Monday, December 29, 2008

Dali and Congshan Mountain Tips

Dali

Attractions:
*Cycling around Erhai lake, walking around town, visiting markets and villages around town.

Cycling Dali- good place to rent bikes for 5 rmb/day. really nice people that can book bus/train tickets and organize tours of any type. manager's name is Lee. if you desire to hire a car it will cost 260rmb for up to 6 people, this is a good price. www.cyclingdali.com

Accommodation:
Friends Guest House- the area is not great but is very close to south gate. shower not great but other rooms may be better. 50 rmb/double en-suite with western toilet. www.friendsdali.com

Jade Emu- the manager's name is Dave Shaw (australian). nice and new place with wi-fi, kitchen that can be used, a little pricier than other places and also an 8 minute walk or so from the western gate. www.jade-emu.com

Food:
No. 88 Bakery- delicious german-owned bakery, 13 rmb breakfast, great coffee and cakes, on Bo-ai road very close to Cycle Dali, sandwiches delicious, fresh bread...yum!
Tibet Cafe- good sandwiches, free internet if you buy something. also has rooms not sure the quality or price. on foreigner street.

Congshan (Mountains)

Accommodation:

Higherland Inn- nice room, nice (shared) shower with western toilet. 70 rmb/double. located in the hills above dali (Congshan). great view of dali and some nice hikes that can be done from here. 2 or 3 nights would be great. small place so should book ahead, offers family style meals which are slightly overpriced (25 rmb) but fresh, healthy, and not so oily. owner is pretty nice lady. breakfast good, notable is the porridge.www.higherland.com

Food:
Pine Haven Cafe- just below the stairs to Higher Land is a small cafe with good fresh sandwiches and juices, if you're staying on the mountain it's a great lunch option.

More in the Blog:
Dali and Congshan

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Shangri-la (Zhongdian) Tips

Dragon Cloud Guest house- need to cross courtyard to get to shared bathroom, squat toilet only, beds are reasonable
30 rmb/dorm

Tibetan Restaurant- good, but expensive

Noah Cafe- good for steak

miscellaneous: street food in the main plaza is good and cheap; try the baba breads and skewered meat and veggies

More in the Blog:
Shangri-La

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Tiger Leaping Gorge Tips

Naxi Guest House- good lunch, cheap, 5 rmb/dish.

Tea Horse Guest House- nice view

Halfway House- good food, great view, clean room and shared bath for 20 rmb/dorm

More in the Blog:
Tiger Leaping Gorge

Friday, December 19, 2008

Lijiang Tips

This town is very picturesque (UNESCO) but there isn't much to do there.

Mama naxi guest house- there are 3 houses, very popular place to stay. family style dinner- delicious for 10 rmb per person.
double room shared bath 40 rmb. from here it is easy to begin Tiger Leaping Gorge. bus to Qiatou (beginning of trek) 20 rmb/person. btw, one day is plenty to see Lijiang's old town.

More in the Blog:
Lijiang

Monday, December 15, 2008

Emei Shan Tips

The Mountain- 3 methods of going up the mountain:
1-Pilgrim style=walking
2-Chinese tourist style=taking the bus to the top for an afternoon
3-Compromise, some of the way with a bus, some of the way walking

*if you want to hike, we recommend going up and down in 3 days.

Bus to midway stop 40 rmb, bus to top 70 rmb, bus from top coming down 30 rmb. chairlift to peak from top 50 rmb.

Accomodation in hotel on top is 400 rmb. On the way up the mountain there is cheaper accommodation for about 50 rmb a bed in selected temples; these are very very basic.

**please be aware the this is not a dirt path, but STEPS, all the way up

In Town:
Teddy Bear Hostel- rooms stuffy, not very clean, food not good. (but, it is right at the entrance to the park...)
25 rmb/dorm

"Vegetarian Restaurant"- lit up by neon lights you cross a small bridge over water to get here, just across and up a little from teddy bear. try the sichuan eggplant and anything else. very nice atmosphere.not a vegetarian restaurant but still called so...

