MANALI: 1 JANUARY - 7 JANUARY, 2017
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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
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 :)!!