18.04.2010 - 22.04.2010 24 °C
Our next stop was McLeod Ganj near Dharamsala,the headquarters of the Tibetan government in exile and the official residence of the Dalai Lama. Home to a large Tibetan community, there is plenty to do here such as trekking, cookery courses, volunteering and learning about the plight of Tibet and its refugees.
I am somewhat ashamed to admit that before coming here, my knowledge about Tibet was limited. Nestled in the magical heights of of the Himalayan 'snow country', Tibet has an incredibly rich heritage and culture centring on a deep Buddhist philosophy. Since China 'liberated' Tibet in 1959, one can only describe China's actions as tantamount to cultural and religious genocide. Not only have countless Tibetans been tortured and killed, China's primary goal seems to have been to totally erase every element of Tibetan culture. I won't bang on about it now but if anyone is interested in learning more, visit the official Tibetan government in exile's website at: www.tibet.net There are also many organisations out there dedicated to helping the people of Tibet, including the Tibet Earthquake Relief Fund www.yushuearthquakerelief.org or www.tibetanvillageproject.org/yer.html (reported as the Chinese earthquake in the media but in former Tibet).
In light of the above, Dharamsala offers a very different cultural experience to the rest of India and it has been both fascinating and emotional to learn about the plight of the Tibetans.
Where we stayed:
Akash Guesthouse - run by Fyaz and his German wife, it's a great place. Friendly staff and a balcony overlooking the Himalayan foothills - what more can you ask for for 800 rupees/night
Where to eat:
Eat while learning at Nisha's Cooking School - six hours over two days, and you get to eat it all for dinner! There are also several good Tibetan cooking schools and plenty of good Indian and Tibetan restaurants
Things to do in Dharamsala:
- Walk to nearby Bagsu and Daramkot or join an organised trek
- Immerse yourself in Tibetan culture and help a good cause by volunteering,
- Listen to Tibetan refugees and ex political prisoners tell their stories and watch documentaries at one of the many *evening organised by Tibetan groups (we payed 100rs and were given more delicious savoury and chocolate momos than we could eat).
- Attend Buddhist philososphy, meditation or yoga classes, visit the temple and Tibetan museum