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McLeod Ganj Market

One of the two parallel roads of the market Years ago when HHH Dalai Lama settled in McLeod Ganj,, tourists from all over the world started to pour in McleodGunj. This triggered many unusual things in this small, quiet, laid back Himalayan town - started happening there. Hundreds of small, big hotels, hundreds or restaurants, dozens of Yoga and Music classes and so on came up. Also bloomed was a big market. Now there are literally hundreds of road side shops, that appear in the morning and disappear completely by night. The sellers just sit on a cot or some kind of temporary elevated platform they have built at the road side.

Some utmost interesting things could be found there for sale. The focus, obviously is mainly on traditional looking or ethnic looking things and artefacts. Although lots of brass things made in Kanpur or Lucknow [in India] are sold in the market, they are quite popular amongst the buyers - especially foreigners. One entire road side is full of jewellery. Mainly beautiful colourful necklaces made up of stones and beads has been in fashion for several years now. Now a days you get the same in other cities of India, but the quality of the jewellery here is considered to be better.

Most Tibetans who run small stalls of food or jewellery or memorabilia, shift their stalls to Chandigarh or some other towns in the winters; as not many tourists visit McleodGunj that time. Later, in March or so, these sellers return back to McleodGunj as the touristy season starts that time.

Lots of these sellers create / manufacture their own stuff to sell. Most of the woollen things, especially hand-gloves, caps, scarves, sweaters etc are woven by the ladies who are selling those items. So, when you buy those, you definitely are helping them. There are one or two Thangka Painters too. Thangka painting is the traditional painting art from Tibet.

Whenever I visit McLeod Ganj, I keep wondering on the streets when I have nothing else to do. Once I went on clicking pictures of various lovely colourful patterns being created by the arrangements of goods on the stalls. Some of the arrangements were quite artistically done. While I bought some things, I chatted up with the sellers. Most were quite enthusiastic for talking. They had their own stories to tell. Common factor being, how they came to India several years ago when they were a teenager, and how India has supported them. Generally they were quite grateful towards India, but not necessarily every Indian they come across.

One day I witnessed an unpleasant incidence. While I was looking for some incense sticks, one nearby vendor suddenly burst out shouting at some Indian buyer. This vendor was a bit elderly. Apparently, the Indian guy had insulted him in some way. The Indian guy must have crossed the line, as he quickly disappeared from the scene. I approached the Tibetan vendor. He had a small tear in his eye. He kept talking to himself about although he is a refugee, he too is human and a person with self-respect. The street went back to the normal and onlookers lost the interest in the case. I kept chatting with him for a while and soon he calmed down. I decided to buy some things from him and he offered some good discount to me which I politely refused it telling him that It was good for me that he offered me a discount, but that more than the discount I was happy as he talked to me..

In the course of time I have bought lots of necklaces and many earrings etc, and tested all my bargaining skills on the younger sellers somewhat successfully. If you ever go to McleodGunj, keep some time in the schedule for shopping :)

Tibetans in India

Tibetans purchacing Tibetan bread in Main Square of McLeog Ganj Now by 2020, it has been more than half a century, the Tibetans have been living in India and in many countries for that matter - mostly as refugees. In 1959 Dalai Lama escaped from the Chinese invasion and came to India via Sikkim. With him and following him, many Tibetans took refuge in India. Many other countries like Switzerland and Germany too, accepted many refugees from Tibet.

Initially The Dalai Lama was given some land in Delhi for residence, but He didn’t like the big city and requested for more mountain place which resembles his home in Lhasa. Indian government was happy to allocate him the land in Upper Dharamshala or McLeodgunj in Himachal Pradesh. Many Tibetans went to different places in India. Today there are as many as 38-40 official settlements of Tibetans in India. Near Mysore in Karnataka is one very big settlement which hosts around 70,000 Tibetans.

Usually Tibetans make a very friendly and peaceful community. They are known as good neighbours and mostly live peacefully and contribute a lot to the society they are living in. I know several musicians who are living in Europe doing some very good job or running some businesses besides their performances of Tibetan Traditional music and dance around the world.

