Hello, one and all, seasons greetings. I somehow deleted the first part of this before I published it yesterday, so this has been edited.
Last time I wrote I was heading towards Bodhgaya. Bodhgaya is of special importance to Buddhists as it was where the Buddha received Enlightenment under a Bodhi tree. I spent a few days relaxing, soaking up the atmosphere and hanging out with some other tourists. I found it interesting wandering round the temple complex with the sound of Buddhist chanting over a PA system, small monks playing around and impressive mandalas made out of butter a flour. I also managed to time my visits well for the free cup of tea and biscuits in the afternoon The place is town is also home to lots of impressive temples from Buddhist communities and a huge 25 meter Buddha statue which I wandered.
While in Bodhgaya I decided to head up to Darjeeling to spend Christmas somewhere cold, and where there would be other tourists to share it with. When the time came to pack up my room and leave for the 600 km ride I had a change of heart and decided to see if there was a bus instead. The scenery had been a bit monotonous and I didn’t want to feel under pressure to get to Darjeeling before Christmas. So I took my first shortcut to avoid cycling.
Anyway I got the bus and met a nice Aussie and Italian on it, so when we arrived owe found a place to stay together and then hung out for a few days. It was nice to have some good company and conversation, however they have carried on to Sikkim now. I have been in Darjeeling for 5 days now; it is really cold unless the sun is out, thermal underwear definitely required. It has been nice to explore the zigzagging roads, finding new routes and shortcuts every day. I went to the zoo and the Himalayas Mountaineering Institute museum but mainly have just been wandering and eating. There is a host of good food here; I especially like the tiny restaurant in a little shack that can hold only 8 people at a squeeze that serves momos (rice flour dumplings filled with cabbage ginger and onion, they are steamed and served with a spicy dipping sauce.) And there is a reasonably nice pub, a rarity here.
Tomorrow I plan to start my Christmas day before dawn and watch the sun rise over the hills and illuminated the mountains, gorge myself on good food and drink a few beers at the pub. I’m sure I will meet some other guys to hang out with too. EDIT – I met an English guy last night and went to bed late so there was no chance of me watching the sunrise. I will watch it set instead, much more civilised. But yes, I have been eating a lot and even treated myself to 100 rupee cup of coffee this morning!
So Merry Christmas everyone, I hope you have a nice time celebrating.