We were booked for a 4 night stay at the famous Wildflower Hall luxury resort at Mashobra some 15 kms away from Simla. So we flew into Chandigarh and had a hotel car waiting to drive us the 135 kms to Mashobra. This was the most awful drive I have ever experienced in my life. The roads were bad, the traffic heavy with one lane and no dual carriageway for most of the way. You had to climb from sea level to some 8500 feet and the uphill stretches were long. We were stuck behind wheezing asthmatic trucks for eons. The scenery was awful. Just stretches of denuded hills with rashes of the ugliest construction. Ugly, dirty, unregulated. The mobile phone companies have literally carpet bombed the area. All shops had mobile phone branding. I have not seen as many men urinating alongside the roads as I did. The ugliness of Simla is beyond belief. After 5 agonising hours we reached our hotel.
The hotel is a tower block which reminded me of the old war film `Where Eagles Dare’. I imagined evil Nazi Colonels walking around in Jackboots. Instead we got scores of waiters dressed in bizarre outfits which were designed to portray Himachali culture I assume. I don’t understand the need to dress waiters in such ridiculous costumes in such incongruous surroundings. Being served Eggs Benedict and Croque Madame by a man in a funny suit is not my idea of Himachali culture. But then again, I am a washed up lawyer not an hotelier.
The hotel was nice. Being the only hotel in 15 kms they had you as a victim. They could charge you anything and you had no choice in the matter. A Club Sandwich was an eye watering Rs 795/- a Chilli Cheese Toast was a numbing Rs 650/- I mean this is Simla not Monaco!! By the same token a 650 ml bottle of beer was bizarrely priced at a super cheap Rs 350/- and a small Isle of Jura at Rs 300/-.
You could, in theory, go mountain biking or white water rafting. The catch being you had to hire a hotel car and drive to do this. Hire of a car was obviously at a rapacious price. We had no intention of doing so. So we went on walks since fresh air was free. One walk was barely pleasant, the other was good. We spent our time reading, watching the Cricket World Cup on TV and attending a fruit and flower wine tasting [yes no wines made with grapes just fruits and flowers, all of them ghastly]. We were bored to tears. Then we said enough is enough. We can do all this at home.
We changed our flights, got into the car and fled after 2 nights. The hotel was not at fault. It was my decision to do this. I should have expected this.
As far as the food is concerned, we had a good Bengali meal. Yes. Bengali. The chefs were Bengali and recommended Kosha Mangsho. This was good and spiced, unusually, with Panch Pohoran and not the usual garam masala. Breakfast was Eggs Benedict and Croque Madame. The other dinner was Buffalo Mozzarella and tomato sandwich for Arti and a dahi kadhi with cauliflower for me. Surreal, weird, unreal. Of course all this was served by the aforementioned waiters in costume.
My advise, all unsolicited:
- Don’t go to any place in India where you have anything more than a 60 minute drive after a flight.
- Don’t travel in India for holiday You get much much more bang for your buck travelling to a Dubai, Thailand, Sri Lanka Malaysia or even Singapore.
- You get much better food outside India.