Little Tibet, Punjab, India

Mar 11 – 20, 2018

Talk about a unique and thrilling escape for your Bragging Rights. This spiritual adventure is off the charts! Imagine: Elephants, Sikhs, the Dalai Lama, Taj Mahal, bazaars, paragliding, monk chats, slum tour, art, temples, Children’s Village, Tibetan culture, feeding the poor and so much more on one trip. 

Discover 3 distinct lands that blend into a peaceful community which loves to receive visitors. I did this on my own last year and present it now for you who want to travel outside of the box of a tourist-trodden path. (See my blog below). It’s such an easy journey with just 2 short internal flights but you’ll feel you’ve ventured into two different planets! 

Welcome to Amritster, land of the friendly Sikhs. At first sight, I fell in love with these gentle souls wearing funny neon turbans. Check into the Hyatt and explore the Old Bazaar. At the famous Golden Temple, we’ll help serve 100,000 lunches in the world’s largest kitchen. In Attari, attend the spectacular Flag Ceremony at the iconic Waghah Border Crossing. Frenetic and colorful, you’ll want to linger in Punjab.

 

On to Daramshala or “Little Tibet”, we enter another world of lush forests flanked by the Himalayas. It’s the holy center for the kind Buddhists and home to His Holiness the Dalai Lama. March 18, AFS planned an audience with the HHDL and we hope all goes as planned. Tour His temple complex and the Tantric College to see lively debates between nuns and monks. Visit the Tibetan Children’s Village for delightful giggles where 1562 orphans reside. (tcv.org.in)

Watch mandala painting at Norbulingka Art Institute. Wander streets with robed monks and filled with street stalls laden with cool crafts. The scent of pine fills the air in this land of leopards and eagles. Then in Nagar Valley, get your adventure on with some of the world’s best paragliding and other activities.

Finally, we explore the best of Delhi on foot and by rickshaws. Get some retail therapy at Khan Bazaar. Take a guided tour “Walk Through the Street Life” for an insight of how poverty is being addressed now. Visit the Taj in Agra and Wildlife SOS, my favorite Elephant Sanctuary and hospital. Feed and bathe ellies. This trip’s so easy when we start and end in crazy-fun Delhi. Which will awaken all your five senses.

‘Sikh’ and ye shall find Large Fun! This is for those of you with Wanderlust who want a story to tell. It will reboot your heart with an attitude of gratitude. Just bring your curiosity. Join us on a vacay to learn in-depth about the pursuit of happiness!

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Please review AFS Terms and Conditions as well as Heading Abroad with AFS.
Land – Price based on a minimum number of trip participants, as well as local currency exchange rates which can fluctuate. We write our Itineraries a year in advance. Though unlikely, we reserve the right to modify schedules, tours and hotels if necessary. All hotel rooms are “run of house.”
Group air – Airlines may add surcharges to offset fuel inflation or taxes. The total ticket cost is not final until we receive your final payment and the group is ticketed. If doing own air, airport transfer may or may not be included depending on your air schedule. Do not buy air until the group air is set or we advise – though unlikely, airlines, times and dates can change!

Our Glorious AFS Itinerary

 Mar 11 – Depart USA

Fly USA to Delhi.  You can arrange own air for flexibility or fly with group air. (TBA approx. 300 days out.)

Mar 12 – Timeless Delhi

Arrive at New Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International airport and be met by our guide just outside the customs gate for transportation to the Welcome Dwarka Hotel, a short drive from the airport. The 5-star property has round the clock dining with two restaurants as well as a pool and a fitness center.

Meet in hotel lobby around noon for a traditional India welcome of tikka garland and juice.

City Tour – Imperial Delhi and Sikh Kitchen! 2-6 PM

Discover one of the world’s fastest growing city’s with over 5000 years of history. As India’s capital, there’s a fantastic blend of old and new and we’ll see some of each. Delhi has been the seat of power for numerous dynasties like the Turks, Rajputs, Afgans and Moghuls who lead until the British entered.

#adventuresforsingles #singlestoursWe begin in impressive Old Delhi to retrace the architectural history. See the imposing India Gate, President Palace, Parliament, Jama Masjid and more. Continue to Red Fort and Humayuns Tomb (UNESCO site), a mausoleum built in 1570.  Its beautiful marble and sandstone structure with intricate gardens were a precursor to the Taj Mahal.