More in the Blog:
Emei Shan

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Chengdu Tips

Panda Research Center- not to be missed!!! go early in the morning (before 8), later pandas will be asleep. taxi to Sim's 30 rmb each way.

Sim's cozy garden hostel-very nice hostel, friendly, clean, helpful travel desk
location on the first ring road is not great for the downtown, but is close to the Panda research center. the restaurant is very good and sitting areas are nice.highly recommended. dorms are 10 beds with bathroom and shower in the room 30 rmb/dorm
www.gogosc.com

More in the Blog:
Chengdu 1
Chengdu 2

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Xian Tips

Terracotta soldiers- no tour necessary, from south gate take bus 603 to the train station. from there bus 306, a green tourist bus, takes you there all the way. the video in the tourist information center (near the ticket stand) is quite informative for some background info. before you enter. tip- don't research the place beforehand, it will be a lot more impressive if you haven't already seen pictures of the place

Big Goose Pagoda- the park around it is very nice. the pagoda was closed for construction when we were there, making the entrance not very worthwhile, so ask before you enter. To get there take bus 609 from south gate.

Xiangzimen youth hostel- beds ok, showers ok, cleanliness was so-so, western toilet, but not clean. 40 rmb/dorm. can be booked on hostelworld.com
**note that we looked at several other hostels and they were all worse than this one, so even though we can't really recommend it, it might be your best bet...

More in the Blog:
Xian 1
Xian 2

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Pingyao Tips

In Pingyao the main attraction is that you are in a walled city and there are many traditional, preserved buildings (the city used to be a banking center). Entrance ticket is for 2 days and includes many buildings inside the old city. 120 rmb/60 student

Zhengjia hostelclean, new (less than 1 yr), ok shower, western toilet, very friendly. highly recommended.they also have a hotel that looked nice.
can be booked online pingyaohostel.com 25 rmb/dorm

More in the Blog:
Pingyao 1
Pingyao 2

Monday, December 1, 2008

Datong Tips

CITS Tour-CITS has a mini office right at the train station. getting to the yungang caves/hanging monastery requires a driver, so the tour provides just that. 100 rmb, no need to book ahead. the night train from beijing will arrive around 7am and joining that day's tour is no problem. the attractions can be done as a day tour with two night trains.

More in the Blog:
Datong

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Beijing Tips

Airport- if you want to change money at the airport there are two change counters, one by the baggage claim before customs and one in the arrivals hall. the one by the baggage claim is better and charges less commission.
General- a good map of the city is highly recommended, the streets are large and distances are far walking. the metro is very good- before you exit look at the signs detailing which exit (a/b/c/d) is closest to where you want to go.
Miscellaneous- if you use a MAC and miss it you can go to the Novotel Hotel and use their free mac in the lobby.

Wangfujing Youth hostel- central location, new hostel, very clean, great showers, western toilets. highly recommended.
can be booked on hostelworld.com
50 rmb/dorm

More in the Blog:
Beijing 1
Beijing 2

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

China- Read Me First

* If you are a student, were, will be, can be...get yourself an international student card! almost all entrances are 50% of the price (ask for a "xuesheng" ticket).
* Almost nothing in China is labeled in English, not even at main tourist sites. If you want to know what you are looking at you should probably read about it beforehand or get yourself a guide.
* If you want a guide, generally it is better to get yourself one after you enter the site and not outside the gates where prices are inflated.
* Acquaint yourself with the characters for the directions (north, east, south, west). They are often found on street signs but only in Chinese. Ditto for the characters of male and female, so you know which toilet to go to.
* Learn the numbers, and more importantly the hand signals for the numbers; this is a must for bargaining and you must bargain.
* Get someone at your hotel to write for you in Chinese characters where you want to go. Then it will be easy to show this to taxis and bus drivers, especially when you move southward and the dialects are hard to understand.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Pictures Goa the second time/Istanbul

