Monday, 26 December 2011

Christmas competitions in Manali

Shivani Jain from Ludhiana wins the Christmas Queen title in Manali


A couple working hard to win the lemon dance competition during

A couple enjoys balloon dance during Christmas competitions in Manali

Friday, 23 December 2011

Himachal emphasizes importance of quality tourism

Himachal Vacation Travel News
MANALI: In what could be the better way to provide best hospitality to domestic and international tourists with a tourist-friendly atmosphere, Himachal government is planning to add tourism subject to the middle classes in schools, a source attending board of tourism development meeting in Dharamshala disclosed on Friday.
Tourism is the second most source of income in Himachal after apple production. Now state is planning of making tourism the religion of every resident to create a friendly atmosphere for the tourists. Plans are that books on freedom fighters of Himachal would also be taught in the schools. Also, the Himachal tourism development board has given its nod to enforce ‘quality tourism certificate’ to encourage international standards along with secure environment to the tourists. Now, each dhaba, hotel, restaurant, resort, travel agency and taxi operators will have to fulfil around 35 parameters to obtain the quality tourism certificate.
“Efforts of HP tourism development board and Manali hoteliers’ association have finally paid off and quality tourism certification scheme would be enforced soon so that our visitors would feel the world class comfort at ordinary cost,” executive member of the board Gajender Thakur said. He said that this certificate would ensure that tourists are safe and would not be defrauded.
For the convenience of tourists, Manali hoteliers’ association has prepared a documentary on all famous attractions of Kullu-Manali which would be shortly available on websites of all the hotels of district. Documentary would also help advertise the tourism of the state. Former Kullu MLA Chander Sen Thakur said that Manali is the most popular hill station of the country and some firm steps are needed to be taken to develop its infrastructure and quality. “We have discussed about making Manali development authority with the tourism board and state chief minister. We hope that it would certainly raise the tourism standards in Manali,” he said.
More than 50% population of Himachal is directly or indirectly dependent on tourism. To make it a religion of new breeds, a modern hotel management and catering institute in Manali has received a green signal from government. Before this, the state has only two such institutes in Kufri and Hamirpur.
Gajender Thakur said that education, quality and hospitality are the only ways to impress the tourists from abroad and the board was planning to impart education to all hoteliers, travel agents, taxi operators and restaurant owners.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Hotels in Manali to go fully occupied for New Year

Himachal Vacation Travel News
MANALI: If you are planning to visit Kullu-Manali during Christmas and New Year eve, make sure you have booked your hotel in advance, otherwise, you may have to spend chilling nights on roads. With strong possibility of white Christmas, around 50,000 tourists are expected to reach here this time.
All parking places of Manali are jam packed and hotels are getting unexpected bookings two weeks before the Christmas. Recent snowfall has proved tourist puller for Manali. 50 percent of the total bookings are only because of fresh snowfall. Almost 60 percent hotel rooms are already occupied. And 75% hotels are fully booked after December 22.
“Snow is a magnet that attracts tourists towards Manali and brings smiles to the hoteliers,” owner of hotel Royal Regency Devender Verma said adding that 80 percent rooms of the hotels are already booked between December 20 and January 3.
Palchan village on Manali-Rohtang highway
Hotels in Manali are organizing bonfires, DJ parties and gala dinners on Christmas and New Year eve for the entertainment of tourists. Though, they are offering no discounts to their customers, but tourists are booking their packages after hearing the lists of services they would get in return.
Owner of Holiday Cottages Roshan Thakur said whether it snows or not during the Christmas week, but tourists may feel the cold environment with lots of snows already on the backdrop. “Candle light dinners in apple orchards, disco, bonfire, special flower decoration would be provided to the guest to make their New Year memorable. Packages are selling like hot cakes,” he adds.
Himachal Pradesh tourism development corporation hotels too are having good business in Manali. Deputy director of the corporation BN Kapoor said all the hotels are having good business and occupancy rate would go double after Decemeber 20. “This snowfall has rejuvenated the tourism industry in Manali. Advance booking for Christmas and New Year has picked up the pace. Christmas queen contest and other programs would be organized at club house Manali on December 25 eve,” he added.
According to travel agents, inquiry for Christmas and New Year packages for Manali is higher than any other hill stations. “Tourists may have to face problems in on-the-spot hotel booking as most of the hotels are already booked. Travel agent association has estimated the number of tourists reaching for Christmas at around 50,000,” a travel agent Inder Singh said.