Enjoy a two-wheeled Rickshaw ride among the monuments. Pass vibrant bazaars, vendors cooking up street-side delicacies and children (also cows) darting in and out of traffic… a great photo op!  If time allows, we visit Rajghat, cremation site of Mahtma Ghandi and Chandi Chowk in New Delhi.

Our groups loved visiting the enormous Sikh Temple. What you eat in India depends on which religion you follow, but here’s a place where people of all religions and castes come together to share a common meal and it’s free. Enter the huge ‘Langar’ or kitchen and dining hall where thousands of people are fed daily. Sikhism, 5th largest world religion, is an egalitarian society. Sikh’s volunteer their time in Langars to fulfill a tenant of their faith. It’s a cool cultural immersion. Ladies cover yourself with a head scarf.

7 PM – AFS Welcome Dinner to get to know your fellow travel junkies!

Overnight –Welcome Dwarka Hotel  (B, D)

Mar 13 – Free Day with Optional: Agra and Ellies

This is a free day to relax and explore some sights on your bucket list of Delhi or if it’s your first time to India, we recommend our full day tour to the Taj Mahal and Wildlife SOS for an unforgettable experience!

 OPTIONAL: Agra, Taj and Elephant Tour

Morning transfer to New Delhi/H.Nizammuddin Railway station to board train for Agra.

Depart: New Delhi at 8:10AM  by 12050 Gatiman Express

Arrive: Agra at 9:50 Hrs

 Agra: Two great Mughal monarchs, Akbar and Shah Jahan, transformed the little village of Agra into a befitting second capital of the Mughal Empire – giving it the name Dar-ul-Khilafat {seat of the Emperor}. It is not surprising, that modern Agra still reflects its Mughal heritage most conspicuously. A walk down the narrow bustling streets of the city will introduce the visitor to the wafting aroma of Mughlai cuisine.

Then we visit the mesmerizing Taj Mahal – a UNESCO World heritage. A visit to the fabled Taj Mahal to witness the magical effects caused by the reflections of the changing colors of the Sun on this brilliant white marble building. The Taj is perhaps the most photographed monument in the world. Nothing can truly prepare you for the beauty. Exploring the manicured grounds and spectacular monument will leave you breathless.

The 17th century Taj Mahal is often called a poem in stone. If so, the mausoleum is a love poem – created by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan for his favorite wife Mumtaz Mahal. It took 22 years to be completed and was designed and planned by a Persian architect Ustad Isa. Apart from its stunning design balance and perfect symmetry, the Taj is also noted for its elegant domes, intricately carved screens and some of the best inlay work ever seen. It is the jewel of Muslim art in India and one of the universally admired masterpieces of the world’s heritage.

Later in the afternoon, before our drive back to Delhi.  We visit Wildlife SOS Mathura.  This Elephant Conservation and Care Center will provide you with the opportunity of a lifetime: to meet, interact, bath and feed these rescued elephants.  Each day hundreds of captive elephants in India are tortured, overworked, starved and continue to slave for owners who exploit them. This is an elephant haven created in 2009 to rehabilitate severely abused captive elephants in distress. Several months of vet care, good nutrition and rest totally rehabilitates their welfare.  They get the best medicine, veggies and even pedicures here!  Learn about their incredible rescue efforts by elephant ambulances and meet the vets who treat all their injuries.

Continue overland to Delhi covering distance of in approx. of 3 ½ hours.

Overnight: Welcome Dwarka Hotel (B)

Mar 14 – Delhi – Amritsar

This morning transfer to Delhi airport for your flight to Amritsar.

Depart: New Delhi at 1240 Hrs by 9W-2791 Jet Airways

Arrive: Amritsar at 1350 Hrs
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Amritsar – is the second largest town in the state of Punjab. It is known to be a cultural and spiritual center for Sikh religion and was founded in year 1574 by Guru Ram Das – the fourth guru of the Sikhs. The name Amritsar, meaning ‘Pool of Nectar,’ is named after the sacred pool around which the Golden Temple is built. People from all over the World come to pay their reverence to Guru Granth Sahib and take a dip in the holy water for spiritual purification. (Read my blog below about this special city)

Arrive at Amritsar airport and transfer to The Hyatt Regency where you receive a traditional Punjabi welcome. This beautiful 5-star property is located very near the Golden Temple and includes a full spa, a pool, as well as a fitness center.

Enjoy a free afternoon to relax and enjoy the property or explore Amristar.

