Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Manali celebrates World Tourism Day

Himachal Vacation Travel News
HPTDC and Manali hoteliers association officials welcome tourists
MANALI: Marking World Tourism Day, Himachal Pradesh tourism development corporation (HPTDC) and Manali hoteliers’ association officials on Tuesday accorded a warm welcome to tourists arriving Manali.
All the passengers arriving by flight and HPTDC buses were offered flowers and traditional Himachali caps. Kulluvi folk dance was arranged on Mall to make them cheered. Some tourists too joined the dance and enjoyed the moment.
Happy to have this unexpected honor, a tourist from Kochin, Rajan Chanderkumar said at first he was upset as the bus was taken beyond the bus stand but he was surprised to see the arrangements for their welcome. “We had not expected of this honor. It was fantastic. We are feeling so proud of being part of this wonderful hospitality,” he said.

Monday, 26 September 2011

Tourists bathe in Beas, one drowned

Himachal Vacation Travel News
Manali: A tourist from Punjab swimming in river Beas with his two friends was drowned near Nature Park Manali on Monday, police said.
According to police, a tourist, identified as Gagandeep Singh, resident of Mansa in Punjab, along with his two friends Jaspreet and Gurmit, was swimming in Beas near Manali Nature Park on Monday afternoon and he was caught in swift stream of river. Manali deputy superintendent of police Shiv Chaudhary said Gagandeep was first to jump into cold and speedy stream of water. “He might have underestimated the suction power of river. He was drowned and his body was recovered at a distance of about 300 meters below the spot,” he said.
Body was brought to hospital for post-mortem. This is the third incident of drowning death of tourist in Kullu this year. On August 29, a tourist from Haryana was drowned in Manalsu, a tributary of Beas while taking photograph and a tourist from Delhi was killed after a raft he was sailing capsized in Beas near Kullu on May 24.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

High on charas, foreigners bring notoriety to land of gods

Himachal Vacation Travel News
MANALI: What attracts lakhs of backpackers from abroad to Kullu valley every year? The beautiful but rugged mountains of Himalayas, the serenity of Kullu valley or the flavour of Malana cream, nobody knew this. Every year many of them go missing, killed, murdered or arrested for many reasons which is still a big mystery.
Seventeen foreigners have died in valley in past five years, of which 5 were killed due to drug overdose. Two were murdered and a girl (from South Korea) was raped since 2006 and 171 were booked under different sections since 2001. Nineteen have been lost in the valley since 1992. None of them could be traced. Almost all of them went missing while trekking or in search of nirvana. In a recent incident a British national died of drug overdose at Old Manali on night of September 24. Identified as Tristan Michael, 28, he was brought dead to the hospital. 

A trekker from Israel, Nadav Gilad went missing from Manikaran-Khirganga trek route on May 23 but later he was found safe from Khirganga on June 3. But the Russian tourist Kospernov Vladislav was not that lucky who went missing on May 12 from the mountains of Parvati Valley. Rescue team had recovered his dead body from a gorge in jungle of Rasol on May 18. Amikhai Steinmetz, an American-Israeli trekker was the last one who went missing from Khirganga route in July 2009 and could not be traced.
What is the reason behind mysterious disappearance and killing of foreigners in Kullu Valley? According to owner of Negi’s Himalayan Adventure in Parbati valley, Chhape Ram Negi who has been launching search and rescue operations for past twenty years, ignorance of exact route, straggling from group, being high on hashish, lack of proper equipments and accident by inadvertently are the main causes of their missing or killing on the rough mountains of Kullu. Some foreigners may have been killed for money or their equipments while they were high on hashish.
“Sometimes foreigners go trekking alone without a trained guide and gets deviate from the route. Narcotic intake could be another major reason. We have noticed that many tourists get deviate from the group and go missing forever. We have found many of them but 19 of them could not be traced till today. They may have lost forever,” he said.
Negi, who is familiar with every corner of the Himalayas, said if some precautions are taken care, the incidents can be minimized. “The Pin Parbati Pass trek route is the most dangerous route in Kullu. All other routes are enjoyable,” he adds.
Some recent shocking cases like Italian national Galeno Orazie, who was staying in Malana without visa for last seven years and French national Mark Hamieau who was living in Kullu for last 30 years without having any travelling documents, were pointing towards another possibilities. According to police, some foreigners might be escaping from them as their visa could be expired. Police hinted that some of them were indulged in smuggling while few may be hidden lured by cheap hashish in the valley. 53 foreigners have been nabbed under section 20 of NDPS for their illegal involvement in charas trade in last five years only.

