After a long gap since I have returned from Darjeeling in last June its so painful to be at home almost one year for a die-hard traveler soul like me & from my experience of hill town I only visited two places i.e. Sikkim and Darjeeling. So this time it’s my husband’s (Suvro)plan to show me something different and he planned for Himachal Pradesh.
As I am so restless for mountains, he surprised me on our 1st anniversary with two tickets to Chandigarh and this is undoubtedly the best gift I’ve ever got.
As soon as I came to know about the trip I started researching about the place to be visited and most importantly the places that are seldom being visited. My husband booked the flight tickets and left rest of the responsibilities of booking hotels and planning the trip up to me as I am mastering this skill with every trip of mine.
As our plan is to visit the place is in March we have to plan for the route Shimla-Manali-Dharamshala instead of Kinnar Kalpa due to road blockage at those places at that time.
Finally the long wait is over and we started our journey on 4th March’16. As a result of restlessness I spent the sleepless night before the journey date and woke him up in the morning for a change . (Generally I am a late riser and always he woke me up every morning)
Our flight was an early morning one and the flight started before the time as all members were on board.
We reached Chandigarh on time around 12pm and the pre booked car took us around 12:30pm.
The road to Shimla is really more than awesome to me (because my experience is restricted to only North Bengal) . I am so surprised to see the development of the roads and surroundings over there and its 1st time I found Audi, BMW as well as TATA Nano in a hilly road. The city is clean like a mirror, I must admit. I wish to see my city in this frame someday.
After 3hrs of journey we reached Shimla. Our hotel is just near to Shimla lift (2minutes walk, the hotel name is Shingar). Generally I booked the hotels with great view to surroundings but sometimes I failed.
But this time stepping in to the room I was really awestruck to see the view from the window and it really wiped out the weariness.
Shimla Mall Road:
After taking our lunch we went for a walk to the Mall and surrounding places. One thing I forgot to tell that throughout our journey I irritated my husband with my memories of Darjeeling and compare every single thing with Darjeeling , finally he got fed up and told me “you are in deeply love with Darjeeling, don’t compare just enjoy the beauty as it is”
The mall is so spacious and really in a different mood than in Darjeeing (P.S: I couldn’t stop myself thinking of Darjeeling) As the mall is so popular there is no description needed except my few photographs i.e my view of mall. Till it remains dark we were roaming around the mall and lakkar bazaar .
The mall is so full of activities with the vendors selling selfie sticks, hats, candy floss , the photographers taking photos of the tourists with the traditional dresses , the horse riders , children playing with bubbles and most of the people taking selfies with the newly bought selfie sticks, honeymoon couples were also busy posing for the cozy cozy photos.
We, two wandering souls with the sip of hot coffee enjoyed the sunset and the lighting up the whole city as seen from the mall.
While returning to the hotel we met the receptionist and shared our plan details as they offered private car from the hotel. We booked a car for the whole tour ending back to Chandigarh.
The Village of Flowers, (Mahog):
On the next day at 9am the driver recieved us for the sightseeing. After the introduction session with the driver (his name is Rahul from Chail) we tried to convince him to take us to any village or other than the tourists’ spot . He is very loyal to the hotel person and didn’t agree with our ideas but after sometime ( when I dropped down from the car to a unknown place to take some photographs) he came to know from my husband about my interest to photography and agreed to take us to a village near Chail. After knowing us he took the full charge to guide us into the village where everyone knows him.
The name of the village is Mahog, Dist: Solan(H.P) and the village is known for the floriculture. We met an old person who owns of the maximum floriculture and greenhouse in the village. Luckily he is the relative of one of the school friends of Rahul . He agreed to guide us with the information needed.
His name is Omprakash Namberdar and he is a silver medalist from President and used to send flowers to presidents house in the time of K.R Narayanan.
- The Magician with his dynasty
There are Six families with Eighty Two total members in the village and all are engaged to floriculture. The use natural organic method to cultivate different flowers,vegetables etc. There are hundred and Six bigha of cultivated land throughout the village.
He showed us how he channelize the cow dung and urine to make the organic fertilizer for the cultivation. They rely on sustainable techniques to enhance the natural fertility of a farm, including crop rotation, companion planting, biological pest control, and naturally-sourced fertilizers such as compost, manure, green manure.
There we have seen different flowers and vegetables and also tasted pudina, coriander etc and seen the proud smile in his face.
