Sunday, November 5, 2017

Laxman Jhula and The Beatles Ashram

One of the main attractions in Rishikesh is abandoned "Beatles" ashram, where the musicians attended a  Transcendental Meditation training in 1968. Their visit was one of the band's most productive periods and received widespread media attention.

The ashram is located close to Laxman Jhula, Rishikesh.

I published an article with some photos about my short personal experience about the Laxman Jhula and visiting the "Beatles " ashram in the Erasmus Travellers Competition.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Rishikesh – Indian town with a great spiritual theme and more.

One of the great spiritual places in India is Rishikesh.

I wrote an article about my personal experience in this city, which I visited in 2013.

The article is published at Erasmus traveling experiences pages.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Transportation in India

Transportation in India

Between cities:
·    Aircrafts

      Local airplanes are pretty expensive if you buy it online yourself. The price also does not include meals; a small snack would cost as much as a proper lunch in a standard Western restaurant. It might be smart to bring your own snack with you.

·      Trains

      A good value for your money. The disadvantage is that it’s not easy to get tickets. For long-distance trips, you must book a ticket in advance. You might encounter fraud at the railway stations (I have heard about this, but have not been in such a situation myself.). 
      After getting your SIM card, you can subscribe to the travel website MakeMyTrip and try your hand at booking a train/flight ticket from there. 

If you bought a ticket with a sleeping berth, you will get bed linen in the train.

·      Buses

      Advantages of a bus: cheap, relatively easy to get a ticket. The main disadvantage is that travel agents sell overpriced tickets to foreigners and the bus you will get is not necessarily in the best shape. Also, a trip in a bus at night is less comfortable than in a train. However, some busses are designed to provide sleeping places, just like in a train. There are even double beds in some of them. That makes your trip more comfortable. There is no any bed linen in there, so it’s advisable to take your own pillowcase and a sheet from home. Sometimes an additional payment is required for luggage. You won’t get a receipt for that, so write down in your notebook how many pieces of luggage you have and ask the loader to sign it. Normally they will do this without protesting.

In cities: 
·      Taxi: The cars are national and international brands; most have air conditioning. Not cheap. Drivers use a navigation system via smart phones.
·      Tuk-tuks

     Tuk-tuks are exotic; natural ventilation because there are no windows and doors. The drivers do not have a navigation system, so for your own convenience you must have a printed map with a clear address and telephone number for your destination. Ask your hotel in advance for tuk-tuk prices from the railway station.
·      Rickshaws

      Rickshaws are good if you are shopping in the bazaars or for very short trips; however, their recommendations might be very subjective; they could advice to you the shops of their friends or relatives. Normally illiterate.

Tips for local trips in the city:
·      Agree on the price before getting in the vehicle.

·       Take a small notebook with you. That will be useful not only for making notes but also for writing a negotiated price for your trip by taxi, rickshaw or tuk-tuk driver. Write it in front of the service provider; this will be proof of your agreement with him. Otherwise, your driver might quote a different price at the end of the trip, which happens quite often.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Preparation to your traveling in India

·      Weather
o   When planning your trip to India, be aware that in some places, travel during certain months should be avoided.
o   For example, in New Delhi from May to June, the temperature can reach +50 C (+122 F) and you’d feel uncomfortable going anywhere outside your hotel.
o   July and August are months with heavy rain, which can make it inconvenient to explore India.

Average temperature in India

·      Vaccinations
o   About one month before your trip to India (or earlier), get in touch with a vaccination specialist in your local health center. At that time, you must have your travel plans ready. The doctor will ask which places in India you are planning to visit. That is necessary for you to get the right vaccinations and prevent unnecessary ones. For example, in some areas at certain times of the year, the threat of malaria exists. However, if you are not going to those areas or if you will be there during the “low” season for the anopheles mosquito, you might not need that vaccination.
·      Clothing
o   India is a highly religious country. You won’t see any Indian (man or woman) wearing tight shorts, mini skirts or transparent clothing. My advice is to wear clothing that aligns with local habits and that is comfortable for traveling. Take a long-sleeve cotton blouse, a couple of T-shirts, loose trousers, bermuda shorts covering your knees and comfortable walking shoes. Due to pollution, try to avoid white; otherwise you must wash your clothes each time you wear them.
o   You can also buy great coloured pants and blouses at the local bazaars. Shopping there is a lot of fun!

