Charm amongst the Chaos {Shimla}

15th Aug 2014
Photo of Charm amongst the Chaos {Shimla} 1/22 by Sara Suri
View from Hotel Marina
Photo of Charm amongst the Chaos {Shimla} 2/22 by Sara Suri
Photo of Charm amongst the Chaos {Shimla} 3/22 by Sara Suri
Photo of Charm amongst the Chaos {Shimla} 4/22 by Sara Suri
Clarks Hotel
Photo of Charm amongst the Chaos {Shimla} 5/22 by Sara Suri
Photo of Charm amongst the Chaos {Shimla} 6/22 by Sara Suri
View from Hotel Marina
Photo of Charm amongst the Chaos {Shimla} 7/22 by Sara Suri
Clarks Hotel
Photo of Charm amongst the Chaos {Shimla} 8/22 by Sara Suri
Wild Flower Hall
Photo of Charm amongst the Chaos {Shimla} 9/22 by Sara Suri
Wild Flower Hall
Photo of Charm amongst the Chaos {Shimla} 10/22 by Sara Suri
Photo of Charm amongst the Chaos {Shimla} 11/22 by Sara Suri
Photo of Charm amongst the Chaos {Shimla} 12/22 by Sara Suri
Photo of Charm amongst the Chaos {Shimla} 13/22 by Sara Suri
Photo of Charm amongst the Chaos {Shimla} 14/22 by Sara Suri
Breakfast at Hotel Marina
Photo of Charm amongst the Chaos {Shimla} 15/22 by Sara Suri
A meal at Cecil
Photo of Charm amongst the Chaos {Shimla} 16/22 by Sara Suri
Dhabha food en route Shimla and vice versa
Photo of Charm amongst the Chaos {Shimla} 17/22 by Sara Suri
Photo of Charm amongst the Chaos {Shimla} 18/22 by Sara Suri
Photo of Charm amongst the Chaos {Shimla} 19/22 by Sara Suri
Wild Flower Hall
Photo of Charm amongst the Chaos {Shimla} 20/22 by Sara Suri
Photo of Charm amongst the Chaos {Shimla} 21/22 by Sara Suri
Photo of Charm amongst the Chaos {Shimla} 22/22 by Sara Suri


That's the first word that comes to our mind when we think of Shimla
This hill station, over the years has become synonymous with being overpopulated and hence extremely crowded. Often when asked, "so where are you going for a holiday?"  "Shimla", one answers, the expression on the questioner's  face is nothing short of a "WHY?" . Over time, this has simply gotten worse. 
For every facet of any space there is more than  simply one way of looking at it. When it comes to Shimla being one of the most popular hill stations in the country along with holding the title of being the Summer Capital for over hundred years, there is of course one question then comes to my mind: what is it about this city that people still love? That question is precisely what wanted me to visit here over 15 years later. My purpose of visiting Shimla was pretty simple. More than a fun extended weekend getaway ( who doesn't love that?), I wanted to understand what makes this hill station the way it stands today. When we planned this vacation, of course questions were raised, but I was all prepped and nothing was going to change my mind. 
We left Gurgaon at 5 am and journey of course began with food (no surprises here). The first pit stop was Gulshan da Dhabha in Murthal.  Ok, let's pause here for a moment. If you haven't been to Gulshan's, you're truly missing out some of the best paranthas of your life. From paneer, gobi, aloo to mixed veg,  this Dhabha has it all {with a couple of gallops of butter to make everything even better}. We ordered the Gobi  paranthas and trust me, I still have the flavour entrenched in my taste buds. Before we knew it, we were on the new Ambala-Chandigarh expressway and reached Shimla no time. We managed to and check into the hotel by 2 pm and to my pleasant surprise, there was no scarcity of pines!
The hotels: When it comes to accommodation, there is absolutely no scarcity of hotels. It really depends on what you're looking for. If Shimla's  mall is just not your cup of tea, I recommend staying a little further away at Wildflower Hall. This Oberoi property is not short of a castle in the hills right out of a fairy tale. On the other hand, if you're the hand if you want to explore the city and absorb it's essence, you have tons of options at this Summer capital. After tons of research, I came across my top three recommendations.
1. The Oberoi Cecil: This property is absolutely stunning. Even though it's located right at the edge of the mall, it's still far away from all the chaos.  Keep in mind: If you are a group of three adults you will HAVE to take 2 rooms. They take this policy extremely seriously. 
