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When I Climbed Apple Trees in Himachal Pradesh [With Local Families]

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Plucking Apples in Himachal Pradesh With My Host Family

Our four-month Himachal road trip was more than halfway through. We were in the middle of July 2021. After living in small Shimla villages (such as Mehli, Fagu, and Mashobra), we had driven to Mandi district. There we explored Chindi village and surrounding hills, visited the historic Pangna, and hiked the daunting Shikari Devi and Kamru Nag mountains.  

I had seen so much in those two and a half months that I wanted to slow down a bit more and write (the start to our indefinite travel hadn’t been easy either). After the big hikes, we checked in to the government guest house (PWD) of Karsog village (in Mandi). Every morning in that PWD guest house was more about finding water to go to the toilet than staying sane. The dusty roads and poor guesthouses of Karsog didn’t tempt us to stay in that village longer (though we did buy shoes in Karsog).

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An Old Himalayan Woman’s Routine Showed Me How Hard Is Village Life in India – Lessons On Resilience and Repetition

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Village Life of India : An Old Himalayan Woman’s Life at a Glance. Notes From Gagal Village, Mashobra, Shimla

I woke up at 5. The host’s kitchen hut was filled with yellow light from the bulb. Smoke rose out of the hut’s chimney. Our homestay’s mother, whom we called aunty, was already up.

Aunty must’ve folded the mat on which she slept on the kitchen floor, had lit firewood in the chulha, and must’ve been preparing milky tea then (a common scene in village life of India). Though I never entered the kitchen —when I had asked  aunty if I could make chapatis on her chulha, she had said women couldn’t enter there — from outside I had seen her fluff chapatis on the woodfire and paste the floor with yet another fresh layer of mud and cow dung. Aunty was somewhere between 60 and 70.

(I don’t have any pictures of aunty neither would I want to post them online. So please bear with me while I add photos of everything else around her home.)

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What a Dam Did to the Tattapani Hot Water Springs

Why Tattapani Village in Mandi District (Himachal Pradesh) is in Serious Need of Development

 

We first heard about Tattapani village when we arrived in Mandi District. After staying in Shimla villages for two months, we drove to Pangna village of Mandi, then to Chindi, hiked to Shikari Devi temple and Kamru Nag, explored around, and are now staying in a small highway village near Karsog. 

Tatapani — literally meaning hot water — was once an important village for not just Mandi people but for all Himachal folks. Located 52 km from Shimla, 120 km from Mandi, and 45 km from Karsog, Tatta Paani was visited by devotees on every Makar Sakranti festival in hundreds of thousands of numbers (I can tell by old Tattapani images). The religious villagers used to bathe in the village’s natural hot water springs rich in Sulphur. (Natural hot springs remind me of Manikaran village in Parvati.)

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We Dared to Hike to Shikari Devi Temple (Mandi Himachal) On Our Own

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Hiking to Shikari Devi Temple Mandi Without a Guide At the Onset of Monsoons   Deciding To Do The Shikari Devi Trek Since we arrived in Mandi (our trip began at Pangna going through Chindi) we kept hearing about the Shikari Devi temple. Locals religiously believe in Shikari Devi and used to walk to her …

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Why You Can Do Better Than The Apple Village of Fagu, Himachal Pradesh

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Fagu Himachal Pradesh — A Misty Apple Village Where I Found the Home Stays More Commercial Than Hotels

 

Fagu wasn’t an underwhelming experience due to its location. I didn’t enjoy my stay in Fagu because of the commercial attitude of the many home stays I interacted with in Fagu Himachal Pradesh.

Like in many small villages of Himachal, a traveler has to stick to home stays in a tiny place like Fagu. And I love staying in Indian homestays (and abroad too). For most of my travel life, I have been more than happy to know a host family and understand their way of life. Sometimes staying in a homestay could imply you have to talk and smile when you want to write quietly in a little corner. But everything comes at a price, and well, families function in their peculiar way. Isn’t travel all about embracing the unknown?

