no movie halls, no malls, and few late night pubs or night clubs, so there
is little to spend your money on (this void is also a great business
opportunity). When we want to watch a film we order a DVD online and
have it shipped to us. Though there is no English language movie theater,
a local lounge bar serves up live football matches and rock concerts on
a projection screen.
market is adequate for groceries, building supplies, and so on. Very rarely
would one need to make a trip to Chandigarh for something.
the lack of unwanted distractions and the natural peace and quiet, we're
extremely productive here and our projects get finished fast. Authors and
programmers will especially appreciate the peace.
While the Indian
economy is booming, the government continues to control most essential
infrastructure, and provide slow, incomplete service. Many roads are rough
and pot-holed, the electric supply is guaranteed to fail frequently, dialup
Internet access is slow and flaky. While this can be annoying, it can serve
as an opportunity to free your mind and escape the matrix further. A couple
in a nearby village owns a small restaurant and have built their own hydro-power
generator, which supplies ample electricity for their home, and its heated
We intend to
do the same very soon, and maybe even sell a DIY kit to our neighbors.
I expect the stream flowing past our gate will provide us plenty of free
electricity for years.
expat couple we know powers their entire home with solar panels. They
live completely "off the grid" in the middle of the forest -
an hour's walk from the nearest road. They grow their own fruits and vegetables,
chop their own wood, and catch their own fish. They have a lovely home
and absolutely the most incredible view of the valley and snow capped peaks.
town of Manali has a government hospital, which is probably best avoided,
as well as the Christian-run Mission Hospital which is where everyone goes.
The Mission Hospital has basic equipment and staff who can administer a
shot, take X-rays, plaster up a broken limb, stitch up a wound.Your problem
can be diagnosed if not cured and then you can get yourself fixed up at
the hospitals in either Chandigarh or Delhi. Emergency helicopter airlifts
to Delhi are possible.
a competent English speaking dentist in town, whom I had occasion to visit
last week. His clinic is basic but clean and perfectly adequate for
most regular dental work.He cleaned my teeth and treated the inflammation
caused by my emerging wisdom tooth, all for under $10. The local chemist
carries most medications you're likely to need, usually priced much lower
than they are in the West.
As our livelihood
is largely dependent on the Internet, we must have a reliable Internet
connection. Sadly, many of the telephone lines here are of poor quality
and can't support a stable connection. Having struggled trying to get connected
to the dialup Internet service for hours on end, we were excited when ISDN
service was launched in Manali. Our hopes were dashed when we spoke to
the first ISDN user here, a cybercafe operator, and he complained that
Internet over ISDN was even worse than dialup."
So we started
researching what the private sector had to offer. We now have a DirecWay
satellite transceiver from Hughes in our backyard and enjoy always-on broadband
Internet access at 256kbps. The installation involved making a phone call
to the agent in Jalandhar. He sent an engineer to survey the site and locate
the right place to install the dish. Soon after, the dish and VSAT equipment
arrived. The installation was free, including the labour to secure the
dish to the platform we'd constructed. The up-front hardware cost for such
a setup is about $3,500, including a heavy duty online UPS that gives us
over 8 hours of backup power for the VSAT and the Internet connection.
service plan provides up to 30 MB data transfer per day for about $100
a month. It does sound expensive when compared to Western cities and
even Indian cities but the offsetting advantage is that you can live in
the Himalayas in luxury at very low cost. Lower cost plans are also available,
and we can have the service disconnected (and pay nothing) for the months
we aren't here.
Internet service is also working pretty well for us now. Apparently we're
lucky enough to have a fairly clean phone connection. A noisy line can
probably be fixed by tipping the linesman a few rupees, or treating him
to a bottle of imported whiskey.
Finding a house
to rent can be difficult, simply because there are still relatively few
modern houses here, and many of these are already rented by expats on long-term
are always new houses being constructed, and these can be very good deals.
Many locals will also be happy to construct a house to your specifications,
in exchange for a long-term lease and enough of a down payment to help
them with the construction costs. The rents in our neighbourhood for a
2-bedroom modern home on long-term lease is about $2000 a year. Utilities
would come to about $20 - $50 a month.
of furniture and household goods and appliances in the local market is
extremely limited. We purchased all our furniture from the well-stocked
furniture stores in New Delhi, and had it brought up in trucks for about
$150 per truck, including insurance and loading. We also bought all household
appliances - refrigerator, TV, digital washing machine, dryer - in New
Delhi. Dishwashers are available as well.
If you have
a vision for your home, you will find someone in New Delhi or even Chandigarh
to execute it. You can choose from Italian modular kitchens which cost
a fortune abroad but are priced more reasonably for the Indian market.
Our brand new, custom made furniture came to about $7000 including all
are fresh and inexpensive. Fresh produce tomatoes are 30c/Kg. Eggs are
50c a dozen. You can either buy full cream milk from the local cow
owner or buy excellent toned and homogenized milk from the market for 50c
a litre. If you would like to grow your own veggies you could either toil
alone or hire a gardener for $20 a month to assist you. A neighbor popped
around yesterday and sold us 5 heads of freshly picked broccoli from his
farm - 20c for the lot. You can buy fresh baked breads at various bakeries
in the market. Cigarettes are $15 for a carton of 10 Benson & Hedges
special filter packs (made in the UK) .
We have two
maids working for us. Between them they handle all the cooking and cleaning,
as well as odd jobs. We pay them a total of $60 per month.