With Suvro he discussed every little thing of their livelihood what I overhear mostly and came to know that they are not addicted to anything ,they believe in healthy life ,to them it means only food and shelter.
- With Suvro he is discussing every details of his livelihood
When he came to know that we are from Bengal he told us that there are many labors in his firm who are from Bengal and Nepal. This is really a surprising to meet a Bengali labor there from north bengal because really we didn’t have any idea that from Bengal one can go to that interior village in Chail to work in a floriculture firm whereas Bengal is known for its farming lands.
There is no proper road towards the village except muddy roads which is just an impression of the walking path. We were not able to go down to the center of the village as already the color of the sky became grey and it started raining. Rahul alerted us that after the rain there will be no road for us to go back and following his saying/advice we went back to the car.
- Going back to the car
There they started a new hotel there. The details are given below.They invited us to stay there for the next time and provided with the details.
On our way back to Shimla we had our lunch at Chail Palace, the lunch is really relishable . we didn’t know but staying facility is there into the palace with their own kitchen and this is really GRAND.
From Chail palace we directly returned to Shimla by evening and again it was mall road time as that was our last day in Shimla, on the next day we started for MANALI.
Manali through Mandi:
6hrs journey from Shimla. Nothing to describe as the road is quite well-known to the tourist. Enjoyed the journey with Rahul’s experience with different tourists and also his knowledge about different culture of Himachal.
- On the way to Manali beside the river Biyas (Bipasha)
On the way to Manali at mandi we saw several colorful rallies with the idol, asking about that we came to know from Rahul that Mandi is famous for Shivratri celebration. People from surrounding places came to Mandi with their respective “Kul-Devta” on the occasion of Shivratri.
Rahul told us on the way we will took a hault at Kullu ,there we can see the shawl weaving machines and people weaving shawls. I expected something like carpet weaving which I saw in the Tibetan refugee camp in Darjeeling (again the memory of Darjeeling :D) which I can photograpgh but alas those are shawl selling shops and a demo machine for the tourists, there is no activity and no photography this time. In the mean time again rain and after this disappointment we decided not to stop anywhere but the final destination Manali.
When we reached Manali it was almost dark outside and this time a little difficulty to spot the pre booked hotels and I became worried that hotel might not be in a proper place. After searching for 10 minutes or so we met a driver who was eventually Rahul’s friend and he was also going to that same hotel.
And yes as we stepped into the room again a great view of valley… and what a satisfaction of selecting a right place (yes I have an inclination to WINDOW and BALCONY)
On the next morning we went for the sightseeing which includes snow point, Kangra valley, Bashisth temple, a small monastery near the mall & the mallroad of Manali.
Next morning’s sightseeing includes Hadimba devi temple,Clubhouse,Banbihar and back to mall road.
In these sightseeing only most of the places are so commercialized and not up to the expectation except snow point & Hadimba devi temple. Specially the environment of Hadimba temple is very peaceful.
And yes the snow capped mountain from anywhere from the Manali is it’s sole beauty. The nature here is so pristine .
Finally the day comes to leave manali ,towards Dharamshala. On the way to Dharamshala we visted the last spot in Manali, I,e Naggar palace, “Located in Naggar Town, amidst breathtaking forested hills, the Naggar Castle is a magnificent historical edifice. Made of stone and wood, this palace served as the residence of Raja Sidh Singh of Kullu. It was built in AD 1460 in an impressive amalgamation of European and Himalayan architecture. Fireplaces, fitting staircases, and magnificent stone and wood works grace the castle’s interiors. There are three small shrines within the premises, each holding immense religious importance. It is is just 22 K.M. drive from Manali. From there its almost 2:30 hrs drive to Dharamshala.
Dharamsala can be approached by air from Delhi. The nearest airport is at Gaggal, 13 km away. Pathankot, the nearest broad gauge railway station is 85 km away and the toy train station is 17 km at Kangra. Taxis and Buses for Dharamsala are available at both places. From Pathankot the drive takes about three hours or you can drive from Delhi (526 km) via Chandigarh, Kiratpur and Bilaspur and takes 12 hours. From Delhi and Shimla luxury buses ply to Dharamsala. HPTDC operates a regular Luxury coach from Delhi to Dharamsala.