                                                                                   Outfit in India

o   Sunglasses and hat
·      Other things
o   Torch. The sunset in Delhi is around 6 pm and total darkness arrives quickly. The streets and roads are poorly illuminated and you are at risk of getting hit by whatever comes your way.
o   Reflectors. If you think you will be hanging out outside at night, you might consider pinning a light reflector on your backpack or clothing.


o   Umbrella. To protect against the rain and/or sun.


o   Electric water kettle. If you have space in your luggage, you might consider taking a small, simple kettle and making your own tea whenever you want.
o   Luggage. There are no elevators in the train stations and there are long stairs you must use to reach your platform. I have learned that a backpack is the best option for long-term traveling in India. Before my trip, I bought two pieces, which I can use together or separately, as well as a cover to protect against dirt and rain (which I recommend) and I was happy with my preparation. The larger suitcase does not weigh down your shoulders; the weight goes on your hips and you can carry it for at least some time without problems.

                                                                                                 3 in 1
o   Language. With English, you will be able to survive pretty well.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Accommodation in Delhi

Accommodation in Delhi

New Delhi (about 350, 000 residents) is the Indian capital and a territory of Delhi (about 22.2 million people).
I have evaluated different options for overnight stays in New Delhi and Delhi, and each time I ended up staying in hostels for foreign tourists. The reason was that they were the best option in terms of value, convenience and fun.
International hotel chains, which are supposed to be priced conveniently due to the heavy competition in the market, are overpriced in the Delhi area. National chains and small hotels do not provide any trust.
You can find decent-looking rooms and apartments on the Airbnb website

Airbnb in India
A decent accommodation will be priced per the Western standard; that would be OK if the host could provide travel guidelines for reaching the destination by public transportation; however, instead, an Indian host will offer a relatively expensive car ride from and to the airport, which makes the total cost two-and-a-half to three times higher than the initial price of the room. In addition, they do not provide information about attractions or activities close to their properties, which, again, creates a sense of dependency on their transportation and their price list for driving services.

Couchsurfing is a good place for getting missing information about your travel plans, but perhaps not for accommodation.
For example, I got information about Vipassana meditation from this site; many thanks for that to Couchsurfing’s founders and to the girl who was spreading the word!
Talking about Indian Couchsurfers … announcing your trip on the bulletin board will attract hundreds of Indian Couchsurfers. Most of them do not a verified profile, proper photos or references. Quite a few people hang out there to advertise their services, and some can give you great advice about getting the best from your travels (experience based on the year 2016).

Typical verification profile of Indian CS 

So, where should you sleep in Delhi to get the best value for your money?

My choice was – Madpackers hostel.
Drawing on the hostel's door
Run by enthusiastic young entrepreneurs, the hostel offers a great deal for national and especially international travelers. It’s a great place to kick off your travels in India. The hostel can provide you with great instructions for finding it and for using the taxi, subway or tuk-tuk. It can also book a non-expensive Uber for you, as well as help with luggage, booking tickets, etc.

Madpackers reception area 
There are a few private rooms and several dorm rooms available in Madpackers on two floors. An Indian veggie breakfast is included in the price. You can perform your morning exercise or yoga on the roof of the building.
Most important, you’ll meet a lot of travelers from all over the world who are eager to share their experiences in India; you can find a lot of inspiration for your journey as well great company for your travels.
One of my favorite “features” of this hostel is its sightseeing tours. The hostel organizes various economically priced excursions every day; the Indian guide will show you the best places in the city to buy souvenirs, enjoy the Indian fairytales show, eat, participate in events, etc.

Drawing on Madpackers' wall
Madpackers will also help you with advice for traveling, booking a train/bus/air ticket, getting an inexpensive taxi (Uber), etc.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Traveling to India. New Delhi

Before getting into “my list” of spiritual places I have visited, I will provide a short introduction to New Delhi, the capital of India.

