Thursday, 27 September 2012

Manali celebrates World Tourism Day

Himachal Vacation Travel News
MANALI: Himachal Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation (HPTDC) and Manali Hoteliers’ Association marked the World Tourism Day in Manali and accorded a warm welcome to tourists arriving Manali.

Tourists were given warm welcome on occasion of World Tourism Day in Manali
Tourists reaching Kullu-Manali by HPTDC buses were welcomed with flowers and traditional Himachali caps. Kulluvi folk dance was also organized to cheer them. Tourists enjoyed the warm hospitality and joined the folk dance.
“We were surprised to see our welcome as we were not told about this arrangement. We are owed by Himachal tourism for this love and affection,” Rohit Chatterjee, a tourist from Kolkata, said.
HPTDC also greeted the tourists staying in its all hotels and cottages with flowers and Himachali caps. All were provided with breakfast for no cost.

Two months after ban, paragliding picks up pace in Manali

MANALI: Crystal clear sky on the top, deodar trees below the legs, snowcapped mountains all around and colourful paragliders flying with light blows of air, tourists, getting huge wings, are enjoying each moment in Solang valley near Manali.
Paragliding at Solang Valley of Manali
Paragliding at Solang after two months of ban is picking up pace with adventure enthusiasts making beeline to the valley. The day temperature being quite good for aero sports, paragliding is thrilling tourists as pilots are getting good elevation with warm air. Over 100 trained pilots are conducting paragliding at Solang valley. Tourists are being charged Rs 500, 900 and 1,500 for low, medium and high flies respectively.
A paraglider, Ganga Ram Thakur, said the government had imposed ban of paragliding in monsoon season and they suffered big losses in two months. He adds, “We are having good start in September. Very few tourists dare to fly in winters after December, so we’ll have to compensate the losses of monsoon and earn for winters before it snows here.”
Many enthusiasts are reaching here for short term paragliding learning courses. According to instructors, this is the best time for parasailing as combination of hot and cold air helps pilot in achieving the good elevation. Vijay Kumar, an instructor, said tourists are reaching here for three to 10 days paragliding learning courses while many have booked the courses in advance. “Most of the people want to learn all techniques of paragliding in a single day which is not possible. They don’t have much time in hand. So, three to five days courses are most popular among them,” he added.
Most of the tourists go for low fly which hardly lasts for five minutes but its fascination force them to experience the high fly too. Local pilots say many fascinated tourists go for multi flies in a single day and few of them visit them even on the second day. Paragliding has become an important part of the tourism of Manali that a large part of tourists ask for the status of this game before planning their visit to Manali.

180 elderly foreign nationals redefine sports tourism in India by marathons

SHIMLA: A group of around 180 French, British, Belgium and Spanish nationals aging between 40 and 75 are organizing marathons in different parts of India and formulating a new definition of tourism while spreading message that age is not a bar for any sport.
Marathon participants enjoy Himachali folk dance at Naggar
After successful organization of marathon in Delhi, Agra, Jaipur, Jodhpur and Shimla, the group of elderly runners reached Manali on Monday. The group which constitutes both males and females stunned everybody with covering steep 22-km distance between Atal Bihari Vajpayee Institute of Mountaineering and Allied Sports in Manali and Naggar in only 2 hours.
The marathon was held in two phases -- running and walking. 150 elderly took part in 22-km-long running marathon between Manali and Naggar while 30 participants simply walked 10km from Sajla to Naggar. Everyone was surprised to see the oldies running like youths. Nadyata won the marathon in female category while Partry came first among the men who covered distance in only 1hour 55mins. In walkers’ category, 64 year-old Maris did it first.
Manali marathon winners (pic:
The participants-cum-tourists after completion of the marathon were honored with Kulluvi caps and given warm welcome with traditional Himachali folk dance. A runner Sylvie said, “We loved calm atmosphere of the Himachal and its beautiful people. Human being has become so dependent on machines even to cover small distances. Walking and running make human fit both physically and mentally.”
France based Sports Performance Development Organization is organizing the marathon in various countries to give tourism a new definition. The purpose of the marathon is to discover the world through sports where age should not be a bar. Serene Holidays and Great Escape Routes are the Indian supporters for the marathons. The team would now move to Dharamshala for their last marathon, before leaving the India.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Snowfall in Himachal brings down temperature

