Manali: The kingdom of snow
"Srijon get up… you don't want to miss this!" my sister cried. And all I could think of was what could possibly be so important.
Without wasting another second, she pulled me off my bed, and dragged me to the balcony, and what I saw left me utterly mesmerised.
It was nothing, and yet, everything, all at the same time and maybe too much for me, as I could feel a burst of emotions.
Snowfall is normal for most people, but for me, it's nothing short of a blessing. The unmistakable white covered the entire landscape, and stretched as far as the eye could see. The tree leaves were powdered beautifully, while the grassy plateau was bleached, highlighting the fine outlines.
It really is difficult to imagine the Snow Kingdom without actually experiencing any of it yourself. It felt nothing short of God's miracle, considering how I prayed for this to happen.
There was a light of hope that it was going to snow in Manali, but it was a different feeling when it actually happened.
Manali is one of the few places in India that I will not get tired of visiting. Away from the hustle and bustle of Indian cities, this pearl of the Himachal Pradesh is nestled in the heart of the Himalayas. Being a high attitude resort town, Manali has a reputation for attracting adventure loving tourists from all over the world.
This was my second visit to this beautiful town. I can only recall fragments of my last trip here, therefore, Manali deserved another visit.
Getting to Manali is a bit of hassle; after a moderately long Dhaka to Delhi flight, you then have to take a 14-hour nonstop journey through hilly roads to arrive at the destination after an advisable one night's rest.
The journey could be broken down into two days for people who have difficulty travelling by car, but I would recommend the hard way, as that leaves you with an extra day in Manali.
There's not much to do there except for seeing and feeling. The sound of the fast-flowing Beas river just beside your hotel, or the view of the snow-covered Himalaya peaks from bed are just some of the leisurely things to do in Manali.
The food in this little town matches its expectations. I knew about their well-known alu parathas, and was really looking forward to giving it a go. And guess what? It did not disappoint! Soft and warm, the paratha, along with the delicious chutney, simply melts in your mouth.
Also, do not miss out on the amazing Maggi noodles cooked in most street-side shops. They are served with a little more gravy, which actually makes them extra special. The only thing more lovely than the food and the sights was the people, aside for a small incident in Solang valley, the people of Manali have been very warm and hospitable.
For me, the best meal I had was at a snow covered plateau in Solang Valley, where we had chicken, and Rajma Chawal for the first time. I still can't forget the smell of the Rajma Chawal as it arrived hot on a plate.
And finally, no trip to Manali can ever be complete without a visit to Solang Valley.
While witnessing the snowfall on the last day from the hotel balcony was an insanely emotional experience for me, seeing the amazing snow covered Solang Valley firsthand would be the most exciting.
Solang Valley was one of the main reasons we went to Manali in the first place. I always imagined snowfall would make the environment cooler, but the cold was actually less than most days. Suited and booted in our special windcheaters, rented from a shop on our way, we started climbing the hill. The entire landscape started to change drastically. I felt as though I was in a movie, as patches of snow was covering large chunks of land on both sides.
As we were getting closer, the snow was getting heavier and heavier, until it was nothing but white.
I never tried skiing before, but since we were in Solang, it was an opportunity I didn't plan on missing. Skiing on plain ground was not nearly as fun as on a slope, but it I enjoyed it thoroughly nonetheless, despite hitting some people along the way!
Photos from Solang came out really well, be it the family photos, or the random clicks. It remains as a wonderful experience, especially the stunning view of the snow from the scenic viewpoints, and the river cutting its way through the ice, along with numerous fun activities like zip lining and tube racing.
In short, Manali is not a place you can easily forget. It's also not a place to simply blow off steam. It is an experience, and if done the right way, can become an unforgettable one. So, if you are into travelling, you will love Manali!
Photo: Srijon Shaikat