Jun 14, 2018
A First Timer in Dharamshala
Location: Dharamshala (city), Himachal Pradesh (state), India
Having done my mini-life in Rishikesh, it was time to move on again. Manali? Ladak? Shimla? They were the likely destinations during the monsoon season for cooler and dry climate. However, since I only had 30 days left in my visa for another 30-day mini-life, I chose Dharamshala - the residence of his Holiness, the Dalai Lama and seat of the Tibetan government-in-exile.
Rishikesh to Dharamshala
The least painful way (there is no pain-free way) to reach Dharamshala was to take the afternoon bus from Gurdwara (near the Indian Oil petrol station, about 3kms from Laxman Jhula towards the main town of Rishikesh, but before crossing the bridge). Tickets can be purchased from any travel agency around Rishikesh (Inr 1100, 14.5 hours, non a/c). It left 4:30pm (not 4pm as they all say) and arrived McLeod Ganj at 7am. The bus was slow and stopped a long time in Dehradun. It was a hot and bumpy ride as there was no a/c and the fans were not working. At McLeod Ganj, with travelers I met in the bus, we shared a cab ride (Inr 200) to Upper Bagsu where we looked for lodging.
Another way to get to Dharamshala is to go to either Haridwar or Dehradun and take the bus to Dharamshala and get off at Lower Dharamshala. You'll have to take another ride to McLeod Ganj. There are many transfers and subsequent waiting for this alternative, but I was told you could get an a/c bus.
Dharamshala is cold and it rains in the afternoon - a sharp departure from the heat and dryness of Rishikesh.
Normally, I would have booked 2 days in advance to a new destination - just to settle down and buy time to find better or free accommodation. But in Agoda, the prices were in the $7/night range. The cheapest, $5/night, was too far from the center. I took my chance hoping I could find cheap lodging upon arrival.
Still within the heart of Upper Bagsu, I found a room for Inr 300. It was cheap, but the energy was dead. Besides, I would run out of money before my 30 days end if I continue paying that rate. I talked to several hotels for a web-deal but nothing.
Going further up in Upper Bagsu, walking up the steep narrow trail, I found another place for Inr 200/night ($3.00) or 300/night ($4.50) if shared. I offered the 'shared' option to a Canadian traveler I met earlier, but she wanted her own room. Too bad. I relished the thought of paying only Inr 150/night. Anyway, Inr 200 buys me time to make money and sustain my stay. My new digs was awesome - great view of the valley below, colder air, no street noise, soothing energy, but no internet. I have to go to the nearby cafes for wifi. I advanced one week payment. This gives me peace of mind knowing I won't have to worry about a roof over my head for a week. I can relax and explore the area.
There are 2 suitable places to stay in Dharamshala where it's not too crowded or noisy - Upper Dharamkot and Upper Bhagsu (where I stayed 2 nights). Many cozy cafes and restaurants serving Indian, Israeli and Continental offerings. It's not as crowded as main Bhagsu, but it is still a party place for the Israelis who mostly dominate the area. Black tea is only Inr 20 - a cheap way to chillout and check the internet. Often, I end up talking to other travelers. Many of them come for yoga and meditation - very much like Rishikesh (but without the heat). The atmosphere is chill.
In the upper range of Upper Dharamkot, a 5-min walk from my new digs, is a cluster of hippie cafes - Friendly Corner Cafe, Salvation Cafe, Heena Cafe, etc. This area is already removed from the daily grind of Dharamkot or Bagsu. The elevation is much higher, the temperature much cooler and the people seem to be filtered from the rest of Dharamshala. The community here is more chill...modern-day hippies. People are friendly and it's cool to talk to everyone. The topic of conversation is centered on yoga, meditation and spiritual pursuit. While I was at Friendly Cafe, I met 3 other people who just met each other there, and we were all Vipassana meditators! At Salvation Cafe, I was recognized by someone I met in Ubud, Bali two years ago! As a lone traveler, I take refuge in any of those cafes for interaction and wifi.
For now, I'm settled in a place I can stay for a while - this gives me peace of mind for the moment. Optimism is high and the energy feels good. Money* is low, but I'm not worried. My shoes cracked* open, but I'm still cool (although I can't do any trekking). I just feel good about Dharamshala. Let's see how the rest of my 3 weeks unravel.
YOGA by Gigit | Learn English | Travel like a Nomad | Donation Bank
* I talk about low funds and equipment falling apart, as part of my experience...part of my process. It's not a plea for help. I have the full assurance of my benevolent universe that it's looking after me despite toying with me from time to time. But thanks to caring friends for their concern.