SHIMLA/MANALI: High and mid hills of Himachal seem to have entered the chilling winter season after hills up to 12,000 feet including Rohtang pass and Kunzum pass experiencing moderate snowfall since last 48 hours.
Fresh snowfall on Rohtang ranges near Manali
Announcing the arrival of winters, Rohtang pass near Manali witnessed first snowfall of the season.  The pass received 15cm fresh snow while Kunzum pass on Manali-Spiti highway witnessed 25cm fresh snow. Hills above 15,000 feet have received more than 30cm fresh snow while the snowfall is still continuing on Western Himalaya regions in Himachal.
Temperature on high hills has plunged below the freezing point while a fall of 2 to 3 degrees Celsius was recorded in the maximum and minimum temperature of the state. Kalpa in Kinnaur recorded the minimum temperature of 9.4 degrees Celsius. Manali, Keylong, Shimla and Dharamshala recorded minimum temperature at 10, 11, 14.6 and 18 degrees Celsius respectively.
Snow has descended very close to the inhabited villages in Lahaul valley. The Manali-Leh highway remained blocked for several hours after fresh snow made traffic movement difficult over the Rohtang pass. Surprisingly, residents in the whole valley, who are concerned about the thousands of tonnes of seed potatoes which are ready to take out of the valley, are resorting to fire to escape the biting cold. Their fire places are spewing smoke a month earlier than the usual.
Ramesh Tughi, a resident of Lapshak village, told Himachal Vacation over the phone that temperature is close to freezing point and cold winds are forcing residents to stay indoors. “All the peaks around our valley are experiencing heavy snowfall since Sunday night. We are feeling like spending the winters of December month,” he said.
Another resident of Kalpa in Kinnaur, Balbir Negi, said cold has swept entire region with temperature plunging drastically in last 24 hours. “We spent a very cold night and even the day temperature is abnormally very low. No doubt, we would get to see snow very soon this year,” he added.
According to Shimla meteorological department director Manmohan Singh, the southwest monsoon remained vigorous over the state in last 24 hours and caused very heavy rain and moderate snowfall in isolated parts of the state. “Western Disturbances over J&K and neighbouring states are interacting with easterly winds over western Himalayas and causing change in weather. The similar conditions would continue for five more days,” he said.

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Women motor-bikers outdrive men on Himalayas

Himachal Vacation Travel News
MANALI/ LEH: Men vying for the best biker titles by riding their bikes on the roughest terrains of the Himalayas seem to be losing to women as hundreds of female bikers from across the world are reaching here to prove their mettle. All available roads have been trampled under the bikes ridden by women but they are intended to do what men cannot do.
Moksha Jetley with her machine
ndia, Canada, USA, Germany, Italy, France… adventure enthusiast women from every corner of the world are flying to Kullu to organize their high altitude motorbike expeditions. Women bikers are searching if any motorable road has not yet seen any female. Most of the women are newbie while very few of them are professional, still they are testing their limits on 15,000 to 18,400 feet high roads. Many women are joining men in their tours and proving their riding skills. Not only that, some women riding their bikes alone in terrains of Manali-Leh highway want to go beyond their limits.
“I’m loving riding my bike on Himalayas. This is difficult but rewarding,” a well known Canadian celebrity Lia Grimanis informed Himachal Vacation Travels and Adventure over phone from Nubra Valley of Ladakh. Lia has an experience of biking on ice in Norway when temperature was -55 degrees Celsius. “I’ll ask all women in my country to try their luck on Manali-Leh highway once in their life.”

