The Unplanned Trip – McLeod Ganj – I

“The most unplanned trip so far” this is what my sister Prajakta said about the trip when we began in the first place. Well, we knew we wanted to travel somewhere up north but weren’t sure where! So, we had our Delhi tickets booked and thought we will figure out where to go next. We did exactly that. From Delhi, we thought we must go to Dharamshala. ( these are stop over flights)Late Lateef that we were for Dharamshala, there was only 1 seat available on flight for the sector and we were two. Out of no choice we skipped the option of flight and took road trip instead.

(IMP – only Air India & Spice Jet fly to Dharashala. These are ATR flights with very limited seats. Mumbai to Dharamshala is an expensive sector. Make sure you book your flight tickets much beforehand to avoid any last-minute hassle.)

Decided! We headed to ISBT Kashmere Gate ( Intersate Bus Station/ Depot) I think Mumbai must have such a big bus terminal which is neat, clean and can accommodate crowds. In-fact there are so many things that Mumbai must learn from Delhi. Bigger, cleaner roads, no pot holes, greener patches , public parks and food !

To kill time, we headed to Chandani Chowk (which was hardly 15 mins away). This was my second time here and Prajakta’s first. With our big backpacks, it wasn’t easy walking through the narrow lanes of Chandani Chowk but we managed.

Parathewali Galli was the motive behind this Chandani Chowk detour 😉. Parathewali Galli has a lot of small-small outlets. Really tiny. Which can barely seat 20 people in a cramped space. Parathas are double fried. (not really parathas ) However they are tasty ! ( it depends on person to person ) We tried Papad Paratha and Paneer Paratha. Here is what it looks like. Its filling and value for money. We had lassi to kill the heat.

 

Later on we did hang out in the city (had some beers) and boarded our bus at around 7. HPTDC has really good service in terms of buses, frequency and comfort. Our ticket costed us approx 1300 Rs. for a semi sleeper volvo. The actual time was 11 hour for the journey till McLeod Ganj but we reached at around 5 AM ! ( in 10 hours including 3 breaks )

Here’s a little about Dharamshala and McLeod Ganj. (Even we were not clear) Dharamshala city center is quite a commercial place.

The entire region is called Dharamshala or Dharamsala whereas Mcloeodganj is simply one part of Dharamshala. Known as ‘Little Lhasa’. Geographically its divided in four parts – I -Lower Dharamshala , II Upper Dharamshala i.e. McLeod Ganj , III Bhagsu , IV Dharamkot. All the above are not more than 3-4 kms away from each other.

His Holiness Dalai Lama resides in McLeod Ganj. It has a lot of international tourists. Hence the vibe is very similar to Nepal or Bhutan. ( Don’t compare it with Hampi or Gokarna, this place is not hippie ) its rather very spiritual. With a lot of Tibetan Monks wandering on the streets engaged in their usual routine. And locals with smiling faces making it a pleasant place. Mcleodganj is full of quaint beautiful cafes that serve international cuisine. it is about 1700 mt altitude, hence has a beautiful weather all round the year ( We went in March and the temperature in the day time was 16 degrees or so ) A lot of Yoga , Meditation centers with enthusiastic volunteers make it an ideal destination if you’re looking to take that break from your busy life !

Coming back to our trip –

Unplanned trip, hence we had not booked any hotel. When I travel I prefer staying in home stays and humble places. This time too, we wanted to stay in a hostel / homestay. In McLeod Ganj as far as we saw, in the city center, there are not many homestays. Hostels are a little far. My preference was a place that gave me good view of the mountains was well connected to the center and had good eateries around. Actually I had found something that suited all of this while doing my research that was – The Pink House. Right in the middle of market and yet secluded. Pretty Rooms. Great Hospitality and a view I adored. Very artistically made, this hotel deserves all the praise for all the right reasons. Here is a detailed review of the hotel. The Pink House, McLeod Ganj

Another interesting thing, we met this amazing human who drove the car while we were in McLeod Ganj. He was such a sweetheart. He helped us check out a few surrounding hotels even gave references for no money expected in return. There is something about these mountain people! The smiles on their faces and the warmth in their hearts fills you up with so much joy ! We decide to have his car for the rest of the trip 😊

