Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Dharamsala-Manali-Leh, India: 13-20July2007

**Sigh... My computer hardisk crashed and i lost probably 30% of my photos in India and ALL my photos in Nepal...

McLeod Ganj, India: 13July2007

Hi! The Holiness Dalai Lama

Today, I got everything that I’d wanted to do done. I saw Dalai Lama and attended to his talk, I did a Tibetan massage and I kind of “learnt” yoga as well.
The talk was conducted in a not very “good” condition as it was raining, some of us without pass so we couldn’t get into the temple and could sit only outside under the shelter in the garden. The sound system wasn’t loud enough for us to hear through the
noise created by the rainfalls.
Vaguely, I knew The Holiness talked about Bodhicitta and gave blessing and precepts to the attendees. However for most of the part, I just couldn’t hear and I started to doze off… Anyway, I think it is blessed to see Dalai Lama. He is so humble that he is lowering his body whenever he is walking and he is just smiling to everyone.
The Tibetan massage was not really good. May be it is just because of I prefer the “technical” way of Thai massage. Interesting experience though.
The yoga session was kind of wasted. The instructor taught everything that I’ve learnt in half a year time in just 2 hours, while I was there expecting to learn or perfect just one or two asana.
The dinner was nice though. We (Angela, Katherina, a Hungarian and an American) went to a roof top restaurant with candle light and stary sky. The food was not as good but the chit chatting and companions were good.

The devotees listening to the dhamma talk.

The monk and the traveler.

McLeod Ganj-Manali, India: 14July2007

Car Racing Speed … Bus

Due to health problem, Angela had decided not to leave for Manali today. So I am to set off alone in the evening, with the public government bus. But again, with so many travelers around, it was hardly a lonely journey.
I had a hair cut with Katherina in the noon. She had suffered a massive hair lose that she decided to just shave so that she doesn’t have to see so much of her falling hair everyday. She was so daring that I really admire her courage. However, she was in stressed with this and she called her family doctor in Germany in regards of this. The hair cut was so Indian style that I couldn’t believe it. Instead of cutting layer by layer, the barber just cut it straight away to the length I wanted. Well, I could do this myself!
Oh, the Indian bus ride. It was sickening as the bus drove along the mountain in the spiral way with suicidal speed. But the seat was kind of comfortable in a way, even though the bus was over crowded, as usual. The good thing was, there is a combination of 6 travelers in a group. So I just asked to stick to them. At least, this saved me the trouble of arranging transportation. Since I don’t have plan for Manali, so I don’t mind to just follow them since they don’t mind as well.

Katherina and me in front of the fruits stall.

One of the busy McLeod Ganj streets.

Vashisht, Manali, India: 15July2007

First Ray of Light … Hot Spring

The bus arrived at the ungodly hour, 4am. Seven of us got a jeep and got to Vakhsit. It was only 5am then. Nothing was opened. No guesthouse, no breakfast. So we decided to soak in open air hot spring. It was nice to see the first ray of morning light in this way.
The 6 girls later got a guesthouse themselves, Warren got another and I went to another. Basically I just slept and read book for the whole day. The view from the guesthouse was good and the weather was cold but not too much. It was just kind of relaxing to do nothing. Not rushing to any sights and taking it slow.
When I was in the town for breakfast, as usual, there are just some Indian young guys looking to talk to some young foreign women. I told the one who approached me that, I am a poor student (and not a Japanese) with no money to buy drugs, alcohol or jewellery. I waived him off then.

The small town in the morning sun ray.

The local women and the plants they collected.

