Thursday, January 2, 2020

Before we dive into my experiences of the Manali trip, I would like to thank you all for making my 2019 wonderful and full of travel! I wish you a very hapPy New Year 2020 🎉🎊 with lots of success and love.


It was Saturday morning (December 14, 2019) and I was getting ready to visit Delhi to meet my friends. I was about to leave and just a few minutes before I got to know that a few of my friends had canceled. I was so pissed off! But as they say - "blessing in a disguise" and being an opportunist, I grabbed this moment and converted into an opportunity to fulfill my wish to go to the north and enjoy the snowy weather. Yeah, ever since I watched in the news that Himachal Pradesh and Uttrakhand was getting heavy snowfall at the starting of the season, I was dying to go there!!

Within a moment after receiving the cancellation message from my friend, I asked my brother who was playing with our dog to go to Shimla! He immediately agreed and we started to pack. Yeah, you heard it right, SHIMLA!

Since it was a sudden plan, we did not book any cab and started planning about how to reach there. I discussed with my father and we decided to reach Delhi by govt. operated bus, take a train from Delhi to Chandigarh and then again take a bus to Shimla! It was very simple. We packed a bag with warm clothes for the negative temperature and left home.



So how did we end up in Manali? 😅 

Before starting from home, I already booked two waiting tickets in New Delhi - Kalka Shatabdi which starts from New Delhi Railway Station at 5:15 pm and reaches Chandigarh around 8:35 pm. Luckily, our tickets got confirmed before reaching the train station. 

Now coming back to the original question -> while on the way from Khurja to Delhi on the bus, I started having second thoughts for the Shimla and was thinking of reaching time. I calculated it around 2 am in the morning which did not sound good to me. Immediately, it struck in my mind that instead of going to Shimla, we could book an overnight bus from Chandigarh to Manali and reach in the morning and enjoy a closer look at the Himalayas with more snow and colder weather! Soon I booked bus tickets from Chandigarh to Manali and a hotel for one night stay in Manali. And that is how we reached in the heart of the snow and one of the best hill stations of North India. 😛


My first morning in Manali - Snowy, Sunny, and Cold

After reaching Chandigarh, we had a nice pizza dinner. Since all the passengers had arrived, our bus started an hour earlier and we reached Manali at 9 am. I wrote it "My" because my brother had already been there in 2016. 

The day was beautiful! It was a little cloudy and cold. It was snow all over the place. The temperature at the moment was -3℃. We were wearing only cotton socks and could feel the cold in feet. The view of the white snow-covered mountains from the private bus stand was mesmerizing. I clicked a few photos of the mountains which turned out to be great wallpapers for my laptop! 

View from Private Bus Stand, Manali
View from Private Bus Stand, Manali

We took a taxi to the main Manali Mall road which charged us INR 100. You should not pay more than this if you are just going to Mall Road or near the main bus stand. After reaching the Mall road we had warm tea then went to the hotel - Hotel SAMIRU, which was walking distance from Durga Mata Temple, Mall Road. 

Our hotel check-in time was 12 noon. It was just 9:30 am. We could not check-in as the rooms weren't available at that moment. So we freshened up, put up some warm clothes including heavy jackets, gloves, and woolen socks, left our bags at the reception and came out to spend our time till 12 noon. 

For breakfast, we had the signature combination of Bread Omelet and Hot Chai tea. We were short of a pair of gloves so we purchased one. You need to do a little bargaining to get the best price. We purchased waterproof gloves. Initially, the seller asked for the INR 200 but due to my amazing bargaining skills, we were able to buy them in 100 ;) 

Best Breakfast - Chai, and Bread Omelet
Best Breakfast - Chai, and Bread Omelet


Rent a bike in Manali

While having our breakfast, my brother told me that his friends were also visiting Manali at the same time. We went to meet them near the Monastery, where we found a guy asking if we wanted to rent a bike. Earlier, we did not plan for it but I could not say no to a motorbike in the mountains.