What about security of tourists from abroad?
“Whether the tourist is domestic or from abroad, all are equal for us,” district tourism development officer Balvir Thakur said. He said all possible arrangements have been made at all tourist spots to provide them a secure environment. He added, “Travel agents, guides, hoteliers and all those associated with tourism are being given training on hospitality and well management. Lessons on ‘atithi devo bhava’ are being given to them.” He said that foreigners are enjoying the friendly environment of Kullu-Manali but cannot comment on those indulged in anti-law activities. “More and more foreign tourists are coming Kullu every year. They have crossed the landmark of one lakh last year and we are looking forward to cross the mark of two lakh too,” Thakur said.
Silvia Menendez, a backpacker from Spain who loves trekking and mountain biking said Kullu was an idol place for adventure activities at very low cost but missing of only foreigners was the matter of concern. “Do locals kill them for money and expensive things? What is the reason behind their mysterious disappearance?  My Dutch friend Jeannet Melse was found dead near Manali after she was robbed in August 1991. When I was leaving for Kullu, my friends warned me that this place is haunted and be careful all the time,” she said.
Kullu superintendent of police Abhishek Dular said extra police force was arranged for the security of tourists during peak summer season and police was keeping an eye on  the activities of foreigners at Kasol, Old Manali, Vashisht and all other places. He said, “We have been advising foreign tourists again and again to hire the skilled guide before starting trekking; otherwise they may lose in the cold and rugged mountains. We have eliminated the trend of full moon parties and now we are very close to finish the charas from this valley.” Dular said department was still searching for the causes of disappearance of foreigners.

Foreigners flock Kullu-Manali
Manali: Though this is off-season in Kullu-Manali but an ideal time to visit the valley for thousands of backpackers from abroad. Old Manali, Vashisht and Kasol villages of Kullu are flooded with them.
Mostly foreigners are staying in rented rooms and others have booked guest houses for up to three months. Very few of the backpackers are indulged in sightseeing tours or adventure activities, most of them are confined only to the village or local town. There are some tourists who use Kullu as a stopover to their further journey to Ladakh for one or two days. No doubt there is something that is binding others to stay here for no special cause. One who visits Old Manali, Vashisht or Kasol, can find them high on charas. Locals too are helping them provide charas as the trend has become the cause of good tourism in region.

Some disturbing stats (since 2006, as told by Kullu SP):
Dead: 17
Murdered: 2
Rape: 1
Missing: 2 (according to FIR)
Arrested (under different sections, mostly NDPS act): More than 55

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Beopar mandal announces Manali bandh on Friday

Himachal Vacation Travel News
MANALI: Persecuted by the dilapidated condition of Manali Mall Road which has screwed up the tourism in Manali, the beopar mandal has announced total bandh on Friday. They have warned government to speed up the renovation work on Mall Road; otherwise, they will go further than this.
Tender of renovation of entire Mall Road has been awarded to a contractor through public work department. The time limit of work is one year and six months has already been passed but still even half work is not completed. Saying that work could not be executed in winters, beopar mandal is worried about next summer season that is going to begin from April. They said that with dozen of workers work was being executed with snail’s pace and neither sanitation nor debris was taken care at under construction area, which is the main shopping are of town.
“All shops, restaurants and showrooms shall remain closed in protest of Mall Road that is in shambles. All shopkeepers, travel agents and member of beopar mandal would gather to prepare further strategy. The condition of our main shopping area has humiliated the image of Manali,” Manali beopar mandal president Amar Singh said.
He said that work should be executed 24X7 to make tourists happy in next summer season.

