Travel G-spots

MY TRAVEL DIARY: The Indiarail Dalai Lama Challenge

My head’s all squibbly scribble … like a hand covered with henna. Only thing is I personally find henna hands gorgeous. And well, definitely way more gorgeous than the fine veins running through my grey matter, I assure you (though I can only hazard a guess! :0)

Anyways, it’s Indiarail again! that’s causing all the confusion. Don’t get me wrong. I adore Indiarail. I am in LOVE with Indiarail although is one heck of an arrogant site which expects you (my dear novice tourist; foreign on top of that in most cases) to enter a Train Name/Number when you are searching for Train Schedule. It doesn’t get any easier when you try to search by Types of Train or Trains.

Click on the Information > All Indian Rail Network Map – which seems like a sensible and ‘ahhh…clever!’ way to go about figuring a route or ‘how to get from point A to point B’ you get a very lovely topography type of map with gorgeous rich shades of greens showing altitude and snaky lines drawn all over the map with legends indicating ‘Important Broad Gauge Route’, ‘Other Broad Gauge Line’, ‘Metre Gauge Line’, ‘Narrow Gauge Line’, ‘BG & MG Parallel Line’ and ‘Places of Tourist Interest’. Despite my embarrassingly high MENSA IQ (which I suspect was a result of a momentary brain short circuit resulting from the cross-eyed vision I had figuring out the diagrams), even the last category – ‘Places of Tourist Interest’ – is mind boggling.

But I am determine to get this.

It took me 1-month to ‘crack’ Indiarail during my maiden trip to India. I am sure I can do this again. And worse case, there’s always good old Steven Ber at to assist. What would we tourist and travellers alike do without the wise Steven Ber? I often wondered. And only in this instance (i.e. the Indiarail challenge) I would lump tourist and travellers in the same category.


My challenge this time around is to go see the Dalai Lama!

Shoot! I just found out that one needs to put in a written request to seek His Holiness audience, and that is if he’s in town, four months in advance. Well, of course 10 weeks ago I didn’t know this fact … and at this juncture, well… it’s not going to make one heck of a difference back then or now anyways, rite?

But this discovery got me into a whirlwind of other ‘ideas’ … I trek my fingers to Amritsar and Shimla, then flirted with the idea of risking my life driving a 4×4 alone on slippery snowy roads to Leh.

After all the only reason for going to Dharamsala – which from my research suggest there is nothing to offer – is to get to McLeod Ganj. I suspect that the Buddhists of the world have deliberately chosen Dharamsala in reference to the residence of the Tibetan Government in exile, herein the Dalai Lama and his entourage – as oppose to McLeod Ganj for one and only one reason:

Dharamsala sounds convincingly more spiritual and mysteriously Tibetan to anyone who doesn’t know the Tibetan language (which is almost everyone!)

it would be suicidal; both from a socio-political standpoint for the government in exile and confusing to any traveler, tourist or devotee who wants to visit the Dalai Lama. Think about it. How bizarre and complicated it would be to explain a Hindu-Scott naming place (Ganj meaning ‘market’, and McLeod presumably after some Scotsman – a Governor perhaps during the British era) filled with Tibetans!

Thus, to get to His Holiness and a world of strange existence living under the microscope of the world press and leaders, I have to make my way to McLeod Ganj via Dharamsala. (And, yes, at point of first drafting this post, I was still an atheist working in the world’s largest Islamic bank who murmurs “insya allah” when it’s convenient while wearing a visible Star of David around my neck as subtle defiance!)

So, seeing His Holiness has nothing religious or holy to it, nor am I swayed by any literature or newsworthy writings of the 14th Dalai Lame and the Tibetan Government in exile. I am ‘seeing’ the Dalai Lama because I can! (and there is nothing wrong with this given that I know at least 10 people who buys gigabytes iPods and spend hundreds of hours downloading thousands of songs only because they can.)

In the course of my finger trekking through a good ol’ fashion printed map of India, the outdated 10th Edition of Lonely Planet‘s India and ‘Himalaya’ by Michael Palin I came up with a few findings:

….#1 I still LOVE my India map despite the ceases that has yellowed over the years

….#2 I am too cheap to buy a newer Lonely Planet India

….#3 I need a newer Lonely Planet India – does Jagson Airlines still exist??

….#4 ‘Himalaya’ by Michael Palin is worth more in recycled paper than information

….#5 one should not judge quality of work based on legendary Monty Python

….#6 I am old coz I can’t recall which young bloke is Palin in Monty Python!

….#7 always do multiple linguistic checks when naming a place.

……….No wonder Gaggal* airport is … gagal.

….#8 #7 applies to naming kids as well.

……….Am yet to find a successful bloke by the name Baki **.

….#9 still on #7. all Richards I know are well … D#$@

Defeated by exhaustion and a bad tummy bug, I decided to stick to my original fall back plan of visiting Dharamsala-McLeod Ganj and head back to the comforts of my apartment in Delhi (full blast of airconditioning of course!). Toying with the idea of giving my bum and kidney a rest from the countless of hours of bus rides and overland travel I search for the nearest airport – Gaggal*, whose name was an instant turn off that didn’t take long to disappoint.

So, off to Indiarail, only to ‘battle’ with names like Kangra Mandir and Pathankot – none of which I was able to find station codes for and wasn’t listed under location. Bummer! But as faith has it with my LOVE for Indiarail and, the name Chakki Bank jolted my subconsciousness. With a quick search on I found this: Confusion between Chakki Bank and Pathankot

It has to be His Holiness’ will. I am home!

And when all things fails or when one’s will power wavers, there’s always some crazy inspiration out there like The Great Circular Indian Railway Challenge – whose craziness is featured in The Times of India HERE.



……………… unfortunately, Gaggal* remains a failure!!! – in my eyes.

* gagal = failure in the Malaysia’s national language
** Baki on the other hand means remnants


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This entry was posted on June 10, 2013 by in Asia, TRAVEL DIARY and tagged , , , , , , , , , , .

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