies with dreadlocks and flowy clothing; ageing flower children with sun-leathered faces dressed casually but stylishly in linen; sexy Israelis in cool sunglasses riding well-polished motorcycles, and lots and lots of skin. The dress code of India doesn’t apply in Rishikesh and I saw women in shorts, spaghetti-strap tops, and even (gasp!) a bikini or two. It was amazing.

Rishikesh is set right on the banks of the Ganges where the river first emerges from the mountains. It is divided into neighborhoods of sorts—The High Banks, Swarg Ashram, Lakshman Juhla, Downtown. The Ashram areas host religious devotees from around the world who have come to improve their holiness and flexibility by practicing yoga. Here you get a lot of the Sadus—religious asthetics who wander around in bright orange-yellow robes and never trim their facial hair.

The High Banks area, where we stayed, caters more to the Western hippies and features stores selling hackie-sacks, yoga mats, hemp jewelry and, of course, the “hippie uniform.” That’s our name for the ubiquitous loose, mismatched, and homespun apparel worn by hippies the world over. One of the most common outfits are wide-legged linen pants that tie low around the waist. There’s extra material above the tie that you then fold down, creating a lovely pouch of fabric right at your midsection. They were all the rage in Israel, too, and I just couldn’t bring myself to buy something that unattractive.

My friends, however, were insistent that we all acquire hippie uniforms so we could blend with the locals so we spend several hours happily browsing through mounds of striped skirts, plaid pants, floaty tops, sarongs, sundresses, and cheesy t-shirts with pictures of Ganesh. The concept of “matching” doesn’t really apply to the hippie uniform—if you like it, wear it. If you can’t decide between those cute pants and the funky skirt, wear them both. Wrap a scarf in your hair and another around your waist. The more layers the merrier.

The food in Rishikesh is great as well. As a holy city, all of Rishikesh is vegetarian and with the steady-stream of world-tourists, the restaurants have come up with fabulous veg. menus from around the world. Throughout the course of the weekend I munched happily on veggie burgers, chocolate-banana crepes, falafel and hummus. We didn’t have much of an agenda so we spend many hours lounging about in the outside café at the hotel and eating steadily until we couldn’t move.

PS: And for those of you betting at home, we did in fact weenie out and take a cab, and considering that I still almost hurled, I think it was money well spent.


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