Namaste, Shimla. Ever wondered what happens when you mix a dash of India’s August heat, a sprinkle of hill station charm, and a spoonful of peculiar travel instincts?
Well, buckle up, fellow adventurers, because I’ve got a tale to tell about my 3-day escapade to Shimla last month.
Let me set the stage for you: the first hotel was so bad, it could make a seasoned backpacker cry, and our driver… well, let’s just say he had the road sense of a squirrel on roller skates!
But hey, isn’t it the mishaps that make for the best travel stories?
August. Shimla. Three days.
What could possibly go wrong? At times, it was like trying to have a snowball fight in a sauna. Or attempting to sunbathe on top of an ice cap. Utterly ridiculous.
Despite a few mishaps, I have to say I loved the charming hill station of Shimla. Shimla – where cool breezes dance through pine forests, and where stunning vistas are as common as oxygen.
Leaving Chandigarh’s leafy, tranquil, suburbs I embarked on my 115 km quest to explore Shimla’s treasures. Little did I know, my adventure was about to take an unexpected turn – quite literally.
Meet Devaj (not his real name), a driver whose sense of direction was apparently inspired by a compass with its North mysteriously replaced by “Anywhere But Here.”
Devaj seemed to think he was auditioning for the next Fast and Furious movie. The winding mountain roads became his personal racetrack, complete with hairpin turns and total disregard for traffic rules.
Seatbelts? Who needs them when you can cling to your armrests for dear life, right? I held onto my seat as if it were the last piece of chocolate in a candy store.
Snaking around corners, we narrowly missed goats, pedestrians, and the occasional stray cow.
Daredevil Devaj zigzagged his way for two-and-a half hours with my heart performing acrobatics. To him, lane dividers were mere decorations, and horns were his symphony. My cries of “Are we there yet?” were met with silence. My Hindi was as good as his English!
I couldn’t help but wonder. Was this some kind of extreme adventure tourism that I had inadvertently signed up for? Maybe this was Shimla’s secret thrill ride, and I just didn’t get the memo!
If you’ve ever wondered how it feels to be in a real-life video game, this was it – except my high score was measured in audible gasps.
The Nightmare Hotel: A Dirty, Noisy Disaster That Deserves Demolition
Arriving in Shimla, my excitement knew no bounds. The sun was shining, the scenery enchanting, and my expectations sky high. But as fate would have it, I’d chosen the only hotel in Shimla that’s managed to find the secret recipe for discomfort and noise.
Hotel Mahamaya’s location, though, deserves a special mention. Nestled on Shimla’s main road it was “earsplittingly vibrant”. Imagine trying to enjoy a leisurely nap as the sounds of jackhammers serenade you into slumber. Who needs a silent retreat when you can have a symposium of city sounds right at your doorstep?
Oh, but the surprises didn’t end there! The decor, clearly chosen by a fervent admirer of the 1970s, showcased a colour palette last seen in disco halls. And the bed? Rumour has it that it doubles as a historical artifact from a medieval torture chamber.
At this point, I opted for plan B – find an alternative. Plan C was to opt for the “Sleep in the Car” package.
If you’re seeking to combine old-world charm and modern comfort in the heart of Shimla, look no further than Ashiana Clarks Inn. From the moment I stepped foot into the lobby, I was greeted with warm smiles and impeccable hospitality. Take note Hotel Mahamaya!
The staff went above and beyond to make me feel right at home. They made sure every detail of my stay was taken care of with the utmost care and attention.
The rooms at Ashiana Clarks Inn are a perfect retreat, offering stunning views of the majestic Himalayan range. I was delighted to find my room clean, spacious, and beautifully decorated, providing a cozy sanctuary after a day exploring Shimla’s treasures.
Shimla’s Tourist Lifts: A Heightened Experience
Shimla’s lifts to Mall Road are not just modes of transportation. They combine innovation with a dash of quirky chaos. Picture this: I’ve just arrived in Shimla, brimming with excitement. I hear about this mystical contraption called the “Tourism Lift” that promises to elevate my spirits – quite literally.
I’ve got to hand it to Indian ingenuity. They’ve managed to turn a simple elevator ride into a whimsical adventure.
I step into the cramped and “cozy” lift. I realise it’s like trying to fit back into a pair of skinny jeans after a massive Christmas lunch! Securely inside the lift, I sense a dramatic pause that could rival any Hollywood suspense thriller.
The doors close slowly. I can’t help but feel a tinge of excitement mixed with mild anxiety.
Will it work? Will it take me to Mall Road? Or will I end up in some alternate dimension where gravity doesn’t apply?
