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McLeodganj -Little Lhasa in India

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Besides being the abode of the Dalai Lama in India, McLeodganj is replete with plenty of foodfor the soul as well as the body, says, Narayani Ganesh

McLeodganj or Upper Dharamsala is synonymous with the Dalai Lama who has been living there in exile with his followers ever since he was forced to leave Tibet in 1959.

Unsurprisingly, therefore, this hill town inHimachal Pradesh is a veritable “Little Lhasa” festooned with multi-coloured prayer flags, its streets lined with food stalls selling momos and popcorn, Tibetan bread and green vegetables.

The marketplace with its two main streets and a temple in the centre is the lifeline of the place, shops displaying merchandise in geometric patterns, beckoning the visitor.

Hand-knit woollens, shoes, prayer bells, backpacks, pickles and chutneys, jewellery, car rentals and trekking gear at competitive prices – it’s a backpacker’s dream-come-true.

Tsuglag Khang or the Dalai Lama’s Temple (close to his residence) is visible from a distance with its white awning and tent designed to shelter devotees who congregate here daily. A woman is circumambulating the main enclosure with a sick dog in her arms, praying for recovery. Others prostrate themselves repeatedly, chanting prayers. Still others simply sit there, soaking in the calm and quiet.

“You must try the vegetarian food at the Namgyal Cafe in the temple precincts,” a friend had suggested and my daughter Maya I complied. We had to share the tofusprouts-veggie salad and cheese-spinach pizza, such was their generous size, and both were absolutely scrumptious. Even more interesting was the manager with his long, plaited hair and collection of international currencies displayed on the wall behind him.

The Norbulingka Institute, 8 km away in Sidhpur is a different world – designed after the Dalai Lama’s summer palace in Lhasa, its aesthetically designed gardens and waterways, fountains and stone walls please the senses. The Institute nurtures Tibetan arts and crafts, language and culture. We bought some of the products there and even toured the Losel Dolls Museum that tells the story of Tibetan tradition and culture.

Close by was the Karmapa Gyuto Monastery, rising majestically against the Dhauladhar peaks, the current seat of the Karmapa Rinpoche of the Kargyud Lineage, with a Tantra School and beautiful gardens. A whole lot of puppies were frisking about on the lawns outside the main temple. A half day taxi tour took us around the main sights of McLeodganj and these include St John of the Wilderness Church where Lord Elgin lies buried, the Dal Lake, Tibetan Children’s village and school, the Bhagsunag Temple and waterfall and the breathtaking trekking route at Naddi, facing the gorgeous Dauladhar range of snow-capped mountains. McLeodganj is also a food lover’s paradise, with an exciting range of cuisine from Europe, Tibet, Bhutan, India and Japan at affordable prices.

It is the right place to relax. McLeodganj is the place to go to when you wish to do nothing, think nothing and say nothing.

Transport for Mcloadganj

Air
The nearest airport is Gaggal airport, 15 km south of Dharamshala.
Rail
The nearest railway stations on the Shimla-Kangra narrow gauge line are at Kangra and Nagrota (about 20 km south of Dharamshala). The nearest railhead (broad gauge) is at Pathankot (85 km).
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Many trains will be terminated

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Many trains will be terminated

Many trains will be terminated due to fog. Please read this news paper report:-

dhund hind

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India Railway will help you visit Taj Mahal

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“All arrangements have been made and our systems are in place. The trial will begin December 25. It has taken us a long time to work on this project which will change the image of the ASI,” Superintending Archaeologist, Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), N K Pathak said.

The Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) will be the service provider of the e-ticketing facility, in collaboration with the National Institute of Smart Governance, he said.

After one month trial of the e-ticketing facility at the Taj Mahal, the ASI would extend the similar facility to other monuments, managed by it.

ASI officials said the e-tickets will have security features including bar code, and bar code scanners would be installed at the entry gates.

The ASI is training its staffs for effective and efficient use of the facility, which is likely to put an end to the long queues at the ticket counters.

Tourists had to stand for long hours in queues to buy entry tickets.

Tourism circles in Agra have welcomed ASI’s initiative saying the facility would help check resale of entry tickets and fake tickets by unscrupulous elements.

It is said that the ensuing online facility would also help the ASI in managing the number of visitors.

(This article was published on December 13, 2014)
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Take a break: top 7 places for bird watching in India

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Summer is setting in, sure. But, what about taking a break from Delhi and head to Maharashtra, for there are places there that are still playing host to winged visitors. Plus, the Flamingo Festival, starting on March 29, will be an added bonus. “The peak birding season started around October and is coming to a close by May,” says Rahul Jauhari, who runs the website nopincode.com. Atul Sathe of the BNHS adds, “Mangroves in Vikhroli, wetlands in Nhava-Sheva region are good spots.” Here are some other places that the duo highly recommend.