So far so good. But in this 2450-meter high apple village Fagu, my experience in home stays was far from good.

Let me take you through my Fagu journey as it happened.

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Manali to Naggar – Time Traveling in Himachal

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Manali to Naggar Village, Himachal Pradesh.

Who would think that just 20 km away from Manali, India’s top tourist destination, lies the Naggar village, a town that refuses to think beyond stone temples, apple orchards, and wooden huts accommodating both cows and their humans equitably.

Manali to Naggar bus ride took about an hour. After roaring along with the Beas river for a while, the bus passed through tiny countryside settlements halting at them shakily. Call those clusters of country houses a hamlet or a village, but more often then not, the bus had to stop for cows unabashedly crossing the roads or villagers dashing to the opposite side with baskets of farm-fresh apples on their heads.

Once you get down at the main road at which Naggar village peeks from the high Himalayan hills that rise above the Beas valley, one has to trudge up a steep uphill road to get close to any of the Naggar’s many historical attractions some of whose origins are still unknown.

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7 Quirky Ways to Experience India’s Most-Wanted Hill Station Manali

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My Manali travel blog to offbeat Manali and the best places to visit in Manali.

I would take an unknown trail leading to a strange place over a popular trek any day. I leave a city from its bus stand if I see it is crowded. Staying alone in one tent amongst the hundred empty ones makes me feel like a ninja. Ditching the most popular restaurants in a city I get lost in the back lanes to find local treats.

The road less traveled is my home.

Otherwise, why would I wander alone in South America for nine months while Europe waited or stalk wild orangutan around the Kinabatangan river in Borneo when a national bird park in Kuala Lumpur was a fifteen minutes walk or become a blogger while I still get software engineering job offers from TimesJobs or hitchhike in the deserted Spiti alone when I could have just stayed on under the blossoming apple trees of Parvati Valley.

My unexpected love affair with Manali, India’s summer queen, started when I arrived there for a day to travel to Spiti the next morning. Though the counter at the HRTC bus stands and the many travel agents in Manali told me that the road to Spiti wasn’t open yet, I shuttled between the tour agencies that fringed the rickety lanes of Old Manali until I found one who understood that I wouldn’t take no for an answer. 

But on that one day that I spent in old Manali, I walked in the colorful old market of Manali that is catered to please the ones on the Hummus trail, got enticed by small coffee and confectionary shops right in the middle of a tiny street lined with guesthouses, the green hills around Manali called me to walk along them, the various local dishes sizzling out of Manali restaurants’ kitchens made me hungry, while the Manaslu and the Beas river flowed in all glory. 

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6 Joyful Weeks in Dharamshala – Here’s What I Did (Updated 2022)

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What does this travel guide to Dharamshala contain?

  1. My Dharamshala trip at a glance
  2. About Dharamshala District, Himachal Pradesh.
  3. My best things to do in Dharamashala.
  4. What is the best time to visit Dharmshala?
  5. How to reach Dharamshala, India?
  6. How to reach Dharmshala from Delhi?
  7. Where to stay in Dharmsala?
  8. How much would a Dharamashala trip cost?
  9. What to bring to Dharamshala?
  10. Is Dharamsala safe for solo travelers?
  11. How to avoid the smoking culture of Dharamshala if you don’t want to be a part of it?
  12. How to go on a long trip to Dharamshala India?
  13. Around Dharmashala and further reading.

Update 2022: As of now (8th April), Himachal Pradesh (HP) doesn’t have any specific travel restrictions. Travelers don’t need to carry a negative RTPCR test but everyone is still supposed to wear a mask in public spaces. Read more regulations here on the HP government’s website.

Things to do and places to visit in Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh

This is not your typical Dharamshala travel guide.

During my six weeks in Dharamshala, I hardly ever searched for “things to do in Dharmshala” or “best places to visit in Dharmashala.”

What was I doing? I was busy taking my Dharamshala trip slow.

This might sound clichéd, but I was learning the art of doing nothing.

