Hello friends ! I am back again after a long hiatus with JITC, which suffered a technical setback. But now we are back again with it and the Jewel that I have for you from the crown called India is Dalhousie ,up north in the lower Himalayas.
With the summer temperatures rising, I thought Dalhousie would be just the right place to cool you down. Shimla, Manali , Nainital and Mussourie will be crowded like bee hives with holiday-ers. But Dalhousie still enjoys some peace and quiet with the advantage of its comparatively greater distance.
A pretty little hill station (just 14 sq km area) which is more a cantonment and one which has a rich history. It still presents vignettes of times bygone with its architecture and buildings which mostly belong to the Raj era. Though it is quite popular destination for the people from Punjab and a few from Delhi, it isn’t crowded like the other hill station like Shimla, Mussourie, Nainital and hence you will feel quite uncluttered over there. It enjoys a slightly higher altitude than the mentioned hill stations and is a slightly to the North, hence the cold there, is a bit more pronounced-just right for a break from the Indian summers.
So lets proceed with some quick brief facts about Dalhousie as an introduction, and some of my personal tidbits( inferred from my own experiences) so that we can concentrate on the slideshow in leisure.
Dalhousie is 485 kms away from Delhi and there are a couple of roads leading to it. You can take the train to Pathankot and drive up to Dalhousie or take the flight to either Pathankot which is just 47 km away or alternately take the flight to Kangra and hit the road on to Dalhousie( but one which is a bit longer) .
You have three main options to reach Dalhousie by road. The most convenient one is to take the Delhi-Ambala highway and then drive through Ludhiana , Jallandhar to Dalhousie.
The second option is to drive through Chandigarh, to Una, upto Nurpur and then on To Dalhousie . Slightly longer than the first one, but less travelled one with amazing vistas.
The third one is for the people who believe that the journey and not the destination, is more important. It takes you from Chandigarh to Bilaspur, Mandi and finally onto Dalhousie, almost travelling half of Himachal. It will take just ahem! Around 24 hrs. Dalhousie named after Lord Dalhousie, is said to be built on five hills but I didn’t count to confirm it. Ok poor Joke! It is the gateway to Chamba district of Himachal which is famous for its religious and historical significance .
But here Dalhousie is what we are speaking of and Dalhousie is more famous for its bountiful natural beauty. The scenery that you will visually experience as you explore the place will soothe you and gladden your heart. It is just the ideal place to have a solitary walk up a hill sit on a meadow, read a book, paint or click , have a picnic lunch and spend some me-moments with yourself but in case you want to go the tourist way and explore, here are some spots that you could try.
Kalatop Sanctuary-which houses the less powerful of the animals , but aren’t that visible. (as is becoming the norm in almost all the wild life reserves) You could trek to base or have a open jeep ride from Lakkar mandi. If you are fit enough then I would advise to go for the trek as you will enjoy the walk down the rocky path among the tall trees ,which after a distance opens to a beautiful view down a valley.
After that invigorating or exhausting walk(depending on your stamina) you can drive onto the highest point in Dalhousie, Dain Kund. Sometimes there is hope of coming across snow there if you visit in the early part of the year(till March, but we did find snow there when we visited in April). If not , just inhale deeply and enjoy the fresh cool air and the beautiful views of the snowy peaks of the Himalayas in the distance. Dain Kund makes a very good spot for a picnic lunch and also photography, but wait, take your own food, for there are no food stalls over there. Good for that place as It keeps the place neat and trash free.
Khajiar- the most famous and beautiful of all the spots in Dalhousie has been recognized for is natural beauty by none other than the Swiss government themselves. It is a circular meadow lined by Alpine trees all around it rendering a magical picture perfect quality to it . A tourist hub, you will find a choice of touristy activities to try out-Para gliding, horse riding, Hot air ballooning, zorbing etc etc. You can also visit the Khajji Nag temple nearby. From Khajjiar you can drive onto Chamba for a hurried tour of the historical town. The drive is a bit steep but beautiful scenery accompanies you through out the drive. While returning from Chamba to Dalhousie take the route that bypasses Khajjiar and instead touches Banikhet, for another beautiful but less precipitous drive.