2. Hotel Marina. This property is really gorgeous too. Since I wanted to be in the city and we were three adults, we decided to stay here for a night. They were definitely more accommodating when it came to the number of people in a room. The hotel facilities were upto the mark and they had one of the prettiest patios, ever. 
Keep in mind: The price of the hotel is same as Cecil for a normal room {only difference being that they allow 3 adults}. 
3. Sunny Mead: Though I haven't ever stayed in this property and was told about it via a friend, it's definitely on my wish list. It's a little guest house located close to the Viceregal Lodge. Just like any home stay accommodation, this one really capitalizes on it's food, a really cozy homely ambience and two furry pets that stay on the property!
So moving on, since we reached Shimla at a really decent hour we decided to relax in the room for a bit and order in some food rather than venturing out for the first meal. Boy, were we surprised! The food at Marina is really, really good. Their serving size is huge and is well priced too. Truthfully, just couldn't have asked for a better comfort meal. 
The real adventure began when we got out of our room in the evening for the evening walk. Walks in the hills one of my all time favorite things to do. Though I'm more of a beach person, once I'm in the hills, I can't deny that I'm constantly waiting to put my keds on and head out for the day. 
Shimla, in itself has a lot of touristy things to do. The mall of course is the hub and cultural centre of this hill station. With small dhaabhas, cute bakeries and and never ending street vendors, there's something here for everyone.  If roaming around the mall  is not something you would enjoy, then taking a walk towards the viceroy lodge is something you should really consider. 
The food: Shimla has no dirt of places to eat. It just really depends on what you're looking for. Here are some of those "must try's". Since I am not from the city, these are the places that I personally have tried out! Feel free to leave all your favourite eateries in the comments below. 
1. Sher-e Punjab
2. Trishool Bakery 
3.  Marina (Hotel)
4. Cecil (Hotel)
5. Wake and Bake
6. Baljees
7. Combermere
8. Krishna Bakers
 Shimla is one hill station that's absolutely unapologetic in it's true sense as it stands the test of time and holds it's high as a prior summer capital. From young group of friends  waking and enjoying a softy (that was hands down my favorite part. I thought about clicking a picture but the glutton in me finished it before I could think of getting my camera out) to some of the elder citizens greeting each other in the middle of the road and heading to the club. The perks of a small tight knit city, I suppose. 
Whether it may be for a night (what I did) or for a meal, a trip to Shimla is incomplete without exploring the nearby hill stations. My top picks would be the Chalets in Naldehra and as I mentioned earlier- Wildflower Hall which is located en route Mashubra. Since we had already stayed in Naldehra in a previous trip, this time we chose the latter. Wildflower Hall is one hotel which is truly secluded in it's complete sense. Located in a hill, the residents have access to their own tracks to walk barring any hustle bustle and traffic, an acuity room which has a theatre, cards, board games, a bar, lounge, restaurants, heated pool and so on. There's tons to do on that little hull top itself and if nothing else, you always have a good book with a cup of hot chocolate to the rescue. For all those who haven't stayed at this property but have been intending to, i'd say " don't wait! "
With the sights of the cute little toy train, the long walks, fuzzy warm clothes, hot coffee and yummy food, there was nothing more that I could ask for in a short but packed weekend trip. We are more than ever so obsessed with trying to find exclusivity and distance from the city that we miss out it's charm thats omnipresent right in it's core. Maybe it's time to revist the forgotten spaces that remind you of your childhood and experiencing those little things that made you happy.
Notes: Driving to Shimla takes approximately 8 hours.(Depends on the number of stops you make and the time you leave home). You can also go by air ( I personally don't see the point unless you're coming in from other parts of the country and not Delhi/Chandigarh).  Jubarhati, which is about 23 kilometres from the town, is the nearest airport. There are regular flights going from Jubbarhatti to Chandigarh and Delhi. You can easily get a taxi from the airport to get to Shimla or you can ask your hotel to arrange for an airport transfer. Finally, the small railway station in Shimla is just 1 kilometre away from the centre of the town and is connected to Kalka by a narrow gauge rail track. The famous toy train of Shimla goes between Kalka and Shimla, covering a distance of 96 kilometres in about 7 hours. Kalka in turn is the nearest rail head, which is connected to Chandigarh and Delhi by regular trains.
Though there are tons of hotels, Shimla is an extremely popular hillstation and there are chances that rooms are booked off. In winter, people come in for Skiing to Narkhanda (pretty close by from Shimla) so that's a fun option!