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Let's see now - what was the motivation to go to Manali in winter, huh? That's the question we were asked by almost everyone we told that we were going. I would blame the movie 'Frozen'. Since my daughter Reema saw it a couple of years ago, she has been wanting to see snow and determine if she could manipulate it the way Elsa (the princess in the movie) could. I suppose she was disappointed eventually :(. Oh but what a fabulous trip! We got lucky with the weather - we got two glorious days of sunshine to get used to the cold and do some local sight-seeing, and then two glorious days of fun-filled snow fall!

General tips for Manali - its a small place and tends to get crowded with bad traffic snarls. Although the locals are really very patient about them, bad driving yes but no yelling at all! Snow falls in Manali too but the skiing is about an hour away at Solang Valley. Solang can be easily visited in a day from Manali. Snow is usually guaranteed by the end of January. But you can get lucky and catch it like we did, in the beginning of January. But that's really a hit-and-miss. Even while we were there, we could not predict the weather over the next couple of days. I am sure its beautiful in the summer too but no experience there. You can reach Manali either from Chandigarh or from New Delhi (assuming you will be flying). From Delhi its about 12 hours drive and 8 hours from Chandigarh. We took an overnight Volvo from Delhi which was fairly comfortable but took a long time of about 14-15 hours. A personal car will surely be faster but safety may be a concern.

We stayed in a beautiful little resort called AnantMaya. It was in a very scenic location with views of the entire valley and the mountain range. The campus and the rooms were impeccable. But the most notable thing was the excellent food and the incredible hospitality of the people there. They had a small children's park but not many other activities if you go in a group. The lack of these facilities were not really bothersome to us, especially in winter but could be a problem in the summer. The hotel is located 5kms from the market so transport can also be an issue. We took their entire Volvo package which included a car for our entire stay, Volvo tickets to and from Delhi, and breakfast and dinner included. I would strongly recommend this place for small families in the winter. Make sure that they give you a car with a heater - we got stuck once without a heater and it was a tad uncomfortable.

Jan 1, Sunday
We enjoyed a great New Year's party at the Air Force Base in Pune; we were hosted by Mayur's friend, Abhay Phansalkar, who had recently been promoted to Group Captain. Thanks Renu and Abhay for a wonderful time! After spending the night there, we headed to the airport on Sunday morning. What a pleasant start to a wonderful year! Our flight landed in Delhi at about 1pm. The Delhi metro is a pleasant surprise and we reached the city in about 20mins flat from the airport. Bengaluru could surely take a page out of Delhi's metro book. Lunch at Shivaji Stadium Metro station - the first taste of absolutely awesome daal makhani, followed by a mad rush by rickshaw to reach the Volvo bus stop. We reached on time at 4:30pm only to have them wait for other passengers and eventually leave at 5:45pm! The Volvo ride was fairly comfortable and we all slept well. Reema also got some company from other kids in the bus. We stopped for dinner at a dhaba on the highway which was super posh and we enjoyed desi ghee jalebis there. Kahaani 2 played and Reema really enjoyed watching the movie with the small screen experience :).

Jan 2, Monday
We reached Manali early in the morning around 9:30am. We were greeted by a pleasant bout of cold. We were lucky to get sunshine on the first couple of days till we got acclimatized to the cold there. Our hotel driver was waiting for us and immediately transported us to the resort. At the hotel, we had some coffee and cookies, and had leisurely baths after the long journey! The hotel staff gifted Mayur a traditional Himachal Pradesh cap, and you can see him sporting it around during the trip. Around noon, we were all set to hit the town.

While we were in Manali, there was a Winter Carnival going on so the Mall Road in the heart of town was full of buzz with stalls of food, shopping, games, and cultural programs. We ate lunch at the local stalls - Siddu which is a steamed stuffed idli with stuffing of daal or walnuts, and Anaar Tea. The local women were running these stalls and were looking very pretty in their local red attire. Maggi was also a hot favorite there and we grabbed one Maggi dish too. There was a Tambola game going on all the time in the city center. Reema was very keen to play so we played one game but won nothing :(. Mall Road is the main road in downtown Manali. It has got a bunch of eateries and shops - nothing very special. The food places were below average, and the shops appeared over-priced. But they were good to get some small tokens, gifts, or souvenirs. After that we went sight-seeing in Manali.

Our first stop was the Hadimba Temple. This temple has been used in many Bollywood movies, most prominently 'Roja' - recall the scene where Arvind Swamy is kidnapped. It was a little bit of a climb which led to a long line to get inside the temple. We skipped on the line but enjoyed other stuff outside. I posed with a giant white rabbit. We also took photos with a yak, and in the traditional Himachal Pradesh attire. After the Hadimba temple, we went to the Club House which was a small entertainment center with some sports activities and food stalls. It was quite lame and we barely waited there for 10 minutes. The last stop for the day was the Vashishtha Hot Water Springs and Temple . They had a small temple and two bath areas for men and women respectively. It looked kind of messy so we did not venture into the water itself! By then there was quite a bit of a traffic jam in town; we just headed back to the hotel and enjoyed some games and awesome dinner in the evening. In general, the food quality was excellent and there was quite a spread for both meals at the hotel. We enjoyed all the North Indian subzis, daal makhani, and fresh hot rotis. All the while we were checking the weather in the hope that it would snow while we were there!


