In India, looking for Manila

After visiting the state of Rajasthan, I looked for some less “touristy” destination and found it in a tiny village in the Kumaon region of the Uttarakhand in India, close to the Himalayas, confusedly named Manila, like Philippines’ capital city.

Manila’s sunrise

Visiting Manila in Uttarakhand

We drove to Manila from Delhi, all in one go, leaving early morning and arriving late at night, not because it’s that far, but because it’s India, and especially in that area roads are not exactly highways. As a matter of fact, the further we drove up, the higher the cliff became, the more narrow the roads were (or at least appeared to me), and the closer we were passing along the edge.

I unconsciously grabbed the handle on the higher side of my door with both hands, and my driver asked me somehow astonished: “Are you scared?!” “Who, me?!” came my prompt reply, “of course not!” Thank God, the night came, so at least I was not able to look out of my window. It’s all part of the adventure, right? I have to say that my friend’s tales around the temples built in remembrance of the vehicles crashed down the cliffs, didn’t help.

That’s my cottage, and that’s the view I stared at for a week

Despite being very late at night, my friend announced that the morning after we were supposed to get up early in order to see the sunrise: “Tomorrow I’ll show you the paradise” he promised. The day after, I woke up on time for the sunrise, he didn’t. Ok, after some 1o hours of uninterrupted drive the day before, he was excused.

So on my first day in Manila, I witnessed the paradise by myself, and that made it no less dreamy. Overlooking a blanket of soft, white, immaculate clouds with the Himalayas peeping from time to time out of the morning maze almost as if to say “You found me, so what?”, did look otherworldly.

When, hours later, my driver “hastily” looked for me worried for having missed the sunrise, he was very pleased to see I hadn’t, and thoroughly enjoyed how I had captured “his paradise”.

An ethereal view of the Himalayas from Manila

As soon as we walked across Manila, I didn’t see anything around, and the days after went on pretty much the same way. It seemed like the village was “hiding” from me. On the main road there is a stand that sells sort of everything, from water to Sim cards, but especially, it works as the foreigners’ introduction to what locals call “the market”, or “bazaar”.

To find this so-called market visitors will have to look beyond the main road, or better, down the small cliff, where a narrow path clothed with not-so-friendly rolling stones leads you to a couple of shops undercover, that to me looked completely empty, but apparently they were not, since my friend would come out with literally everything from there. In every trip, there are aspects of a place we don’t manage to grasp immediately, for me one of those is Manila’s market, shrouded in mystery.

Sunset in Manila, Uttarakhand, India

So, I wanted to go local, didn’t I? Well, in Manila I found my cup of tea. No showering with hot water, I know summer was imminent and temperatures were already pretty high, but shower-wise I’m a little spoiled. Not to mention the evening, when while staring at the suggestive lighting from the other tiny villages at the feet of the Himalayas, suddenly everything would go black: “Oops,” my friend would smirk, “electricity’s gone!” I challenge you to find something more “local” than this.

A view of the Himalayas from Manila just after the sunset

All around Manila lies a huge jungle that covers a big part of the whole region. Undisputed stars of this jungle are the tigers that, although dangerous, scary and strong, act very precious and rarely appear to human sight. Needless to say, every time we drove along the jungle I had my camera and all possible lenses ready for the “king”, but apparently his majesty didn’t feel like being framed.

One early morning, while walking around the jungle with my zoom lens ready in the hope to see the tiger (from far) and take her picture (from far, hence the zoom lens!), out of curiosity, since my friend is native from this region, I asked him: “Have you ever seen a tiger?” His reply was so swift and  enthusiastic that I suspect he was just waiting for my question: “Of course!” he announced acquiring some kind of blessed look, “one day I was walking with my friends, the tiger suddenly came, grabbed our dog and ran away!” My legs failing, with as much self-dignity as I could muster, I muttered: “Awesome! Maybe I’m not that curious to see the tiger anymore!”

Obviously, we managed to go back to our guest-house unscathed, and despite our repeated efforts, there has been no epiphany, but instead, we saw plenty of:

Cows (surprised?)…

Cow in the jungle

Monkeys…

Monkey posing for my camera

Cows…

Cow in the jungle, again

Goats…

Goats in Uttarakhand

(Drum roll) More cows…

Cow in the jungle, for a change

I guess the tiger is next time’s prerogative.

