Monday, April 13, 2009


I am a tad disappointed not because I didn’t get to see the man himself but because I was expecting something more tranquil. After all, this is where the Dalai Lama resides. By the way, it’s quite impossible to see the Dalai Lama unless he gives a public talk or you’re a famous someone who made an appointment 4 months ago. There is no doubt that the Himalaya is beautiful but I can’t help but to think Dharamsala is a bit strange.

View from the plane of snow capped Himalaya mountains.

On my flight from Delhi to Dharamsala, I saw an elderly monk in saffron colored robes, stroking the thighs of a pregnant woman, which could very well be his wife but it was strange to me because I didn’t think Buddhist monks were allowed to get married. Then, sitting next to me was another Buddhist monk, this one is young, handsome and well built and holding hands with a Caucasian woman old enough to be his mother.

Anand, Auntie Sheila (his mom) and I stayed in McLeod Ganj, the alleged "backpacker's paradise". Apparently, this town was pretty dead until Dalai Lama and his entourage of Tibetan Buddhists claimed asylum here in 1960.

Tibetan monks.

McLeod Ganj town.

The Hotel
Pema Thang Guest House, site:, ph: 221871
Price: Rs1500/night for 3 persons

Anand and I really wanted to stay at Chonor House Guest House, especially knowing that this is where Richard Gere would stay whenever he’s in town. Unfortunately, we didn’t reserve in advance, hence, we ended up at Pema Thang Guest House, a humble hotel ran by some friendly Tibetans.

Bedroom at Pema Tang Guest House

View from Pema Thang restaurant - Buddhist script flags.

The Food
There is a wide variety of backpacker restaurants in McLeod Ganj. According to a travel magazine review, the food here is “as good as the ones back home” (home being Israel, Seattle etc). Unfortunately, I wouldn’t know because I had traveler’s diarrhea on day 2. So instead of some yummy international foods, this is what I frequently ate and drank on my trip.

Curd and rice.

Electrolyte drink is great for dehydration.

And here're some local delights...

Tibetan Tea - no sugar, just salt and a bit of yak butter and milk.

I can't recall if this Tibetan noodle soup is call Thentuk, Thukpa or something else. The freshly made noodles were al dante and the broth was savory-sweet by vegetables and a few thinly sliced lamb.

Tsuglagkhang Complex
This complex consists of a temple, a monastry and some shops. The Kalachakra Temple is not the most impressive but has an absolutely stunning view. The Lonely Planet wrote that on most evenings, you could catch monks “sealing points of argument with great flourish, a foot stamp and theatrical clap of the hands”, debating topics of Buddhist metaphysics, around the Namgyal Gompa monastry. We came to this complex several times and asked at least 9 monks about the debate but no one seem to know what we were talking about. We gave up after the third try.

Tsuglagkhang temple.

No trees were harmed while building this complex.

The conventional and traditional way of lighting candles or oil lamps.

Kalachakra mandala (Wheel of Time)

Buddhist Mantra

Having a cuppa chai and lassi at the Namgyal Cafe.

The Treks
One of the nicest treks we took was on Mall Road, which would lead you to Dal Lake, the home of Tibetan Children’s village. I never made it there, but Anand said it's not much of a village and the lake looked sad.

View from our treks around McLeod Ganj.

More views from our treks around McLeod Ganj.

I was taking pictures of an eagle that was flying above these guys and they started shouting "(give us) 50 rupees!" at me.

Norbulingka Institute
I think this institute made it worthwhile to visit Dharamsala. It’s about 6km from Dharamsala and was established to preserve traditional Tibetan art forms.

Thangka painting.

A finished thangka painting.

Making Padmasambhava or Guru Rinpoche statue.

Doll of a debating Buddhist monk at the Losel Doll Museum

More pictures of Dharamsala

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