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A trip down the Valley of Gods

Colin Fernandes takes us on a trip to Manali through the mind's eye.

india Updated: May 06, 2006 18:36 IST

Every would-be lotus-eater I know has made the bumpy, winding 15-hour journey to the Valley of the Gods at least once. More to claim that, “I’ve been to Manali,” than anything else.

Over 13 trips up, either by bus, car or Bullet, and the place still exudes the same appeal for me. New Manali is ‘reserved’ for the middle-class Indian family, much like the way they’ve taken over towns like Mussourie and Nainital.

The main town is highly avoidable unless you take a sudden fancy to the sprawling Tibetan market or have to pass through on your way to Rohtang and Vashisht.

Old Manali, to the left, across the river Beas and left up the hill, is home to scores of Israeli backpackers ‘burning’ their way through their military pay.

You’ll also bump into random English, French and the rare American tourist.

Eating and accommodation options in Old Manali are clean, safe and affordable.

The Dragon Guesthouse is a popular choice among the shoestring crowd for the view each room offers and the accompanying Dragon Café that dishes out a variety of cuisines at short notice.

The rest of the ‘hotels’ here are 10-15 room joints that are good enough to pass out for the night, but not much else.

Drive up the Circuit Road before you cross the bridge to Old Manali and you’ll come to Log Huts, probably the best place to park yourself in this hill station.

Just across the road, is the comfortable Apple County Resort.

Almost all hotels save for the extremely low-budget rest houses; will offer running hot water, clean linen and restaurant facilities.

If you wish for a little more peace and relaxation, lunch or dinner at the rooftop of the World Peace Café in Vashisht is a must.

To your left is Kullu, shrouded in grey cloud while the snow-clad peaks of Solang beckon invitingly on the right.

In front, across the surging Beas lie the twinkling lights of Manali.

All this while the wind that whistles through the valley, teases a song out of the huge wind chimes.

If you thought you’d had the best pizzas in India, you clearly haven’t been to Roberta Angelone’s Il Forno that’s up on the way to the Hidimba Temple (down the road from Log Huts).

One of the trippiest activities to do while in Manali, is to pack a picnic basket (preferably with some of the local plum/apple wine) and head to the forest that stretches along the banks of the Manalsu River.

Take a walk down a pathway lined with ancient pines that make everything around them seem small, much like the mountains that surround them.

Come to Manali for the spectacular view, great food and local folk who let you do your thing. The drugs are secondary.

Getting there:
Himachal Pradesh Tourism runs luxury Volvo buses every evening (7.30 p.m) from Connaught Place that gets to Manali by around 10 am.

Else, there are several state roadways buses that operate from Inter State Bus Terminus (ISBT).

First Published: May 06, 2006 12:25 IST