3 Things All Lazy Travelers Should do at Mcleodganj

Lazy or not, this became a trip worth sharing. Do read and share your experiences too!

Mcleodganj became an immersive and life-changing experience for us, simply because my friend and I were too lazy. Ironically, I feel like I should proactively talk about this, because it’s turned out to be such a good thing!

  1. Stay at a Monastery Guesthouse

After a steady 30-minute uphill climb from the bus stand, we found our way to the backside of our hotel. The entrance was blocked by huge hoardings all over the floor, that said ‘welcome’. Not very welcoming, to be honest.

With not a single person in sight to ask for directions, and not knowing what else to do, our first idea was to move some of the hoardings out of the way, and try getting in. But quickly, it became quite obvious, when we saw a few uprooted plant pots and unmanned doors, that the hotel had actually been ghosted. Had OYO conned us?

We then did something more sensible and called the hotel’s reception. So apparently, the actual hotel was another 20 minutes away and Google Maps had played a prank on us. This was a relief, as you can imagine. And so, we began to walk some more.

On the way upwards, we noticed an elderly Buddhist nun trekking down from a monastery. She looked at us with a huge, angelic smile and blew a flying kiss as well. As a stronger believer of ‘signs’, we figured that we’re meant to visit the monastery.

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Nyingma Monastery, en-route Mcleodganj to Bhagsunag

As soon as we reached the road that led up to our hotel, we knew it was going to be impossible. A car had just barely managed to climb that dirt road, its engine desperately vroom-vrooming its way up. We turned around and rushed back to the monastery. And they gladly took us in!

Our stay at the monastery guesthouse was actually quite humbling. The room compromised simply of two twin beds, and a wooden chair. The bathroom was to be shared between all the other rooms on that floor.

We were also blessed with a perfect view of sunrise, sunset and stargazing from a giant window in our room, that looked into the world. The monastery itself was minimalistic and gorgeous. Not to forget, it was unbelievably inexpensive. Just 200 INR!

TAKEAWAY : Book a hotel that allows free-cancellation, because it may not be located where the map says so, and you might find something more soulful, like staying with the monks.

  1. Ignore the ‘Lists’

We went with a list of 5 ‘Must-Try’ Cafes, and we happened to visit all ZERO of them. I have no clue if Shiva Café is overrated or not, simply because we never made it that far up!

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Other Lazy Travelers on the way to Shiva Cafe

Also, again thanks to Google Maps, we never reached Namgyal Café because the cafe has been relocated, but hasn’t been ‘mapped’ yet. Also, none of the locales seemed to know its exact whereabouts, and we ofcourse were too lazy to try finding it out on our own.

TAKEAWAY : Mcleodganj cafes serve better food than Zomato reviewers claim. All 6 of our meals ended up at underrated and sometimes non-digitally-existant places. Because these places are so good, I decided to talk more about them in another blog. Stay tuned!

  1. Visit When His Holiness, Dalai Lama is in Town

We happened to visit the Dalai Lama Monastery when his Holiness was visiting. The streets outside the complex were packed with anticipating travelers and monks, beautiful decorations and chatter. You might have guessed by now how lazy we are, and after about 90 seconds of sincerity and patience, we decided to enter the premise anyway.

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Tibetan Monks waiting with flower bouquets awaiting the arrival of his Holiness, Dalai Lama

What we found then, was a completely quiet and empty monastery! Almost everyone was outdoors, waiting for his Holiness to arrive; save a few security personnel and monks on duty inside.

We were thus able to stroll around at our leisure pace, taking our time to soak in the monastery’s vibe and chuckle at the Choco-Pies and Real Juice bottles offered to the Buddha deities within the temple. How times have changed!

Did we finally get a glimpse of his Holiness? Nope. People were still waiting for him when we came back outside. Not as a sign of disrespect, but sheer laziness, we slowly walked ourselves away from the golden opportunity.

TAKEAWAY : I admit that we probably missed a lot of things that Mcleodganj is most known for. But we discovered a lot of underrated things that you won’t, unless you’re lazy too!

One thing we did do quite enthusiastically, was reach out to the locales and understand their lives. What we found out through these discussions was life-changing, and might be worth your time too. Watch this space for that post!

Aruna Nagar : A Kin to Buddhism

Here’s everything you can look forward to exploring at Delhi’s Tibetan colony, located in Aruna Nagar.

The Aruna Nagar colony in New Delhi is home to Tibetan Refugees, and might be the closest you can get to experiencing the vibe of Buddhism in our country’s capital.