Other places in and around Dalhousie are the Punjpula which is more like a children’s theme park with some handicraft stores thrown in, but you might enjoy a cup of tea with maggi noodles while your little ones enjoy the rides. You can take a walk in the mall road from the Gandhi Chowk to Subhash Chowk and shop for mementoes while you walk.
While walking by don’t forget to ask a local person where the Subhash Baoli might be. It is said that when Subhash Chandra Bose was diagnosed with tuberculosis, he had come here in Dalhousie to recuperate and he used to come to a baoli or a stream to drink from it, as the stream was supposed to have healing properties and so the Baoli acquired its name. The stream has long back dried up but it still attracts visitors for the association with its famous patron.
Accommodation isn’t a problem with choices galore from high end luxury ones to the budget hotels. Internet booking in HPTDC hotels helps you plan your visit quite early on. In fact you can book your bus tickets from Delhi to Dalhousie online too. Local taxies can be hired there in Dalhousie itself, for sight seeing.If you are a very much nature person with a great sense of adventure, then I will advise you to make Khajjiar your base from where trips to Mani Mahesh lake and temple will prove somewhat easier. You can proceed onto Dharamshala- another beautiful place through the Jot pass-A route complete with adventurous driving and views of snowbound peaks . The route through Jot pass to Dharamshala is known to very few but the road is motorable and it helps you complete the Dalhousie- Dharamshala circuit in a comparatively lesser time. The road to Jot pass goes through Khajjiar so don’t miss the signboard there.
You can visit almost through out the year, but landslides are probable during rains.
Try to take an after dinner walk . Evenings in the mountains acquire an enchanting quality and are not to be missed.
The web is brimming with information on Dalhousie and I have just tried inserting the salient points to go with the slideshow . This is just my sincere attempt to entice you to this Dreamy Hill station with a few snapshots of this beautiful place. I admit the photographs are amateur-ly shot, but God is a total professional when it comes to his creations. Thanks.
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Jewel In The Crown (Indian Travelogue) series by Mani Padma. While Mani brews her intoxicating chai brew here, some of her flavours are left out in her personal blog which she calls it as her own Trash Bin
I didn’t want to write this initially. I honestly have no idea how to summarize a month of India and what I saw in a single post. And I really don’t want to bore you guys into reading a never ending essay either. So, I figured let’s just go by the traditional way. Allow the pictures to speak for themselves. Although they might not exactly convey my feelings, for some photographs were just badly pictured. Sorry about that guys, no matter how much technology improves, batteries have a life and they tend to die often.
Even then, I had no choice but to break it into two posts. This is the first of the two where I spent about 10 days in South India observing and participating in things. It’s titled “Off Wheels” simply because the second post is all about my train journeys around India. Anyways, let’s focus on this part of the journey first, shall we?
Here we go…
An Indian Wedding
It started off with my participation in an Indian wedding. It was my cousin’s. What was supposed to be my watch- and- be -impressed with Indian weddings, ended up being on-stage with my cousin. Not quite what I had in mind.
One would think, least I did, that wearing jewelry would invite looks. Man, I invited quite a few stares for not wearing any. Indian aunts and grannies offered to part with their chains so that “my neck wouldn’t appear bare”. I’m sorry what?
Did I mention Indian weddings can actually last a week?
I was told that my cousin’s three day affair was actually short. Good Lord!
Then again, I am glad it was a huge event else I will never have been able to witness an Indian wedding first hand. By the way, not all Indian weddings take place the same way. Well obviously given the number of states and the diversity of India.
The one I attended followed the Telugu customs. Specifically the Naidus. During the climax of the wedding, the part where the groom ties the sacred thread; was performed with a cloth between the groom and bride. Interesting aye. I was told about its significance, but as time went the information dissipated from my memory. Oops!
Did you know there were pre and post wedding events?
I didn’t. I hardly ever attend weddings. And the ones I have attended, ended within three hours or less. Not this one. One of the post wedding events was a visit to a remote temple in the heart of a South Indian village.
Both the names of the temple and the village were quite a mouthful. But that’s not the point. The temple was built for a deity or otherwise known as a guardian-deity. Can you actually say that? I just coined the term, I’m not sure if it exists. Anyways, the fact that the deity’s responsibilities is the well being of the people, the temple lies in the out skirts of a village. Makes sense innit.