Motor-bikers on Manali-Leh highway

There are no races or rallies, but groups of women motor-bikers can frequently be seen on Manali-Leh highway. This is for the first time that Royal Enfields are not easily available on rent in Manali. Motorbikes are being hired from outside the state. 500CC bike, long leather shoes, windcheater, helmet and a bunch of long hairs peeping out of the helmet, the Himalayan roads are thundering with presence of adventurous housewives.
Unfortunately, negligible numbers of women from India are daring to come out of the homes and compete men on roads. “Our culture and traditional thoughts doesn’t allow women to ride bikes like men do,” India’s first professional motor-biker Moksha Jetley rues, who want to see more Indian female bikers riding on off-roads. “Hundreds of women are riding their bikes on Manali-Leh, Shimla-Spiti, Leh-Zanskar, Manali-Srinagar highways. But, I hardly meet any Indian. Yes, some of our women have laid the foundation stone of a new era but I was never encouraged for my biking passion by anybody in my country, though I’m encouraging my Indian sisters,” she added.
Thrill of biking on Manali-Leh highway is drawing more and more women every year. Though a biking tour is expensive than the family holiday tour, but women, who have tasted the fun of biking, are ready to pay any cost to live their dreams.
Moksha has ridden her motorbike from Kanyakumari to Kashmir, Tibet, Napal and most of the toughest roads of the Himalayas. She has been inspiring Indian women to come out of their boundaries and live their dreams. She is launching a women motor-biking expedition in November where her slogan would be ‘proud to be a woman’. “Women can do anything. Why only cricket. We can beat men in all the fields. Women have been forced to stay indoors for centuries, but this is the time for men to worry,” she said.

Friday, 14 September 2012

290 deities to attend 7-day-long Kullu Dussehra

Himachal Vacation Travel News
KULLU: 290 deities have been invited to mark their presence during 7-day-long international Dussehra festivities in Kullu starting from October 24, an official said.

Kullu Dussehra 2011
Kullu Dussehra festival committee president Khimi Ram Sharma said that arrangements are being made for the stay of the palanquins of deities, their followers, security, traffic system, health facilities, law and order, cleanliness, shopping areas and all important things. “Cultural programs are the intact part of the Kullu Dussehra. Artists from many countries would participate here while different sports would be organized. Special care would be taken for the convenience of deities, tourists and public,” he said.
Sharma told Himachal Vacation Travel News that old path of the deities between Larji and Aut which has been submerged after building of a dam for hydel project would be opened for the deities from Banjar division of Kullu.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Upcoming honeymoon season cheers Manali

Himachal Vacation Travel News
MANALI: Thousands of newlywed couples from across the country are set to cheer Manali with their arrival this month. Breaking a 2.5-month-long spell of lean tourist season, hotels are getting hundreds of advance bookings after second week of this month

A newlywed couple at Rohtang pass in Manali

According to local travel agents and hoteliers in Manali, thousands of enquiries regarding honeymoon packages are pouring in every day. Hoteliers and people linked to tourism industry are gearing up for the honeymoon season. Current hotel occupancy in Manali is below 15% which is expected to cross 50% mark after September 15.
“We are having good flow of booking for honeymooners after second week of September. August was the leanest month in term of tourism,” owner of hotel Royal Regency Manali, Devinder Verma, said. He remarks that record numbers of honeymooners are planning their tour to Manali and hoteliers are busy in preparations.
Monsoon is the biggest enemy of tourism in hill stations as tourists, fearing landslides and floods, avoid visiting hills. Monsoon season is getting over. Damaged portions of highway to Rohtang pass are being repaired on war footings. And hoteliers are luring customers with all possible efforts.
Rakesh Sharma, owner of Himanshu Resorts, said rooms are being decorated according to the taste of honeymooners and room tariff has been reduced by 40%. He adds, “Almost all the hotels are providing honeymooners flower bed decorations, honeymoon cakes and candle light dinners. Now we are waiting for newlyweds to bring warmth to the cool atmosphere of Manali.”
Honeymooners would be able to enjoy river rafting and paragliding as administration is going to lift ban from all adventure activities after September 15. Also, there are strong possibilities for Rohtang pass to experience fresh snowfall in October.
Manali hoteliers’ association president Anup Thakur said July to September 15 is the leanest season in Manali but it would pick up pace once again with receding monsoon season. “Thousands of honeymooners would bring smiles on the faces of hoteliers and other tourist entrepreneurs. Also, late September and October would witness good flow of tourists from West Bengal.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

