I'm a freelance writer and yogi living in Tepoztlan, Mexico where I'm running www.casadelcorazon.mx with my girlfriend. You can keep up with my other writing on www.bollocks2thewellingtons.com/
Published December 25th 2012
Best Chai in Rishikesh, monster muesli & chocolate samosas
In Swarg Ashram, on the Southern side of the holy river Ganges, the name of the game is spiritual practice.
As the name suggests, there are a number of Ashramas here where seekers can stay and receive teachings in Yoga, meditation and Hindu philosophy.
The town is overrun with Indian pilgrims making offerings to the various brightly coloured temples throughout. A nightly puja or ritual offering ceremony is held by the giant Shiva statue outside the biggest ashram, Parmarth Niketan, where hundreds of worshippers and interested tourists watch the fire twirling priests incanting prayers and giving to the great river.
Just up from here there is a street of shops selling religious paraphernalia, ayurvedic medicine, devotional music CDs and philosophy books.
In amongst this whirlwind of activity, which sounds like it should be peaceful but is actually the usual Indian caterwauling mess is one of the best little cafe's that I discovered in my year long jaunt around the subcontinent.
Flies buzz around the mounds of cow dung left by the enormous beasts that have as much right of way as any human around here. The sadhus offer to bless your forehead for as many Rupees as they can squeeze and beggars haul themselves along with no legs but winning smiles. It's great.
Tucked away from this lot, The Office is an unassuming little place with only four tables in the back and a small fly-infested balcony where you can sit on the floor overlooking the river and next to the washing up sink. Outside is nice if you can put up with the flies and the sun isn't in the wrong position because then it gets rather hot.
Otherwise you can share a table and watch the laconic staff show some mild interest in your order and then get to work if it fits in with their schedule.
They have a small menu which is good because it can be slow and also because it means everything on it is an absolute gem. Firstly the chai is unbelievably good. It comes in a large metal mug and is made by the old feller at his little stove bubbling away a selection of spices in milk to brew a tea with more flavour than any I have had in India. They love spicy, sweet chai in India so this is some compliment.
Food wise they will fill you up with a huge bowl of fruit, muesli, curd and honey.
This is again one of the best examples of a ubiquitous dish in India. A great selection of fruit, minimal muesli, oodles of curd and honey and topped with pomegranate seeds this is a total winner, not least the green raisins.
If this isn't making your mouth water they have some less healthy items as well. A very good value pakora plate (deep fried vegetables) is decent but the winner is the samosas. Normally these triangular parcels of deep-fried delight come with vegetables or meat but here they serve them with either chocolate and banana or apple and cinnamon. These are as fantastic as they sound and are a real treat, particularly the apple ones which taste a bit like Christmas.