New Delhi
All roads in India go to New Delhi, the city where most people probably land.

Indira Gandhi airport
You are arriving at the Indira Gandhi International Airport. It’s a relatively new airport, organized like any major airport in Europe or the USA.
After getting your luggage, you will go to passport control. There are no extra security procedures, such as fingerprints or head-shot photos, so it should go pretty fast.

New Delhi airport
There will be frequent money exchange points on your way, starting from the “luggage hall” and continuing in the arriving hall of the airport. You will need cash to pay for a taxi or metro, so you must exchange some money. As in any other city in the world, the rate of exchange in the airport is not the best compared to the options outside, so I would advise you to not exchange here all the cash you have brought with you.

Communication is extremely important in India. People widely use mobile phones and even the rickshaw driver will have a cellular phone in his hand. A SIM card is recommended, especially if you will be staying in India for several weeks or months. For example, having a telephone number will give you an advantage when booking train or airline tickets online, which will help you save time and avoid stress.
I bought a prepaid SIM card with call and 3G mobile data in the airport. The service there is fast and painless – you are getting an activated SIM card after just a few minutes of waiting. The service providers know what they are doing and are well prepared; for example, they have a camera to take your headshot photograph if you don’t have a photo with you. They will open your phone using the right tools. (For example, I had the latest model of the Samsung Galaxy 7, which required a special key to open the cover, and they had that key.)
The best cellular operator in India in autumn 2016 was AIRTEL (don’t confuse this with AIRCEL, which has less coverage and lower quality). I bought the lowest amount of call minutes and data, which cost around 15 euro (17 USD), and that was more than enough for a two-month trip.

From airport to city
The airport has a connection to the city itself by a fast – and I’d even say luxurious – express train, which is smoothly connected to a modern subway. As an option, you can take a taxi from the airport, which might be faster (not necessarily during rush hour), but will also be more expensive. Both the express train and the taxi have air-conditioning systems. 

Express train

As an alternative, you can take tuk-tuk, which is exotic and relatively cheap, but you might be surprised by the air pollution. This is one of the reasons why I try to avoid tuk-tuks in big Indian cities.


Air pollution is a problem not only in Delhi, but also for all bigger cities in India.
Traveling in the subway in Delhi is easy and relatively inexpensive. For your convenience, print the New Delhi metro map in color before your trip and take it with you. The tokens for the metro are sold at the counter inside the station. Please remember to save the token until the end of your journey – you’ll need it at the exit point. There are security checks like those at the departure premises at the airport. They will scan you and your luggage. There are isolated security check cabins for women.

New Delhi subway

The New Delhi subway is relatively new and well-organized. The interval between arrival trains is just a few minutes. The subway transports a huge number of people. Ninety-nine percent of metro travelers are male and one percent (maybe even less) are female. I haven’t seen a single child in the metro and mostly I was the only woman in a long underground carriage. There are some emergency phone numbers for females, and I would recommend saving them if you are a solo traveler.

Help phone numbers
In the next Article: Accommodation in Delhi

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Review on Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007) and lessons learnt

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007) is a movie about Benjamin Barker, who, being conquered by his angry mind, became a murderer and finally was murdered himself.

                                                                                             Sweeney Todd © IMDb

Unjustly convicted and imprisoned, Benjamin Barker returned to his native city. Led by his irritated mind, he programmed himself for revenge and changed his name to Sweeney Todd.
As that, the protagonist, putting all his effort into vengeance, is not capable of catching either hope for a brighter future or any opportunities in his new life. His anger spreads and hurts innocent people.
Benjamin’s mad mind pushes him to murder anyone who enters his barbershop. It doesn’t matter who is in front of him. Whether it’s his offender (Judge Turpin) or anyone else, his anger hits everyone.
Murdering innocent people, Sweeney Todd continuously harms his own soul by absorbing heavy, dark energies. He is steadily turning towards Darkness and shutting down a new and brighter future not only for himself but also for others, including his teenage daughter and his new spouse.

