My last day in India

Sustenance for the long journey  ahead – I swear, all I did was eat here!

I checked out of my hotel in McLeod Ganj at 4pm & arrived at my hostel in Nepal at 10.30pm the following evening. I really tend to drag out travel taking the cheapest & usually most uncomfortable & longest route possible. I had my last dinner in McLeod Ganj, made my way to get the bus at 6pm, took the 12hour bus to Delhi, got hassled by tuk tuk drivers waiting to rip me off in Delhi at 6am, arrived at the airport at 6.30am then waited. Boy did I wait. Until my flight from Delhi airport at 7pm.

AS IF you need a sign in India to tell people to blow their horn!

This is the part of travel I detest! In India their policy is to only let people with boarding passes into the airport up to 4 hours prior to their flight! I was homeless, tired & cranky…. Luckily I managed to perch by a powerpoint & make my way through season 5 of Game of Thrones. Not the best thing to watch in public thanks to the sporadic nudity. I’m sure people presume I’m watching porn…..

I could have taken the opportunity to explore Delhi for a few hours but I was exhausted from the night bus (I never sleep on buses), totally fed up with the annoying rude people & lacking the motivation to do anything. Big Indian cities can be incredibly busy & very intimidating. The thought of having to navigate around another city when I was already in a miserable state made me shudder.

Passing a small shanty village on the way to Delhi

My mood was atrocious! I was blatantly unimpressed when people were feeding me incorrect information – I don’t know if this is an Indian thing or I’ve just become grossly aware of it. People will just outright lie to your face. You can call them up on it & they will smile & try to backtrack but I really really hate it. Today I am the girl with the stone face. Do not mess with me. I will not smile & accept your bullshit.

In India you cannot enter the airport without a boarding pass. You cannot enter the airport until a few hours prior to your flight. I was told 3 hours & 6 hours prior. Luckily Delhi airport has a separate area with 2 cafes where I could wait. It also has a lounge but I was informed it was closed – despite people obviously seated behind the glass in the lounge awaiting their flight. I may be a haggard tired looking backpacker but I’m no fool. I was really hating India by this stage! I could not wait to leave. Every persons stare & noise drove me insane. Patience is a virtue I seriously lack. FYI Delhi airport gives you 30 minutes of free wifi. I used this up by 7am giving my (highly dependent) friend instructions on her taxi from the airport to the hostel in Kathmandu.

The majority of the people at Delhi airport were rude & unfriendly towards me. I miss Irish hospitality. After a shitty day with nothing but stares from blank or frowning faces I am more than ready to bid good riddance to India. I won’t be back any time soon*.

Stunning views on the way down the mountain

After all my waiting, 9 episodes of Game of Thrones & rubbish airport food I was on my flight bound for Kathmandu with Cat Stevens – Katmandu playing on my earphones. You know that feeling you get after a tough day that everything is going to be ok? That. I got that.

It wasn’t even that tough a day. I was just waiting. I wasn’t doing manual labour or stressful work. I was just staying in one place. I admit I am a terrible traveller. Although now that I’m flying to Nepal I am feeling a hell of a lot happier.

*Disclaimer: I wrote this on a travel day & was extremely moody. I would go back to India – not as a solo female traveller.

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Delhi Belly: The reprise

After another perfect night of Parks & Recreation, a glass of red wine & half a brownie I doze off to sleep content. Ten minutes later my stomach is making some concerning noises & I am wide awake clutching it, silently begging no.

Yes. My second dose of Delhi Belly in 2 weeks. I was miserable. I was on the toilet all night with an aching stomach feeling nauseous & burning up. I lay on the cold floor in a desperate bid to regulate my temperature blocking out my forefront questions of hygiene. I cringed at my poor roommate who can hear every nasty bodily noise erupting from me on the other side of the door. It was a long, sweaty night (not the good kind!).

In the morning I was so grateful not to be toilet bound. My poor tummy. I can’t figure out what exactly it was. I am weak, unhappy & drained (literally). I am also homeless at midday with nowhere to go.

Clutching my dodgy tum I hobbled around the streets keen NOT to venture too far from my hostel & the sanctuary of the toilet. I was determined not to climb the 100 steps which would obviously induce some sort of bowel collapse & found somewhere to stay much closer. I found somewhere nearby that would have to do. It’s freezing cold, feels less safe & is more expensive, but it has a private bathroom & I don’t have to move far which are todays top criteria in finding a new room for the night!

