Well.. so here I start my much delayed travel diary on the coolest hill station I have ever been to – Manali. Yes coolest, both literally and rhetorically! The trip was as much procrastinated as this travel diary. After over five months of planning and researching on where to go, we landed up in Manali on a day that was just not right to visit a hill station. It was pouring cats and dogs and we had to walk half a kilometre uphill to our Rock Top Cottage.
We finally defeated all the ‘arrival hurdles’ and Day 1 of the 4 day trip kickstarted.
Day 1: Sleeping, strolling and exploring the ‘old’ world
After a fifteen-hour long bus journey, we spent first half of the day 1 just sleeping and getting our backs straight. Second half went in taking a stroll on the Old Manali Road. The word ‘Old’ in the name itself, for some reason fascinated me. But oh ya! The rain did not leave us even then. Old Manali street looks like a multicultural area with people of all skin colour saying ‘hello’ to you. A very warm gesture. Multi-nationals including Israelis, Russians, Arabs, Goans, Keralites, French, Americans and many more live there making the place their own.
It feels like wandering through the cobblestone pathways of the old-time village. To explore, its a small shopping area known as Old Manali Market. Away from the bustling roads of Mall Road, Old Manali is a small quirky little place in its own. The area offers you shops of funky T-shirts, beads and jewellery, tattoo parlours, wonderful eating joints. ‘Shesh Besh’ being my favourite. Yes I will describe that at length. Coming back to the lane, there are also small markets that sell fruit jams, jellies and pickles.
So that was Day 1, exploring Old Manali.
Day 2: Flying with the eagles and relishing Trout, the fish
Day 2 was my favourite of the entire trip. It was the Paragliding day! When we were being taken to one of the highest hills to paraglide, I felt a bit of fright. But once I was ready with all the helmet and belts on and was pushed to fly, trust me, there was no other feeling better than to be high in the air without any fear, worry or thought. Those 15-20 minutes of my life were one of the best and most relaxed times I could have ever spent. The view from up there was magnificent. I was flying with the eagles. It is definitely an unforgettable experience.
We then came back to our favourite joint in the town, an Israeli restaurant, Shesh Besh. Run by an Indian, the restaurant offered cuisines from all the countries, be it Iranian, Afghan, Russian, Mexican, you name it and you will have it. The cosmopolitan culture of the town was well reflected in the cuisine there. However, my favourite there was the local river fish, called Trout.
The restaurant had a covered veranda with lots of homemade artwork on the walls, colourful lamps hanging over tables with checked tablecloths.
Day 3: Hot Maggi, chai and a slide down the hill
Third day was the Rohtang Pass day. Located 51 km north of Manali, the icy hill was a typical tourist point. You could eat the best Maggi and drink the best Chai amidst the very chilling wind on a very high altitude. The mountains at the Rohtang Pass were completely covered in snow. It was a treat for skiing lovers as the entire place was covered with snow. However, my favorite snow activity was sliding down the snow hill.
Coming back to Old Manali – Sadhus, yaks, cafes, trance music and the sound of the river running through best define the Old Manali.
The very artistic, lively, colourful and beautiful Old Manali is a must visit for any ardent traveller.
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