Adventure, Culture, Himachal Pradesh, India, Offbeat, Responsible Travel, Unique Places to Stay, Weekend Getaways
Comments 13

Of Royalty in The Himalayas.

As the bus jerks to a stop on the Kullu-Manali highway and the driver yells Raison, I pick up my sleepy self and alight. On my left, a pebbly path winds uphill, away from the paved highway; the absence of a road is a sign that there won’t be many visitors here. 

I climb past small village clusters, with red, purple and blue flowers intermittently dotting the edge of the path, and the River Beas constantly babbling in the silence of the mountains. On a plateau in the middle of this wilderness, I am welcomed into an 83-year-old bungalow built during the British era. Surrounding me are apple orchards and kiwi plantations; the trees have shed all their leaves in the cold December weather, but their bare branches lend rustic charm to the place. The apple barons of the region have opened up this precious inheritance to travellers seeking a taste of royalty without a deep hole in their pockets, and I feel grateful for their magnanimous gesture.

We walk to the front garden of the bungalow, where unadulterated views of the Dhauladhar range await me, together with a sneak peek of the snow-clad Rohtang Pass. We bask under the winter sun, warming up over a cup of tea made with locally grown mint leaves, and occasionally chatting with the village folk as they expertly prune the apple trees growing on the slopes of Raison.

Ramgarh Heritage Villa, Raison, Manali, Kullu, homestay, Himalayas

Basking in the winter sun.

During a tour of his majestic house, Nakul, the great-grandson of the man who built it, reveals that it served as a five-star hotel in the early 1950s and played host to the likes of Jawaharlal Nehru and the earliest stars of Indian cinema. During its transition into a home and then a home-stay, Nakul and his wife Smita, preserved its original mud walls, high wooden ceilings, and fireplaces with chimneys — all typical of British architecture and, as I would later realise, a natural way to survive the cold winter nights. Nakul confesses that it continues to be a secret getaway for Bollywood celebrities.

Ramgarh heritage villa, Raison, heritage bungalow, himalayas

Feeling at home among the Himalayas and in this heritage home, I decline the offer of a day trip to see the crowds of Manali or raft in the waters of the Beas. Instead, I spend the afternoon strolling along the picture-perfect villages of Raison, discovering byways beautifully lined with red and yellow pomegranate trees, watching women carry firewood on their backs up precarious mountain roads, and admiring little cottages adorned with colorful creepers. I’m reminded of the Alpine countryside of Europe, sans the common language, which helps me learn about the wood-gathering and tree-pruning lives of the village folk. The village houses are typically perched upon the hillside, overlooking the Beas below: being so close to nature is perhaps what makes the people so full of life as they go about their daily chores.

It’s still early evening when the sun rapidly starts to sink behind the mountains, as though seeking refuge in the mighty Himalayas. The sky is orange, and the bare trees surrounding me suddenly seem more eloquent for my camera. The temperature dips sharply and I return to the royal recluse of my home for the night. A fire is lit, and time moves backward to an era we’ve only read about in textbooks.

Himalayas, sunset, Raison, Manali

Sunset over the Himalayas surrounding Raison.

Essential travel information:

Location: Raison, off the Kullu-Manali highway.
Getting there: Volvo bus to Manali, drop off at the Raison bus stop.
Price: Introductory tariff of INR 2500 per night for a double room.
Booking: Website or +91 8527 141 626.

This article was originally published in The Hindu

13 Comments

  1. Dear Shivya
    1st my apologies for making a spelling mistake while writing your name in my last comment. I dont mind making a spelling mistake in English language , but I hate it when I do so in writing an Indian name. Actually In Bengali , it will be Shibya , so the mistake.
    Awesome post ..I enjoyed reading it .Rs 2500 for a double room !! that s great !
    I hope someday I will make it to this place, if not I can imagine I am there by simply reading your posts, But for the next 3 months it is deadly Sahara desert and getting oil and gas…ha ha
    I only travel in the Himalayas in winter or monsoon ..it is so different from the season time..Feel sad, I could not make it to Devprayag last week .As it is said, “Man proposes and God disposes…”
    Have a nice week and keep posting!

    Like

    • No problem Ushnish, that’s how people often say it in UP too!

      Yes, would be great if you could make to Raison sometime. It really is a steal for the experience you get. Sitting so far away, Sahara desert does seem so fascinating to me! Good luck, and hope you get a chance to travel soon.

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  2. The pictures and everything you had to say has made me include this in any trip I make up North. “…I decline the offer of a day trip to see the crowds of Manali or raft in the waters of the Beas. Instead, I spend the afternoon strolling along the picture-perfect villages of Raison…” >> the perfect choice.

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    • Thanks 🙂 I’m reading “Chai Chai” by Bishwanath Ghosh. A lovely book about travelling in places we always pass by in train rides but never really stop at. How about you?

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  4. nice blog..i love getting into the Himalayas.I completed Great Himalaya Trail in Nepal alone in 128 days and I want to travel different parts of India after I finish my university and your blog is really helpful for reference.

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    • 128 days?! Wow. That’s amazing. I’m off to your blog to read about it. Coincidently I’m planning to travel in Nepal this summer, so I’m sure your blog will be a great reference point for me too 🙂 Be in touch!

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  7. Thanks for sharing this. On a similar note, this is another place in Himalaya that you may want to explore some day -http://spacingplaces.blogspot.in/2011/11/mawlynnong-nurturing-nature.html (not trying to promote my blog here!)

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    • Thanks Apratim, it looks like just the kind of place I’d want to stay at. Could you please share details on how to contact them? Or can you just show up there and book it?

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