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384 travelers at this place:

  • Day253

    Namasté India!

    May 9 in India

    Crossing the border into overpopulated India was quite easy. The first days of cycling were characterized by smooth roads, intense heat, bad air quality, chaotic city traffic, disgusting smell of burning piles of trash, cows and pigs crossing the road. And to be honest, the only thing that whetted our appetite was the amazing food and the beginning of the mango season :) But it became better and better...more impressions will follow.

    By the way, we’re in the mountains of Himachal Pradesh now, at the place where the Daila Lama lives, going to do a meditation course and will be back online in 10 days.

    See you soon :)
    Read more

  • Day270

    Vipassana Meditation

    May 26 in India

    A 10 day Vipassana meditation course is an individual experience for everyone, thus this post is written from Silke’s perspective. Hauke didn’t finish the course anyway because of too much pain from sitting cross-legged, meditation wasn’t possible anymore, so he quit on day 8.

    I had never done something similar before and these ten days were not holiday at all.
    No other activities were allowed, no talking, no phones, no reading, no writing, no music, no exercising, nothing. It was not allowed to walk out of the course boundaries. Men and women are separated during the whole time of the course (the longest time for us since we left for this trip, and the longest time we spent in one place). Basically everything that brings joy was prohibited. Sounds almost like being in jail, right? But as the Vipassana center of Dharamkot is located in the middle of a pine forest it feels not. It’s an absolutely calm and peaceful place, completely fenced off from busy McLeod Ganj, perfect to calm down your mind and learn a meditation technique.

    And what made it even more perfect were the great volunteers and assistant teachers. There was nothing I had to take care of. They prepared the meals, organized a laundry service and made sure that we students could solely focus on the meditation.

    Most of the meditation were group sittings in a large hall and a part of it in our rooms and the ten hours of daily meditation were quite challenging, both physically and mentally.

    Try to sit cross-legged just for one hour with a straight back without moving or stretching any parts of your body and you know what I mean. When I looked at the strong Indian women around me who were sitting there like little Buddhas, like rocks, it felt like ‘this is not fair’, but they’re used to it and us westerners are not. This is the physical aspect.

    Mentally it was demanding too, of course, as learning a meditation technique is hard mental work. Especially during the first days it was really hard for me to calm down all my thoughts. Quite often I found myself in a situation where my mind just kept on wandering away, sometimes for minutes before I realized it. Then I had to remember myself to focus on the meditation again.

    During the first three days, the meditation was all about focussing on the breath, a simple observation of the air flow in the area around the nostrils, nothings else. But it can be so difficult! And so frustrating, if you realize that you can not even control your mind for a minute to do this simple job!

    At the end of the third day, we were taught the actual Vipassana meditation technique, which is about an objective observation of sensations throughout the whole body, simply put. If you can not even focus on your breath, how can you do that, for an hour or longer!? “Work continuously, diligently, persistently, objectively!”, to repeat S.N. Goenka ‘refrain’, or “work hard!”.

    I went through many ups and downs during this course, some sittings felt quite successful, some frustrating and I did not know how I was going to make it to the end of the course. But it is very important, and this is a crucial aspect of this technique, to see the things as they are, without craving, without aversion. It is what it is, some session are good, some are not, it doesn’t matter.

    However, somehow I did get through it, which made me realize that I’m much stronger than I think I am. After the long time in silence it was finally a relief to talk again, to get to know the people I’d been sitting in the hall and sleeping in the same room with for 10 days, to share our experiences. Thus, a long night was followed by an even more intense chatting during last meal the next morning :)

    What I learned as well is that happiness comes from within. I thought I already knew this, but I came to truly and deeply experience this at the course. I realised that despite what was going on at anytime, I could choose to be happy if I wanted to.

    Be happy,
    with much Metta,
    Read more

  • Day6

    Waking up Lila to leave for the train station around midnight and running through a pack of barking street dogs to a waiting uber (who you can't contact due to your technical incompetence...hence the running and then helped by a bunch of guys of which includes someone from the lassi shop or other restaurant we've eaten at)...get to the train station and yep the train isn't estimated to arrive until 1:30am. Lila is understandably upset and tired but then is distracted by the trains coming and going. She is amused by people getting on the train when its already moving, why certain trains stay at the platform longer than others, and people on the tracks walking next to the train 'they're going to get run over?'. And then her nervous anticipation for when our train comes and her utter excitement when she climbs up to our top bunk sleeper 'ahhh bunk beds, I've never slept in bunk beds!' :) these are the moments which melt my heartRead more

