A Few Pit Stops in North India

After spending roughly a week in Delhi and Rishikesh, the drifting began to speed up considerably.  This had to do with body clock adaptation, i.e., the jet lag was gone.

I couldn’t give myself a reason to stay longer than I did in the four places that I visited.  However, they all boasted unique beauty and exoticism.

Chandigarth
This city looks like the United States.”

Thank you.”

An extensive grid permeates the sprawling city with wide and perfectly paved, tree-lined streets.  It’s not a pedestrian city.  Cows are banished. Their is a great local bus network.  Otherwise, like in all of India, the ubiquity of rickshaw drivers won’t leave you standing on the side of the road for long.

As I’ve mentioned, the Chandigarth Fantasy Rock Garden is worth seeing.

I was able to find an Americanized 24-hour restaurant where I could sit online with my USB data modem while sipping tea and listening to blaring Indian pop. Families and friends packed the place eating north Indian, south Indian, Chinese, Italian and American fare.

Chandigarth is more expensive than most Indian cities.  Surprisingly, rooms in Delhi’s Pahar Ganj zone are considerably more reasonable.

I spent just over 24 hours in this city that embraces the west.

Shimla
Sitting at 2,205 metres or 7,234 feet, Shimla is georgeous.  It’s green, wet and you’re forced to exercise as walking uphill is mandatory.

June attracts many subcontinental tourists as it’s vacation season for the middle class and above. People strolled, ate, laughed and enjoyed friends and family time together.  It’s also the perfect escape from most of India as the temps are pleasant in the summer.

Most sported umbrellas as it rains on and off in Shimla this time of year.  As soon as it starts raining, you’re bound to come across a shop or street vendor with umbrellas.

I enjoyed walking up and down the narrow paths beside and beyond the ‘mall’ area. There, food and accommodation cost half the price.  To stray from the mall affords you the opportunity to admire and see wild monkeys –top pic-.  The views from there are often more quaint too.

The mall in Shimla is an outdoor area lined with shops and restaurants.  It stretches for a few kilometers.

Shimla would have been a good place to trek from but with heavy downpours virtually imminent at any given moment, I deemed it impossible.  At one point I saw a rare blue sky appear.  10 minutes later there were dark, dense clouds signaling heavy rain.

I spent two days and two nights in Shimla.

Dharamsala(McLeod Ganj)
McLeod Ganj sits at 2,000 meters or 6,562 feet.  Like Shimla, the temps are fantastic. The skies are whimsical and monkeys roam on wires, roofs and outside hotel room doors.

The dental visit was a highlight.

Another perk was the ease of conversing with Tibetans, giving me their first-hand interpretations.  I bought street momos from a pair of Tibetan women who told me how sad they are for their country, and how they hardly speak Hindi.  I spoke to Tibetan monks who warned me of multiple scams that we foreigners in India can fall prey to.

McLeod Ganj is a huge yoga center.  Like in Rishikesh, I didn’t get geared up to do yoga.

Dharamsala is home to the Dali Lama.  He was speaking the morning that I arrived.  Due to my fatigue after traveling overnight by deluxe bus, I chose to nap instead of attend.  If I dwelled on hindsight, I’d regret not attending.  Regardless, I’m indifferent as to whether I see a famous person or not.

I had no idea that the McLeod Ganj was so touristy.  The whole set up seemed to be  geared towards it.  Some westerners stay for weeks, even months.

The cosmopolitan mix provokes a nice vibe.  Dharamsala is a Tibetan refugee town.  There are people from all over India, relocating here in the hopes of making a living off of tourism.  There are tourists from all over the subcontinent and the world.

When Ravi of Rajistan asked if I wanted my shoes cleaned, I quickly accepted.  He ended up rethreading my shoes, insisting that they’d be waterproof and would last much longer.  He did an amazing job.   He explained that the trade had been in his family for generations.  He also told me that he lives in a tent.

 I stayed in McLeod Ganj for three days and three nights.

Amritsar
Amristar has a population of over a million people.  It’s your functional yet chaotic and typical, mobbed Indian city.

Amritsar is also home to the spectacular Golden Temple.  The grounds are vast.  People come from all over the land to admire and pray on stellar, sacred grounds.  I enjoyed people watching and listening to music that played over what had to be thousands of speakers.  There was a live band generating the energetic and spiritual tunes.

I didn’t take in the golden temple for as long as I would have liked because I erroneously felt that I had to go to Attari on the Pakistani border to see the changing of the guards ceremony that’s held every day before sunset.  It’s a ridiculously huge tourist attraction.  It was hardly worth the 30km auto (motorized rickshaw) trek out there from Amritsar.

The place was so mobbed that you couldn’t see a thing. Sweaty men were harmlessly pushing and shoving to get forward.  I couldn’t see anything.  I deemed: Don’t always feel like you have to see these tourist attractions just because people and guidebooks recommend them.  Then again, I was there last Saturday when many Indian people were still on vacation.   Maybe it was crowded because it was vacation time.  Maybe it was packed because it was a weekend.  Or maybe there were so many people because India’s population’s huge.

I spent about 22 hours in Amritsar.  My original goal was to spend 48.  However, I had three options, take a bus whenever, get a train out on Wednesday or get a train out on Sunday.  I opted for a train on Sunday.

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Here are a few more pics from the above pit stops. 

 

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2 responses to this post.

  1. KIRSTY: Thanks! I went back to the Golden Temple the next morning and couldn’t believe how packed it was, but I was able to relax and take it all in after a good night sleep. I’d wholeheartedly recommend that attraction to anyone. For Amritsar, one amazing place and one mediocre at best. The highlight of Attari for me was the pic: Pakistani Border 1km 🙂

    Reply

  2. Posted by grownupgapyarinindia on July 12, 2011 at 06:11

    Hahaha I couldn’t agree more about the India-Pakistan border pantomime. 3 hours of our lives we’ll never get back! Fun to meet you there though and best of luck on the rest of your adventures 🙂 Kirsty

    Reply

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