Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Dharamsala and a glimpse of His Holiness Dalai Lama

It was a long 13-hour overnight bus ride from Delhi to Dharamsala. We made two stops. One is a forty-minute stop and the other is a fifteen-minute one. We were in a Volvo semi-sleeper bus where blankets and bottled Kinley water were provided. After an hour from the start of our journey, I was settled with my tablet and earphones to watch some TV series until I fall asleep when suddenly the bus attendant started playing a Bollywood movie. There were two screens inside the bus and what felt-like a surround digital speakers reverberating right to where I was seated. So since 90% of the passengers were locals, I didn't have much of a choice but to keep away my tablet and watch aptly titled Hindi movie "Gabbar is Back".

I did not realize what time I fell asleep but I was waken up by the zigzag motion of the bus as it traverse the uphill road to the mountain side of Dharamsala. The bus stopped at Mcleodganj which is our destination for the next 5 days of our 17 day India tour. Mccledoganj is a town in Dharamsala which is located in the northern part which is the mountainside area where His Holiness Dalai Lama, together with other Tibetan exiles, are taking residence.

My first impression with Mcleodganj was that it felt like Baguio City. The smell misty air, the damp weather, the fog covering the entire town, the soaring pine trees around and the stilt-looking foundations of almost every buildings and houses which are commonly seen in mountainous communities. Among the other places we have been in India, I consider Dharamsala as the more traveller-friendly one. The presence of many local and foreign tourist walking around shops and cafes without getting harassed on the street was quite convincing enough to make you stay for even a longer time. Especially if you intend to just relax and enjoy the weather.

We stayed for two nights at the lovely Chonor House. It did look lovely on the internet but the actual room was quite unsatisfying which made us decide to transfer to Pema Thang Guesthouse located about 200 meters uphill from Chonor House.

There are many hikers as well who uses Mcleodganj as a stopover before climbing the Himalayan ranges in this part of India. But there also a lot of things to do and visit here. If you are interested about Tibet, Buddhism, the Tibetan exiles and the Dalai Lama, this is definitely the place for you to go. You can visit the Dalai Lama Temple Complex, the Tibet Museum, Gyuto Monastery and the Norbulingka Institute. But if you want to immense yourself more in knowing about Tibet and Tibetan Buddhism, drive your way down to the Library of Tibetan Works and Art and the Secretariat of the Tibetan Exile. Tibetans there are willing to show you around and explain to you about the lives of these exiles without any charge. If you are fluent enough to speak Tibetan, you can enroll to many courses they offer.

For those interested in studying other than Tibetan, you can also enroll yourself to many therapeutic massage and yoga classes. You can become a certified massage therapist or yoga teacher in a month.

Mcleodganj is also surrounded with many shops, cafes and guesthouses. But since this place is still part of India, there are many businesses ran by both Indians and Tibetans. We patronized more of those places which are run by Tibetans. You can check this link to see all the places we visited which are Tibetan-owned.

In our 4th day in Dharamsala, we got up and decided to go back to this coffee shop called Coffee Talk which serves a nice cup of latte and a reliable WiFi. We were there for about an hour and we when we got out, we noticed a throng of people lining up the streets towards the Dalai Lama temple complex. We just thought that maybe His Holiness Dalai Lama is finally arriving back from his US/Europe trip. After hearing it from the people around, we decided to wait in line as well and wish that we could have a glimpse of his holiness. After about 40 minutes of waiting, his entourage arrived and passed by in front of us. The Dalai Lama, while seated in the front seat, had his hands opened as he smiled upon us all waiting for him. It was like a 5-second of bliss. Seeing him with his enigmatic smile behind those non-tinted glass mirror of his official vehicle. It was a moment worth cherishing for this trip. Seeing one of the most beloved religious leaders in the world, despite not being a Buddhist myself, was such a profound experience given that seeing him on that foggy Wednesday morning was only accidental. It was a great experience indeed.

Here are pictures and a video of our chance to see his Holiness.



Norbulingka Institute


Norbulingka Institute


Norbulingka Institute


Norbulingka Institute


Norbulingka Institute


Norbulingka Institute


St John in the Wilderness


Gyuto Monastery


Gyuto Monastery


Gyuto Monastery
Praying monks at the Dalai Lama Temple



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jigomeister
07.22.2015

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