The groom’s family are closely affiliated with the temple hence they tend to visit the temple, after every successful occasion, as a way of saying thank you to the deity.
Besides weddings, Indians celebrate everything. I’m not kidding. There was an ear piercing ceremony for a young kid and they even shaved his head.
The parents didn’t cut his hair since birth; all for this day: To shave his head bald and get his ears pierced. And between all of these, stuff a banana in his mouth hoping that would distract him. Ok…
The lady on the left was the official “ear-piercer”.
She was not using the pierce gun but a freaking needle! One that she would heat before piercing (read: hurting) the 3 year old’s ears. I swear she was aggressive but many would disagree with me. Sighs!
What’s a trip to India if you haven’t seen enough temples right?
At every step of the way, at every corner street stood a temple. Be it one with its towering height, and intricate designs or a simple hut with a deity sitting inside. The numbers were baffling. The bigger, grander temples were the most intriguing. With its cool interior despite the sweltering heat outside, and the history behind its architecture was just pure amazement.
Venky requires a post of his own, but remember how I didn’t wanna bore you guys to death with my long winded-ness? Hey, I hear you say, as if this post was any shorter but seriously I have summarized it to the best of my ability. Sobs.
Venky is a rich God. People donate their wealth to this deity. I was glad the money was put to good use, for the accommodation provided and the surrounding areas and areas within the temple were kept relatively clean. Infrastructures to aid devotees were well constructed too.
That was when I noticed these see through walls within the temple: the men behind the walls were counting cash! Loads of them! It was pouring cash in this part of India. Will someone please enlighten the poor souls begging on the streets about this place please!
It was literally raining money and… hair, due to devotees shaving their heads for one or another religious reason related to Venky. Meeting Venky was a tedious task. I had to shove and push people. Shout Govinda and later push through the crowds before me. It appeared as if people were shouting “Govinda” to get the adrenaline running before they exert their strength on the dude infront. Wonder how Venky feels about this? Sorry Govinda.
What I also realized, after I mastered the art of being Indian was that I hardly made eye contact with Venky. The entire union with throngs of other Indians between me and Venky, around me and Venky, lasted less than 2 minutes.
After the main viewing, which was twice, thanks to a certain privilege endowed by cousin’s father-in-law, we proceeded for a particular Unjal Utsav. What happens here is that Venky is brought in a chariot, and later transferred to a swing in a room filled with mirrors. The priest slowly pushes the swing creating a momentum for it. The scene is, devotees get to see Venky while he is relaxing with his two spouses on the swing. The comedian in this scene was this other priest at the entrance of the room going “Govinda Cepu! Govinda Cepu” at all who entered.
I mean why? Dude! Venky is resting. I don’t wanna go all Govinda on him now.
Hello friends , I am back again with an edition of JITC and though I was supposed to take you to Ooty , the unbearable mercury level made me take a detour down the memory lane to cool climes of Thanedar.
Thanedar is still an unpolluted, unknown destination and visited as a part of the Shimla, Kufri, Narkanda package as it is just few kilometres away from Shimla and Kufri in Himachal. Shimla serves as an important centre point for visiting its beautiful satellite hamlets like Mashobra , Kufri, Thanedar etc.Unless and until you have a relaxed itinerary, with an urge to explore the unknown there are chances that you might miss them.
We chanced upon Thanedar by chance on a snowy day when we were caught in snow and had halted at Kufri, while on our way to Rampur. Yes that is the route to Thanedar-A Small well maintained road, off shooting from the Shimla Rampur Highway, leads to Thanedar.
An inviting archway beckoning on to the road and glimpses of the snow bound landscape peeping in from among the fir and deodar trees reminding of Narnia, was a major temptation to venture out there forgetting our destination completely.
Here I have attempted to bring before you views of and from Thanedar that I had, through my pictures but as I say always, Thanedar is much more than this and the best way to enjoy its beauty is by being there yourself.
Though Thanedar is an all season destination my advice is to visit it in winter to have a glimpse of the magical snow clad landscape as it is quite different from other snow bound destination of Manali, or Auli, Gulmarg.
