It all started off with a long list of cancelled travel plans since months, for some or the other reasons, and of course the urge to travel, which didn't let me sleep. People do call me being a crazy to not have patience of spending every other weekend relaxing at home, doing the daily chores, or not to travel one's hometown every second week. One fine day, in a normal catch-up conversation with a traveler friend, after a few rounds of discussion, we zeroed-in on to this small town, usually unheard of, Manila. People usually end up confusing it with Manila, Philippines, but rather its Manila near Almora. Or for a better connection with the geography of the place, it's a few kms ahead of the famous Jim Corbet National Park, at an altitude of 1820 mtrs.
It's a very less known town and gets less number of travelers for the same reason. It is famous among the locals for the Manila Mata Mandir and holds its own importance among them. One looking for complete solitude from the chaotic life of city, shall definitely visit this place. Also, this place is a paradise for people interested in birding. One could spot varied species of birds any season of the year. Compared to the crowded birding destinations of Nainital and Binsar, Manila could be a better place to spot birds. We had been to the place in the month of June. The place is good to visit all through the year, there is no specific season to travel in.
After a juggling day at office, we started off on our journey by late evening on a Friday and took the Noida-Moradabad-Kashipur highway. The total distance from Noida to Manila is approximately 325kms. It would have been late in the night if we drove up to Manila, so we decided to halt at Ramnagar at night, and complete rest of the journey in the morning. Of course, the intent was also not to miss the scenic view enroute. There was traffic congestion on the highway because of the ongoing construction, which slowed us down by an hour. We had a hotel pre-booked at Ramnagar, Hotel Himalaya. It was a decent stay with clean rooms. We arranged our photography gears and stuff before sleeping, to make sure things were in place before we start off.
We left the next morning by 10. The distance from Ramnagar to Manila is around 75 kms. Being a weekend, the roads were heavily congested up to Jim Corbett National Park. We decided to have our brunch after crossing Jim Corbett, at a less chaotic place, at some dhaba that serves home made food at a reasonable price. Marchula was the place, which best suited us for the same. A less expensive, yet tasty food being served at one of the eateries, of the few that place had.
There comes a bifurcation of the road after Marchula, where one leads to Nainital and the other one to Manila. Ask the locals to take the appropriate bifurcation via Jalikhan. The route via Pinjoli is longer at 60 km. See the route at https://goo.gl/maps/az7Zmhwxqdv. The roads were pretty smooth, and less-trafficked. The only vehicles one could spot on the roads were of those going to visit Manila Mata Mandir.
The route is so scenic, we had to take a few breaks to click photographs. It took us 2-3 hours to cover 50 kms from Marchula and reached Manila at 1300 hours. If you drive non-stop, it should take you 2 hours from Ramnagar.
One could very well guess that, as there are no luxurious resorts or hotels at the place. The stay options are limited to two blocks of KMVN Rest House, on either side of the road, and a small guest house named Himalaya View. Since KMVN Manila is not listed on the website, you have to pre-book the guest house. It could be done by calling the caretakers, Bhagat Singh ji at +919458152950 or Harinder Bisht Ji at +919457789896. The block on the left side of the road is the older one, which provides you with awesome view of the valley. As we had an instant plan, so couldn't do the reservations a prior. We got a room at the other guest house which also was on the left side of the road, was decent enough for stay. The owner was a bit arrogant, and being the only home stay with food option, had jacked up the food price.
The peace and calmness offered by the place is beyond words to describe. It imbibes a sense of solitude and tranquility with its breathtaking views and uncrowded roads, unlike other hill stations. You can actually hear the breeze, when you get inside the dense forest while going to the Manila Mata Mandir. The temperature was around 13 degrees, with fresh air that you do not get in the over-crowded cities.
After hours of being in the mighty forests and birding, we decided to find a place to have some evening snacks. Near the Manila bus stand, there are a few small dhabas that serve tea, maggi and other stuffs. We ended up at one, where an old uncle was serving hot tea. There was a big basket full of mangoes, which we could not take our eyes from, and decided to have one, and later many of them. After having a lot and a lot of stuff for evening snacks, we ended up paying just Rs. 80 for everything.
I am so in love with the place, the roads, the pine trees, the people out there and what not. Everything was just perfect. It was a much needed break from the busy city life we lead. I Would surely recommend it to people who are looking for something offbeat, who love solitude away from the chaos of life in the lap of nature.