Dharamsala: Worth the Trip with or without the Dalai Lama

With spring’s arrival in three weeks, I am reminded me of how Dharamsala, India buzzed with the public venue of the Dalai Lama’s spring teachings. These audiences were like going to a spiritual talk show.

I know. I was at one of the talks four years ago. Our trip to Dharamsala just happened to be at the same time the Dalai Lama was doing his public speaking engagements at the monastery where he lives. We didn’t plan our trip because of the talks, but it did feel like a bonus to find out we could get passes to be in the audience. I have to say the experience was definitely a high point. That man is beamy. Even though I couldn’t understand a word he said, it didn’t matter. Being in the same place with him and with folks from all over the world was enough to keep me interested.

Unfortunately, according to his website, the Dalai Lama is not doing public talks anymore. Does that mean that my name tag from the event is now rare? Whee! It is possible to get a private audience in some instances. Check the website for details. Regardless, if you want to see pristine part of India where hiking is superb, food in a variety of restaurants appeals to a western palate, and shops with Tibetan artifacts abound, Dharamsala is the place.

Besides going to the audience we did a morning to late afternoon hike. This involved hiring a guide to carry our son who was just over one year old at the time. The guide seemed to appreciate our Kelty backpack carrier. My daughter who was a 4th grader and her friend, a 3rd grader were also part of our entourage. I would not hike without a guide. We’re hearty but we don’t like getting lost. Since you may be wondering why hire a guide to carry a child– two reasons: #1: The altitude makes hiking more strenuous. #2:The terrain is the kind where watching one’s footing is important. Taking a tumble in the Himalayas with a child on your back could be a real vacation bummer. Hire the guy who knows what he’s doing.

Oh, while I was looking for info, I found out that the Dalai Lama’s spring talks will be webcast from March 3-14 on his website. Listen and pretend you are there. (Thanks to Tim Vanderhaegen’s Flickr post for the photo.)