And a new week begins! I’m back from a weekend trip to Kasol, a riverside town famous for cultivating the best hashish in India. Kasol was on my radar as it was all the buzz among travelers I met; people raved about its chiller atmosphere, unique scenery, and less commercial vibes than Manali (spoiler alert – I happened to disagree, but more on this below).
Since Kasol was quite close to Manali (2 hours), I knew I wanted to visit during my month in the Himalayas, especially since I had only seen Manali up to this point. When I brought this up to Chetan, he was excited about it too, so we decided to head there together for a weekend trip.
Day 26: driving to Kasol
We left for Kasol on Friday night. After a very windy and dark 2-hour drive, we arrived at PerkUp Hostel. Immediately, we were greeted with thumping house music and guests lighting up hashish. PerkUp was a large party hostel, with many Indian travelers coming in for the weekend. I was exhausted from the drive, so I went straight to bed while Chetan joined the party.
Day 27: Exploring Kasol + riverside chilling
7 am the next morning, I woke up to Chetan belting to our dorm room, “Good morning Charlotte! Do you have any snacks?” Turns out he partied all night at the hostel. 😛 I gave him some snacks from my stash and started my day. From that point, we were on opposite schedules as I did things during the day while Chetan hung out at night. 🙂
My first activity of the day was walking around and exploring the town of Kasol, which was a 30-minute walk from the hostel. Kasol had different scenery than Manali – it was in Parvati Valley which was lower in elevation, so it was slightly warmer. The scenery was flatter and centered around the river, while Manali’s draw was the mountain views. There were campsites, hostels, and cafes all along the riverside.
I made it to town and started with breakfast at a cafe. My goal was to not eat any Indian food this whole weekend, as all my meals in Manali have been Indian. 🙂
Then, I walked around the town, which was very small. I walked the whole place in 10 minutes! There were shops selling hippie items, eateries, and several “german bakeries” – apparently, there was one famous German Bakery in town, which meant 10 other places tried to copy it. I could not figure out which one was the “real” one!
Then, I walked back to my hostel for a break. After getting a better feel for Kasol in the morning, my impression was that it was not this paradise everyone insisted it was. To me, it felt just as commercial, if not more than Manali. So many campsites/businesses were set up next to the river which meant there was a huge trash problem (like many places in India). I usually enjoy hippie towns, but Kasol seemed fixated on stoner culture. I found that Kasol attracts youngsters looking to smoke hash and party. On that note, Kasol seemed 1-dimensional and not for those who wanted to focus on other things like myself.
But then again, I am biased because I’ve spent a lot more time in Manali and found a good community there. I just love its mountain scenery and all its dimensions. I’m sure if I gave Kasol more time and met more people, I might appreciate it more. This was just my conclusion after 2 days there. 🙂
After a nap at the hostel, I wanted a break from the party crowd, so I took another walk along the river.
On my walk, I found a sign for a secluded cafe and decided to follow it.
I found the cutest cafe called Meraki! It was the perfect, relaxing spot I was looking for. I chilled there with some chocolate cake and my book.
Funny story – one person at the table next to me recognized me from Pushkar 4 weeks ago. He knew my name, my nationality, where I stayed, and for how long. I had no memory of him, and I’m certain I never met him because he stayed at the hostel next door where I never set foot. This has happened to me several times in India – people in the community talk about “the American girl” visiting their restaurant/hostel, and strangers end up recognizing me. 😉
Back at the hostel, I caught Chetan after he woke up from his sleep, and we hung out for a bit.
My evening ended with another walk into town for dinner. Kasol is called “mini Israel” because of its abundance of Israeli food. I had a falafel plate and it hit the spot.
Day 28: day trip to Malana Village
The next morning started early as I had a day trip planned. There are many of villages on the outskirts of Kasol, and when Chetan told me about Malana Village, I was intrigued. Malana is known as the oldest democracy in the world, and there are unique customs one must follow when visiting. I hired a guide and was on my way!
Getting to Malana was an adventure – we took a 1-hour taxi up the mountain to 8,700 ft (2,650 m), and then we had an additional hike to reach this isolated village. It was daunting looking at what we would climb, but I kept positive thoughts.
The hike was tough but beautiful! It was very steep and entirely uphill. We got beautiful views of mountains and epic rock formations along the way – the scenery I so love.
Finally, we made it to the top of Malana Village. My guide said it usually takes 2-4 hours, but we made it in 40 minutes! He said I was the first person who kept up with his pace…little did he know I was dying on the inside, but I took his compliment. 😛
Then, we walked around the village. Malana is known for cultivating the highest-quality hashish. In doing so, the Malana people believe their hands are sacred and that they are superior to the rest of the world. Outsiders are not allowed to touch the villagers – if you want to buy something, they will throw it at you to avoid any contact. 😛 Malana also doesn’t consider themselves a part of India – they have their own local government that they believe rules above India’s prime minister.
Going into this experience, I was expecting a group of stuck-up individuals, but I found the villagers to be quite normal, smiling at me and asking the usual “where are you from?” The vibe was not too different from the village I’m staying in Manali. The only difference was that people were careful to create personal space from us.
Outsiders were not allowed inside the temples either, as they were only for villagers.
Every other person we encountered asked us if we wanted to purchase hash. Interesting to see this isolated village rely so heavily on outsiders for this – I guess they weren’t so independent after all. 😛
As expected, there was a major trash problem in this village.
After exploring, my guide offered to go on a “bonus hike” to a waterfall. This hike took ~40 additional minutes and was along rolling hills. We made it to a nice waterfall with a spot to relax and eat lunch. I loved that there was no one else here.
Then, I headed down the mountain and back to Kasol. I linked up with Chetan, and we drove back to Manali. After an active weekend, I remember feeling excited to go back home and sleep in my bed. Manali is the closest thing I’ve felt to a “home” this entire trip. ❤
Even though Kasol wasn’t my favorite place in the world, I’m glad I went on this trip. The last few weeks, I thought that volunteering in Manali meant I was “missing out” on other towns in the Himalayas. That’s always the balance of travel – getting to know one place well versus seeing everything. But after Kasol, I feel validated that I’m not missing out on anything. In the end, it’s the people that make the experience, and I now feel confident living in Manali is the absolute right decision for me.
3 thoughts on “India days 26-28: weekend in stoner town of Kasol + visiting Malana Village”
When I first traveled India 55 years ago, Goa was “the end of the hashish trail”. Beautiful place, sad scene.
I bet goa still lives up to that today. I’m learning hashish is just a part of india.