Visiting Places in Dharamshala and Doing Things at My Pace

I started my journey in Dharamshala by attending a Vipassana course in Dharamkot, one of the many green villages of the Dharamshala district. After a much-needed ten-day silence of body and mind, I packed my bags and headed out of the deodar forests of the Dharamkot Vipassana center. My plan was to stay for a week in upper Dharamkot. 

But something made me leave Dharamkot in two days. Was it the smoky air of my Dharamkot hostel or the hippies lining the cafes in Dharamkot market, I am not sure. I went to live on the other side of Dharamkot to Upper BhagsuNaag, another lush village in Dharmshala.

I had gone to Bhagsu for a week, and I didn’t know I would end up spending more than a month there. 

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Hiking in Dharamshala – Under the Rhododendrons and Into the Icy Summits

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During the six weeks I lived in the Bhagsu village of Dharamshala, trekking in Dharamshala was one of my favorite activities. 

On a sunny day when I was walking from Bhagsu village towards Mcleodganj, the idea of going to Mcleodganj seemed mundane. There are many places to visit in Dharamshala, but I wasn’t interested in any. So I took a detour. Instead of continuing going straight to Mcleodganj, I took the road on my left that went downhill.

I had seen the road many times before and had wondered about its destination. But that day the road seemed to promise the solitude I was looking for. Hell, we all know I wasn’t going to get much peace in Mcleodganj unless I strayed away in its back lanes.

When I had walked downhill for a while, the road disappeared after leading me to a cluster of few tiny houses. Where was I to go then?

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Not Your Typical Travel Guide to Parvati Valley

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The Ravishing Parvati Valley

Originating from the popular Mantalai Glacier below the Pin Parvati pass in Himachal Pradesh, Parvati river flows unrestricted towards the West to merge with her sister Beas at Bhuntar. On her way Parvati curls through the Himalayas to form a gorgeous valley which is known as Parvati Valley.

Villages of Kasol, Manikaran, Shilha, Barshaini, Gargi, Kalga village, Pulga are dotted around the rich banks of the curvy Parvati. Apart from the Pin Parvati, many high treks also rise up from the Parvati basin to meet the higher Himalayan peaks and snowy villages at their summits.

But from where does the Parvati river gets her name? Legends say that long time ago Lord Shiva meditated in the mountains for about 3,000 years. Oblivious of his landscape, he continued to meditate, only to open his eyes one day to realize that he was in a gorgeous valley. He called the valley Parvati, after his wife.

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Kasol – The Unappetizing Smoker’s Hub of Parvati Valley

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Kasol: An overhyped, but a connected town of Parvati Valley

I found many Kasol travel blogs that describe Kasol as a heaven or a tiny hamlet in the middle of Parvati Valley, Himachal Pradesh. Until I traveled to Kasol, I also fantasized Kasol as a misty village where you start your day with mushroom thukpas and end it with an apple tea.

While you can still have your thukpas and tea, let me tell you that Kasol is not a dreamy hamlet, at least not anymore.

One thing you should know while planning a Kasol trip is that you would be in a commercialized small town that has over-utilized its presence in the mountains, therefore, taking out the essence of the hills altogether.

Whether you are on a solo trip to Kasol or you are with a group, your experience will depend on what you plan to do in Kasol and how many days you spend there.

In this Kasol travel article, we will talk about how Kasol is and the logistics that you need to plan a solo or group trip to Kasol. Knowing how to move around Kasol is important as Kasol is the entrance to the gorgeous Parvati valley, and to experience Parvati you have to head to Kasol first.

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Why I Ran Away From the Gorgeous Shila Village in Parvati Valley

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Shila – A Timeless Village Ruined by Smokers

It was nothing less than perfect. A velvety green path going up to a small hut. A river flowed below while lush fields swayed with the wind. A deep blue sky watched from above. Snow-capped mountains peaked from a distance.

But even a storm of beauty couldn’t keep me hooked to Shila, one of the most beautiful villages I have ever seen. Do you want to know why?

Here goes my story of running away from Shilha village.

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