McLeod Ganj

Date: 10/07/2007 | Author: Dave

Have definitely waited too long to write this blog.
Home now for three weeks and our last week in India seems like it was in another lifetime. Reincarnation aside, write I must.
Manali to Dharmsala. Either a bus trip or another Toyota Qualis. The latter is the best option. It is easier to see your driver falling asleep in the Qualis and therefor safer.
It always takes longer than you would think to get around in India. I have come to expect only about 30kms in every hour and they still manage to make that hair raising.
We are starting our two part Tibetan experience, in India. First we have two nights at Norling House at the Norbulingka Institute. The accom is in a lovely circular building on the complex. At Norbulinka, Tibetan culture is kept alive in a way that is impossible in their homeland. The Tibetans are charming and gentle people. Buddhists of course, which as a religion I find hard to fault.
While there Gabby took the girls to see a Tibetan doctor (that we had met earlier on our travels) primarily to let her have a look at Ella's persistent ankle wart but also to give Florence a once over. Gabby, never short of a topic asked, "Why does Florence seem to have the weight of the world on her shoulders?". They checked her pulse and other vital signs. "She is very mature" was the diagnosis. Oh bless... that explains a lot.
We take an early taxi up to McLeod Ganj to attend a long life Puja for the Dalai Lama. I settle in with the girls, prime position up front while Gabby takes our cameras off premises. You can normally bring a camera into the temple complex but not if his holiness is going to make an appearance we discover. Not long to wait and a very sprightly 71 year old monk speeds by us in the company of his identically robed entourage. Our girls were too busy being respectful and unfortunately did not see which one was the Dalai Lama. We settle down close to the temple as an endless stream of well-wishers bring presents. We are fed handfuls of sweet rice and very weak tea poured from huge metal tea pots which is nice but I am not comfortable (physically) and after half an hour it pleases me that we have all had enough of the chanting and watching people with curiously similar looking presents file through. It was fantastic to get a glimpse of such a great man but needs must and we think we have seen a cafe just up the hill that may do a nice English Breakfast. We like McLeod Ganj a lot and spend our next four nights here at Chonor House. A lovely hotel owned by the Norbulinka Institute and overlooking the Dalai Lamas temple complex. Staying at Chonor is a real treat. We booked it about a month ago.
One wet night I met a monk up a dark lane-way near Chonor. He asks if he can come around for English lessons (and tea on the deck) of a morning. Seems like a good idea to me. Each morning we chat and I hear the story of his walk out of Tibet over the Himalayas. On the Dalai Lama's birthday my girls also chat to some young Tibetan kids preparing to dance at the festivities. (We were backstage of course.) They were carried out of Tibet as three year olds and their parents are all still there. Got the kids out but no chance to escape themselves? Hard to fathom and it's hard to ask. The more we travel the more we learn and the more grateful I am for being born in the right place at the right time. The Chinese walked into Tibet over 50 years ago and the destruction of this unique culture and the persecution of these people continues today.
I don't want to go on about it but some facts just fascinate me. Five of Asia's great rivers have their headwaters in Tibet, including the Mekong, Indus and Brahmaputra, nearly half of the worlds population lives downstream from Tibet.
While In Laos and Vietnam we witnessed peoples distress at China's plans for dams on the Mekong. I would like to see the world come to the aid of Tibet in my life-time. That would make me very happy.
Homeward bound we have just one more scary journey from McLeod Ganj to Delhi to get our flight. We toyed with the idea of a sleeper bus but the sight of a bus carcass being pulled up from a ravine at a hairpin bend just out of town sets us off looking for another Qualis. I know a lot of people travel by bus in India but we just can't face it. We talked to a chap in McLoed Ganj who said that the beds on those sleeper busses are greasy anyway and it was while riding on them that he came to the conclusion that people actually smell like dogs. He supported our decision to take a car.
We do a one night stop over about half way at Vaseela Resort near Chandigarh (Punjab). It is everything we were expecting 'Nature Notes' to be. It is charming and sophisticated. The kids appreciate the first good pool we have seen since Vietnam and the Punjabi museum onsite is very nice. We are just here to sleep but could have stayed a few days easily.
Anyway, that is about it. Airport hotel, easy flight home.
Oh, and I nearly forgot. Very very well treated by Virgin. Red wine from first class, two full bottles of Champagne and other gifts. Photos taken in the cockpit after landing.
Gabby says they simply took a shine to the girls.
I am not so sure .........but thanks anyway.

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