My bowel movements were occurring less frequently by midday & I risked a chai with my friends before leaving the hostel. When I threw my 15Kg bag on without anal leakage I had faith that I was out of the woods. Sorry for being graphic – but surely you expected this kind of chat when you read the title of the blog?

My new room still contained the remnants of the last guests. They had left me an encouraging note amongst other things.

I did my best to make myself cosy & huddle in blankets with the aim of rest to improve my dodgy stomach in the safety blanket security of close proximity to the bathroom. My day ultimately over I browsed on Skyscanner thinking of my Indian visa expiration date quickly approaching. Open to all options I pondered where I should go next. Then I booked a flight to Nepal for a few days time. Just like that. I adore the freedom I have backpacking.

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My footsteps make their own path

Ayurvedic Medicine

One of my friends follows Ayurvedic medicine & is really passionate about it. When I told her I was going to India she was extremely excited about my close proximity to Ayurvedic experts in the home of Ayurvedic medicine. I’m open to trying most things & her enthusiasm certainly added to my motivation. I had heard about Dosha’s before but they were never fully explained to me. I noticed some massage centres & drop in clinics & shacks on the side of the street offered to read your dosha. I found a place with good reviews nearby & went to find out about my Dosha!

I will tell you about Dosha’s first, beginning with the google definition:

In Ayurvedic medicine it is believed that people are composed of 3 energies: Kapha, Pitta & Vata. Each of these express unique blends of physical, mental & emotional characteristics which make up our personal body/mind constitution. These 3 energies have different characteristics, natures & needs comprising to health & well being.

The optimal lifestyle is to achieve a balance & dynamic state to balance your dominant dosha. I hope in identifying my personal dosha combination I can implement lifestyle choices to create a more balanced state between my mind, body & environment.


I booked into a small centre in Bhagsu, a 15 minute scenic, monkey free, walk from Mcleod Ganj. I had a spring in my step excited at what my appointment would reveal. The lady led me to a classroom for my assessment.

First of all she went through an objective checklist noting my physical characteristics such as body weight, skin texture, face shape & complexion.

After this the lady asked me subjective questions about mental traits & behaviour. Some of them were really straightforward, such as appetite, bowel movement & sexual desire. The subjective nature made me really struggle with other questions, depending on which context I put them into:

  • How well do you manage your finances?
  • Order animals in preference
  • How good is your memory?
  • Do you perspire a normal amount?
  • Are you organised?

I don’t have one clear set way of life. I can be an organised person with a 9-5 job or I can be travelling with no idea which country I will be in next week, where my next cheque is coming from or if I have all the right travel documents & vaccinations to move on. Although, you do need a degree of organisation & savvy to be able to travel so impulsively. I am exceptional with birthday cards & remembering meaningful dates but I can’t tell you today’s date…. But that is a matter of circumstance. If I had a normal routine & job I would know the date automatically.

I completely did not identify with numerous questions & found myself to be falsifying the results when I just guessed an answer. I was pressed to give an answer even when I was indifferent or unsure.

She then asked me about my life experience throughout the years: my relationship with my parents, any difficult times, any trauma, abuse & current mood.

The session lasted almost an hour in total. After my assessment the lady toted up the marks & told me I was predominantly Pitta (47.5%) & Kapha (36.5%). She described what this told her about what kind of person I am. She also gave me a list of foods which would compliment my dosha’s. Seeing as I had a combination of dosha she gave me 2 lists of contradicting foods I should eat & avoid in summer & winter seasons. When I enquired about this seeking clarity she seemed very confused & didn’t address my query. She advised that I should sleep within 2 hours of sunset & rise before sunrise. This was the best bit of advice she gave me. I presume this is sound advice for everyone & not specific to me & my dosha.

I left feeling ultimately underwhelmed but encouraged that I could do some research myself now that I know my dosha type. Maybe I have to delve deeper in order to understand. I had high hopes for ayurvedic medicine but now I’m less convinced…..

Seeking professional development, Dharamshala, India

I am keen to develop more; as a therapist & spiritually. I am open to various beliefs & modalities of healing & treatments. During my time in Mcleod Ganj I searched for a course in Reiki, Ayurveda & Tibetan massage but found none. I want to do a course I believe that will strengthen my skills & enhance me, not just pick a course of convenience for the sake of doing a course.

I found difficulties at every step, whether it was finding someone to speak to & get information, either the dates were not suitable, the course was too expensive, or the teacher was a creepy man. When I enquired about a price people would just pluck any amount from the air & amend it according to my facial expression – even half it! My abhorrence of being hoodwinked made me tired in such exchanges & I quickly lost optimism that I would find a course.