Jan 3, Tuesday
Another nice bright sunny day in Manali. We ate a hearty breakfast and then roamed around the lawns of the hotel taking some lovely photos of the premises and the mountains in the backdrop. AnantMaya had two types of rooms - Luxury rooms and Deluxe rooms. The latter have lawns in front of them with swings whereas the Luxury rooms were in a single building that housed the reception and restaurant too. The luxury rooms were nicer in the winter so we did not have to walk to eat, and no one was really sitting in the lawns given the zero temperatures. We took off in our car to Nagger which is about an hour's drive away from Manali. We first visited the Roerich Estate; the Roerich family was an old Russian family who resided in Manali for many generations, and one of the sons married the famous Bollywood actress Devika Rani. The estate was in a beautiful secluded location which houses their ancestral home, an art gallery, memorials for multiple members of the family, and a lovely short hike in the woods which we did. It was quite cold and we enjoyed the short climb in the nippy weather.

The next stop was the Nagger Palace and Hotel. It was a quaint little place with a spectacular view of the entire Manali valley with the Beas river running in the middle. Some nice wooden carvings on the doors and the walls. From Nagger, we drove to Kullu. Kullu has a lovely huge Vaishnodevi Temple complex. It houses many smaller temples for other devis and Shankar. Once again a splendid view of the Beas River. It started to get pretty cold that day at around 3pm. So we just quickly grabbed a bite for lunch and decided to head back to the hotel. Our driver took us to a shawl shop from where I bought a couple of local sheep wool shawls for myself.


Jan 4, Wednesday
Wednesday was our lucky day with a lot of snow snow snow! Earlier we had planned to just relax in the hotel on Wednesday. However, around 7:30am we got a call from the hotel saying that it was a good day to visit Solang Valley as it had snowed there at night. Like other hotels have wake-up calls, this hotel in Manali has snow calls :). We were all very excited and immediately got ready. We grabbed breakfast and set off for Solang Valley which was an hour's drive away. As soon as we started, we rented some warm snow clothes and gum boots. I think it was not that cold to need those clothes but they definitely helped. The gum boots were terrible and our feet got cold very quickly. I would recommend buying your own warm shoes if you plan to spend a lot of time in the snow. On our way to Solang, we saw a lot of cars returning from there with snow on their hoods - it was exciting!


There was a huge traffic snarls en route to Solang. And it had started snowing pretty nicely so we just stopped in the middle and got out to enjoy the snow. We stopped there for a little bit, took some photos, and then headed to main Solang Valley field. We had to walk for a little time to reach the large field which leads to the cable car ride. Reema was fine initially but not being used to the cold, she started crying a little bit before we reached the top so we sat her down next to a fire for some time. We then continued our hike to the top. It was snowing all this while and it was simply spectacular. The field was completely covered with snow and looked white!! We spent quite some time there playing in the snow, throwing snow balls, and making a small snowman. We didn't do the cable car ride as the visibility was very poor, and there was a real chance of getting stuck if the electricity went off. All three of us really enjoyed this unique snow experience! And then we started getting cold :). So we quickly walked back to our car and onwards to Manali. We took a quick stop at a Buddhist monastery in town which we had missed seeing earlier, and then ate lunch at Mall Road. The evening was pretty peaceful back at the hotel with the usual sumptuous dinner and games and TV with Reema.

Jan 5, Thursday
Since most of our sight-seeing and snow stuff was done already, the next couple of days were very peaceful and family time for us. In reality, three night is sufficient for Manali - we just took an extended peaceful family time off. After a leisurely breakfast, we got dropped to Mall Road in town. I did a little bit of shopping - mainly gifts for the family. We saw a whole lot of traditionally dressed women who had come for a special folk dance program. We ate noodles at a local Chinese restaurant. Then we took a state transport bus back to the hotel. That was a fun experience with everyone on the bus helping us to find our stop to get down. They would not allow us to get off even a few metres before the hotel so we got off right opposite on their advice :). More chillax, TV, and dinner in the evening.

Jan 6, Friday
Last day in Manali! We got our early morning snow call from the hotel and this time, it was actually snowing in Manali itself right in our hotel! I sat for a long time just staring at the snow from the comfort of my room balcony :). We could see that the snow line had come further down on the hills opposite our hotel and the little house roofs were all covered with snow. It was a very pretty sight, especially the tall white-and-green snow-covered Christmas trees! Surprisingly, once the snow stopped falling, the snow line receded very quickly and the trees were back to green in the afternoon. It rained pretty heavily after that so I guess it snowed heavily in Manali the next day. We took a long lovely walk in the cold weather before lunch. Ate lunch at the hotel and then headed for the Volvo to reach Delhi overnight. As the temperature had dropped considerably, the journey back was not so comfortable and I was cold :(. Reema enjoyed watching 'Shivaay' this time around and slept like a log!

Jan 7, Saturday
We reached Delhi early in the morning around 8am. We got off very close to the Kashmere Gate metro station so we took a train to New Delhi station. Air India and Jet Airways have counters at that metro station to check-in - awesome! We freshened up and checked-in at the metro station so we had plenty of time to roam around in the city, luckily with no bags! We took another metro to Shivaji Stadium in Connaught Place and ate breakfast at Bikanerwala there. Then we took a rickshaw to Palika Bazaar in the inner Connaught Circle - very substandard quality of goods and best avoided. Reema did manage to buy a pair of black boots that she liked :). We took another rickshaw to the Gurudwara Bangla Sahib which was a beautiful temple with a huge courtyard and lake. Shivaji Stadium metro station was a short walk from there. I spent some time at the state emporium shops on Baba Kharak Singh Marg opposite the metro station. They had some lovely stuff but fairly expensive. Then we all took a metro back to the airport and took our respective flights - Reema and me to Pune, and Mayur to Bengaluru. A nice family vacation and a not-so-warm welcome back to Pune which was vastly colder than how we left it :)!!