Thursday, May 27, 2004

Manali - The End

An untimely departure (for home) of one of our "soldiers" shrank the size of the group. Late night revitalization (??) kept us glued to the bed till 10 in the morning. We thought of walking down (and up) to Old Manali but didn't have much time to accomodate it in the schedule for the day. Besides, the unfortunate soldier wanted to browse the local market before being on conveyance.

We strolled down narrow lanes occupied by small shops on either side. This local market was supposedly the oldest in Manali and a place of business for the Tibetan community residing in and around for long decades. Handicrafts and custom apparels were the commodities of interest, with a somewhat intrusion of the business riches from the neighboring cities of Delhi and Chandigarh. A straight lane at the entry took us to a small shop overbearing an exquisite collection of brass idols, silver jwellery, and traditional decorative items. A few picks from one or two shops started falling heavy on my purse, and as soon as my friend was satisfied with his shopping spree, we gulped some food and went back to our hotel.

Later in the afternoon, the remaining six of us sat near the Beas river for some "bird watching" (the water was intimidating), explored a part of the Great Himalayan National Forest (just a place full of Deodars), and then headed on for the Mall. The weather turned gloomy and soon started pouring itself. I decided to crunch my hunger for the night in a local food stall. The stall owner happened to be a recent taker of the place, explaining enthusiatically the culinary arcanum of Tibetan dishes, a tip here and there to differentiate the mind of an Indian and that of a foreign traveller, a revelation of his mythical knowledge, remorsing the hardships in his occupation brought in by the snowfall; all in all, an interesting conversation. It was our last night in Manali.

Old Manali was a kinky place, a perfect abode for the nomadic hipsters. The place was full of them. We cranked our way through the uphill, back and forth, walking past contrasting pictures of ceremonious swank and thoughtless tranquility. A local shop owner revealed to me how the place is different for different people; you get an unwanted discount in the prices if you speak Hindi. No wonder you are deceived, but lesser if you don't bear a white skin. Manu temple was 1.5 kms walk (the official guide books said that) through such terrain, and was our destination in Old Manali.


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