Darjeeling

It’s the dampest place in the world. Scorching sun by day and freezing by night. I couldn’t work out why it was so damp everywhere, then I realised was in a cloud.

Nice tea though, oh so much tea.

The Happy Tea Plantation is the place to be. ‘Aunty’ runs the cafe just before the entrance, she sells knocked off tea, which she neatly wraps, and arranges a taxi down the mountain. She has a great system, she rips off the driver for 50% of the fare, rather than ripping off the hapless tourists who show the determination to make it up the bloody mountain.

Dalai Lama

What a tremendous chap he is, the 14th Dalai Lama is now 83 years old and oozes wisdom. He is so charismatic, always wanting to make people laugh and smile.  He just lights up rooms as he walks in.

He seems to have an endless supply of poignant quotations, that often come with a side of wit and humor, but always come with the power of reflective thought.

All Dalai Lamas are found, not elected or chosen , but it is the reincarnation of the previous Dalai Lama.  Finding the previous Dalai Lama’s reincarnation is no walk in the park and it takes several High Lamas usually a few years to find out who he was reborn into.  Bit like looking for a needle in a hay stack I presume.  But anyway, they sort it out eventually, the 14th Dalai Lama was found after 4 years of trying to work out who he’d been reborn into.  But, here’s the key, the search normally takes place in Tibet, but as the Chinese threw all the Buddhists out and grabbed Tibet for their own, it’s going to be tricky. The 14th Dalai Lama has said that there is a chance that he will not be reborn, and that if he is, it will not be in a country under Chinese rule (that told them).

The Dalai Lama has lived in exile in India since 1959 after a failed Tibetan uprising against the Chinese occupation.  When our dear 14th Dalai Lama leaves the earth the Chinese have decided that they are going to chose the 15th Dalai Lama.  When the Chinese do make their selection, the Tibetan people will not be at all happy, it’s going to kick off, and no doubt they won’t accept the decision of the Chinese.  So, sadly, the 14th Dalai Lama could be the last one chosen in the traditional manner.

I was immensely honoured to meet the Dalai Lama in McLeodGanji, India, I didn’t just happen across him, it was arranged.  He gave me a hug that will remain with me for life.  He has so many words of wisdom that I try to live my life by; but possibly my favourite is: If you can’t help someone at least don’t harm them. 

New Delhi

First leg of the long journey, London to New Delhi

I’ve been to New Delhi a few times, but I’d say the best thing about New Delhi is the airport out of there; having said that, if you’re going to India then it is a must see, but perhaps just for a couple of nights.  Hotels in New Delhi are real cheap and it was tempting to go for a 4 or 5 star version just to appeal to my sense of getting something cheap, but no. I’ve gone for a middle range, Bajaj Indian Home Stay, which, according to their website is “An Experience that’s Indian, Altogether”.  http://www.bajajindianhomestay.com/

£47 per night, including breakfast and a “Roof Top Retreat”, it’s actually a few chairs and a table or two on the roof, without a view, but pleasant.  I found this place brilliant.  Lovely people who run it, so attentive, and make fantastic poppadoms which are so large just one fills an entire serving plate.

I’m only in New Delhi for a short hop which is just enough time to experience the hustle and bustle of this vibrant city, alive with the sounds of car horns hootting and tuk-tuks flying around the streets trying to pick up and drop off as many passengers as they can possible cram into a day.

I done the Taj Mahal visit, get a car and driver from Delhi to Agra, just ask at the hotel and they’ll organise it, but it’s a full day trip, obviously check the price first!  And, after just a couple of days taking in the sounds of hooters and buzzing motorbikes I got on a plane to Dharmashala and travelled north to Mcleodganj, which is where the Dalai Lama lives. To find Mcleodgani just fly to Dharmashala and follow the smell of incense, it’s about 30 minutes away, but follow your nose, (take a taxi or bus from the airport).

Quite frankly, I’d recommend getting out of Delhi as quickly as possible.  It’s great for a quick assault on the senses, but once you’ve had your fill, get on a plane and get out of there before the bronchitis takes hold; the air quality is so very bad!

India’s Morning Poo

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