It is estimated that McLeodgunj hosts about 6,000 Tibetans. Some are in TIPA [ Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts] , some are working in Tibetan government offices, some run their own businesses - small or big, and some are doing social work for other Tibetans. All the newcomers sooner or later get absorbed in the society and work hard to make their life. Although, generally the Tibetan community is peaceful, there are lots of hidden issues and attitudes under the surface. Indians in McLeodgunj are getting business Only because the Tibetans are there; And Tibetans are getting everything, as India has politically supported them. But they also know the Indians are getting business because of the presence of Tibetans as well as The Dalai Lama.

Although the Tibetans are refugees, some of the Tibetans have become rich by now. Either they have excellent business sense and have made some very good monies, Or have married some Indian person and are doing some very good business. And then it could be considered natural that jealousy can emerge out in some other minds; especially that of local Indians who don’t have such business sense. Typically the Tibetans who marry other nationals, tend to retain their Refugee passport [ documents and status]. Either because a refugee passport is the most powerful document or for their national pride - or perhaps both.

Decades ago there was one major incidence in which a big fight erupted between Indians and Tibetans. Lots of Tibetans were beaten as they sheerly were outnumbered by the Indians joining in from neighbouring villages. Media in India wasn't so strong then so it went unnoticed for the rest of the country. Naturally there was government mediation and since then both the parties have been living comparatively peacefully.

But recently no such incidence has happened and the life generally is peaceful. India has been traditionally patient with refugees. Illegal entrants from Bangaladesh, and the refugees from Shri Lanka and Tibet are the main refugee communities and I imagine Tibetans are the some of the best contributors to the Indian society. Glimpses of Tibetan people in McLeod Ganj, and nearby.

Meeting a Buddhist Master

Monk playing a traditional drum in a Buddhist Monastery in South Korea I did travel to Korea numerous times. My first visit was in 2002, and since then I have travelled tremendously inside Korea and have performed over 600 concerts there. These were all sorts of concerts. With some rock band, with jazz Bands, with philharmonic Orchestras, at Yoga Studios, in big theatres, in cafes and clubs and in churches, and also, many in different Buddhist Monasteries. Korean Buddhist Monasteries are some of the most serene and peaceful places I have ever visited. The monks are quite fond of my music. Some of them can speak fluent English too! The typical day in a monastery begins at 4 am with the meditation, and goes on till 9 pm. On special days you have concerts and such. And then there are some special sessions of people with the Head Monks or senior monks. I was lucky to get one such session one day with the senior most monk of a very big monastery. It was serene. I went in and sat doing nothing. After a while finally The Head Monk walked in and asked me What are you Doing? I said Nothing, Master The monk simply left and returned after 4 hours, and asked me again What are you doing? Nothing, Master. I am not finished yet O' Master. Apparently I did pass the test, and our session started. After a while of teachings the Master said, Do you understand that you don’t really exist? Upon which I very politely replied To whom are you telling that Master? He seemed highly pleased with that reply. The teachings went on for a while and then the Master ordered me Do the opposite of what I tell you. So I didn’t. With this not doing successfully, He seemed quite happy !!! Then he said I have never met someone so thoughtless in my life. I bowed down and humbly said Thank you Master He blessed me and said Keep up the good practice. There ended our session. I feel I am a blessed soul…

Pi Shop

Not exactly pie, but well it's food somewhat similar may be Dharamkot, where I am staying in Himalayas, is a small quaint village. Extremely clean and peaceful. It's spread out on the curve of the mountains that make the valley. Large amount of foreigners come and reside here for couple of months or more. Thus, entire village seems to be busy in popularising Indian art-forms. Everywhere there are many yoga studios, some music classes, some astrologers and all that. Cafes here are really special. One gets splendid quality food from different parts of the world here. Just yesterday a new pie shop opened here! And It’s open 22/7 🥧

