This years quota of travelling north was initially planned for Assam, and NE(last year it was Nainitaal, Rudrapur and Jim-corbett), but Manali is something we missed for a long time. So ultimately freezed for Shimla and Manali, considering summer in mind. As usual after doing some initial research, plans are in place and booked return tickets to Delhi(Kingfisher), and then by train, car and cab locally..
Infact, there are many packages available, but I decided to design my own itinerary, as none of the packages include train service from Kalka to Shimla. Which I did not want to miss. (And off course, making own arrangements on hotels, flights and train is an experience I have always enjoyed )
So, exactly two months after our wayanad trip, started for the big ones towards Himalayas..
There was a last min mess up from KF, so our journey to Delhi was a bit longer, as were made to fly to Mumbai and take another flight to Delhi from MUmbai. Kingfisher A321 from Mumbai landed at Delhi at around 1 pm in the noon.
Though Reshma insisted on Cab, I convinced her to take airport express way to NewDelhi, as I wanted to experience that. Airport Express Metro way was highly efficient and frequency is good. Hope to see similar highspeed transport system in Bangalore too. And Kalka shatabdi from Delhi was on time, and concluded day 1 on the foot hills of Himalayas.
I was bit disappointed that I could not make it on Himalayan Queen to Shimla. So took Innova to visit Chail Palace and Durga temple. Chail palace is just amazing one, and located a bit far from Shimla.
And finally arrived Shimla in the evening. A hotel called Silverine was already booked, which is close to the famous MALL road, but the access to the hotel is bit scary.. The executive package they offered was a bit nonsense except for the slightly larger room than the regular room.
Sight seeing tour, which was complimentary from the hotel was given, and they took us through some temples, and the best part of the tour was the visit to the Viceregal Bunglow now, (more popularly called as Institute of Advanced Studies), a beautiful structure with some antiques. Every piece preserved in the bunglow has history associated with it. But, other than the Bunglow, most of the other places covered as part of complimentary sightseeing was of very less significance. And Jaku temple was not covered in the tour they provided.
Evening, it was the time for The Mall.. It was a great shopping arcade, and the best part is no vehicles are allowed. And unique feature is a lift being used to reach the Mall road, and first time we are experiencing something like this having access from a paid lift for a shopping street. Church, post office, HPTDC office, Muncipal Office(Town Hall) are all historical landmarks on Mall. Spent a good evening on the Mall, and the time to burn our pocket a bit ().
A level above, there lies something called Ridge, which joins the Mall road at a point called Scandal Point, were statue of Lala Lajpat Rai is installed.
We started little early towards Kufri, located around 15 kms from Shimla, but a tiring journey and full of dusts. A view point at Kufri is around 1.5 kms from the main point, which generally people take ponys and horses to reach..
A view from there is good, but nothing great about it.. The only significance is, we can see Indian border(or they say so), through binoculars installed on a hillock, paying hefty 75rs for 5 mins..
Another place we visited was the wildlife zoo, which has some birds, and some deers.
Shimla to Manali
After enquiring a bit on the best mode of transport from Shimla to Manali, we narrowed down on HPTDC over HRTC .
Almost 10 hour journey from Simla to Manali left us tired for the day. But the journey on the top of hills was just fantastic. Narrow Roads which winds up on the hills with out any safety measures leaves every one scary. After sometime, the journey is the real test for your temperment because of the pace of the vehilces.
Journey becomes more exciting once we cross the town of Mandi, River Beas(also called as BYAS) follows you all the way from Mandi to Manali. The town was named after Manu.
As soon as we reached the Manali busstand, a lot of auto drivers surrounded us, (typical north Indian town).. Best part was the sarovar portico located near the club house, is bit away from the dirty mall and central areas. I was bit disappointed that a tourism destination has a stinking bus stand, with no sign boards or info desk.. But Sarovar Portico, was an excellent place to stay in. The room offered for us was simply superb. What was more exciting was the hotel is on the banks of the river Manalsu(I would rather call it as a stream) . The hotel offered magnificent view of Himalayas, especially during night, Moonlight on snow covered hills is something best to be experienced.
