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Saturday, July 9, 2011

‘Green Hotel’, McLeod Ganj

For more vegan-friendly hotels in India and vegan-friendly restaurants in McLeod Ganj reviewed in this blog, you can click the linked words.

In the last post of our McLeod Ganj trilogy, we will write about Green Hotel. Green Hotel has been highly recommended by the Lonely Planet and Rough Guide as a place to stay and eat at McLeod Ganj. According to the backpacker community, vegetarian Green Hotel serves the best breakfast in town. We definitely wanted to stay at this place and verify this information.

Green Hotel as a place to eat

According to the Green Hotel website, it is a family-run business operating since 1978. Strategically located, Green Hotel is not smack in the middle of the McLeod Ganj township, neither too far from it – it is a 10-minute jaunt from the city center. Whether you want to go uphill to trek or visit the Bhagsunath temple, this is where your ascent begins and there is nothing better than beginning your ascent with the delicious breakfast on offer in the warmly decorated hotel restaurant. Often tourists make a beeline in the morning for a hearty breakfast before they get on with their day.

Green Hotel restaurant

Tofu-cheese Momo
Green Hotel restaurant serves great Tibetan breakfasts as well as green teas, tofu chips, cereals, pancakes, tofu-cheese momos, soups, salads, and fresh fruit juice to name a few. Although we spotted some lacto-ovo dishes, it is very easy to avoid them. We found that tofu has been used in many of the preparations and the Tibetan dishes especially, were largely vegan.

Like most eateries in McLeod Ganj, the Green Hotel restaurant at the basement has a well-stocked multilingual library.

Green Hotel as a place to stay

We were told that Green Hotel has a diverse selection of rooms catering to all types of travelers. Rooms have their own private shower with hot water available 24/7. The rates are highly flexible but we found they would generally vary between Rs.300/- to Rs.800/- depending on the seasons or whether weekday/weekend. It is better to book in advance during festival times to avoid the last minute rush and eventual disappointment. The rooms at the top floors are easily the best and present a magnificent view of the Himalayan peaks.

Green Hotel and Restaurant contact and food order details

Website for more information and hotel booking:
Telephone: 01892-221200/221479
Address: Bhagsu Road, McLeod Ganj
Timings: 7am to 10pm, every day of the week
Cost factor: A hearty meal for two costs around Rs.250/-.
Caution: This is a lacto-ovo vegetarian place; at the time of placing the order, please put in a word to ensure that your preparation is dairy- and egg free.

“If one is trying to practice meditation and is still eating meat, he would be like a man closing his ears and shouting loudly, and then asserting that he heard nothing.” ~Ancient Buddhist Text by Surangama Sutra~

Saturday, July 2, 2011

‘Lung Ta’ Vegetarian Japanese Restaurant, McLeod Ganj

For more vegan-friendly restaurants in McLeod Ganj reviewed in this blog, you can click this link.

The literal meaning of the word ‘lungta’ is ‘wind horse’, a mythical creature in Tibetan folklore. Lungta symbolizes positive life energy. In places of Buddhist significance, the lungta symbol is found depicted on prayer flags. Those of us who have visited a Tibetan Buddhist monastery would have noticed the magnificent sight of colorful flags strung in the air. It is believed that each time these flags with texts and symbols on them flutter, they disseminate goodness in the air and bless the surroundings.

Continuing from our last post on Namgyal Café, McLeod Ganj is a place that attracts people from every corner of the world. Some of these visitors follow the Buddhist faith; some come enchanted by the Buddhist way of life. Buddhists (the religion that The Buddha propagated), all over the world follow a basic code of ethics commonly known as The Precepts. The very first precept in Buddhism is “Pāṇātipātā veramaṇī sikkhāpadaṃ samādiyāmi” that translated means, “I will abstain from taking any form of life until the end of my life”. This led us to believe that McLeod Ganj is perhaps a place where we shall find something interesting. We sure did, and how?

A casual chit-chat with a group of backpackers led us to Lung Ta, a vegetarian Japanese restaurant. Wait a minute! Vegetarian and Japanese? That sounded incongruous. We double-checked whether what they said was right? They chuckled and said “Yes!”

Lung Ta Japanese Vegetarian Restaurant

Lung Ta is close to downtown and on entering the restaurant, it looked like a little Japan in itself. Now, part of the fun in eating at Lung Ta is in finding an empty table. The chances of getting one at first entry is next to none. However, people are welcoming to share their table with strangers. A bunch of Japanese travelers who had come to meet His Holiness, The Dalai Lama, happily offered to share their table with us. They informed us that the food at Lung Ta is authentic Japanese and most Japanese tourists at McLeod Ganj come here regularly as they find it a home away from home. There are no quiet souls in this restaurant; everybody is a tourist here and eating is accompanied by the happy exchange of myriad stories with virtual strangers, you may say. Even as strangers, we felt connected by the common human spirit of inquiry and friendliness.

We quickly skimmed through the menu. Surprise! Almost every dish listed in the menu was vegan. Dishes with cheese, there were none! Tofu is used in many of the preparations. We ordered Udon – thick flattened wheat noodles in a delicious soy-based soup. We also ordered Miso Soup made by first, grinding cooked soya beans, rice or barley, and salt, and finally fermenting the mixture. The dishes arrived in no time and tasted heavenly. Our Japanese friends wanted to check whether we liked the food. We loved it! We wished we could sample every dish in the menu!

We were told that the menu changes everyday. Although there are daily specials, the main course remains a constant and consists of vegetarian Miso Soup, Sushi, Tempura, and Vegetable and Tofu Steak. With such great company and tremendous food, time just flew.

We could not resist ourselves and walked up to the proprietor of the restaurant who introduced himself as Mr. Sonam. We asked what made him serve vegetarian foods when Japanese food all over the world is known for being otherwise. He explained that his is a second-generation Tibetan family in India and they follow Buddhism in its truest form. In a country like India which is so well endowed with vegetables, fruits, and grains, there is absolutely no "excuse" to eat otherwise, he said. He candidly added that the sum total of all human religions is ‘respect for all life forms’ in any case.

Later we found out that the proceeds from Lung Ta go to an NGO that helps rehabilitate ex-political prisoners from Tibet.

Lung Ta restaurant contact and food order details

Address: Jogibara Road, McLeod Ganj
Timings: 12:00noon to 8:30pm
Cost factor: A hearty meal for two costs around Rs.200/-.
Caution: This is a lacto-ovo vegetarian eatery; at the time of placing the order, please put in a word to ensure that your preparation is free of dairy and eggs. 

“May all beings everywhere plagued with sufferings of body and mind quickly be freed from their pain. May those frightened cease to be afraid, and may those bound be free. May the powerless find power, and may people befriend all life. May those of all species who find themselves lost, the young, the aged, the unprotected, be guarded by beneficent celestials, and may they swiftly attain Buddhahood.” ~Buddhist Prayer for Peace~