Four Weeks, 3 Guesthouses, 2 Bridges, One Home

Staying in an Indian guesthouse is nothing like spending the night in a Western hotel.

There are some constants, such as a full size bed actually being a pair of twin beds side-by-side with an ever-widening crack down the middle. Power comes and goes, while doors are best-secured using your own padlock.

A hot water heater is a common sight in an Indian guesthouse
A hot water heater is a common sight in an Indian guesthouse

In the bathroom, there usually is a sink, hot water is a nicety, a bucket always sits under the faucet and a shower is never separate from the toilet, which is at times a squatty potty.

Meanwhile, wall art is often posters of Indian Gods, gaudy wallpaper or just the natural stains and marks of a well-used room. There rarely is any storage space, though a few of our rooms have had tables or cabinets. When all else fails, the standard plastic chairs offer room for guests and a place to pile clothes.

During the four weeks we lived in Rishikesh, India, Carrie and I stayed in three different guesthouses. As I do for all our hotels, I documented the different rooms, bathrooms, surroundings, views and peculiarities…

 

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Ganga Darshan Restaurant & Guesthouse

Carrie had this place all picked out and set up when I arrived from the USA. Although it was located in a highly touristic and trafficked area, the ambiance was still quite tranquil and a great place to spend my first week in Rishikesh.

Total Nights: 6

Cost Per Night: $8 (400 Rupees)

The view from the Ganga Darshan Restaurant & Guesthouse in Rishikesh, India
The view from the Ganga Darshan Restaurant & Guesthouse in Rishikesh, India

The side room that was also called a kitchen in the Ganga Darshan Restaurant & Guesthouse
The side room that was also called a kitchen in the Ganga Darshan Restaurant & Guesthouse

The Ganga Darshan Restaurant and Guesthouse - by the Laxman Jula Bridge in Rishikesh
The Ganga Darshan Restaurant and Guesthouse – by the Laxman Jula Bridge in Rishikesh

Features & Peculiarities:

A beautiful fenced garden was just outside our front door, perfect for sitting, typing, doing yoga, getting a professional massage and relaxing.

The bathroom of the Ganga Darshan Restaurant & Guesthouse in Rishikesh, India
The bathroom of the Ganga Darshan Restaurant & Guesthouse in Rishikesh, India

That same garden was always covered in flies, so all of the above things never lasted for too long.

Located just next to the Laxhman Jhula bridge, our daily symphony included a never-ending motorcycle horn section.

We got to climb a fun spiral staircase to get to or leave our room.

The toilet seat had a crack on it that could not be avoided.

A tiled stone block sat right in front of the toilet, forcing the sitter to face sideways: directly over the aforementioned crack.

Hot water was only available by turning on a switch in our next door neighbor’s room.

Fortunately, our next door neighbor was Heather: a friend from Carrie’s yoga course.

Only a thin metal door in the inside wall separated our room from our Heather’s.

The walls had water stains going up nearly five feet from when the Ganga River flooded a few years back.

Our two twin wooden beds had large edges around them, so when they were pushed together to form a full, there was no possible way to avoid the 3 inch crack between them.

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River View Cottages

After a week, our friend Tara convinced us to traverse the Laxhman Jhula bridge in Rishikesh and join her in a little slice of Eden in the middle of a bustling market. One series of steep and large stone steps up and a more normal set of steps down later, our world opened up to a grassy courtyard overlooking the Ganga.

Total Nights: 14

Cost Per Night: $6 (300 Rupees)

The view from the roof of the River View Cottages in Rishikesh. Our door was at the bottom left next to the green lawn
The view from the roof of the River View Cottages in Rishikesh. Our door was at the bottom left next to the green lawn

A view of River View Cottages from across the Ganga River
A view of River View Cottages from across the Ganga River

Features & Peculiarities:

The bedroom of room 105 at the River View Cottages
The bedroom of room 105 at the River View Cottages

The guesthouse was located right next to an upscale hotel run by the same man: Dada.

While our room was $6/night, the rooms in the neighboring guesthouse ranged from $20-$30.

The rooftop of the rich people’s guesthouse boasted an incredible 360 view of Rishikesh and the Himalayan Foothills.

