Home

Visiting Dzongkar Choede Monastery

Leave a comment

If you’ve been keeping up with our tales, you’ll know that we had already been to Karanataka during Diwali to stay in Hampi for a week. This time, we travelled 420km further South from Hampi to Mysore.

Map of Karnataka

Map of Karnataka

When Dunc was in India in 2005, as well as volunteering at Deep Griha’s City of Child project, he spent some time living in a Tibetan Refugee Settlement, teaching English to young Buddhist monks. The trip out to the school was do-able in a day from where we were staying in Mysore, so we caught the bus from the station in Mysore out to Hundsur, and then jumped in a rickshaw out to the Dzongkar Choede Monastery.

We couldn’t have been greeted any more warmly by the monks who had previously been Dunc’s hosts. After a mammoth Tibetan lunch, we were given a tour of the settlement and not least of all, their monastery. What a building! As well as providing the residents of Dzongkar Choede with a peaceful place to pray, members of the surrounding Tibetan settlement, and from other Buddhist communities are  also welcome to come and pray.

Dzongkar Chode Monastery

Dzongkar Chode Monastery

The school classrooms, cottages for the boys to live, and an insence ‘factory’ are also in the grounds.

The young  monks studying hard!

The young monks studying hard!

With some of the monks Dunc worked with in 2005

With some of the monks Dunc worked with in 2005

Making incense sticks

Making incense sticks

For me, it was quite surreal to suddenly be somewhere that seemed a million miles from India, but actually still right in the middle of the country. We were soon brought back to Indian reality when we caught a shared jeep back to Hundsur bus station – Dunc was hanging off the back of the jeep with about 10 kids, and I was squished in the back with a crowd of giggling school girls! Although Mysore is quite a busy tourist city, Hundsur is a very small and rural village, so white people (and a ginger, no less!) were quite a novelty! We didn’t mind though, I’d now learnt that the best way to deal with India was to embrace it, and all it’s oddities!

On returning to Mysore, we planned a trip to nearby tiger reserve, Nagarhole National Park. Unfortunately there’s not much to tell from this trip as the tigers were nowhere to be seen 😦 I’ve just recently found out that there is a fantastic Tiger Temple in Thailand so I guess I’ll just have to go there next!

Elephants at Nagarhole

Elephants at Nagarhole, but no Tigers

Advertisements

Learning to Survive India

Leave a comment

After saying goodbye to our volunteer pals in Pune, we were back on the road. Next stop: Mysore.

Our 4-month trip was split into 3 distinct parts (travel, volunteer, travel), and now that we were on the home straight, I definitely felt much more comfortable. I’m not sure if it’s because everything was so new to me in the beginning; or if the hustle and bustle of Pune city life was too much; or because I suddenly found myself living and working with a whole crowd of volunteers I’d never met before (or maybe all of the above?), but now that we were back on the road I almost instinctively found the flow of India and was able to relax.

We stayed in a large family-run hotel, Hotel Dasaprakash, but always ate out in a different cafe or restaurant to get another view of the city. Our favourite was this little place over-looking Ghandi Square where we had our first poppadoms (locally called ‘papads’) since arriving in India! I think this was the rooftop restaurant of RRR Hotel:

Restaurant overlooking Ghandi Square

Restaurant overlooking Ghandi Square. Dunc still sporting his 'tache from Movember!

Ganhdi looks over his Square

Ganhdi looks over his Square

Mysore itself is a really great city, with a good mix of tourist spots, traditional culture, and modern amenities. The market place within the walls of the city centre is a hidden treasure. It’s perfectly visible on a map, but takes a bit of detective and orienteering skills to find the hole-in-the-wall that lets you in. The market is a packed full of vegetable stalls, bags and bags of spices, perfume shops, jewellers and antiques stores. The craft store pictured below is a family-run business that’s been standing for over 100 years, so of course we had to pick up a few gifts from the kind owner who told us all about it’s history.

The nearby Mysore Palace is well worth a visit, if only for the free audio tour for foreign visitors! Tourists never get freebies in India! 🙂 The Palace is huge, with beautifully restored paintings and furniture inside and iron tiger statues outside. We also discovered that one of the architects was actually from Glasgow!

Mysore Palace

Mysore Palace

Perfume store in the market

Perfume store in the market

Craft shop in the market

Craft shop in the market

Diwali in Hampi

Leave a comment

View to "the other side of the river" in Hampi

View to "the other side of the river" in Hampi

On Saturday 30th October, 9 Deep Griha volunteers took a bus-ride to Hampi, Kernataka, to enjoy the Diwali Festival. Dunc and I had always planned to visit Hampi after leaving Pune, but by going now rather than later on, we are able to buy a few extra days in Goa before flying home to Scotland 🙂

Hampi is absolutely stunning: the ruins of the town are a UNESCO World Heritage and the scenery is described as “the aftermath of giants having a rock-fight”. While we were there, the weather started off grey and wet but thankfully it brightened up enough for us to enjoy a swim in the lake and get a bit of a sun-tan!

We stayed in bamboo bungalows at Sunny Guest House on “the other side of the river” in Hampi, which had a lovely relaxed atmosphere, friendly staff and excellent homemade food. The comfortable lounge area had backgammon boards on every table so we even learnt how to play in between our food and drinks 🙂

Diwali in Hampi was quieter than we expected, but the staff at Sunny went all out with the decorations and celebrations for us. Our lounge/ dining area was packed full of candles and we even got treated to a mini-firework display and Harry Potter sparklers! I’ll not tell you how they lit the fireworks, but lets just say it wasn’t at arms length!

Diwali decorations in Sunny Guest House

Diwali decorations in Sunny Guest House

During our stay in Hampi, myself, Gaia and Katie signed up for a 5-day yoga course on a roof-top over-looking the river. As you can imagine, the view was amazing! The class started at 8am so we were up at 7am each morning to catch the boat across the river. Anyone who knows my sleeping habits will know that the first morning was a struggle, but after that, we all looked forward to a nice relaxed start to the day, followed by a big bowl of banana porridge or fruit muesli at a nearby restaurant.

On the second-last day of our trip, Dunc and I hired bicycles to do a bit of sight-seeing round the most famous monuments in Hampi. We saw lots of rocks and temples (obviously!), but also enjoyed seeing the old elephant stable and a pack of water buffalo taking a dip in a really big puddle!

By the end of our trip, we all felt completely relaxed, regenerised and refreshed – ready to start work back with Deep Griha – which is just as well as there are lots of big plans for this week! Eva is giving her drama class a bit of a restructure, my computer class is in full swing, Gaia is working with our photographer Avinash to make our 2011 calendar, and everyone else are enthusiastically preparing for World Aids Day as part of our Wake Up Pune! campaign. It’s just sunk in that Dunc and I have only got around 3 weeks left with Deep Griha now  so we will also be working hard to finish our projects and hand them over to the volunteers that will be here for the coming months.