McLeod Ganj: home of Dalai Lama
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After a short stop in Delhi in order to understand how to get to the Himalayas, we finally reach Mcleodganj.
McLeod Ganj (also called McLeodGanj or McLeodganj) is a suburb of Dharamshala in the Kangra district of Himachal Pradesh, India. It is known as "Little Lhasa" or "Dhasa" (a short form of Dharamshala used primarily by the Tibetans) due to its large population of Tibetans. The Tibetan government in exile has its headquarters in McLeod Ganj.
We take a night bus from Delhi booked online at https://www.redbus.in/ and paid 1,100 rupees - about 14 € (12 hours of travel). We arrive at the bus station in Mcleodganj. As soon as we figure out where to go, we take a taxi paid too much (100 rupees each for 2km) but it's 7 am and we do not have much energy to walk. We stay at the HosteLaVie. Even the hostel is expensive compared to the average found in India so far: we pay 400 rupees - about € 5 a night in an 8 beds dormitory. The hostel is nice: there are a common area and a terrace with a view, a washing machine and free breakfast but it is not very clean. The cleaning personnel indeed do not always change the sheets and they don’t clean the bathrooms every morning. But just remind them and they will take care if it: they are just a little bit lazy! We understand immediately that it is a more expensive area as very touristic especially among the Israeli people. Being the monsoon period, most tourists avoid the south of India because the rainfall is excessive and they also avoid the torrid heat of the desert of Rajasthan; in conclusion, northern India is the most popular area visited from May to the end of September. In fact, many treks are open only from May to July because the weather is better and there are no cold temperatures as during the other months.
We take a tour of the village and we soon realize that we are not in Mcleodganj but in Bhagsu. Dharamshala is basically divided into 4 small villages: Dharamsala itself, Mcleodganj, Bhagsu and going up there is Daramkot. They are small mountain villages with some accommodation and restaurants. In this area, as well as in some cities of the desert, silver is one of the most common handicraft. Here, indeed, you can attend lessons and learn how to sculpt silver. I have chosen one concerning the processing of wire bracelets. I spent 4 hours with the young teacher, where I learned to make different models and I made 4 bracelets to give as present then once in Italy. I paid 150 rupees for the lesson - less than € 2. Moreover, the Dharamshala area is very famous for yoga and meditation. Many are foreigners who come here to attend several classes of yoga.
Also do not be surprised if you find Israeli food in the restaurant menu. In fact, many young Israelis who, after having finished compulsory military service, travel the world choose India among their favourite destinations.
Even the food here is more expensive; you can eat Dal Fry -lentils with rice for 200 rupees (2.50 €) or Thali (mix of legumes, vegetables with rice and chapatti) for 220 rupees. In some restaurants you will also find meat. My favourite restaurant is the Chilly Beans: it has a very large menu and the food is very good especially the Naan with olives and cheese that I find really delicious.
It is also interesting to explore the area of Mcleodganj, home of the Dalai Lama.
The Dalai Lama is a title given to the spiritual leaders of the Tibetan people. They are part of the Gelug school or "Yellow Hat" of Tibetan Buddhism, the most recent school of Tibetan Buddhism. The 14th and current Dalai Lama is Tenzin Gyatso. The figure of the Dalai Lama is important for many reasons. Since the time of the fifth Dalai Lama, his character has always been a symbol of the unification of the state of Tibet, where he represented Buddhist values and traditions. The traditional function of the Dalai Lama as an ecumenical figure, which holds the various religious and regional groups together, has been taken from the current Fourteenth Dalai Lama. He worked to overcome sectarian and other divisions in the exiled community and became a symbol of the Tibetan nation for Tibetans both in Tibet and in exile.
If you then want to do some trekking, there is the opportunity to climb the TRIUD mountain. The trek lasts 4 hours. If you want you can also rent a tent and spend the night in the mountains.
I would have liked to stay for more time to attend more yoga classes, but I have to continue the journey. I stayed for 4 days here but it is easy to spend a few weeks. For those interested in yoga and meditation, the Vipassana meditation courses, one of India's oldest meditation techniques, are also held here. It has been taught in India more than 2500 years ago as a universal remedy for universal ills, that is, an art of living. Take a look at the website for available dates: https: //www.dhamma.org/it/index.