70-yr-old American makes history in Ladakh, drives his 1923 Rolls Royce on 18,380ft high Khardung-la

Himachal Vacation Travel News
After making record of driving 1923 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost on Manali-Leh-Srinagar highway and 18,380 feet high Khardung-la with help of Himachal Vacation Travels and Adventure, Rick Brown, 70,  has planned to challenge the terrains of Nepal and Bhutan this month. Rich has so far driven his car 3,50,000 kms (since 1996) in 60 countries.
Rolls Royce at Nakeela pass (15,547 feet) on August 31

MANALI/LEH: Rick Brown, a 70-year-old cheerful American and his 1923 Springfield Silver Ghost Rolls-Royce, after visiting 59 countries and driving 3.5 lakh kilometers, have had a dream long back to drive on some of the highest and challenging mountain passes in Himachal and Ladakh. It was Monday and Tuesday, when Rick made history after successfully driving his 89-year-old vintage car on 18,380 feet high Khardung-la. According to Rick, his car is the most driven Rolls-Royce of the world. 
Rick Brown wich his 1923 Rolls Royce Silver Ghost in Manali

Keep driving his car is the passion of Rick who proudly said that India is the 60th country he had visited on his Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost but he was upset as he could not obtain permission from Defense Ministry and Home Ministry to drive on 18,634 feet high Marsimik-la for September 5. “Now I can drive only up to Pangong Tso. Still I’ll be driving on some high altitude mountain passes here till next couple of days,” he said.
Most of the people would be terrified only with imagination to drive on terrains along Manali-Leh-Srinagar highway with some of the highest motorable passes of the world like Rohtang, Baralacha, Lachung-la and Khardung-la. But, this elderly American is going to do so with his 1923 make vintage car. And he has s
uccessfully cleared all hard phases of the tour. When many modern high efficient jeeps had given up before bad condition of Manali-Rohtang highway, Rick drove his car like he was enjoying a ride on super highway
List of the countries Rick has travelled so far

