The rain started the night before and it seemed to have gotten heavier since the break of day. We quickly packed up and had our breakfast before hitting the road again. Driving eastward to Dharamshala this day would mark the last leg of our adventure in Himachal Pradesh. Truthfully, I was a bit ambivalent to embark on this journey as it would mean that this chapter was drawing to a close.
Hubby stayed up late the night before to revise the itinerary for this final leg. Unfortunately, we didn’t have the luxury of time to visit all the places of interest that were originally on our itinerary, unless we sacrifice our sleep by getting up earlier. How could we do that, considering the hotel was so cosy? As such, we were torn between Masroor Rock Cut Temple, Nurpur Fort and Kangra Fort – we could only choose one of them. Sigh!
After much research, we resolved to go for Kangra Fort although its entry fee was the most expensive among the three. You’ll know why shortly as you read further. This decision would also effectively save us an hour of driving. Sanjay drove us down the mountainous terrain through the meandering Chamba-Pathankot Road. The Ranjit Sagar Dam Lake was clearly visible from the mountains. This man made lake along with the Ravi River form the border between the states of Himachal Pradesh and Kashmir.
Our journey to Kangra Fort took about 4 hours on another stretch of relatively good road. The mighty Dhauladhar range was seen to be constantly accompanying us on our left almost throughout the journey. It was about noon when we passed through the southern suburb of Dharamshala en route to Kangra Fort. The town of Kangra itself was bustling with activities and it is also home to a couple of universities.
There was an entry fee of ₹300 (RM19) per person for non-Indian nationals (half the price). Also known as Nagarkot, this massive fort which sits on a hill was built by the Rajput family of the Katoch dynasty (possibly oldest royal dynasty in the world). It occupies an area of 463 acres, thus making it is the largest fort in the Himalayas and probably the oldest dated fort in India.
We spent almost 2 hours exploring the entire fort before heading to McLeod Ganj, which is where Dalai Lama and the Tibetan government-in-exile are headquartered. Located slightly north of Dharamshala and on the Dhauladhar range at an elevation of 6831 feet, McLeod Ganj aka “Little Lhasa” is established against the backdrop of Hanuman Ka Tibba, Dhauladhar’s highest peak. Driving up the narrow, meandering road wasn’t an easy task but Sanjay managed to execute that feat flawlessly.
Shops in McLeod Ganj offer an astonishing array of Tibetan and Kashmiri merchandise, which completely enthralled us. Next, we stopped by Tibet Kitchen to savour some Tibetan delicacies – chicken steam momo (dumpling), lamb thukpa (dry noodle), chicken thenthuk (soup noodle). Unbelievably tasty!
Before heading down to Dharamshala, we paid a visit to the Tibet Museum, a centre which highlighted the plight of the Tibetan people under Chinese rule. Within the same complex (Tsuglagkhang Complex) is Namgyal Gompa aka “Dalai Lama’s Temple” and the Dalai Lama’s residence, all of which constitute the Potala Palace-in-exile. To enter this complex, one has to endure an airport-style security check.
It was close to 5pm when we finally descended into Dharamshala and checked into Hotel Inclover, which interestingly is situated within The Hillside Mall, at the foothill of McLeod Ganj. We booked our rooms from MakeMyTrip for ₹4102 (RM264) per room inclusive of taxes, after deducting a ₹2100 (RM135.15) discount (code: MMTGO). Perched on the hillslope, our hotel offered us a stunning view of the entire Dharamshala. After checking in, we decided to walk around town and see what it had to offer. Needless to say, we ended buying some groceries peculiar to India.
Breakfast at the hotel the next morning was the last Indian meal we had. While waiting for Sanjay to pick us up and send us to Kangra Airport, we took a cab up to McLeod Ganj again for one last round of shopping spree. After that, it was goodbye to Dharamshala. What a memorable week-long adventure to Himachal Pradesh!
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