Travel tips & insights to McLeod Gang, Dharamshala and Bir Billing.

The great Indian summer nightmare is here. And with the blazing sun on our heads, we could use some mountain magic and do away with all the grilling.

First off, I’m going to start with stressing on how immensely important it is to be dogmatic and go ahead with your plan. When we started planning from the ground up there were potentially 10 of us who signed up for a trip to Himachal Pradesh. Sequentially, the number downsized to just four of us girls. But that didn’t break us out in sweat and can the plan.

SO JUST GO.

Next important thing to do is to plan your trip well. There are abundant of beautiful places on that map and each has an exemplary chronicle to greet you. You need to sit down with your travel mates and decide the type of trip you want to take. The experiences you want to encounter. The leeways to your schedule, the must-dos. There will be disagreements, there will be agreements to far-fetched ideas you would be influenced to drop. It’s all part and parcel.

It’s important to do your groundwork. There are plenty of sites that have great discounts/offers and more often than not we tend to miss it due to our inattentive or misinformed conduct.

On the road

We decided to travel to McLeod Ganj from Delhi as the frequency of flights from Mumbai-Delhi is higher and the cost is cheaper. Alternatively, one can also opt to travel from Mumbai-Chandigarh to save some time. We decided on a night journey from Delhi to McLeod Ganj to have us more time in the day to explore the city. At around 6 in the morning, on our way to McLeod Ganj, our driver told us about Anandpur Sahib Gurudwara and asked us if we would like to visit it as it’s considered a famous Gurudwara. We didn’t plan on going there, but we were much excited to deviate a bit. It was the perfect start to the trip. The beauty and serenity of the place got us all the more excited for the days ahead.

With roads full of stunning sights, yummy khadaprasad and a hell lot of excitement we reached to our hotel in McLeod Ganj. Hotel Wood Castle on Jogiwara Road situated in the main market. The hotel has a very a good staff and the owner is very friendly and cooperative with your requests. The service and food are good. The hotel also has an amazing view. We got a great deal on this stay through Goibibo.com

After refreshing ourselves, we set out to explore the streets. The streets of McLeod Ganj have some really exquisite things to shop and food that will satiate your taste buds. There are some really enticing cafes serving fresh and appetizing food, but we couldn’t cover them all. Here’s a list of the cafe we visited and by the first-hand experience let me tell you they are great!

1. Hope Cafe (They have good breakfast food with a serene ambience. Also, the owners are quite cooperative with your food preferences)

2. Seed Cafe (They have live music on weekends and you sure don’t want to miss that)

3. Cafe illiterati (MAJOR recommendation on this one! This place just spells magic)

4. Shiva Cafe (It’s up against the Bhagsu waterfalls and has a fascinating view. It’s a great hangout place. Do try some Nutella bread and hot chocolate here!)

5. Tibet Quality bakery (It’s a roadside bakery on Jogiwara road and everything they serve is scrumptious)

Other things to do around here…

1. There are pretty monasteries so you can go visit some local place of worship.

2. This town is also home to Dalai Lama so you can visit the Dalai Lama temple and if you’re lucky to have him around when you visit you might actually be able to meet him!

3. The Triund Trek! It’s a moderate level trek with a panoramic view of Bhagsu Village, McLeod Gang, Dharamshala and Kangra Valley. Ensure you start early so you can reach up on time and enjoy the sunset. You need to pack a few warm clothes for the night as it can get pretty cold up there.

We used McLeod Ganj as our base but decided to visit a few places around.

Dharamshala is a delightful city, full of fresh air and lovely people.

Do, do do visit the HCPA Stadium. It’s indeed one of the most thrilling stadium views in India.

Also, there’s a really small village called Naddi and they have the best sunsets you must have witnessed.

Moving ahead on our journey, next destination was Bir Billing.

Bir-Billing is really small peaceful town. We had chosen to stay in a Zostel. You can check out the property here – https://www.zostel.com/zostel/bir/

Zostel at Bir Billing is considered to be one of the most comely zostel in the country. Also, it’s an amazing experience to stay and connect with people you’d astonished to meet. They have a really clean place and finger-licking yummy food at a very affordable price. Plus, you can’t put a price on the interesting people you’ll meet.