So, that day we decided to take a little nap before we started( to come over previous night’s fatigue ) . At around 11ish, we stepped out and thought we could chill near the market area. This entire market area can be covered on foot. You do not need car in this area. Hardly within 5 minutes of our walk , we found this sweet lady making local potato fritters along with her daughters. It’s smell drew us and we couldn’t resist having it. For merely 30Rs she gave quite a bit. Garama Garam bhajji with simply salt seasoning was yumm. We ate some and carried the rest with us. ( Below pic does not represent the quantity for 30 Rs FYI)

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A very cute café caught our attention. Guess that was Tibet Café ( cant recollect the name unfortunately ) McLeod Ganj is full of such pretty cafes and adorable fluffy doggies all around.

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First café visit in McLeod Ganj had to be relished by just sitting there looking at the Dhaulandar Range , taking in all the fresh air and sipping on the ginger lemon honey tea. That’s like the staple of this region. So refreshing and cleansing for the body. I had this through the trip.

After chilling in the market and shopping a little we were hungry again. We tried the momos at this tiny stall on the road. Very clean I must say and pocket-friendly. We had these eight pieces for just 50Rs.

 

We then visited Dalai Lama Temple located on Temple road.

Here’s a little about Dalai Lama temple-

It is a peaceful temple complex with a lot of Tibetan Buddhist monks. I appreciate how peace-friendly their culture is. It really was serene. We sat there for a while and meditated.

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Just close by is the Tibetan Museum. (closed on Mondays) It showcases a lot of Tibetan culture and their history which most of us are unaware of. The heart wrenching stories tell us a lot about Tibetans who escaped the cruelty of Chinese and came to India with a struggle to cross the mighty snow-capped mountains, no provisions and fighting a lot of pain, both emotional and physical.

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Next up was our lunch break 😉

We went to this café called Khana Nirvana. Right in the middle of the market. It was a lovely café with indoor and outdoor seating. A pretty view of the valley and open terrace. They host live gigs here on certain evenings. They have both high and low seating available. We obviously chose the one with cushions and bed 😉

Decorated with beautiful artifacts and colour scheme which was harmonious to its surrounding. A lot of books in their bookshelf made me want to pick one and settle down. Here is what we had in a snap.

 

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After a quick nap in the evening we stepped out again at around 7ish ( I had plans to go to Illiterati café this evening but post sunset it was of no use so we ended up going to CARPE DIEM which is apparently very famous for its food. Another hippie vibe kinda place ( in a good way of course ) but very dim lit. However , we were not in the mood of it. We had a Banana Pancake with Coffee and Ginger Honey tea there to kill time. Post this we again took a stroll in the market.

 

A very important thing. Locals here are early risers hence you will not find them at late hours. Shops close at around 9ish, max 10 pm. Unfortunately, a lot of wannabe crowd is out later in the night. Its not unsafe or anything but single girls traveling must stay safe is what I feel. We got back to our hotel area and decided to have dinner at this small family owned diner called Lotus Leaf and Drumstick Restaurant. Authentic Tibetan food! Simple place with its ambiance and its people.

We had Aloo Phing Sha and Ting Mo. Here is what it looked like.

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Phing stands for the transparent glass noodles. It’s a soupy broth kind of a gravy with a lot of veggies such as mushrooms , onions , lot of greens and Potato. Potato is replaced with Beef in the non veg options. We had this with Ting Mo , a Tibetan Steamed Bread. There are a lot of different variants but we chose the one without filling. All of this was so light yet rich in flavours. And it costed us only 150 Rs. Yes, that’s it ! While we were having our dinner, we noticed a couple of local Tibetan families who had come there for dinner. Each family with about 10-15 members. I guess that’s their culture of sharing the meal with the entire family. They seemed like such big fans of Hindi Music and they knew the lyrics at the tip of their tongue. There is also a tradition of having warm water after you finish the meal. We sat their simply enjoying the company , the place and our glass of warm water ( replacing beer this time )

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That’s how we ended our Day 1 in McLeod Ganj with Happy Faces 🙂

More coming up in next blog post. Wait and watch…. Oops Read 😉

Note : McLeod Ganj , Sunny and pleasant in the day time is quite cold in the mornings and post evenings. Its extremely important to carry your woollens / warmers when you step out.

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