The Great Himalayan Escape- 2

Disclaimer: All the snaps have been uploaded from my phone, so kindly bear with the picture quality

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Continued from here..

The second day kicked off with a sumptuous breakfast from the cosy restaurant of 8 Auspicious Him View Hotel, served hot and fresh! I won’t say they had wide choices, but whatever they had in the menu turned out fingerlicking yummy!

I had read on one of the review sites that the hotel was known for its homemade cakes. And true to its reputation, they served us the most deliciously moist cakes each day.

This was the carrot cake we were treated to on the second day of our stay…

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Also, if you are a lover of hot and spicy food, don’t miss the homemade Tibetan chilli chutney/paste that they have on offer, if you do choose to stay here. It’s one of the spiciest and yummiest I have had!

Anyway, to get on with the vacation recount, after the breakfast, we decided to visit The Dalai Lama temple, which was about 10 minutes drive from the hotel. Once we reached the gate of the temple, we realized that we had yet another steep climb up waiting for us to get to the main monastery.

I was worried for my father and father-in-law who had difficulty climbing stairs. But what amazed me was their spirit and will to get on with the climb. *Touchwood*. According to them, such opportunities came once in a lifetime. And they didn’t want to get pulled down by a mere leg pain and miss a single spot that was worth exploring 🙂

We reached atop huffing and puffing to witness the most spell binding view of the mountains surrounding the shrine. There were monks chanting prayers, quite a few visitors like us taking rounds of the peaceful and serene compound, some rotating the prayer wheels while chanting the mantra ‘Om Mani Padme Hum‘which it is said purifies your mind and body and cleanses your thoughts.

As per Wikipedia Another suggested translation is thus: Om purifies bliss and pride (realm of the gods); Ma purifies jealousy and need for entertainment (realm of the jealous gods); Ni purifies passion and desire (human realm); Pad purifies ignorance and prejudice (animal realm); Me purifies greed and possessiveness (realm of the hungry ghosts); Hum purifies aggression and hatred (hell realm).

Unfortunately no electronic equipments were allowed inside. I wish they had allowed cameras though so I could share the views from up!

But then some images that are captured with your eyes may not do justice when captured into the lens, right? They are best kept tucked safe in your memory.

Suffice would it be to say that even though the climb was exhausting, yet the experience of visiting the monastery of His Holiness was every bit fulfilling.

The third day was spent visiting The Norbulinka Institute of Tibetan Culture, which was again a wonderful experience.

Norbulinka, which was established in 1988, aims at teaching and preserving centuries old Tibetan culture and traditional art forms including wood carving, statue making, thangka painting, weaving and embroidery.The core idea of the center has been to restore Tibetan traditions, provide training education and employment for Tibetans and make traditional Tibetan experience accessible for contemporary lifestyle.

As we entered the gatehouse, we were completely taken in by the beautiful gardens, mesmerized by the serene tranquil environment.

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Namnam and my Ma, the two water-babies’ happiness knew no bounds when they saw the center adorned by these delightful water bodies making the whole place look even more beautiful.

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The littler water-baby couldn’t stop running and galloping across the little streams and rocks built all around the gardens, in utter excitement!

There were separate workshops in progress for thangka painting, wood-carving, weaving, metal sculpture. Namnam & I could even take a peek into one of the weaving classes ongoing there.

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We were all quite fascinated by these prayer wheels too..

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The center also housed a nice Doll Museum where we saw these cute little dolls displayed in different costumes representing different regions of Tibet.

Here’s a peek into one of the groups enjoying a picnic!

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We, then, checked out an in-house shop which showcased and sold locally-produced souvenirs, embroidered clothing, cushions and wall hangings that were exquisite no doubt but expensive too.

Also in the premises was a temple that looked spectacular with walls adorned by frescoes and 14ft gilded Buddha created by the artists of Norbulinka.

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In the end we stopped by The Hummingbird Cafe, to grab a bite before heading back to our hotel. The food was just about ok, nothing great, but it did succeed in tending to our growling tummies.

Oh and yes, I am being constantly poked and reminded by my 7 year old that I mention about her getting drenched in the pouring rain while there! That was the most highlighting and thrilling part of the trip for her apparently 😀

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After getting back to the hotel, Ma and I set out to indulge in another detoxifying activity…shopping! Thanks to Sonam, the lady who ran the hotel we were staying in, we got to know of the main streets we could go to to shop around. We picked up beads, which the town was known for, a few masks, some bags, and curios.

In all the positives that the place had to offer though, the one negative that made us cringe was its brash and rude people. While the hotel staff, each and everyone of them, was extremely warm and pleasant, the locals outside including the vendors were very unfriendly.

Like I have mentioned before in one of my travelogues on Sri Lanka, it can make a world of difference to your journey if the place that you’re trying to explore and its people are warm, courteous, and willing to make you feel welcome.

Anyway, that’s not to say that the day wasn’t well spent. It was. And like any day this fruitful one came to an end too.

And our vacation slowly inched towards a finish as well. And I realize that this short break had so many take-aways..

Most of important of it being Namnam getting a wonderful chance to bond even stronger with her grandparents!

