Myles Harrington

Posts Tagged ‘Mandi’

Yaking Up a Hill in Worse Weather Than in Britain

In India on April 23, 2010 at 6:46 am

From Shimla we stopped off the beaten track in Mandi. After just one night there we got back on the dirt tracks for the trek to the foot of the Himalayas and we now based in Manali for four or so days.

The garden in the middle of the sunken market in Mandi

Manali is a small hippie town where people some to do extreme sports and get stoned in the Tibetan-esque region of Himachal Pradesh at an elevation of just over 2000 metres.  When we arrived after two bus journeys that cost the same as a single zone 1 tube ride; it was pissing it down. I have never seen so much thunder and lightening as I have in the past three days.  It’s quite beautiful to see the sky lit up constantly with flashes hitting the tops of the snow capped mountains.

On our first full day I couldn’t take it just walking around in a thin cardigan anymore (thanks Tom) so I went on a shopping blow out purchasing a standard backpacker jumper (like the ones they always sell at festivals in the tents that stink of incense), a cosy blanket (for sitting in the cinema with), some purple socks and a cool hat (as modeled in the image below). Then we trekked up a hill to a temple that’s about 500 years old with amazing wood carvings and outside there were a number of tourist trap adventures. You could get your picture taken with a giant rabbit or ride a yak for 100 Rs. How could I resist a yak ride? Up and down the hill and it got boring after 3 seconds. It’s still a nicer ride than camels though.

Taking the bull by the horns

Continuing on my spending spree for the day Minja and I decided it would be a nice after to have an afternoon beer and an expensive and luxurious cheese platter from one of the finest restaurants in Old Manali. The platter featured yak cheese (i love that beast) which was kind of like emmental, some local Himachal cows cheese and some old imported favourites (brie, mozzarella and gorgonzola). In the evening we chilled out at one of the ‘cinemas’ (a large TV in a local’s lounge) and watched a Bob Dylan documentary.

Minja, Me, Victor, Brent and a stray

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The Raj Town of Shimla and Very English Wine and Beer

In India on April 20, 2010 at 1:46 pm

The first thing i have noticed since being in the new state of Himachal Pradesh is how much more liberal they are compared to the last state I was in; Uttarakhand. It surprised me how divided India is into the states, I didn’t realise that they were but I suppose when you think about it they are the same size as countries in their own right. I noticed how liberal they were as soon as we crossed the border and the guards were joking about us going to smoke in Shimla. We then stopped for a chai at 3am at a roadside house/restaurant and the brother who lived/worked there showed us some hash; I am not sure whether we were meant to be impressed, shocked, jealous or buying but it gave us a homely impression of our destination for the next 10 or so days.

It’s strange how in Shimla it is illegal to smoke in public places but there are numerous beer shops all of which are called English Beer Shop, English Wine Shop or English Wine and Beer Shop. It’s good to see that England’s reputation as the drinking capital of the world is still going strong. This trend of naming alcohol shops with English as a prefix continued all along the Shimla-Menali High road and every village had their own English Shop selling fine plastic bottled whiskies at Rs. 120 (£1.75) for a litre! It’s a tough choice whether to buy Kingfishers at a pound a pop or a go for a bottle of Officer’s Choice and a party pack of Coke.

After a heavy night on the Kingfishers and whisky it was time for us to explore the treasures of Shimla. The town itself is constantly referred to in literature as looking very traditionally English. I would say they are definitely overstating the beauty of my home country. Shimla looks more like how you’d imagine an Alpine outpost to look. Lots of faux wood and fir trees.

The English style church in the Alpine style Shimla

The first and pretty much stop on the tourist trail was the Viceregal Lodge on the outskirts of town with its botanical gardens. This time the architecture was in a Scottish style and the building lived up to its reputation. The grand country house has an amazing history and even has the same wallpaper as it did 122 years ago. Probably the most interesting point that was described by the tour guide was how they created crevasses in the walls when they built the building to house electricity even though there wasn’t yet electricity in the state and they even installed a sophisticated sprinkler system that used nitrous oxide.

We are now in Mandi, further north for one night in a town that was described by Lonely Planet as definitely not touristy. There are a few nice temples and a bizarre underground bazaar but that’s about all. Only one night here and then onto the very touristy Menali for some good whisky fuelled times and extreme sports.