India 2008 # 14: Tibetan Tea, Prayer Flags, Feelingless Limbs and Buses on India Time

Tibetan momos. Yum!

Tibetan momos. Yum!

Paul and I ran around like blue-bottomed flies trying to find some vertical prayer flags in Rewalsar, which appear to be as scarce as hens teeth no matter where you are. So while I was in one shop organizing some to get made, he was down the road doing exactly the same thing! So we ended up with two sets. That’s okay though – we got to watch the guy actually printing the design onto Paul’s flags – a huge wooden printing block with a picture of Padmasambava and Tibetan writing on it. Interesting stuff. Continue reading

India 2008 # 13: Kissy Fishes and the Nemesis of the Naked Chef

A local Tibetan woman in traditional apron poses for me. Rewalsar, India.

A local Tibetan woman in traditional apron poses for me. Rewalsar, India.

Today is our second to last day in Rewalsar and it’s going to be a wrench to leave here. It’s absolute heaven (even aside from the daily access to momo).

Last night we sat up in the secret place on the roof again, played Pink Floyd by candlelight, watched lightening AND looked at stars – pretty awesome combination – and had a gin or two. Little fireflies flitted about and so did the bats who were chasing them. We even had a dog up there with us. The canines round here seem to be part mountain goat. We actually ended up talking until dawn – due to the fact, I guess, that we have such a short bit of time left and wanted to savour every moment. Of course we weren’t aware that it was nearly dawn until we heard the puja and wondered why they were so early. Whoops – outside (we were back in our room by then) the light was dawning. They weren’t early, we were late! But somehow that doesn’t matter when you can sleep in till midday then go and order your breakfast. I could really get used to this life. Continue reading

India 2008 # 12: Uncle Chips and Penguin Spit

Before dawn I was woken by the sound of what seemed like the Tibetan version of
the bagpipes coming from the temple. Of course, that started off the dog packs
who accompanied this strident sound with what they thought was rather a nice
rendition of the Barking Symphony Number 3 in C Minor. Even that may have been almost tolerable had it not been for the monkey packs singing their Screech
Symphony Number 8 in D Sharp. As any musician will tell you, these particular
notes go not together. Finally, thank goodness, the Tibetan bagpipes stopped
– ‘insert sigh of relief’. Alas, too soon. Horns started up, replacing
the bagpipes, with an accompaniment of drums keeping beat as loudly as
possible. Okay, at least the horns weren’t being played at as high a pitch as
the bagpipe thingys. But I didn’t reckon with the pending cymbols about to be played at a definate clash of tempo with the drums. Conches then competed this cocophony of sound. Continue reading

India 2008 # 11: More Monasteries, Spoilt Fish and the Near Death of Tinkerbell

Yesterday we wandered into the monastery down the road. We were able to go inside for their puja (kind of like a prayer service, I guess). The monks sat cross-legged in a row talking really quickly for ages (reading from books) while one of them beat on a drum at the same time. Pretty awesome multi-tasking! After a while, two of the monks blew on long horns, which fold into themselves telescopically. At the end of the puja, the same two blew on conch shells. Tibetan books are long and narrow and I don’t think the pages are stuck together like our ones. When they were finished with them, they wrapped them up in saffron coloured material. The temple was full of the most exquisite decorations I have ever seen in my life. Pictures of animals and various beings are painted on the walls and the ceilings. The fan even hung under a mandala! Now I’ve washed a few ceilings in my life and I know how uncomfortable it is just to do that. Actually painting the complex pictures they put up there just beggars belief! The doors have huge round gold handles on them with long tassles hanging off and even the foyer outside is painted with mythical beings, etc. Now I’ve never seen a stunned mullet in my life before but I betcha I was giving a pretty good impression of one! Continue reading

India 2008 # 10: In Which The Magic Stick Is Sadly Missed and the Rewalsar Diving Monkeys

We walked around the lake with Ernie and Leisa and had breakfast at a different monastery. There were a couple of wallahs across the road selling little round things that they poked holes in, put a few chickpeas into, poured some kind of spicy liquid in and this you toss down in one mouthful. I have no idea what these things are called but they’re quite an interesting taste. Continue reading

