This would be the second time hubby and I travelled to India with my parents-in-law (we were in Delhi and Agra three years ago). Needless to say, we had to go through the entire process of visa application and typhoid vaccination (read more here). The only advantage this time was that the visa application and approval could be completed entirely online via the e-Tourist Visa. One new thing I’d like to introduce is the Aquatabs water purification tablets, which kill water borne organisms, thus preventing traveller’s diarrhea. It’d be very useful when travelling to countries with questionable source and quality of drinking water. You can purchase them online!
Our original plan was to attend a wedding (FIL’s friend) in Srinagar followed by six subsequent days of adventure in Kashmir. Unfortunately, we had to change our plan just two weeks prior to our trip because of the recent unrest there that caused a curfew to be imposed. Thankfully, hubby managed to come up with an alternative itinerary for us to explore Himachal Pradesh, which is a state just south of Kashmir.
The truth is I’ve never heard of Himachal Pradesh prior to this. Most people would even advise against going there in August because of the monsoon season, which for us was completely unavoidable. It actuality, it only rained briefly three out of the seven days that we were there (Tip: bring along umbrellas and ponchos if you’re planning to visit during the monsoon season). Nevertheless, the justification for picking Himachal Pradesh was because of its proximity and close similarity to Kashmir, being part of the southern branch of the main Outer Himalayan chain of mountains.
Well, I must admit that it was an extremely stressful task to accomplish as it involved cancelling and rebooking our internal flights, accommodations and car rental, on top of redesigning the entire itinerary in such a short space of time. Another thing to consider was a huge crowd at Shimla and Manali as the Indian Independence Day happened to fall on the 15th of August, making that a long weekend.
we had to change our plan just two weeks prior to our trip because of the recent unrest in Kashmir
By the way, it’s almost impossible to rent a self-driven car in India without an international license. Even if you have it, driving in India isn’t as simple as in the more developed countries due to bad road conditions and inconsiderate drivers. In short, driving here is extremely challenging, not to mention lawless! Trust me, it’d be safer and less stressful to rent a car with a driver. After some online research and haggling, hubby managed to get us a Toyota Innova for ₹22000 (RM1320) inclusive of toll, petrol, parking, driver’s meals and accommodation.
To get to Himachal Pradesh, we flew into Delhi via AirAsia, which costed RM817 per person inclusive of taxes. We took the last flight out of KL and arrived almost at 11pm, so we spent one night in Delhi before flying out to Chandigarh the next morning via IndiGo Airlines. Thanks to MakeMyTrip, we managed to get our tickets for ₹3336 (RM208.85) per person inclusive of taxes. Chandigarh, the Punjab state capital is the closest gateway to our first pit stop – Shimla. Our driver, Sanjay, was already waiting at the airport to pick us up and shoot off to Shimla.
Our uniquely personalised itinerary is as follows:
Day 1 (13th August) – Shimla
From Chandigarh Airport (3h 24m via NH5)
Accommodation: Hotel Vaikunth
Places of Interest: Viceregal Lodge (Rashtrapati Niwas), Mall, Christ Church, Nagar Nigam
Day 2 – 3 (14-15th August) – Manali
From Shimla (6h 35m via NH3, NH205)
Accommodation: Highland Park Manali
Places of Interest: Naggar Castle, Manu Temple (Old Manali), Solang Valley, Friendship Peak
Day 4 (16th August) – Palampur
From Manali (6h 10m via NH3, NH154)
Accommodation: The Citadel Resorts
Places of Interest: Baijnath Shiva, Tashi Jong Monastery, Tea Garden, Saurabh Van Vihar
Day 5 (17th August) – Dalhousie
From Palampur (4h 31m via NH154)
Accommodation: JK Clarks Exotica
Places of Interest: Khajjiar, St John’s Church
Day 6 (18th August) – Dharamshala
From Dalhousie (3h 24m via NH154)
Accommodation: Hotel Inclover
Places of Interest: Masroor Rock Cut Temple, Nurpur Fort, Kangra Fort, McLeod Ganj
Day 7 (19th August)
To Dharamshala Airport (33m via MDR44)
All in all, we travelled a distance of 881km on road throughout this trip. Dharamshala would be our last pit stop in Himachal Pradesh, where we flew out to Delhi via SpiceJet in the afternoon. Once again, we purchased our tickets through MakeMyTrip for ₹4802 (RM300.63) per person inclusive of taxes. Our AirAsia flight back to KL was also scheduled that same evening.
This is arguably one of my most memorable trip abroad. Saint Augustine once said, “The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page”. I’d like to conclude by adding, “Those who travel to the first, but not the second and third world countries read only a chapter”.
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