Goa the second time/ the final adventure

the much anticipated return to goa began early at 5:30 am. we rolled to the train station in our last rickshaw ride. after 8 hours or so we were back in Goa where we headed back to our bungalow in Varca. The next couple days we enjoyed a few more scooter rides along with delicious meals, drinks, and conversation. our venture southwards towards Palolem began early with a short ferry ride and then a drive along the coastal road stopping at the beaches on the way. One stop was Agonda beach, quiet, empty and nice waves. Then we reached Palolem with its dense palms along the beach, pubs, restaurants, and bus-loads of Israelis. We walked the length of the beach and then enjoyed some delicious iced cappuccinos on fake leather sofas overlooking the sea. Our next stop was just a few minutes south to quiet Patnem beach. A world away from Palolem although they are adjacent coves. After a dip we hopped back on the scooter and took the bumpy highway all the way back to Varca. The next couple days were spent relaxing and in good conversation with Archie and Jane along with several delicious meals in between.

We left Goa on a (late) internal flight to Mumbai, at which point we had to get to the train station downtown where we had left our luggage. Unfortunately there was rioting in the streets, so we took a free shuttle to the nearest train station and took a train downtown. A quick retrieval later we got into a cab which sped back to the airport in record time (in order to avoid rocks being thrown at cabs)...there we had a wait until 4 am to board our flight to Istanbul. A sleep later we arrived in Turkey, and with a long layover, we headed out into the city. A lunch, Sultanahmet, Aya Sofia, baklava, turkish coffee and subway ride later, we were back in the airport for our flight home!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Pictures Hampi

Hampi

With one more destination we wanted to see, we reluctantly left Goa to go eastward to Hampi...as luck would have it, we would pull one last 3am-er. We left Varca by walking 2 kilometers, hitching a ride with a hotel bus and finally getting a quick local bus to Margao. Let's start by clarifying that local= overcrowded with seats too small for the western behind. From there it was a local bus to Hubli. We bumped through the countryside and 8 hours later ( at 6pm) we made it to Hubli, tired but motivated to get to our destination. It took quite a while for us to get a straight answer, but eventually we were directed to the train station where we waited for a local train leaving at 11pm...within 4 hours we were in Hospet and a rickshaw ride later we made it to Hampi. Phew!
Hampi is situated on a river about 15 meters wide, which all but about 2 meters of it can be crossed by foot i.e. you gotta take a boat. the boat operator is maybe 12 years old and orders you to pay him the 10 rupees(plus an extra 5 for a bag). once on the other side "Hampi Island" you are welcomed with 15 guesthouses/restaurants as well as the impressive boulders surrounding the area. So the next morning we cross over to hampi island, only to be stranded there for quite a while after checking into a guest house because the kid was on lunch break...When we finally made it back we explored Hampi's religious center and the Virupaksha temple. Hampi was capital of the Vijayanagar Hindu civiization in the 13th to 16th centuries and the town is full of ruins roughly divided into a religious area and the royal center. The town today occupies the main bazaar area. We returned to Hampi Island for the night and the next day set out exploing the royal center.
The ruins are incredibly spread out and with the scorching heat we decided to rent a scooter in order to see them, only to get a bike with no petrol. So after an 11 km detour to Hospet to get petrol we finally got to see the sites. Hampi is also known for its incredible boulders and that night on the Island we met a friend that had come to town to go bouldering.
Our last day we decided to go for a walk. Hampi's ruins and boulders are set amongst banana fields and palm trees making for quite a beautiful, if hot, walk. We set off to Anegundi to see more ruins supposedly and realized it was all a farse...a little temple here and there and we were ready to bolt back to Varca...

