A whirlwind trip to Dharamsala

A whirlwind trip to Dharamsala

When I think of my recent trip to India, I cannot help but be overwhelmed by all the beautiful memories rushing back to me. A whirlwind trip undoubtedly – my wife and I traveled through 7 states & 11 cities in the span of 18 days – that’s no simple feat!

We live in Toronto, Canada with our 2 beautiful daughters. My wife and I had taken a long flight to India at the end of April. Our first destination was Bengaluru (I prefer calling it ‘Bangalore’ like most still do), the capital of the beautiful state of Karnataka.  It is India’s third largest city with an estimated population of 10 million. Once called the “Garden City of India” and the “Pensioner’s Paradise”, these epithets no longer apply to Bangalore, which is now a large, thriving cosmopolitan city with diminishing green spaces and a large working population. Bangalore is the major center of India’s IT industry, popularly known as the Silicon Valley of India.

The main reason for visiting Bangalore was to attend my nephew Vijay’s wedding. We had a blast at the wedding, meeting almost all our relatives, enjoying delicious food, dancing and catching up on old fun times together. Bangalore really paved the way for the rest of our trip!

The next portion of the trip involved several days of continuous travel, with us only stopping for a few days between cities to spend time either with relatives or at a hotel to take in the sights. We also made some time to enjoy the local cuisine and shopping. We chose to travel between the cities by train, which allowed us to enjoy the charming countryside. The entire trip took us through the cities of Bangalore-Trivandrum-Hyderabad-Pune-Delhi-Agra-Amritsar.

Our favorite portion was the final part of our trip – our stay at Dharamsala, a hill station at the foothills of the Himalayas. The drive to Dharamshala was incredibly scenic. But the splendour of the hills around Dharamshala just blew us away. We were able to stay with a very close friend of mine with whom I grew up in Pune, and studied together from kindergarten to college. She gave us an awesome welcome into her home in Dharamsala.

The next few days we visited a few of the local tourist attractions. The first one, McLeodGanj, is a suburb of the Dharamsala region and well known for being the location of Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama’s residence.  A small town that can be navigated by foot, McLeodGanj’s elevation is around 2000 meters (~6500 feet), making them considerably cooler than the plains below. There were many different opportunities to visit monasteries where we came across Tibetan monks leading large groups in prayers. Altogether, the town was a wonderful fusion of different Buddhist-influenced cultures.

Another day trip was to the Bhagsu Waterfall, about 3 km from Dharamsala. It was an easy walk down Bhagsu Rd through the village of the same name, then 1 km up to the beautiful waterfall.

The cuisine in the region was delicious. A blend of Tibetan and Punjabi Cuisines, an unlikely fusion to be sure, there were many popular vegetarian dishes and a few unusual non-vegetarian options such as yak meat! There’s also beautiful artwork in the area in the Thangka style – buddhist deities depicted with cotton or silk appliques.

When we finally had to pack up our bags and leave to head back to Canada, we both felt as though we had left a part of ourselves there at Dharamsala… Though a whirlwind trip, starting in the cosmopolitan Bangalore, ending in the peaceful Dharamsala, and all the other sights in between gave us the much-needed fill of our homeland that we’d been craving!

-Sudhir

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