August 12 to 15, 2011
Along the lofty ridges of the Himalayas lies Dharamsala, popular for exiled Tibetan community and their spiritual leader His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso. People are gracious, the culture is rich, and spirituality is prevalent. Tibetans spins tales about Dalai Lama and myths. You will cherish the place for its emerald valleys surrounded by spectacular Himalayan scenery.
Dharamsala records the second highest rainfall in India after Cherapunji. We visited during full monsoon and enjoyed natural beauty in its own terms; full rivers, deafening waterfalls, freshly bathed mountains and winking sun. Everyday maintaining own ritual rain-god(dess) was pouring till 11-11.30 in the morning; then clear and beautiful sky welcomed us for the day trip.
Going there: Book bus ticket from www.hrtc.gov.in. Seats are comfortable in TATA-AC than the Volvo. Take cello-tape and newspaper to fix the AC blower outlet above your seat because some of the blower outlet regulators are not working and during night you won’t be able to sleep. Keep sweater/ jacket handy for the night.
If you want to go by train, book ticket unto Pathankot or Chakki Bank and then travel by bus or taxi.
From Dharamsala bus stand you will get buses in every 5-10 minutes for McLeodganj. Ticket Rs.10. You can also book Jeep or cars paying Rs. 200.
We stayed at HPTDC Club House in McLeodganj. Booked online through http://www.hptdc.nic.in. Hotel is very comfortable. Friendly staffs extend their help in all possible way. Best view from room no. 502 and Suite-II. This hotel is around 100 mtr. walking distance from McLeodganj bus stop.
While roving the place, we discovered that many foreigners were staying in Tibetan Ashoka Guest House (Jogiwara Road, McLeodganj ph: 01892-221763/ 221635. Room charges Rs 450 and 550. Rooms are with geyser without TV. Booking on-spot; no pre-booking. Next time if I go (and that chance is very high!!!), I will try this.
You will find some hotel in Bhagsu village, which is 2 km walking distance from McLeodganj. You can listen to the music of waterfall from your hotel room in this area.
For local travel we booked Innova for 2 days. Comparing rates from different travel agents my friend Avik booked from Mr. Harmesh (M-9401838767), who was introduced to us by a local police officer. Driver was Mr. Babaji (M-8091115897), in his late 50s or early 60s. He is driving in McLeodganj for 22 years; very polite, well-behaved and punctual. He knows all short-cut roots in this area. Indeed you are in safe hand. Two other travel agents’ contacts:
Wind Horse Tours and Travels – Mr. Tsering Choemphel 01892 2240416/ 9816169013.
Places to Visit:
In a beautiful place like McLeodganj, you don’t need to visit any special place; just sit and enjoy the mystic mountains.Avik prepared an itinerary and we followed the same in full grace
DAY 1: We reached McLeodganj at 9:30 am. Enjoyed the market in front of our hotel, talked to the interesting local tibetans and around 5 pm started for Bhagsu waterfall. Through peaceful village, serene valleys and sound of cascading waterfall after 45 minutes walking we reached at the waterfall. Last 40 m was most dodgy; we couldn’t resist temptation to be near to the waterfall. While we reached just below the waterfall, we felt ourselves on seventh heaven. I recommend to wear right pair of shoes to avoid slip on this stone pathway
On your way to Bhagsu, you may find some interesting sights. Few shots
DAY 2: We started at 9 am for Jawalamukhi temple (shaakti Peeth) and Kangra Fort (Rs. 2000 in Innova).
Jawalamukhi temple: Like most of the Indian temples, not well maintained, too many devotees. 2-4 hours waiting is required to reach main temple. Temple is closed from noon to 2 pm.
Kangra Fort: This fort is claimed as the oldest fort in India; built before Christ and this is largest fort in Himalayas. Hundred of steps lead us to the top of the fort. Except a very old Jain Mandir and few surviving walls, there is no specific room/building inside the fort. From the top of the fort, you will get mesmerizing view of surrounding valleys and mountains.
HH Dalai Lama Temple: Returning at hotel at 5 pm we visited the most holy place in McLeodganj. The temple was 500m walking distance from our hotel. This monastery is located in the same premises of Dalai Lama’s residence. Tibetans told us that this temple is the largest Tibetan temple outside Tibet. Tibetan lamas were meditating in a large hall. Temple has many beautiful metal statues of Tibetan god and goddesses. Tibetans were chanting mantras while revolving the prayer wheel. This monastery is closed on Monday.
If you come to the backside of the temple, you will get an exquisite view of Himalayan picks.
DAY 3: Baijnath Shiv temple, Palampur valley and Dharamsala stadium were in our list of view points for the day. Innova charged Rs. 2500. We started at 9 am.
Baijnath Shiv Temple: Very old temple but again long queue. The temple is beautifully placed amidst Himalayan picks.
Palampur Tea Garden: Lush green tea gardens of Palampur are ideal place for one day picnic. This gardens are smaller than Uttaranchal or Darjeeling tea gardens. On the way we found a river with high monsoon current; its crystal clear water, colorful and onyx stones in river bottom filled us with joy and happiness.See my friend Lakxmi and Purnima’s fun filled faces.
It was very tough to call off everybody from the river bank.
On our way back car driver stopped near a bear zoo. In open air, lazy bears were reluctant to notice visitors and eight or nine of them were involved in their on coarse of frittering away time.
Our car headed for the long-awaited place for us in Dharamsala.
Dharamsala Cricket Stadium: Green grass carpet amidst most bizarre surrounding of hills and white clouds made a breathtaking view of the most romantic cricket stadium I had ever seen. I wish to propose my would be wife in this stadium in our next birth ;). See the pictures below
With all the unforgettable memories of the day we returned hotel at around 3 O’clock. Then it was time for free roving in the market and trying local dishes.
Food: McLeodganj may be remembered only for their culinary delicacies; they prepare awesome Tibetan and Bhutanese dishes. Among many restaurants you may try at Tibet Kitchen and Chu Sum Restaurant. Bhutanese dishes in Tibet Kitchen are mind-blowing.
We tried Tibet Chicken’s Kitchen Special Chicken (Rs120), Chef Special Chicken (Rs 120), Tofu (Paneer like preparation made from soya milk) (Rs 80), Shakam Datse (Bhutanese dish – base coconut milk) (Rs 110), Singapore Chowmin (Rs 60), Szechaun Noodle (Rs 60) Steamed Momo (Rs 70), Tingmo (spl bread – Rs 10/pc). All are worthy testing, special recommendation goes to Kitchen spl Chicken and Chef spl Chicken, these finger licking starters are must tries.
If you want to try north Indian dishes, choices are plateful.
You will find liquor shops in every nook and cranny; there is no dearth of choices.
While returning, we tried pastry… that was just yummy. Brought some for home.
Shopping: With fully active schedule you may forget the idea of shopping here. But before going home take prayer wheel, 8 holy signs or beautiful paintings as wall hanging. Plenty of economic winter clothes are available in market. You may go for 25% bargain. Wiffy tried hair cut here and praised for long time.
Some interesting snaps to share with you
Wiffy often urges to visit McLeodganj (may be for the hair cut!!!), I also like to visit this peaceful and tranquil place in near future (during IPL time 😉 ).
Will post Mukteshwar (Uttarakhand) next. Stay tuned…
Please share any point I have missed. Drop a line if you liked the post. Thank you
Dharamsala Weather: http://www.mustseeindia.com/Dharamsala-weather
Book you may read before going:
Freedom in Exile: The Autobiography of the Dalai Lama [http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/567720.Freedom_in_Exile]
Movie you may find interesting:
Kundun (1997) [http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0119485/]