As soon as we got off the Himalayan Queen in Shimla at about 6pm, a porter was right there ready to carry our bags up the steep hill to the taxi stand. When we told the taxi driver that we were staying at the Hotel Dreamland, a young man appeared and asked if he could ride up with us since he worked there. We agreed, and had a pleasant chat with him on the unexpectedly long ride to the hotel. Although it was only about 1km as the crow flies, it took over half an hour to get there, between all the switchbacks and the fact that we had to go around the back side of town because the main section of town is pedestrian-only.

When we got there, the room was disappointing: gloomy and musty-smelling, and not very clean. The bathroom was up a step from the rest of the room, and the door jamb was so low we kept smacking our heads. The room was also freezing. We went down to the desk to ask for a heater, and then had to haggle over an extra charge for it when it should have been included in our “super deluxe” room rate. The restaurant in the hotel was closed, so we had to venture out for food. This would have been fine if I hadn’t been starving, freezing cold, and exhausted. I was desperate for some food right away, so we ended up going to the Le Royale hotel two doors up the hill and eating at their restaurant. We were the only ones there, but both the food and the service were great. We particularly liked the stuffed vegetarian kofta in a creamy green spinach sauce, and I’ve been trying to find a recipe to replicate it at home.

After the meal and a nice cup of chai, I felt much restored, and we headed back to our room. We stopped to chat with the friendly fellow who rode up with us, and (sadly) realized that he was really just trying to sell us on a tour package to Kashmir. We politely declined and went up to our room to get ready for bed. The first thing we did was plug in the space heater to warm up the room. It immediately started emitting a smell of dead fish, and not recently dead ones either. We were seriously tempted to change hotels at this point, but decided it was too much hassle, and we’d just go to sleep and see how we felt in the morning.

We had no particular agenda in Shimla, so we turned off our alarms and slept in until about 10:30. We had another round of hotel trauma while trying to shower and get ready to head out. The hot water geyser hardly produced any warm water even after heating up for a while, and there wasn’t enough pressure for the water to come out of the shower head at more than a trickle anyway. The geyser itself was wired directly into the wall socket, with no plug, and there were scorch marks all around the connection. The prospect of a cold shower just about drove Dan over the edge, but I dragged the space heater closer to the bathroom door, and he resorted to a tepid bucket bath. We decided not to stay at the hotel for breakfast, and headed out to see the town.

Although it had a less than wonderful start, once we got out and about, we really had a good time in Shimla that day. From my advance reading, I had not been expecting a whole lot from the town itself, and we were really just there because of the Himalayan Queen ride. What we found was a very laid back, friendly place that sees a lot of Indian tourists, but relatively few Western ones. The main part of town, the Mall, the ridge, and the upper and lower bazaars, are pedestrian-only, so it was a nice place to just wander around, eat and take photos.

We spent the day making a lazy circle through town, first walking down the Lakkar Bazaar and back, then along to the the central plaza where Christ Church is, then down the Mall and into the Lower Bazaar and Subzi Mandi section.