maharishi mahesh yogi’s ashram (aka “the beatles ashram”)

In 1968, John, Paul, Ringo, and Harrison came to Rishikesh to study transcendental meditation under Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. (My philosophy teacher at yoga school was also a student of Maharishi Mahesh!) In the early 2000s the ashram closed. The ashram went into ruin, but over the years has also been a canvas for artists from all over the world visiting this world famous and incredibly inspirational place.

I was uncertain about going, but am so glad I did. It’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve been in Rishikesh so far. It’s about a 20 minute walk Southwest along the Ganges from Ram Jhula. The cost to enter is 600 rupees, which is about $12 US. Not expensive by normal standards, but when you’re India, 600 rupees is a lot! We had heard that it’s easy to sneak in to avoid paying, but since the Indian government took over (within the last year we heard from a local), they have security patrolling some of the old “sneak in” spots. Probably still possible, but we decided to just pay. We were able to negotiate down to 500 rupees per person since we were a group of 6 (“group discount?” is always worth asking).

The ashram is set away from the rest of the hectic city. It’s huge. The first buildings you see are stone huts that look like igloos. We wandered through them. Some had artwork. Standing in the dome at the top, your voice vibrates in a totally surprising way. We met a local who knew all about the ashram and showed us around. There are bigger, multi level buildings as well that we wandered, admiring the eclectic art. There is a warehouse that feels like a place you should watch live music. There are stone meditation caves. We walked to the top of the tallest building to watch the sunset, and it felt like we could see all of Rishikesh.

Amazing views. Amazing art. Amazing vibes. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s ashram is not to be skipped.

mean monkeys and nice monkeys

There are two types of monkeys in Rishikesh: black faced and red faced. The black monkeys are super sweet. They have a ring of lighter hair around their faces, kind of like a lion. I see them carrying babies a lot. Sitting in small groups, eating bananas or coconuts in harmony. The red monkeys are another story. They steal from each other and humans alike. They’re aggressive and territorial, again with each other and with humans. You see them alone mostly.

The other morning I was walking home from breakfast with a banana in my hand, and looked up to the gate in front of my building to see a red monkey. It’s fine, I thought, it’s just one. And it’s like a foot tall to my almost 6. But I felt it was looking at me, and I made the mistake of accidentally locking eyes. He got down from the gate and started walking towards me, with an attitude like he was a 6’6 guy backing me into a dark alleyway. I screamed and threw my banana and ran in a wide circle to my house. When I got safely inside, I looked out my window and the monkey was enjoying my banana, sitting on my patio. Did the monkey technically steal from me? No. But he scared me into giving him something that was mine. Classic school yard bully.

This is the difference between black and red monkeys in Rishikesh.




This blog is a brain dump of my 6 month escapade through Asia. It was eye opening and life changing, and I’ve loved writing about my experiences. The most common question I get is, “weren’t you scared?” No! Well a little, but believe me, while solo travel as a female  is challenging, it is much more rewarding and fun, and so doable!

Countries I visited between April and October 2016: India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia, and Vietnam.

first impressions of rishikesh

 I am writing this from the balcony I share with 3 girls in my yoga program. It looks out on the Ganges, and Ram Jhoola bridge which tonight is lit with beautiful, dynamic, colorful lights. I wonder if it is lit every night. In addition to an intense day of what cannot be described as anything but culture shock, I am extremely jet lagged, and despite being very short on sleep still, I am wide awake at 1:30AM local time.

After spending several hours at Delhi airport, at 6:00AM yesterday I flew into Dehradun and took a taxi into Rishikesh. I spent all day exploring the city and getting to know some of the people from my yoga program. The taxi ride in was just as people described it would be. Traffic laws don’t seem be a thing, honking almost constantly is the norm. There were monkeys all over the sides of the road. When we got into Risikesh, 2 boys who hardly spoke English grabbed our bags out of the car and walked with us across the bridge. People, dogs, motorbikes, and cows share all roads here.

The city is loud and crowded, but walk down an alleyway and it’s serene. The gardens, the mountains, the river, they all hold an energy that is calm and reflective amidst the chaos.

Rishikesh is like nowhere I’ve been before.

my packing list for 6 months in india and southeast asia

For someone who has trouble packing a weekend trip into a carry on bag, fitting everything I would need for 6 moths into a backpack was surprisingly not that hard. Don’t get me wrong, I put a LOT of time into this list, and was very thoughtful about what I would actually need, what would make my life better enough to add that weight onto my back, and what would stay behind. I think my mindset for this trip was just on a whole different level.Arguably the hardest part of packing for me was choosing the right backpack. I could write a whole post about it (and might). But a few things were pretty important to me. 1.) I wanted something carry-on size. In the US the standard length is 22″. I have no idea if that will be true everywhere I go, but it has worked so far. 2.) I need something supportive, because I will be taking it trekking with me in the Himalayas when I visit Nepal. If it wasn’t for the trekking I might have gone with a “travel pack” versus a “hiking pack” but to be honest even walking around the airports, having the suspension system save my back a little has been nice to have.

I went with a 65L, 22″ frame hiking bag from REI. And I got a compact duffel bag to throw it in just in case I ever have to check it (the hiking bags come with about 100 straps that threaten to get caught on all of the conveyor belts). I also have a super compact rain cover because I’ll be in Southeast Asia for monsoon season.

So here’s what went into thebackpack:

-waterproof hiking boots (mostly for trekking in Nepal, I might ship them home after if it doesn’t cost too much)
-comfy walking shoes
-chacos sandals, aka I think I’m officially “granola” now
-rainbows sandals

-2 pairs loose yogi pants (I could have brought 0 because they sell really cute ones all over Rishikesh for less than US $4)
-1 pair crop leggings
-denim shorts and cotton shorts

-one long sleeve
-2 short sleeve
-2 tanks

-5 pairs quick dry undies
-3 sports bras
-3 pairs casual socks, 1 pair hiking socks, 1 pair warm hiking socks

-one piece bathing suit


-rain jacket

*it’s worth noting that I plan to rent or buy all of the warm weather clothing I’ll need for Nepal and the Himalayas

-my iPad with a Bluetooth keyboard and camera adapters (in lieu of a laptop)
-a GoPro and a few accessories (snorkeling floatie, selfie stick, handlebar attachment, and a couple adhesives, and of course a wrist strap!)

-Toiletries and all of the malaria/miscellaneous medicine took an honest 3rd of my backpack, and there’s no makeup/hair product/perfume/lotion in there, just the basics. On top of that I went for 6 months of daily contacts, which is about 6″x6″x4″. I think it’ll be worth it to not worry about keeping them clean, and as I use them I’ll make new space for small souvenirs!
-I also brought a small quick dry towel.

I have a small day pack and money belt/fanny pack. I also have a journal and one book (plus a fully loaded ipad).