MarkTravel with Travel Vlogger Shraddha Basu.
Manali is one of the most happening and chill hill stations in India. This place beholds some astonishing natural beauty, several luxury hotels, and cool discotheques that can easily attract youngsters and party people. There are many ways to reach Manali. If you like to travel by air, you can use the Delhi airport or the Bhuntar airport (50 km from Manali, 10 km from Kullu). But if you want my suggestions, you should always choose the railways as I did. There are stations like Chandigarh or Kalka, any of which will give you a good conveyance and fantastic views till you reach Manali.
So, we reached Chandigarh at around 10 in the morning and boarded a 12 seater traveler, which we could call ours for the next 10 days. Thereafter the journey began from the land of the Sikhs. For breakfast, we halted at a roadside Dhaba in Chandigarh, which are in quite good numbers there. It was supposed to be a long journey until Manali, so we treated ourselves to a delicious meal. We ordered parathas, kadhai paneer, and some creamy raita. One thing you might notice, in Punjab & Haryana, they have a unique tradition of serving butter on the table even before they serve water. Having all items on the table, I took two parathas with no inch of extra butter, some paneer, and lots of raita. Yes, it is always advised not to take much spicy or oily food while traveling, especially in the hills.
In a new place, the environment and culture grab all your attention and lets you leave behind all your stress and tension. That’s exactly what had happened to me. The journey from the plains to the hills and to our ultimate destination Manali was more than 300 km that took about 8 hours or so. But while enjoying everything in sight, this overwhelming journey made us feel like it was half of the actual time it took. Towards the end of this journey, when the hotel we were supposed to stay in was a few kilometers away, we discovered some interesting facts about our driver. Yes, this driver, Sukhwinder was ours too for those following 10 days. Also, not to ignore, a well-spoken, knowledgeable driver is a must to make your journeys best. So our driver was from Jalandhar, Punjab, had well know-how about the history of his land and its neighbors, and anybody from India or abroad, who travels for knowledge, and wants to know the past of such a historically sound state like Punjab, they should learn from the stories passed through the generations from these locals.
I just love to close my eyes and recall the scene when the sky above was dark, the low hills beside the road were amazingly lit for all the pretty houses and some local festival going on there, and of course, the tales of history that the driver was narrating from the time of his ancestors. All of that is just beyond what I can articulate in words.
When we finally reached the hotel 'Monal', it was about 8 pm. The location was tucked away from the main roads, a little hard to navigate, but it had its own charm with its cute garden, bonfire area, and lots of other things that we were pleased with later on. We were a troop of 8 and a family of 3. Carefully taking our luggage to our respective rooms, I personally discovered that the room surprisingly fulfilled a long-yearned dream of mine. It was a deluxe double storied room with a peaceful mountain view through the clear glass wall. The room was exactly how I dreamt of it. Wooden furnished, one wall of nothing but transparent glass, the wide-open view of the mountains in front, wooden stairs taking me to the floor up above, the upstairs room also had that little rectangular glass see-through window, below which there was the low end of the sloppy roof, offering the same view. Both the floors had things in common like a double bed, attached washrooms, and the floor downstairs had some more necessary furniture. Soon we were all hungry enough to find our way downstairs to the dining hall. For dinner, they had chapatis, rice, and a few other items in a buffet, and all of them were just too yum.
The next morning, we enjoyed a lovely sunrise from our room itself. Then we freshened up, got dressed for the day’s exploration, and went down for breakfast, where again they had so many items, but I went for the bread and jam combo. I must say their self-made mixed fruit jam was too excellent to the taste. Well, that breakfast in their outdoor seatings, just in front of a pretty mountain, made it a lot more memorable. Also, there was a swing in that garden to cheer me up more. Thereafter, we got into our bus and left for the day, and headed towards Solang valley and few other attractions of the place. In some 2 hours or so through the picturesque Manali ranges, we reached Solang. Though the scene was amazing, sadly the place didn’t appear as beautiful as in the pictures and stories I came across before reaching there.
To be fair, the reason for this disappointment was probably the road construction equipment and the big boulders and the dry dust. In Solang, just some while later, we were acquainted by the typical horse smell that welcomed us. Besides horses, there were open jeeps to take one up the hills. Two of us, the eldest ones took the jeep, and the rest six of us got up on horses. All of the horses were tied together in a column and were guided by two horsemen. One in front, showing the way, and the other in the middle. That swingy ride on the horse’s back through the boulders and unleveled slope up was enjoyable until the horses’ smell from all over became a thing to tolerate and in the last climb on the horse’s saddle because of my back pains. The only things that kept me motivated were the beautiful picture up above the valley and the paragliders there. In few blinks of an eye, we found ourselves admiring the beautiful valley, and was wondering what was so special up here for all that hectic effort. We were in no mood for paragliding then. So, the rest of the attractions were a hilly stream and some temple, that demanded us to walk for another 2 kilometers, which I personally wasn’t up for. Yeah, I could say the spiritual, enthusiast people from the team were quite ready to go for it. We warmed ourselves up with some tea and Maggi which was being sold there by the locals, and they gave us good company too till the time our teammates returned. I enjoyed some good clicks and the cool breeze till then. By the time we came down the valley, we knew our horses had many Bollywood titles for themselves. One was called Shah Rukh, another was Basanti, and so on and so forth.
Next, we stopped at some other temple, which too demanded something similar to a two-kilometer walk. But the market place near attracted me more. I tried on a few traditional items and winter wears. I also got a brush of nostalgia when I came across a pair of baby socks of the same colors which I once owned as a toddler, which still makes me smile from one corner of my wardrobe.
We then came back to the main city; the best experience was at its mall. It was around 4:30 PM and we were hungry enough to order some meal, from a restaurant at the mall. After the meal, we headed towards the Hidimba Devi temple, which is dedicated to Hidimba Devi, the wife of Bheem from Mahabharata. But being late we found the temple gates were closed. But being in a near-empty temple area gave us the perfect vibe to figure out the tales it depicted by its wall carvings. Imagine the place’s beauty while enjoying the city lights below and picturesque mountains across the horizon.
Later in the evening, after an hour of loitering at the mall and exploring the market place (what we were fascinated by since we arrived), we finally got back to the hotel to hear some pub-like beats and followed it. That’s when we knew the day has more to offer. It directed us to a disco in the hotel and even before heading to our rooms, having our elders as spectators, we had an exciting and groovy night at the disco with a huge gang of electric Punjabi blood. Well, there was enough body warming up by the night to think about our hungry tummies, so we hurried for dinner where we again had mouth-watering options to choose from. Along with the yum delicacies, the night wrapped up, admiring the gorgeous full moon up above the hills.
The next morning, we left for Kaza by 7 AM.
SEE YOU ALL IN THE NEXT PART FOR KAZA!
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By Travel Blogger Shraddha Bose. (Guest Content Writer)