Tuesday, July 14, 2015


Meleod Ganj temple in the village centre

And you think you have traffic problems.

Mcleod is much like a very small international village inhabited by Buddhist monks and nuns, Hindu tourists, western Buddhists and general tourists from almost every country in the world.  The bus pick up and drop off area at the entry to Mcleod Ganj is now a big auto traffic jam, and the roads are packed with cars and trucks carrying people, goods and services through out its small rectangular center and beyond on the roads and lanes that spider out from the center.  Added to this are lots of dogs, an occasional cow, and a bull, who like clockwork, ambles once around the main rectangular daily.  
Street shoe repair man napping in the middle of the day.
I always stay on a side road on a hill overlooking the Dalai Lama’s Temple at Pema Thang if it has rooms.  The location is out of the mainstream yet still inside the town.  Mcleod Ganj is a good eating town, with SHARPARD’S TASTE BUD for great cappuccino – so Jane tells me – and excellent breakfast choices.  For lunch I hangout at GREEN’S RESTAURANT AND GUESTHOUSE for their tasty veg sandwiches (I could eat one every day) and good WIFI.  
Terrace at Green's Restaurant

At NICKS ITALIAN RESTAURANT, they have one of the best Chocolate sauce Brownie Ice cream sundaes I have ever eaten (I have been known to arrive at my hotel secure my room and immediately head for their sundae before all my other endeavors of the day).  As for the best restaurant in town, head for THE MIDDLE GROUND. 
A man sleeping outside The Middle Ground restaurant

It has the most delicious food around, and a great atmosphere. Once I took my friends Janie and Shaggie there, they would eat nowhere else except for the pizzas at the NAMGAYAL 
And it's all true

A list of some its most delicious pizzas

CAFE. This restaurant use to be housed at the Dalai Lama’s temple but since the Dalai Lama gave up the leadership of the government, the new ‘Tibetan Government in Exile,’ ask the restaurant to move and it did.  It is now located in the famous old  OM HOTEL and has brought its decor with it.  The Pizzas are the best I have ever tasted in the whole world – bar none – no kidding!  Yummy.  And I could eat one every day.  You ain’t eaten pizza till you had it at the MANGAYAL CAFÉ.  (Jane says I’m a ‘foodie,’ whether it is true or not???? But I do enjoy eating well).

Mcleod Ganj offers everything to the more adventurous traveler, whether you prefer a religious experience, a lesson in the horrific history of the Tibetans, or a major Tibetan cultural experience; Ayurveda health massages, cooking lessons, a meditation retreat, lessons in the Tibetan Language, long interesting walks in the countryside, often to other villages, the sighting of an occasional monkey and/or friendly dogs, it’s all here. Although most of the restaurants are alcohol free, you can even get a drink at the Black Cat Restaurant if you have an outrageous thirst. 

Hillside view of Mcleod Ganj

Jane and a goat on a mountside walk

A Sadu and me on a mountain walk to another village

Roadside musicians playing "Oh Susanna."

The TCV is one of the most wonderful learning centers I have ever encountered. In 1961, the Dalai Lama and his staff realized the incredible need for a school/and home for Tibetan children within the 100,000 families who had flew from Tibet with him in 1959, after his exodus from his home in Lhasa, Tibet.  Many families exited the country soon after the Dalai Lama’s escape and many other Tibetan families had a need to send their children over the Chinese/Tibetan border so that the youngsters could get a decent education.  
Morning snack time

Although the Chinese government claimed that 99% of all children within their borders got an education, a number of years ago I read that only 34% of Tibetan children were getting proper schooling within the Chinese educational system.  Therefore Tibetan parents would send their children across the Himalayas to Nepal with adult Tibetans who safeguarded them until they were safely out of Chinese occupied Tibet.  Then the children would be transferred to Mcleod Ganj to TCV where the children would be loved by people who cared, and given a good education.

A sign on the school wall

Upper primary library

In 1961, the Dalai Lama’s elder sister began the TCV schools with a nursery school until her death in 1964.  Then her younger sister took over the directorship of the nursery school, which has grown into 5 children’s villages, 7 residential schools, 6-day schools; 9-day care centers and 3 vocational schools in Tibetan enclaves around India.  There is also an outreach scholarship program, which supports university educations for graduates from these schools, to colleges and universities though out the world.
Another view of the library

One of the playing fields

Fifthteen little beds with hand made quilts for 15 little people
A resting pet wearing his red collar

Today most of the current staff is graduates of the TCV system, and work to further the education and Tibetan culture among all the students in the schools.  The main center in Mcleod Ganj has 1700 students, ages three to high school seniors.  There are living quarters for these students with house parents, and older children are assigned as ‘big brothers and sisters’ to the younger new comers. There are three libraries with book in both Tibetan and English on the campus, as well as all the standard educational facilities necessary for a well round academic environment. This little community even has its pet dogs who live with and are taken care of by the children an their house parents.

Another playing field
The TCV schools are run all on donations, and every cent is spent directly toward the welfare and education of the children. A $40.00 a month donation supports the full cost of the needs and education of one individual child.  This child will write you monthly letters and you can visit him or her at any time.  This is truly a donation that is used for the child at the fullest, and appreciated by each child who receives your help.  If you are interested in learning more about this program see the following addresses below:
Website: www.tcv.org.in
Phone number: (91) 01892-221348, 220356
Or you can email: headoffice@tcv.org.in


Shaggy walking in the garden

Jane and Shaggy with two attendants at the Entry

Jane just inside the entry preparing to take a picture

Norbulinka Institute is named after the Dalai Lama’s former summer palace in Lhasa, Tibet.  It is located in Daharamsala and is the cultural arts center of the Tibetan community where a visitor can watch artisans hand paint a  ‘THANGKA,’ or create any number of beautiful works of art using the old Tibetan artistic traditions. 
Artist hand painting a Thangka

Beautiful hand made bed cover

Prayer flags in the garden

There is also a lovely hotel set in the beautifully landscaped grounds, and a restaurant set among the gardens surrounding the workshops. 
Inside the Buddhist Temple

Dolls in the Doll Museum

Dining on a garden terrace

Lastly there is a wonderful temple, a doll museum of the different Tibetan outfits and life styles, a museum display of beautiful Thangkas, and a small simple summer retreat for the Dalai Lama much like he had during his boyhood years.
Shaggy in front of an old  weaving machine
One of many prayer wheels through out the garden

Small lake surrounded by a garden walkway

Website: www.norbulingka.org
Will give just a small overview of the beautiful items they sell in their shop, (the bedding is fantastic – not shown on line – I think you’d need to ask), as well as their hotel and rooms, and the classes they offer in traditional Tibetan artisanship.

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