Book store and a café

Cafe with a library in McLeod Ganj While walking on the streets of McLeod Ganj, just little before the Dalai Lama Temple there is a cozy library. In today's world finding book shop or a library itself is a very warm thing! They also have a small café there. Tibetan bread and my favourite hot chocolate is a favoured menu for me. I have spent hours and hours in that book cafe. Initially drinking coffee, and once I stopped coffee, then Hot Chocolate. I just love the combination of the smells of books and coffee. For days and days I would go there daily and spend time in writing and reading for a couple of hours. One day when I was just walking back to my seat from the counter, a book on the bookshelf caught my eye. It said loudly on the side cover - How to get rid of 50% of your problems. I have bought two copies. I am sure all 100% problems of mine will be gone forever now!! ☺☺

NGOs in McLeod Ganj

A Street Play for awareness McLeodgunj is full of dozens of NGOs. Non-Governmental Organisations that is. They are various charitable organisations. Like anywhere else, some are doing real good work, some seem to be using it for some other benefits. Most of these NGOs make an appeal to the visitors to volunteer the work and many visitors, especially foreigners do it willingly. This voluntary work can be anything from teaching English to translating their website in different languages, to going into villages and working there with the people or teaching Tibetan kids some skill set.

'Lha' is one such good organisation which seems to be doing some real good work for the society. Lha is involved into several activities. Mainly focusing on the educational activities, Lha also is into Clear Vision Project where they provide spectacles to needy. Lha is into some other teaching projects too. Lha has an office right on the main road of McLedgunj, towards the temple side.

Volunteers can sign up for a duration from a week to several months, but Lha prefers more than a month's volu nteering. Easiest for a short time visitor is to participate in their English Speaking classes. I found the concept really amazing! All the people who want to learn English speaking gather together in different classrooms. Whoever wants to volunteer comes in and smaller groups of 5-6 students and a teacher are made on the spot. For the next 45 minutes everyone speaks only in English ! It is such a simple but effective concept. Although learning English from French or Spanish person might not prove to the best, it still is a great way to learn to speak English. That way the students get exposed to different accents too ! English Speaking class in session In my personal experience, Lha people tend to be little disrespectful towards anyone who is on a short visit. That means usually Indians. And start talking as if they are wasting their time by talking to you. But I am sure they are very nice with foreigners who stay for longer duration. But then where in India I haven't seen racism against Indians!!

Usually I would go there around 3 pm and talk to the Tibetan chaps in English. I got to know so many things about their lives, their ideas and such through this. My schooling was done in a typical Marathi School and I couldn’t speak English at all till I got into Fergusson. I have seen thousands of well-educated and very intelligent Koreans suffering from this syndrome too. So I know the importance of this. And also I know how to overcome it. I loved the idea of Lha to make a group of students and find someone to talk to them in English for an hour daily!

In any case, I don’t know if they learnt any English from my efforts, but I learnt two Tibetan words Julley and Tashi Delek ! A Candle March Some of these NGOs organise awareness events from time to time. Like candle march or a street play, or distribution of pamphlets telling Chinese torture and such. [I saw such in Seoul at some tourist spots btw] You can get lots of information online about these NGOs in McLeodgunj if you wish to volunteer. You shall be most welcomed there! Although typically they are looking for long term volunteers like 2 or more months.

Theatre Street at Hyehwa

Biggest in the area, Arko Theatre As I started performing more and more in Korea, I started realising the depth and popularity of Arts and Culture in the Korean society. Although on surface one would see a totally westernised society, but deep inside the people are really bound to their roots. Korean culture is quite old and after the modernisation, since say the 70s or so, attire and some behaviour drastically changed, but lots of old traditional elements still carry on strong in day to day life.

I would say that the Koreans are culturally very rich. Typically by the time they become 30 or so, they have heard, seen, experienced and participated in unimaginable amount of concerts, performances, exhibitions, talks, discussions and so on, as there is humongous cultural activity going on all around them.

