Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Shimla, the Queen of Hills

My next stop after Amritsar was the Himalayan city of Shimla. This, again, was a major highlight in my trip, as it was my first time in the Himalayas. It was a 9 hour drive from Amritsar to Shimla, and I admired the driver skilfully navigate the steep and winding roads as we drove up the mountains. We crossed the Punjabi border and entered the state of Himachal Pradesh and along the way, the driver put some Bhangra music, which was quite entertaining at first, but became very repetitive after some time. We reached Shimla at around 10pm, and boy, it was freezing! I wasn't dressed for the winter as I was in my Salwar Khameez, so I struggled quite a bit to manage the freezing temperature.

The hotel I stayed at was the Comberemere Hotel, which is very well located-right in the midst of the night bazaar, known as Mall Street. While the hotel is nicely furnished in a wooden cabin style, I couldn't really enjoy my stay there as the heater in the room did not work on both nights. Despite bringing my concerns to the attention of the hotel staff, nothing was done to rectify the problem. Hence, I slept with layers and layers of clothing, gloves and socks and shivered as I tried to fall asleep.

I woke up to a bright sunny morning and had some quick breakfast at the hotel. I was to visit the Himalayan villages of Kufri and Chail during the day and return to Shimla to discover the exciting nightlife. We drove up the mountains to these villages and had phenomenal views of Shimla. Shimla is so different from other Indian cities in that it is mainly made up of British colonial style buildings, and has quite an European feel to it. The locals have more Eastern Asian features, and kids are so adorable with light brown skin and bright pink cheeks. Once we got to Kufri, I mounted on a horse and was led by a young boy up the mountain trail. I rented some boots thinking they would protect me from the cold, but how wrong I was! My feet became so numb! And despite putting on layers and layers of clothes, I was still freezing! After the 1/2 hour ride up, I got off and explored the mountainous region. This area was sparsely populated with young kids running around and women hard at work. I noticed that there were many Indian tourists too, mostly on their honeymoon. I soon spotted some yaks at a distance. They were so cute in a very strange way, and were obediently posing for photographs with the tourists. I, too, wanted a bit of that fun and climbed on one of them for a photo, hehe:).

David and I then got the chance to dress up in traditional costumes from the region, and we were instructed to pose in various ways for the camera. I love sampling traditional clothes from different cultures, and so, enjoyed this bit quite a lot!

Whatever tiny bit of the Himalayan region I got to see and experience, I found truly wonderful. The landscape is pretty amazing-nature at its best. You can see it for yourself right here:

After this, I proceeded to the Jakhu temple, tucked away further into the mountains. This is a Hanuman temple, where apparently, Hanuman rested while on his way to the Himalayan mountains. As excited as I was to see a whole temple dedicated to Hanuman Himself, I was getting slightly nervous. As we approached, I noticed troupes of monkeys gathered around all over the temple. I felt them scrutinize every move I made, and I started to feel terrified. At the entrance, a man was renting out sticks for 5 rupees to help chase the monkeys away and I rented one and mustered every bit of courage I had to walk up the steps leading to the temple. With every step I took, I banged the stick loudly on the ground, to threaten the mischievous monkeys. Despite putting up a brave front, I was really scared that they would just attack me. I didn't even get to sincerely devote some time to Hanuman as I was too busy being worried about these monkeys. I think I spent a maximum of 10 minutes there (which seemed much longer when I was there!) and quickly came down. As you can see from the photo, fear is written all over my face:).

During the few quick stops along the way, we got to see the world's highest cricket ground (which is now fully occupied by monkeys!), and we returned to Shimla around sunset. This is the most beautiful time of the day, as you can see the sun gradually setting behind the mountains. The sky was a wonderful blend of light blue, dark blue and orange. A picture perfect scene.

Shimla is so beautiful at night, because it is full of people, the city is beautifully lit up, and stall vendors are busy trying to make business in the bazaar. A bustling city - just what I love! It was a lovely walk through the bazaar, where I bought some fruits and enjoyed looking at the various handicrafts being sold.

After a busy day in the Himalayan region, I retired to my freezing room and fell asleep. The next day, I was to visit Chandigarh, and you will find out more about that in my next entry!


DVD said...

The monkey story is so great... I still remember this and it was quite scary indeed !!!

Anonymous said...

Really awesome. Can't wait to check out Shimla and this Hanuman temple.

You've any video clips?

banoo said...

Yeap...any mountain region you travel would give a great feeling. and ofcourse, Himalayas too! I was taken back to Tibet, where we had an unique experience of going up the big mountains! very obliging yaks too! But I pity that you were shivering in cold! And the Monkey! You ought to have to say "Ram Ram'...and they would silently go away from you as they are the true devottees of Rama! Well written kutty....

krithika said...

Nice! Lovely blog! I'm inspired to write a travel blog myself btw :-)I might be going to Shimla too.. this is really useful. :-) I can't wait for the post on Chandigarh! :-)

Appu Thatha said...

My mind is alert but my body is weak. I will not be able to travel to places where you are going. Your vivid description of the places makes me feel that am traveling with you. This is a beautiful gift you can give to an elderly man like me.

Ravipa said...

Nice video and accompanying music. Funny to see David wearing that saree like dress and equally funny watching Preethi riding the yak with a feel of discomfort. Selling sticks for Rs5 to ward away monkeys - is that what called monkey business? When you talk of monkeys I am reminded of how closely we as a family are linked to them. No, I am not talking about the rhyming with my name - Venki... Poor joke? I am not even talking about the real joke - once in a company gathering, some of our friends gathered together and lamenting about poor salary etc. Somebody said "You pay peanuts, you get monkeys". My boss said "You pay gold nuggets, you get Venkis" I thought that was a compliment but later realized he meant I am overpaid". Ok coming to the main point, in my childhood days we had troops of monkeys visiting our backyard garden almost daily in the afternoons - some senior ones occassionally threatening us, stealing the bananas from kitchen etc. Of course, not to speak of several hanuman temples we visit nowadays - including the birthplace of Hanuman near Hampi.....

DVD said...

Whaou all these videos are well done !!! Looks like professional work !!!


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