Dharamsala

View from McLeod Ganj (Dharamsala upper town).

View from McLeod Ganj (Dharamsala upper town).

Dharamsala, or the upper town McLeod Ganj where we stayed, is a gorgeous little spot. In one direction lies the deep valley below (McLG is at 1750 m altitude) and in the other direction the impossibly high snow-capped mountains above. The town is home to the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan government in exile as well as a large population of Tibetan refugees – it looks and feels incredibly different with prayer wheels, prayer flags and Buddhist stupas everywhere. It is also firmly on the backpacker trail with plenty souvenir stalls and cafe’s serving banana pancakes, and many aging hippies.

The place we stayed in was nice and had a good vegetarian restaurant (most places are all-veg here) – hot water worked in the room as soon as we had figured out to flick the switch outside the door (..though I did manage to have one very refreshing shower before this). There was also a large toad sitting outside our door the whole day which I took to be an auspicious sign!

Second day we went for a walk to find the Dalai Lama’s residence and monastery, however we got a bit lost as the map was not to scale (..and clearly labeled “not to scale”). Ended up on a long path downhill with beautiful views to the mountains and prayer flags in the trees. Eventually we figured out that we had walked right past the palace and completed a “kora” – a circumnavigation path around the temple complex completed by devotees always in the clockwise direction. Everyone we met had been walking the opposite direction to us! I’m somewhat worried now that we might have acquired a negative one on some sort of karma score-card after doing it anti-clockwise. Also, the toad outside our door was gone when we came back!

Monks and prayer wheels in Dharamsala.

Monks and prayer wheels in Dharamsala.

In the evening we got a tip from a Buddhist monk in the hostel that the Dalai Lama would be at the monastery the day after to meet with a number of Indian guru’s so we might have a chance to catch a glimpse of him. We got there early which was lucky as we were sent back to the hostel to leave camera and mobile – the security was pretty strict with metal detectors and bag inspection. A crowd of a few hundred, mostly Tibetans, had gathered sitting on the ground and we spotted the Dalai Lama and the Karmapa (a high Tibetan lama for a different Buddhism school) with a number of Indian guru-looking types walking up to the palace. When we came back after lunch some hour later the meeting had just finished and we spotted the Dalai Lama again on the way to a waiting car. We was waving and smiling at everyone and seemed to be in good form.

In the evening we popped by a Tibet museum near the palace. It had lots of photos and information about the devastation following the 1950 invasion, including pictures from many of the monasterys that were completely destroyed during the “cultural revolution”. About 6,000 monasterys were destroyed and 1.2 million people killed in total – many of the people designing the exhibitions had been in “re-education” camps and tortured before fleeing Tibet. The museum also had Tibet stamps, Tibet currency, a Tibet passport and pre-1950 National Geographic articles to refute any claims that Tibet “always was a part of China”.

After spending a few days around McLeod Ganj we signed up for a 10-day silent meditation retreat, though I’ll save that for the next post.

8 Responses to “Dharamsala”

  1. Yvonne says:

    Hey there! I was chatting with Pia last night, asking the link to your blog. Figured you’d have some marvelous adventure story up there by now 🙂 And here it is!
    The Delhi taxi stuff sounds a bit creepy I have to say. But Dharamsala sounds fantastic. Post lots of pics and stories so those who are still running rat race can enjoy your travels virtually.

    Big hugs!!
    Yvon

  2. Chris says:

    A 10-day SILENT meditation retreat? I can’t wait to hear how that went! I mean, David being from the vast expanses of Middle Sweden where in the busier tourist times of the year, you tend to actually meet someone every day or 6, yes… I can see how he could last 10 days. But Edel? I’m now guessing she misread the ’10-day silent meditation retreat’ as ’10-day steamroom and massage relaxation retreat’. Or maybe the ’10-minute silent meditation retreat’… So tell me, how long did she last? My bet is on 3,5 minutes. Not counting the first accidental ‘Oh, it’s so silent here, isn’t it David?’ after 10 seconds.

    • Edel says:

      Oh ye of little faith Mr CVDG!!!! I have hidden depths you know 😛 Luckily the bacterial dysentery I got kept me quiet and the Finnish girl in the bunk beside me who was sleeping walking and swearing in Finnish in her sleep ..otherwise admittedly I may have come out in boils due to the lack of social interaction 😛

  3. Desiree says:

    Hejhejhej!

    I’m sooo happy you started the blogging! Looks like you’re having a great time – curious to hear about the 10 days silence retreat!!!!

    Miss ya loads:)

    • Edel says:

      Tjena Sötnos !!!

      Thanks for the comment and glad you are enjoying the blog ..I am going to post something in there soon as well and not be so lazy.. for the moment David is doing all the work 🙂

      Hope you are keeping well and happy and not too busy 🙂 Hi to Graham and will drop you another email soon 🙂

      edel xx

  4. Megan says:

    Yes! Glad I’ve found your travel blog. Can’t wait to hear more of your adventures… Hugs to both of you 🙂

  5. Pia says:

    I am waiting with bated breath (ie silently) for the next post…..

  6. Corinna says:

    Trust ye to see the Dalai Lama…..well impressed 🙂 Ciúnas Edel for the next 10 days.
    xx

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