We wanted to spend an entire day watching the sun rise, go over head and set, all from the rooftop. Needless to say, we never got around to it, though we did watch a beautiful sunset.

The two buildings were connected by a maze of stairs that reminded me of an MC Escher painting…or the movie Labyrinth.

Our bed was a bit too short for me and had a wooden lip at the base of it, so I was never able to stretch completely out on my back. This means that poor Carrie woke up quite a few times to find me taking up 75% of the bed.

The bottom half of the walls were covered in brick wallpaper. I thought it was cool at the time, but in retrospect it made the place feel a bit like a dungeon.

The bathroom of the River View Cottages, with the power line for the water heater hanging above
The bathroom of the River View Cottages, with the power line for the water heater hanging above

Our room was right next to the very loud water pump that brought h20 to the entire hotel. Its hours of operation were usually most of the day…and randomly in the middle of the night. Once, the pump was so loud at 3am that I got out of bed and turned it off.

The room’s fan was super loud, to the point where we barely used it even during some very hot days.

On the ceiling, there were random extra parts of the wall that jutted out in a triangle. Like, solid angles of cement. This still makes no sense!

There was an Indian restaurant on-site that would do room service for an extra 10%. When that works out to a 40 cents surcharge…well, let’s just say I was in heaven!

Our toilet seat did not attach to the bowl and moved all over while sitting.

An adorable stray kitten befriended us and lapped up our attention. When he decided to come into our room, he made a b-line for our crackers.

 

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Shiva Resorts

Shiva Resorts Guesthouse in Rishikesh
Shiva Resorts Guesthouse in Rishikesh

Our bedroom in Shiva Resorts
Our bedroom in Shiva Resorts

Our final guesthouse in Rishikesh was located near the other bridge in town: the Ram Jhula. This was also the area where Carrie, Lauren and Tara did their yoga teacher training and was much more peaceful and less Western-touristic than the Laxshman Jhula side.

Total Nights: 7

Cost Per Night: $6 (300 Rupees)

Features & Peculiarities:

With two large windows overlooking the Himalayan Foothills and no stone wallpaper, this room felt open and airy compared to the dungeon-esque room at River View Cottages.

Perhaps the most uncomfortable pillow ever, which I slept on for 6 nights
Perhaps the most uncomfortable pillow ever, which I slept on for 6 nights

One of our pillows is made of pure foam or something that is rock solid and incredibly uncomfortable.

Every day, we hear the sounds of cows, wind, birds, crying children and a man clearing his nose and throat as loudly as possible.

There have been several large thunderstorms during our week here, which are especially acoustic when echoing off of the surrounding mountains and trees.

The guesthouse workers may be the least customer service oriented people I’ve met yet. Any time we need something, it’s pretty much an attitude of “OK, I might get to that. Probably not. But it’s possible.”

The bathroom of room 206 at Shiva Resorts in Rishikesh by the Ram Jhula
The bathroom of room 206 at Shiva Resorts in Rishikesh by the Ram Jhula

We were told there was hot water when we checked in. What that actually meant was there exists a water heater on the roof that pours hot water into a bucket for a bucket bath. That said, I don’t mind a cold shower.

There was no water for a few days. When I asked the non-helpful staff, they just said “there should be water.”

All that said about the staff, they also are incredibly nice and kind: just like everyone else we meet in India.

Because our room is at the base of a mountain, strong winds are always bringing in fresh air and lots of dirt through our window.

The sink faucet lets out a jet stream of water that usually soaks my pants if I don’t very carefully turn it on.

One night, Carrie, Lauren and I spent an hour on the rooftop photographing ourselves in front of a lightning storm. Lots more photos from that night coming soon, but in the mean time…

Me during a lightning storm on our roof at Shiva Resorts
Me during a lightning storm on our roof at Shiva Resorts

For more stories and photography from Rishikesh, check out:

  • That last picture is very powerful! I will remember some of the insights here when I go to India in the future!

  • India is our neighbor but I haven`t been there and for sure I will be there after my undergrad study and explore lot..
    so thanks for wonderful article with photoes.
    Kepp travelling

  • Brandi Gomes

    Hello I am looking into going to McLeod Ganj for a month and was wondering about the guest houses. First how do you get in touch with them and can is there internet there?