Since my childhood I had heard about this Kullu-Manali package tours which honeymooners take ... because when I was very small my sister went for her honeymoon there ... since then I wanted to go to Kullu-Manali! Now was the time to explore the beautiful Himachal! I took a shared ride in a mini-van from Dharmashala to Manali. The drive in the night was a wonderful experience. It was dark, from the front seat only thing I could see in the headlights was the narrow road with pits and pot holes, blind curves, steep gradients, no street lights in most of the forest area! I reached Manali safe and sound early in the morning. After dealing with the agents I checked in to a hotel for 2N/3D package with food and 2.5 days shared tours for Rs.4000. For the quality of food, room and the tours it doesn't look expensive.

The best thing to do in Manali is visiting Rothang Pass. The drive is fantastic, the destination is fantastic! I started with a shared tour arranged by the hotel. There was a very funny honeymoon couple with me! They both provided a real comedy all the way. They wanted to experience snow up in the hills. The scenery through the valleys is majestic. On the way our driver asked us to rent the ski-suits telling that it would be extremely cold up in the pass. Each costed Rs.250 which I never used. The suite was really smelling of sweat and looked very dirty, it wasn't so cold to wear a ski-suite.

Rothang Pass is a natural divide between the Kullu Valley in the south and the Spiti Valley in the north. It is an ancient trade route between two areas and is open from May to November.

Once up in the mountains, that is at 13,051ft, the view of the surrounding Himalayan mountains is wonderful. The view of Hanuman Tibba is unparalleled. I saw a line of horses and horse-riders. They were charging Rs.600 for 1Km ride up to the snow line on the nearby peak to see the snow or that day few snow flakes!! Alas! Anyways, I didn't take a ride, opted to hike up instead. Initially I felt the altitude but then few stops for few sips of water did the trick. I went up much more than the horses could take. The powdery snow, almost nothing, was around and people were crazy about taking picture in that snow. What would they do if they had seen snow in Alaska? They would take few more pictures! huh? :) When I returned from my hike, the honeymoon couple had finished another round of breakfast and tea. They didn't see the snow!

Then it was time for some adventure, for some adrenaline rush! Yeah! Paragliding down. yey! The valley looks so very beautiful from top! I envy the birds! I wish they understood the gift of God! Fhew ... I felt so light flying ... my purse too was light when I paid :) Adventure doesn't come for free huh? ... after an hour of glide my stomach was filled with some amount of bile which I had to spill out!

By that time the couple had finished another round of eating out! We went to Solang Valley just to stroll ... I didn't have budget for another glide and the couple didn't have the enthusiasm. We returned after sunset all tired ... All the way River Beas looked beautiful and I thought it would be nice to go for a white-water rafting adventure some day!

Next day, it was time for local sightseeing ... that included few temples and monasteries. Major being Hidimba Devi temple, Shiva temple in Manali and Vasishta Temple in Vasisht. The Vashisht temple has a black stone idol of Vashishta Muni. Near Vasistha Muni temple, there is a hot water sulphur springs. There are separate bathrooms for men and women. There is a Lord Rama temple nearby. The temples are built with extensively carved stones and wood. There were people playing traditional music when the arti was being performed.

The Manali market is a nice place for shopping. I spent more money here shopping and then on I had to tighten the budget for my travel a bit! Great sweaters, shawls, stoles, silk and so many things. It is a good place for eating out too! Good restaurants are all around.

Visited a monastery very near to the market. The place is beautiful and has few shops which sell Tibetan traditional items.

On the third day I went to Manikaran, a holy hot spring. The place is boiling hot ... feels like the river is boiling!


Aditi Chakraborty