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45 Comments
  1. Complimenti, abbiamo appena finito di leggere l’articolo e di ammirare le stupende fotografie! Guardando le foto stenti a crederti in India! E’ proprio da vedere!

    • Sì è vero, anche se anche lì vedi condizioni di vita precarie, anche se non come nelle grandi città, e soprattutto non come nei posti turistici!

  2. De tous les articles et photos que tu as publiés – toujours très interessants -je trouve celui-ci le plus beau ! Peut-etre parce que cela surprend d’apprendre que c’est un site indien. De l’Inde nous voyons toujours les memes images et histoires de misère et jamais de beauté.J’ai hate de voir le reste!

  3. You were so brave to want to see a tiger, even if from a distance! This really does look like a paradise. How wonderful to have such a view from your cottage and see such beautiful views and sunsets. Also, that monkey is adorable!

  4. Is this the same Mt Everest as the highest peak in the world? I am asking because Uttarakhand is to west of western Nepal whereas Mt Everest in in East Nepal – about 800 or so miles away..

    p.s. the view looks beautiful nevertheless :)

    • Yes it’s that Everest, or so they told me the locals in Manila, also my guide, who has been to the Everest many times, it was very far, and couldn’t even see it well, I had a pretty big zoom… :)

      • If I were you, I wouldn’t believe that :) :P

        • Angela Corrias June 12, 2011 at 7:12 am

          Very strange, there were many tourists who came just for the view.. If I were you, I would go make sure myself ;)

        • This time too in the same area in Corbett, there were two cars from Delhi drowned in flash flood possible due to carelessness of the drivers who took nature for granted. 2 buses were being pulled out. yes its quite a driving, approx 600 miles but worth it.
          Guess the best way to enjoy is staying away from luxury hotels and crowded places.
          Next time you visit Manila ask for a guided & secure night trek in jungles on full moon night. can also do game hunting, its diff experience although I personally dont endorse hunting.
          Happy Chasing..

        • Umm… I would probably leave the night walks to locals, I still prefer staying in the car at night. Hunting certainly not, I’m strongly against, what I liked in India is that animals are pretty much left in peace. Yes, the first time I went to India I visited only tourist spots, and although I enjoyed it, certainly the second time when I was only with locals was much more enlightening about Indian society.

        • Peace! Was only sharing what I know. yes i was born there but studied & brought up all across India, living in New Delhi. I spend 3-4 days a month in Manila, a week back was stuck there for 6 days due to land slides all across.
          It is believed that the 3 small temples at “talla mandir” were originally built by ‘Pandavas’ from the epic of mahabharat with stone sculptures inside made using bare hands. If you noticed the huge tree inside the premise, its is called ‘Kalpvriksha’ which is always green and one of a kind in entire north India, at least.
          There are many other legends awaiting to be discovered in Uttarakhand…
          Happy Chasing!!

        • Wow, 3-4 days a month living in Delhi it’s a lot of traveling, although it’s not too far, it takes ages, 7 hours by bus I think! When I went (by car), we got stuck in the middle of nowhere just after Corbett due to a flood! I know Uttarakhand is full of things to write about, I’ve even been to a very small area of the state, but also there, I haven’t visited properly the Garhwali region, which I would love to. I hope to go back one day, I know I can just go by myself, but I think I managed to understand their culture because I literally lived with locals, much easier than being just a tourist on my own..

        • Thats my hometown too. :-)I frequently escape to ‘the paradise’ from madening crowd & fast pace of New Delhi.
          Tigers are generally not found in hills until they turn man-eater, which was the case last year, about 7 were shot dead. Planes of Corbett park has highest density of Tigers but are illusive and few people with loads of luck have spotted them. Manila has plenty of Leopards which are called ‘tigers’ by locals there. I am lucky enough to see both, Tigers in corbett and Leopards in manila. You too (If luck prevails) can sight a leopard at specific times during your next visit to manila. You can ask your friend the “tiger” he saw was with spots or stripes? that will clear the confusion:-)
          what so ever, I thank you for visiting Manila…
          Happy Chasing…

