My Wife is from pune and she has seen very few places in north India, so I decided to take her to Shimla on our first anniversary. This trip was exciting since beginning. Our train (Howrah – Kalka express) was supposed to arrive Delhi at 2045 hrs. on 20 Nov but my wife was denied leave from office for that day. So I went to Noida to pick her up at 1900 hrs. and we reached home 1930 hrs. Meanwhile she was having dinner I went to hire auto for old Delhi railway station, I was lucky to get auto soon. The autowala was Michael Schumacher he drove fast but safely and we reached station at 2035 hrs.
The moment we reached station we got to know that the train was 1 hr 55 mins late which made my wife very furious. Thank god they have Mc Donald’s at Old Delhi station which helped me in cooling her down. We spoke to other people who were supposed to travel with us in the same train. These people told us that the train was supposed to reach Kalka at 0430 will now reach at 0530. I asked them about the toy train that was suppose to leave Kalka at 0510… what about that? They told me that I am going to miss that train as this train is already late.
After hearing this I looked at my wife with a smile but she was not carrying the same expression. To cross check this information I went to Station master and he assured us that we will not miss the toy train as toy train leave Kalka station 30 mins after arrival of Howrah Express at Kalka. Then the funny thing happened… while I was going to sleep something fell from my pocket, when I looked carefully I found that it was Ghukamkkar sticker. I forgot to stick that on my bag (hahahahah). I pulled out my bag out did what was required, while doing this my wife furiously stared at me.
We reached Kalka at 0530hrs and found that our toy train was there, that brought smiles to our faces. I have been to Shimla before but this was my first time on toy train. Just for your information I would like to tell you that there are 3 types of toy trains that run from Kalka to Shimla. Best one is Shivalik Deluxe Express this is the fastest train it takes 5 hrs. to reach Shimla. Tickets cost around Rs 280, it includes food and is a chair car. This is express train so it has only one stop at Solan. The second best is Himalayan Queen, its takes 6 hrs. 30 mins. Ticket is around Rs 170, it doesn’t include any food and there are 4 stops. The seats are like normal trains. Last one is local train, I don’t know how much time it takes but the ticket is close to Rs 60 and it stops on almost all the stations. It is like a local train or a shuttle and is lifeline of the local people, you will find people travelling in huge number in these trains.
While traveling in these trains you will see the beauty of the hills. The train passes from valleys, bridges and tunnels. The best time to travel in these trains is either at sunrise or sunset (Only Shivalik express runs at these times). The moment the train stops, people get off and start clicking pictures of the train or the natural beauty around. Most common pose is of people standing on the engine and getting clicked. If you have not booked the hotel of the car, you can talk to the pantry boy in the train and he can arrange it for you according to your needs (never tried it though).
We reached Shimla at 1100 hrs. and hired a cab from the station to our hotel “Quality Inn- Himdev”. This hotel is 4 kms. away from mall road. The worst part of Shimla is taxi fare, hotels don’t provide pickup and drop facility. There is a transport union that rules. So for 2-4 kms you will end up paying Rs 250- Rs 300. The taxiwala took Rs 200 from station to hotel. We inquired him about the charges for the site seeing, finally he agreed on Rs 2500 for 2 days and drop to Station on the last day in Shimla. We reached hotel and took rest in evening we went to mall road. This is not a peak season so the shop closes around 8 in the evening. There are 2 lifts that are installed so that you can travel from taxi stand to Mall Road, so it’s just Rs 8 per person for one way travel.
The Mall road is the main shopping area of Shimla. The road is divided into 3 parts. The top most Road is the mall road where you will find most of the visitors, most of the shops here are branded like levis and woodland stores. You will find several stairs that runs downwards to the local market this is the real market where you will find local shopkeepers selling woollen and there are various small restaurants that sells tasty food. We bought few gloves and warm ladies suits, they really got good stuff. On mall road you will find a Municipal Corporation office and a church, they catches your eye due to their structure. We sent whole evening shopping, eating momos/ice-cream and enjoying the cool weather. Our day ended with a small celebration of our first anniversary by having candle light dinner.
Next morning we started our journey at 9 am. Our first stop was “The Green Valley”. This is the most beautiful valley in Shimla, as it is covered with trees. This was on our way to Kufri. You will find people stopping their vehicles there just to click the beauty of nature. It is one of the most clicked places in Himachal. After traveling for like 20-30 mins we reached Kufri. The best indication of you reaching Kufri is the smell of horses. The moment you reach Kufri you will find lots of horses.
