Tuesday, June 07, 2016

A blissful journey of rejuvenation to Dharamshala and Dalhousie

Finally, we are back to the heat and dust of Delhi with the temperature soaring to 37 degrees and we are surviving to the artificial air of air conditioner.  But, when I look back to the memories of our blissful vacation trip with my family, it feels wonderful. It all started a month ago when we were still deciding where to go. We had a variety of destinations to choose from like Goa and Darjeeling. We even thought of Srinagar but nothing really worked both from cost and weather perspective. We were told that Goa will be too hot and humid in this month. So, we chose Dharamshala, Dalhousie, and Khajjiar for our summer vacation. I am glad that we chose these three destinations to relieve ourselves from the heat for a while. It all started with a month of planning when we were choosing a hotel in Dharamshala. We had searched on various travel sites, like goibibo, yatra, and makemytrip and finally we put our money on Gandhi’s Paradise as I got a good deal (around 60% discount) from makemytrip. We chose to travel by road and had booked the Volvo tickets through HRTC (Himachal Road Transport Corporation). After having booked our hotel in Dharamshala, we chose Hotel Grace Mount in Dalhousie and booked the luxury Suite directly from the hotel itself as we didn’t get any deal for Dalhousie in any of the travel sites.  Finally, the day arrived when we had to travel to our vacation and I still remember it was 25th May. Even God was in favor of our journey so much so that the weather had suddenly become cooler than before.  Few hours before our departure, a thunderstorm had started and it rained heavily with hailstorms as well. But, thankfully, it stopped raining when we had to depart for our journey and I had booked a taxi from OLA to Kashmiri Gate ISBT. We reached Kashmiri Gate ISBT by 7:30 PM as our Volvo bus was to depart by 8:05 PM and it was spot on time. It had stopped midway for about 20-25 minutes to give some break to the passengers. It took us around 11 hours to reach Dharamshala and we reached McLoedganj bus stand at 8 AM where we boarded a taxi to reach our hotel as it was a little far away from the bus stand in McLoedganj and it cost us around 200 Rs. Our hotel, Gandhi’s Paradise was in Mcloedganj i.e. Upper Dharamshala. We reached the hotel in about 10-15 minutes and we were really surprised to see the location of the hotel. Though, it was at a distance from the market but it had an excellent view of the mountains. There was an initial hiccups at the hotel as we had little early before the checkin and the room was still needs to be prepared though we had already informed the hotel in advance about our time. However, the hotel staff were polite enough and I must say that the owner of hotel Sanjeev Gandhi took special care to make us feel at home. They made all arrangements to make us feel at home in their restaurant. The hotel also had a kids play area where my son really enjoyed. We refreshed ourselves and had our breakfast from their Ala Carte menu before we got our room at around 10:45 AM. The room was well maintained and t had an independent balcony with a spectacular view of the mountains, and the beds were aligned in a manner that the sun rays fall upon us in the morning and it looked amazing. Upon reaching the room, we refreshed a bit more before moving to sightseeing trip. As it was already 1 PM so we decided to go only for local sightseeing in McLoedganj and we had boarded the same taxi that had brought us to the hotel from the bus stop. The taxi cost us around 800 Rs for local sightseeing tour.  Mcleodganj is located in upper Dharamsala at an altitude of 1700 meters above the sea level, and is a home to the holi highness, Dalai Lama. Mcloedganj offers you a variety of places to visit such as Dal Lake, Naddi point, Dalai Lama temple complex, Bhasunag temple, Bhagsu waterfalls, and St John’s church.
Our day ended with bhagsunag as it was near to our hotel and since we were really tired from the overnight journey and the sightseeing tour so we decided to call it a day to relax ourselves at the hotel. We decided to move to the terrace to embrace the beauty of dhamarshala at night and ordered our dinner at the hotel’s restaurant before dozing off to sleep. Next day when we got up, we were greeted with the sun rays that fall directly on us and the view looked amazing. We had a morning tea and ordered breakfast of masala omlette and toast and parathas before proceeding for sightseeing tour of Dharamshala.  Dharamshala also offers you a variety of places that you can explore. A must visit is the war memorial garden that is situated before the main bus stand near Dharamshala college. The garden is dedicated to all those brave men who have sacrificed their lives while defending their motherland. Its walls embark the names of the brave martyrs as a sign of respect to all of them. About 1 km from the memorial is the International Cricket stadium, which is also a must visit. This stadium has a unique architecture that would immediately catch your attention.
Next, we went to explore the tea gardens that offers a splendid view and we even bought tea as a souvenir and then we also visited the kunal pathri mandir. Our sightseeing ended with the last and final destination of Gyuto Monastery, which is one of the most famous monasteries in Tibet and is known for its study of Tantric meditation, Tantric ritual arts and Buddhist philosophy. We stopped our sightseeing at the Mcloedganj Main Square market. This place is a centrally located in McLoedganj and is lined with shops that allows you to buy variety of stuff, such as handicrafts, clothes, gifts, and restaurants. There are various famous restaurants in the main square market, such as Jimmy’s Italian Kitchen, McLlo, Tibet Kitchen, Namgyal Café, Lobsang's Four Seasons Café, Taste of India, and so on. We had our lunch at the McLlo restaurant we ordered a pizza and a beer and costed us around 300 Rs. We also decided to taste some of local delicacies so we ordered few veg momos and thukpa from a street food vendor and I must say that quality was as good as any 5 star restaurant. We also did some shopping and bought some gifts and souvenirs for our family and then booked an auto rickshaw from the auto rickshaw stand to proceed to our hotel. We were very tired when reached our room in the hotel from the whole day sightseeing so we decided to call it a day and have the dinner at the hotel restaurant itself. After taking some rest, we took some time to take some selfies of the views from room (do not forget to carry your selfie stickJ).  