“I’m not intended to make any world record but I love riding my second wife (Silver Ghost) and I’ll keep exploring the world till I die,” Rick said, while driving over the Chang-la, on way to Pangong Tso. “I purchased it in 1996 and have driven it over 3.5 lakh kilometers.”
Tom Stevenson, a 59-year-old Canadian, has joined Rick in his adventurous journey. They are fishing friends and have travelled many countries together. Despite being the oldest model, the duo -- Rick and Tom -- came first place in the pioneer division of the 17,000km Peking China to Paris Motor Challenge 2007. Andorra, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Ceuta, China, Columbia, Costa Rica, Denmark and many more countries, Rick and his Rolls-Royce have experienced driving in various climates and altitudes.
Rick has never had an accident or major break-down in his car so far and he can fix all problems himself. To make car to be able to run on and off roads, extreme weather conditions, he has made some modification in his Royce. He replaced its electrical wiring, put some comfortable seats and made lots of space to carry spare parts and his luggage.
“It has a good ground clearance and a fuel tank with capacity of 83 liters and extra tank to carry 20 more liters. It runs on petrol and gives mileage of around 3km per litre. After India, many other countries are waiting for me and my car,” he said.
Rick’s Himalayan expedition
Rick Brown has had a dream to drive his car across the toughest and highest Himalayan mountain passes a long back. He attended the marriage of his ground daughter and got opportunity to live his dream and left for India where Tom joined him. 
Rick and his Royce cross Beas River in Manali
His expedition to India’s Himalayan regions started in second week of August when his car arrived in Mumbai port. After six days of paper formalities, he finally started his car and left for Manali via Delhi and Chandigarh and it consumed his two weeks.
\“I reached in Manali on August 27 and prepared strategy for successful Himalayan tour with my Himalayan tour organizer Suresh Sharma, managing director of Himachal VacationTravels and Adventure. We made lots of shopping and collected enough fuel, medicines, water, food and necessary things. Sandeep and Sanjeev have been given the task to guide us all the way. We are enjoying challenging the mountains and my Silver Ghost is performing well as usual,” Rick said.
Rick with his machine
Tom, the navigator of Rick, works in oil field and he always remain worried about the Ricks health. He said, “Rick told me his plan to drive on highest motorable passes and I agreed to give him my company. He is wonderful person and keeps smiling always. India and its people are beautiful and I’m already making plan to visit Manali soon in future.”
According to sources, if everything goes right, Rick would be the first person to drive a vintage Rolls-Royce on Khardung-la (18,380 feet) in Ladakh. Before this adventurous journey, 13,000 feet was the highest driven by Rick and his car in Panama. He had started his real adventure to prove his mettle in Himalayan terrains on August 29 from Manali and  his dream journey is expected to reach Srinagar on September 7.
Rick loves to lend a ride to people
Rick spends most of his time getting clicked with his admirers and lending them joy rides on his car.
When he reached Manali and Leh respectively, tourists and local people started following him and surrounding his car. He somehow managed to reach his hotel. But people started gathering there to get them clicked with Rick and his wonder car. He also offered short drive to many of them.
“I was staying in hotel Park in Mumbai and I was bit confused that how to fulfill all formalities to get my car out of the port. I sought many helps from hotel staff and stayed there for six nights. Whenever I get help from one, I promise him to give a ride with me. And it was seventh day when I got my car and I ended up with giving 40 rides to fulfill my promise,” he said.
Rick said he knows that people stare at his car on road and they wave hands to express their love and curiosity. “I can have another comfortable and modern car but I won’t because Rolls is Rolls. Visiting countries with my wife (Rolls-Royce) is my passion and this passion would finish with my last breathe,” he adds. After India, Rick and Tom have planned to drive in Nepal and Bhutan in their wonder machine.
In Leh:
The team was given warm welcome by Leh tourism and administration during Ladakh festival. Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah met Rick and his friend Tom and wished them all best for their unusual tour in Ladakh Festival. Hundreds of people thronged Polo Ground to meet Rick and his car.
Sonam Dorje, assistant director, Leh tourism, said Ladakh is lucky to have such guests who would be inspiration for lakhs of others. “The elderly foreigners have shown the courage which very few people do practically. Feeling bad that he would not be driving to Marsimik-la,” he added.
Leh deputy commissioner T Angchuk and additional deputy commissioner T Morup also wished him good luck for successful completion of his ‘Himalayan Tour’.
Suresh Sharma, managing director of Himachal Vacation Travels and Adventure, said that after completion of Himalayan Tour, Rick and Tom would drive from Srinagar to Delhi and then go to Nepal to try hands on some of the treacherous and highest roads. “After Nepal, they would drive to Bhutan and finally return back to USA to make strategy to visit more countries. Age is no bar for Rick and he would continue driving his beloved until he breathe his last,” he explained.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

‘Online tour booking to Manali not a trusted way’

