I met up with a very cute (yet, alas, with a boyfriend) Iranian/German girl in Madikeri, and we both set off yesterday for Byakuppe - a Tibetian town an hour away.
The culture shock was amazing. The town has 20,000 people, 5,000 of them monks - and very few Indians.. I've seen less than 15 in the last 24 hours. Bald men with red robes walk everywhere around town.
The other thing is, technically, I'm breaking the law by being here. For whatever reasons, the Indian government makes it very hard for foreigners.. We can visit for the day, but to stay the night requires a permit (free, but requiring 4 months notice). And so, I had to find a slightly out of the way shady guesthouse that didn't mind too much about my lack of paperwork. If I get caught, in theory, it could be a big problem with the police, and so after dark, i head back to the hotel...
The german girl and I walked around the town, and hearing singing coming from one building, we noseily popped our heads in - it turned out to be a production line of about 40 monks making flat-breads.. Took lots of photos (and a few videos) of the monks there.
We then walked the 3km to the Golden Temple, and on the way, befriended a monk who wanted to practice his english. He told us quite a bit about how things work....
It's almost like a military state here.. The Lama police have rules for everything. No cricket/football playing, no eating meat, no going outside your camp area without a special permit.
The monk we befriended had only been to the golden temple (which was amazing) 3 times in 11 years... Crazy!
In the evening, the german girl headed back to her boyfriend in Madikeri, and I went in search of Internet... well, there are a few cafes that the monestary runs, and it being a tuesday (the monk holiday), the place was packed to the rafters with younger monks surfing the web.. Quite a surreal site, to see them using Yahoo chat and browsing the latest cricket results.
I'm going to try and stay here a few days at least... it's such a pleasant change from being in India that I want to soak it in a bit.
Plus, one of these days, I need to wake up for the 6AM chanting.. which I didn't manage to do this morning.