McLeod Ganj


So this is the place Richard Gere comes to see the Dalai Lama.

I’m in the Tibetan village McLeod Ganj placed indiscreetly amongst the Himalayan Mountains and the Ganges River. It’s colder than Chicago on Christmas here, I think to myself as I sip on hot sweet Chai and act as a voyeur to the hundreds of monks in blood- red robes strolling the markets, chanting and talking on cell phones.

I’ve just spent fifteen hours on a bus with a few new friends on a mission to see the Dalai Lama. He’s speaking in McLeod Ganj and we’re going to see him, even if the only way there is by a large broken down, clickity-clank bus and even if the only seats available are in the last row (so we’ll be bobbing up and down for fifteen hours) and even if people all around us are puking from bus-sickness and even if my new friend has just fallen on her face because she was the unfortunate one with the middle seat.

We’re seeing the Dalai Lama, we’re seeing the Dalai Lama…

It’s gotta be worth it right? This is a once in a life-time opportunity, I continuously remind myself each time I look out the frosty window to see that we’ve missed rolling off the cliff by one inch. My stomach falls into my knees and I’m dizzy.

We pass overturned busses that never made it to McLeod Ganj.

We’re here. It’s midnight. We’re alive. This place looks like the perfect horror film setting. We pass guest houses with names like, “Ladies Paradise, and “Last Stop,” where the neon green signs half flicker and dangle by their last thread, offering us enough light to see the pebbled ground in front of us. I had no idea I would wake up to see striking Tibetan women wearing formal fitted long skirts serving banana porridge and Tibetan coffee. I had no idea I’d end up horse back riding in the Himalayas and hiking to a waterfall. I had no idea that my new friend would acquire a stalker who is also a monk.

We managed to navigate our way through the crowds of people and secure a seat to see the Dalai Lama speak. We purchased a special head seat to hear the English translation. I’m embarrassed to admit we had no idea what he was talking about. I have a feeling the translator was confused. It wasn’t what the Dalai Lama said that inspired me (because I seemed to have missed it completely); it was the unity of the foreigners sitting together sharing head sets and smiles and blankets.

I also stood in a line at 6 a.m. holding a bottle of my urine to see the Dalai Lama’s ayurvedic doctor who, based on the look of my urine and my pulse, prescribed me pebbles that taste like muddy-earth to fix my newly diagnosed minor thyroid problem.

Only in McLeod Ganj…

 Alice can be reached at

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