Friday, 9 December 2011

Tourists enjoys first snowfall of the season in Manali

Himachal Vacation Travel News
MANALI: Residents of Manali woke up to the snow on Friday morning. White sheet of snow brought cheers to the farmers and a surprise gift for thousands of tourists visiting Manali.
Mall Road and Nehru Kund were the snow point for tourists who enjoyed skiing and other naughty events. News of the snowfall in Manali has cast a spell on people in planes. Parkings of Manali are jam packed with tourist cabs and thousands more are expected to arrive here by next few days.
Snowfall on Manali Mall Road
A newlywed couple from Delhi Amritanshu and Priyanka expressed their feelings, “It is like dream come true for us. We had never thought that almighty would bless our wedding with such a wonderful gift. We have no words to express our feelings.”
Another couple Lucknow, Vineet and Srishti said they had prayed God before leaving from home that they should witness snowfall in Manali. Srishti adds, “I had only seen snowfall in TV programmes. This is my first visit to any hill station and I could see what I was praying and dreaming of.”

Vehicles trapped in snowfall

A tourist walks on slush after snow melts in Manali town

According to travel agents, thousands of tourists are planning to visit Manali in next week only to see the fresh snow. “News of snowfall in Manali is being forecasted everywhere in the country. Tourists who had dreamed of snowfall are on their way to Manali. All the inquiries are only for snow,” owner of Wonderfull Himachal, Vijay Kumar said.

Tourists have decorated the complexes of hotels with different shapes of snowmen. Despite traffic congestions within the city, and not caring for biting cold, tourists enjoyed strolling on 15 cm snowfall spread over the city.


Wednesday, 7 December 2011

15cm fresh snowfall at Rohtang pass

Himachal Vacation Travel News
MANALI: Rohtang pass has received 15 cm fresh snowfall on Wednesday blocking the road link between Manali and Lahaul-Spiti. At least 10 light vehicles were reported to be stranded here but later they managed to escape somehow.
Fresh snowfall in Solang valley near Manali
Movement of the vehicles was restricted to Marhi, 17km below Rohtang pass, for safety reasons. With snowfall at Baralacha, Kunzam and Rohtang pass, the Lahaul valley has been cut off from the rest of the country. If weather allows, tourists would be allowed to reach Rohtang pass on Tuesday. Some lucky tourists witnessed the fresh snowfall at Marhi afternoon. But the spell lasted for less than one hour.
Manali deputy superintendent of police Shamsher Singh said that knowing the hostile weather conditions at Rohtang pass, movement of vehicles were restricted to Marhi. “When density of snowfall was increased after some time, tourists were not allowed to go beyond Gulaba, 22km from Manali. We are monitoring every movement on Manali-Rohtang highway,” he said.
Keylong and some regions of the Lahaul received nominal amount of snow while Kullu, Manali and mid hills of the district received light rainfall.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Skiing courses in Manali from January 11, 2012

Himachal Vacation Travel News

MANALI: With hopes for good snowfall in winters, thousands of ski lovers from across the country are enquiring about the ski courses in Manali. Meanwhile, Atal Bihari Vajpayee institute of mountaineering and allied sports (ABVIMAS) has announced skiing courses in many categories which would kick off from January 11.
Temperature at ski slopes of Manali is appropriate for skiing and private ski operators are hoping for good spells of snowfall in December. The average minimum temperature of Manali is 2 degrees Celsius. Ski operators are happy that only 6 inch layer of snow at Rohtang pass is still intact even after two months of dry spell. They believe that if it snows at Solang valley, the enthusiasts would be able to ski for weeks and provide employment to many local operators.
ABVIMAS deputy director Mahabir Thakur said January is the ideal month for skiing, so institute is organizing short and long term skiing courses in different categories from January 11. “Special ski courses would be conducted between January 11 and 27, February 11 and 27, March 14 and 29. Six 14-days basic courses and two intermediate skiing courses would be organized. Also, after the request of skiers, we are going to organize an advanced skiing course on Solang ski slopes,” he said.
Special skiing courses are being organized for Indian Air Force, Indian Navy, NSS, Nehru Yuva Sangathan Club Chandigarh and other national institutions. At least 800 volunteers from the above institutions would take part in 10-day-long skiing and adventure activities at ABVIMAS Manali, Dharamshala, Narkanda and Hatkoti from January to April. A 21 days method of instructions skiing course is specially designed for the instructors. Thakur said that interested person from any age group can apply for these courses.
Though, there are no signs of snowfall in Manali after two-month-long dry spell, but skiing enthusiasts have strong belief that slopes would have snow-mantle like last year in December. Private instructors and skiers too are getting good inquiries from each corner of the country.
Ludar Thakur, a ski instructor in Manali said, “Winters have begun and inquiries for short-term skiing courses are pouring in. For now, Rohtang pass has a thin layer of snow where seekers are learning the basics of skiing. We are sure to have our all slopes rejuvenated with fresh snow in December which would thrill skiers and generate new sources of income for us.”