After having dinner at the hotel, we decided to call it a day and bid a last good night to Dharamshala as next day we had to travel to Dalhousie. The next morning was really special for me as it was my 39th birthday and it was first ever time when I was celebrating it outside. My wife and son had made plans and already had ordered a cake from the hotel. I must say that it was a pleasant surprise for me to make me feel at home. We got up early as we had to leave by 9 AM. I had already hired a taxi the earlier day to go to Dalhousie. The taxi arrived sharp at 9 AM and we checked out from the hotel at 9:30 AM and had our breakfast midway at Jimmy’s Italian Kitchen where we ordered tomato pasta and omlette and then continued our journey to Dalhousie. We reached Dalhousie at around 1 PM and checked in to the hotel Grace Mount at 1:30 PM. I had already booked a Luxury suite room at the hotel as most of the hotels were booked due to heavy rush but I really got a good deal and hotel was on a good location. It was right on the khajjiar road and gave an excellent view of valley. The weather in Dalhousie was different from that of Dharamshala as it was bit cold. To our good fortune, it started to rain in the evening and it became really chilly at night. So, on that day, we really couldn’t do much of sightseeing apart from going to Punjpulla and do some adventure activities. We reached hotel after having stuck in the traffic for over 3 hours and ordered a lavish dinner at the hotel itself. The next day, we went to Khajjiar and I must say that experience was really wonderful. Khajjiar is called the mini-Switzerland of India and rightly so. It has lake called the Khajjiar lake at the center and is surrounded by trees on all sides and has a huge ground with lush green grass and also has an excellent view of mountains. Though the sun was brightly shining but it looked wonderful and we didn’t feel the heat. We really felt that we have come to the heaven. And, as the name suggests, it looked absolutely mini-Switzerland of India and is a must visit spot in surrounded by hills, sceneries and lush green landscapes. The place is ideal for picnics, photography, strolls and more. Khajjiar offers a lot of activities to keep you and your family busy for both children and adults. For kids, there are various kinds of rides such as horse riding etc and for adults, you can plunge into the adventure activities, such as zorbing and paragliding. Out day at Khajjiar ended with a visit to the nearby Khajji Nag temple, which is rich in history. This temple dates back to the 12th century and still stands in the magnificent splendor in Khajjiar. You do not have to worry about where to stay or what to eat. Khajjiar has budget hotels, luxury hotels as well as resorts for accommodation.
Almost every hotel offers panoramic views of the snow-clad mountains. We came back exhausted at the hotel and took a plunge into the bed to take some rest and then we took a walk into the hills to proceed to the Gandhi Chowk, which is the main market of Dalhousie. Gandhi Chowk is the most happening shopping area in Dalhousie with a number of shops and delectable eateries scattered all over the place. It is the central area of Dalhousie, with the most important buildings, post office and restaurants along with a small Tibetan market selling handicrafts items situated in the vicinity. We had our dinner at the Gandhi Chowk and then boarded a taxi to reach our hotel. We were so tired because of the day-long journey that we just plunged into the bed for a last night at Dalhousie. The next morning was very pleasant with sun shining brightly. It was our last day at Dalhousie so we decided to take an early breakfast. The hotel’s restaurant offered buffet breakfast with a variety of dishes being served from vegetarian to eggeterians. After having our breakfast, we got ready to check out from the hotel as the checkout time was at 11 AM. Since our bus was supposed to leave at 8:30 so we had ample time for our departure but the hotel were wise enough to advise us to visit the Dainkund peak, which is a gentle, sloping walk near an Air Force base in Dalhousie, leading to a Hindu temple. Daikund peak is a tourist destination perched at an altitude of 2755 meters. We relished a 360 degree view of the entire valley of Dalhousie from this peak. The view from the top of the Daikund peak is breathtaking and stunning, and the noise of the breeze passing through the trees makes a musical sound, due to which this peak has also obtained the name, the singing hill. You need to walk at approximately 5 KMs to reach to the top of the Daikund peak but once you reach the top, scintillating view of the mountains will leave you mesmerized and another 2 KM trek will lead you to the Bholani Devi temple. Dainkund is the highest peak in Dalhousie and gets maximum snowfall during the winter season.


We stayed there for a while and had our snacks at the temple complex. There are few eateries at the temple that offers little variety of food like maggi, pakodas, tea, and cold drinks. And, then we stared to move down when we came back at around 3 PM. Finally, we came back to our hotel to pick our luggage and then we proceeded towards the Gandhi Chowk to give a final touch and collect few souvenirs for our family and then had a heavy lunch at the market. And, then we left the taxi at the bus stand where our bus was to arrive to move towards our destination. We boarded the bus at around 8:30 PM and as the bus was about to leave Dalhousie, we bud fare well to the mesmerizing hill station with a hope to come back one more time.  

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