However, the main purpose of coming to this village was to go paragliding. Not a lot of people know this but Bir billing has hosted the first ever world cup of paragliding in the world! The takeoff site here has got incredibly smooth and favourable winds for a perfect and easy takeoff. And a well-equipped landing site.

You can ask the reception desk at Zostel to hook you up with good paragliding operators. They also have had discounts for zostel guests.

Post the paragliding if you want to cool off and relax from all the ecstatic emotions that you have just experienced, visit Silver Linings cafe. It’s a 5-minute walk from the landing site. A quaint cafe almost unnoticeable along the trail serves to be abundant to provide some fresh delicious food and good times.

You can also rent a bicycle here and go mountain biking or just explore the local streets.

Travel tips:

1. The best time to visit these places is from March to June.

2. You can pick a centre base and visit more places around McLeod Ganj/Dharamshala/Bir Billing.

3. I would highly recommend paragliding at Bir Billing. It has been a delightful experience.

4. There are plenty of public services available through Himachal Tourism and taxis so you don’t have to worry about your means of transport. Also, the people here are really nice and helpful so feel free to ask for help, if needed.

5. Remember you do not litter around or make a lot of noise at these places.

6. It could rain or hailstorm for the Triund trek so please do carry your monsoon wears, caps and gloves.

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2015 : Year in review.

