Myles Harrington

Posts Tagged ‘Shimla’

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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