HIMALAYAN TALES #9: DHARAMSHALA
001. From one hippy hillside town in the north of India to another.... welcome to Mcleod Ganj. Also referred to as Dharamshala (if you're boarding a bus, this is probably what your destination will be called) and home to the two even smaller hippy hillside towns of Bhagsu and Dharamkot. It's even pretty likely that you have heard of Dharamshala because these days it's where the Dalai Lama calls home. We only spent a few short-but-sweet days here and quickly fell in love with the kind people, narrow streets and glowing dance of sunlight in the early mornings and evenings over the valley.
002. For our 5-ish days we based ourselves at the top end of Mcleod Ganj in a little guesthouse. Again, as it was winter in the north of India it was definitely not peak season. We considered staying up in the villages of Bhagsu and Dharamkot a little further up the mountain, known for their popular backpacker scene, but both were pretty shut down so we opted to stay in Mcleod Ganj for convenience. They both had super chill vibes and I would definitely put them on my list again if I was to visit during an Indian summer.
003. The entire area of Dharamshala and Mcleod Ganj is often lovingly referred to as little Tibet because of the huge amount of Tibetan exiles who now call this part of India their home. If you only do one thing in Mcelod Ganj my recommendation is to visit the Tibetan Museum. I spent a morning here learning about the Tibetan people, their struggle, the injustices they have had to face and above all their incredible courage. If you are someone who is passionate about people, human rights or refugees and haven't ever heard of what is going on in Tibet- this website is a great place to start. It's an ongoing human rights issue that I was certainly never educated on in school but is now something I feel quite passionate about, especially after experiencing firsthand the kindness, warmth and bravery of the Tibetan people in India.
004. We only had a few short days in Mcleod Ganj and Ben had come down with food poisoning, so I can't really comment on too many places to eat. However, the Tibetan food in the area is hands down delicious and you can find cheap momos (Tibetan dumplings) and thukpa (noodle soup) on every corner. One of my favourite finds in Mcleod Ganj was a tiny little coffee shop and ethical enterprise called Rogpa. It had all of warm, cosy vibes you could ever need and served their coffee and (even vegan) cakes on lovely handmade ceramics. The shop was filled with artisan handmade gifts and goodies, with all of the profits going towards the local Tibetan community initiatives.
005. One day we walked up to the village town of Dharamkot and found a delightful cafe called Bodhi Green. It was the only 100% vegan place I can recall coming across in India and it blew my mind. The menu was huge and all of the food was super healthy and delicious, with really affordable prices. You known you've found a winner when the entire cafe is plant based and even serve your drinks with paper straws instead of plastic! The whole area of Dharamshala in general seemed to have a lot of positive eco awareness and environmental efforts for change, mainly run by the Waste Warriors. This was SO exciting and encouraging to see, especially in a developing country like India where waste management is generally challenging to say the least...
006. After Dharamshala we headed to Jaipur, down in the desert state of Rajasthan. However, even though we decided to splurge on flights, it wouldn't be India without a 3 hour delay waiting outside the plane ON the runway (because air visibility in Delhi was 0%) and therefore arriving in Delhi to only find out our connecting flight was cancelled. Thank you to Air India for the free fancy hotel and feed though (which happened to be New Years Eve), until putting us on our connecting flight 24 hours later. Travel can be damn exhausting and tedious sometimes man. I can't wait to share a little Rajasthani beauty with you all in the next post.