Monday, November 21, 2016 0 comments

The Himachal Solo Trip

So here goes. My first solo trip. Destination- Himachal Pradesh. I shall not be elaborating much on the places, but only covering the basics.

There are multiple ways to reach Himachal of course. I took a flight to Chandigarh, from Mumbai, and then took a train till Kalka. From Kalka, I took the Toy Train to Shimla, which takes around five hours in all. It was a pleasant ride, on the hills. Of course, if you go by road, it will be faster, but I wanted to try the train ride, and it did not disappoint. There were several foreigner tourists in my coach, mostly middle aged or seniors. I had a nice conversation with an elderly couple, who were from London, and visiting India for the first time. They had taken a tour package for a duration of three weeks and would be covering the major parts of North India, such as Delhi, Agra, Jaipur, etc. Here is a shot taken from the toy train:

I reached Shimla by early evening, close to 5:30 pm. My hotel was near the station and I decided to walk down. After getting some rest, I went for a walk on the famous Mall Road. It was a bit chilly at night, and I had not brought any warm clothes with me. But by the time I reached Mall road, it was already late and most of the shops were closed. I still had a good leisurely walk and returned to the hotel.

The next day, I booked a cab and did a Shimla tour. I covered some common tourist spots, such as the Jakhoo temple(devoted to Lord Hanuman), which had lot of monkeys roaming around, and Kufri, which is famous for adventure sports and Horse Rides. I tried my hand at few of the mini sports, including a Reverse Bungee jump. Picture below.

After Kufri, I visited the Viceregal Lodge, which is a typical portray of British Architecture. The gardens outside are well maintained. They charge you an entry ticket of Rs. 20 for visiting the garden and outside area, and Rs. 40 for a guided tour inside. Unfortunately the guided tour would only be done after 2 pm, so I took the garden pass and roamed around the beautiful area. Co-incidentally I met the British couple from my train ride over here as well.

The final destination in Shimla for me, would be the Army Museum. Amazing place and very well maintained. There is a Golf Ground nearby as well. Very scenic and picturesque.

I reached my hotel by late afternoon, and ventured towards Mall Road again, this time a bit early.I bought a jacket, as I was actually freezing by now, and walked for some 2-3 kms, before returning to my hotel. This was the end of the Shimla tour, and I took a bus to Kullu the next morning.

The bus ride to Kullu took more than eight hours. The roads are bumpy, but the view is really good. You can see the mountains, and later the river Beas flowing by. It is actually a sight to behold.

I reached the hotel by late evening. I decided to visit Manikaran and Kasol the next day and then move towards Manali, which is around 40 kms from Kullu. Unfortunately I had a minor accident that night, as I slipped and fell into a drain, injuring my right leg. I went to a Pharmacy shop and got the leg bandaged. Nevertheless, that did not dampen my spirit, and I was looking ahead for the things to come.

So next day I took a taxi to Manikaran. Manikaran is famous for its hot water springs. It has a Gurudwara and a Ram Temple. It is a good place for sight seeing. On the way to Manikaran, you pass through Kasol, which is actually a small town located on the valley. It has got the rather infamous name of being a Doper’s Paradise. From there, I went straight to Manali. I ended my day with a visit to the Hidimba Temple, and finally called it a day at my hotel.

The next day was devoted to roaming around Manali. I covered Solang Valley, which is famous for adventure sports when it snows. However, at the time when I visited, only Para-gliding was one. With my bum leg, I could not have done it. So I just chose to take a Cable Car ride. It reminded me of my trip to Mt.Titlis in Switzerland. The view was pretty good, and I took some good pictures before coming back down. Rohtang pass is another area which you can visit from Manali, but the Hotel person told me it was 50 kms away and not really worth going at, unless it snows. So i decided to skip the same, and head over to a place called Naggar, where you had a Castle(where some shooting of Bollywood films such as Jab We Met has taken place) and an Russian Art Museum, which took some amount of climbing up. Finally, we took a visit to the Manali clubhouse (Nothing much to do here but check out on some scenary and buy some gifts) and to the Mall Road, which is similar (but not as comprehensive) to the one in Shimla. There was a shooting of some Indian tv serial going on(I did not recognise the cast). Finally, headed back to the hotel. I had a night bus to catch for Dharamshala.

Unfortunately, this was the worst part of my journey. I wrongly estimated my arrival time at Dharamshala to be 6:30 am, whereas I actually reached at 4 am. Throughout the bumpy ride, I stayed awake, and started feeling nauseated. Ultimately, I puked in the bus. It was a horrible ride to say the least, and here I was, dropped at 4 am at a deserted place somewhere in Dharamshala. Somehow I managed to locate a taxi, and asked him to drop me to my guesthouse, which was at Mcleodgunj. I did an early check in and just crashed.

