A year ago on this day, I wrote my first blog post: Hello and welcome to my first blog, ever!!!
Since then, I have written 70 posts, 85% of which are about Mexico…
Last week I started blogging about my two-week trip through North India (Mumbai-New Delhi-Chandigarh-Amritsar-Dalhousie and Khajjar-McLeodganj-New Delhi-Mumbai).
Hope you all have enjoyed reading my previous three posts:
Here’s the fourth part…
In the morning, I felt a bit better and was ready for my next destination – McLeodganj. The previous day, the owner-manager of Hotel New Palace had told me that due to peak season, getting a good hotel room in McLeodganj would be a problem. I had already guessed that when I had called up two of the HPTDC hotels there and was told that they were fully booked. So I had asked him for some hotel recommendations. He knew the owner of what he considered to be a good and well-located hotel. If the hotel didn’t appeal to me, I could move to another the next morning, I had thought. At least I would have a hotel room on arrival. So I had requested him to contact the hotel owner and keep a room ready for me.
The bus for Dharamsala left Dalhousie at 11:30am. The weather was bright and sunny, like the previous day. Still, the bus journey felt tiresome. When the bus neared the Kangra airport bus stop, something inside me kept crying for me to get down and book a ticket for Delhi, make changes in the booked return flight to Mumbai and end the journey right there. But I knew I wasn’t going to do any such thing… I wasn’t going to take the easy way out! I was going to complete my journey even if I was unwell and…was going to return to Mumbai on the day of my booked return flight!
The bus reached Dharamsala bus stand at 5:45pm. From there I had to take another bus for McLeodganj, which was thirty minutes away. The journey uphill instantly refreshed me. Pristine natural beauty, lush green Dhauladhar mountain range, balmy weather… I already felt a lot better.
From the McLeodganj bus stand I took a taxi for my hotel. The taxi driver kept telling me I should have booked a hotel in the McLeodganj area which was lively and also the main market area. Above all, it was close to the Namygal Monastery which also housed the residence of the Dalai Lama. I told him that most of the good hotels were full. The hotel we were proceeding to was 2 km away in Bhagsu.
The hotel looked new and the room reserved for me had the best view but I didn’t like the room appearance. I asked for a change in the bed linen and towels. The room boy brought in new ones but they didn’t look good either so I sent him off again for fresh ones. There was no inverter in the hotel and the power went off twice in half an hour.
Although it was 7:30pm, I went out to look for another hotel. A light drizzle had started by that time. I checked out a few hotels in the Bhagsu main square. The good ones were full. One hotel owner-manager offered to check up with the hotels in McLeodganj and pass me the details after his morning walk, the next day. Since I hadn’t eaten anything since the light breakfast, I stopped at a restaurant inside Hotel Ashoka International. It looked like a nice place to stay so I went to enquire about rooms available. As expected the hotel was full but the hotel manager was very kind enough to call up a few other good hotels to check for a room. Finally, one hotel manager gave him a positive reply. The hotel manager of Hotel Ashoka International also got me a discounted room tariff!
The room shown to me at Sky Heaven Resort was nice and comfortable. The hotel had an inverter too. I returned back to Hotel Ashoka International for my chicken soup. I was finally glad to have got a room for the next day!
I checked out of my hotel early at 8:30am and told the hotel owner-manager about my dissatisfaction with the room. A kind person, he agreed to my paying a discounted tariff and apologized for the inconvenience caused to me.
The weather was bright and sunny. After shifting into Sky Heaven Resort, I set out on the 2km walk down to McLeodganj. Here’s a view of the Bhagsu area…
In the above photo, the waterfall in the centre of the hills is the Bhagsu Nag waterfall.
On the way, I got a beautiful view of Dharamsala and Mcleodganj…
In the above photo, Dharamsala is in the plains in the faraway centre and McLeodganj is the hill to the right. The red-roofed structure in the centre is the cricket stadium of Dharamsala.
There were plenty of foreign tourists around. I was told that most of them stayed with villagers in the hills of Upper Bhagsu. I had read somewhere that like in the beautiful Himalayan destination of Manali (a popular haunt of young Israelis), drug trafficking is rampant in McLeodganj too. Well on my way down to McLeodganj, I did see two young cigarette smoking Oriental girls walking in the opposite direction stop near a stall for something in a plastic pouch which a guy soon offered them.
My earlier plan had been to stay in McLeodganj for two nights and one night in Palampur but I loved McLeodganj so much that I decided to spend three nights there and return to Delhi by a Volvo bus.