I once made a rough calculation of how many events must be happening in Seoul every month. I think there would be about 5000 performances going on in a month. And this is just Seoul ! There are several smaller cities where the figures will be slightly smaller.

There are over 200-250 cafes where you can catch a live performance. Then there are hundreds of small theatres with capacity of about 80-300 in each. These are spread over Seoul. Besides these, there are big theatre complexes of capacity ranging from 700-800 to 1500 in each district of Seoul.

And finally there are the prestigious Seoul Art Centre [There are 5 theatres there], LG Centre, Samsung Theatre etc. And then there are over 300 motels which have live entertainment every day.

So this means 1] There are enough number of performers or all sorts to occupy the stages 2] There is enough audience to support all these!

One of the most interesting areas in Seoul, usually never mentioned in any of the tourist attractions lists, is the area around Hyehwa Metro station. Just come out from the exit number 2 of this station and you shall see several young and some old ladies waiting for you with bundles of leaflets in their hands. These are promotional materials of the concerts, dramas, performances happening in nearby theatres. An open air performance - free to all. There are about 180 theatres in the vicinity of Hyehwa !!! Read again - 180 Theatres in walking distance !!! Unbelievable !!!

As you walk on the left of the exit, you come across a huge area where there is an open air theatre, which artists can book and perform. People just gather and sit listening to you. If you don’t want to book the pavilion, then you can simply pick up your guitar and start singing on the other side of the plaza, people will gather around you and keep listening! While walking around you will always see some guys singing, some street plays going on, someone doing sketches of others and someone reading her poetry. They all have spectators gathered around them all the time!!

On one side there is the big brick building of the Arko Theatre, a big theatre of capacity of about 800. It is famous for the dance performances. Huge wooden stage and state of the art sound and light systems are permanently installed there.

Then you pass that and walk ahead and you shall find several small lanes. And in each of the lanes there are dozens and dozens of theatres. The audience capacity of these theatres is from 60-80 to 300; but most can host about 150 audience. In every tall building there would be 5-6 theatres, 2-3 cafes and so on. In the evening you will always find a large crowd walking around to figure out which performance they should attend. Mostly they are young guys and girls. This entire area once was a University. Once the University shifted somewhere on a larger area, all these theatres and cafes came up.

Usually all these theatres are all booked and busy. I remember in around 2004 I performed in one of the theatres with famous Korean pianist Roh Young Sim. The owner of the theater had come to see it and met me later. She said " I would love to see you performing your own concert here in my theatre some time." I told her "That would be great! I am going to be here in Korea for 2 months now. So we can surely do it" She said "Oh Sorry, My theatre is booked for next 3 months" !!! I performed there in my next visit then.

Point is that the theatres are busy a lot ! Now this is extremely important. The theatres are busy also means that 1] There are enough musicians, performers and artists to keep the stages busy and 2] There is tremendous audience support for all that! Without viewers nothing of all this is possible!

Over the period of years I have performed in many of these theatres in this Hyehwa station area. I have performed in the biggest Arko theatre at least 10-12 times. And every time I go there I feel I am in heaven!

Seoul is surely a paradise for art and music !

Seoul - A City of Culture

Seoul -

The magnificent city of Seoul ! And how I love it! I went there first in 2002 and since then I have visited it 11 times. And it has not stopped me enchanting me every time I go there! The world's best public transport can be found here.

Seoul is a large city. Large could be an understatement ! It's one of the Mega Cities in the world. About 2 Crore = 20 million people live there. That’s about 2/3rd of the entire population of Canada ! And now this absolutely safe city of Seoul, is slowly opening up to the foreigners and accepting them with some curiosity towards them.

