2006-10-10 : Wanderin through Shimla
So the question on everyone's lips is, “What's it like in Shimla, Jason ?”. Well I'll tell, shall I ?
This place is fricken' great – admittedly this is my first time in a non-Westernised country, so a lot of the stuff which seasoned travellers regard as pretty standard is still wiggin' me out to a fair extent. First thing that hits you is that it's NOT LONDON ! The place is nestled in the mountains in amongst a foresty-jungley environment, so I'm not getting that weirded out feeling where you're not surrounded by tall things. I could probably explain that better. In London I've come to take it for granted that buildings are about a certain height, and packed in pretty close, so if you look in any given direction you're likely to see a certain amount of sky. Adelaide freaks me out a little when I first get there because the buildings are lower and there's gaps in between them – more sky. Shimla, having a mass of tall trees mostly amongst it, doesn't have that sky area surplus thing, apart from the downhill side, but that's OK because we call that a “view”.
There seem to be a lot of people concentrated in a fairly small area, but it's pretty easy because the main road that we use is called The Mall, and is pedestrian only (aside from ambulance, police, fire, and local govt. officials who can't be arsed walking).
My hotel's not what you'd call 5 star, but then I did spring for the basic package. Compared to my expectations after the night in Delhi I've got to say I'm pretty damn happy with this room – communicating with the staff's kinda funny… I spent a few minutes yesterday trying to bring to the guy's attention that there was a mouse running around in my room the night before (sometimes hoteliers like to know these things), and after crossing the language-mime barrier he laughed and reassured me that this animal is not dangerous. There's a relief then – not going to be carried off in my sleep by a Himalayan Hotel Mouse. The stairs to get up here are about 400m straight up, so if anything hopefully I'll have to buy some smaller t-shirts when I leave.
I know it's a bit old hat, but as any fan of www.engrish.com will tell you, the mistranslation thing never gets old.
It seems like education's quite a big market here – aside from the IT course there's a few schools about the place, as well as language schools, and a place suspiciously titled The MANSA Institute… Hmm, perhaps I'll start a software company called Macrosoft…
The town was founded as a British Colonial outpost, before being converted into the Summer Capital of India (because it was just too damn hot down on the plains for those Brits in their army uniforms), so there's loads of leftover architecture from this time. One of the central fixtures of the town is Christchurch, which is in a similar (if far less ornamental) style to Westminster Abbey, however pleasingly these days it has been painted canary yellow.
And there's bloody monkeys everywhere.
Right, got to dash – more later ! Photos are in the gallery.