by Laurel Tuohy
17 August 2009
There’s only one place to go after your nuptials are over but before the bridal mehndi has worn off: Manali. Yes, the famed Himalayan hill station is still the number-one honeymoon destination of newlyweds on the subcontinent.
Just wander the mall, or main street, in town and observe the spiffed-up, rosy-cheeked young couples enjoying puri, ice cream and each others’ company. The newlyweds are apparent by their wide grins, handholding and forearm-spanning stacks of red and white plastic bangles displayed proudly by new wives.
Although the bright bangles are traditionally removed and stored after the first year of marriage – resurrected only for special occasions, it’s now in vogue, for young brides, to wear the bangles anytime, even with jeans – a fashion formerly socially forbidden.
Many sub-industries have sprung up within the city to cater to the whims of these young, happy couples. Sign-makers craft wooden plaques with couples’ names and phrases such as “Happy Honeymoon Memories of Manali,” knick-knacks featuring brides and grooms can be purchased along the mall and several specialty resorts have sprung up that cater to newlyweds.
These honeymooner hotels feature such amenities as suites with round beds and mirrored walls to appeal to loved-up new couples that plan to spend many hours in their suites. Most of them are located outside Manali proper, in satellite settlements such as Aleo, Simsa or Chadiyari.
Unusual as they may be, these resorts do have their charms, such as honeymoon suites, a private discotheque, a roller-skating rink, and, in the most posh cases, sunken round bathtubs in their suites for newlyweds and warm nuts and cookies on arrival.
Honeymooners decamp to Manali immediately following their nuptials or wait as long as two years to make their wedding trip, though the "Golden Night," or first night after the marriage ceremony, is always a special one spent in the couple's flower-strewn new abode.
Many young couples postpone their honeymoon in the interest of making it even more enjoyable. If a good friend, sibling or cousin is also getting married, they may choose to wait and share their trip to Manali. It's not uncommon to see as many as five young couples eating and laughing together in the restaurants along the mall while those not yet married peek enviously through the windows, waiting for their turn.