Tuesday, October 14, 2008

First Trip To India: Into the Himalayas

Chapter Eleven - Into the Himalayas

Our next destination was Naini Tal. We went there by Hardoi and Bareilly, which is not a very spectacular trip, apart from some traditional cotton processing that can be seen on the way.

The trip from the plains into the Himalayas was a nice sight and the climb up to Naini Tal offered some spectacular views. Naini Tal itself, with the lake, was very beautiful and a great place to spend your time. There are enough places of interest in the vicinity to keep you occupied. Nanda devi peak
Apart from the lake, these include the Naini Devi Temple, St. John's Church, the municipal board building, Hanumangarh and the UP State Observatory, Snow View with views of 7817 meters high Nanda Devi peak (the ropeway costs Rs 35 for one hour; strangely enough, you can't take photographs from out the ropeway 'shuttle'), Nayana Peak at 2611 meters with good views of the snow-capped mountain range, Tiffin Top with views of forest, valley and Himalayas, Kilbury with a panoramic view of the snow ranges and valleys, Land's End with panoramic views of the plains, Kaenchi Temple (20 km.) and the nearby renowned ashram of Baba Neem Karauli, Khurpatal (10 km.) which is another beautiful lake as are Sattal (21 km.), Bheemtal (22 km.) and Naukuchiatal (27 km.) and the temple at Ghorakhal.

There's good food in a restaurant located at the end of The Mall, just near the entrance to the lower station of the ropeway to Snow View. I can't remember its name, but it translates from Hindi as the 'Pearl Palace', so the ... Mahal. If you need medical emergency treatment, you can go to the following hospitals : the B.D. Pandey in Mallital, the G.B. Pant in Tallital or the Sitapur Eye Hospital. I cannot say anything about these places. Fortunately I didn't need them, but they are there if you find yourself in an emergency situation. With about 150 hotels to choose from, it's more a matter of just picking one than carefully selecting one. I chose the Hotel Prashant. Doubles were Rs 100 to 125 (all inclusive) with the more expensive ones a lot better than their price difference would indicate. The room is clean enough and there's an attached bathroom with shower, although there's hot water only in the morning for a very brief period. You can forget about taking a cold shower here; it would probably kill you. The beds are very comfortable with cosy, thick bed covers. If you come to Naini Tal in winter, be sure that you'll be sufficiently warm at night before taking a hotel room. In Hotel Prashant, there's a restaurant too, but there's not much available and what is, is vegetarian. The menu lists many meat dishes too, but none of them were available.

Naini Tal is famous for its hand-made candles. They are extremely beautiful and 'success guaranteed' souvenirs. There's a very wide choice and everything's amazingly cheap. For a sculptured goddess (about 30 cm. high) I paid Rs 28. A beautiful thick candle with a bunch of glazed and perfumed grapes dangling from it, was Rs 90. It was among the most expensive ones. Don't leave Naini Tal without buying some. There are enough shops selling them in Mallital. Last week (in the Christmas period) I was walking through a shopping centre here in Belgium and I saw some hand-made candles of similar height but of far inferior quality. The cheapest one was - I'll calculate the price in rupees - Rs 580 and one similar to the grapes (it was with leaves here) was about Rs 1860. Just to give an indication what stuff like that can cost you here. Other things to buy include rugs and carpets and shawls and tweeds.

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