For being a backpacker & having so much time on my hands it is ironic that I feel like I am running out of time & apparently unable to organise relatively simple things.

My favourite restaurants in McLeod Ganj

Here’s a run down of my top 10 favourite restaurants in McLeod Ganj – I didn’t lie when I told you all I did here was eat…..

 

10 Jimmy’s Italian Kitchen

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I had a lovely pizza here & a chocolate brownie & ice cream. The food was nice but nothing exceptional. I found a long thick black hair in my chocolate brownie so I stopped eating it – maybe it was a blessing in disguise…?

 

9 Nick’s Italian Kitchen

This was a busy & popular restaurant my friends loved to go to. The wifi is hit & miss, mostly miss. I tried the Tibetan butter tea here & I really didn’t like it! I’ll stick to trusty ginger, lemon, honey tea. The outside seats have beautiful views of the Himalayas but beware of the odd rogue monkey! They have a wide menu of Italian & international foods.

 

 

8 Woeser Bakery

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German bakeries are apparently a big deal in India & I have found them everywhere I’ve went. I called into this one for a traybake & I wasn’t especially impressed. The traybake was fine, but nothing exceptionally delicious. Nice for a sugar hit. I’m not sure why it’s so highly rated on trip advisor.

 

7 Carpe Diem

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This was a nice enough restaurant with comfortable on floor cushion seats. I came here to do some research & ordered & got the wifi code then discovered the wifi wasn’t working. So frustrating when you’re in the mood to be productive!  The staff didn’t seem to care & just kept giving out the wifi code to other people despite knowing it wasn’t working. I got a hello to the queen which was grand. I don’t think I could ever be disappointed with one! Where can you go wrong with crumbled cookies, ice cream & chocolate?

 

6 Lobsang’s Four Seasons Restaurant

This was a cute Tibetan restaurant serving traditional cuisine of soups & momo’s as well as pizza & pasta. I enjoyed the traditional atmosphere however sometimes service was a bit slow. They have a small book exchange & free wifi.

 

5 Tibet Kitchen

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I got some delicious momo’s here. In case you haven’t noticed I’m a momo addict. I can’t get enough of them! This is a clean, busy restaurant with a nice atmosphere. I wish I discovered it sooner during my stay.

 

4 Indique

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I really liked this Indian restaurant. It had outside rooftop dining which was lovely, the wifi was ok. The menu was lovely & the food looked & tasted great. They had a varied book exchange. The menu was a bit pricier to what I’ve become accustomed to in India. I also think I may have gotten sick here….

 

3 Moonpeak Espresso

This was a modern cafe with a nice food menu. They do a pot of ginger, lemon & honey which I love! The wifi is good & if you get a window seat the views & people watching are a delight.

 

2 Black Tent Cafe

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I adored this quaint cafe/restaurant. It was really laid back with the cushion on the floor seating I just love. I could easily relax here with a book & ginger, lemon, honey tea. The food was ok. I had a toastie which was a lovely throwback to western cuisine but very greasy. The staff were really friendly & chatty.

 

1 Snow Lion Restaurant

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This is a comfy, laid back restaurant with sofa’s to lounge on. They have a big book exchange & good menu of breakfast food, momos, milkshakes & desserts! Their only downfall was the momo’s were fried & I prefer them steamed (I’m quite a momo prude nowadays….). Their wifi is good & there were a lot of plug outlets available.  I could happily relax here with a drink & plan my next few days travel. The open plan & spacious tables make it easy to strike conversation with fellow travellers & I would often see the same people here.

 

Bhagsu has some lovely restaurants as well, so if you’re staying in the area it’s worth checking out.

 

Holi Festival, Dharamshala, India

Happy Holi!

May you have a colourful year!!!

Holi is an ancient Hindi religious festival also known as the festival of colours or the festival of sharing love. Holi signifies the end of winter & the beginning of spring, the victory of good over evil, time to forgive, forget & mend broken relationships & a time of merriment. It is celebrated in India & Nepal & in the past few years has also become a popular theme for various events in western countries. Holi is a fun, mischievious, festival where participants cover each other with an array of coloured powder & have water fights. Everyone is fair game to douse good naturely with vibrant coloured powder & music & dancing is plenty! Some intoxicating drinks are consumed, including the popular bhang lassi which is a cannabis based lassi. The festival has little focus on religion & is all about enjoyment & having fun!

