What do you like more, sea or mountains? i believe mountains are much more fascinating and the world seems to be quiet there. I realized this when I took a trip to Manali, Himachal Pradesh. As they say ‘Go where you feel most alive.’
The bitterly cold Beas River running adjacent to the roads of Manali, as if it’s taunting me to take a race with it. And just on the other side of the Beas, there are snow frosted peaks receding into the dark. What I remember of my first twilight in the town is this scene of Beas with snow-capped hills in the background and a bonfire just a few inches away from my frosted feet. Although I’ve been to Manali twice but the experience was not at all the same. I saw the places, temples and monasteries in the first jaunt but in the second excursion, I felt the place. I felt the vibes and realized the place was more chic than before.
Manali has outgrown hippie culture and came out as a treasure for restless travellers. I wasn’t a traveller back then, but just a tourist and this experience lit a spark in me to be one. Every dawn the first thing I used to see was the lush green mountains in the foreground and snow-capped hills guarding in the back with the sun shining bright and the river gushing making music with the birdsong. For once I woke up at 4 in the morning, there was sleep in my eyes but in that half light, I saw its beauty whole. It was the place I was most lost but where I found myself.
The other day I went to Hadimba Devi Temple which is a cave temple surrounded by a Cedar forest in the Old Manali. I remember right after taking the exit from the temple, a village lady was curiously waiting for people to pose with her Angora rabbits so she could earn something out of it. I excitedly asked her to hand me one and a few minutes later I was posing with an implausibly fluffy rabbit. I then headed to another temple which is dedicated to Guru Vashisht. The temple is a home for natural hot water springs commonly known as Vashisht Baths which are believed to possess medicinal values and can cure several skin related ailments. There are separate bathing areas for men and women with Turkish style showers that are connected to springs through pipes.
How can I miss the Tibetan Monastery and its aromatic fragrance of Tibetan incense sticks which were lit in the monastery that dropped an enchanting charm on my mind. There were prayer bells all around the monastery corridors and galleries and among them there was this huge one inside the dome. It was churning out a soft meditating music and I was constantly rotating it like a kid, who had never been on a merry-go-round before. Later on the same day I was on the lively streets of mall road (i.e. the street market of Manali) which is best for restaurants, hotels and shopping. So you could just eat, sleep, shop and repeat. Anyway, have you seen the Bollywood movie ‘Yeh jawaani hai deewani’? If yes, you already know, what I was looking for in that market. “Manali’s special items – Lugdi, apple, trout fish and weed.” But no, certainly I wasn’t looking for weed but lugdi –a crude beer made from fermented rice or barley (relieved face emoticon).
All of this ended with a great river rafting experience. Water with that force splashes ravishingly all over you, it’s almost like you are wrestling with the river to make a way through it. When it comes to natural beauty, Manali has no dearth of choices. The town is abundantly blessed with mountains, rivers and forests soaked in tranquillity. You’ll actually never know, when you miss a place until you visit it again. So, NEVER STOP EXPLORING!