And then, the lift springs to life! With a cacophony of creaks, groans, and metallic sighs, I’m propelled upwards like a character in a vintage sci-fi movie.
Trust me; it’s a whole new world up there!
Mall Road Mayhem: Shop Till You Drop
The lift finally creaks to a halt and in just a few steps I’m on Mall Road.
An intoxicating blend of mountain mist and faint scent of hot momos and chole bhature fills the August afternoon air. I’m on a journey that’s equal parts shopping spree, sightseeing extravaganza, and a full-contact sport for pedestrians.
First, let me talk about the pedestrians…bless their souls. Navigating Mall Road is like joining an impromptu dance party where no one knows the moves. There’s the speed walker, determined to break the sound barrier in his rented sneakers, zigzagging through families on a leisurely amble.
And then there are the window shoppers, eyes locked on display cases, completely oblivious to the human traffic jam they’re causing behind them. Oh, the synchronicity of it all!
Now, the shops! Everything is available on Mall Road. Pashmina shawls that could rival the clouds in softness; keychains playing Bollywood hits (because who doesn’t want a miniature dancing Shah Rukh Khan in their pocket?).
And of course, the ever-present “I Love Shimla” caps that promise to make me the coolest cat back in Auckland.
But what’s that? Hungry tummies, rejoice! The food scene is a glorious carnival in its own right.
A street food stall announcing, “World’s Hottest Maggi – Try at Your Own Risk!” It’s like a dare for my taste buds. The vendor’s wicked grin suggests he’s seen more than a few brave souls turn into human steam engines. I won’t be one of them!
But don’t let the chaos deter you; Mall Road is the heartbeat of this charming hill station. It’s where locals come to sip their chai and gossip about the latest happenings while tourists embark on a treasure hunt for the perfect handwoven shawl or the softest woollen socks.
As the sun sets behind the majestic Himalayas, Mall Road transforms into a world of fairy lights and romantic promenades. Couples, hand in hand, share ice creams and stories of their day’s adventures, and add a touch of romance to the humorous chaos.
The Ridge: Where Tourists Arrive with High Expectations and Leave with Even Higher Altitudes!
At Shimla’s Ridge even the clouds take a leisurely stroll! It’s Shimla’s living room. Everyone gathers there, sipping chai, enjoying ice creams, and pretending to be official judges of “Best Mountain View”.
The Ridge is like stepping into a postcard. A postcard written by Mother Nature herself and sprinkled with generous doses of British colonial charm. I’m standing on a strip of land that’s so flat I could play a game of billiards on. It’s like mother nature decided to play a practical joke on the Himalayas.
But don’t think us homo sapiens are the only ones enjoying the view. The local monkeys act like the rooftop paparazzi. They observe my every move and chuckle among themselves, probably critiquing my fashion choices. I’m sure they were saying “Oh look, he’s attempting a selfie again, classic human move!”
As I amble down the Ridge, Christ Church stands out like the grand old dame of Shimla.
It’s a bit like meeting your great-grandmother, dignified and a bit weathered, but with stories that could fill volumes.
Christ Church looks like it was plucked straight out of an English village and plopped down in the Himalayas. It’s like someone decided to play a massive game of “Let’s Pretend We’re in England,” and they did it with such gusto that even King Charles would be impressed.
A Monkey Business of Divine Proportions: Jakhoo Temple
As I ascend the winding path to the temple, I quicky observe the monkeys reign supreme and blessings come with a side of banana negotiations. No, it’s not a scene from an Indiana Jones movie, nor a newly established monkey democracy. It’s the monkey kingdom of Jakhoo!
These furry, nimble acrobats have claimed the temple and its premises as their own personal playground. Armed with charm and curiosity, they greet me with an enthusiastic chorus of “Welcome to our humble abode!”
The temple itself is dedicated to Lord Hanuman, the monkey god of devotion and loyalty.
It’s said that this temple holds the world’s largest statue of Hanuman ji, towering high above Shimla’s landscape.
Legend says Hanuman rested on these hills during his quest for the magical herb that would heal Lord Lakshman. Locals believe these monkeys are merely paying homage to their illustrious ancestor.
As I navigate through this spiritual obstacle course, I discover these monkeys have an uncanny ability to spot a banana from a kilometre away. They must have a sixth sense dedicated solely to detecting fruit. The person in front of me happened to be carrying one.
Let’s just say he was the most popular person in the vicinity.
Amidst the banana drama, I absorb the spirituality of the place. Panoramic views of Shimla and the temple’s serene atmosphere are surprisingly calming. Even if monkeys practicing their trapeze routines surrpund me.