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Tourists crosses slushy highway at Ranhi Nullah below Rohtang Pass (Photo: Himachal Vacation Travels)
A couple enjoys snow at Rohtang pass

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Homestays beat star hotels in Kullu-Manali

Himachal Vacation Travel News
MANALI: The popularity of homestay service in Kullu-Manali has outrun luxury star category hotels. Having no effect of off-season, homestay units are flooded with advance bookings from every corner of the world.
No doubt, some villagers have beaten the management of hotels with their innovative strategies and earning handsomely providing accommodation to tourists in a home away from home. Situated amidst villages, clean rooms, freedom to cook the food of choice, watching TV along with family members of house and homely and secure environment is giving tough competition even to five star category hotels in Kullu district. 116 homestay units have been registered only in Kullu district.
Tree House Cottage Manali
The Tree House Cottage in Kullu was the first registered homestay unit of Himachal and is one of the most popular homestays of country. Built on an oak tree, the beautiful cottage, only one of its types in north India, is the result of hard work of a farmer, Ambrish Upadhyay. Tourists are dying to book a room in tree house cottage but some lucky ones get the chance to stay here as it remains fully booked most of the times. “Not only domestic but tourists from Germany, Norway, Denmark, Russia and many countries are loving their stay with my family, cattle, apple orchards and village atmosphere. My local pure Kulluvi dishes are doing miracle on tourists,” Upadhyay said.
Upadhyay Cottage homestay in Jong village is another hotspot for tourists. High end tourists, mostly families and couples are enjoying their stay here. Rajeev Upadhyay, owner of the cottage and an apple grower said his family’s devotion towards guests has earned applaud internationally and now he is unable to handle the enquiries from tourists. He adds, “However each room is attached with kitchen where tourist can cook food of his choice but they like to dine with us our very own dishes. They feel like their own house here and enjoy TV and gossips with us. I’m introducing new gadgets and decoration materials to compete the hotels without tampering with its village look.”
The Apple House, Manali Meadows, Tree Top Cottage and Hamta House homestay units too are attracting number of tourists for their unique hospitality and location. Most of the units in Kullu claim that they do not have any effect of off-season and getting regular guests. While, reeling under lean season, hotels in Manali are reporting only 20 percent occupancy rate.
“The thing I loved the most is home cooked food and homely environment. There is no need to stay in commercial hotels when we get even better service at homestay along with the fragrance of real Indian village,” said a Danish tourist Astrid who is staying in Upadhyay Cottage.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Rescue posts to monitor human movement on Rohtang from today

Himachal Vacation Travel News
MANALI: With weather conditions on Rohtang pass turned hostile, two rescue posts would be installed at both sides of the pass for safe movement of vehicles and pedestrians on Tuesday.
Manali based Atal Bihari Vajpayee institute of mountaineering and allied sports (ABVIMAS), who is responsible for safe movement of travellers across Rohtang after November 15, is installing its rescue posts at Marhi (Kullu) and Koksar (Lahaul-Spiti). Now, all travellers, using the Manali-Rohtang-Lahaul-Spiti route, would have to register themselves at both the posts to ensure safe passage.
ABVIMAS deputy director Rajeev Sharma said each post would have nine persons including police, wireless operator, medical teams and rescue experts. “Posts would be installed in two phases from November 15 to December 15 and March 15 to May 15 in first and second phase respectively. Both rescue teams shall monitor movement of people and if necessary, prevent them to cross Rohtang,” he said.
Rohtang has been receiving light snowfall intermittently. Vehicular movement has already been stopped here officially. The rescue posts at both sides of the pass would control the flow of traffic and pedestrians crossing the pass. Teams would act fast in case if somebody is trapped between flurries.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Snowfall on higher reaches, Keylong at lowest of -0.6 degree C

Himachal Vacation Travel News
MANALI: The higher reaches of Kullu, Lahaul-Spiti, Kinnaur and Chamba have been experiencing mild snowfall since Wednesday morning triggering cold waves in the valleys. With mercury settling at -0.6 degree Celsius, Keylong in Lahaul-Spiti was the coldest inhabitant region of Himachal this season.

Snowfall on peaks near Manali
A fresh white sheet of snow has covered Seven Sister peaks, Hanuman Tibba, Makarved, Shikarved and Kinner Kailash peaks. Many snow lovers thronged Rohtang pass in hope to see fresh snowfall, but they had to enjoy only with old frozen ice.

