Manali. A small town nestled in the foothills of the Himalayas, in the state of Himachal Pradesh. On a summer vacation with my family, the reason for our visit to Manali was that we were counting on it, to get rid of our routine fatigue. As a pleasant surprise, I came back with more than just a fresh mind- I got a new perspective too. My 500 km journey was fairly rocky because of road sickness- but well, that’s just me. Going through Punjab is a treat of a car journey with its super smooth highways. Be sure to stop at a roadside dhaba to get some real taste of the hospitality (and the awesome food) of Punjab. We started our journey at 6 in the morning, and after stopping at about 10 different places en route, we reached our destination at eight at night.
Though now infamous as a marijuana hotspot, Manali hosts scores of Israelis on vacation, and the result is a fusion of both cultures in the sense of cuisine and people. We checked in at a pleasant lodge called D’ Chalet in the outskirts of the city, but it doesn’t really matter where stay, because the trip would be a waste if your aim is to sit in and do nothing. The sound of the gushing Beas River that flows along the town is pleasant to the ears too. Manali is not a place for urban shopping, but souvenirs and Himalayan trinkets can be found at reasonable prices at roadside shops in Mall Road. Also extremely popular are the roadside harem pants shops and cyber cafes in old Manali. This is the place where you’ll find the most delicious food, as it caters to foreign tourists as well; so be sure to try out the shakes and cookies. The shopping is inexpensive, and you can get better bargains than your Janpath material. A variety of cuisines are available for you to choose from, ranging from Italian, Chinese, and Israeli.
A trip to Manali would be incomplete without paying a visit to the monasteries and temples situated there. Get a real insight of Buddhism at authentic hut shaped monasteries, featuring 20 meter Buddha statues and wishing bells. The journey to reach the temples is a long one, and catching a glimpse of the real Manali requires a lot of walking, so its best to leave those stilettos back home. Shop around in China Town for wind chimes and good luck wall hangings. This is also where the other side of fusion comes in- adventure sports. Solang Valley and Rohtang Pass (you must carry smelling salts on the way), both situated within 20 kilometers of the main town are definitely worth a visit. Paragliding, zorbing (being affixed to a big Styrofoam ball that is pelted down a hill at top speed!), snow-bike riding, and yak-riding are sports that tourists find highly exciting. But if you aren’t all that adventurous, you could still visit the places for its scenic beauty, calmness, and its location in the lap of nature. The China border is actually visible from certain spots on the Rohtang Pass, and skiing there is probably the most enthralling. Talking about sports, you could also take a trip down to the Kosi River and do some river crossing. Trust me, knowing that a river flowing at 70 miles an hour, ten feet below your rope-suspended body is quite an experience! Try lunch at the inexpensive restaurants on Mall Road, not at your hotel because of both the price and the taste.
In conclusion, reminiscing on a visit to Manali would remind you of warm and helpful innkeepers who insist on feeding you home-made ice-cream and Caesar salads, of beautiful valleys, lush green carpets of grass, beautiful architechure and the simplicity of life that we are often disconnected from. A visit once in your life is highly recommended. Go ahead. Visit nature.
[Image source: http://sheeraztours.com/resortimages/Manali.jpg]