India : Dharamsala & McLeod Ganj

As expressed in the previous article, the main reason i travelled to India is simply to visit His Holiness Dalai Lama’s home, Tsuglagkhang Complex. We also visited Gyuto Monastery and Norbulingka Institute.

I arrived in hotel around 11am in the morning – with all the aches on my back. Of course all i wanted to do was hibernating. Instead of doing that, i showered and headed to town centre.

Once i gain my consciousness, i realised that i was already up in Himalayas Mountains. In the broad daylights, we can see one of peak of Himalayas. Its white and covered by snow. That was the first time i’ve been in Himalayas and it was amazing. For information, The Himalayas lies in 5 countries – India, Nepal, Bhutan, China, and Pakistan. Mount Everest – its highest peak is in international border of China and Nepal.

In general… 

To go to the town centre, we need to walk uphill. For this journey, i suggest you to wear comfortable and non-slippery shoes. I mean it, i watched someone almost slipped down the hill beside the road.

Tibetans, Indians, and tourists live harmoniously in this town. From what i read in the restaurant, Indians welcoming His Holiness Dalai Lama who bring grow in economy and spirituality within people of Dharamsala. Don’t be surprise if you see photo of His Holiness Dalai Lama especially in Tibetan’s houses. His Holiness is not only spiritual leader, but the true leader for Tibetans.

Cultural blend is clearly seen in this town. From the conversation, i sensed they use Tibet, Indians, and they also speak English very well.

I think traffic is not avoidable in India, including McLeod Ganj. There is only 1 way up to McLeod Ganj Town Centre and otherwise. During May – India school holiday – McLeod Ganj can be very crowded can cause a long traffic and noise. If you prefer quite holiday, please avoid school holiday which during May-June each year. This is not for Dharamsala, but India in general. I can assure you that Delhi will be worse.

As like every tourism area, there is plenty of traders beside main road selling souvenirs. It varies between Tibetans clothing and accessories (bracelets, necklaces, earrings, displays, etc). The only tips is please always bargain.

Choices of food in here is quite wide. Mostly the restaurant serves Indian and Tibetan cuisine, but i also can find Japanese. India cuisine such as tandoor, naan, pakora, and paneer – more on Punjabi cuisine. Tibetan cuisine such as its very famous momos and thukpa (noodles). The price is quite cheap (INR 250 – 1300 for two – depends on what and where you eat). The only thing to watch out is the portion. If you been to Australia, its basically the same portion – quite big for two Asian ladies. 🙂

The weather in May was cool in day and cold in night. It is suitable for our Indonesia range. However, its a bit dusty and the sunshine can cause burn – so please use sunscreen if you are afraid to get burned.

Tsuglagkhang Complex. On 1959, Tibetans led by His Holiness Dalai Lama 14th fled from Lhasa to McLeod Ganj. Welcomed by Indians, they rebuild their home, including Dalai Lama’s home, Tsuglagkhang Complex.

Before entering the complex, we need to deposit ALL our electronics in the front gate, such as mobile phone, camera, tablets, and video recorder. Full body search and bag also conducted before we entered the main complex.

Once in, we will find park, and the front gate of Dalai Lama’s house. However, home is very tightly guarded. You need to contact the Monastery to make an appointment. Please visit

I spent 3 mornings in this complex, with many findings and feelings. To avoid you to fall asleep, i will write another story exclusively for Tsuglagkhang Complex. 🙂

Gyuto Monastery is locate in Dharamsala, about 30 mins from McLeod Ganj. This is a Tantric Institution to learn about Vajrayana practice. When we first arrived, we can saw the main hall as the centre of the complex. There are a few buildings surrounded the Main Hall as the support building for the Monastry, i presume served as kuti (home where the monks live).

We went straight to the Main Hall to say our pray. This is an etiquette that we’ve been taught back home, to always say grace to Buddha every time we enter any temple or Monastery. For me, its simply say “Hello” to the owner of the house.

When we arrived on top of the ladder, we saw the Main Hall was full with monks studying. A bit confused between want to come inside but do not want to disturb anyone, we asked what we think the Senior Monk whether its okay to come in. He gave us permission to enter. I said our pray by Namaskara and took a few photos.

The beauty of this place come in when we move from Main Hall to the other side of the complex. As we step away, Himalayas behind Gyuto Monastery shows its strong presence. This is another amazing scene i experienced during the journey. Now, who dare to ask me why i come to India, huh? … Kidding!! :’)

Norbulingka Institute built to preserve Tibetan culture. It has museum, temple, and Norling Arts/Workshop. It also provide training, education, and employments for Tibetans.

One of the interesting building is Literary and Cultural Research Center who served as Official Biography Section of His Holiness Dalai Lama. It also compiling comprehensive encyclopedia about Tibetan culture.

As all main sites in Dharamsala, the scene behind the building always has Himalayas – always amazing. The tickets is 50 rupee for foreigner and 20 rupee for domestic.

My perspective..

When i arrived in this town, i didn’t feel worried or unsafe. Maybe because i am Chinese who have the same skin colour as Tibetans. I am impressed (and still are!) with the cleanliness of this town. I hardly see people use plastics in here. When you buy something, its always wrapped in cotton bag or even use newspaper.

Monks live as the civilians here. I am not saying that monk is not civilian, but from where i live, monks always live inside a Monastery with people helping out. In here, monk is independent. You can see them walk in the street, drink coffee, enjoy sunset and afternoon talk beside the road, sometimes with other monks, sometimes just with strangers.

Inside Tsuglagkhang Complex, i found this pray: “We pray for all major religion to live in harmony and develop mutual respect and understanding and may all sentiments be happy and overcome suffering,”  This is located in main altar shows how important this pray in the eye of Tibetan Buddhism. For me it shows their tolerance, respect, sincerity and humbleness.

We didn’t meet Dalai Lama in this journey. Was i sad? No, i feel grateful. Grateful of the opportunity to visit His place. Grateful of the all experiences i had till now. Grateful of life.

This is encourage me that maybe i will meet Him in different occasion, different time. (still feel hopeful) :’)


PS : This journey were not possible without my travel-partner-in-crime. “Thank you, pals! Good luck in Lund!!”

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