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Pictures Goa the first time

Pictures Udaipur/Mumbai

Pictures Jaipur/Pushkar

Read the post HERE
at Jantar Mantar observatory, Jaipur





at the Palace, Jaipur



view from Hawa Mahal, Jaipur



Jaipur traffic

Pushkar monkey

Muesli breakfast at Little Italy

Pushkar camel


Pushkar from above


with the no-show train in Ajmer

Monday, October 20, 2008

Goa the first time

Our beach vacation had begun the evening we arrived in Margao, Goa's main train station, and were taken to our guest house on Colva beach. Next morning we awoke to find that the beach was full of fisherman, fishing nets, and fish, so we began walking down the beach looking for a more suitable place to get settled and hoping for destiny to intervene. As the midday sun was scorching we turned off towards the main road looking for a rickshaw to take us back to Colva. There at the edge of Benaulim, Michael saw a western couple next to a jeep heading in our same direction. Archie and Jane manage some vacation homes and just a few hours later (following Michael's first steak on the trip) we would find ourselves in a poolside bungalow on Varca beach living luxuriously. The following day our scooter arrived and we promptly began exploring our immediate surroundings, driving south to Cavelossim and Mobor. There we had a delicious seafood lunch and saw some of Goa's more refined resorts. That evening we had some poolside appetizers and a veritable feast delivered to our AC'd home from Toncia, the restaurant 100 meters down the road: shrimp, calamari, steak, salad, and fries galore (only to be followed by a chocolate bomb a la Briel). Not ones to miss churches when they are around, the next day we took the scooter on the "highway" to Panjim, Goa's capital where Portuguese sailors would land. Then we continued to Old Goa to see Goa's important cathedrals and in particular St. Francis Xavier, who brought Christianity to the region and whose body has been miraculously kept intact. We had a real relaxing day at the beach so that the following day we could go on yet another day-trip to the Tropical Spice Farm. The ride east took us through lush jungle. There we got a tour of the various spice plants and their medicinal uses. This was a great adult field trip and the tour culminated with a delicious local buffet.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Mumbai

the trek from Udaipur to Mumbai was one of our longest. 18 hours on the train could have been a lot worse but we both slept a good deal and arrived in Bombay in fairly good shape. After arriving we took the local train to southern Mumbai- Colaba, where most hotels are and a good place to begin exploring the massive city. First goal was to eat. We are still not sure what exactly it was but we believe the restarant attempted to drug us because after trying a few spoonfuls of our tasty thali we started feeling really "spacy". we bolted out of there and instead grabbed a 6 inch from the Subway next door. It's good the record franchises around the world paid off for us. By the time we checked the few decent budget hotels in the area we had to settle in to our mot overpriced accomodation to date. we only had 2 nights so whatever. we started the morning as we strolled north from Colaba, passed by the Jewish Synagogue and continued walking along the Oval Maiden where swarms of people were playing crcket, besides the University of Mumbai and the british colonial inspired buildings that comprise it. We arrived at the High Court, and were allowed to wander among the courtrooms and offices. It was a weekend but there were still some patrons here and there. We shared a table with some local Mumbayans at a nice restaurant across the street from the Railway Station which is a grandiose building and is itself a main attraction. We were tipped to go to Crawford Market which is pure mayhem. A crowded, loud, not really a market, area of commerce chased us away. Back in Colaba we visited India Gate along the water where the boardwalk was once agin swarming with people and then had a small dinner. We then packed our bags once more, as we were headed for the beach!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Jaipur/Pushkar/Udaipur