        • There were even posters with tigers in Corbett, my friend is a tour guide, I don’t think he confuses them with leopards, how can locals confuse them, they are completely different! :S Anyway true, they are very seldom, but leopards too, we drove every day late at night and early in the morning and we’ve never seen anything, neither tigers, nor leopards.. And in Corbett too, even if there are more tigers there, most of the safaris end up only with elephants, this is why I didn’t do it, we just drove with our car, and didn’t see anything anyway.. Well, I’m not done with Uttarakhand, it’s a very interesting area, I’ve written also other posts on Uttarakhand, also about Manila Devi, very fascinating.
          Were you born in Manila? I guess you don’t live there anymore? Likely you even know the people I was with!

        • Hi Angela, its nice that someone from miles away visited ‘Manila’ (which literally means ‘enchanting’), which is a completely undiscovered place by local tourists who throng in thousands in 50-60 KMs radius (Nainital, has highest footfall of tourist among all the hill stations in India).
          The Himalayan range you clicked is obviously not ‘the Averest’ but has 5 well known peaks among trekkers & is called ‘Panch chuli range’ (Panch = 5, Chuli=Peaks, 1. Nandadevi peak, 2. Trishul Others I dont remember at the moment)
          You rightly called it a paradise; for walkers, photographers, bird watchers etc. The place doesnt have tigers but plenty of Leopards, fox, jackles, deers and 235 species of birds. I too am a regular there & have similar photos as clicked by you. especially the morning view & full moon nights are out of the world experience.
          Happy chasing!!

        • Hi Ravindra, thanks for your comment. Yes, the mountain in the picture is Nanda Devi, I asked my friend and I forgot to put it in the caption :) Actually in the area there are tigers more than leopards, in fact in Corbett they organize safaris in the jungle with the hope to spot some, but they don’t manage to see them every time, which is good in my opinion as it means they are still very much left alone. In Manila my friend saw a tiger just a week before I arrived, and in the 5 days I was there I didn’t see any, but it’s also understandable since it’s his hometown and he goes there very often!

  5. Great post Angela :) I love hearing stories about random places – especially in India. The photos are great too. I really want to visit India sometime in the near future – it seems amazing!

    • Thanks Bethany. By all means, make it to India, it’s a very inspiring country. I might be spending some more time in India in the near future, it will be lovely if we meet there, I promise I’ll let you enjoy your stay and won’t barrage you with questions about photography :P

  6. I used to go out with an Indian guy who lived in London and around that time, I read and watched everything I could get my hands on about India. I’d love to go exploring. Great photos.

  7. Looks beautiful! Every time I visit India I come away obsessed with it! I really wanted to try and figure out how I can spend some extended time there in the next couple of years.

    • Me too, all I could come up with is tourist visa though, 3 months extendable for other 3 months, after which you will have to leave, unless you get a working visa, which is not really what I want as I’m perfectly happy with my freelancing life :)

  8. These photos are absolutely stunning, Angela. India is next on my travel hit list, it looks gorgeous.

  9. I’ve never been to India, but it sounds like a fun destination. I just watched the movie “Outsourced”. Probably lots of cliches, but it was funny nonetheless. Do you like it?

    • I admit being quite ignorant when it comes to Indian movies or movies about India, I should probably do something about it, as I’m planning to go there more often :)

  10. Fantastic series of images. I have not yet visited India, but would love to some day.

  11. Oh Angela, reading this post makes me want to go there so bad! What a stunning place. And I’m really glad you ventured off by yourself while your friend was catching up on his sleep. You got some amazing photos! — Michelle

  12. Monkeys and cows and goats oh my! And stunning views. And great photos!

  13. And I am visiting Nainital again through this blog. Thanks for sharing.

  14. This is a more relaxed Manila compared to what we have in the Philippines hehe. this is quite interesting though :D

  15. Nice post India is a very beautiful place

  16. Hi Angela , want some information about your cottage in manilla. Please share the name and phone no. I visited manilla a year back but could not find a decent place to stay , would like to go again if there is a clean place to stay.

  17. The view from the guest house – excellent excellent excellent. I wish to be visit as early as possible. Lovely.

  18. Can someone provide me with the phone nos. of KMVN, Manila Devi, please ?

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