Vashisht, India: 16July2007

Rainbow Waterfalls … Home –cooked Dinner

Angela came to my guesthouse early in the morning. She stayed in the same guest house as Warren and he told her that I am staying here. She shared room with Warren’s friend, Janet, a German. Warren left his passport at the guesthouse in McLeod Ganj and luckily Janet was coming here and brought him his passport.
Four of us went to breakfast together and went hiking in the afternoon. The uphill was very very steep and I made it with my flip-flop! The higher waterfall was so beautiful with even a rainbow across it. Angela gave up half way as she just got a sudden scared of height.
In the evening, Angela, Janet and Warren cooked dinner for us. I just went there to eat. It was a lovely dinner at the guest house roof top, with home-cooked and musics from Warren’s ipod. I brought my “neighbor”, Magaret, to join us. Magaret is in her mid-30s, a rare German who doesn’t drink beer.
I feel like I haven’t been really alone since I hit North. There are just so many tourists around and I always ended up to pair up with somebody. Most of the time, I am associated with the Westerners due to the easier communication. However, most of them are either take soft drugs or are smokers. In my Eastern upbringing, taking drugs is just a bad bad thing. But obviously, in the Western society, smoking marijuana, ass and ganja are just normal and definitely not a big deal to get stone. Anyway, all of the travelers I met are friendly and kind to me, but in time, I do miss people who don’t drink and smoke. Both Vivien and Mathieu don’t drink and smoke when they were with me.

One of the beautiful waterfalls.

Vaskhit-Leh, India: 17July2007

Keep on Moving!

Vashisht is a nice place to just chill out and do nothing: Cold weather, mountain, rivers, waterfalls … But time is running short. If I want to go to Nepal and spend may be a few days in Kerala with Vivien, then I have to do it a bit fast. I have to follow to a schedule and keep on moving.
I decided to leave for Leh in the evening (midnight actually) and in the end Angela decided to go with me. So we would go with a shared jeep/taxi at 2am. Warren and Janet decided to go the day after.
In the late morning, we went to the stream down hill and soaked our feet in the very cold water. The valley is surrounded by the mountains, some covered with snow. Unfortunately, while the water is crystal clear, there are rubbish scatters around. The local people who rely so much on these natural resources are not taking good care of their source of living.
Then we did some shopping at Manali Town. Angela and I both did a threading to trim eye brows and upper lip. This was my first time with something like this, it was kind of interesting. I did henna as well, first time. The pattern was not really nice, but good try.

The view of the town from the hill.

Leh, India: 18July2007

Challenged the 5000 meter !

The jeep drive was 20 hours (it ended up to be 22 hr). I would say disastrous too. Bumpy road, zig-zag and high altitude. Another jeep was almost fall down to the cliff! The scenery was rewarding though. I thought I would have altitude problem, but I did it quite well. Even when we passed through 5000meter, I had only a mild headache. My main problem was motion sickness. I threw out once (luckily at the rest stop) and after that I was fine. Angela really took care of me, which I felt both fortunate (to have her with me) and gratitude.
The scenery changed from the dawn of snow mountain into the greenery and then into the drape desert. It was incredible, a wonder to me, the desert in the middle of mountain as high as at least 3000meter!
The jeep ride was not comfortable though. Front, middle and behind seats with the seating of 2-4-2 passengers. It would be better to have 1-3-2! Luckily, we got quite a good driver. His skillfulness made less suffering to us. At least, to save us from die in the road accident.
The other big big problem was the toilet. Of course, one shouldn’t expect any proper toilet for a place like this. It was all “open” toilets. Eventually, everyone just get used to “do it” without hesitation! In some where, this kind of open toilet is definitely better and cleaner than the so called enclosed toilet (any place that you can shit or pee but with a door or covered). I was very shy and reluctant to do it in the beginning, but who has a choice? Eventually, we just do it EVERYWHERE, even though there was no place to hide. (Normally the “good spot” would be place where we people won’t see us, such as behind of a big rock.)
We arrived at Leh in the middle of night. Then Angela and I hastily, found a guesthouse to just settle down. It was unbelievable dirty and uncomfortable, but we both bear with that as we knew, this will just be a night and we shall just look forward to the betterness of Leh in the next day.

The desert in the mountain.

