Our Shimmy in Shimla

We awake the next morning to monkeys rattling the metal grids in front of the hotel room. We’ve had a good rest and walk the main street, the Mall, which is a pedestrian only zone. As we window shop for a place that looks like it’ll serve a decent breakfast I notice some signboards painted on to the great retaining walls in the mountain, that Shimla was in 2010 declared a smoke free zone and smoking in public places (including the street) gets you a fine of 200INR. Unbelievable – in India! However unusual, I think it is a good thing after all, because no doubt all those cigarette ends would otherwise end up directly on the floor, and the natural beauty of this area is worth preserving.

We have breakfast in a small cafe/cake shop, which also has a library of Krishnamurti books for sale. It’s a nice clean place run by an Indian chap in his fifties I guess. The walls are covered in pages quitting various statements from Krishnamurti. We order an omlet and some cheese buns and I get into a conversation about the books.

The man is an absolute Krishnamurti fanatic and the conversation (mainly his) is very interesting. I have, for example, learnt that Krishnamurti is not something to do with a deity, but a man not long deceased, who was apparently a very profound thinker. After breakfast Ebru reads out some pages from one of the books. He has some very worthwhile things to say. It sounds like his teachings/thoughts are very much in line with those of the Buddha. Sounds like an interesting fellow to read up on so I take down the name.

After breakfast we take a walk up the steep path to the monkey temple, a huge orange concrete sculputre of the Monkey God Hanuman with adjacent temple site. Not surprisingly, along the whole upper path and all around the temple it it teaming with monkeys. Apparently they are very notorious for stealing things like shawls and especially sunglasses, and in few cases even aggressive. So we put our sunglasses away and walk with stick in hand to ward them off if they look like they want to approach. We spend an hour or so viewing the temple site and head for town to visit the old bazaar.

The old bazaar is on the smaller streets below the Mall. Narrow, uneven, crowded and lined with shops selling everything you can imagine. (Except good biking waterproofs) 😉 We take some photos and investigate some interesting spice and vegetable stands and start looking for a place to eat at sunset.

We find a small Indian style food kitchen on a cliff-edge which looks quite authentic so I go in and have a look at what they’ve got going in their pots. It looks good and we settle in for dark lentil, bean stew, chickpeas, chapati bread and radish-carrot-cucumber salad. The cooks, a team of 4, some North Indian-, some more Nepali- / Tibetan-looking, are very characterful and look like they definitely belong here. They’re full of smiles and take their work seriously, swinging about their large clunky ladels and cleavers. The one who is serving us is also very friendly and humorous. The meal is delicious.

As the cherry on top we want to finish off with a drink. The first bar we enter doesn’t want to serve us at first and then allows one drink, but we may not sit on the outside roof terrace like the other guests. Naturally we leave the place in search of something better. We manage to find a bar recommended in the Rough Guide. It reminds me of what an old English Raj Officer’s bar might have been like: bar with bar-stools, ornamented ceiling, ornamented lamp shades, painted walls with mirrors, fans, low round tables with plush upholstered chairs and a small window viewing to the valley. The place is small, there are two younger Indian men eating a snack and getting drunk in the one corner, an older Indian man sitting by himself having peanuts with whisky-soda and tapping his finger on the table surface whenever he wants a refill, and three waiters behind the bar. We enjoy a few whisky-cokes and then retire.