Maximum temperature in Keylong was 10.9 degrees Celsius. Kalpa, Solan, Bhunter, Mandi, Kullu, Shimla, Dharamshala and Una recorded minimum temperature of 4.2, 4.3, 5.7, 9.8, 5.7, 9, 13.5 and 10.2 degrees Celsius respectively.
Shimla Meteorological director Manmohan Singh said Keylong was the coldest place in Himachal and Una was the warm at 30 degrees Celsius. Weather will remain mostly dry in coming five days, he said.

Monday, 7 November 2011

No luxury bus service within Himachal irks tourists

Himachal Vacation Travel News
MANALI: Eager to attract lakhs of tourists to Himachal with luxury modes of transport, the state government is neglecting those looking for luxury buses between the hill resorts of Himachal.
It is strange that thousands of tourists travel between Manali, Shimla, Dharamshala and Dalhousie every day, but there is no luxury bus service available between these routes. Tourists, including regular commuters, are forced to travel by ordinary or semi-deluxe buses that stop at domestic bus stops and take long time to cover small distances. Hiring a private taxi is the only option to reduce timing and avail luxury on local routes but the cheapest taxi for nearest hill resort comes for not less than Rs 4,000. The fastest bus service between Manali and Shimla takes minimum 8 hours to cover 265 km.
When Himachal Vacation tried to ascertain experience of travellers reaching Manali by deluxe buses from Shimla, everyone had bitter memories. A backpacker from England, Joshua, who was looking fully exhausted, said, “I inquired about luxury bus or Volvo to Manali at tourist information centre and government bus stop in Shimla, but it was the only bus which they said would be comfortable on this route. Locks of sliding glasses were not working and I spend a horrible night in cold. Bus was picking up domestic travellers. The stingy seats were uncomfortable to sleep.”
Nilambari and Anmol, tourists from Gujarat, who had estimated it 4-5 hour-long journey between Shimla and Manali were upset when they reached here after 9 hours. “When hundreds of tourists travel between Manali and Shimla every day, then why government is not taking interest providing luxury service in this route. We cannot dare to travel in such buses again in future. Now we have decided to complete our onward journey only by car,” they said.
Himachal roadways transport corporation (HRTC) vice chairman Rajiv Bhardwaj said a fleet of luxury buses is to be added to the corporation soon and they are planning to run luxury buses on Manali-Shimla, Shimla-Dharamshala routes. “We are collecting stats that how many tourists want luxury buses within tourist spots of Himachal. We are starting a luxury bus service between Pathankot and Manali,” he said.
Himachal Pradesh tourism development corporation (HPTDC) officials said they do not have a route permit and they run their buses on contract permit depending on the number of tourists. Shimla marketing officer Prakash Thakur said, “HPTDC buses provide service to tourists in season time. However, if there is special demand of tourists, we can provide them a bus for special route any time. No regular Volvo or luxury bus service is available on routes within Himachal.”

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Soaring flower prices keep honeymooners deprive of decoration

Himachal Vacation Travel News
MANALI: Honeymooners coming to Manali are finding their bed sans flowers much to their disappointment. Hoteliers are finding it hard to decorate the rooms for newlywed couples as flowers required are not available in local market and those available are extremely costly.
Besides Delhi, Kolkata, Chandigarh and Punjab, flowers are being imported from Thailand which has caused steep rise in its prices. Only two varieties of flowers -- Marigold and seasonal roses -- are available in local markets of Himachal and they, too, are selling for unusually high prices. Demand of flowers in Manali is such that flower vendors are ordering for used flowers from Delhi comparatively for low prices. Meanwhile, given the good demand for flowers in local markets, many farmers have chosen to grow variety of flowers in polyhouses.
Upset with quantity and quality of flowers, honeymooners from Delhi, Udit and Sonakshi Jain said, “We had booked a luxury honeymoon package in Manali. Everything was quite good except for flower bed decoration where on the name of flowers, handful of petals were placed. Hotel manager attributed this to the unavailability and high prices of flowers.”
Arshdeep and Gurleen, another honeymooner from Kanpur, staying at hotel Hilltop, cancelled room decoration option out of their honeymoon package which was costing them Rs 5,000 extra. “A bouquet, couple of bunches of flowers and simple bed decoration was costing too much. So we adjusted only with candle light dinner.”
Hoteliers say they do not have raised prices for simple bed decoration but complete room decoration which earlier was costing them up to Rs 5 thousand, is now costing for about 9 to 10 thousand. Owner of Hotel Holiday Cottages, Roshan Thakur said hundreds of honeymoon couples are reaching Manali every day but soaring prices for flowers have reduced the quantity of flowers on bed. “We cannot charge extra from customer for expensive flowers. We are forced to adjust with available flowers. But a full room decoration is costing double as compared to August and September,” he said.
A stick of Thai orchid, which is in great demand, is selling for Rs 50. During August, a stem of each zerbera, glad and carnation brought from Delhi were being sold for Rs 5. Now they rose to Rs 15, 15 and 10 respectively. Locally grown stick of rose is not available for less than Rs 25. The famous garland of marigold of Kolkata which generally is available for Rs 10 per meter is now selling for Rs 20.
Seasonal flowers of the state are not meeting demands of local markets. To protect people from burden of inflation, florists in Manali were purchasing used Thai orchid from Delhi markets which was costing them Rs 35 to 50 for a stem.
Manali Flower’s owner Sumant Upadhyay said flower markets of the country are lacking stock of quality flowers, so he is importing flowers from Thailand which is famous for its orchid that lasts as much as a month. “Unavailability of flowers have caused rise in its prices which further has affected the market demand. Very few honeymooners and hoteliers are asking for flower decoration. The trend is likely to remain same till new flower harvest in March,” he said.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Manali-Leh highway closed officially for next six months