Here, it is not uncommon to find monks peacefully walking about the gullies, and locals chanting on their beads as they sit outside their houses. In general, the people here seem more humble, and much more slowed down than the contrasting roads running parallel to the colony.

My friend and I paid a visit on a hot summer day, and the first thing I can tell you is – the temperature levels of the colony drops down significantly as soon as you enter!

Getting There

There’s no point going by your own vehicle because you’ll have to walk a long way from wherever you get parking space.

A tried and tested way is take the Yellow Line Metro till Vidhan Sabha Station. And then, take an e-rikshaw, which will drop you at the entry point of the main market gully. You will need to walk inwards to reach the main market, so it’s better that you ask for directions from here, because the GPS doesn’t really help in the tight gullies.

Things to do

The major highlights of a visit here would comprise of exploring the Korean and Tibetan teas and cuisines at various Cafes (which are by the way, REALLY good); shopping at the cultural stalls and stores; visiting the Monastery; and checking out the bookstore which specializes in books on Buddhism.

‘Shubh Arambh’ with Food

The Buddhist Monastery is built in a small, undisturbed corner without much tourist movement. It didn’t feel proper to be clicking pictures, so taking a quick look from the outside, we proceeded into the main market.

And by the time we reached, it was well into lunch-time, so we headed straight for food!

  1. Kori’s Café

A quaint little café, with a Korean menu and a large selection of herbal teas. Compared to the other cafés, it looked like this place was more frequented by the locals, perhaps because of the different cuisine type. Being vegetarians, my friend and I were surprised that the options were still decent – they had a veg alternative to almost everything on the menu! Here’s what we tried :

  • Bibimbap Hot Stone Pot – Full points for presentation! The Bibimbap sauce is the key flavor in this concoction of rice and steamed vegetables. I’ll admit – it does take a bit to get used to the taste. You’ll either love it, or will have to brave through it. I personally enjoyed it.
  • Veg Shin Ramen Noodles – Very light on flavors and a hearty bowl of ramen and veggies. You can ask for something more dense on spices, if you’d prefer.
  • Solomon’s Seal Tea – Very, very subtle flavor. If you didn’t drink it with some focused attention on the taste, you’d probably mistake it as drinking warm water.
  1. AMA’s Café

This place is famous for its desserts. And by the looks of the tables around us, pizza too! We tried out (from most to least favorite) :

  • Affogato
    Why this is delicious – one, they serve a generous serving of ice cream. And two, they serve the coffee base on the side. Pour at your convenience! It’s not a pre-prepared concoction.
  • Mud Pie
    Surprisingly lighter than the usual mud pies! A safe-side kind of option.
  • AMA Café’s Special Tibetan Cake (savory)
    Warning : This is not for the faint-hearted. With a very strong flavor, it was difficult to swallow even one bite of it. The waiters warned us but we dared try anyway.

My Shopping Haul (sort of)

There are stalls lined up, as well as permanent shops. From the stalls, you can expect to get clothes, beads, souvenirs and a tad bit of stuff here and there. I’d recommend stepping into the shops instead, which aren’t that expensive either.

Here are the key things I explored and learned about:

  1. Singing Bowls – These are great for meditation, and the shop owners are polite enough to teach you how to use them. It can be quite fascinating, as a very small bowl is capable of producing an amazing resonance! I had no luck working the bowls on my own, so I resolved to come back next time and try again.
  2. Incense Sticks – Quite different (and better) from the commercial ones in various areas. The entire stick is flammable, and quite thick. I’ve tried a few from the pack, and they have a mild, natural scent in contrast to the artificial, overbearing commercial ones. Also – the smoke isn’t as overpowering either. I got the whole gift box for only Rs. 80!
  3. Prayer Flags – inscribed with the mantra “Om Mani Padme Hum”, their vibrant colors add great personality to bed headboards and car backseats.
  4. Tibetan Bells – You could go for the hanging type, used like a wind-chime, or the dorje kind, that you can use during prayer.
  5. Prayer Wheel – it’s believed that spinning the wheel, which too is inscribed with the “Om Mani Padme Hum” mantra is as good as chanting the mantra out-loud.

Books

While the bookstore was closed by the time we walked over, there are three timeless books that are highly recommended for anyone who’s been seeking the Buddhist Way:

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The Tibetan colony is rather unfrequented, and while I rejoice in sharing this place with you, I hope that any of us that visit respect the culture and maintain a kind attitude to help preserve this place’s uniqueness. 🙂