Ulwe and Uran
What: Both places are renowned when it comes to bird watching. However, the numbers are rapidly dropping, thanks to rampant construction in the region.

Often spotted: The list of birds seen here is endless — from Marsh Harriers, Blue-tailed Bee-eaters and Green Bee-eaters to Black-shouldered Kites and Red Wattled Lapwings. Uran is the older haunt for bird watchers, but, according to the experts, is now a shadow of its original self. However, Red-vented Bulbuls, Ashy Prinias, Asian Pied Starlings, Moorhens, Scaly Breasted Munias, Red Avadavats and Spot Billed Ducks, among others, can still be seen in these parts.

http://www.hindustantimes.com/Images/popup/2014/3/2203citypg14a.jpg

Nagla Forest
What: One of the lesser-known spots inside Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP), in Borivali East, Mumbai.

Often spotted: Situated to the north of Bassein Creek, this is thought to be one of the most highly rewarding walks at the SGNP. Nature lovers are in for a treat as well. Birds like the Grey Junglefowl, Indian Grey Hornbill and Rufous Woodpecker can be spotted while on the trail.

Tungareshwar sanctuary
What: Home to three types of forest — dry deciduous, moist deciduous and semi evergreen — it forms a corridor between  SGNP and Tansa Wildlife Sanctuary.

Often spotted: Species like the Rufous Treepie, Shikra, Black-hooded Oriole, Brown-headed Barbet, Red-whiskered and Red-vented Bulbul can be seen in the area.

Thane Creek and Padale Gaon
What
: These spots are frequented by birders in the area.
Often spotted: While Thane Creek is known to attract Flamingos and Waders this time of the year, Black Kites seem to favour Padale Gaon. Apart from the Raptors, Munias, Woolly-necked Storks, Drongos, Egrets, Marsh Harriers and Sandpipers are also seen the region.

Kanheri Upper Trail
What: The route involves a gradual climb through the wooded forest of the SGNP.
Often spotted: One of the few places to offer the perfect mix of nature and adventure, catch a glimpse of the Greater Racket-tailed Drongo, Shikra, Grey Jungle Fowl, and Indian Peafowl. Or head to the plateau near Kanheri Caves, which is excellent for viewing raptors, like the Crested Serpent Eagle. You could also visit the ancient Kanheri Caves.

Sewri 
What: The mudflats here turn into a bird watcher’s paradise as they play host to millions to pink visitors.

Often spotted: One of the best places in the city to spot Flamingos, this is a good time to head there. It is also a good place to see migratory birds such as the Broad-billed Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Black-tailed Godwit, Whimbrel, and Eurasian Curlew. On a good day, one will also catch a glimpse of the Common Redshank, Little Herons, Little Egret, Brown-headed Gull, Grey Plover, Sand Plovers and Avocet, among others. The annual Flamingo Festival is also scheduled to take place on March 29.

http://www.hindustantimes.com/Images/popup/2014/3/2203citypg14b.jpgMaharashtra Nature Park
What: Once a treeless garbage dump, this park located in the heart of the Mumbai (Dharavi) now acts as its green lung.

Often spotted: It is home to several migratory and resident species like the Black Kite, Shikra, Eurasian Wryneck, Little Green Bee-eater, Barn Swallow, Bluethroat, Purple Sunbird, Great Egret, Greater Coucal and Laughing Dove.

Bhandup Pumping Station
What: A well-kept secret, the lake near the pumping station attracts water birds. Signs put up also say that one can spot mongoose and snakes here.

http://www.hindustantimes.com/Images/popup/2014/3/2203citypg14c.jpgOften spotted: The area is known to host water and land birds, and often, Flamingos can be seen here as well. That apart, the Clamorous Reed Warbler, Common Kingfisher, Red Avadavat,  Pond Heron, Woolly-necked Stork, Eurasian Marsh Harrier, Black Kite, Asian Pied Starling, Painted Stork, Little Cormorant, Rose-ringed Parakeet, Laughing Dove, Red-wattled Lapwing, Green Bee-eaters and Blue-tailed Bee-eaters, among others, are common visitors.

Also Head to Airoli Creek and vashi bridge: These spots are frequented by birders looking for Flamingos and Waders.
talawe: This area on Palm Beach Road is yet another hotspot. The water body behind the NRI Complex, Seawood Estates, is a great place to observe birds.

Dombivli: Well-known birding sites here include Nilje Lake, the Bhopar area, Dombivli Creek and Khoni.

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