I woke up at 10 am, and decided to walk down to the Buddhist Temple, which is also the residence of the Dalai Lama. There were lot of monks of all age groups walking down the streets. It was a serene and resplendent sight to behold. Obviously there were lot of tourists there too, including foreigners, some of whom were practicing meditation on the temple grounds. After roaming around for some time I decided to walk back to the guesthouse. I inquired about a place which had waterfalls, named Bhagsu. So I decided to walk down there. It was a total distance of around 4 to 5 kms from my guesthouse, but made pleasant by some of the scenery nearby. You need to climb the steps for around half an hour to reach the top and get a good view of the waterfall. However it is not recommended to step into the water, as it can get risky. There have been cases of people getting drowned or thrown down.

I called it a day after coming back to the hotel. The next day was reserved for the Triund trek, which will take the better part of the day. I started at around 9:30 am and it took me roughly three and a half hours to reach the peak. I must admit it was quite a pleasant trek, and almost anybody can attempt it. I spoke to few people on the way, and accompanied a couple to the top. There were lot of foreigners too, and all of them were wishing us Happy Diwali. All in all, I would definitely recommend this trek, even to amateurs or newbies. I was back on the base by around 4 pm. Post which I took a taxi to the HPCA Stadium in Dharamshala. It was a well maintained stadium and after clicking few pictures i returned to my guesthouse. I took a bus to Chandigarh the next day. Had a short detour to the newly built Japanese Garden before heading back to Mumbai.

So there it ended, my first solo trip in Himachal. I really had a good time, and would hopefully return there again someday. In case you have any comments or questions do feel free to reach out to me. Until then, adios.

Thursday, November 3, 2016 0 comments

My First Ever Solo Trip- Some Tips & Tricks

Himachal Solo Trip- October 16

So here goes. My first ever Solo trip. And what an adventure it has been. I will be writing about some of the places which I visited, in Himachal Pradesh, which is in the north part of India. Before I begin writing about my trip, however, I suppose I could share some information for those people who are also looking to go on Solo Trips. For the expert traveler, you can kindly skip the next few paragraphs.

First of all, even though you might be going alone, it is advisable to keep few people, maybe in your family or friends about your location, in case of any emergency. This is even more important if you are staying alone, in hotels or guest houses, and not at a place of a friend or acquaintance. These are some of the things I did, before embarking on my trip.

Packed Light, as I knew I would be doing a lot of walking. Honestly, carrying an insane amount of luggage with you makes no sense whatever. Pack light, travel light. Will save you lots of trouble.

Carry a medicine and/or first aid bag with you. This is essential, you do need to carry basic medicines with you. Plus, I was going on a mountainous region, so I also carried some anti-vomiting tablets. And I make it a habit to carry some basic gel, band-aids and stuff. At a time of need, the pharmacy shop may be far away from you. So be prepared.

Made an itinerary, based on my budget, for roughly a week’s duration. Did all the bookings online, and well in advance. This saves a lot of hassle later on. The two important things are travel and lodging. I even booked buses to travel within Himachal, through (a pretty handy site). Some of the other websites used to search for accommodations are-

And others. Based on my budget, and the hotel ratings, I booked the hotels in all of the locations where I would be staying. Most of the hotels will not charge anything during the booking. You can pay when you check out. Make sure you read the other traveler reviews of the hotel to avoid any last minute bad experiences. Of course, depending on your preference, you might want to stay at dormitories, couch-surf, or look at guest-houses. I, personally prefer hotels, even though they are expensive, as they are safer, and offer more comfort. It’ s of course a personal choice.

Keep some loose cash with you, preferably in alternate locations (bags, shirt pocket, etc) in case you need it during an emergency. Also, some of the places where I visited did not accept debit/credit cards. So it is essential to keep cash. Do remember that unlike in metro cities, ATM’s are not very frequent. You might have to travel a bit to reach a working ATM.

Make a list of the places which you want to visit. Remember not to over-stuff too much of activities in one day. You might not be able to cover everything. Just because you are on vacation, does not mean you need to stress out. Keep some free time in between. Also, it would pay to have a basic look at Google Maps and get an idea of the location where you are traveling. For example it might take 8 hours to travel from Manali to Dharamshala by road. We need to factor all of this in our vacation.

Keep a photocopy of your tickets and necessary documents ready. You might need it at any time.

Also do not forget, to carry at least one Government Id proof with you. This is mandatory for checking into any hotel.

Rest, use your common sense and bring whatever item you would prefer. Though remember, not to overstuff.

Always remember to be alert. You are responsible for your own safety and the safety of your belongings. On a solo trip, you are alone. Do not get too relaxed, and get your stuff stolen in the process. Do not venture off alone in any deserted area, especially at night, if you are unsure about the location. It is also advisable not to carry extremely valuable stuff with you.

At the end of it, have fun. That’s what you are on a vacation for, right. Go discover yourself, learn to know your strengths and weaknesses better, and grow as a person.

Before I start writing about my trip, I would like to thank my good friend, Divya Gonnabathula, for telling me about all the places I should cover in Himachal, and sharing some good information. For those who would like to read about her experiences, this is her blog link:-

Stay tuned for the next post on the Himachal Adventure.