The next week of our trip was marked by a desert landscape, festivals, and several superlatives. Unable to book a Shatabdi (the king of all trains) we settled for a regular train that brought us to Jaipur in Rajasthan. The hotel we had called sent us a commission seeking rickshaw to wait for us at the station and bring us to the hotel. Immediately we could tell that we had entered an era of old with ornate decorations hinting at the desert beauty to come.
Jantar Mantar observatory
Next morning we went to explore the "pink city". First we visited the Jantar Mantar, an obervatory built to calculate various astronomical and astrological measures. The structures were baffling to us but quite beautiful nonetheless. From there we crossed the street and entered the Palace. The audio guide took us on a nice tour of mostly textiles and arms. By this time of the afternoon we were famished and following a lunch at a gritty hole in the wall we were walking down the street when we saw a large crowd of people. An indication that something good was around we walked over and had the best lassi in all of India. We had several thereafter, consecutively. Then we walked into the Hawa Mahal, a tower-like structure where the ladies of the court could look down at the commoners in the city below. A great view later we headed back towards the hotel. The next day all-forted-out we decided to forego another day trip for some bazaar exploration. It was great to walk around in a city with so much character and interesting vendors. We topped off the day with some shopping and some more lassi's.
M with badam lassi
The next morning we took a bus southwest to Ajmer and from there a local bus to Pushkar, a Hindu holy city. The next couple of days we spent walking around the small town and preparing for Rosh Hashannah buying new clothes, getting haircuts, etc. For most of our meals we could be found at a place called Little Italy which served the best muesli in India, a decent pizza, and generous deserts. The eve of Rosh Hashannah we spent at Chabad House with 400 other Israelis. It was an interesting and somewhat strange experience.

the walk up to Savriti Temple, Pushkar
Early the next morning we climbed up to Savriti Temple (Brahma's first wife) to see a great view of Pushkar from above and the surrounding desert. We descended to see the temple dedicated to Brahma himself, one of the only Brahma temples in the world. Then we heard the shofar at Chabad and caught our bus heading back to Ajmer. In the train station at Ajmer we discovered after a delay that our train was being canceled. They gave us our money back and said good luck. After dinner we jumped on a night bus to Udaipur which stopped at every bus station on the way until dumping us at our destination at 3am. Somehow a kind rickshaw driver found us and dropped us at our hotel for a fair price.

Jagdish Temple, Udaipur
The next day we visited the Jagdish Temple in the center of the Udaipur old city. The temple was white and intricately carved and our favorite on this trip. Just down the road from the temple is the massive City Palace and museum. We walked around the complex for several hours learning about the history and appreciating the art and artifacts displayed in the rooms. Udaipur sits on the beautiful man made lake Piccola. We crossed the bridge onto the other side to visit a rooftop cafe for lunch and get nice views of the palace on the lake.  We went back to our side in time to see people dancing in the courtyards in celebration of the 9 day Navriti festival. 

Udaipur alley
The following day we wandered out of the tourist area and into the back roads and alleyways of Udaipur. We enjoyed the relatively peaceful nature of the city and the intricate wall paintings adorning many houses. Apparently it was Ghandi's birthday and many had the day off. For lunch we had a Rajasthani all you can eat Thali. Dirty men come around and refill your tin cups with potato, lentils, spinach, etc until you are stuffed. That evening we went to see a cultural show at the Bagre Ki Haveli, a traditional style mansion. The show included singing, dancing, puppet show, and the impressive 10-pot head balancing act. We rushed to our train en route to Mumbai (Bombay)...as the Muslims were coming out to celebrate the ending of Ramadan.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Pictures Manali/Vashisht/Chandigarh