Delhi agents dupe Manali tourists on name of online booking: Local agents
Himachal Vacation Travel News
MANALI: Hundreds of travel websites and web portals to sell Manali tour packages online, most of them unregistered and being operated from Delhi, have taken away the work of local operators in Manali. The increasing trend of online booking has created opportunity for hundreds of cheaters to build the fake websites and cheat the tourists. 
Tourists make online booking to Manali without meeting their travel agent
Over 1,000 websites are selling Manali tour packages online and most of them are Delhi based. According to sources, more than 25% websites and travel companies are unregistered. Many websites do not have mentioned any contact details. Not only the online travel management system has snatched the work of thousands of old agents but has also given rise to incidents of tourist frauds. The internet has flooded with hundreds of such complaints from tourists visiting Manali.
Delhi being the main gateway to Manali for 20 lakh domestic and foreign tourists annually, tour and travel operators in Delhi have good control over the tourists. Almost all travel agents in Delhi have built their own website and Manali is a must visit spot in all of them. Sources say many websites are being operated from other places, even from villages and small towns, but tourists would not have any idea of this.
“90% tourists who visit Manali after booking their tour online are not satisfied with the services,” claims Manali travel agents association president Anil Sharma. He said all the websites claim to be the best one and each of them would convince their customers that they are the professional but reality is quite different.
Mayank and Reena, tourists from Indore, tell their story that how they are cheated by a travel agent who claimed to be one of the best tour operators in Delhi. “We found his website on internet and left an email. Our all conversation was through email. We deposited the booking amount in given bank account. We had paid for luxury services and hotel. When we reached Manali, we were offered the worst hotel and no one was available to guide us. We have our train from Delhi on Tuesday but taxi driver refused to drop us at Delhi as he has not been paid by our agent,” Mayank said.
Some Delhi based companies have ties ups with local service providers in Manali who take care of all their needs. But most of the small scale operators control everything from their office or home. “Sometime tourists deposit advance money and fail to contact his agent. They get their booking in cheap hotels instead of star category. None of the promises, as shown on website, are being fulfilled. Online booking through various websites is at its best but its negative impacts would lose the trust of tourists soon,” Sharma said.

Monday, 3 September 2012

Decreasing militancy gives boost to Lahaul Kishtwar tourism

Himachal Vacation Travel News
MANALI: The decrease in militant activities in Kishtwar district of Jammu and Kashmir has proved beneficial for Pangi (Chamba) and Lahaul valleys of Himachal as tourist movement across the Manali-Kilaar-Kishtwar-Jammu route is witnessing drastic increase this year.
Once known as no man’s land, increasing tourist activities on highly sensitive Kilaar-Kishtwar-Jammu route has once again turned this place into one of the preferred adventurous and beautiful route of the country. After forgetting past incidents of terrorism in Kishtwar and Doda districts, tourists are choosing this route to enjoy the beauty of the country which remained hidden for many decades. Mostly the tourists are showing their interest in exploring the area by their bikes.
Anil Bodh, who runs Yaoungpa guest house in Udaipur (Lahaul), said he is witnessing an increase in pace of tourists from both Manali and Kishtwar side and majority of tourists are from abroad. “Bikers love to ride on rough roads on this daunting route. There are dozens of glaciers and trekking routes in between the road and one can spend over two weeks enjoying the various landscapes here,” he said. Anil said that hundreds of pilgrims from Jammu and Kashmir are visiting temples in Lahaul valley following the Kishtwar route.
Residents of Lahaul believe Kishtwar would be connected with Manali-Kilaar highway with bus service soon and would help people of Himachal and J&K in strengthening their relations and also would boost the tourism activities in both the states. Currently bus service is available only till Kilaar on Manali-Kishtwar highway. As very few vehicles ply on this route, the condition of the highway between Kilaar and Kishtwar is very pathetic.
Four friends from Delhi and Gurgaon, Harsh Khullar, Sandeep Malhotra, Ajit Singh and Tuleshwar who visited Srinagar via Kishtwar route were waiting for this moment for two years. They were surprised to know that very few tourists go on this route and the route was not available in any tourism itinerary. “If people avoid this route due to terrorist activities then it is ridiculous. This is our land and nobody can stop us. We just finished our 8-day-long jeep safari and enjoyed each moment,” Harsh said.
Tindi, Shor, Purthi, Kilaar, Sol and Gulabgarh are the small stoppages between Udaipur and Kishtwar where small dhabas and accommodations are available for the passers. The increasing flow of tourists is cheering the dhaba and hotel owners here. Many taxi drivers hesitate to drive on this route due to its bad condition. Local residents believe the government should maintain the road so that more and more tourists visit this place.