McLeod Ganj/Dharamsala, India

Seda: Since arriving in India, this is the best place that we have been, and it left us feeling truly happy. Wouldn’t you be, if this was the view from your bedroom?

Yes the wifi is useless here and this is the 3rd place we stayed in McLeod Ganj, 1 of which was where I had my worst shower experience but hey, I can forget all that looking at these beautiful mountains and those snowy peaks.

I think this photo of Andy best describes the joy of relaxing in this lovely balcony. We have these lovely seats to sit back and relax.

Inside we have a little table and a sofa that we have now assigned as our dining table and breakfast bar! It’s amazing how we learn to feel happy with little luxuries now. Our two empty yogurt containers have been assigned as breakfast bowls and we have a pack of treasured cereal. We take it in turns to go and get a small pack of pesturised milk in the morning. Getting the massive spork into these tiny plastic containers seems challenging but believe me it’s a luxury that we love!

We have a lot of choice here and have been enjoying a variety of cuisines. We no longer only have gorgeous Indian dishes to enjoy but also Tibetan, Chinese, Israeli, Mexican and Nepalese. I guess the restaurant owners thought “well I have an oven here so I might as well make some pizzas”, so yes, Italian food is also on the menu.

Tibetan Thenthuk soup
Quite a lot of choices!

When we go for Indian, they are kind enough to ask our preference of how hot we want our dishes. I generally go with not too spicy and Andy goes with spicy. Andy swears he’s seen the waiter put a little “p” against my order. If he did, I’m sure it means not too spicy in Hindi but Andy insist that the P stands for pussy!

Almost everywhere in India we’ve been blessed with decent clean toilets which was a worry before we left the UK, and here is no exception. The shower is not brilliant, but at least we have a constant trickle which we have learnt to appreciate. I mean place number 2 had an awesome powerful shower but who would want to be kept awake by a crazy manager who decided that 1am was the perfect time to do his washing up, banging and crashing his pots and pans, while listening to his favourite Indian music on full volume!

I also enjoyed a 7am yoga session on a close by hostels terrace yesterday which was strange to say the least. You may think 7am as an early start but the sun was already out and shining, and the city was already alive. I found it impossible to switch off. As our instructor was saying “now close your eyes and become aware of your surroundings, listen to the birds and happy sounds…” all I could hear was loud traffic and horns and my nostrils were filled with the smell of gas. As I become aware of my surroundings, I was fully aware of several people watching us from their terraces. To top it off, an annoying fly just wouldn’t leave my leg alone as it has a scab on it from a previous walk where I fought a loosing battle with a prickly bush.

I think it’s amazing that India is the home of spiritual yoga, but then again I guess there weren’t many cars around in 3000bc!

Andy: One day we decided to take a relaxing walk to a local waterfall we’d heard about. It wasn’t too far thankfully, but our peaceful intentions soon went out the window as you can see.

We also spotted this genius way of keeping drinks cool by using a natural spring

McLeod Ganj and Dharamsala sit side by side in the Indian Himalayas in northern Himachal Pradesh. Although they are only separated by 3Km they couldn’t be more different. Dharmsala is very much an Indian town which also houses the highest cricket ground in the world, whereas McLeod Ganj just up the mountain is Tibetan. Since 1959 it has held the exiled Tibetan people, including the Dalai Lama.

Dharamsala Cricket Ground

McLeod Ganj has quite a cool and funky vibe about the place. It’s very different to anywhere we’ve been so far in India. The Tibetan influences obviously have something to do with this and we’ve seen some great street art around the town also.

Not long after we arrived in McLeod Ganj we found out that the Dalai Lama was doing a teaching session the next day and it was open to all. This was an opportunity not to be missed for sure. We got up early and headed down to the temple before 8 with the reading scheduled to start at 9.30. There was already a formidable queue of people trying to get in, although we found out quickly that was for locals only. We raced to the front of the foreigners queue, and went straight in.

It was already packed out with around 5000 people sat on the floor with no space between them. We eventually found a tiny space for us both and waited.

After a short while the 3 or 4 big screens fired up and we had images of the man himself conducting prayers and giving readings. It lasted about 2 hours, and although we didn’t understand a word of what was being said, he delivered it all in wonderfully upbeat and at times funny way.

At one point he called forward a Sikh man who was sitting close by and patted him on the head/turban. Raucous laughter erupted around the temple, and not for the first time. We got the impression that although he was reading very serious Buddhist texts, he did it with a smile on his face at all times, and often laughed to himself which caused to crowd to laugh. Including us!

When it was all over the 84 year old Dalai Lama was escorted out of his temple and helped into a waiting car. As they slowly drove him away he was waving to his adoring crowd which unbelievably included a very overwhelmed couple from Warwick, England.

Unfortunately we weren’t able to get any pictures inside the temple as it was a strict no phones or camera policy, but luckily for us the great man did manage to spare some time to pose for a quick selfie with Andy!

The great man himself, and the Dalai Lama!

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