Mcleod Ganj

There's a view out there somewhere...

There's a view out there somewhere...

McLeod Ganj is the home of the exiled Tibetan Government and Dalai Lama, and is filled with monks and Tibetan refugees and anti-China free-Tibet propaganda. It’s also a very rainy and humid place, where we sat (or ran, if our planning was a little off) through a rainstorm every afternoon, and the clothes that we washed and hung out to dry ended up refusing to do so and instead mildewed on the line. It’s definitely a traveler’s hangout; another one of those backpacker towns filled with cheap guest houses and Internet cafes. Despite being a bit touristy, though, McLeod was a great place (Despite being touristy? I just read what I wrote and here I feel compelled to note that Denae and I, like many other travelers, will sometimes complain about the commercialization and numbers of tourists in a given place, and then hypocritically and gratefully go there and utilize its facilities and drink its real drip coffees). The climate was nice and cool, if a little humid, and the town is perched in the middle of some steep hills that were usually shrouded by clouds and mist. It was very green and felt kind of like a temperate jungle, a feeling contributed to by the monkeys walking around town. There were lots of great restaurants, but our favorite source of food was one particular lady (of the many) selling vegetable momos on the street. Four momos cost 10 rupees, which is about 20 cents and I could never eat more than twelve.

McLeod was a very relaxing place, where four days passed in the blink of an eye and afterwards we had trouble

Mmm, Kingfisher strong makes me happy

Mmm, Kingfisher strong makes me happy

recalling how exactly we spent our time there. One day we visited the Tibet museum and learned a lot of disturbing information about the Chinese occupation of Tibet. A lot of time was spent wandering the town, eating, reading and other exquisitely enjoyable slothery, but one notable exception was attending a teaching by the Dalai Lama. We were lucky to be in town while it was going on, as apparently these teachings don’t happen all that often, and followed the crowds of people through security. It was there that we noticed the signs advising attendees to bring an FM radio with headphones; the Dalai Lama’s speech would be translated into English (and a couple other languages) and broadcast for the audience to tune into. We didn’t have such a radio, and as we found our seats we wondered what to do. I asked a security guard if I could buy one there, and he said no, only at the main market. But it wasn’t that far away and he thought I had time before the event started. So off I ran, and that is how Denae got to see the Dalai Lama.

Mcleod Ganj

Mcleod Ganj

He came out of a building and the crowd surged forward, soon to be pushed back and forced to sit by his bodyguards. Since everyone was sitting all had a view of His Holiness standing above, surrounded by his entourage of monks and wearing his trademark glasses. He walked very slowly, touching people from the crowd, and was accompanied by an emotional electricity that seemed to permeate the air around him. Several women wept, many people bowed and chanted, and all were struck by the feeling of awe at his presence, at the significance of seeing this man that many believe to be a living God. Or so Denae tells me.

At this point I was up the hill in town, sweating from my run and hurriedly trying to negotiate a fair price for the radio I was buying. When I made it back to Denae the Dalai Lama was upstairs and out of sight except for on the closed circuit TV, the teaching already begun. We tuned the radio into the English broadcast, but the translator turned out to be mostly incompetent and vocally stumbled his way through, with so many awkward silences and “how do you says” that it proved to be unlistenable. Still, the teaching turned out to be a very profound and memorable experience. For Denae.

Side note from Denae: while I remained optimistic, Andy had suspected that we probably wouldn’t get to see the Dalai Lama when we came to McLeod Ganj. Like His Holiness says, negativity plants the seed for failure.


11 responses to “Mcleod Ganj

  1. Andy and Denae:

    Really enjoying reading your blog! You are both tremendous writers. Maybe publishing a series of couple’s travel guides is in your future.

  2. Hi Denae and Andy,
    Sure like reading about your trip, wish I was with you! Your Mom is sure showing me how to use this dad gum machine. The picture of Denae with the prayer flags is my screensaver. I say goodmorning and goodnight to you when I walk by.

  3. Wow! Three new posts tonight. Great stuff. So, at the risk of sounding way too much like some kind of a foodie, exactly what is a momo? Is that the thing Denae was on a quest to find the perfect one of?
    Kind of ridiculous to be commenting on food, I know, when I should be talking about the sublime — scenery — or the Dali Lama! What wonderful experiences. Love ya.

  4. Grandma! I am so proud of you for figuring out how to use the Internet! It’s pretty cool that we can be 12 time zones away and have such great communication. I love you; don’t get too worried about us.

    Sallie- I spend most of the days over here thinking about what culinary delight I want to try next, so I guess I’m a pretty bad foodie myself. Momos are a Tibetan dumpling that are basically just like the Chinese pot-stickers or wontons that we can find at restaurants back home. What makes the quest for the perfect momos so epic is the huge variety of fillings and cooking methods, Andy likes his fried and I like mine steamed. The fillings range from the typical veg (cabbage and carrots) to mutton, chicken, potato and cheese, spinach and cheese, and here in Kathmandu water buffalo is a popular filling. The momos in McLeod Ganj may be the best so far because they had more of a leavened exterior, kind of biscuit-y, and they were steamed first then lightly fried to order and came with a killer hot sauce.
    Since I’m talking to such a foodie I should mention just how delicious jalebis are. Jalebis are these bright orange swirly sweets that are made when some sort of batter is piped into frying oil until cooked then taken out and left to sit in simple syrup for a few minutes. I still don’t know what’s in the batter or why they are an unnatural orange color, but they are definitely my favorite Indian sweet.

  5. I hope you guys learn how to cook some of those goodies, like you did the salsa from your Mexico trip.

  6. Hi Denae and Andy Hi denae I am working with your mom and I am from India when she was telling me about you and your hubby I wish I have time and money I would love to travel but I am not able to do. I have not seen any place in India excpt Gujarat. If you like to go visit in your tirp please go to the visit Gujarat state I borned. Good luck you both and enjoy your trip.

  7. Hi Deane I will let you know what is in the batter.. Chickpeas flour also called grams flour. Grams flour is organge color.

  8. Hema-
    I never would have guessed chickpea flour, thanks for solving the mystery. I looked up Gujarat on wikipedia and it looks like there are some beautiful beaches in your home state. I did not know that there were lions in Asia, have you seen any? If you have any must-see destinations for us we would love to know of them. We would be in that area around December/January.

  9. Hi guys, I agree, you’ve got to get some of those recipes and share! We love dim sum around here, which includes some amazing steamed and fried dumplings, but we’ve not had momos. Also, two of Olivia’s little friends in her preschool class at the U. of U. are Indian – Mohor and Yasheta. I have been telling their moms about you. One is from Goa (which she says is a beautiful vacation town) and the other is from Calcutta. Their husbands are both getting post-graduate degrees from the U. If you go to those areas I could get info for you. Love, Carolyn

  10. Shirley Aubertine

    It sounds like you are having many memorable experiences. Andy, you are quite a talented writer. Perhaps you can write a book on your experiences when you return. Thank you for keeping us posted. We are happy for you. Love, GMA Shirley

  11. Denae and Andy,
    So enjoy your excellent account of your travels, sometimes feel like I’m there! Thanks for the reprieve. Be well,
    Love Heather

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