Overnight: Hyatt Regency Hotel (B)

Mar 15 – Amritsar – The Golden Temple

Begin with a visit to the appropriately named Golden Temple. Located in the heart of the city, it is of the holiest religious shrine of Sikh Religion. Also known as Sri Harmandir Sahibm, it has entrance doors in all four directions. This beautifully gilded structure is covered with almost a ton of gold. The Golden Temple welcomes everyone regardless of the religion or faith one follows. The stunning sanctum stands out against the shimmering waters of the holy tank, flanked by spotlessly clean marble walkways and pavements makes it breathtakingly beautiful. It’s so big, you could spend a day exploring. We will also visit the Temple’s Community Kitchen the largest on earth – where food is served free of cost all day and night for thousands of people!! Enjoy a volunteer experience in the community kitchen. Prepare and serve a meal for people from all walks of life.

Continue to Jaliawalah Bagh, which is located near the Golden Temple. A historical monument of national importance; it was immortalized after the 13th April 1919 massacre in which British soldiers fired of peaceful protesters. Visit the Martyr’s Gallery to pay homage to those who lost their lives in one of the worst carnages of its times.

Later, we can test out bargaining skills when we proceed to The Old City Bazaar. Amritsar is an excellent place to shop for traditional Indian wear, bangles, the famous Punjabi jootis and other trinkets. Just wandering through the narrow lanes of the Old Bazaar lined with old havelis and other structures is an enchanting experience in itself.

 Early evening, we depart for the village of Attari for the famous Wagah Border Ceremony between India and Pakistan. Witness a spectacle like no other – the ceremonial changing of guard. This daily theatrical ceremony includes marching, followed by the singing of the national anthems and other patriotic songs. This is a much sought after experience, and people come from far and wide to watch it.

Overnight: Hyatt (B)

Mar 16 – Amritsar – Dharamshala

This morning we drive thorough sweeping landscapes into the foothills of the Himalayas for Dharamshala approx. 5 hours with a few nice stops along the way.

This beautiful hillside city located in the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh offers incredible vistas. Surrounded by cedar forests, the hillside city is home to His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan government-in-exile. The Thekchen Chöling Temple Complex is a spiritual center for Tibetan Buddhism, while the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives houses thousands of precious manuscripts.

On arrival at the Fortune Moksha Hotel & Spa, also known for its incredible views. We are greeted with a traditional Himachali welcome which generally involves the wearing of a colorful regional cap. You will have the rest of the day free to relax or explore.

Overnight: Fortune Moksha Hotel & Spa (B, D)

 Mar 17 – Bir Billing in Naggar Valley

This morning, we drive to Bir Billing for some adventure!

Bir Billing is India’s most famous Paragliding destination, located in the heart of Himalayas Himacahal Pradesh region.  Bir Billing hosted the Paragliding World cup in 2015. Other activities here are trekking and Mountain biking.  We’ll get a headcount on who wants to paraglide later.  Only $75.  Others may explore the villages or try the new sport of River Crossing by Rope over the rapids.

Lunch at nearby hotel. Return to Dharamshala.

Overnight: Fortune Moksha Hotel & Spa (B, L)

  Mar 18 – Dharamshala

 #singlesvacationThe delightful children of the Tibetan Children’s Village will help you start your day. From its humble beginning 54 years ago, The Tibetan Children’s Village has today become a thriving, integrated educational community for destitute Tibetan children in exile, as well as for hundreds of those escaping from Tibet every year. You walk in and instantly feel the love and happiness of these children. TCV has established branches in India extending from Ladakh in the North to Bylakuppe in South, with over 16,726 children under its care. Bring some candies or pens to share with the kindergarteners.

Drive to visit Norbulingka Institute, a learning center of Tibetan Art and Culture. Thangka or mandala painting is a major attraction of the visit. There’s also gallery workshops for wood-craft, embroidery, metal-craft and a doll museum that depicts the lifestyle of nomads in Tibet and a good gift shop.

Continue to the Dalai Lama Temple Complex   a beautiful and peaceful place decorated with the colorful prayer flags and perfect for serene walks or meditation with chanting monks. Upper Dharamsala is known as the home to His Holiness the Dalai Lama. The main temple is where His Holiness the Dalai Lama gives teachings several times a year.