Friday, 16 September 2011

River Beas in spate, administration plans to extend ban on rafting

River Beas in spate, administration plans to extend ban on rafting
Himachal Vacation Travel News
MANALI: The incessant rainfall in Kullu district of Himachal, which is expected to continue throughout the week, has again brought the water level of Beas above normal. Administration is considering on extending the ban on river rafting in Beas which earlier used to be till September 15 every year.
Rohtang pass, the gateway to Lahaul-Spiti, experienced nominal amount of snowfall on Friday. All high altitude peaks in Kullu and Lahaul-Spiti have been receiving heavy snowfall since last 36 hours. According to a release from meteorological department Shimla, entire state has been experiencing heavy rain due to active western disturbances and such inclement weather will remain till one more week.

District tourism development officer Kullu Balbir Thakur said usually the level of river comes to normal after monsoon recedes till September 15 but it’s not so this year. “River is still in spate. Rafting could be dangerous for tourists. Initially we had decided to remove the ban on Friday. But it’s raining heavily again. The ban can be extended in such circumstances,” he said.
Following landslides at Rohtang, the Manali-Leh highway remained blocked for more than 8 hours. Lahaul-Spiti district, which has received less than 50 percent of normal rain so far, is witnessing good showers since Thursday. The temperature in valley has dipped drastically. Potato harvesting in district is at its initial stage and farmers are afraid of snowfall. Similar is the condition in Kullu where apple harvesting is at final stage.
Thick layers of fog on mountains in Kullu and Mandi have reduced the visibility. Both Kingfisher and Air India flights between Kullu and Delhi too were cancelled. An official of Kingfisher in Kullu said flights were cancelled due to heavy rain and fog.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Snowfall in higher reaches of Himachal Pradesh

Himachal Vacation Travel News
MANALI: Cold waves have gripped mid-hill regions of Himachal following fresh snowfall in upper reaches of the state on Thursday.
Fresh snowfall on peaks near Manali
High altitude peaks surrounding Lahaul-Spiti, Kullu, Chamba, Kinnaur and Kangra have been experiencing moderate snowfall since Wednesday. Mid and lower hills are receiving intermittent rain dipping the temperature sharply. Snowfall was reported from Western Himalayan ranges, Dhauladhar, Kinner Kailash and Chanderbhaga ranges.
Manali on Thursday recorded minimum temperature of 10.9 degrees Celsius while the maximum was 11.6 degrees Celsius. People are wearing warm clothes to avoid cold. Apple season in Lahaul-Spiti and Kinnaur is about to begin and harvesting process in Kullu is at its final stage and growers are praying for clear sky.
Farmers of Lahaul-Spiti are busy collecting potatoes in their fields. More than one lakh bags would be transported to lower markets of the state for sale and grading process. If the snowfall blocks highway on Rohtang pass, the harvest will be spoiled in the fields.
Meanwhile, transportation on Manali-Rohtang highway has become dangerous due to risk of landslides. A coat of slush has been accumulated on highway between Marhi and Rohtang pass making it slippery. Huge rocks are continued to fall on the highway at Rahni Nullah.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Cold and snow struck, shepherds leave mountains

Himachal Vacation Travel News
 MANALI: Scared with the inclement weather on mountains, shepherds with herds of sheep and goats have started moving towards the plains. Extremely cold temperature and snowfall has driven them out of the danger zones.
A shepherd on his way back to home in plains
Himachal’s mountains have not seen proper sunlight for last two months. It’s raining intermittently on high altitude peaks every day and sometimes it’s snowing here too. Shepherds have chosen to move toward lower regions to avoid any untoward incident. Hundreds of herds with lakhs of sheep and goats from Kangra, Chamba, Sirmaur, Mandi and other plain areas go to the mountains in search of new meadows in onset of summers. They come back to the lower regions before beginning of winters.
A shepherd from Kangra district Kashmir Singh said high altitude mountains around Chamba, Kullu and Lahaul-Spiti have been experiencing early winter snowfall and most of the shepherds have already vacated mountainous meadows. “We are habitual of light snowfall and low temperature. But we keep a sharp look on weather conditions as regular three days or even more snowfall can prove fatal for animals without roof. It’s been raining for many days, so going back to plains is the wise decision,” he said.
Herd of sheep and goats in Manali
Saying that to and fro road journey is the most annoying part of their season, another shepherd from Mandi, Balkrishan, said hundreds of shepherds with thousands of sheep and goats are plying the national highways of the state causing frequent traffic jams. He added, “This is the time to leave mountains. All shepherds have same routes and stoppages. We try to put at least one day gap between flocks so as to minimize the traffic congestions. Everybody abuses us during this time period but this is an integral part of our life.”
About 1,300 sheep and goats were killed after they were trapped between blizzards below Baralacha-la on June 2010. This time they don’t want to take stupid decision. They want to reach safe places before the situation gets worse. All shepherds with their herds leave the mountains by September 15 every year.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Ritesh Deshmukh and Genelia D’Souza romance in Manali