The Horsewala will charge you Rs. 250 for a half ride and Rs. 380 for a full ride. Full ride is just waste of money, I suggest you to take the other one. There is no other way to reach the tourist point, the horse ride of 10-15 mins… it can be less but the ride is amazing. There is no pakka road which makes the horse ride bumpy and the situation becomes worse when you see the horses running towards you from the other side. The panchayat of Kufri will charge you Rs 10 per head just before you enter the tourist point.
If there is no snow then then Kufri can be disappointing for you as there is nothing to visit except the Nag Devta Mandir. Kufri is like an open ground where you have yaks standing, you can sit on those yaks and get yourself photographed. There are several vendors renting traditional Himachal clothes for photograph. There is a telescope point which shows you 10 points including the Chanchar House (3 idots). We enjoyed everything but the best part was having Maggie in the cold weather.
After Kufri, we went to Jakhu Temple. This is located on Jakhu Hill. In Ramayana when Lord Hanuman came to Himalaya in search of Sanjeevni, he thought of taking rest. It is said that the moment he stepped on this hill, half of the hill went into the earth. You can see the foot marks of Lord Hanuman in the room behind the main temple. The major attraction of the temple is the statue of Lord Hanuman, which is 108 feet tall. Jakhu Temple is located on one of the highest hill in Shimla because of this the statue can be seen from anywhere in Shimla. This temple is like a kingdom of monkeys. They are at their notorious best. There is a pakodewala in the temple that sells amazing pakodas. After spending 30 mins in the temple we went to Mall road and called the day off.
Next morning we visited Sankat Mochan Temple. This Temple is located in valley surrounded by beautiful hills. The temperature keeps dropping as you go lower and lower. This temple is really very beautiful and quiet. It is surrounded by Lord Ganesh Temple and Lord Shiva Temple.
The statues in the temple are very beautiful and you won’t find any monkeys here. We spent close to 30-40 mins here and were in no mood to leave the place. From Sankat Mochan Temple, Tara Devi is 20-25 mins drive depending on the skill of driver. This includes a steep uphill drive of 3 kms. This is a very quiet temple, you won’t find much crowded here except in Navratra or on special occasions. Height of Tara Devi temple is same as of Jakhu Temple; moreover you can see Jakhu Temple from Tara Devi. Temple has close to 100-150 stairs which are hard to climb for the person having breathing or knee problems. Apart from spiritual interest this place has great scenic beauty. We clicked lots of photographs here. After offering our prayers, we asked our driver to take us to some local restaurant for lunch. He took us to a road side dhaba at Shogi where we had Rajma Chawal , which were very tasty. While coming back to Shimla there is a HRTC Divisional Workshop, it has statute of Vishwakarma in front of it. This statue was created by a worker of the workshop, who was asked to leave the job as he was always drunk. He destroyed many statues before finishing this one.
Our last point of the trip was Institute Of Advance Studies. This monument was built under British rule and served the purpose of Parliament House in summers, as Shimla was summer capital of India. It was at this place where the meetings took place at the time of partition. This is a beautiful architecture and has rain water harvesting plant and firefighting system which is more than 100 years old. The ceiling is made of walnut. You will find the original photographs of the freedom fighters and the first parliament members there. The building is surrounded by beautiful garden. This is where our trip was supposed to end but while going back to hotel, I received a call from my friends who informed me that they are also in Shimla and wanted to meet me. I and my wife went to their hotel room where we had loads of fun and returned to hotel. Next morning I requested the hotel manager to let us stay for couple of hrs. more and can charge on hourly basis but he refused as the booking was full so we left the hotel at 12 noon and reached station. We had lot of time as the schedule time for train was 05:30 pm.
We were almost wasting our time at railway station when a railway employee asked us to visit a railway museum nearby. He asked us to walk alongside the railway tracks and the track will lead us to the museum. After walking for like 15-20 mins we reached there. It was a very small museum and the ticket was costing Rs 10 only. The visit to the museum was very informative as it had all the tools, crockery and other equipment that were used under British rule. We reached the station on time and boarded the toy train. This time it was sunset view that we witnessed. We were sad as our vacation was nearing its end. But to summarize, it was a great and economic trip and we had a lots of memories to cherish.