Seoul has 4 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Mt. Bukhan, the world's most visited national park, Lotte World, the world's largest indoor theme park, Moonlight Rainbow Fountain, the world's longest bridge fountain and Times Square's CGV Starium, the world's largest cinema screen. There were 9 Metro lines in 2007; Now there are 13 ! I think, about 45,000 busses run all the day transporting most of its 250,000,00 people and yet in most lines you find a seat to sit in Metro even in peak hours! Electronics in Korea is a topic in itself. Korea is ahead of the world perhaps by 25 years in Electronics ! Just the day I left, SK Telecom announced 180 MBps speeds for mobiles and they already have 1GBps since some time. It's actually faster than accessing your own hard disk on your computer! What astonished me was the comfort of the senior generation of Koreans in using these technologies. I saw so many 80 years + old people using internet and some really complicated looking menus on home appliances. Koreans and I am told Japanese too, can handle some serious levels of complexities. Even their games are so complicated… almost as complicated as Cricket compared with football!

Lots to see and feel around in Seoul ! This time in my schedule I had a full week kind of free. In all my previous 10 visits to Korea, I could not really get lot time to go around sightseeing. My schedules used to be really busy. I have performed 17 concerts in 15 days or 43 concerts in 30 days or so many times.

But this time there was a gap due to some intense and again, complicated structure of a performance. This performance we were going to rehearse for a week and present 3 days. So for a week I had only rehearsals in the evening. I didn't need to get ready and carry my performance clothes, and I could get tired [ by sightseeing] as much as, as I wasn’t performing in the evenings!

There are some famous markets in Seoul. Namdemun and Dongdemun markets. Both the markets are quite big and occupy perhaps 5-6 blocks and dozens of buildings. Dongdemun market is more for clothes and 1 billion designs of buttons and all such accessories! Whereas Namdemun market is more into selling touristy stuff. Various kinds of souvenirs and lots of bags, purses and some clothes and all that. The market has several buildings each specializing only one or two types of things. Several stories full of hundreds of small small shops is a sight to see. Although naturally one would find nearly 50 different shops selling exactly same collections at the same price.

A common misconception about Korea is that you don’t / cant bargain generally. You can actually. Just ask for a calculator and key in the price you are ready to pay. No one will talk English, so this works ! Not much, but you can get some 10-20 % lesser price at times. But Some sellers won't reduce the price even by 1 won.

Korea - The First Encounter

I clearly remember my first encounter with Korean musicians. In February of 2002 I got a call asking if I would be interested in recording a fusion project with some Korean musicians. And that the budget isn't much but I might like it. The budget was never used to be good then anyway, so I said yes.

In the studio there were 5-6 musicians from Korea and some local. The recording which was supposed to take 3 days, took 7 and at the end it was all fine. No one in the Korean team could speak a word of English except their manager! And thus whatever anyone wanted to say to other musicians about music or anything totally was dependent on this manager who could barely speak English, But could communicate well. All in all we were having good time and creating some interesting music too.

I remember a very funny incident very clearly from those recording sessions.

I was to play a duet with a senior Korean musician who was playing some horizontal instrument with lots of strings attached :) Eventually in my many visits to Korea I would work a lot with him and come to know that he is one of the finest Khayagum players from Korea. - Maestro Beik In Young

I was asked by the manager 'Will you play this this this…?" I nodded my head and said Yes. He went back to the maestro, they discussed something and returned to me and asked the same question, I once again nodded my head and said yes. He once again went back to discuss with the maestro. This went on for a while and everyone present including myself was clearly getting upset about the situation. So finally when he asked me with a total confused face the same question for the 5th or 7th time, I said YESSS I will playyyyy … and I picked up my flute and just played what he wanted. Then there was a hush sound of exclamations and was confused.

Then he asked me "If you can play it why you keep saying No? "But I am saying Yes all the time" "Yes, you say yes, but say No with your head" ……!

Ahhh… So that was it! So this was their first ever encounter with the Great Indian Head Wobble !!! I learnt that Koreans have two clear noddings for yes and no; and Indian way of moving head sideways is neither here or there!

Eventually the recordings were over and two albums 'Ayuta Ki Pawan' and Punyapur Ki Sarita were released in Korea with the beautiful album covers. One of them even won some awards too.

Later that year I travelled to Korea for the first time and thus started an important chapter in my life !