Read the post HERE

hiding from the rain in Vashisht

breakfast at Maa Sharada




celebrating first snow on the roof

the waterfall in Vashisht

rock garden in Chandigarh


Manali/Chandigarh

So you know how when you get on a local bus at home, it takes 3 times as long as just driving there in a car because the bus keeps having to break to pick people up and drop them off (think line 4 in jerusalem)? Well, we got on a bus from Mcleod Ganj to Manali, in the mountains, in India, where the street only fits a lane and a half, traffic includes bikes, motorcycles, rickshaws, cars and cows and I'm not sure they've heard of driving school. And it was a local bus. It was a 12 hour journey of screeching brakes, sharp turns and general stench. But we made it to Manali. The views were nice too.
hiding from the rain with cows
We only were in Manali for about 15 minutes until we ventured up the hills to a small village called Vashisht. It was getting dark so we settled for a cheapie guesthouse. Morning came, trying to rain so we rustled around the alleys of Vashisht until we stumbled across Amer. Not my friend Amer but the guesthouse. It was a new and nice room complete with a balcony and a view, and the hardwood floors were a luxury. Vashisht is a little one street town with a Hindu temple at the top of the road. There are some hot springs inside the temple and around which locals and tourists bathe and wash clothes in. There is a town elephant also, that makes random appearances with his owner, a baba.  Once we got settled in it started to rain, and didn't stop for the next 3 days.  The next couple days we kept busy with chai, cards, chai, tasty food, and hot chocolate.
in Old Manali
 Then depsite the rain, we walked down to the Manali's (Old and New) for some exploration. New Manali, the transport hub of the area is full of hotels and restaurants found in the valley close to the apple orchards. Old Manali, just up the hill from New Manali is where the "lalies" hang out. it was Satruday and we found a restaurant that serves chunt (chamin) on the sabbath. well, we ordered it and it wasn't too bad. We walked around Manali and up to the Manu Temple while digesting the chunt.  On the way down we stumbled upon a "german bakery". German bakeries are everywehere but this one had a cheesecake that had just come out of the oven and we were adventurous. As we were heading back the rain stopped, some sunlight broke through the clouds and we finally were able to catch the view of the newly snowcapped mountains. It was beautiful. We rushed up towards our guesthouse to get a front row seat on our balcony in time for the sunset.  it turns out that the torrential rains in the area caused a road closure on the highway south of Manali. We were stranded. Luckily, the roads opened the next morning and we bought a bus ticket out of town for the following evening. We spent our last day enjoying the views and took a short walk to a waterfall half an hour away. Even the lalies make it to the waterfall.
newly snow-capped mountains
We took our first deluxe AC bus to get from Manali to Chandigarh. It only runs at night, is full of middle-class Indian tourists and lots of luggage. The seats are almost as comfortable as Egged. With snacks and blankets in hand we boarded the 10 hour bus. Surprisingly it wasn't that bad and we even dozed off a bit from time to time. At 5 AM the bus stops in Chandigarh. Drowsy and disoriented we disembark and go to leave our bags at the left luggage so that we can explore the city. It goes well; then we realize we are not at the city bus stop but at a stop on the highway. We retrieve our luggage, take a nice empty local bus to the city bus stand and re-deposit our bags at the left luggage ready to start the day. After successfully finding breakfast (it's not easy to find anything open at 8 AM in India), we walk to a hotel a few blocks away (yes blocks, Chandigarh has blocks!). And many different excuses later we come to the conclusion that the hop-on-hop-off tourist bus, that we were planning on taking for the day, is definitely not going.
rock garden, Chandigarh
So we take a rickshaw up to the rock garden. It is a rock garden created by Nek Chand, that is a maze of structures and characters, very a la Alice in Wonderland. After our stroll we went to the see the LP recommended High Court. Apparently there was fascinating architecture. We only saw a concrete building and an almost interesting museum on the history of India's judicial system. From there is was off to Sukhana Lake, a very nice artificial lake with a boardwalk along it. Perfect for our chill afternoon.
at the lake
 Chandigarh was India's first planned city, and we were super-impressed by the wide grid like streets and the general order of the place. Even the policemen seemed to have a handle on the city (being helpful when we asked, shooing away beggars and vendors from the bus station, and directing traffic). This is a miracle in India. We ended our day with an afternoon coffee at another hotel near the bus station, after which we retrieved our luggage and headed off to the train station. That evening we took yet another Shatabdi Express. The appetizer juice and biscuit, first course soup, main course thali, and ice cream dessert don't leave you with even a second to think before you arrive at your destination. So we were back in Delhi, and it would be just a day and a half of errands and shopping before we continued on our journey south.

d&m

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Trivia #3

What do Himachal Pradesh and Kibbutz Yiftah have in common?