After entering Dharamshala there are plenty of tea & coffee plantation. The snow clad Dhauladhar ranges form a magnificent backdrop to the tea garden, Tea gardens here are not as wide spread as Assam or other North-East states, but they surely are nice enough. The tea gardens appear on either side of the road well before you enter Palampur, giving you a sense of entering into a dreamland. Since Palampur is called the Tea Capital of northern India, it is famous for its lush tea gardens sprawling over vast acres of land.
We reached to our hotel in the late evening, the weather is pleasant but not so cold like Shimla or Manali, Dharamshala welcome us with a heavy rain. Our hotel is 15 minutes from the road which turns to Dharamshala Cricket Stadium. On that day there was a match between Afganisthan and Oman.
Next morning we started our journey towards Mc leodgunj which also named as “Little Lhasa” as a Tibetan community along with Dalai Lama stays there. Our 1st destination was “Dalai Lama’s Temple”
While entering a rally stopped us before we reached the main gate , certainly I remembered it’s 10th March, The Tibetan National Uprising Day. On 10 March 1959, tens of thousands of Tibetans took to the streets of Lhasa, Tibet’s capital, rising up against China’s illegal invasion and occupation of their homeland.
Every year thousands of Tibetans and their supporters take to the streets across the world to mark the anniversary of Tibetan National Uprising Day.
We are really lucky to get a rally on that day as it’s a great opportunity to photograph the people over there and their culture.
After visiting Dalai Lama’s temple we went for shopping to adjacent market as my one of the hobbies is collecting mask from different regions and also some Tibetan handcrafted jewellery .
Our next destination is Gyuto Monastery but our driver told us that there is no spot like that the only monastery tourists visited is Dalai Lama’s temple. But I was quite sure about the monastery and open map in my mobile but while driving towards that the roads turned in a way which took us in a different monastery named as Norbulingka, is located in Sidhpur, a suburb of Dharamsala, about 30 minutes from McLeod Ganj
Losel Doll Museum
The Losel Doll Museum houses a collection of over 150 dolls dressed in traditional costumes from various regions of Tibet. The costumes, meticulously researched, and made from the same materials as the originals would have been, show the richness and diversity of life on the Tibetan Plateau. They are displayed in stunning dioramas depicting traditional life. The Losel Dolls were created by a group of artist monks from Drepung Loseling Monastery as a project to support their monastery. Entrance to this museum is 5 Rps. for locals and 20 for tourists. I cannot show you the museum as photography is prohibited there.
Norbulingka’s flagship shop offers the complete range of products created within ourfrom thangkas to hand-carved furniture to Norbulingka’s soft and elegant line of clothing. The quality of the materials and craftsmanship is unmatchable. By purchasing from Norbulingka, not only are you investing in a one-of-a-kind work of art, but also supporting their institute so that they may continue to pursue their mission for generations to come.
Except the museum and café there is a café called Hummingbird Café. They serve serve all vegetarian international cuisine, ranging from Tibetan thukpa to cheese pizza to hummus and fresh-baked pita bread. We also have a wide variety of seasonal juices and smoothies, as well as specialty coffee drinks. For dessert, our homemade cakes are a real treat.
The environment of the monastery is so serene and peaceful , there is no sound except water stream which keeps the prayer wheels rolling all the while.
Taking information from that monastery we were finally able to find out the Gyuto monastery, the monastery is quite big .
Though It took a lot of time to find this place but once I was there, it was worth the effort. Tibetan monasteries beauty and craft is at best. The colorful and well maintained exterior with snow clad mountains as backdrop were a eye candy.
There we have seen the little monks doing their regular work including exercising, reading ,bathing, washing their clothes, playing. There I captured some moments of their football match with the backdrop of Dhawalgiri . There are no of residential buildings for their students.
It was almost late afternoon while we left this place with lots of memories and a mourning soul as that was the last day of our vacation.
Rahul is really a knowledgeable driver and an honest peson to travel with. He has an ETIOS and an INNOVA , to travel with him book his car according to your requirement . His mobile no is +91-9816934842
last photo in this tour (Suvro and Rahul in front of the car
Apart from North Bengal, the beauty of Himachal is really mind boggling and the hospitality of the people too .Previously I was busy comparing everything of this place with Darjeeling and Sikkim but while leaving it I understood that every place has its own beautiful identity. I am still trapped in a trans of the memories of HP even after returning to Kolkata and also thinking of hitting that state once again soon.