Living in Himalayas

One thing you want really good in your travels is the accommodation; Especially if you are planning to stay in a place for more than 2-3 days. I follow a simple idea to find the right place. First I look up on Lonely Planet and then Traveladvisor.lo0 Usually till now except for one I have never been disappointed. I prefer typical backpackers places! Reasons being 1] The staff gives personal attention 2] Usually very good crowd is found there and 3] They are very reasonably priced, very clean and quite friendly.

But then I also do another thing. Once I land up in the place, I quickly find a very cheap hotel nearest to the bus stop or the transport hub, keep my bags there take some rest and then go out looking for the right hotel. Usually within an hour's time I find the right place the way I want and shift there! At the most I might waste a day's charges, which in Himalayan towns can be as low as 250 Rs ! I find this better than a rixawalla taking me to his favourite hotels and pressurising me to rent a room where he wants me to.

Location :- In McLeodgunj with the same modus operandi I found out this nice hotel Kunga Guest House. It's walking distance from this main Chowk. I always prefer a place near to the main activity centre of the town. Preferably in a nearby alley, so that it's quite too. Kunga's location is excellent. Also thankfully you don’t have to climb at all to reach there! Otherwise in these Himalayan towns after you return from a daylong outing you don’t want to climb even one step!

Himalayan towns are vertical. On the maps you would see two parallel roads, in reality they would be at a difference of 500 feet ! So it is not uncommon to have buildings with one main entrance on one road and other main entrance from the 5th floor on other road !

Kunga is a family run hotel. The lady is from Arunachal Pradesh and her husband
Tenzin, is Tibetan. Very nice people in general. They also have a very well-known restaurant on the ground floor - Nick's Italian Kitchen. You do get some very interesting menu there. Cakes and Pies seem to be their speciality. Kunga has lots of rooms spread over several floors in different buildings. You have to walk around a couple of other buildings to approach some other rooms. I usually prefer to stay in the same building as the café on higher floors. One of the reasons is that the wifi range is excellent in the room then ! They also have a fantastic rooftop restaurant with some outstanding mountains and the valley views! Although it is on a rooftop, you don’t have to climb up the building as it is on the roof of the next building and comes up at the street level!

Library : - Kunga, like most such places in Himalayan ranges, has a nice multilingual library. Unless you are a bookworm you would like that. Just the sight of the library makes a huge difference ! Although these libraries are usually basically full of left behind books by travellers, Kunga does have their own collection of books too. I saw some very nice coffee table photo books on various topics like Himalayas, Tibet etc there.

In one of my visits to McLeod gunj I and Vinita had travelled through tremendous different weathers and finally did fell sick and got fever for a day or two. These guys and their staff were so nice to us. Got medicines for us and even gave room service for the smallest things we required.

Massage Centre :- Kunga has a massage centre. Actually it’s a husband and wife duo who are outstanding masseurs . They give Traditional Tibetan Massage and they are just outstanding! Tibetan massage apparently doesn't use lots of oil and I observed that it was more on the lines of acupressure. I think Tibetan Massage is more of a psychological relaxation therapy than physical ! One time I remember I reached McLeodgunj and I was badly stressed out, mainly due to very hectic travel schedule and some horrendous delays and situations at concert venues . 2 times this Tibetan massage literally took away all my stress !

Only for this massage I won't mind going to McLeodgunj once again!

McLeod Ganj

Whenever most people say that they are going to Dharamshala, they actually mean McLeodgunj. That's where the Dalai Lama and most Tibetan population is based at. Dharamshala - also spelt as 'Dharamsala', is the town almost at the foothills of the McLeodguj mountain. 'Gunj' means market or neighbourhood in Hindi, so you would find several areas with the names ending with 'gunj' Pahadgunj, Purabgunj eg in the North India. So this is the market or area named after Mr. McLeod.

In the 60s Indian government give this land to the The Dalai Lama and the tibetan refugees and since then it has become the pilgrimage and tourist centre for the world. The Dalai Lama isn't there all the time as He is travelling, but you can easily find his schedule on his website. If you are lucky you can get his personal audience too! But surely you can attend his sermons there.