It is 94 Km from Shimla,which is just a three hour drive from Shimla (You can drive up to Thanedar or hire a cab from Shimla to Thanedar) and if you want to drive up there directly from Delhi- the route to take is NH 1 then at Indri near Kurukshetra take the state highway 7 to reach Ladwa- Yamuna nagar- Sadaura-Nahaan –Rajgarh –Kotkhal- and finally Thanedar
Always be careful while driving on a snowy day as snow makes the road very slippery resulting in skidding.
Thanedar is more famous for the apple orchards and this is where the first apple seeds were planted in India by Samuel Stokes. You can always sample the local apple products – jams, pickle, wine etc.
The Tani Juber lake nearby is a quite a popular destination for a day picnic.
Accommodation is not a problem there. You can put up in Shimla or Kufri as a base or if you want the real mountain wilderness experience then you can try the comfortable Banjara camps in Thanedar itself. Either of the two has its advantages.
Thanedar is more of a peaceful leisure destination rather than the conventional activity filled tourist destinations. You can go trekking, leisurely forest walks or sit by the roadside, in a meadow enjoying a book and a picnic lunch.
Many a times I have been asked by my blogger friends and some readers that why in spite of JITC being one of my favorite, I do not experiment in it as I do in other categories. Well frankly speaking, nature is something very sacred to me. Every trip or holiday is a pilgrimage for me. Be it The Himalayas – where I feel so close to God , or the sensation of total freedom in the sand dunes of Rajasthan, the sea in Goa enticing me to explore the unknown, rain soaked Kerala- pure and fresh, the barren solitude of Spiti where you feel so humble- Everything that I have experienced makes me fall in love with my country called India over and over again ( in spite of its shortcomings) And when I am in awe over something or in love , I don’t mess with it.
But I am adding a new feature here today- And that is an anecdote of a travel related incident of mine, which you may find interesting and also helpful as a travel tip as they say experience is the best teacher. So let me narrate an incident that had happened on our way to Manali from Delhi.
We usually prefer to self drive or rather my husband prefers to self drive whenever we travel to the hills (err my driving is slightly shaky. People start shaking in fright if I drive the car) we had uneventfully crossed Chandigarh and had passed Bilaspur too, from where the uphill ride starts. A little farther from Bilaspur, we decided to stop at a café to have tea. It was then 3 ‘o clock in the afternoon and as we were debarking snap went my hubby’s specs. He was wearing the shades then, leaving his specs by the side of the seat and somebody sat on it breaking it neatly into two right at the middle, the part which sits on the bridge of the nose. And unfortunately I had forgotten to pack a pair of spare.
Dusks set in early in the mountains and that meant he could not continue wearing the shades after an hour or so. After quite a voluble “pass the blame game” we decided to go for damage control. In the mountains it’s a fact that facilities are not available at the snap of the finger. The nearest optician was supposed to be in Mandi which was 69 kms away. All the quarrel and tea and snacks (oh no we were not the ones to give up on tea for a pair of specs comes what may) cost us an hour… So? Well so desperate situations required desperate measures. uh no! he did not attempt a lasik eye operation there, but worse. There was a hardware shop in the vicinity and he got some m-seal from there and made a reasonable sized laddoo from it and stuck the two lenses with their “stumps” in it and put it on. So you can imagine the sight! The big lump of m-seal sat on his nose like a huge beetle and the lens sat on his eyes crookedly, but still it served its purpose. The sight was totally funny but I dared not laugh aloud and had a very hard time controlling my laughter which was threatening to burst out at the sight of that scowling man with a beetle sized m seal over his nose from which the lenses shot out. Damn! I could not even shoot a picture of him. And he drove with his “customized” eye-wear and me gagging my mouth somehow we finally purchased a pair of specs and thankfully normalcy was restored.
Moral of the story- If you wear specs then always keep a spare during your travel and yes M seal is really handy in ways even we don’t realize. Well that was that and now lets proceed on to the pictures.
Bring the mouse to the bottom portion of the slide-show for the details on the picture as well as the control keys for slide-show
Pasighat is the oldest town (established in 1911) of the extreme eastern state of the country- Arunachal Pradesh. Situated at the banks of river Siang, this is a fairly small town surrounded with lush green beauty of Himalayan Mountains. The town is not exactly in the mountains… it is actually at the foothills hence the weather is pleasant here both in summer and winter.
How do I reach?
