My first impression on Manali is somewhat mixed. I expected a lot of people holidaying here, but it seems that the monsoon season has few takers for a Manali adventure. After a first class morning chai at a roadside stall, we reached Manali about 10 in the morning and checked into the hotel Beas View. apart from being a good accomodation, it has a decent kitchen and we had a good healthy brunch .
We headed out to the Vashishth baths. Legend has it that the sage Vashishth when meditating in Manali had an urge for a hot bath and so erupted the hot springs
in the area. The water was warm and quite unlike in the Yellowstone springs, it is usable for a variety of human purposes. The main temple is shown in the picture here. The nearby area is flushed with foreign tourists, and locals tell me that people from Israel form the bulk of the tourists. Charas in Manali is supposed to be the best in the world, available cheap at about Rs. 600 for 10 grams. I reckon it is a big draw for foreigners, who are increasingly embracing the local culture, in the hope of an easy path to salvation. We stop by for a quick snack at the Rainbow Cafe nearby. The owner is a Nepali and we hit it off quite well. He does not deny our beliefs about the local charas. An Italian nearby is quite frustrated at not being able to catch the Formula 1 race that is on tonight. The TV simply refuses to give him the right signals. After a light snack at the cafe we head off to explore the rest of the city.
Our next stop is the Hadimba temple. Until this visit I was not aware that Hadimba was worshiped as a goddess. The temple is a fine piece of architecture, constructed in the 16th century. It lies on top of a hill that affords great night views of the Manali city and the Kullu valley. We stop by at a garden restaurant for a lavish meal. It is surprising how so few Indians can be seen at the restaurant initially, but as the night picks up there is a steady inflow. I guess we Indians really dine later. Behind me is a table occupied by a family with small kids. To my left are seated 3 women and 2 men, having a good time. The women however, incessantly justify their heavy (or light) smoking habits, while the men just nod at the (in)appropriate moments.
We have a good meal and head out to our hotel. It is a long day tomorrow as we start our rendezvous on the Manali-Leh highway at 4:30 AM. Life it seems will be great for a couple of weeks.