The easiest way to reach McLeodgunj I have found is to take a Volvo bus from new Kashmiri Gate bus station in Delhi and travel overnight. By 7am you are in McLeodgunj. The Main Square / Chowk or intersection is just walking distance from the bus stand and the rest of the town is in the vicinity from there.

McLeodgunj, like most of the Himalayan towns, is a small town with population of about 10,000, But of course long term residents and hundreds of tourists aren't counted in this. In the high tourist season the town is buzzing with people. I personally like to avoid crowds and prefer to go anywhere little off season, so the charm of the high season is still there but there is much lesser crowd.

There are 2 main roads in the town. Both run parallel for about 100 metres and then bifurcate. One on the left goes down to the lower, actual Dharamshala town [Jogibara Rd.] and other on the right, leads to the Dalai Lama temple, his residence and Tibetan government offices in exile [Temple Rd] -Tsuglagkhang. Tsuglagkhang is quite a big complex and you can see a very small portion where the temple is located. Rest is the residence and offices of the Tibetan government guarded by a big gate and some very friendly guards. It has very beautiful British Era buildings with long verandas and such. When we visited Him, it was there.

Although these two are the main roads, they are quite narrow and only one car can pass at a time. Both roads are lined up with very interesting shops; All full of exotic looking necklesses, garments, rings, diaries, t-shirts, stickers and so on. Tourists are seen flocking to buy some of these. A couple of bookshops, a doctor's clinic, a couple of medical shops, a tailor shop, some bigger souvenir shops and several restaurants too are on these roads. The shops can prove to be very expensive. Some extensive amount of bargaining too happen all the time. Some people don’t bargain too much with Tibetan sellers, perhaps because somewhere in the mind it might be going on that they are refugees, but some do.

One end of these roads is the biggest Chowk in the town - The Main Square / Chowk. It is on the side of the bus stand and to the opposite side of Tsuglagkhang Complex. This chowk is just a bigger area with several modern shops around and a now neglected, little shop 'Nawrosjee and Sons', which is 150+ years old ! This shop was set up for providing utilities groceries etc to the British. 7 roads meet in this chowk. All these roads are full of eateries and hotels of various magnitudes. More expensive and bigger hotels are to be found near the other end of these main roads, probably because that area is nearer to the Tsuglagkhang Complex.

Main Square - You enter Mcleodgunj through this chowk. Unless you take a ride from lower Dharamsala; then you would appear on the other side of the main roads. This part of the town is quite eventful. Lots of interesting events which include Free Tibet protests, some rallies and uncountable number of traffic jams keep happening all the time. Especially in the high tourist season it is difficult even to walk without brushing yourself against people, cars or stray cows. Just little inside of a tiny looking road there are some shacks selling absolutely fabulous tea and snacks; and little further is the office of Taxi Union. But I have found it is the best to book any taxi through the hotel you are staying as they usually call the known good drivers.

In the buildings around this square are some bigger cafes and eateries, an ATM and an Osho Book stall. Usually the chowk is full of people and if you have nothing else to do then you can very easily sit in one of the cafés and entertain yourself by looking at the crowd and their activities. Trust me, it can be highly entertaining!

One road goes to Bhagsu Nag Temple and there are some shops, hotels etc for about a kilometre. Kunga Guest House is on this road. One steep road goes to TIPA and others are the 2 main roads.

On the other side of the main roads the market extends to quite an extent. More relaxed cafes and such are found on this side of the town. This part of the town is more eventful indoors. Some kind of music jam ups, some lectures, some cookery classes and so on… all happens this side of the town.

But for the first day of the visit the most interesting thing is the market and some really fabulous eateries which serve Tibetan, Italian, Indian and other exotic cuisines.

By the time one sees all this the day ends and you realise your legs are demanding for calling it a day !

Milder Milind

Milder Milind is a Indian Classical Music album by Milind. Tabla is played by Charudatta Phadke

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