My Ma, relaxing with a book in hand, her feet put up with no worry of everyday chores..

The excitement and thrill that I could sense on both my fathers’ faces whenever they experienced a bumpy car ride, or discovered an interesting trivia on the place, or while watching the clouds moving or the mountains getting hidden in the clouds! It was priceless! Wish I could express the endearment I felt every time I observed each of them, in words.

Last but never the least, the undivided time that I got with my parents! 😀

On the last day, all we did was stand in the balcony every now and then, just soak in the magnificent mountain views as much as we could in whatever time left of the day and hold on to the moment.

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Memories are made up of such moments..

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The Great Himalayan Escape- 1

**Disclaimer 1: LONG LONG post alert..kindly read at your own risk of dozing off 😛

*/Disclaimer 2: All the snaps have been uploaded `from my phone, so kindly bear with the picture quality

Life can be funny sometimes, you know! There are plans that, despite being made well in advance, with meticulous precision, can fall flat and wreck the whole experience. And then there are plans that are made on the spur of the moment, with the least amount of preparation, yet they turn into an unforgettable experience that you want to cherish forever.

I have just got back from a holiday with an experience of the latter.

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Namnam and I reached Delhi on 15th of July with no plans but to stay put right here and spend our vacation with our folks. But..just one week into the stay and I was cribbing and cursing the unbearably hot weather. It didn’t seem like we had changed places. Rather it just felt as though we had simply travelled from one hot weather of Dubai to be in the other hot weather of Delhi. From one furnace to be in another!

I was itching to get to some place cooler. To add to that, some friends were already holidaying in places like Manali, Coorg and sharing pics of beautiful views thereby tempting the hell out of me, which made me want to get out of here with my folks in tow, even more!

And I did just that!

In no time I got around to planning a short getaway with my parents, dad in law and Namnam. My parents were super charged up! Especially my Ma. Her child-like excitement made this impromptu holiday planning even more worthwhile 🙂

I started out with Manali since 2 of my friends were already there holidaying with their families. So I knew the weather was totally favourable and conducive. And it was closer to Delhi than Coorg was.

Train tickets for Chandigarh were bought and it was decided that we would book a cab to drive up to Manali. Then I learnt that the drive in itself was about 9hours long. Not to forget the 3 hour train journey to Chandigarh. Since my father and father in law had health issues, I felt that it would be risky to engage in such a long journey. So we dropped Manali and chose another hilly destination, which entailed slightly lesser amount of travel time.

Dharamsala, the holy land of The Dalai Lama.

Needless to say, the pater and the mater were super thrilled at the prospect of visiting Buddhist temples and a chance to explore Tibetan culture and cuisines.

Then began the search for a good hotel. I checked with a group of friends on What’s App and Monika recommended with a link to this particular hotel where she had stayed a couple of years ago. The 8 Auspicious Him View Hotel.

Mon, thanks a bunch again, for the recco! We thoroughly enjoyed our stay in the hotel as you would find out in the post ahead 🙂

I loved the whole look and feel of the website. So did my travel companions :). I had some concerns about my parents and dad in law’s health and their acclimatization to the high altitude weather considering the long steep drive up. But a few calls to the hotel and a couple of mail exchanges later I was assured and reassured of a stay as comfortable as possible. I also read some reviews on Tripadvisor, which is where I turn to whenever I need some more clarity about the destinations I am travelling to, which further helped me in deciding to go ahead with this choice. Most of the reviewers had only good things to say about the hotel.

I booked 3 nights for the five of us. And also arranged a car transfer from Chandigarh station to all the way up to Mcleodganj where the hotel was located.

Mcleodganj is about 9 kms further up from Dharamsala.

We left Delhi at around 740 on the morning of 28th July by Kalka Shatabdi. We reached Chandigarh by 11. From where we got into the cab that was waiting to take us to the hills.

It was a comfortable ride, with lovely weather to keep us company. Add to that, old Hindi melodies being played in the car while on the go and my father humming along with them with pure nostalgia writ large on his face! It’s moments like this that make memories to treasure, isn’t it?

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Now as per the internet search a car ride from Chandigarh to Dharamsala usually would take about 5 hours and 30 minutes. And when I spoke to the hotel staff, I was told the same. But in actual the whole journey took us 6 hours and 45 minutes.

That could have been because we halted in between to have lunch on the way. Speaking of which here’s a peek into a plate of supremely delicious chole bhaturey that we had from Heritage Haveli on Chandigarh highway..

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Also a glass of masala chai which is not to be missed if in case you halt here to refuel your tummy!

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And yes this restaurant, aside from the yummy food and scenic lush surrounding, also has extremely clean washrooms! Trust me when I say this.. my opinion on any place automatically rises a few notches up if the place can boast of a clean washroom/toilet.

So a double thumbs up to Heritage Haveli!

Anyway after a filling lunch, we set out on the remaining journey which was no less than a roller coaster ride with narrow winding roads and hairpin bends at every turn. All of us sat firmly fixed to our seats, jaw-dropped in awe of our driver who maneuvered the vehicle along those edgy routes with such deftness and ease!

