Places to visit in Manali – Mall Road, Solang Valley

by admin on April 17, 2012

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On route manali

View On route, Manali

My fascination with Manali has been never ending. Having already been there thrice since the millennium year, one more shot re-awakened the hillbilly in me. The last trip being just November last year, ending just before the snow closed all the roads.

I changed the music on the i-pod to Jerry Garcia’s “Truckin’.” I got myself on the luxuriously swanky new Volvo Bus from Delhi while the lyrics resounded with “..Lately it occurs to me what a long, strange trip it’s been.” And yes I did see “arrows of neon and flashing marquees on the main street”.  Main Street here had the flashing signs of Dhaba’s and shops advertising their wares with lurid, transient glow signs, to Chandigarh and beyond. By next evening I was in the Hotel –The Orchard Greens, happily sipping the Bourbon I had saved for just this occasion.

Manali sits at altitude of 1,950 metres in the Beas River valley up on the northern end of the Kullu Valley. Historically the town began as an ancient trade route to Ladakh and from there over the Karakoram Pass on to Tibet. It is also said to be home of Saptarsi, or the seven sages mentioned in the Upanishads.

The small, peaceful, ever pleasant, ever helpful populace of this town is what I always liked best. Even the hawkers are soft spoken and mild mannered. In the evening, I brought myself a nice new thick Down jacket from a hawker on the Mall Road at an extremely reasonable rate and minus the haggling.

Early next morning I set off to Hidimba Devi cave temple which is surrounded by Cedar forests. The walk up on many stairs was as exhilarating. Built in 1553, this pagoda styled brass cone domed temple is dedicated to Goddess Hadimba who became the wife of Bhima of the Mahabharata lore. There is an underground vault too, which exhibits many Gods of the Hindu pantheon. However, photography is strictly forbidden within the temple premises. Just adjacent is a shrine dedicated to Bhim and Goddess Hadimba’s son Ghototkach.  After taking their blessings I went off on a luxury bus to romp in the snows near Solang valley at an incredible height of 8500 feet above sea level. Looking at the lofty ice bound peaks surrounding the place I thought that this was indeed a piece of Heaven on earth. I learnt that incredible skiing packages are offered here during winter. I was also cautioned by the friendly bus driver not to buy the fake saffron (kesar) and musk (kasturi) sold by local salesmen. I was rather enthralled by a high speed snow scooter ride. In peak season, paragliding facilities are also available for about 500 rupees for beginners.

rohtang pass manali

Rohtang Valley, Manali

Back at the hotel, I saw some Israeli tourists who I heard have made Manali their second home zip pass on their Enfield motorcycles. Looking up I saw the sweeping range of Pir Panjal, Parvati, Bara Bhangal ranges sweeping the horizons. Each peak has its own tale to tell I thought rather whimsically. Once upon a time I would have attempted to at least make my way to the nearest peak. The hot springs at Vashist were very invigorating.  It left me in a state of bliss as I made my way to Old Manali, there is a temple dedicated to Manu the God of law and truth.   Just behind the bus stand I managed to get a bite of the local dish Sidu, something like a filled rice baked bun served with chutney. On my way back I brought some of the freshest apple juice and some exotic fruit crushes and jams from Himcoop Juice bar. Let’s get off to Dharmshala, I thought.

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