My friends & I went down to the more populated Dharamshala to celebrate Holi as Mcleod Ganj has a predominantly Buddhist culture who don’t particularly recognise this Hindi festival. Dharamshala still isn’t exactly the Holi hotspot but was the preference my friend & I had when it came to deciding where to celebrate Holi. The festival is considerably intimate compared to the shy India way. People throw & rub coloured powder on each other to symbolise Lord Krishna putting coloured powder on his beloved Radha to make her more like him. I didn’t want to go to a busy area to celebrate with crowds of people pushing & groping. As a solo female traveller I endeavour to respect my safety boundaries.

We made our way to get a taxi down the mountain & before we even got in the taxi we were covered in colour thanks to a group of Indian men in great party spirit. It was hilarious as they only got the girls in the group & the guys were void of colour. I wonder if they will remain colour free all day….

As we walked the streets in Dharamshala people in the street, on scooters & in cars called out ‘Happy Holi’ & decorated us in colour! What a fun festival! A car stopped to ask for a picture with us because they hadn’t seen foreigners ‘play’ Holi before. This was one of many requests for pictures. People would run up to you shouting ‘selfie’ & continue to take pictures until you said it was enough. I dread to think how many Facebook profiles my coloured face is currently gracing!

 

 

By the time we got to the action in a nearby village we were already completely covered in colour – before we even bought any ourselves! There were quaint stalls of friendly, multi coloured, people selling a wide range of coloured powder in various sized bags. We all purchased a selection & got to work colouring India & wishing everyone a happy holi. We had a great time dancing with the locals & covering each others faces. A young drummer appeared who played to the amusement of the men & boys who danced wildly & vigorously to the beat. It was a great party atmosphere & the locals shared their (extremely strong) drinks with us. As newbies to this festival we failed miserably imbibing as the powder fell from our faces into the drinks then settling on our teeth when we drank. Schoolboy error! I was inappropriately groped once, but according to my friends that was lower than their encounters of harassment – unacceptable Indian men!

When we had enough & were starving we took a taxi back to the quieter McLeod Ganj & went to an Italian restaurant. We were the only people covered in powder. We were absolutely saturated in the stuff. My friend tried to rub hers off in the bathroom & came out with a dirty brown face. I opted to sit in the layers of powder & wait to get washed after.

As much fun as it throwing powder around, I was so elated to have a shower! My face alone had layers of colour & my clothes were covered in it. My bra seemed to be carrying most of it. Apparently that was where people must have been aiming for. I felt so good after showering although I still have patches of pink & purple in my hair. Our bathroom is a wonderful rainbow of colours & there is a powder trail into our room.

The locals seemed really impressed we got involved in Holi & especially to our degree of involvement. Layers people! We had layers of colours in our hair, on our face, all over our bodies & on our bags. We’re not quite sure if it’s going to come off our belongings.

Two weeks later I will still have this colour in my hair & people will point fondly at it asking ‘Holi?’.

 

Visiting the Dalai Lamas Temple

I visited the Dalai Lama’s Temple several times during my stay in McLeod Ganj. Some days it was extremely busy with various events on & the odd time it was more serene & I could slowly walk around & absorb my surroundings. I wasn’t fortunate enough to attend an audience with his holiness the Dalai Lama although he was at this residence when I visited.

 

Stunning sunset from the Dalai Lama’s Temple

 

I adored the candle room & found it incredibly beautiful & peaceful.

 

 

 

 

 

 

This sweet looking man wanted his picture taken spinning the prayer wheels

 

 

 

 

This room was incredibly vibrant

 

 

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Monks chatting while their laundry dries

The Tibetan Museum


The Tibetan museum in McLeod Ganj, Dharamshala is incredibly evoking. I knew so little about the plight of the Tibetan people & found it heart breaking & unbearably unjust to learn about.

I don’t even think I have enough of an understanding of the situation to be able to explain it well…. But I will give you a little information, & some questions I’m reflecting upon.

Tibet is the highest region in the world with an average elevation 4900M above sea level. It is home to Mount Everest (8848M). It borders China, Burma, India, Bhutan & Nepal.

In 1950 40,000 Chinese invaded Tibet with claims to ‘liberate’ the land. In 1959 rumours spread that the Chinese would kidnap the Dalai Lama. His people protected him & he fled a week later to Dharamshala where he has resided since & set up the Tibetan government in exile.

Mao’s reign of Tibet led to famine & destruction as he enforced communism upon the Tibetans. Hundreds & thousands of Tibetans died & thousands of Buddhist monasteries & cultural sites were destroyed. Tibet is still in political unrest with people being killed for protesting the Chinese rule & even taking their lives in self-immolation protests. In 2012 80 Tibetans set fire to themselves to demonstrate the Tibetan’s fundamental rejection of Chinese rule. China responds to the the expression of Tibetan national pride & protests of Chinese rule with lethal violence & punitive sentences.