Bajaj Avenger 220 CC in Manali
Bajaj Avenger 220 CC in Manali

Approximate Rate - We rented a Bajaj Avenger 220 Street 2019 model in INR 1000 (excluding petrol) from 10 am to the next day till 4 pm. If you want to rent a bike for just 24 hours, the prices vary from INR 500 - INR 1000 depending on the bike model. RE Himalayan was available at INR 700 for 24 hours. 

Documents Needed - You need a submit an original ID proof and INR 1000 extra as refundable security to rent a bike. I would suggest keeping an extra ID proof other than your Driving License. 

Where to rent - There are a lot of shops available near Mall road where you can rent a bike depending on the availability of the desired model and the best prices. 

Our bike had some brake issues which were fixed immediately by the owner. 


Our rest of the day in Manali

After getting our bike, it was almost 12 noon so we went to the hotel, checked in and took a nice warm shower that refreshed us and helped us to come out of the cold. 

NOTE: If your hotel does not provide the room heaters, you can still ask them separately. You will have to pay a little extra amount for the room heaters but it is worth! We paid INR 500 for a big room heater for one day.  

It was 2 pm and we were hungry. I searched on Google for nearby nice restaurants. We found a very famous - The Corner House Restaurant at Mall Road Square. They have a variety of vegetarian and non-vegetarian food with drinks options. We ordered - Manchow Chicken Soup and a few more items including BBQ Chicken Wings. The food was delicious and less oily. Overall, we had a very nice experience in just INR 599 for two people.

Delicious Manchow Chicken Soup at The Corner House Restaurant, Manali
Delicious Manchow Chicken Soup at The Corner House Restaurant, Manali


After lunch, we asked around about the places to visit. We were told that Solang Valley was closed due to heavy snowfall and we could not take our bike there. The only way to reach Solang Valley was to take the Gypsy or ATB ride. We decided not to visit Solang Valley for the day as it would be dark by the time we came back. 


Nehru Kund - Covered with Snow

Most of the tourists were going to the nearest point which was around 5 km north from Manali - Nehru Kund. We took our bike there and parked outside.

The area near the Nehru Kund was totally covered in snow. The river was almost frozen! Rocky and glowing mountains in the surroundings were adding a charm to this place. Tourists were enjoying the snow by throwing snowballs at each other, taking a lot of photos, doing adventure sports and making Snowman. We did a lot of photography in the snow. I had a delicious full sweet American corn. While I enjoyed my corn and a nice cup of Chai in the snow, my brother had a little adventure of Snow Tubing. It almost took a breath from him!

View from Nehru Kund
View from Nehru Kund

After 5 pm, it started to get dark. People were heading back to their hotels. Local vendors had also packed their stuff to return back to Manali. While talking to some local people about how to walk in the snow, we came back to our bike parking point and returned to Manali.

Sunset from Nehru Kund
Sunset from Nehru Kund

We had delicious veg and chicken Momo in the local streets of Manali. You must try Momos in the Himalayas. Veg momo is mostly stuffed with Soya and delicious to eat with local red chili chutney. 

After wandering in the Manali streets for some more time, we went back to the hotel and took some rest till dinner time.

Night View from somewhere in between
Night View from somewhere in between


Had a bad dinner experience

I looked for other good places to eat in Manali and came to know a famous restaurant - Chopsticks. My brother was tired and sleeping so Instead of us going there and eat, I decided to get dinner at the hotel. I went there alone and had Tuna Sushi and Veg American Chopsuey packed. The ambiance of the hotel was very nice.  They have installed a heating kiln in the center of the restaurant which keeps it warm and cozy. Everything went well. I got my dinner and came back to the hotel.

Later, when we started unpacking the dinner to eat, I noticed that there was no Wasabi in the packet. Also, the ginger pieces were very thick which made me uncomfortable to eat. The Sushi wasn't that good either. Now comes the really bad experience! We opened Chopsuey, it was not already good then we found out that it had pieces of mutton and chicken. I really wanted a veg one!

It was 10:30 pm and the temperature outside was around -4 ℃. I had no plans of going back to the restaurant. I called them and explained the issue. Rather than understanding my issue, they started arguing that I ordered non-veg chop suey. I told them why would I call if I had ordered a non-veg one which I already got! They did not listen to me and were very rude on the phone.