Himachal Vacation Travel News
MANALI: Due to high possibilities of heavy snowfall, the Manali-Leh highway has been officially declared closed from November 1 till the onset of summers next year. Lahaul-Spiti administration has speed up stocking process for essential commodities for emergency use in winters when district would go cut off from rest of the country.
Earlier, Border Road Organization (BRO), who looks after maintenance work of Manali-Leh highway, had decided to keep the highway open till November 30 but organization has changed its decision. To avoid any untoward incident due to blockade of highway, BRO has declared it unsafe for vehicular movement. Though, vehicular movement would continue normally until snow blocks the highway, but BRO officials said they will not be responsible for safe passage of vehicles now onwards.
Pic: Manali-Leh highway
BRO commander Yogesh Nair said snowfall may block the highway any time and left many people including tourists stranded, so they have issued advisories. “Copies of decision to close highway from November 1 have been forwarded to Kullu and Lahaul-Spiti administration. Maintenance work of highway will continue during winters. We shall clear the highway in case of mild snowfall. But if it snows heavily, we won’t be in condition to reopen it,” he said.
With declaration of BRO, the tribal district of Lahaul-Spiti has officially cut off from the country. Residents have stored enough ration, fodder and woollens to face the six-month long harsh winter. About 20,000 quintal firewood has been stored in district wood depots. More than 90 percent of potatoes, the cash crop of Lahaul-Spiti, have arrived at Kullu for further transportation to several parts of the country. Remaining crop is expected to reach here within a week.
Lahaul-Spiti deputy commissioner Rajeev Shankar said 95% supply of ration, kerosene, fuel and other essential commodities have been stored for winters while remaining stock would arrive here soon. He said, “As long as it is safe, emergency vehicles and public buses of Himachal Roadways Transport Corporation would be plying the highway. All preparations have been made to tackle winters.”

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

HAPPY DIWALI TO ALL




May the Divine Light of Diwali remove the darkness of ignorance and sorrow and bring about wisdom,

health, peace and prosperity in the times to come... HAPPY DIWALI TO ALL!!!

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Adventure season cheers Manali

Himachal Vacation Travel News
MANALI: Tourist resorts of Manali are not witnessing regular flow of tourists but here is some good news for those operating adventure activities in the state. Thousands of tourists, mostly domestic, are planning their visit to Himachal Pradesh for adventure games during winters.
According to travel agents, they are receiving thousands of enquiries for skiing, white water rafting, paragliding, rock climbing and other adventure games. Very few leisure holidayers are visiting this hill town only to enjoy its scenic locations. Mostly tourists from Mumbai, Pune, Bangalore, Kolkata and Chennai are seeking itineraries for adventure games.
“People from plains are heading Kullu-Manali to heat up their bodies in winters,” owner of Kathmandu Travels Raju Lama said. “They are asking for skiing, snow scooters, paragliding and rock climbing. Flow would be more in November and December,” he said.
Travel agents say more than 25 percent tourists are arriving Manali only to enjoy adventure activities. Trekking being dangerous after high altitude peaks experiencing regular snowfall, very few people are daring to go out for long hiking. Now, tourists are reaching here for short-term activities.
Another travel agent Sher Singh Bodh said young adventure enthusiasts want to enjoy white water rafting in Beas having temperature close to freezing point. “Earlier, there was no trend of advance booking for river rafting and other one-day games. But now tourists are booking them in advance. For the first time, we are having scores of enquiries and booking for November and December when generally it is considered off-season in the state,” he said.
Meanwhile, Manali is waiting for good snowfall on Rohtang pass. Unavailability of snow on skiing slopes is disappointing ski lovers from across the globe. Rohtang used to be the only place in the country with sheets of snow round the year. But this time, there are no signs of snow here. Travel agents are expecting snowfall in November and they are booking ski packages in advance.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Cold in Kullu leads to illegal deforestation