Himachal Vacation Travel News
MANALI: Apart from shooting some important scenes for movie ‘Tere Naal Love Ho Gaya’, Ritesh Deshmukh and Genelia D’Souza have been caught having romance in Manali. Their fans are rushing shooting locations to click them together.
They saw Salman Khan starrer ‘Bodyguard’ at Piccadilly cinema in Manali together. According to sources in film unit, they appreciated the work of whole star cast and then hosted a party on the success of movie. Both stars enjoyed dinner at Jahnson cafe.
They have been seen strolling around the valley alone. They are enjoying gossiping and laughing loudly on the set. Most of the time, Ritesh is busy capturing pictures of Genelia with his mobile.
 “We can see Ritesh revolving around the Genelia every time. The couple looks beautiful both on shoot and off the shoot,” a fan from Manali Ramesh Kanwar said.
Ritesh was enjoying driving on the zigzag roads of Manali while Genelia is happy finding herself back in Manali after 10 years. Earlier she was here for her first commercial of Hero Ranger cycle in 2001.
The team is shooting for a song “main wari java, saan tho ki hoya ve kasoor” in valleys of Kothi near Manali.

(Pics): Ritesh Deshmukh and Genelia D'Souza during shooting in different locations of Manali

Himachal witnesses lean tourism

Himachal Vacation Travel News
MANALI: August and September being the worst time in terms of tourism, tourist places of Himachal are longing for visitors. Hotel occupancy has limited only to 15 percent.
Shimla, Manali, Dalhousie, Dharamshala and other major tourist places of Himachal are witnessing lean season time. Frequent landslides, cloudbursts and unavailability of snow are believed to be the reasons behind worst time for the tourism industry. The ongoing inauspicious time for marriage and rituals is believed to be another factor. Majority of tourists visit Himachal to see snow but the snowless mountains are disappointing them.
Himachal Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation (HPTDC) deputy director BN Kapoor said the hotels are seeing the worst time of this year. “I wonder why tourists are miffed with mountains. Very few tourists are visiting state after summer season. HPTDC hotels too are recording occupancy rate between 10 and 15 percent,” he said. Kapoor added that the exaggerated reports of landslides, tourist traps and cloudbursts have also affected the tourism.
Backpackers from abroad stroll around Manali markets
Manali, the main tourist place of Himachal, has recorded a sudden decline in tourist arrival after July. Manali hoteliers’ association president Gajender Thakur said most of the private hotels in Manali are witnessing occupancy rate less than 15 percent. He said the beautification of Mall Road at snail’s pace has negative impact on tourism. He said, “The heaps of debris everywhere in market are irritating tourists. The work should be given pace to protect the coming season.”
Several shopkeepers in Manali have been waiting for customers for many days. According to travel agents, Himachal will again see good flow of tourists in next month during dussehra and diwali festivities. Sudesh Sharma, travel consultant of Himachal Vacation Travels and Adventure, said thousands of enquiries have been pouring in from across the country to book holiday during dussehra and diwali vacations. “Marriage season is going to begin next month. Scores of honeymooners too are booking honeymoon packages,” he said.
Meanwhile many tourists who had planned to visit hill state only to see snow has cancelled their tour plans. However, according to local weatherman, there are strong possibilities of snowfall on hills in October. Thousands of tourists are dying to hear the news of fresh snowfall in Himachal.