Please respond by posting a comment. As always, the correct answer will be rewarded. d&m

Friday, September 19, 2008

Pictures McLeod Ganj/Dharamkot/Bhagsu

Read the post HERE
Unity Pizza, Bhagsu


view from Dharamkot

chai


at Snow White guest house

on the way to Triund



sabich at Milky Way cafe

Dharamsala (McLeod Ganj, Dharamkot)

So a 4 hour train and 4 hour bus ride later, we arrive in Dharamsala. It is too late to go up to McLeod Ganj, where the exiled Tibetan community resides, so we crash for the night in a horrible guest house and go up the next morning. After a delicious breakfast of hash browns, sauteed veggies, eggs and toast; we set about to look for a place to stay. Michael walking accidentally down the wrong road, and after asking a shopowner was lucky enough to be tipped that if we keep heading up, we will arrive in the quiet village of Dharamkot. Sounding like it's just what we're looking for, we climb up and over to the other side of the hill with our packs and stumble upon one of the nicest guest houses we have stayed at: huge windows all around overlooking the village and a balcony of our own.

Dharamsala
Happy to be in the mountains again, we set about exploring, walking across to the neighboring village of Upper Bhagsu and working our way down to Bhagsu Nag- where we found out where all the Israelis have been hanging out. From there is was a walk around to the other side of the hill and we were back in McLeod Ganj. This is the walk that would frame the remaining days of our week, as we embarked on a cooking course and a massage course.

cooking class, working on the palak
The following morning, I went down to a yoga class in Bhagsu where the teacher proceeded to fold me like "cloth". Then it was time for cooking class with Rita. First day, we learned to make a Thali (the Indian dal bhat that consists of lentils, curry, rice and chapati). In the next couple of days we also learned how to make Malai Kofta (potato cheese kube-like balls in sauce), Alu Paratha (potato stuffed flat bread), Samosas, and Palak Paneer (Spinach and Cheese). Yummy! We ended the day back in Dharamkot where Michael took an Ayurvedic massage course. Needless to say I was not complaining about having to be the model for the next 5 days!

temple in Mcleod
In between cooking in Bhagsu and massaging in Dharamkot we had some time in McLeod Ganj, where we discovered the Tibet government bakery and a Momo shop making delicious chai, perfect for our afternoons. We got to see the main temple area, the Dalai Lama residence, and the Tibet museum- telling the story of the Tibetan exile, which was quite profound. Another day, we got a tour of a hand-made paper factory run by the Tibet welfare office, by a young Austrian volunteer. It was really interesting to get some insight about how the exile government is run.


So today was a surprise. after a relaxing morning we walked down to milkey way cafe for brunch. they make delicious sabich pitas,shakshuka, hummus, etc. After our meal as I walked along the path down towards the massage school I see Dru and Amy, a buddy of mine from home and his sister. we knew we were both in the area, but hadn't connected by email in a few days. we spent the afternoon all together, chatting and a short walk around Dharamkot. We planned hike for the next day up the mountain to Triund for a view of the other side. With a clear and sunny morning we started off up the mountain. A pleasurable hike with beautiful views above dharamkot and bhagsu we kept climbing. After just over 2:30 we were at the top. Just as we were approaching the clouds had begun to roll in and our view of "the other side" was covered in thick clouds. We enjoyed a chai before heading downhill. In  the last couple days it had begun raining quite early in the day so we made our brisk return. Daphna and I had a delicious sabij sandwich each and then enjoyed a well deserved rest.

hike to Triund
The next morning the four of us met for breakfast. With full bellies we headed down to the Tibetan complex housing a cultural museum, a medical institute, the supreme justice, a library, and other Tibetan government related buildings. Some interesting things we saw included hundreds of samples of Tibetan herbs and minerals used in Tibetan medicine, ancient buddha statues and textile arrangement, among others.


After building up an appetite at the complex it was time for lunch. We walked the 2.5 km to Bhagsu, not a big deal, for a special pizza. Best pizza on our trip so far. Then it was a good-bye to Dru and Amy as it was our 8th and final night in Dharamkot. The next morning we would be off to Manali-Vashisht area on an early bus...