If you ever visit Jakhoo Temple, remember to hold onto your prasad, keep your bananas secure, and embrace the chaos!
Hold on Tight! A Roller Coaster Ride Through Shimla’s Countryside
Armed with a map that’s as reliable as a chocolate teapot and a GPS that’s convinced we’re rappelling off a cliff, Devaj and I embark on an odyssey.
It’s a beautiful morning in Shimla. The air is crisp, and the promise of adventure hangs in the air like the scent of pine. Armed only with a camera and a spirit of adventure, I take a deep breath and hop into Devaj’s car.
Our escapade through this windy wonderland brought us to Mashoba, a tranquil escape from the chaos of city life; Chail, where the hills are alive with the sound of adventure; and Kufri, the winter wonderland that promises a brush with snow even in the peak of summer.
These destinations share a common trait – winding roads that challenge even the bravest of drivers. The roads in Shimla’s countryside seem to have been designed by a mischievous cartographer with a fondness for zigzags.
It’s as if someone handed a piece of spaghetti to a toddler and said, “Build a road!” But hey, who needs a straight path when you can take the scenic route while clinging to your seat for dear life?
As we hurtle around corners with the grace of a runaway boulder, I am treated to vistas that could rival the most breathtaking postcards. Lush green valleys stretched out below, dotted with charming villages and terraced fields that seemed to defy gravity.
The majestic Himalayas stand tall in the distance, their peaks disappearing into the clouds as if they were trying to play hide and seek.
If you find yourself in Shimla with an itch for both adventure and a scenic backdrop that could make your heart skip a beat, make sure to fasten your seatbelt. And maybe pack a sick bag, just in case!
Shimla’s Viceroy Lodge
Before heading back to Chandigarh, I make my final stop at the Viceroy Lodge.
Entering the Viceroy Lodge’s grounds, I am immediately struck by the imposing façade, marked by its impressive arches, ornate balconies, and intricately carved wooden panels.
Meticulously landscaped sprawling gardens surrounding the lodge enhance its regal aura.
I am ready to enjoy its peaceful, hushed tones, and show respectful admiration for this heritage treasure.
And then, from nowhere, “Decibel Dinesh” storms onto the scene. Clad in an oversized Nehru shirt, he strolls into the Viceroy Lodge’s serene courtyard with the swagger of a man on a mission.
The “Keep Silent” sign, as prominent as the man himself, seemed to be nothing more than an ornamental relic of the past to him.
As he approaches, I exchange a perplexed glance, as if sharing my secret code of dismay. He has no concept of indoor voices, let alone the delicate acoustics of a historic building.
He’s a Librarian’s nightmare!
With the grace of a bull in a china shop, Decibel Dinesh takes out his phone. He proceeds to narrate his every thought at a volume that could shatter glass. He provides an unsolicited commentary on the architecture, the furniture, and the gardens, as if the entire world has been waiting for his profound insights.
The “Keep Silent” sign seems to weep silently in despair. Decibel Dinesh, oblivious to my disapproving stare, carries on with his one-man show. Even the resident squirrels cease their frolics to ponder the extraordinary phenomenon before them.
Decibel Dinesh Destroys Tranquillity
I can’t help but imagine what the ghosts of Shimla’s colonial past might be thinking. Perhaps they’d chuckle at the audacity. For even in the days of the British Raj, rules and decorum were observed.
In the end, Decibel Dinesh leaves Viceroy Lodge. The “Keep Silent” sign stands tall once more, a silent sentinel guarding the tranquillity of this historical gem.
Shimla’s Viceroy Lodge is living testament to a pivotal period in India’s history and a remarkable example of colonial-era architecture. It’s a place where time seems to stand still, allowing visitors to immerse themselves in the rich history and elegance of a bygone era.
Whether you’re a history enthusiast or simply seeking an escape into the past, Shimla’s Viceroy Lodge promises a journey filled with charm and nostalgia. Just make sure Mr Decibel Dinesh isn’t there!
And so, my 3-day sojourn in Shimla was not my average escapade. It was a masterclass in survival, a symposium in flexibility, and an opportunity to test my lungs’ capacity for sustained shrieks.
As I reflect upon those whirlwind days, I can’t help but smile. Because it’s not just the picture-perfect moments that make a journey memorable; it’s the misadventures that become the heartwarming anecdotes we share over a cup of hot chai.
If you ever find yourself in Shimla during August, brace yourself for a wild ride. Embrace the unexpected, treasure the quirky, and remember – even the worst hotel can become a story worth telling. And who knows, maybe your driver will be the inspiration for a bestselling novel someday!