Myles Harrington

Posts Tagged ‘drinking’

The Raj Town of Shimla and Very English Wine and Beer

In India on April 20, 2010 at 1:46 pm

The first thing i have noticed since being in the new state of Himachal Pradesh is how much more liberal they are compared to the last state I was in; Uttarakhand. It surprised me how divided India is into the states, I didn’t realise that they were but I suppose when you think about it they are the same size as countries in their own right. I noticed how liberal they were as soon as we crossed the border and the guards were joking about us going to smoke in Shimla. We then stopped for a chai at 3am at a roadside house/restaurant and the brother who lived/worked there showed us some hash; I am not sure whether we were meant to be impressed, shocked, jealous or buying but it gave us a homely impression of our destination for the next 10 or so days.

It’s strange how in Shimla it is illegal to smoke in public places but there are numerous beer shops all of which are called English Beer Shop, English Wine Shop or English Wine and Beer Shop. It’s good to see that England’s reputation as the drinking capital of the world is still going strong. This trend of naming alcohol shops with English as a prefix continued all along the Shimla-Menali High road and every village had their own English Shop selling fine plastic bottled whiskies at Rs. 120 (£1.75) for a litre! It’s a tough choice whether to buy Kingfishers at a pound a pop or a go for a bottle of Officer’s Choice and a party pack of Coke.

After a heavy night on the Kingfishers and whisky it was time for us to explore the treasures of Shimla. The town itself is constantly referred to in literature as looking very traditionally English. I would say they are definitely overstating the beauty of my home country. Shimla looks more like how you’d imagine an Alpine outpost to look. Lots of faux wood and fir trees.

The English style church in the Alpine style Shimla

The first and pretty much stop on the tourist trail was the Viceregal Lodge on the outskirts of town with its botanical gardens. This time the architecture was in a Scottish style and the building lived up to its reputation. The grand country house has an amazing history and even has the same wallpaper as it did 122 years ago. Probably the most interesting point that was described by the tour guide was how they created crevasses in the walls when they built the building to house electricity even though there wasn’t yet electricity in the state and they even installed a sophisticated sprinkler system that used nitrous oxide.

We are now in Mandi, further north for one night in a town that was described by Lonely Planet as definitely not touristy. There are a few nice temples and a bizarre underground bazaar but that’s about all. Only one night here and then onto the very touristy Menali for some good whisky fuelled times and extreme sports.

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A Rundown and Famous Ashram In The Forest

In India on April 16, 2010 at 1:33 pm

After a lazy couple of days with not much worthwhile writing about we (I am still hanging out with the Swedish bunch mentioned in my last post) decided to do something with the day. It was either a trip back to the beach on the Ganges for some swimming or to visit the famous Maharishi Mahesh Yogi Ashram made so by the Beatle’s visit in 1968.

After bribing the guard, or perhaps he is a very lazy and stroppy owner, and his spiritual accomplish with 50 rupees per person (quite pricey at 73p; my breakfast cost the same) we clambered up the steep incline and past the meditation huts through some of the 2km grounds to the now derelict ashram. It was a very interesting place with shards of broken glass everywhere and crumbling brickwork. Every building is open to walk around and there is a cool painting featuring Beatles imagery in one of the bedrooms that was painted by an unknown German artist. Even if the Beatles hadn’t blessed the haloed grounds of the ashram it would still be a cool place to explore.

The ant hill like huts where John more than likely 'meditated' with Yoko

According to Wikipedia the Beatles “ate three vegetarian meals daily, and had wide-ranging conversations”, it sounds exactly like my time here except finally last night after a week of abstinence from booze we finally managed to get our hands on some beers! Exciting times. We drank the one restaurant that serves them in town dry, a poultry two cans each of my least favourite alcohol Fosters. We were just getting into the swing of things when we ran out so three of the Swedes went on a booze hunt and managed to get lucky with a delicious bottle of Indian vodka called Magic Moments that we got delivered by courier for an eye watering 1500 rupees. The drink is so good that the label features a swimmer drinking the fine spirit (with grain imported from France no less) while swimming. Notice the intricately carved guitar silhouette too. Classy stuff.

India's best. Served with Limca for a jolly good time