Monday, April 4, 2011

Shimla Hill Station

After quite a challenging week, Brent and I made a very impromptu decision to take advantage of our rare two day weekend and head to Shimla, in Eastern Himachal Pradesh. Having not booked a bus we jumped on whatever we could find and took a very bendy and squishy trip to Shimla Hill station. Although I was quite comfortable, the poor woman in front of us sat nursing her baby with her head hanging out the window, vomiting on every second turn and unfortunately she wasn’t the only one.  
We arrived at about 1am and the first thing that struck me was how empty the town was. Usually I would welcome this change however we weren’t even being hassled by taxi drivers and this of course was the one time we needed one. After walking the streets aimlessly for a while with no map, no clue of where to go and the sound of wild dogs growing closer we eventually found a man who (at the right price) offered to walk us to our accommodation. The following morning we woke to playful monkeys banging on our window and an amazing view of seemingly endless mountains.
Our first stop was a Bird park that interestingly only contained a few Geese, roosters and some locked up Pheasants and probably wasn’t worth the 25 rupees but nevertheless the baby gooslings were cute. We then weaved our way up the old English influenced streets that are dotted with cheeky (and sometimes aggressive) monkeys to the Indian Institute of Advanced Study. A friend had suggested I see the building and at the time I couldn’t help but wonder why I would want to visit another university but on reaching the magnificent building I understood her request.  Built in 1884, it looks like something straight out of a Harry Potter movie, surrounded by manicured gardens and incredible mountain views. We stayed here a while and walked around the quiet gardens taking in the views.
We then slowly made our way to the main street of Shimla, Mall Road. It is extremely British influenced with old English buildings lining the streets, children being led on ponies up and down the road and street sellers selling handicrafts and Indian sweets. We drank coffee in an old Indian coffee shop, and then watched the world cup cricket over lunch in a quiet but surprisingly well lit bar and restaurant (most of the bars are hidden away and dark). The streets of Shimla are immaculate due to a new law that forbids littering and surprisingly the town is hassle free. I even found bargaining for a pair of sunglasses to be relatively easy as much more laid back than in Punjab.
The following morning we took a train ride back down the mountain. It took five hours of twisting and turning through the most incredible scenery and views of Shimla. Shimla is vastly different to Punjab where we live and is almost like a different country. The diversity of this country never ceases to amaze me. It was definitely worth the trip and the perfect anecdote for a long and draining week.
The Geese and their goslings

Indian Institute of Advanced Study

A rooster at the Bird park

Hindu Monkey God, Hanuman

The view from our window

Some boys playing cricket stop to wave the train goodbye

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