Hmm… interesting question. The nearest airports are at North Lakhimpur (Assam) and Dibrugarh (Assam). But you have many options…
A 16 hour bus journey directly from Guwahati to Pasighat.
An 18 hour train journey from Rangia (Assam) to Murkongselek (Assam). Murkongselek is 35 km from Pasighat and you get plenty of local transport from Murkongselek to Pasighat.
Take a flight to North Lakhimpur (250 km from Pasighat) and from there you get bus and hired taxi services.
There are also Helicopter flights from Dibrugarh and Itanagar to Pasighat.
The Last but the most enjoyable option(my vote!) is to take a flight to Dibrugarh and then a ferry ride upstream on river Brahmputra from Dibrugarh to Oriam ghat or majherbadi ghat and then you get local conveyance from any of the ghats.
NOTE1: The train journey is the most hopelessly boring option of all… that’d be last in my options list.
NOTE 2: You need an inner line permit (ILP) to enter the state Arunachal Pradesh- they are checked at the check points located on Assam- Arunachal border on every road (yeah, cry irony all you want, but you need a permit to roam around in your own country). You can get an ILP made from the Liaison offices situated in Delhi, Kolkata, Guwahati, Shillong, Dibrugarh, Tezpur, North Lakhimpur and Jorhat.
Where do I stay?
This is a tricky one. Because tourism is not an industry here, the hotels in Pasighat are pretty ordinary. So if you’d want a little more luxury, your only option is the govt. guest house- Siang Guest House. I’ve read on some websites that accommodation is available on three places- Siang Guest House, Circuit House and Inspection Bungalow. Don’t get misguided by this fact- all the three are the one and same (Ha Ha!). The booking for the room at Siang Guest House is done at DC office.
Ok tell me some more…
You can visit almost any time in the year except for the rainy season and I can assure you that the weather will be among the best in the country. The Rainy season is a problem because it rains extremely heavy… it rains continuously sometimes even for a month in this season. Well, even if you plan to visit Pasighat in Rainy season, you won’t be able to make it till here because all the routes are flooded at that time.
As I said earlier, tourism is not established as an industry here. So much that you may not even get a guide to show you around. This may be a drawback of this place but this also is its USP. You get to enjoy the beauty in its Virgin form- unaltered by the inherent hazards of tourism industry like environmental destruction. Also you see what you like… not what the selectively permeable spectacles of a guide show you.
The place is full of scenic beauty… Go to river Siang or its countless supporting streams any time of day and you get a photographer’s paradise. Arunachal Pradesh is known for its sunrise which is the first sunrise of whole country everyday so make sure you get up early enough to catch it (nearly 4:45 am in summers and 5:30 am in winters). If you are into wildlife, you can visit Daying Ering wildlife sanctuary. The Sanctuary provides domicile for a variety of animal species like leopard, civet cat, leopard cat, sambar, barking deer, Wild boar, Porcupine, Stripped squirrel, Jackal, Python. The sanctuary is also home to a number of endangered birds like the Indian skimmer and spot-billed Pelican. It also hosts quite a few migratory birds.
You can also see the hanging bridge- made up of bamboo it is a marvel of tribal engineering. You can also go to Pangin to see the point where river Siom meets river Siang presenting a spectacular sight. If you have come here in winter, you can also visit Rangin- a place famous for its orange farms.
If you like adventure sports, Pasighat is the place to be. The River Siang is ideally suited for rafting, fishing and angling. Trekking also another very good option to explore that the natural beauty that this place beholds and also to get a closer look at the tribal lifestyle. If you are more of an indoor person, you might as well stay in the guest house- enjoying the brilliant climate, sipping the famous Assam tea and romancing with books .
Since tourism is yet to find its niche as an industry here, visiting Pasighat will provide you a fresh experience- different from your typical hill station. The calm and serene beauty of this place provides a perfect refuge for an escape from helter –skelter, run here- run there life style. The added bonus of this place is that because it is situated in the foothills, the climate here is gentle and the weather remains pleasant even in winters implicating, you can even visit and enjoy the place in winters.
Below are my humble attempts to capture the natural beauty of this place.
PS: Due acknowledgements to Mani Padma who motivated me enough to write a travelogue, which, I never thought I could write
Bring the mouse to the bottom portion of the slideshow for the details on the picture as well as the control keys for slideshow