It’s a new year and it quite frankly feels great! Not because that’s what you’re supposed to feel but majorly because 2015 was something I’m going to cherish.
“What was so special about 2015?” You may wonder. And the answer to that lies in the 15 things that have inspired my life in such a deep way that I have grown to be a person of better thinking.
1. Greatest joys lie in travelling:
My friends and I brought in 2015 camping on a cliff under stars on chilly night. We travelled a total 20 hours and were so frustrated of it yet looking back each of us has only one thing to say “It was some really good time.” I don’t think we’d be equally happy at some club swamped with people eating badly catered food. Travel inspires in me a side I never know existed. It helps me get out of the pond and know about the other fishes.
2. Politics and global affairs are important to know:
I had participated Model United Nations for the first time. Initially, it was just because I wanted to do it. But going through the process and preparation of it, I realized how important it is to be aware of politics and global affairs. We live inside the same globe and each of our action is going to impact the other. And mainly, it is important to find solutions and coexist rather fight and rage wars because it’s OUR planet!
3. Drive because it drives you :
It’s only last year that I took upon myself to learn how to drive. And the world from beyond the wheels is completely bonkers! At least on Indian roads. I learnt to be patient on traffic-jammed roads. Between the parking spaces I learnt how much to give in. And most importantly, I learnt how to hold your grounds do your thing when you’re judged being a woman!
Tip: If you ever want to know how chauvinistic the men of any country are? Be a female driver.
4. Once in a while, surprise people!
My cousin got married this year and on one of the random days we dropped at her place after work with a cake and some books (She’s a reader). We then went for a drive and chilled until wee hours. It caught her off guard. But more than that she was really happy. Also, sometimes surprises could go wrong but that will just help you know the person better. So go ahead catch someone in their off beat moments, speaking purely of experience it will help you strengthen your bond with that person.
5. Get up, dress up and show up (In your gym clothes) :
I went trekking with my office people to Kothalighad fort located in Maharashtra. It was a total of 6 hours of trekking and one helluva of experience! My legs gave up somewhere before we even reached the top but I had to finish it and I did. On the way back, I slipped down the rocks. Twice. And nearly broke my hip bone. I got sunburn which didn’t go away till 4 months after that. But other than that I was alright. It was only that trek which made me realise how important it is to be in shape. Lazy is not going to help me. I need to get up when I want to sleep for that extra hour, dress up in my gym clothes and show up at gym/park and do some exercise. The truth is we’re all going to get old and it’s important to be active if you think a walking stick will not suit your personality.
Also, at that trek we had lunch at a local’s home. The food was very basic but so yummy and it’s experiences like these that make you realize how much people value the idea of ‘Atithi devo bhava’. It just made the whole trip extravagant.
6. Take up your hobbies and don’t make it business :
Most of the time I see people bank on their hobbies as work and earning money out of it. Although it may be a good thing I’d like to keep a few of my hobbies and not corrupt it simply because I want to still enjoy doing them in the naive way I picked them in the first place. I spent the past year as the Editor for Rotaract Club (of Bombay Film City), a non-profit youth based organization. Doing that I could bring down upon myself to make people acknowledge the need for being an elite when it comes literature and reading. Asking people to voice their opinions through words. In return I’ve learned so many things and met some inspiring people that I’m going to treasure the experience for a lifetime. And go back take references when required. Also, when you do something with your best in it you generally get always rewarded like I was nominated for ‘The Editor of the year’ which was a great thing in itself. However, I could accomplish and gain out of it only when I realized rewards shouldn’t be my priority enjoying the process of it should.
7. Become financially independent :
Being financially independent was a major personal goal for 2015 because the truth is money talks. To achieve a lot of things, you need to be inspired and being backed by financial independence is a major inspiration. Your parents are always going to be there for you but it was about time I took upon myself to be there for my needs and wants. So I got myself a job and with it the responsibility and independence for myself.
8. BIRTHDAYS NEED NOT BE ALL THAT FUSSY :
After a certain age birthdays are just so that you can be more adult towards things. Like when I crib for a bar chocolate, I usually get “Please you’re 23. Can you be more mature about it?” The answer is no. I can never be adult enough for Chocolates but you get the point. I spent my birthday doing things I was happy about and not making a announcement of it but I was at a happy place. And it was only that I realised how birthdays are just a gentle reminder for you to find your happiness which may not culminate into calling everyone to the party.
9. Family isn’t an important thing. It’s everything!
The very first people we have known ever since we’ve entered this world are, our family members. And they will also be the last ones to stand when we’re gone. It’s not just important to love them but also acknowledge their support. So every now and then, I make myself to buy them thoughtful gifts. Because family is your tribe and you gotta love them hard. I assure you, by doing that you can never lack positivity in your life.
10. Giving to the society :
If you have Rs. 10/- you can always buy a Rs. 1/- chocolate and give it to a kid on street, you’ll be amazed by the happiness on his face. As a Udaan India volunteer, we had arranged a Diwali party for Underprivileged kids and old-age home ladies. We played games with them, made them explore their creative side by rangoli competition and ended with a DJ party. We also donated an approximate sum of Rs. 3 lakh to the organization. But more than anything I remember the happiness on the face of the kids and ladies, how grateful they were to us when they left. Things like these help you realise that goodness in the world is always donated by the kind hearts and the amount that comes to you is only so much that you’ve generously donated.
11. Cut out the negativity :
We’re surrounded by people, some happy and some pretending to be. In a year full of different experiences I’ve had my share of lows. One of which I clearly remember is, a tiff I’ve had with a friend. Bound to a general habit of analysing things when I lapsed into the reality of the situation, I understood that some people just make you miserable by their mere existence. Maybe they don’t want to do that to you but either way it’s not helping you. From then on, I have been cautious of what I let a person bring to me. If it’s negativity then I’m sure to maintain a distance from them. Only the people who inspire me to be a better person, hold place in my life.
12. One Hundred years of solitude:
I firmly believe that every year you should find that one piece of art that blows your mind away. That brings depth to your character and grows our souls. One hundred years of solitude has been that piece of art in 2015. The novel tells about the story of a fictional town of Macondo with every worldly truth that dominates the human species’. And reading about it you slip into personal, political and spiritual consciousness.
13. Love keeps us going :
This year a lot of people around me have tied knot or made the big announcement. We may be unsure of who we are or what we want or how relationship currently is. But it’s important to find your lobster and start out a life with them. Simply because life is short and love is what keeps us going.
14. Let yourself off the hook :
We are always too busy filling up our days with schedules. Doing all the important and unimportant things to do. That we hardly ever find the time to just lay back and chill. It’s important that you let yourself off the hook and just party without no care in the world.
15. Be spiritual and not religious :
I am not a very religious person but I have had this year where I have believed in the enormous energy that makes this universe be in complete discipline of things. There has to be some driving force that planets don’t dash into each other while revolving around the sun. Some call it god, some science… I don’t know what is it but I have acknowledged that energy in the past year. I have confided in it to lend me energy so I can lift myself from my lows and keep myself grounded from my highs. Maybe it’s not necessary to be religious but you should be spiritual because our souls need that.