MacL is a very small, compact town, around the size of Andheri Station. You can walk across it in 5 mins (one way; the reverse is all uphill). There's a chorten in the center, between two parallel roads that join and split into 3 at the end. One goes down to the Tsuglagkhang Complex, which is essentially the Monastery, the Tibetan history museum, etc, and then continues onwards out of the town into Dharamsala. The other heads onwards to Jogibara village and the Dalai Lama's residence. At the other end, the roads combine at the city square, from where One heads off for the Church and the other heads for Bhagsu. That's it. And in this much space is one of the most incredibly charming little towns I've ever seen.
I want to come back here to live, man. The place is so different from anywhere else I've ever experienced... I thought I'd want to settle down in Goa, but this is it. I'm a mountain person, through and through.
Lunch at the Snow Lion, with momos and tofu thenthuk. My first original Tibetan dish, and I like. I like.
For some reason, everyone is avidly watching Rudraksh on TV (yeah, the hindi movie, Sunil Shetty, Isha K, etc) with such concentration it makes for a very relaxed meal. Actually, it's all like that. Nobody will come and ask you if you want anything else. Nobody will give you the bill before you ask for it. Every transaction is accmpanied with a little bow and a smile. People thank you for tips.
We go through the complex, doing the kora, and the museum. Tibet was occupied by China between 1949 and 1951, and a lot of it's traditions, history, and way of life systematically wiped out in the Cultural Revolution. The Dalai Lama was forced to escape; the Panchem Lama, the next in the heirarchy, was 'disappeared' and replaced by the Chinese. There's a very strong resentment of all things chinese here; a lot of shops advertise that they sell non-chinese goods. There are 'Free Tibet' posters and stickers everywhere. There's a sense of being in a different country, but not a whole one; it's like an egg, waiting to be reborn.
Everything's here, but compact, compressed. Essence.
Sit at the Tenyang cafe with M and watch the sun go down over an amazing hot freshly-baked pancake and darjeeling tea. Take a walk around the town once S and SK catch up. Little monks practicing the traditional debate, with the clap and the stamp. Extremely healthy, well-fed mountain dogs.
Dinner - we tried the Gakyi but it's no longer Israeli. Decide to head for the McLlo instead. It's an ok place, but obviously very tourist-focused, not really local. Pierce Brosnan once ate here (and judging by the amount of plates in fron of him, ate enough for 4 people) and that photo now adorns the wall and every menu card. Wander around some more, and head back to Bhagsu. End the day with apple pie at one of the 3 German Bakeries around our hotel.