  • Day14

    After another overnight train we have arrived in the holy city of Varanasi. Varanasi is considered a holy pilgrimage site for many Hindus, as the city founded by the god Shiva. The city is on the banks of the river Ganges and it's believed that a cremation on the banks of the river, or your a ceremony and your ashes put into the river will bring that person salvation. They say Varanasi is not a place to 'see' but 'feel', and you start to feel this quite quickly, from the crazy night street markets to the mesmerising river Ganges. We went on a little walking tour of the old city, full of small interesting inter connecting maze like streets that Google maps would struggle with. We then went on a boat to see the cremations and then a pilgrimage ceremony, and lit a candle to make a wish and offering to the river. It is indeed a magical, mystical but also peaceful place.Read more

  • Day254

    Let's take the train

    May 10 in India

    We could write an article about the booking system, waiting lists and the numerous classes because this is where the adventure 'taking a train in India' actually starts. But we were lucky that our tickets got confirmed just in the night before the departure day and we could still reach the station (we had booked different trains from different stations on different dates to increase our chances of getting a ticket - Indian holiday season was starting and trains are booked months in advance so that you usually end up on waiting lists).

    But how to take bicycles on an Indian train? We had heard different stories: Book it as luggage and put it in the luggage cart, book it as freight so that it would travel on a different train, just take it with you in your cabin. The first two options were not possible at the minor train station we had chosen, the staff there appeared helpless. We didn’t like these options anyway, so we had to go for the last one (which is not allowed...).

    Waiting at the station became endless, we got there around noon to check it out, the train was supposed to depart in the late afternoon and we were still sitting there in the darkness, our bicycles prepared (handlebars turned, pedals removed to make them as slim as possible), our panniers stuffed into rice sacks.

    And then the thrill began: With more than 5 hours delay, the train arrived (not only the Deutsche Bahn has timing issues... although the Indian railway network is the largest in the world, with trains traveling for days in one direction, what are 5 hours then?). We had exactly 2 minutes, there were no lights at the station, we had to find the right cart, running, a hustle and bustle everywhere and then we found it, maybe a minute was over, maybe more? While Silke was shouting at the guys who were hanging out in the entrance to help her getting the bikes and bags in, Hauke had to run back to get the big rice sack (it was too much to carry it in one run). When Hauke reached the sack, the train started to move, „Run, Forest, Run!“. Silke was keeping the door open when the rice sack flew in first, and after that Hauke.
    We’re complete, we made it, we’re on board, yeah!

    Solely the conductor was not amused... but what could he do? Thus, he guided us to our beds (!) and after a while our excitement decreased and we dropped off to sleep...

    We woke up in another state, hello Himachal Pradesh! We decided to jump off the train one station before our final destination because a large lake appeared on our map nearby, and doing so, we also avoided another Indian metropolis.

    Taking a train in India is a remarkable experience, especially overnight in an air-conditioned sleeper class, and without bicycles... But now we know how to (not?) do it :)
    Read more

  • Day272

    We didn’t get the chance to see the Dalai Lama in person (which became quite difficult since his popularity has reached incredible dimensions), but he's omnipresent in McLeod Ganj anyway. Photos of him and his sayings, his texts, his books are everywhere, in any shape or size, in his temple, in the countless restaurants, cafés, shops, guesthouses and hotels.

    Most of the people living here are Tibetan refugees who worship their spiritual leader. They benefit from the booming tourism, enjoy the peace and freedom of this place, always smiling. But when they tell their moving stories about their escape from Tibet, we can feel that they miss their country, their home.

    While Silke was finishing her Vipassana, Hauke helped out at a local environmental project, supporting Tibetan women in a paper recycling factory, all handicraft, and definitely a great experience with the cheerful women.

    Otherwise, we recharged our cycling batteries with delicious food, even some Italian, and prepared ourselves for the upcoming weeks. After all, we still had grand plans for the last weeks of our journey...
    Read more

  • Day289

    Record-breaking Spiti

    June 14 in India

    Isn’t it on the dice that the spectacular location of the Spiti Valley could make some good advertisement to attract tourists?
    Of course it is and that’s what the tourism department of Himachal Pradesh does (and the local population chuckles about): They claim to have the highest bridge in Asia, the highest village in the world, the highest city in the world, the highest post office in the world, the highest rooftop café in the world and so on...

