After our last year’s trip to Varanasi and Bodhgaya, my friend ‘Smiling Buddha’, Deepak and I were back on the road again; this time to the abode of His Holiness the Dalai Lama of Tibet in Dharamsala (also known as ‘Little Lhasa of Tibet’). We had chosen a small room (through Airbnb. This one: https://www.airbnb.co.in/rooms/14228545) overlooking the Mighty Dhauladhar ranges in McLeod Ganj. McLeodGanj houses the Tibetan government-in-exile and is the political, cultural and spiritual hub of the Tibetan diaspora in India.
This is a brief picture story of our trip, and covers things to do in Mcleodganj.
Just when the 200 rupee cup-o-noodles that I consumed for breakfast on-board my flight to Dharamsala began wreaking havoc in my stomach, the pilot announced our descent. I looked out of the plane window to see this beautiful sight of colourful houses basking in early morning sunlight with mountains in the backdrop. The pleasant conditions outside seemed to be in stark contrast to the stormy one that was building inside of me. Cup-o-noodles on an empty stomach never again; I scribbled a mental note to myself as I stepped out of the airplane.
Just as I stepped out of the aircraft, I froze. I mean: I literally froze. I can take a bit of cold, and I enjoy cold weather. So even though I knew that it would be cold in Dharamsala in December, I hadn’t packed any winter clothing. Here I was, in my tees and shorts, stepping out into a cold near-zero degree December morning in Dharamsala. What was I thinking?! (Whoever finds my peanut-sized brain, please return it. Thank you.)
We had chosen a basic bed-and-breakfast place through Airbnb; one that had a beautiful balcony with a view of the majestic mountains. The prepaid cab that I had hired from the airport was driven by a young maniac who drove at top speed through the winding roads, blaring his horns almost non-stop, playing remixed Punjabi songs at high volume and taking calls along the way. I was thrown around quite a bit, but clung to dear life.
Deepak, meanwhile, had reached Dharamsala earlier, and had decided to trek to Triund and camp there for the day. Picture courtesy: Deepak
Walking through the streets of McLeod Ganj is a great experience once you learn to get over the honking vehicles. Street vendors selling all sorts of merchandise, eateries, coffee shops are all cramped up along the narrow streets. Watch your step and don’t stumble over cows and sleeping dogs.
Food and prayers go well together. Momo stalls in front of a monastery in the city square.
A vegetables vendor in Mcleod Ganj
The first restaurant I visited in McLeod Ganj. Tibet Kitchen.
Thukpa (Tibetan noodle soup) from Tibet Kitchen restaurant. What a wonderful way to beat the cold!
Interiors of Tibet Kitchen restaurant
Couldn’t resist these tikkis. But I think he took me for a ride. Rs 80 for 2 tikkis. What do you think?
Hmm. Bob Marley merchandise. Hmm.
The kind of items being sold on the streets
Looks like Dream-catchers are popular among shoppers. They add a lot of colour to the streets.
I don’t know what these are, but they sure look lovely.
Try some of these pastries from the tiny bakeries you will find in the town square.
Watch out for some awesome graffitis on the walls. Here’s a beautiful painting on the wall of a rundown house that I stumbled on.
If I am reborn, I would like to be a Himachal dog in my next life. Sleeping and eating is all they do. (come to think of it, that’s all I do in my current life as well. But dogs are cuter.)
Interiors of St. John In The Wilderness, McleodGanj on Christmas eve, 2018. Constructed in 1852, it is one of the oldest churches in the region.
I spent quite a bit of time in various eateries and coffee shops. They all offer decent coffee and free wi fi. Here’s me in Cafe Budan.
Illiterati cafe has a nice ambiance, tons of books, a beautiful balcony view and great food.
We had a 15 minute wait time before we were shown our seats in Illiterati cafe.
While sitting in the balcony of Illiterati cafe in McleodGanj, my gaze fell upon the shrubbery there and caught sight of this li’l flower reaching out to get its share of sunlight. Thought it would make a good picture; and it did, don’t you think?
Cafe Ri was another small place that we went to. They serve tasty Korean food.
Japchae with rice from Cafe Ri.
This is a Japanese restaurant we wanted to try, but found it closed both times we went. Maybe next time.
Nik’s Italian kitchen. Another lovely place with good food and ambiance.
Their farmer’s omelette was wonderful.
Buddha statue at the Dalai Lama temple.
A view from Dalai Lama temple.
Hand made dolls for sale
Gyuto Monastery. Picture courtesy: Smiling Buddha
My partners in crime: Smiling Buddha (the one trying to board the truck), and Deepak.
Parting shot from Dharamsala airport.
In parting: McLeod Ganj has a chilled out vibe that will calm you down and help you look at life from different perspectives. This is definitely a place to come to if you want to slow down a bit and reflect on your life and priorities. I have heard many a stories of creative souls who have come here, and stayed back for many years; some for life. Deepak sent me this video (view here: https://youtu.be/IbyHUQudQAE) that captures the story of Jubin Mehta – a writer and an old-timer at YourStory, who moved from the big cities to the mountains. He is part of the team that created the Saadho magazine. Now, even if you don’t want to do something as radical as shifting your base, McLeod Ganj is worth a visit for a couple of days of peace.
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