Monday, September 14, 2009
A royal escape from the rain
We arrived in Haridwar on a very auspitious day, 9/9/9 after traveling through the rain our train arrived to a dry city. With no couchsurfing planned I was really our first experience of getting out the train with no idea. Let me tell you it is much nicer with a plan. The streets were packed with thousands of people many here for the yearly journey to offer puja to their ancestors. It was a bit of an intense experience to say the least and so we wondered about with our heavy bags trying to decide where to go. The ashram hadn’t gotten back to us and so we turned to the our trusty old LP, but alas it’s advice was not good. The supposedly clean hotel Om deluxe was not clean and was run by a rather creepy man and many young boys he bossed aroud. After putting our stuff in our room we caught the cable car up to the Mansa Devi Temple, there we were sold flowers by boys to give to the goddess and were called over by every other saddhu to make an offering and receive the quintessential painted dot on our forehead. It is an interesting experience watching the Hindus and Sikhs all worship they are so devoted and put all their faith into these ideas. Alas as we left the temple and returned down the mountain the streets seemed more hectic and all-consuming, so we tucked into our hotel early hoping tomorrow would bring more light.
After a rather dismal sleep involving a continual up and down to turn on and off the fan, we awoke to rain and this was not just any rain this was insane, streets turned to rivers Indian monsoon rain. Oh what were we to do? Should we try and find the ashram on our own or should we stay another night? Fortunately our upper class tastes led us back to the LP and to the most expensive hotel in town, The Haveli Hari Ganga. Of course an expensive hotel in India was really only $50 a piece per night. The Haveli was built in 1918 and was originally a guest house for the rich and royal who came to visit the holy city of Haridwar and it definitely felt royal. We arrived and ate a sumptuous breakfast and then relaxed in our nice clean room until it was time for a massage. WE were treated to a steam bath and Indian head and foot massages which lifted our spirits to a whole new level. We spent the whole day relaxing in the hotel watching the rain and playing chess and eating delicious food. The next day we finally got the address of the ashram and after a relaxing morning we went to check it out. It was just what we hoped and so we walked most of the way home and entered the Haveli one last time with smiles on our faces knowing we had one more night to relax and then had a place to call home at least for a little while.