We reached the hotel after the thrilling ride at about 6.15 in the evening. We were greeted by warm welcoming staff who treated us to hot chocolate and herbal tea as welcome drinks.

The hotel which was tucked away from the hustle bustle of the city with fresh and green surrounding felt cosy and more homely than ‘hotely’ ( had to coin this term for want of a better word..forgive me all you guardians of the English language :D).

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We were then guided to our rooms with balconies looking out to the most beautiful views of the Himalayas! As my father in law remarked, “We are literally in the midst of clouds!”

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Right there and then we fell in love with the place. We couldn’t have asked for a better sight to kick start our holiday. A sight that we were to wake up to every morning for the next 3 days..

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The weather was heavenly too with Namnam & my favourite season in town…the monsoon 🙂
We turned in for the day after a long overwhelming ride with an amazing sense of calm listening to the pitter patter of rains…

To be continued…

All set to chant NaMo, am I?

Well, I am not a huge fan of NaMo, as some of you may know. Yet, I’m willing to give him and his party a chance for the simple reason that I believe that this country is in dire need of a change in the leadership.

The previous government  has had its run for 10 long years and made a complete sham of the trust that its people placed on them. Now its high time they handed over the reins to someone else. Moreover now the people have shown their distrust for Congress by not giving the party any chance to be voted back in power.

So then it is only natural that they place their trust on another party, which may not be essentially a better one, may I add, but which may just be as deserving to be given a chance. Hence BJP. Hence NaMo.

Now where Modi is concerned, I have my reservations. There are no two ways about it. The manner in which he disposes a radically religious ideology is not something that I am entirely comfortable with. Also going by the kind of controversial cases that have been hovering over his head, whether proven or not, one can only presume that he may not be the cleanest of the leaders that we have today. But then, none of our leaders are very clean or honest to begin with, are they?

Except of course Arvind Kejriwal and his party who seem to have their ideology and vision perfectly in place. But their impulsive and dramatic approach may have cost them the due credibility this time. Add to that the fact that they are still in the budding stage, inexperienced makes them an improbable option, not yet ready, in my eyes, to be at the helm.

Which brings us back to Modi.

Now I have been reading a lot of articles, engaging in a lot of discussions where there have been strong dissent over NaMo. And I completely understand the sentiments behind them. But we are at a stage where, be it Congress or BJP, we are none  the wiser. And, since Congress has already got its chance and crumpled it beyond repair, let us give BJP a chance too and gauge how well they make use of this opportunity.

To give credit where its due, Narendra Modi, in the last few months, with the kind of aggressive rallies he has done, with the kind of issues he has shown keen interest in addressing, has shown an impressive mettle and determination. At this point I can only hope that his radical and extreme ideologies will not come in the way of serving his people. For all said and done he cannot afford to take the expectations and faith that ride high on him for granted.

So let me rather keep my personal opinion of him aside and keep an open mind to come to terms with the larger picture of a clear mandate that the majority of the people of my country has given to him and his party. They have earned it.

I am an idiot to have hoped for a safer tomorrow…

I have given up. I do not have any hope  to see a safer world around. Not even a sliver of hope left now for the humankind. I am an idiot to have believed that the promises made to respect and be more sensitive towards women and children were genuine. They were all false promises, we didnt mean a thing we promised.

I feel duped by those petitions I signed to bring about more stringent law and order, to bring about fairer and faster justice. I realize now that those petitions were nothing but an eyewash. Our governing authorities never had any intention to acknowledge our petitions or pleas in the first place, much less read them!

I feel guilty when I watch my 6 year old excitedly run around with her friends, roam around the locality with her trust in people, in the world around her intact..I feel guilty because that is when I realize there is a 5 year old girl, some miles away, battling for her life with her trust in the whole mankind completely shaken and battered. And right then I feel blessed to have my child cocooned well in my care right beside me, away from such brutal surrounding. Gosh, what a terrible feeling, so mixed with blessing and guilt!

We are living in a sick, pathetic world that is beyond repair. Where are we headed? Arent we abusing our own conscience by resorting to such uncouth, immoral methods. I say ‘we’ because the man who tortured the little girl, has the same standing in my eyes as the man-in-uniform who offered to bribe the girl’s father to hush up case, as the man who slapped one of the protesters. And they all live in the same society, as one amongst us.

And we…we remain where we are, mum as spectators letting those savages breed in our community, letting them invade our girls, our children. So we arent any different, are we? We are just as devoid of our conscience as those barbarians.

Frankly I have stopped watching news for any update on the little girl. I hope and pray she recovers soon- her body, mind and soul. And she never ever has to go through what she has again. Hope no girl does.

However I would really really want the media and the ‘leaders running our country’ to shift the focus on the abuser(s) and give us a close up shot of the person(s). I want to see all those perpetrator’s faces on the screen and feel the rage boil inside me even stronger.

I dont know if the law permits to show the criminal’s face out in the open for everyone to see. Frankly I dont care if it permits or not. What I do care about is the look of fear of punishment- death or castration- on his face. That is the look I care to see.

Is it possible for the media or the authorities to pull that cover off his face and show him to us?

I didnt think so..

I have never felt so dejected..