Tibet claims it is an independent country under occupation from the Chinese. The Chinese government believes Tibet to be part of China – thus they are doing no wrong.

From a legal standpoint, Tibet has to this day not lost its statehood. It is an independent state under illegal occupation.

– Michael van Walt, lawyer and visiting professor at Institute for Advanced Study

Is Tibet under illegal occupation by China? Is this an international issue? Is it international duty to intervene & resolve this? Is Tibet a part of China, making it a domestic issue? Even so, a domestic problem cannot continue at such an unjust degree.

Afterwards my friend & I were in a somber mood & digesting the information we had just absorbed. To be living in the centre for Tibetan refugees & being in such close proximity I feel especially empathetic towards them.

The story of the Tibetan people is shrouded in silence as China denies Tibetans (especially in Tibet) the basic right of freedom of speech. The people live in fear of the consequences of what they say & many don’t speak openly about their situation. I met a teenage Tibetan girl who had fled to McLeod Ganj as a child & she was guarded during our conversation. I was conscious not to ask anything particularly controversial & still she was afraid. We spoke about how she left Tibet & was lucky to be sponsored. She was bright & friendly & on her way to begin university in another city. It is such a gift to sponsor a child in need & I endeavour to do this when I have a regular income & find an honest charity to do this through.

Information has been taken from the Free Tibet website – it’s very interesting & worth a look.

*The  pictures in this article were of a 3D mural opposite the entrance to the Tibetan museum. Poignant.

What did you do in McLeod Ganj??

Hello to the queen – a popular dessert in India!

If anyone was ever to ask me what I did in McLeod Ganj the answer would be eat.

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A pot of chai & a Hello to the queen to share

I ate everything there. Days were focussed on what I would eat & where I would go next. I strategically planned in order to visit as many places as possible & ordered according to what would compliment my friend’s meal.

Gyoza

I ate cake, curries & gyoza. I had museli, samosas & soups, pizza, pasta & pancakes. You name it, I ate it!

Chilli sweet potato fries

McLeod Ganj caters extremely well to the foodie backpackers keen to try EVERYTHING.

Lord knows I did!

Chocolate brownie & ice cream

About McLeod Ganj, Dharamshala, India

McLeod Ganj is a village in the suburbs of Dharamshala, perched on the southern outer Himalaya mountain range. It is most famously the home of the Dalai Lama who resides in his Temple based here. The Dalai Lama fled here to escape the Chinese invasion of Tibet in 1959. He established the Central Tibetan Administration here & has made McLeod Ganj his home ever since. As the base for the Dalai Lama & Tibetan government in exile, it is also the home of Tibetan Buddhism in India. This makes it an imperative destination to people interested in Buddhism.

This small area has a multicultural population of around 10,000 people inclusive of Indians, Tibetans, Nepalese & foreign expats. The vast range of nationalities it hosts make it one of those few places where you don’t feel out of place. As the centre of Buddhism in India there are many robed monks in the area. Their devotion gives an air of honour & respect to the village. It’s one place in India where I have felt least relatively safe.

Tourism is a big part of McLeod Ganj which caters well to the needs of backpackers & visitors. There are many courses on offer in Buddhism, yoga, meditation, cookery, massage & ayurvedic therapies. There are also opportunities to aid the Tibetan community via teaching english & offering your time to babysit children to allow the parents the opportunity to work. Considering it is India, it is incredibly well set up & easy to navigate. Some say it has become too commercial & has changed considerably in the past few years. As much as I enjoy to travel to experience different cultures & environments, I also appreciated the ease of McLeod Ganj. I believe it’s all about balance & there is a plethora of underdeveloped villages you can visit in India for an authentic experience.

There is plenty to do in the area: numerous stunning hikes, Bhagsu waterfall, Dal lake, Tsug La Kang (the Dalai Lama’s temple), Tibetan museum & Dip Tse Chok Ling Monastery to name a few. There is a selection of accommodation available ranging from staying in a monastery to 4 star hotels. Souvenir shops & stalls line the busy streets & there’s also a service available to pack up & send parcels back home. There are many, many restaurants in McLeod Ganj. I adore the food here! The restaurants & cafes are a mix of backpacker chic to fancy & cute Tibetan style. The selection of food was amazing, incomparable to villages the same size in my western homeland. You could have Indian, Tibetan, Nepalese, Italian & western – & that’s just one of the streets! Of course there was a German bakery or two!