I had also written reviews on TripAdvisor and Google about my experience with the restaurant.

My Review links - Google Review and Trip Advisor


Well, After all this drama, we were so tired and had a good night's sleep!! In the night, we planned for the next day to visit Hadimba Devi Temple in Old Manali and Gurudwara Shri Manikaran Sahib. 




The belief and the beauty of Hadimbda Devi Temple

As per the Hindu Mythology, Devi Hadimbda was the wife of Pandava Bheem. They met during the period of Pandava's exile in the jungle. 

She was originally a Rakshas searching for food for her brother Hadimb when she noticed Bheem and fell in love with him. She could not kill the Pandavas family for food because of Bheem. When her brother noticed this, he attacked Pandavas. After a long fight, Pandavas killed Hadimb. Initially, Bheem denied marrying Hadimba but on the request of his mother Kunti Devi, they got married. After their marriage, Hadimba got converted into a normal human at the same place where Hadimba Devi Temple lies today. They also had a son Ghatothkach who became a great warrior in the battle of Mahabharata. 


Hadimba Devi Temple, Old Manali
Hadimba Devi Temple, Old Manali

The temple, also known as Dhungari Temple, was built by the ruler of Kullu - Bahadur Singh in 1553 BC. It is said that Lord Krishna had inspired Devi Hadimba to do good to the people. 

The temple is very beautiful and is made of wooden structures with amazing carvings on the pillars, all in the mountains style. The snow in the vicinity of the temple and its Pagodas was making it marvelous and amazingly calm!

There was very less crowd when we reached the temple. We had a great darshan of the Devi in the cave. Due to some mysterious reasons, the temple is closed in the nights and no one is allowed to go there.

Ghatothkach Temple Near Hadimba Devi Temple
Ghatothkach Temple Near Hadimba Devi Temple


Fascinating view near the temple

Near the temple, there is a small amusement park for the kids where they can enjoy lots of swings, Go-karting, and many other sports. Obviously, it was all closed due to heavy snow. But the view from that park was fascinating. We could see the whole glaring white mountains from there! Those big great while mountains just took my heart! It was sunny in the cold weather. And it was very hard for me to leave that place and go further. I really enjoyed it a lot!

Amazing View from Children's Amusement Park near Hadimba Devi Temple
Amazing View from Children's Amusement Park near Hadimba Devi Temple

We had a nice and simple breakfast of Maggi and Chai after visiting the temple. 

For the next stop, we had decided to go to the Manikaran but after calculating the time remaining, we had to cancel it. There was no way that we could make it back on time to catch our bus in the evening. So to spend our time visiting other places in Manali, we asked around if the Solang Valley was open. But no one was sure about it. A few people told that it was closed while others told that it could open later in the day.

We decided to go check out by ourselves and headed towards the Solang Valley. On the way near Nehru Kund, the slippery snow sheet had started and many people told us that bike will not go there. You can either go by cab like Gypsy or take an ATB ride. 

View from a place a few hundred meters from Nehru Kund
View from a place a few hundred meters from Nehru Kund




ATB Ride to the Solang Valley

We rented one Anti-Terrain Bike (ATB) including the driver in INR 2200 for taking us to Solang Valley, waiting there for a couple of hours and coming back to the same place at Nehru Kund. We also rented snow jumpsuits and snow rubber boots at INR 200 per person to make sure that we don't get our clothes dirty and wet in the snow.

The route to the Solang Valley was amazing! It was snow on all over. The roads were slippery as well. The view of other mountains from the road was breathtaking! As I mentioned that it was white all over the place, we were not able to open our eyes without sunglasses due to the glare of the snow! The ride was fast, comfortable and adventurous.

Trying to move the ATB in 3 feet snow on the way to Solang Valley
Trying to move the ATB in 3 feet snow on the way to Solang Valley

Road repair work was going on at one part of the road, so our ATB driver including other ATB drivers took a shortcut which had three feet deep snow. All ATBs got stuck in between and we could not move further. All other ATB drivers pushed each vehicle one by one to get them out of the snow and on to the road. At last, we reached to the Solang Valley in around 30 minutes.




