This time, going to India was hard and emotional, after my dad passed away in December. It was our delayed visit to the family. We planned a 2 months stay in India to heal and remember my father, and spend some quality time with my family.
Most of our stay was in Mumbai, doing Mumbai things like frequenting a few nearby places like the Gateway of India, Powai, Lonavala, and eating local food. This time, we did introduce Noah and Jason to Mumbai local trains (albeit not the regular one that is super crowded, but the newest air conditioned train).
After a month, we decided to head towards Northern India with my whole family to get away from the Mumbai heat and crowd.
The Himalayas were calling us, as we had already ventured south on Jason’s maiden visit in 2018. So yes, for the Beisers it was a big jump from Caribbean (remember our Puerto Rico post?) to the Himalayas in a matter of 5 weeks.
We spent a week in the Himalayas in the state of Himachal Pradesh (Land of snow clad Mountains) with towns like Manali and Kasol.
Personally, I had seen the Canadian Rockies, Appalachians, Sierra Nevada, and Southern Alps, but had yet to encounter the mighty Himalayas. So I was pretty excited to venture to the world famous towering peaks… And they are absolutely out of this world!
Before we go into details of what we actually did in our North India Vacation, we would like to give some tips, and what to expect when you plan a trip to India.
India Travel Tips
1. India is a big country with different topography and terrain, languages and foods that changes from state to state with their 1.3 billion population. So expect tons of people everywhere you go, from well known tourist spots to even the most remote hiking treks in the Himalayas. If you are looking for a quiet, serene time all by yourself, you probably chose the wrong destination.
2. Avoid driving in India. Always hire a car with a driver, as all over India there are no traffic rules that are actually followed. Everyone is going in a different direction at a different speed, while continuously honking their horns.
3. Buy bottled water, as you are not friends with Indian bacteria. (Jason learned this the hard way)
4. Carry toilet paper with you, as most of the public restrooms don’t have it. If possible, use toilets only in high end restaurants and hotels, as they are less filthy than what you find on the road.
5. If you want to have a nice experience, this is the country to splurge on 4-5 star hotels. Indian 5 star hotels are world famous for their top class service and hospitality, and you are treated like kings and queens. Indian hotels less than 3 stars are not equipped with the basic services you find in even the most humble western hotels.
6. When it comes to food, there is plenty around. There is great variety of Indian food from north to south of India. When you get tired of curries, there is always Indo-Chinese, Indo-Italian, Indo-Mexican and so forth. They are pretty creative at modifying all of these other cuisines to satisfy the Indian palate. (Don’t think you can stay in an Airbnb and cook your own food, as most of the times you will not find any western ingredients in grocery stores.)
So once I prepare you, like I tried to prepare my husband, here is what we did on our one week vacation in the Himalayas…
Our first destination was Manali, which is a quaint little mountain top town known for outstanding mountain vistas and deep valleys, with lush forest terrain. If you visit in the winter time, there are fairy tale style scenes with snow covered mountains everywhere.
It’s a very popular tourist spot for Indians, so book your vacation early and expect big crowds everywhere.
The highlight of Manali for us was a very famous excursion called Rohtang Pass, at 13058 feet elevation. The 50km journey from Manali to Rohtang pass is a breathtaking spectacle of nature, and one of the most scenic drives in India.
It serves as a gateway to the Spiti valley, which is home to a number of Buddhist Monasteries.
As you drive to the pass, you are enchanted by the raw beauty of the magnificent mountain peaks, glaciers, rivers, and 360-degree panoramic views.
There are many myths and legends about how Rohtang Pass got its name. Many people in the Kullu Valley to the south believe that Lord Shiva created the pass. In the Lahaul Valley to the north, it is believed that Gyapo Gyasar, the king of Western Tibet made the pass.
The most common story lies in the name itself. In one local language, Rohtang translates to “Pile of Corpses”. It got its name because of the numerous people who died trying to cross the pass.
There are no accommodation or restaurants to serve tourists in Rohtang, though you will find many road side vendors selling roasted corn, eggs and bread, tea, momos and their favorite Maggie noodles. (Yes, we concluded that the official dish of Manali and the surrounding mountain areas is their beloved Maggi noodles.)
The best time to visit Rohtang Pass is between May and October. This when you can enjoy outdoor activities such as biking, hiking and camping.
The pass is closed November through April, although it may be inaccessible at other times of the year as well, due to extreme weather and landslides.
A permit must be obtained for private vehicles to drive to the pass. Therefore, the best option is to hire a local driver.
Hidimba Devi Temple
Another popular spots to visit in Manali is Hidimba Devi Temple. This ancient temple, which was built in 1553, stands in a dense cedar forest.
The construction style of temple is very unique among temples in India, with its intricately carved wooden doorways, walls, and cone-shaped roof.
The presiding deity of the temple is Hidimba, known as the Forest Goddess locally. On a typical summer day, you will find long queues of devotees in and around the temple complex.
Then, there is Mall road, the main street in Manali. It is a pedestrian only street with hundreds of souvenir shops and local vendors selling local handmade crafts, winter ware, local dried fruits and souvenir knick knacks.
If you are just going to browse and maybe pick up some souvenirs, it is best to go earlier in the day, before it gets too crowded.
After Manali, our next stop was Kasol. It is another famous spot, about 3 hours away from Manali. Though distances are short, it takes hours to reach your destination, as most of the roads are through hilly mountainous areas. Kasol is situated in Parvati Vally.
Parvati Valley is full of scenic landscape and leisure, and is definitely worth a visit. The valley is famed for folklore of Indian Gods like Shiva and Parvati visiting.
Another peculiar thing about Parvati Valley is its very prominent marijuana scene, a remnant of the Hippie trail in India. Sometimes referred to as the Amsterdam of India, Kasol is becoming a party hot spot with younger generations
We didn’t do much in Kasol in our 4 night stay, except go for a small 3-4 hours hike to Chalal, as Noah isn’t yet up to the longer trails. Most of the time, we just relaxed in our hotel right over the Parvati river.
There are lots of hikes in and around this small little town, which range from easy to moderate to difficult to climb. We recommend hiring a knowledgeable guide for these hikes, as it’s very easy to get lost in the wilderness.
Going on vacation to a different culture would have a bit of a learning curve. It might take you out of your comfort zone, you might get overwhelmed with sights and sounds that you’re not familiar with.
But that’s the whole point of travel, and exposing yourself to different experiences. Consider all the tips mentioned above before venturing into India, as this would make your travel experience so much better. Small little inconveniences or aggravations will never stop the Beisers from travelling this beautiful planet, and we are still eager to travel to new places all over.
Until then, we hope this inspires you to book a trip to your dream destination. Chow…
(That’s how my son travels… chilling everywhere, enjoying every single bit, and learning tons from so many people and experiences. This time, he’s just having a little snooze while his mama sips on her last drink, waiting @ Dubai airport to board our final flight to come back home)
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