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Our world Travel On 10th May 2007 I fled the UK on a journey around the world with a long list of places to go. Got as far as the Philippines where I met my wife. We got married on 11th May 2010 and are now sharing the experiences of travelling the world together

McLeod Ganj

INDIA | Friday, 15 October 2010 | Views [1586]

Tuesday 12th October - McLeod Ganj is the home town of his holiness the 14th Dalai Lama and the Tibetan government in exile. China invaded Tibet in 1949. By 1959 they had illegally occupied the whole of Tibet. The Dalai lama escaped into exile into India followed by 85,000 refugees. There is still a steady stream of tibetans leaving Tibet over the mountains, so the colonies in northern india keep growing. The figure is now in excess of 111,000 refugees in various neighbouring countries. Over the period of China's occupation, they killed 1.2 million tibetans and destroyed 6000 ancient religious and cultural monuments. At the monastery there is a poignant museum to Tibet's plight. Photographs depict the struggles both during and after. It is terrible to think that Tibet will almost certainly never be restored, despite the constant attempts by the Dalai lama and his people. China will never allow any other form of rule other than its own communist regime.


The Dalai lama doesn't do many personal audiences unfortunately, other than for Tibetan refugees and anyone with a serious reason, such as Michael Palin! My family have been known to call me Jeff Palin, so I wonder if I could get an interview as his brother?

Breakfast at Green's restaurant with the lovely fresh air, the sun shining and birds singing away, is a great way to start the day. 

It is quite a contrast to move from Punjab where letting your hair grow as long as possible is part of the Sikh faith, and shaving is abnormal, to the neighbouring state of Himachal Pradesh, where it is normal to have no hair, being part of the Buddhist belief. Even the female Buddhists shave their heads. One of the joys in life is to let stubble grow, just for the pleasure of visiting Akhi in his small hairdressers in McLeod Ganj for a shave. For 80 rupees, I came out transformed from Neanderthal to human, complete with massage. Shame that Shiera cannot be transformed for that price... Nobody can work miracles...heehee! 

While out to find something to eat we were stopped by a guy selling tickets to a 'Lion man of Tibet' show at the Kailash restaurant (5:30pm on tuedays). Instead of carrying on with our walk we went there to see what it was about. The same guy selling the tickets was the 'Lion Man'. He was a refugee from Tibet in 1988 and told his story followed by some traditional songs and dance. It was bizarre to say the least, and some of his performance was like a man possessed and on drugs. It was supposed to be an interpretation of some mountain gorilla or lion behaviour or maybe Shiera during her cycle. Either way, it was freaky!

Wednesday 13th Oct - It is nice when you have time to just take it easy, and move only if you want to. The sun shines early and the view down the valley from our window is awesome. After a lazy start we headed of to Bhangsa village along the wonderfully scenic Bhangsa road. Eagles soar overhead, and mountain goats roam around as well as some cheeky baboons. A trio of strangely dressed guys passed us, with their hair tied into a an upward fountain shape and clusters of drop earrings. A family sat by the road playing traditional instrument which resounded around the hills in an eerie way.  An easy walk albeit hilly. Lunch break was at the lovely Monastery café, perched up a slope with a nice view. All healthy and simple food. We even played chess over lunch. Shiera beat me…I had to let her win so she felt good… well that’s my excuse!

I remembered from my last visit that it is a must to visit the Tsuglagkhang monastery complex at around 2pm onwards for a great piece of Tibetan theatre. The Buddhist monks have an open air debate session where each point is sealed with a resounding slap of their hands and a stamp of the feet. With many debates going on simultaneously, and even some foreigners who have converted to Buddhism taking part with enthusiasm, it makes for a great entertaining hour, which finishes about 3:30pm.

Another treat...a continuous stream of treats lately!... Coffee at the 'Coffee top' on temple road, with the excellent 'Arty' finishing each coffee off with a personalized design in the froth on top. He showed us some of his artwork on his laptop. It is amazing how creative you can be with a cocktail stick and some froth! Coupled with some of the best cakes in town, it takes some beating.

Dinner at Carpe Diem...I think one of the best restaurants around. Awesome Mexican food finished off with the interesting 'God save the queen' dessert, and great friendly staff. They even sell their own healthy muesli mix for takeaway (Rs400/kg). We eat there again the next night and had Thai this time. We have been spoilt for food recently and hope this continues as we move further into the mountains tomorrow.

Friday 15th October - Next destination is Manali. But we hope to make a stop in Kullu on the way as the Dussedra festival happens on the 17th October, and it should be a great place to celebrate it. We have been sorting out our luggage and stocking up on some warm clothes. The choice here in McLeod Ganj is nice, and the prices reasonable. We have gathered lots of souvenirs which are taking up too much space. The problem is the cost of shipping. From India, the only choice is Air. Nobody seems to offer sea, which would be much cheaper. Will keep looking.

That’s it for now…


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