Himachal Vacation Travel News
MANALI: Preparing for the upcoming winters, residents of Kullu-Manali have picked up axes and started assaulting jungles to collect firewood. Dozens of trees are being killed illegally every day.
As the winters are near, felling of trees in the district has picked up pace. Though permission has been granted to local residents to collect dry wood from certain jungles by forest department, but there are insufficient dead trees in the jungles. This is good opportunity for many people to cut green trees. Deforestation is more near villages in high altitude areas.
Himachal forest corporation is selling firewood in its four depots in Kullu. A ration card holder family can purchase maximum of 2 quintal wood at once, which according to people is not sufficient for them. They also claim of shortage of firewood in depots. Some resident reported that firewood collected from the jungles of Kullu was being exported to Lahaul on priority where there has always been shortage of firewood due to very few jungles cover. And resident are forced to go for illegal tree cutting.
Because of uncertainty of power supply during snowfall, tandoor (fire place) is the only reliable medium of heat. People are engaged in collecting wood for tandoor from all possible sources. A resident of Goshal village Rakesh Thakur said, “We cannot spend harsh winters depending on electric heaters. Bringing only two quintal of wood from depot situated at distant area is not a wise decision. It is our compulsion to arrange at least 30-40 quintal firewood from any sources to survive in sub zero temperatures.”
Mine Ram Thakur, resident of far flung village Shangchar in Kullu said bringing wood from government depots is not possible for them and constrainedly they are fully dependent of jungles. “We live amid jungles. Our village sometime receives snowfall more than 5 feet. Our tandoors keep firing 24X7 throughout the winters. We are not in position to purchase this amount of wood,” he said.
According to forest corporation divisional manager Ajeet Thakur, demand of firewood is very less in Kullu-Manali, and a major part of wood is transported to Lahaul every year. “35,000 quintal of firewood was transported to Lahaul in 2010 and this year we are expecting this quantity to be limited to 20,000 quintal. While, Kullu in 2010 had consumed only 8,000 quintal of firewood. There is no shortage of wood in any depot of Kullu,” he told Himachal Vacation Travels.
Providing relief to thousands of families, forest corporation has not increased prices of firewood this year. A quintal of conifer family and raw wood is being sold for Rs 340 and wide leaves solid woods for Rs 410. Commercially the price is Rs 694 and Rs 868 respectively.
Manali depot in-charge, Prem Lal said firewood is in great demand these days. “As the temperature is dipping, people are storing up the wood earlier than previous years. Number of purchasers is increasing every day,” he said.

Frozen Manali-Leh highway hits tourism

Himachal Vacation Travel News
MANALI: Following risks associated with driving on many frozen stretches of Manali-Leh highway, the movement of tourists along this route has almost stopped. It has hit the tourism industry in Manali.
Less than a dozen cabs from Manali are plying Manali-Ladakh highway these days as driving on frozen road is dangerous. Most of tourists are preferring direct flights from Delhi to Leh which has left hundreds of taxi operators unemployed. Tourists while leaving for Ladakh, use Manali as their halt for one day and hire cab for their onward journey. October and November being off season in Manali, taxi operators are waiting for passengers. Now, most of the drivers have parked their cabs without passengers.

With more than 1,700 cabs and 80 mini buses, the Him-Anchal taxi operators union in Manali is the largest in the state. Vice-president of the union Beas Dev said driving on Manali-Leh highway is dangerous both for driver and tourists. He adds, “Only some experienced drivers are daring to drive on frost. Most of the tourists are opting for airways. Now we are hoping for good business during Christmas weekend in December.”
The temperature being below freezing point, three stretches between Darcha and Sarchu in Lahaul-Spiti including a stream at Bharatpur have frozen completely. The route may experience snowfall any time. And it would be blocked for traffic. To avoid dangers, travel agents are advising tourists to take alternate means of transport.
Padam Singh, owner of two mini buses and a SUV in Manali is upset as he has no work to do. “I had purchased cabs to earn from tourism in Ladakh. The rough Manali-Leh highway is suitable only for SUVs and buses which are not in demand now. Tourism in Manali is already dull. Now we will have to face the recession period till May 2012,” he said.
Similar is the condition of most of taxi operators in Kullu and Manali. The Manali-Gramphu-Spiti highway too is reported frozen at many stretches near Kunzum pass.


