The colors, oh the colors! I imagined how it would look through stories I had read… dreamed of the day I would set foot in this land. Then I did, and my expectations were exceeded in every way. The vibrant colors danced all around me in the markets and on the streets. The smiles and laughter rang amidst the honking horns of the Indian traffic system, which is really every man for himself. Unbelievably, I didn’t see any accidents. Horns honk to announce to the other drivers on the road that “I am here.” They are not angry, quite the contrary. The culture is a laughing culture. Laughing yoga was born in India, after all.
Going through the markets is something to behold. I was obsessed with the textiles and all of the colors. Someone asked me to bring back a black Nehru shirt. Ha! Black? A tall order to find black clothing in a culture that celebrates vibrant colors. Nonetheless Punam, my guide in Delhi, took me to a wonderful gem of a shop to find the black Nehru shirt. I must admit, I bought quite a few clothing items for myself in that shop…
It just so happened that it was wedding season. Indian weddings go on for 4 or 5 days. I let it be known to anyone who would listen that I desperately wanted to attend a wedding. That very afternoon I received a call from my fabulous guide, Nardjee, from Banyan Tours informing me that there was a wedding procession going on that very evening near my hotel. Would I be interested in attending? Fast forward to dancing with the participants in the street as they made their way to the bride’s Mother’s home. The groom was seated regally on a horse, dressed to the nines as was the horse. The participants escorted him down the road dancing and singing to live music along the way. Being the warm culture that they are, I was invited into the procession and eagerly accepted their invitation. What fun that was!
The groom, his nephew and a well-dressed horse
The following day, as Nardjee and I ambled through Jaipur, we stumbled upon a laughing yoga class in the city park. Once again, I was invited to participate and so I did. This was my first laughing yoga experience. I must say, what better way to start the day?!? Initially, the laughter is forced, but soon becomes genuine as the infectiousness of it passes through the group. It just so happened that it was the yoga instructor’s birthday and the group invited me to come with them to their favorite café afterwards. The guide let it slip that I used to be a singer, so I was asked to sing something. What did they want to hear? The theme from Titanic!!! Yikes! I eked out a few bars and then asked them to sing to me, which they gladly did. Joyful…that’s how I would sum up the whole experience.
Laughing Yoga Group…still laughing
Next stop…Ananda in the Himalayas – Health & Wellness Travel is one of my niches as many of you know and have experienced by booking with me. The boom in Health & Wellness travel continues to grow and with it, the experiences. Ananda in the Himalayas offers a superb wellness experience. They follow a holistic approach towards achieving the best results and are one of the foremost Ayurvedic treatment spas in the world. It is world renown and has won several awards. Set in the foothills of the Himalayas just outside of Rishikesh, this secluded destination spa is located on the royal grounds of the Maharaja’s palace. The Maharaja actually lives there part of the year. There are peacocks roaming the grounds along with a couple of types of monkeys. You can choose from an array of programs ranging from one week to longer. I chose the Ayurvedic Rejuvenation, starting off my journey with a consultation with the doctor where we discussed my goals. My dosha dictated my meal plan for my stay. The food is excellent and healthy as all get out. There are twice daily lectures which are interactive, all geared towards the holistic approach of the facility. 4 treatments per day are included, folks! Whaaaat? Yessss!! FOUR! Ananda is very flexible as well. If you decide to switch out a treatment for another, they will work it out with you.
The Ayurvedic thing not for you? No problem. They have plenty of other programs to choose from. I did the Ayurvedic experience because that is what they are world famous for and I wanted to know first-hand so that I can tell my clients about it.
And…you don’t need to bring any clothes to speak of. A swimming suit & footwear is all you need. They give you kurta pajamas, which are cleaned and ironed daily! I didn’t want to take them off they were so comfortable.
Don’t miss the evening ceremony in Rishikesh done 365 days a year. It is a spectacle not to be missed. Or take a swim in the Ganges in the morning. This part of the Ganges is quite nice.
When to go…Fall for the clearest skies and best weather.
Ganga Aarti in Rishikesh
The first of many trips here, India is culture within culture within culture within culture, somewhat like those Russian dolls. It is incredibly complex with 22 languages, over 720 dialects, 9 spiritual beliefs, various regional cuisines, regions, traditions, the list goes on. Why can’t naan be the spinach of the world, whereby the doctor recommends 3 servings per day?!?! The service level is off the charts. I have never had such a high level of service anywhere! That is no joke.
I do not recommend that India be undertaken in one try. There is too much to absorb. While some countries can be covered in a week or two, India needs time. I would recommend a couple of weeks in each region at the very least. The regions are vastly different from one another. I met some travelers who had been there for a month and, frankly, their eyes had a glazed over look. They had reached a point of saturation after 2 weeks. After that point is reached, you likely won’t absorb or fully appreciate the rest, resulting in a disservice to yourself and the destination. This trip was New Delhi, Agra, Rishikesh and Jaipur. Next on my agenda is Southern India and Kerala. Seeing the tigers in Ranthambore and Central India is another trip of its own. And Eastern India, and Western India!
Morning dip in The Ganges