Leh, India: 19July2007


We couldn’t wait to leave this dirty place early in the morning. This was the dirtiest place that I have ever been or stayed in India (proved to be true even at the time I left India for home.)
We moved to the less busy and more laid back village at Chengepa and got a really nice room with sun and two big windows with good view.
For acclimatization purpose, we just wanted to read book and stay in the guesthouse for the day. No activities.
But I decided to just get some fruits after breakfast, so I asked for direction to the market. Like usual, Indian style of direction remarks. Everyone’s ten minute ended to be more than 40 minutes from my guesthouse! So I got the fruits but with a two way journey of 2 hours! I did it really slow to avoid over exertion.
Angela was even more ridiculous. She went out for internet and ended up lost her way for 3 or 4 hours. (She went to another village …) By that time, I already took a nap and read a fair share of book.
We got a simple buffet dinner at the guesthouse and then had tea at the garden. Chit chatting about our future, dreams and family.
It was a lovely night, to have somebody to talk to about everything in a strange place like Leh. Strange, because it is in the middle of mountain and accessible to people only during summer. Since I have came to the Northern mountain area of India, everything here are just seems so “not Indian”. A lot of time, I don’t even remember that I am in India. (I thought may be I am in Tibet.)
At this point, I came to respect the Indian for their generosity in accepting and giving the Tibetan refugees the land to lead their live and to preserve their culture.

View of Leh, the town, from the hill.

Leh, India: 20July2007

Tibetan Festival

Angela wanted another day for acclimatized. There was a festival going on at some other village, so I decided to join Michael (American) and 4 English (Alex, Tom, Tom’s brother and Tim), who we met during the jeep journey from Manali to Leh. We got six and this makes transportation easier.
The Tibetan Gelupma was celebrating the 800 years of establishment. The celebration was colorful with the typical Tibetan musical instrument and prayers by the said second most important monk in the Gelumpa tradition after Dalai Lama.
We then trekked about 4km to Thekse Temple, a 500 years old Tibetan temple in the middle of desert, up on the hill. This was the first time that I saw people or lama making mandala.

The monk making sand mandala.

Monks taking lunch after the ceremoy/festival.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

McLeod Ganj, Dharamsala, India: 12July07

Holy or Holey??

The first day to beck to the world after the intensive ten days meditation retreat. Time to communicate and move on again.
After ten days of seeing each other's faces, i have came to know a few girls. So the Korean girl, Angela (Scottish) and Katherina (German) and me walked down to the town from the meditation centre at Dharamkot. Then Angela and Katherina and me stayed in the same guesthouse. Again, i have companions! i later decided that, i am going to join the two of them, Angela and Imba (Isreali) to Leh. It would be easier to have friends to travel together for the 2 days bus ride.
i then went to Dalai Lama's temple and the Tibetan Museum. The displays in the museum are not much, but enough to make you feel really bad for been a Chinese descendant. It tells a powerful story of the Chinese invasion to Tibet and the Tibetan struggle for self-determination.
At the temple area, there was special teachings given to the group of Taiwanese pilgrim. So i just sat in to listen since i understand Mandarin perfectly.
Dharamsala gave me a very touristist feel. i think this place is full with Westerners especially Isreali, may be searching for their souls or 'enlightenment'. i don't even feel like in India, with this kind of weather (cold) and the atmosphere. We teased Imba that, this is little Isreal instead of Little Tibet.
The touristism make up a big variety of food here. All delicious and vegetarian! Basically this is a place for holiday maker to chill out, learn yoga, massage and spend money.

Beijing Olympic 2008 ... Different edition of count down.

All the more expensive hotels are facing to the valley.

At Tsuglagkhang Complex (Dalai Lama's Office and residence and temple), a Rinpoche was giving sermon to the Taiwanese pilgrim group.

The tiny and cold room which i had stayed for ten days during the meditation retreat.

A local woman.

The village at Dharamkot, near to the meditation centre.