Somehow hill stations have always held a charm for me. I have always felt it would be so wonderful working or studying at a hill station. The air, the atmosphere, and the views – I find all of them quite elevating literally and figuratively. In the olden times, the popular destinations were Ooty and Kodaikanal for the South Indians and Simla and Manali for the North Indians. In the recent times however these places are considered very commercial and touristy. So among the more affluent circles, read IT crowd, these locations have become down market. They seek more exotic locations. But the irony is people want the places to be not commercial and yet have all the facilities. Either you can have pristine untouched places where you need to backpack to and use the existing facilities. Or go to the more commercial places where you have proper resorts with designer rooms, good food and internet connection. One can’t have the best of both worlds unless you are a cricket player, film star or a politician.
Anyways in spite of the run of the mill place reputation, having never been to Simla, I thought we might as well give it a try. At the outset I must say I actually liked the place. Maybe it was the season we visited. There were hardly any crowds, the place was clean and we had a good time overall. The general hill air, the colonial style buildings and the novelty of a city with multiple levels add quite some charm to the place. I know some people like to have a list of places to visit while on a vacation and with a missionary vigor cover all the places, religiously ticking off the places from the list. But I prefer just landing up at a new place and loitering around aimlessly. The pictures of all the famous places are anyways available on the internet. One can browse them in the comfort of one’s home itself. It is the general atmosphere of a place that one cannot take in over the internet.
We did do some of the regular sightseeing as well. Just that in terms of priorities, it is more fun just loitering around than have a strict schedule and trying to cover a host of places. The things we did were the local bus tour, the climb to the Hanuman temple and a day’s stay at the Oberoi’s Wild Flower Hall. The train trip from Kalka to Simla was also supposedly an attraction. The numerous tunnels on the way were a novelty and some of the views were good. There were some college kids on the train having good fun and there were some couples struggling with small kids. I looked longingly at the former as the past that I had left behind and with apprehension at the later as the fate that awaited me in the near future.