It is truly amazing how quickly our minds can assimilate to new surroundings. From a first impression of Rishikesh as a combination of the best (and worst) of reality, dreams and nightmares, in just a couple days this town has really grown on me. It now even seems relaxing, peaceful and hypnotic.
I've ended up spending a week, but many come here for a few days and stay for months. It really has a great mix of everything that I enjoy about independent travelling: Lots of friendly gringos to become temporary best friends with, exceptionally tasty food, great places to stay, friendly and open-minded locals, beautiful scenery for a backdrop, plenty of day hikes and trips, exciting street life, tourist oriented shops, sunny and warm weather, and opportunities to learn something new. It is ideal for long stays, and one can walk everywhere with no vehicles in the streets. All this for very little money. I've been averaging $50 a week for all expenses combined, but if you stay in one place, it is easy to live on $4 a day.
I took a bus to Haridwar today. I will try to get a train ticket tomorrow to Dharamsala up in the mountains. The ticket office closed just as I got there today.