Huge difference in temperature in Himachal, Keylong freezes at 2.4 C
Manali: Himachal on Sunday recorded a big difference in temperature in its districts. Situated at north east end of the state, Keylong recorded minimum temperature of 2.4 degree Celsius while Una, at south west, recorded maximum temperature of 33.6 degree Celsius.
Compared to the last week’s temperature, Keylong, district headquarters of Lahaul-Spiti district, recorded a fall of 1.1 degree Celsius, 1 degree below the normal temperature for this time of season.  Here the maximum temperature was 17.7 degree Celsius. Minimum temperature in Una was 13.4 degree Celsius.
Shimla, Kullu, Dharamshala, Mandi, Kalpa, Nahan and Solan recorded minimum temperature of 10.6, 11.5, 14.1, 12.9, 5.6, 21.1 and 9 degree Celsius respectively.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Lanka burnt, Dussehra festivities conclude in Kullu

Himachal Vacation Travel News
KULLU: The entire country celebrated Dussehra after burning effigies of Ravana and his brothers on October 6, but Kullu on Wednesday celebrated unique Dussehra after burning shrubs and grass to denote burning of Lanka.
The seven-day-long Dussehra festivities of Kullu concluded with burning of Lanka. Accompanied by 226 deities, chariot of lord Raghunath ji was pulled up to Lanka Bekar near river Beas in Kullu. The non-invited guest of Dussehra, Balu Nag, was not allowed to take part in the ceremony. As per the tradition, palanquins of all deities stopped at a certain distance while Goddess Hadimba continued its journey to play final rituals. Heaps of grass and shrubs were burnt here as a symbol of Lanka Dahan (burning of Lanka), victory of good over evil.
International Kullu Dussehra Festivity
Priest of Goddess Hadimba, Rohit Ram Sharma, said Hadimba is considered grandmother of royal family of Kullu and she starts and ends the Dussehra festivity. “All other deities cannot come to execute final ceremony of Lanka Dahan. They only watch the things happening from a certain distance. The tradition is centuries old,” he said.
Lakhs of devotees were shoting ‘Jai Shri Ram, Jai Raghunath’ while pulling the chariot. Entire valley was echoing with heavenly sound of drums and trumpets.
After burning the Lanka, palanquins and idols of deities embraced each other, paid final obeisance to Lord Raghunath ji (Rama), and left for their respective shrines. They started their two to three day-long on foot journey to back home. All deities would congregate here again during Dussehra festivity next year.
Meanwhile, the international cultural programmes in Kullu were concluded by state chief minister PK Dhumal. However, the Dussehra shopping would continue till Diwali festival.

Czech Republic paraglider rescued from Lahaul

Himachal Vacation Travel News
MANALI: A Czech Republic paraglider, who had stuck on inaccessible terrains of Lahaul-Spiti after crash landing on Monday, was rescued by police team on Tuesday.
According to Lahaul-Spiti superintendent of police Vimal Gupta, a Czech paraglider, Zuzana Sulcova, was having fun of paragliding in Lahaul with her boyfriend and two other friends from abroad. “Her boyfriend and both the friends landed safely somewhere near Darcha village while she could not land there and kept flying further in search of safe landing place. At last she crash landed on a hill and sustained injuries on her knee and foot,” he said.
Her boyfriend narrated entire story to police on Monday night. Police team started the rescue operation on Tuesday and recovered Zuzana after hours-long hard uphill climb. She has been admitted in regional hospital Keylong where she is said to be safe and sound.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Tourists throng Kullu Dussehra, hotel occupancy increases

Himachal Vacation Travel News

KULLU: Hotels in Kullu have fully occupied while occupancy rate in hotels in Manali have gone up from 15 percent to 50 percent within a week as thousands of tourists from country and abroad have flocked to see Dussehra festival.
Tourists from abroad enjoying Kullu Dussehra festivity
Occupancy rate in hotels in Kullu-Manali was below 15 percent in September. Suddenly the district is witnessing crowd of tourists and hoteliers are cheering the festival season. Ahead of honeymoon season, Kullu-Manali is expected to have witnessing well rush of tourists for a month. According to Manali hoteliers’ association president Gajender Thakur, thousands of tourists are reaching Kullu-Manali every day. “Festivals have rejuvenated the tourism in valley. Honeymooners too are heading towards hills. Hotel occupancy rate has increased 50 to 60 percent in Manali while most of the hotels in Kullu are already fully occupied,” he said.
Tourists in Dussehra are dancing to the tune of drums and trumpets. Not only travelling and adventure enthusiasts but many education and research students from Great Britain have arrived in Kullu Dussehra. A research student from University of Liverpool, Boadicea said she along with her mates is on a project at primary school in Kullu and they have got opportunity to glance the Dussehra festivity. “We need at least 50 years to complete research on Kullu Dussehra and deities present here. Everything is unique here. We are lucky that we have chance to spend a week here,” she said.
A foreigner finding a perfect shot in Kullu Dussehra
Manager of hotel Shobla International in Kullu Rakesh said tourists from across the world have thronged Kullu to see the Dussehra festivity and most of their rooms are already booked. “90% rooms of hotel are occupied. This time Kullu is witnessing peak festival tourist season,” he said.
Travel agents are busy selling Dussehra and Diwali packages. Ravi Thakur, a travel agent in Manali, said special packages for Dussehra and Diwali are attracting scores of domestic tourists. He added, “Hotels have dropped their tariff up to 40 percent. Similarly taxi operators are charging 25 percent less fare. Hence tourists are enjoying cheap festival packages. One day Dussehra sightseeing tour has been included to the package.”
October being the month of marriages, hundreds of couples are reaching here for honeymoon. Honeymoon special hotels in Manali have been occupied up to 80 percent.