The lesson learned:
In the Western world, revenge is an acceptable reaction to someone who has made you unhappy. People fight against those who insult them because they think they have lost their happiness due to an injustice enacted by the offender, not because of their own imperfections. When an angry person hits back at his offender, he makes the problem bigger, creating the same effect as pouring petrol into a fire – the fire becomes larger and more dangerous.
The Eastern world, experienced with spiritual wisdom and meditation practices, teaches that instead of petrol, one should pour water into the fire, which would extinguish it.
That essentially means that if you have been offended, you must not only observe your emotional state but also keep your mind above the situation. A balanced mind in this case can become a friend and won’t give anger a chance to push you towards words or actions, which would badly affect your future.
Some people might argue that they want to hit back at an offender because that action would teach the offender a lesson. In addition, they would get the personal satisfaction of the protection themselves. However, this is a reaction of your ego; reality shows that hitting back does not make things better, only worse.
Hatred absorbs a lot of time and effort; you are shifting your focus from your life’s goals to the distracting direction of revenge. You risk turning your life into hell – irritation and anger as a chain reaction are jumping up from the offender to the innocent one, hurting guiltless people only because they were in the way.
The worst thing happens on the deeper level of the subconscious – an uprising of the karmic nodes. Each karmic node would require attention, if not in this present life, in the next. You’re going to meet the same spiritual entity (a person) again and again to solve the problem – to unleash the karmic node. This involves extending your existence in the physical world and prolonging your path to liberation.

Anger management by G. Buddha:
One person, who lived on the Earth about 2,600 years ago, invented a technique helping people manage anger. As a matter of fact, that technique was a remedy addressing any imperfection of the human mind, creating the chance for full enlightenment and, consequently, providing a fast track to liberation from the physical world. This person is best known as Buddha, but his real name was Siddhartha Gautama.
Gautama became fully enlightened at the age of 35 and, driven by compassion, helped people until his death at the age of 80.
Buddha’s meditation, known as the Vippasanna technique, helps balance and manage your own mind. He invented the technique with the intention of removing imperfection (= sins) and avoiding generating new ones.
For example, going for revenge, a person would generate a new karmic node with each offender. Each karmic node, as a heavy stone, would prevent him from climbing up to the goal – liberation from physical reality. 

Each and every one of us, time after time, has faced a situation with a person who has insulted us. Buddha was no exception – he also met offenders, but he could transform negativity into positivity without hurting the offender, also gaining extra psycho-energy for himself. In this article, I provide two examples of how he did it. These examples I have heard are from the Vipassana meditation course.
One day, Buddha received a visitor. The man was very irritated. He told Gautama that though he pretended to be a spiritual guru, he wasn’t because, according to the man, a true yogi was supposed to have long hair, tiger fur, and other accessories.
Buddha listened to the man without interrupting. When the offender finished, Buddha asked him, “Are you, dear sir, getting guests in your house?”
“Yes, I am,” answered the offender.
“Do they give presents to you?”
“Yes, sometimes they do bring me presents.”
Buddha said in a calm voice, “I do not accept your present to me. Take it back and go home.”
The offender wanted to fire but left with empty hands because the fire died when Gautama poured water on it. The offender had no other option than to turn back and go home.

Another case of anger management from the life of Buddha.
There were some people who were jealous of Gautama’s fame and popularity. They decided to damage his reputation.

They sent a young, beautiful woman to his ashram, and she attended Buddha’s teaching. Every morning the woman passed the people in the ashram and told them she had spent another night with Gautama. Time passed and one day many important people gathered in the Buddha’s ashram. The woman came also. It looked like she was pregnant. She accused Gautama of being the father, using nasty words. Buddha listened to her and said in a calm voice, “We both know the truth." The woman became nervous; the wooden piece attached to her belly dropped out and everyone saw that she had lied.

The lesson: Keeping your mind in balance gives you a great advantage in a situation when you face an offender who has the intention of making you unhappy. A trained mind that focuses on positive decisions will help you figure out the right solution for the problem you face.