Yes, that’s Book Packing in McLeod Ganj, not Backpacking. The latter being a travel adventure for those exploring the Himalayas in (most likely) scruffy-baggy-unisex trousers and cotton rasta-colored friendship bracelets; seeking budget accommodation, ethnic meals and meaningful inter-cultural connections with locals and likeminded international explorers. The former being an adventure of a different sort – involving 27 books and a cheerful chappy armed with calico, a big sewing needle and red candle wax.
I had somehow amassed 27 books during my yoga teacher training: some of them part of the Kailash Tribal School of Yoga curriculum and some of them literary treats I just couldn’t resist.
- Happy circumstance: Snapping up inexpensive and interesting yoga books
- Problem: Lugging them home in an already-bulging suitcase
- Solution: Aforesaid cheerful chappy with his tailoring skills
Shipping things home will never be the same again.
No boring FedEx or UPS box required. Instead, you take your books to a tailor, who takes a break from sewing his colorful Tibetan wall hangings to create a custom-sewn, cloth-covered, neatly packaged bundle, ready for its voyage home. All of this done while laughing and smiling as he works speedily on his little Sagar sewing machine, weaving his tailor mastery around your precious yoga books.
He finishes off the final seam by hand, with a big needle and thick thread. When he holds a red stick over a flame and drips hot wax along the seam, evoking the nostalgia of a bygone era, it makes you want to press a Downton Abbey signet ring into it, to seal the deal. Seriously.
Two weeks later at home, when my parcel of books arrive, the cream calico material now dirty and scuffed but books intact, I’m immediately transported back to Jogiwara Road, McLeod Ganj, to visions of nimble sewing fingers making an art form out of mailing things home.
For McLeod Ganj Travelers – How to send parcels from McLeod Ganj, with minimum fuss:
It’s an art form in itself, but it can also be a bit frustrating if you don’t know the ropes. In the event that other travelers hit the search button on how to send their books or other items home from McLeod Ganj, here’s the scoop:
- Pick up a customs form (one form per parcel) from the internet services place, up the stairs just past the post office on Jogiwara Road. Also ask them to make two copies of your passport per parcel.
- Fill out the forms ahead of time and make sure you state the books are personal and used.
- Take your books (or clothing, or souvenirs) to the happy guy at the store that makes Tibetan wall hangings a few doors down from the post office, just past the Tibet Quality Bakery (see photo). You can’t miss him, as the storefront is filled with hanging pieces of colorful Tibetan material. Look for “Parcel Packing Here” sign.
- Watch, in awe, as he speedily sews a cloth parcel around your books, and seals it with red candle wax. The price for the parcel wrapping service was nominal – I think I paid less than 200 rupees.
- Write your address and the sender’s address (your hotel or someone you know in McLeod Ganj) in big letters on the parcel. Friendly tailor loaned me his permanent marker pen.
- Take your parcel, customs form and passport copies to the post office BEFORE NOON – when I was there, I was told they only do international parcels in the morning, even though they are open in the afternoon. This part was fairly expensive – I paid $60 to ship 27 books home, but excess luggage on a domestic flight would have cost a lot more.
- IMPORTANT! Take CASH with you to the post office. I didn’t have enough money and hot-tailed it down the road to the ATM, to find it was offline, then to the bank to cash money, and ran back to the post office, huffing and panting, with just minutes to spare. (And then I left my raincoat poncho behind and had to go back later to fetch it. Much deep yoga breathing required to remain calm!)
- The books arrived safely, and took just over 2 weeks to reach me in the US.
Happy Book Packing and Safe Travels!
[A wee note here … if you’re seeing strange adverts (nose and ear hair trimmers) in the space below, it’s because WordPress randomly displays these ads in return for my free blog space. I don’t make money from the ads and neither do I have a choice on what appears. Perhaps over time, the hair trimmers will be replaced by yoga mats and yoga books :-). ]