    It works, the tourists are coming, but most of it isn’t the truth and altitude indications on the signposts are always doubtful. We trust our GPS, our maps and enjoy our time, record yes or no :)
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  • Day5

    When we first landed the heat was pretty overwhelming for Lila...and a few days in it's still one of the big things she talks about. Here are some questions and pics from Lila :)

    What is different here? that it's hot in india

    what do you notice in the streets? that sometimes I see animals and I get surprised. What do you see? Monkeys, pig, funny hump cow, goats, normal cows

    What do you notice about the people? that they have beautiful clothes on

    What are your favourite things here? Chapatis

    What is the most fun thing you have done? eating chapatis

    Most beautiful thing you've seen? palace

    Most exciting thing you have seen? chapatis

    Favourite food? Lassi (interesting it wasn't chapatis)

    Most difficult thing about India? squat toilets

    Lila loves the paintings she has seen on the buildings here and was genuinely intrigued when she first saw the monkeys in the street.
    Lila is very good at holding hands and getting very good at moving amongst the insane traffic of cars, buses, motorbikes, auto rickshaws, bicycle rickshaws, cows, dogs, goats and people...and the associated horn beeping that is ever present here!
    Read more

  • Day10

    So we found popcorn tonight (hence the fleeting thought this is the closest thing to a vegetable she has eaten in the last week), amongst our battle with motorbikes, auto rickshaws, occasional cars, push bikes, cows, dogs and other people walking through tiny streets in the old town in Jodhpur. Lila's food intake thus far has pretty much consisted of chapatis, rice, and now popcorn + mango ice cream we found today! However it's nice to see her creativity when eating chapatis, because each bite changes it to being a different animal, object or thing.

    Today we arrived in the 2nd biggest city in Rajasthan, Jodhpur. Known as the blue city, you often see in some tourist promo pics. There is amazing fort, which we have a lovely view from our guesthouse. It's pretty hot here at the moment, getting to 45-46 degrees at the hottest part of the day, so people do things before midday or after 6pm. The old city has an amazing maze of small streets lined with old buildings with amazing architecture and beautiful old doors, small shop fronts selling anything and everything, small shines to the various gods, and amongst the various traffic either people with push carts or just on the street selling fruit or veges. It's so full of life, movement and colour!

    Other highlight of Lila's day, her amazement of where the poo and wee goes when you go to the toilet on the train !
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  • Day11

    We headed off our overnight train directly to see the iconic Taj Mahal in Agra today.
    It really is quite a grand and amazing structure, also because of the grounds around. Inside the mausoleum isn't that big, however it's difficult to really get a feel of it as it's a stream of people going in and out (we were there around 7:30am in the Off season, so I can't imagine what's it's like when it's actually busy!)

    Lila's highlights include seeing the tadpoles in the water features outside the mausoleum, the squirrel she saw in the tree on the way and the crazy monkeys wrestling outside the entry gates.

    I was also very excited to get semi cool water out of the tap (instead of warm/hot water) its slightly more mild at 41degrees today!
    Read more

You might also know this place by the following names:

Republic of India, Indien, India, Indië, ህንድ, الهند, ভারত, Hindistan, Һиндостан, Індыя, Индия, भारत, Ɛndujamana, རྒྱ་གར་, Indija, Índia, Indiya, Indie, Инди, Hindıstan, ހިންދުސްތާން, རྒྱ་གར, India nutome, Ινδία, Hindujo, هند, Enndo, Intia, Inde, Ende, Yndia, An India, Na h-Innseachan, ભારત, Yn Injey, ʻInia, הודו, Indiska, End, Հնդկաստան, ꑴꄗ, Indland, ᐃᓐᑎᐊ, インド, xingu'e, ინდოეთი, ឥណ្ឌា, ಭಾರತ, 인도, ہِندوستان, Inndije, ھیندستان, Eynda, Buyindi, Índɛ, ອິນເດຍ, Indy, Inia, Индија, ഇന്ത്യ, Энэтхэг, Hindia, Indja, အိန္ဒိယ, Indiyān, Innia, Înde, Indii, ଭାରତ, ਭਾਰਤ, Ubuhindi, Ìndia, Ênnde, ඉන්දියාව, Hindiya, Indi, இந்தியா, భారత దేశం, Ҳиндустон, อินเดีย, ʻInitia, Hindstan, ’Inītia, ھىندىستان, Індія, انڈیا, Ҳиндистон, Ấn Độ, 印度, אינדיע, Orílẹ́ède India, i-India

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