Record 226 deities celebrate Kullu Dussehra

Himachal Vacation Travel News
KULLU: The Dussehra Maidan of Kullu is jam packed with record 226 deities of Kullu and their thousands of followers who are celebrating seven-day-long festivity here. Thousands of devotes from across the world are thronging their camps to seek blessings.
According to data from Kullu Tehsil office, 226 deities have registered their presence this year. 220 deities were present during last year’s festivity while 214 deities joined this historic event in 2009. Dussehra celebrations are being witnessed at each camp. Palanquins of deities are expressing their happiness by dancing on the rhythm of traditional music. Making their separate groups, people from different regions are enjoying Kulluvi dance. Idols and palanquins of deities would be present here till the conclusion of festivity.
Kullu Dessehra 2011
According to Kullu deputy commissioner BM Nanta, invitations were sent to 290 deities and only 226 of them reached here to make festival coulourful. “This year more deities are attending Kullu Dussehra compare to the previous years, which is matter of great pleasure. No matter how fast the world is developing, people of Kullu have proved that nothing is important than their culture,” he said.
Convoy of Balu Nag from Banjar Valley who is attending Dussehra imperceptibility, as he was not invited to festivity, has not been included in the list. Most of the deities have their palanquins while others have small idols. Each group of followers of deity has their own music party equipped with drums, clarinet and trumpets made of silver, gold and bronze. They have organized small fairs outside their camps.
Dussehra committee wears all expenses of lodging and food of deities and their followers attending Dusshera every year. As the number of deities is growing every year, committee is having burden of extra lakhs of money. Also, each deity is given thousands of rupees as homage to him. The uninvited Balu Nag would not be paid for any expenses.
Chharivardar (leading worshiper) of Raghunath ji (lord Rama), Raja Maheshwar Singh said unique festivity of Kullu Dussehra is known for its rich culture and congregation of hundreds of deities and he is happy that this number is growing every year. He said, “It is the pleasure of Dussehra that more and more deities are taking part in this historic event. However, we have limited space for them but providing each with suitable space is our first duty. Without them, the Dussehra is incomplete.”

Not only Kullu, 4 more villages celebrating the week-long Dussehra

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KULLU: It is not only Kullu where a week-long Dussehra festivity is being celebrated. Having relation with same history, four more villages of Kullu – Vashisht, Manikaran, Thawa and Haripur – too are celebrating Dussehra for the same cause.
The celebrations of Dussehra after the day when it concludes in rest of the country started in the year of 1661 when Raja Jagat Singh was the ruler of Kullu. The legend is it that the raja was suffering from leprosy after a curse from a Brahmin. A renowned saint in Kullu, Krishan Dass told Jagat Singh that if he would devote his kingdom to Raghunath ji (Rama) after bringing his idol from Ayodhya, then he would be freed from the sin and disease.
Rath Yatra of Raghunath ji in Kullu Dussehra
According to historians, a disciple of Krishan Dass, managed to bring the idol of God Raghunath ji from Ayodhya to Kullu. For safety reasons, initially the idol was kept hidden in Vashisht, Manikaran, Thawa and Haripur villages of Kullu for about nine years. Later in 1960, the idol was installed near Kullu palace and raja devoted his everything in its service. Soon the raja was freed from the curse of Brahmin.
The raja then invited all the deities of Kullu and celebrated a week-long Dussehra festivity in honour of Raghunath ji. Since then, a huge Rath Yatra of Raghunath ji is organized in Kullu every year. Not only in Kullu, but the same Rath Yatra and Dussehra festivity is organized in Manikaran, Haripur, Thawa and Vashisht villages of Kullu where idol of Raghunath ji was kept hidden for some time. These villages celebrate the festival with same fervour as in Kullu Dussehra.