Dali Gompa is one of the most impressive Buddhist temples in Darjeeling, the “headquarters” of the Dragon School (Drukpa Kagyu in Tibetan).

The day of our arrival there was a large gathering of monks to take part in a one-week-long special ceremony. We asked if we could lodge at the monastery, and the monks agreed with the typical Tibetan kindness and hospitality.

That’s how we ended up sharing that week with the monks, meditating in a corner of the temple while they created a estrange music with their chanting and curious instruments.

A pleasant discovery about Tibetan monasteries was the fact that, during special celebrations like that, the food is always vegetarian: rice with vegetables, fruit and tea.

At the conclusion of the ceremonial week, hundreds of people flocked from all corners of the region to receive the blessings of such auspicious occasion. And we, like them, also tied a blessed red cord around the neck.

We said goodbye to the monks among the admiration of the children, more interested in seeing and touching the big motorbike of my friend than in receiving another blessing.

We sat on a terrace of downtown Darjeeling to sip a cup of the famous local tea, grown on the slopes of the mountains, and to plan the next adventure.

“What do you know about Sikkim?” asked my friend. “Not much,” I said.

Before finishing the tea we had already decided that we’d visit the old Kingdom of Sikkim.

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