India 2008 # 9: Caves, Hilltop Con-Men and Monastery Escapism

This morning, due to the Tibetan Monastery alarm system, I was up pretty early. There had been an influx of monks, lamas, etc, from Leh (way up in the mountains) and lots of them were little boys. I amused myself for ages watching them interacting with the monkeys. These monkeys, otherwise known to us as “The Thugs” can get pretty close sometimes, and some of the older lamas’ were actually throwing food to them. So there were a few close encounters. One little guy in a yellow t-shirt and marone robes would bravely tell a monkey off while doing a karate stance at it. Very brave in my eyes, as the monkeys were almost bigger than him and have pretty big fangs. This little guy, however, had a few smarts about him – as soon as he had told the monkeys what for he would run like hell. Funniest thing I’ve seen in ages. Continue reading

India 2008 # 8: Umbrella Bashings and Momo Heaven

Today Paul, Leisa and I went to Mandi to book tickets back down to Delhi for Leisa and Ernie. We went on the local bus, which is always a delight if squishing up with many people and hanging on for dear life is your thing. Mandi isn’t the most attractive of towns. Compared to Rewalsar it was like dropping in on New York. We didn’t spend a lot of time there and subjected ourselves yet again to the usual bus stand confusion (i.e. “this bus going to Rewalsar?” “Yes, no, yes, no, maybe, in 10 minutes, in half an hour, in 2 hours”, etc…) How we actually get anywhere that we actually want to go in this country is a small miracle. I must remember to thank the patron saint of westerners in Asia for this. On the way back (yes, we actually found the correct bus in the end), when the bus had almost emptied out, some drunk guy went past and bashed me in the head several times with his umbrella, which was tied to his wrist and swinging about dangerously. Oh thank you sir, just when I was slacking off and feeling slightly comfortable, you reminded me that life is not meant to be so at all times. What was I thinking? He staggered up the front and sat next to an Indian woman. The bus driver then turned around and absolutely tore strips off this guy. I didn’t understand the words, but the meaning was definitely “Get Away From The Women You Drunken Fool”. Bless his chivalrous heart. The drunk guy went back down the bus, giving me a few more umbrella bashings for good luck and if I hadn’t been sitting down I would have been knocked over by the gin on his breathe. Naturally, Murphy’s law applied and this lovely chap got off before we did, which meant I received my third bashing and I now have a slight bruise on the side of my head as a reminder of our charming introduction to each other.

Later, back in lovely Rewalsar, we dined in a cafe on the street below our room. Now here in this town, I am in Momo Heaven. For those of you who haven’t experienced the delight of eating momo, they are Tibetan dumplings, filled with vege or cheese or mutton (goat) or whatever. You can have them steamed or fried and they are the most wonderful thing I have ever had the privilege to eat. A Tibetan guy wandered in with a large lump under his shirt and we looked at him accusingly and laughed when he saw that we had sprung him bringing beer into the cafe. It’s not a problem actually, but it was funny to spring him not being very successful at secrecy. This guy came through from Tibet in about 1985 and he doesn’t speak English so well, but gestured that he would go and get one for us also. English he might not have, and Tibetan we do not have, but we all had a really good laugh together.

They have what they call “English Wine Shops” here. They don’t sell wine. At all. They sell whiskey (this is what the Indians call wine), rum, etc and sometimes also the local brew – some of which you could run an airplane engine on. Ironically, on one of our ramblings around the lake, we found an English Wine Shop that actually sold wine and nothing else! This we have never seen before. I took a photo of it, I was so amazed.

Anyhow, at the end of the night (we have to be in the monastery gate before it closes at 10 p.m.) we tried to go to sleep to incredibly loud live Hindi music wafting across the lake. Thank goodness it only lasted until 2 a.m. And to let you know it’s the next day now, the monastery very kindly starts bashing gongs, ringing bells and blowing horns for Puja (morning service sort of thingy) at 7a.m. They are so considerate around here with their musical entertainment. This, combined with the hardest rock slab masquerading as a mattress I’ve ever had the pleasure to torture myself on meant I had a least 3 to 4 hours of sleep. Have I mentioned the splendid variety of comfort levels available here?