I bought my Volvo bus ticket and then lunched at Tibetan Kitchen, a nice place for Tibetan food. I gorged myself on the delicious meal of chicken momos and Szechuan chicken with noodles.
The busy road leading to the Namygal Monastery was lined with stalls, shops and cafes on both sides. Here’s a photo of the shrine…
Tibetan monks chanting prayers…
Tibetan people chanting prayers…
The residence of the Dalai Lama, just opposite the monastery …
Memorial dedicated to the Tibetan martyrs…
I was hoping to meet the Dalai Lama during my stay. I was told that he was travelling in Australia at that time otherwise I would have definitely got the opportunity to meet him.
I visited the small Tibetan Museum which offered an interesting presentation on Tibet’s history, the Chinese occupation and the subsequent Tibetan exodus through texts, photographs, videos and installations.
On the way back to Bhagsu, I was so lost in the quiet charm of the place that I didn’t realize I had taken the wrong path. I ended up walking further uphill to Dharmakot. No wonder I didn’t see any litter on the way! I would have walked ahead further but it was getting dark and there was not a soul in sight. Thankfully, a taxi passed by after a few minutes. The driver told me that Dharamkot was more like a picnic spot offering a good view of the Kangra Valley. There were some cafes and houses around and that was it, he said. So I followed his directions to the shortcut back to Bhagsu.
Back at the hotel, I ordered Kadai Chicken with rice in my room. Totally disappointing… I just had a piece of chicken and that was it!
In the morning, I visited the nearby Bhagsu Nag temple. The ancient Hindu temple is dedicated to Bhagsu Nag, the snake god, and to Lord Shiva. At the public swimming pool close to the temple, revellers were having a gala time…
I followed the path which led to the Bhagsu Nag waterfalls some 2 km away…
The surrounding landscape was breathtakingly beautiful! That’s me against the backdrop of the cascading waterfall…
A street vendor recommended me to visit the Upper Bhagsu area. “It’s a beautiful place inhabited mostly by young Israelis who live with the local villagers,” he told me.
The road uphill was lined on both sides with all sorts of shops, some selling stuff appealing to foreign tourists – souvenirs, musical instruments, etc. Small blackboards publicised classes for Indian cooking, Indian music & dance, Yoga & Meditation, alternative medicines, self-development and healing, etc. Cafes and small restaurants offered a variety of international cuisines – Israeli, Italian, Mexican, Spanish, etc.
Out of curiosity, I stopped to taste a Bhagsu cake at one of the cafes. A delicious treat, the cake has a cookie-layer, a layer of caramel and is topped with chocolate.
After the long stretch of market area, I reached the village-like environment. Most of the area was inaccessible to vehicles and the climb to the hillside was through forest trails and steep, stone pathways. I saw groups of foreign travellers relaxing in the homes and gardens of the local villagers. Obviously the villagers were making a good living from letting out rooms in their homes to the young international backpackers. Notice boards outside houses read “rooms available” and “same day machine laundry service” while those at small cafes displayed the international cuisines offered.
Upper Bhagsu is like a picturesque taste of Indian village life combined with techno hippy mecca. I could hear a salsa number playing at a distant hangout.
I saw a popular hangout for food and entertainment put up by some enterprising foreigner…
Check my two videos of Upper Bhagsu:
I climbed on and on, leaving behind most of the village homes and guesthouses. Still there were some more of them on the hills to cater to the increasing number of visitors.
I was soon rewarded with a stunning view of the hillside…
I loved the serenity and peace of the lush green surroundings. It felt so good to pee in the open amidst such pristine natural beauty…
I would have walked further on but I saw dark clouds looming above and decided to return back. On the way, I saw this strange local species which looked like a pouch filled with fluid.
Two boys were sitting outside a house. As I passed by, one of them asked me “Palam, madam?” pointing towards a plastic bag. “Palam?” Perhaps it’s some kind of local fruit or handicraft, I thought. When the boy showed me small red fruits, I realized that he meant “plum”. He offered me one. It tasted so very sweet! I had fifteen of them right there and carried another fifteen with me – all for twenty rupees! The fruits looked freshly plucked from some nearby tree.
On my way down, I stopped at one German Bakery. I had already seen more than five “German Bakery” cafes and restaurants at Bhagsu! The chocolate pastry and hot chocolate that I had ordered weren’t to my taste and a bite and a sip was all that I could stomach!
Later in the evening, I went down to McLeodganj and had chicken soup at the Tibetan Kitchen.
It had been a great day! I had felt so relaxed at Upper Bhagsu and… had walked almost 20 km during the day without getting tired!
Coming up next: My Travel Diary – McLeodganj to New Delhi