Shimla

Kalka-Shimla railway track

Kalka-Shimla railway track

It was the first time when I visited Shimla and I was so excited for this visit as I was going for vacations after a really long time and heat was just killing me in Varanasi and the weather was really nice in Himanchal Pradesh. We took an overnight train from Varanasi to Delhi first and then took another train from Delhi to Kalka in the evening and stayed overnight in Kalka because we wanted to go to Shimla by a toy train and the next train was only in the early morning time. We had tried to book the tickets online for this toy train but all the seats were already booked.

The world heritage train

The world heritage train

There were other options also but we wanted to take this train only because Kalka-Shimla train route is world heritage site and we wanted to experience it. We showed up at the Kalka railway station in the morning time and they told us that there were seats vacant in the train which would be leaving after only ten minutes.  Our hotel was at least five minutes walk from the railway station but we decided to take a risk by buying the tickets. We ran to the hotel, packed all of our luggage and showed up at the railway station within ten minutes.

Open compartment of the train

Open compartment of the train

We had to do everything very fast because the railway officers told us that the train was going to leave within ten minutes but the train left  after an hour. Anyways, we were able to catch the train. We were told that it would take about six hours from Kalka to Shimla but it took about ten hours, but still we enjoyed it actually. I was amazed to see how the British had built this railway line on the mountains. There were 102 tunnels and 988 bridges only during the small railway track of 96 kilometers. Some of the bridges just shocked me. I have heard that many photographers come from all over the world just to photograph those bridges and engineers come from all over the world to see those bridges to learn about the construction.

Vire from the train

View from the train

The nature was just awesome all the way starting from Kalka till Shimla. The train was running all the time on the mountains. It was green everywhere. There were several stations in between Kalka and Shimla where the train would stop. I tasted a lot of different kinds of fruits which are available only on the mountains. Finally we arrived in Shimla after eleven hours of tiring but nice journey. We decided to leave all of our luggage at the railway station and go looking for hotels. As we started walking out of the railway station, one porter asked us if we need a hotel.

Beautiful bridge

Beautiful bridge

We told him that we would find the hotel on our own but this creepy man did not want to leave us alone. He was following us continuously. We went to a few hotels but could not get any room. This porter was still following us so finally we decided to give him a chance and asked us to take us to some hotel. He took us to a few hotels and all of those hotels were expensive and did not want to sell the room alone and they said that they would give us a room only if we take the taxi from them. It was crazy. Then we decided to go to any travel agent to book the hotel and taxi both because we wanted to hire a taxi next for the couple of days.

Such writings were everywehre on the train stations

Such writings were everywhere on the train stations

Then we went to a travel agent and this guy was asking just too much money. Actually before leaving Varanasi once we had contacted a car rental service in Chandigarah and they wanted to charge Rs. 14,000 for the taxi and these guys in Shimla were asking for Rs. 24,000. This porter was continuously following us and we started feeling uncomfortable with it. I told him several times very politely to leave us alone but he was just too much. Once I got angry and started shouting at him but he still wanted to chase us. It was getting late and finally we decided to get cheated and buy the hotel and taxi from a travel agent.

Another writing

Another writing

The major problem in Shimla with us was that neither the hotels nor the travel agents wanted to sell the room alone; they all wanted to sell the room, the taxi, sight seeing and guide all together. You ask them for a hotel room and they tell you rates for all those services. It was a very well organized crime by the hotels and travel agents. Finally we paid Rs. 22,000 for the taxi for five days and two rooms for one night in Shimla. The travel agent showed us a video of the hotel room but once we arrived there, we realized that the room we were shown was different than the room we got.

Shimla

Shimla

After all these problems we decided to get out of Shimla as soon as possible.  We slept in the same hotel and when I woke up I found that my glasses were gone somewhere. I searched for my glasses everywhere in the room but could not find them. Then I called the hotel reception and asked them if they knew something about it and their answer was really shocking. They asked me if the room’s window was open and I said yes and then they said: monkey took your glasses. I was like how is this possible? I asked him why did he not inform  me if there was such problem in that area or why did they not screen all the windows but those crazy people had no answer.

Look at this word

Look at this word

I bought some new glasses in Shimla, took the taxi and left Shimla immediately. We just did not feel like staying there even for a few minutes. I just hate Shimla because of the people working in the tourism sector there. They are criminals. But there were a few good things also. There is a place called Mall Road in Shimla which had the cleanest street I had ever seen in all of India. Even vehicles are also prohibited in Mall Road. The architecture was completely British. Attila and his wife Dora told me that Shimla looked exactly like European cities. Especially the architecture of the buildings and the English word they were using in Shimla were complete British.

