In Mcloed Ganj I found the spiritual vibe I had hoped to find in SE Asia. Home to the Dalai Lama and some 80,000 Tibetan refugees, this town at the base of the Himalayas is easily one of my favorite places I’ve been this trip. The green, steep mountains with the fog constantly rolling up and down the slopes reminds me very much of Sa Pa in northern Vietnam (another favorite spot of mine). When I started this trip almost 6 months ago, I had it in my head that I’d spend lots of time hopping from paradise beach to paradise beach. After having visited some wonderful beaches, I came to accept that I am more of a mountain man. Not surprising I guess since I grew up in the desert at the foot of the Franklin Mountains.
The least fun part about Dharamshala was arriving. The night bus was uncomfortable. The aircon worked sporadically, going from comfortably chilled to sauna-hot in minutes. I was sat in the back of the bus and every bump jolted me out of my already shoddy sleep. At least I was lucky enough to sit next to a cool gal and have some interesting conversations to help pass the time. Also, I got sick from the food that I ate at a late night stop, and spent the first two days in Mcloed Ganj feeling like death.
My sickness went, and I was able to have some amazing days. I attended a talk held by the Dalai Lama himself. Knowing that he resided here, I never expected to actually see him. There was a beautiful energy in the air at the temple. I sat there for four hours listening, not understanding a word but enjoying being there just the same. Monks came around often to serve chai and give out snacks like bananas, chips, a rice dish, and foodstuffs.
Another day I rented a Royal Enfield Bullet motorcycle, a classic bike I’d always wanted to ride. A friend and I went to check out a waterfall in the area. Even though it was rainy and I didn’t get to go far, it was great riding while it lasted. Later the rain got heavy and we took refuge in a really chilled out café/bookstore. I skimmed through a variety of spiritual books and had a series of philosophical conversations with a Swiss and Indian man.
In Mcloed Ganj, I met a young Tibetan man about 23 years old while eating in the guesthouse restaurant. He shared with me his story which was nothing short of amazing. He told me about his intended escape to India at 13, and how the Chinese military caught him. He talked about his year and a half in prison being beaten and electroshocked. He tried again after his release and made it through Nepal to India, where the government grants Tibetan refugees citizenship and provides asylum. He recently opened a Tibet Massage parlor in the town. He was one of the most interesting people I’ve ever talked to. In fact, my time in Mcloed Ganj was characterized by amazing conversations with deep-thinking people, a really refreshing experience for me.