The White Snowy Solang Valley

If you have already visited Solang Valley, you would understand what I had experienced! The place was fully covered with two to three feet of snow! It was white, shining, glaring, beautiful, peaceful, soothing, mesmerizing and really amazing. Nature has its own colors and white is one of the best of them!!

The White Snowy Solang Valley
The White Snowy Solang Valley


"Peaceful Paragliding"

The very first adventure sport we did was Paragliding. We decided to do a short one which was only for 35 to 40 seconds. The price for the shorter one is INR 1000 per person. If you are interested in the longer one then you can do it in around INR 3500 which includes the cost of the Ropeway taking you to the top of the mountain. The duration of the longer paragliding is about three minutes. 

For the shorter one, you have to go to the top by hiking in the snow. Believe me, it was the hardest part for us. We took a wrong way which had very deep snow and we lost breaths walking in that. At last, after stopping at multiple places, we reached to the top of the smaller mountain. It was around at the height of 200 meters. 

My pilot had me tighten the knots and ropes and asked me to pull the paraglider and run down the hill with full speed without getting scared of falling. I was talking to myself in my mind - "ok, don't get scared... let's do this!"

Paragliding at Solang Valley
Paragliding at Solang Valley

We finally started running but we did not fly and was coming down. For a moment, I felt like we are going down instead of flying! But in the next moment, I noticed that we were up in the air flying all over the mountain, embracing the beauty of it, enjoying the flight and achieving one of the peaceful moments of my life! To be honest, it was the third most peaceful moment of my life. I had enjoyed each and every moment of those 37 seconds. You all must try it. Next time, I am going for the longer one! 




Other Adventure Sports - Skimobil ride and Snow Tubing

After enjoying the wonderful flight, we did a few more sports. The first one was the Skimobil Ride. We took a long ride in INR 1000. It was good but not that amazing. We were just skiing on snow. We enjoyed the photo session though. If they would have let us drove the Skimobil, it would be more fun. Anyways, if you are interested in Skiimobiling, Solang has enough space to enjoy it.

Skimobil ride at Solang Valley
Skimobil ride at Solang Valley


The other adventure sport we did was the Snow Tubing! It was more fun than the water tubing in any water park! I was feeling thirsty so I took a big lump of snow from the bottom layer (which was clean) and ate it. The first time, I had eaten snow and it was satisfying! 

Altogether, we enjoyed our every moment in the Solang valley. This place is definitely a must-visit if you are planning to visit Manali in winter. Hopefully, it would not be closed at the time of your visit.  


We came back to the Nehru Kund by ATB. By that time, the sun was up and the snow sheet on the roads was melting. We could now take our bike to the Solang Valley but traffic was also increased. Our bus was scheduled at 5:15 pm from the Manali private bus stand. 


Before leaving Manali, I wanted to try the local food which was a little hard to find in the main market of the Manali as most tourists look for fancy restaurants! We decided to ride outside the city and look for a local Dhaba. We found one three kilometers towards the Kullu and enjoyed local Veg Thali - Dal, rice, dry beans vegetables, and Chapati. We also enjoyed refreshing Chai after our meal.

After finishing lunch, we headed back to Manali and returned the bike and went to the hotel to pick our bags. We took an auto from Mall Road stand to the Private Bus stand which charged us INR 50. Our bus started at 5:30 pm and dropped us at Majnu Ka Tila, Delhi at 5:30 am which was 1.5 hours before our actual arrival time. By 8 am in the morning, we were at our home enjoying another refreshing Chai.



Overall Experience

Being my first trip to Manali, I enjoyed each and every moment of it. The timing was perfect as there was not any rain or snowfall which could let us stay in our hotel room. It was a little colder but manageable. I would love to go back again with more proper planning and days and visit a few more places. Loved it!!

NOTE: The prices mentioned above may vary with your time of visit.

Let me know about your experiences and suggestions from your Manali trip in the comments. Thanks for reading :) 

This is How You Enjoy Snow on a Weekend in Manali

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