His Holiness’ residence is located near the main temple and this is the headquarters of the Tibetan Government in Exile. The Tibetans settled in Dharamshala in 1960 when His Holiness the Dalai Lama had to flee Tibet in 1959 and the Prime Minister of India allowed Him and some of His followers to settle here. The temple also houses one of the largest collections of sacred Tibetan texts. I loved watching the Tibetan nuns and monks debate outside at the Tantric College. Feel free to engage them in a debate yourself.

HHDL 

Thirteen months ago we submitted a special request for a private audience with His Holiness Dalai Lama on this day.  (March is the month he normally does public teachings in Dhar.)  Secretary Tenzin of the Office of His Holiness said, “We cannot know the feasibility of this until late January. If we get to meet with HHDL.”  If we can meet with HHDL as hoped, he suggests a group donation be collected for charity. While there is no guarantee due to requests for His time because of his advanced age (now 82) and failing health. If he passes, the next in line to fill his place is the Karmapa.  We pray that karma will be on our side! If not possible, we may be able to see him in a general audience. If all else fails, we will have an audience with a high enlightened monk who works for HHDL. 

Overnight: Fortune Moksha Hotel & Spa (B)

Mar 19 – Dharamshala – Delhi

This morning transfer to Dharamshala airport for your flight to New Delhi.

Depart : Dharamshala at 1235 Hrs by AI-9814 Air India

Arrive : New Delhi at 1420 Hrs

Or

Depart : Dharamshala at 1210 Hrs by Spice Jet Flight SG 2469

Arrive : New Delhi at 1335 Hrs

Arrive at New Delhi’s airport and transfer to your hotel.

Arrive at New Delhi’s Indira Gandhi Domestic airport and transfer to hotel Le Meridian!  There’s plenty to do this afternoon.  I suggest considering these options.

  • Visit to Salam Balak Trust: The Salaam Baalak Trust City Walk is an English guided tour of almost 2 hours conducted by kids who used to live in the streets of Delhi before joining our Trust. Our guides are adolescents who have been fully trained as local guide and who want to improve their communication and speaking skills. City Walk gets the children’s stories heard, gives people a view of their world through their eyes. Those who take the City Walk tour through the streets of inner city of Paharganj and the area around New Delhi railway station, led by a child who was once living and working on the streets will experience special tour far from the tourist main attractions. City Walk is an example of how a volunteer’s creativity can translate into a unique and enduring program, which is both popular and economically viable. Over the last seven years, thousands have taken the Walk and empowered a number of children helping them to join mainstream life. $39
  • Night Tour of Akshardham Temple: Akshardham Temple is the largest Hindu temple of India and is a major tourist destiny of India. The temple devoted to Swaminarayan has around 2000o statues, floral monuments, ponds, a large dining hall, numerous shopping complex and beautiful gardens. Situated on the bank of the Yamuna Akshardham temple has an IMAX theater, beautiful musical fountains. The temple is a major tourist destiny and is a must watch for the visitors who come to Delhi. $35

Overnight: LeMeridian (B)

Mar 20 – Depart for USA 

Depending when your flight leaves, you may reach USA on Mar 21.


Fitness Level Two –  I have no trouble walking and if necessary, can walk for 3+ miles.  Uneven surfaces are not a problem.  I do not need a cane or walking device.

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$400 deposit secures your reservation.  Limited to 30 participants.   More details in AFS Trip Tips for registrants.

Land Cost: $1795 (per person/twin share) + $299 Internal domestic air

Includes all stated above in itinerary, first class accommodation, meals as stated, daily guided tours with entrance fees stated, licensed English-speaking guides, private coach, AFS GTL.

Not Included: $85 gratuities, visa (if necessary)

Air: You can book your own air or we will present Group Air later, in Trip Tips, if requests demand.

Please review AFS Terms and Conditions as well as Heading Abroad with AFS.
Land – Price based on a minimum number of trip participants, as well as local currency exchange rates which can fluctuate. We write our Itineraries a year in advance. Though unlikely, we reserve the right to modify schedules, tours and hotels if necessary. All hotel rooms are “run of house.”
Group air – Airlines may add surcharges to offset fuel inflation or taxes. The total ticket cost is not final until we receive your final payment and the group is ticketed. If doing own air, airport transfer may or may not be included depending on your air schedule. Do not buy air until the group air is set or we advise – though unlikely, airlines, times and dates can change!

