In 2017, I had taken a trip to Manali with my college mates. It covered Chandigarh-Kullu-Manali-Dalhousie-Amritsar in 9 days. It was the best time I had in my life. Vast green farms of Punjab that reminds you of scenes from Game Of Thrones, the sinuous mountain pass of the Delhi to Manali roads, a beautiful sunrise at the bank of the gushing Beas, panoramic views of huge mountains, snow-covered valleys, snowball fights, lots and lots of memories... so much to enjoy on one trip. It gave me an experience to cherish, something which still gives me a warm feeling during tough times.
We travelled from Mumbai to Chandigarh, made a stop there for a spot of sightseeing, and left for Manali at night. The road distance from Chandigarh to Manali is 288km. Usually, it would take between six to seven hours, but this sinuous mountain journey pass took us almost double that time. It is much more enjoyable when you are travelling early morning, partly because the traffic gets quite heavy later.
The next day we arrived at the Citrus Manali Hotel. There was something about this hotel location that made the stay magical. It was located away from the city, about 15km, surrounded by mountains (I could see the top of the mountains covered in snow), and the Beas (pronounced Byas) flowed behind the hotel (everyone, including me, took a ton of pictures on the riverbank).
The river was shallow and quite transparent. We spent hours by the riverside, playing games, singing around the bonfire after dinner, and then went back to our cottages to get some rest.
I woke up early the next morning and decided to just take a stroll around the riverbank all by myself. It started raining halfway through, not a typical deluge, just a drizzle. The touch of rain on my face felt nice. I could hear the river flowing and its music, which I couldn’t hear before because of all my friends and the noise. As I closed my eyes, I could hear birds chirping, the burble of a river, the sound of flowing mountain air, and the occasional thunder. It was like an orchestra, everything felt like a synced symphony. It was so beautiful. I felt the touch of cold air and occasional raindrops. There was a small road along the bank. I took a walk for about an hour, and it was the best time I had on the entire trip.
Capture Moments, not just Pictures
That night I decided I want to write about today’s experience. I wrote all about the riverbank, the road beside it, my walk, and everything else. Later after I had got back home, and months had passed, I was looking through the pictures and videos from the trip. I had forgotten all about the river walk. It was in the pictures and videos but, I couldn’t picture how it felt that day.
After a year, I remembered, I had written about the same in my old journal. I found my old diary and read all about the walk. Suddenly I could relive the complete experience. After reading the diary, I just closed my eyes. The entire river bank and the road were in front of me. Each time it was different, but to my imagination, it was beautiful every time.
I feel capturing a moment in pictures and videos helps, but if we write about the experiences, we can truly relive the moment like it happened yesterday. That riverbank became my go-to happy place, a place for meditation. Every time I sit down to meditate, I imagine myself walking that road. By the end of the road, I feel fresh again.
Friends, family, and nature... what else do we need? I feel travelling is more meaningful when we capture experiences the right way. We can cherish it for many years to come.
Manali is much more fun in the early winter. If you prefer it without the snow, then December is your month. But if you want to throw some snowballs and make a snowman, visit after mid-January (although the Rohtang pass will be closed due to snowfall).
Book a stay outside the city, away from the madding crowds.
Definitely visit Hadimba temple and Solang valley. Also, try to trek to the Shiv temple at Solang valley, it gives you an unusual sense of satisfaction.
Use rental bikes for sight-seeing. Plenty of bikes are available for hire in Manali.
If you are into high adrenaline sports, paragliding is also available at Solang.
Do explore the local market (on Mall Road). It is huge and you will get everything from clothing like shawls and leather jackets to some great souvenir shops.
And, of course, check out the local delicacies. There's plenty of amazing food on offer.
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