McLeod Ganj, India

Since my last post I have seen some really interesting sights. While in Delhi I went out to Jama Masjid, which is the largest mosque in India. I took a cycle rickshaw, which if the price is understood ahead of time, came be a very good way to take in the scenery. The price was not understood in this case, and a frustrating conversation ensued upon arrival. He wanted 50 r, then 100r. I offered 25r, and he had to take it, because I knew 50r was way too much and would not budge on this one. So it goes, life on the road...

The square, 17th century mosque is elevated off the ground, so you have to walk up a high flight of steps. There are high walls, with traditional Islamic-looking arches on all three sides. The fourth side is the mosque, with 4 minarets, which can be seen from very far distances. The guide book says that the courtyard can hold up to 25,000 people and the way they squeeze people in, here in India, I don't doubt it. It was one of those time where you just sit down in the middle of the courtyard and marvel at what is in front of you. I was very impressed. It was finally one of those moments where I felt like I finally made it to one of those really unique spots. Kind of an 'ah-ha' moment.

The next day I went to the train station to catch my 11:45 am train to Amritsar. When I arrived, it was running 7 hours late. Great! I wasn't that surprised it was late, but 7 hours is a long time. Here's a kicker too; I went to the platform to make sure there was not a mistake, and found a different train going to the same place I was and leaving at the very time I was supposed to. But like clockwork, there were no officials around to see if I could get on board. So I go find a spot to chill for a few hours. I am now becoming quite proficient at Sudoku. I go back after three hours to find it has been delayed again until 9:45 pm. So I decide to just go walk around. I go out towards the Red Fort, which is a huge 17th century Islamic inspired complex. It was also very impressive. I can imagine how beautiful it must have been, with its large green spaces, running water and fountains throughout, with the beautiful architecture of the royal structures inside. The personal royal mosque was very pictureesque. But, to cut to the chase, my train was 13 hours late. It allowed me to see the Red Fort, but at the time it was not making me happy. Plus, India is unusually cold right now and the trains at night are even colder. I had planned to take the day train for a reason.

So I finally make it to Amritsar where the Golden Temple is located. It is the holiest city for Sikhs. The complex is square, with 3 or 4 story high white walls. Two clock towers are on either side. There are some other large buildings on the other two sides, facing inwards towards the center of the complex. To enter, you must first remove your shoes and socks, cover your head with cloth or a shawl, wash your hands, and then walk through a little trough of water. Once inside, there is a square marble floor, with a large calm pool of water. At the center of the pool is a large building covered in gold. This is where their holy book is kept, and priest are reading aloud from it - which is also broadcast over speakers. People are praying in every corner, in the middle of walkways, and along the walls of the complex.

It was very interesting to see this place, but for me there was something missing. I couldn't quite grasp the spirituality of it all. I didn't know what was being said, I didn't understand the meanings of things. I was just a tourist. Unfortunately when I realized this it was too late to try to get a guide. Plus I had just eaten my free meal too quickly and had to go lay down.

While in Amritsar I also went out to the boarder closing ceremony with Pakistan. It was interesting, but it was hard to see. I kinda wish I had been on the Pakistan side. If you check out the BBC documentary "Himalaya," it is on there. You will probably get a much better view than if you come all the way out here. Other highlights include getting a really good room with a TV and hot water for cheap and watching an episode of Simpsons and Seinfeld.

Today I took a train, bus, bus to get up to the foothills of the Himalayas, McLeod Ganj. This is where the Dalai Lama lives, and is the home to a large exiled Tibetan community. When I find a internet connection that is fast, I will upload a few more pictures. I could write more, but will leave it at this.