BOOK NOWWelcome Hotel #singlestour Hyatt #singlesvacationFortune-Moksha-Hotel #singlestour

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“Off the Grid in Punjab” – Sept. 2017   Blog        

“Coddiwomple” means to travel in a purposeful manner towards a vague destination. I’ll be coddiwompling my way to regions unknown to me. Intentionally, I google nothing and reviewed no maps. This would dilute my joy of discovery. I revel in the element of surprise to confirm the axiom, ‘Tourists don’t know where they’ve been and travelers don’t know they’re going.”

Born with genetic wanderlust, I have an insatiable curiosity to explore the globe and seek the exotic places to reboot my passion for travel. Third World journeys always give me a story to tell. , I can never become a story teller sipping umbrella drinks on a cruise ship. Bring it on! …places that speak no English, broken infrastructure, no electricity (I have a butane hair curler) and funky toilets. There’s always challenges to get one’s adventure on. For me, an ordeal is preferable to a pampered vacation. Not everyone understands this, but it’s not their journey to make sense of.

I like to feel vulnerable because it teaches me patience, open mindedness, tolerance and respect for people unlike me. More important, it keeps me humble to depend on God and the kindness of strangers. It erodes my ego. The farther I go, the smaller I become. And it’s a spiritual experience that makes me acutely aware of all my American blessings. I start overflowing gratitude for all I’ve taken for granted the past year.

Understand I love my home and husband, but each year I get the itch that can’t be scratched. The great affair is to move and be soothed. I must exit my comfort zone to practice self-sufficiency and strengthen my weakened self-confidence. There’s often pre-departure apprehension (like what if I die) but I won’t allow that to cheat me from the thrill of exploration.

At home abroad, sometimes the adrenaline of fear hits but this can be my high, my dopamine from conquering dark moments. I become a Travel Warrior suited up with the armor of courage to face any perilous situation. Wherever I am, I find kind locals I call my “angels with skin on“ who are sent directly from heaven in the midst of my path. My Higher Power then grows ten times larger. Still, I’m not stupid. On arrival, I’ll buy a hijab head cover and a beautiful pink sari to wear and blend in with the locals.

The Where –

I love to just allow the wind to blow me where it will but I have a plan in Punjab. I’ll begin in Amristar, ‘Land of Sikhs’, those gentle souls who wear the funny head turbans. At the Golden Temple, I’ll help serve the 100,000 daily meals in the world’s largest dining room and I’ll ride rickshaws to the bazaars. Then to the eco-mecca of Billing Valley high in the Himalayas and paragliding capital of the world.

I’ll explore Dharamshala, ‘Little Tibet’, a serenely spiritual place where I hope to meet with the Dali Lama. (My friend is trying to secure an appointment for me. If not possible, I’ll meet his cousin Roger.  Roger Lama.) Later, if fate allows, I’ll continue to Lahore Pakistan and Shimla in Himachel Pradesh. Finally in crazy Delhi, I’ll visit ‘School Under a Bridge’ of 200 kids with 1 teacher.  Then my bucket list dream – the world’s most charitable animal shelter and elephant hospital  – Wildlife SOS. I have no desire to see endless hysterical monuments, temples, palaces and must-see sites. I want to play charades with unwashed children and chew some delicious Punjabi foods. I wanna get lost in Authenticity.

The Why –

  1. Because it’s there, to escape to a place I’ve never been.
  2. It’s part site inspection. If these places make my heart leap, I’ll send an Adventures for Singles group here.
  3. To give trinkets to children. This tickles my heart.
  4. Finally, this runaway is a gift to myself to celebrate my birthday. It’s a Big One yet I’m filled with gratitude for the privilege of being alive. Traveling far always makes me feel young again!

Please come join me and follow my blog posts so that I don’t feel so alone. Adventure beckons!

BOOK NOW

Please review AFS Terms and Conditions as well as Heading Abroad with AFS.
Land – Price based on a minimum number of trip participants, as well as local currency exchange rates which can fluctuate. We write our Itineraries a year in advance. Though unlikely, we reserve the right to modify schedules, tours and hotels if necessary. All hotel rooms are “run of house.”
Group air – Airlines may add surcharges to offset fuel inflation or taxes. The total ticket cost is not final until we receive your final payment and the group is ticketed. If doing own air, airport transfer may or may not be included depending on your air schedule. Do not buy air until the group air is set or we advise – though unlikely, airlines, times and dates can change!

#adventuresforsingles #singlestravel #singlesvacations
#singlesvacation