It’s not just the mountains, the amazing scenery around the villages and the much cooler climate for the Indian summer that makes McLeod Ganj so pleasant. It’s also the Tibetans who are both friendlier and more reserved than the Hindu Indians we have encountered so far.
Less hassle, more smiles, less aggressive stares and a generally more relaxed demeanor really does make a big difference (Sikhs and Muslims have also been similar). People dont seem as desperate either but then, from the looks of it, the town is easily one of the more prosperous ones we have seen with many social and health services.
The buildings and general environments are also cleaner, better built and have the feel of being better cared for. Yesterday, walking along a small street in McLeod Ganj, for what seemed to be the first time in India, we saw healthy potted plants in a neat row with an elderly Tibetan man watering them. They were on the verandah of an apartment building. The clothes line had neatly pegged out clothes. The other apartments had identical looking clothes and potted plants.
Part of the reason why I feel so comfortable could be because the town is well set out for tourists. The Tibetan family run guesthouse we are staying in is by far the cleanest we’ve been in with the shared toilets and bathrooms scrubbed every morning and the common areas swept out, the bins emptied. It’s not top line either – we’re paying 170 rupees a night. It’s just that there’s a different idea of cleanliness, service and work. These are things we took for granted in Thailand and Malaysia and it is sad that it is such an exceptional case in India, at least from our 3 months of travel through it so far.