Monday, November 18, 2013

Weekend trip to Namdroling Monastary

Yesterday a group of us (people at the yoga school: my two lovely room-mates and five others) rented a car to go visit Bylakuppe which is the second biggest Tibetan settlement in India and home to Namdroling Monastary. Its about 2.5 hours from Mysore and it was my first trip out of town.

I still am really interested in seeing some countryside and/or nature type areas (I think I keep mentioning a bird sanctuary I am really interested in) but there was room in the car so I decided to join in. It was my first trip out of Mysore. The  areas we drove through were basically rolling fields of green grass with patches of trees and farmland. It was a bit cloudy and the UKers in the group kept remarking on how like and English summer it seemed if you sort of unfocused your eyes. There are no uninhabited areas really - every 20 minutes you hit a small town and the road is dotted with animals, mutton stands, small general stores, ox pulled carts, the ubiquitous dosa hotel (food stall) etc.

The monastery itself is quite a tourist attraction for local Indians. It contains a few temples and and some barracks for monk housing as well as some other buildings with religious significance. The statues and wall paintings in the temples are mind-bogglingly elaborate. Tiny details everywhere. According to the sign the 60 foot gold Buddhas in the largest temple we were able to enter are also filled with other smaller statues. The place  is ringed by a wall of prayer wheels which you spin as you walk clockwise. Behind the prayer wheels there was a field draped in Tibetan prayer flags with maybe 40 or so young monks in training playing soccer (football) and some piles of burning trash. A few of the young monks were listening to music or playing games on mobile devices. I think this was my favorite bit of the whole place.
Entrance to the monastery. We couldn't go in that big temple but off to the left is the temple with the giant Buddhas. Also there is a row of jugs of drinking water arranged on the archway over the door - I am not sure what that is for but it looked like it could be an offering maybe. I wish I'd gotten a better picture of the soccer playing monks but it didn't really turn out.

I think besides yoga finding consuming and preparing food takes up most of the morning/afternoon here so I thought I might write a bit about it. Basically most of what I eat here is delicious but there is a lot less variety than we are used to in the U.S. Food out is either Indian or "yogi food" - there are a handful of restaurants - mostly breakfast places, that feed almost exclusively yoga students and serve omelets, plates of steamed veggies with tofu, toast, etc.
Monkeys at Chakra House (one of the yogi food places). I was really excited but they are apparently mean so I will keep my distance.

The most ubiquitous Indian dish here is the dosa which is sort of big fried flat bread with a couple of chutneys on the side (my favorite is onion dosa mmm). Tali is also popular and involves either rice or roti or naan if it is a north Indian tali and four or five small cups of dal, soup, chutney etc. Most of the side dishes are yellow, moderately spiced and sort of runny. These two dishes are tasty but not that exciting - some of the Indian places have a wider variety of North Indian curries. Most places are vegetarian which is extremely convenient.
Happily I can now cook at home with a minimal set-up. There are vegetable and fruit carts all over the place. We eat a lot of bananas and papaya (the bananas are amazing). I make a lot of rice and lentils. Cabbage, peppers, and cauliflower are all readily available but it is hard to find green leafies.
Kitchen set-up at home
I was so pleased that I managed to make a banana bread pudding in our little kitchen that I took a picture of it. Don't judge me. It was delicious and now that I've fed my room-mates desert I feel I am at home.

It was really nice to eat some Tibetan food on our little excursion. We got some sort of stir-fried green, a few types of mo-mo (steamed dumpling) and tingmo which is steamed bread and is delicious.

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