Published: July 5th 2008May 23rd 2008
If you have been to Shimla in the high season of summer, you will be able to appreciate the title of this blog. It becomes completely impossible to get any reasonably priced accommodation because all the hotels push their prices up, and what you end up getting is quite dismal going by the price-performance ratio. I was aware of all this, but this trip was planned in a rush. My parents came to Delhi, and I wanted to take them to some hill-station which is not too far from Delhi. The journey to Shimla is relatively comfortable. The Shatabdi-Kalka leaves from Delhi in the morning, and drops you off at Kalka around midday. Then it is a 3-hours drive to Shimla from Kalka. Shimla
Given their age this journey to Shimla is long enough to tire them. By the time we reached Shimla I was desperate to find a hotel as quickly as possible, but it turned out to be a horrible experience. I had to stop at multiple hotels, bargain like I am in a fish market, and still ended up getting a lousy room. The best option, as for most other states in North India, is to book
the government hotels. The government has upgraded their systems a lot these days, and one can book online. It is the most hassle-free and comfortable way of travel in these parts of India. But you have to plan things early, otherwise the government hotels are usually in high demand, and get filled-up quite early.
Typical of any hill-station, walking around is the best option in Shimla. But the walk as one would expect is going up and down the slopes. This is not too amenable for elderly people. Mom decided to take rest, but dad, after a bit of rest, was enthusiastic enough to take a walk. The main attraction of Shimla is the mall road, where the tourists pouring in from the surrounding plains of North India, would flock. There are nice bakeries, pastry shops, coffee hangouts, as well as, designer stores. Looking at the people strolling by, it appeared to be a catwalk, with men and women in dapper clothes. There is an old church to visit by the mall road. I did not venture out much further because it started drizzling, and I was feeling quite sick of the crowd. When I am out of Delhi,
I really long for a less crowded retreat, and Shimla obviously did not fit the bill to any extent. I guess the only thing I enjoyed was the variety of fruits being sold, and their dirt cheap price compared to prices of the same fruits in Delhi. I devoured on the strawberries, peaches, and other kinds of berries I don’t even recollect the name.
There is another very well-known spot near Shimla, called Kufri. This place is well-known as a ski resort in winter. In summer if you go there, one has to take a pony to climb to the top. I have never seen a place so full of ponies. We immediately scrapped the idea of taking the pony ride. Especially given my eagerness to stay away from the crowd, I was too keen to strike out Kufri from my list of places to visit. Fagu
Early next morning without further delay in Shimla we left for Fagu, a really small town 15 km from Shimla. I had been told by a friend about this place that it is one place not far from Shimla, but away from the insane hordes that throng Shimla in summer. Fortunately,
this place also had a government hotel, only one for that matter. I could only manage a booking for one day in the hotel, although my plan was to stay for two days. I had hoped that Fagu being not so well-known I will manage to get the hotel room once I am there. But it didn’t work. As a fallback, I had also booked something of the sort of a guesthouse in a nearby village called Vani. Now, this is an interesting new concept started by the Himachal tourism. Villages close to important tourist spots offer small houses for a family to stay, and the price is really low, and the overall experience is worth a try. I must say that I was quite pleasantly surprised by the arrangement at the little guest house, called Misty Hut. There are many things amiss there if you really want to be critical. To start with it was really difficult to find out where the Vani village was, then once we reached it took us a while to find the guesthouse, and the scariest for my mom was the approach way to the house. One has to really walk down some rock
strewn steep path to reach the doors. I was told that we being the first guests are the unfortunate ones, and this is going to be fixed.
The stay at Misty Hut was really fantastic, and something what I really had in mind. So far the house is concerned, it is built to perfection with complete wooden interiors, an awesome balcony that overlooks the valley, a full working kitchen for groups who would like to cook on their own. There is also a caretaker who does the chores for you, like getting the foodstuff from the nearby market, and cooking for you if you want. It was a perfect place to relax for a day, especially after the shoddy hotel room stay at Shimla. To our satisfaction even the sky cleared up, and we could get a nice view of the Fagu valley.
The location of Misty Hut on a steppe along the slope made it even more charming to lie idly on a chair and stare at the endless slopes, waves of mountains marked in front.
The view at night turned out to be even better as I stood on the balcony savoring the silence and the
chill winds, and the beautiful clear sky that formed a magnificent starry canopy. There were little patches of light blinking like festive lighting on the slopes, marking the presence of small towns or villages. It looked like the sky has spread itself onto the earth, with the little blinking lights and the stars merging with each other to make you feel that you are floating space. I would have sat there for hours listening to my ipod but it started drizzling after a while as I watched with dismay the glittering lights getting turned off by the approaching darkness.
Next morning looked bleak. We had planned to go to Hatu Top, which is one of the highest points around, and provides a splendid view of the surrounding region and some of the high peaks of the Himalayas. We were in a dilemma. If it is overcast going to Hatu Top would be a complete waste of time and money. But in the end, we decided to take a gamble, and as it has always happened, gamblers are always losers. Not just overcast, it started raining hail when we reached the top of Hatu Top. There is a temple at
Hatu Top, the Hatumata temple, but given the way it started pouring, I did not even consider stepping a foot out of the car. We were back to Narkanda at the foot of Hatu Top, and spent our time having a wholesome breakfast and brooding over our wasted effort to Hatu Top.
Next halt, Hotel Peach Blossom, the government hotel at Fagu. There was nothing to complain about the arrangements. I think government tourism in the north Indian states have really done a great job compared to many of its counterparts in other parts of India, like the east. We got a room with a nice view, as one expects in a hill-station. It had a beautiful lawn where many of the guests where enjoying their time. While my parents decided to spend the time at the lawn, I preferred to check out a little walk up to a temple. It was about an hours climb along stairs cut along the slopes, and at the end of it, there is a nice little bright red temple, typical of the hill regions of India.
These three days we spent at three different hotels/guesthouses shifting base every morning. It will
probably not fit the bill of a relaxed trip, but if one is planning a trip in the peak season to a place like Shimla, I guess this is the best-way to extract the most enjoyment.
There are more photos below