People also looked different

People also looked different

This always strikes me that although British updated themselves but we still follow all the British things. The buildings were nice but what about their crazy rules that were never updated? We had to come back to Shimla after visiting Manali and Tirthan valley. I left for Chennai to work and Bunti, Babu, Attila and Dora stayed in Shimla for two more nights because they wanted to see nearby places. Attila looked for some hotels in lonely planet and we found a really nice and honest hotel in Shimla called Hotel White. The location was just awesome, it being hardly 2 minutes from the Mall Road. We asked our driver to take us to the Hotel White but he did not know about this hotel. We asked a few locals and somehow reached the hotel.

View of Shimla from the Hotel White

View of Shimla from the Hotel White

This was the first hotel we had been in whole Shimla that had mentioned all of their rates clearly on a board near the reception. I always try to get a discount in hotels by showing my tour guide ID card and did the same with this hotel also but they did not give me any discount but I was happy that at least I was not over charged. I asked them why not many people knew about their hotel and they said that since they do not give any commission to the drivers or travel agents, nobody knows them. I felt like staying for some time in Shimla after finding this hotel but unfortunately I had to leave because of my work in Chennai. I would like to go to Shimla again and stay at Hotel White in Lakkad Bazaar and explore the town.

Rabbit Hole Day 2009

Okay, so today I am going to celebrate The Rabbit Hole Day by writing a post about a matter which I have not used ever. I did not know about this festival. Lane wrote me a mail today explaining about this festival and I thought that I should also celebrate it.I chosenthe monkeys of Mathura city to celebrate this festival. Mathura is the birth place of Krishna and one of the most important holy cities for Hindus. This city is a big attraction for India and foreign tourists. I have been to Mathura four times. I went there first time when I was ten years old and my last trip was four years ago.

This city has huge number of very very smart monkeys. I think they have more monkeys than Benares. Once I was in Mathura with my mother and we were going to some temple through very narrow alleys. I was watching the people, the old houses, the color, the culture, the religion… It was awesome. At the same time someone stopped us and said that we should not carry anything in our hands and take the glasses out because sometimes monkeys can take the stuffs you are having in your hands or just take your glasses and ran away.

I thought that maybe monkeys can catch the things from my hand but why they would like to take my glasses so never took my glasses off. My mother had a purse which she hided but she also did not take her glasses off. We started walking and again somebody told us the same story. Again we did not take it seriously. I think four-five people had told us the same story. They were concerned about our glasses but I never wanted to go blind without my glasses so I did not listen them.

After walking for few minutes my mother shouted- Oh! My Glasses. By the time I turned back and could understand anything, a monkey had taken my mother’s glasses and now he was sitting on a tree. Both of us were laughing and watching this monkey. We had never expected something like that. There are lots of monkeys in my city city also but they never do anything like this. I went under the tree and I was telling monkey to return the glasses but he did not want to return it. He was trying to wear it.

After few minutes a guy came to us and asked if we would like to get the glasses back and obviously we said yes. He said that if we pay him Rs. 100 then he would get the glasses back from the monkey. We asked how would he get the glasses back but he did not want to leak the secret. He said- you just give me money and I will get your glasses back. I bargained with him, as we usually do in Indian market, and agreed with a amount of Rs. 25. I gave him Rs. 25 and he went to a nearby shop and bought garbanzo worth Rs. 2.

I had noticed that monkey was kept watching him. It looked like everything was already planned. He brought the garbanzo and threw it on the tree. The monkey was so smart. He put the glasses safely on a branch of the tree and then caughtthe garbanzo packet. After getting the garbanzo packet, the monkey threw the glasses to this guy but unfortunately he could not catch it and the glasses fell down on the ground and broke. This guy said sorry to us. He said that he tried his best but it did not work. We started walking again towards the temple but now I had taken my glasses off.

We thought to get the glasses repaired and started asking the locals about a glasses shop. When we asked a person he immediately asked us if the monkey had broke our glasses and I said yes. I asked him how did he know about it and he said that there were lots of people who had trained monkeys to do it. I was shocked to hear it. He said that their monkeys always look for people carrying something and then take their stuffs and run away and the owner comes and make deal with the person who lost his stuffs.

We could not get the glasses repaired and my mother had to watch Mathura without her glasses which was very important to her, maybe I can say that her glasses are her eyes. Monkeys are given respect in Hindu society because they belong to the God Hanuman. Baby Hanuman was very naughty. Once Hanuman had swallowed the sun thinking that it was a red fruit. He would also disturb people for fun so maybe these naughty activities are impact of Hanuman:) Anyway whatever it is but I enjoyed whatever happened with us. There was some problem to my mother but its okay, she also enjoyed it. We still talk about it and laugh. HAPPY RABBIT HOLE DAY.