20,000 leagues under the sky, 2004- travel blog

Shimla Church


I hate Shimla but I can't stop smiling here, generally it's Clacton-on-Himalaya but today they appear to be auditioning for 'Goodness Gracious Me'. I sat in the Indian Coffee House watching men come in in Cravats, in paisley cardigans, in golfing sweaters and chinos, and best of all a plethora of flat caps. I don't know why I dislike Shimla so much and love Darjeeling, geographically they are very similar except that DJ is surrounded by tea plantations and Shimla by forests. Shimla, which used to be the premiere hill station under the British is better designed, has wider roads, cleaner streets and less traffic which is banned from the centre but it's an awful place. Maybe the cost factor comes into it, everything here is hideously overpriced for India, my room is costing double what I pay in Delhi and triple what I paid in Darjeeling, the taxi up from the train station cost Rs400 and no chance of bargaining as it's mafia controlled, the longer trip to DJ is less than Rs100.

At least I'm only using it as an overnight stop on route to Leh, tomorrow a town I hate even more, the Israeli capital in India, Manali. On the bright side the trip here was an easy four hours by Shatabdi express ('the fastest train in all of Asia' as a booking clerk once said to me conveniently ignoring Japan and China) and I did get the front seat in the taxi. On an even brighter note I have got cable tv for my money and plan on breaking my week long alcohol abstinence watching some Euro 2008 football tonight. Shimla was the first place in India outside of Delhi that I visited way back in 1990 and I remember watching England vs Cameroon nursing my first ever dose of Delhi belly, ahh, the memories.

Would you believe it, 60+ channels on the cable TV, all but two of them with good reception, the football was on ESPN one of the two unwatchable channels, it was like trying to watch ghosts play football in fog through a steamed up bathroom window.

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