Manali is the town where all the hippie stoners go to smoke charras all day, wear parachute pants (the ones where the crotch area falls below the knee), eat German baked goods and do yoga on rooftops. Michelle, Lija, Beau and I arrive in the pouring rain and huddle into this tiny little restaurant with pillows on the floor. Soon, more patrons enter the restaurant, each one more hippified than the next. Israelis smoking out of a marble pipe shaped like a snake, a few Brits decked head-to-toe in hand woven Tibetan garb with ridiculous hats, some robed white guy with his head completely shaved except for a thick tail of hair on the nape of his neck, one fully dreadlocked, shoeless white rastafarian eating a large bowl of spaghetti and talking to no one. The four of us in our Patagonia outerwear and Nike sneakers, asking where we can buy charras, do not quite fit in. Turns out one can buy charras at the laundromat, the chai stand, the convenience store, in fact, you might be hard-pressed to find a place in Manali that does not sell charras.
We wake the next morning to absolutely beautiful weather and Manali is becoming heaven. Even the street dogs are cute and fluffy. All the souvenir shops lining the streets actually sell awesome stuff, like $5 stylish coats they stitch to fit you perfectly on the spot. Views are spectacular. Bedazzled yaks roam the streets. Food is deliciously non-Indian.
After all this eating, smoking, sitting around doing nothing, we decide we are in dire need of full body massages. We step into the little ramshackle parlor and all goes downhill from there. The temperature in the room is ice cold. The masseur is slathering cold oil on my goosebumped skin and like, swishing her hands back and forth quite rapidly. Thunderous construction noises ensue right outside. There is a fly buzzing around my face the majority of the time. Michelle chose the fancy massage option, which included getting about 5 gallons of warm oil poured down her head. I think her choice was better than ours, until we get back to the room and realize there is no hot water. We are all a bit greasy...Michelle is like slick, shiny and probably highly flammable. Having to wait for showers, we decide to eat lunch at our hotel and give the Indian food a try. A few hours later, Beau & I are in a bad, bad way. The food poisoning lasts about 24 hours, our newfound hatred of chicken tikka masala will probably last a lifetime.
Amazingly, we manage the long (gorgeous) ride through the Kulu valley to Dharamsala without projectile vomiting out the car window. Dalai Lama, here we come.