This is generally
a very safe area, with almost no violent crime. But you could be robbed
if you go off somewhere for 6 months without securing your home well. The
best solution is to secure all your valuables in one room, with bars in
the windows, and hire a caretaker or contract with your houselhold help
to clean and look after your property while you're away. This would cost
$20 a month.
isn't easy, as the work ethic of the plumbers, electricians, carpenters,
movers, tilers, painters and so on in India often leaves much to be desired.
We got quite exhausted getting our home set up, but now when we relax in
our cozy living room by the glow of a fire, and look out at the sunset
colors in the valley, surfing the Net at 256kbps, with a fresh, snow chilled
breeze blowing through the apple trees outside, we know moving here was
a great decision.
absolute peace to work. For my husband this means getting valuable time
to finish writing the code for his projects. We finally have time to
discuss our business ideas and accomplish much more because we are free
of the distractions, and the cash-burn rate, of a city. I've read more
in the two months we've been here than I have in the last four years.
with e-commerce other location-independent businesses or those who want
to start their own businesses with really low investment, this area offers
ideal conditions, as well as a chance to hang out in the mighty Himalayas
and explore the region.
its tourist appeal, much of this area is undeveloped and unexplored. Protectionist
measures by the Indian government have kept most of the land limited to
agricultural use. So land with breathtaking views is still available at
low prices, and the tourism potential of the area is largely untapped.
is visited by over 200,000 Indian tourists and 50,000 foreign tourists
each year. The potential for winter sports and adventure tourism is being
capitalized on only at a very basic level by the local population, in-spite
of the fact that the valley is home to no less than five individuals who've
climbed Mt. Everest (and lived to tell the tale).
to the almost complete lack of locally organized skiing business, an Australian
adventurer and inventor, Roddy McKenzie (also an Everest veteran), has
built over the last 10 years a highly profitable Heli-skiing operation
based in Manali. Roddy's company, Himachal Heli-Skiing, attracts customers
from around the globe who pay $6000 a week each to ski the powder snow
of the Himalayas, and be ferried up the ski-lift-barren slopes in helicopters
by Swiss pilots.
situation exists with regard to the hotels, restaurants, bars and cybercafes.
Though there's no shortage of any of these, there's a distinct lack
of quality in most. The establishments that really seem to know what they're
doing are invariably run by foreigners who've settled here, and do a brisk
business in the absence of serious competition. With very little investment,
you could own a profitable restaurant or bar.
A few expats
have started restaurants that only operate on one day of the week and offer
continental favorites. Pizzas made to order in wood burning ovens, schnitzel,
rösti, pasta, smoked trout with fresh garden grown lettuce, and of-course,
chilled beer. Wines are not easily available save a few local apple wines.
One of the expat settlers, a professor of mathematics from Canada, has
a wine cellar in the basement of his house. He shares his collection with
friends and family and occasionally sells some to other expats.
At a conservative
estimate, a restaurant that's open only one day a week for lunch would
make $500 a week for seven months a year. Other popular restaurants make
as much as $15,000 profit per month. The investment required to build
a cafe is very low. You can get started with as little as $5000.
not allowed to buy land here. Only bonafide Himachali agriculturists can
own land. But there are ways around this, similar to the concept of titulars
in Andorra. To run a business, the easiest would be to lease a suitable
here is seasonal. Which is great, the summers are the best time anyway.
Many expats live half the year in the Himalayas and half in Goa, running
profitable businesses in both places and enjoying the good life at rock-bottom
prices. The "off season", from about November to March, isn't completely
dead, as it sees a steady flow of winter sports enthusiasts, as well as
a rush around Christmas.
There are a
number of other businesses that come to mind when one thinks of exploiting
the untapped potential of this area. A friend of ours grows orchids. The
local weaving industry produces excellent products when guided by someone
who understands the global market. Hand-woven shawls made from pashmina,
yak wool, marino wool or Angora rabbit wool are fantastic. You can have
the finest pashminas custom woven to your specifications.
still cheap here and it's easy to find people who are eager to learn, work
and raise their standards of living. Roddy is capitalizing on the cheap
labour by manufacturing avalanche bags of his own design, specially adapted
to the extreme conditions of the Himalayas. The local boys who work for
him are happy to work for $100 a month, manufacturing the most advanced
avalanche bags in the world, right here in a little workshop next door
to a small local cafe.
welcome new business and Manali has grown over the last ten years from
a small, boring, hippie hangout with only a thriving 'charas' economy
to a busy tourist destination where the glitterati come to go heli-skiing
and shoot movies in the Himalayas.
(hand-rubbed Hashish), which this area is famous for, isn't as cheap as
it was 10 years ago, but by Western standards it's still a steal - at about
$1 per gram. A lot of people in the valley smoke charas, and it is easily
available, though it's not at all a good idea to be caught carrying any,
especially if you're a foreigner.
trade here isn't violent at all. No territory battles and loud noises
in the night. The trade provides employment to thousands of locals who
rub the resin out of the buds of the hemp plant, which grows wild all over
the mountains and on the sides of the roads. In the market one can find
slippers, bags and mats woven by local women out of hemp fiber. Nevertheless,
the authorities regularly go around destroying hemp plants and seizing
vast quantities of charas from farmers and couriers.
living in our Himalayan home for a few months now, and can appreciate what
attracts so many people from all over the world to settle here. The
area's most famous expat settler was Nikolai Roerich, the Russian artist,
archeologist, explorer and philosopher, who moved to the town of Naggar
after his famed Central Asiatic Expedition and lived here for 20 years
till his death in 1947. Roerich painted the peaks of the Himalayas and
was inspired by their serenity and majestic beauty, just as we are.
If you would
like to know more about settling in this area, or need any help while planning
a visit, please don't hesitate to contact me by email.