Reader Comments:Judith Eugenio
Bazi & Feng Shui Consultancy
(June 18, 2018) You are truly very inspiring Gigit. I miss you my friend. Love you ❤❤❤
(June 18, 2018) Awwww I love this place..check out the himalayan iyengar yoga centre 🙂
(June 18, 2018) take care Git
Next stop: Matters of the Heart
Dharamshala (city), India
- Pema Thang Guest House & Restaurant - central McLeod Ganj location, quiet area, Kangra Valley view, near Tsuklakhang (main temple) and market
Dharamshala, HP 176057 INDIA
Travel Tips for Dharamshala
- the Dalai Lama's scheduled public teachings in Dharamshala are as follows: September 4-7, 2018 | October 3 - 6, 2018 | February 19, 2019. To register, visit this page: https://www.dalailama.com/office/contact
- in June, the average temperature high is 31° and average low is 21°. It rains usually in the afternoon/evening beginning mid-June
- July and August see the most rainfall, up to 22 inches
- Dharamshala International Film Festival (DIFF) happens 30 October to 2 November in McLeod Ganj
- at the Tibetan Museum in McLeod Ganj, there is a daily 11am and 3pm movie screening of Tibet-related issues at INR 10
- trekking is one of the highlights in Dharamshala - to Dharamkot, Bhagsu, cutting through Dhauladhar to the upper Ravi Valley and Chamba district, or the 8km trek to Triund
- Wednesday is vegetarian day - other days, meat dishes are served by cafes and restaurants
- Bhagsu and Dharamkot are a quiet alternative to McLeod Ganj. They are also cheaper in accommodation when the Dalai Lama is in town and McLeod Ganj hostels are fully booked (with inflated prices)
- If you wish to stay in McLeod Ganj but want quiet, stay along Jogiwara Road where balconies will offer scenic views
- short power outages frequently happen during the day
- for quiet stays and scenic views, stay in Upper Dharamkot or Upper Bhagsu. The "upper" you go, the cheaper the accommodation prices go.
- in Upper Dharamkot is a cluster of cafes and lodging (Salvation Cafe area)where the community is chill
How to get to Dharamshala from Rishikesh by bus
- Bus - Rishikesh to Dharamshala is 449 kms. The usual route is to go to Haridwar and take the State transport buses to Lower Dharamshala, but it's less hassle to get a bus from Rishikesh that go all the way up to McLeod Ganj - a little more money (INR 1150) but worth it specially if you a carry bulky pack. You will leave Rishikesh 4pm and arrive in Dharamshala the following day (you save one night lodging) at 7am.
How to get to New Delhi Airport from McLeod Ganj, Dharamshala by bus
- Bus From McLeod Ganj bus station, take a semi-sleeper a/c overnight bus, INR 1000, 11.5 hours (7pm to 6:30am) straight to Kashmiri Gate Train Station in New Delhi.
- walk to Kashmiri Gate (no need to ride a tuktuk)
- take the Yellow Line towards Huda City but get off at New Delhi Station (INR 16)
- From New Delhi Station, take the Airport Metro Train (INR 60) and get off at the airport
Travel Tips for India
- e-VISA - visa on arrival is no longer done. Tourists should apply online for an e-VISA. Tourist e-VISA for 60 days = US$51.25 (including surcharges, non-refundable). NOTE: e-VISA is only honored in 25 designated airports and 5 designated seaports (Cochin, Goa, Mangalore,Mumbai,Chennai). You CANNOT do a land crossing using an e-VISA.
- US$1 = Indian Rupee (INR) 67.18
- nearly every food served is spicy...there is no escaping it
- other travel destinations in India
- always good to have an Indian SIM. It's handy to get wifi in some cafes
General Travel Tips
- arrive early - in case there is a snag (visa snag, documentation snag, transport ticket snag, etc.), you will have ample time to troubleshoot the problem if you arrive early (to the airport, to the bus terminal, etc.)
- put detailed itinerary on the Calendar apps of your smart-phone according to timelines - this is where you do all your thinking and planning. Once written down, you don't have to think anymore while you are on the journey...you just follow the steps. This frees your mind for something else that might happen while you are already en route
- avoiding scams - as a general rule, I ignore the touts or anyone I don't know who call out to me. The calling comes in many forms - "Hi! Where are you from?", "Excuse me! Excuse me!", "Where are you going?". I don't look them in the eye and I remain non-verbal with them. If you reply to them, you just gave them an 'in' to hound you. In order not to look rude, I smile and wave the 'not interested' hand to them, without looking at them.
- power bank - hand-carry your power bank. Do not check it in. You can be called in when you are already inside the plane to go all the way to the loading dock so you can personally remove the power bank...and chances are, you'll have to surrender it to them. And you might delay the plane departure!
India Blogs by TheLoneRider
- 16 Days in McLeod Ganj, Dharamshala: Goodbye India June 23-July 8, 2018
- Peoplescape of Dharamshala, India June 14 - July 8, 2018
- Visiting the Tibet Museum June 27, 2018
- In Search of a Tibetan Yantra Yoga Teacher June 25, 2018
- Conducting Yoga Classes at Pema Thang Guest House, Dharamshala, India June 24 - July 8, 2018
- Life in Upper Bhagsu, Dharamshala June 16-23, 2018
- Trekking to Naddi from Upper Bhagsu, Dharamshala June 19, 2018
- Matters of the Heart Jun 17, 2018
- A First Timer in Dharamshala Jun 14, 2018
- 29 Hours in New Delhi Airport July 9-10, 2018
- Meditation with Shirly Pnina at Lodi Garden, New Delhi May 15, 2018
- A First-Timer in New Delhi, India May 12-17, 2018
- A 26-Day Mini-Life in Rishikesh May 18 - June 13, 2018
- Peoplescape of Rishikesh May 18 - June 13, 2018
- Rafting the Ganga River with Greg Goldstein June 1, 2018
- White Water Rafting on Ganga River, Rishikesh May 25, 2018
- Satsang (spiritual discourse) by Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati May 21, 2018
- Ganga Aarti (devotional fire ritual) at Parmarth Niketan Ashram May 21, 2018
- Bouncing Back into Yoga in Rishikesh May 21, 2018
- Exploring Rishikesh, India May 18, 2018
- India e-VISA snag May 9, 2018
»» next story: Matters of the Heart
»» next Traveling story: Trekking to Naddi from Upper Bhagsu, Dharamshala
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