Got up early in the morning, went alone out for a walk towards Manu temple which is around 1.5 kms away from club house..
I casually called up HPTDC office in morning, and they said, there is daily trips for Rohtang, snow point and so on. Immediately booked two tickets with them. Snow point what they call is on the way to Rohtang pass, the experience was awesome and Pranav enjoyed playing with the snow, made some dolls out of it. The further road which leads to Rohtang, Leh and Ladakh was blocked, and most of the places enroute are for Armymen.
Once we reach the snow point, immediate thing which comes to our mind is this is a shooting point.. Most of hte Indian moview which has snow as back ground has been shot here.
Noon, after lunch headed for Solang valley, one of the main attractions of Manali, situated close to Kothi.. Cable car(you can not compare it with any international ones in Europe or Genting) takes you to the middle of snow mountains, spend almost 2 hours there. View of snow covered mountains peaks from there remains in your memory for a long time..
Though there were some attractions like parasailing, and bungee jumping and so-on,, none of them are very exciting/.
One the way back in the evening, there is a point where water originates, and is named after Panditji ,, Nehru Kund..
On the evening, visited Hadimba temple, myth is that Hadimba and Ghatotkaja lived there, (there is a similar story in a place called Chitradurga,).. We walked from Hadimba temple to Sarovar Portico and closed the day with sumptuous dinner.
We were in a dilemma whether to go to Manikaran trip as I knew its bit far from Manali and we need to cross Kullu all the way.. And thinking that we don’t visit it regularly did not want to miss it.. Journey to Manikaran was on a narrow bumpy road and quite long.. On the way, we visited some durga temple, its more of a temple complex and you see all the idols installed over there.. Huge number of Raftiing centers on the the other side of the road have mushroomed. But rafting was something I have experienced at Dandeli, and recently on Sita.. I would say rafting on Kali is more exiting and less explored and on one of the thickest forests, so just bye passed the rafting part and went ahead to Manikaran..
We have a gurudwara which is not well maintained, and see a lot of devotees taking bath over there. I generally don’t miss to take extra baths had to let it go as the place was not that great. Reshma, too was expecting a great place was bit disappointed.
The day was exclusively for shopping and some hidden places with in the town. Visited a hot water spring again at Vashisht Kund on a small hillock, I would say this is much better place than Manikaran.. The temple is of great mythological importance.
Came back to Mall and visited Manu temple again (for me it was second time), headed back straight to hotel and rested.. Himachal Tea we had on a small hillock near Manu temple deep inside a remote village was superb. I really felt sorry for the native Manali people who are ignored by these multinational hotels.. The traditional tribal himachal hospitality is almost vanished, because of these hotel chains expanding. According to them, the town is getting untidy everyday.
Evening was a leisure time for us and visited Mall again for some last min shopping. we need to have special bargaining skills in North India.
We were fortunate that hotel had arranged local folk dance at their premises for KESARI tourists. Their folk dance was good but, i felt its been fine tuned and polished a bit, and we can not find the nativity of the dance. (eventhough they were wearing the native dress.)
After breakfast we started to a place called Anandpur sahib. Bus was on snails pace and people are in no hurry to move. All of sudden at Kullu, HRTC bus stopped because of engine problems.. We were made to board another bus but that too broke down near Mandi.. My god!!, if AC executive buses break down with out any notice, what about the ordinary buses?? But journey till Mandi was breathtaking, and the best part was we came across some chanels of Bhakra Nangal Dam build across Sutlej river. Evening we reached a town called Anandpur Sahib in Punjab which has another Gurudwara. Packed some food for the evening and left for Delhi.
Delhi not new for both of us, but visited some places as we had our flights in the evening. Visited Parilment, Indiagate and Qutub Minar on Metro and quite amazed to see the efficiency of the Metro.
We did not want to take every place in ND, as we have visited most of them multiple times.. I packed some food for lunch (Packed rice and Rajma ,, with curd rice) and left for Airport again on Express way.
New terminal 3 at New Delhi airport is full of amenities (but no where close to Changi airport or Dubai airport). I had access for Kingfisher Lounge as I am a of King club Member. Relaxed there for couple of hours. Pranav spent the whole noon counting the aircrafts.