Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Your travel playlist

There’s music that makes you want to strum a guitar and there’s music that makes you want to sit quietly on a beach. Different destinations evoke different emotions. So, I thought of pairing various destinations with their ideal musical companion. Oh, and while you’re travelling, don’t forget to dig into the local cuisine; I've left some hints:

Road trips – Lucky Ali
Whether you plan to take a rickety bus ride or choose to drive by the Konkan coast, Lucky Ali’s music will be an able companion. His soulful melodies and soothing voice are sure to prompt some humming and swaying in your seat. You’d probably attempt at sounding like him, which you probably won’t, but you’ll enjoy it anyway. His music has a subtle rustic charm that is also infused in his videos. Songs like Anjaani Rahon Mein and Kitni Haseen Zindagi synchronise perfectly when driving on endless, tree-lined roads or even barren desert lands.

Must-try food: Tapri chai. You will find the best at the inconspicuous tea stalls by the highways. Aromatic, fulfilling, refreshing and quick, tea is an ideal road trip drink. 

It is probably a sheer coincidence that a majority of song titles by Coldplay symbolise living in the mountains. Don’t Panic (when the roads at a height of 3,000m start getting narrower), Parachutes (in case fall off a cliff), Careful Where You Stand (not too close to the edge of a cliff that has a 2,000 feet drop), Shiver (more like freeze even after wearing five layers of warm clothing), High Speed (something you probably want to focus on avoiding when taming rock-cut mountain roads), Warning Sign (you’ll see a LOT of those throughout HP)—completes a trip to HP, doesn’t it?

The thing with Coldplay’s music is that is reaches out to us on many different levels. Some songs incite incessant foot-tapping and head bopping, some others work as temporary painkillers and anti-depressants, whereas some ignite our thought process at a depth we didn’t know we had (probably the peace you sought out from the holiday).

Must-try food: Rajma chawal. One of the yummiest meals you’ll find up north, it is available at every restaurant/dhaba in HP.

Pushkar - Pink Floyd
This hippie town is most popular for things it probably shouldn’t be, such as certain intoxicating elements. It attracts a large number of foreign tourists owing to its spiritual nature that seems to originate from the revered Brahma temple.
It is the most peaceful feeling to look at the still waters of the Pushkar lake as you listen to the beginning of Pink Floyd’s Coming back to life. As the night proceeds one becomes more and more Comfortably Numb. The entire place has happy melancholic vibrations that resonate with each and every note of every song of Pink Floyd. Their music is expressive and the lyrics moving; every song tells you a story. Gradually, the music and the place entwine, taking you to a magical place caught in a time wrap, from where it is difficult to return. Pink Floyd in Pushkar is a state of mind.

Must-try food: Bhang lassi is the most famous drink here, although not entirely legal. Also try the local street food platter of pakodas, kadi and malpua.

Goa Jack Johnson
The first few visions to appear when Goa falls on anyone’s radar are: A sprawling beach, a sun deck chair, a cocktail—with that little umbrella on top—in one hand and someone playing songs on his guitar, as background score. Oh, that gets me to Jack Johnson. His sing-a-long songs paired with the sounds of his skilful guitar, his look (loose shirt and three-fourth pants) and his love for beaches and surfing—let’s face it, they’re all attributes of a Goan! And almost every Goan knows how to play the guitar; well, if anyone doesn’t, hell hath fury upon him!

Must-try food: Feni, pork sausages, chicken xacuti…it’s a long list!     

Friday, 25 June 2010

A dessert trail in Mumbai

"Life is uncertain. Eat dessert first."—Ernestine Ulmer
I couldn't agree more and I'm sure many of you would too. The ones in denial are sure to change their stance once they read this post...trust me *devious grin appears*.
Drawn by my love for desserts, I chose to go on a dessert trail in Mumbai. After several happy, finger-licking, mouth-watering dessert trials, here are my findings. So grab your spoon and prepare your taste buds like the Volkswagen Beetle commercials say "Curves are back!"

You enter a patisserie. You see a row of delicious desserts. You feel lost, it’s like Sophie’s Choice; you don’t know which one to pick. You finally make your selection: Gooey Chocolate. You take your first bite. The warmth of the chocolate icing laces your tongue, melting with innocent non-chalance, as the fluffy cake wobbles inside your mouth while grabbing your taste buds into a dream delight. Such is the joy of desserts.
The emergence of innumerable cafes in Mumbai—coffee being the latest excuse for a late night revelry—what may have been introduced as an accompaniment to the refreshing cuppa, desserts have attracted city goers on their own merit. Creamy pastries, flavoured cheescakes, brownies, mousse cakes, fruit pies and tarts are just a few of the desserts that have made an impact on sweet lovers. We picked a few of the best places in Mumbai to enjoy a delectable dessert.

Theobroma, Colaba-Bandra
One of the most popular dessert places in Mumbai, Theobroma’s humble beginning was inspired by the Messman family’s passion to prepare exotic desserts. With a name that literally means ‘Food of the Gods’ in Greek, it isn’t a surprise to find people of every age flooding the eatery for their sweet fix. 
Must-try: Millionaire brownie, brownie with a soft caramel centre and truffle chocolate; Tiered Temptation, a chocolate mousse with an addictive orange flavour, to name a few.

Tiered Temptation - my favourite!

Millionaire brownie - CAUTION: extremely delicious.

Moshe's, Cuff Parade-Kemps Corner
The warm, yet vibrant ambience of Café Moshe is enough to draw you in. But their desserts will make you stay. Chef Moshe Shek reveals their most popular dessert, “It’s the moist coffee and chocolate pie served warm with vanilla ice cream. Its inception was the result of several dessert aficionados’ love for coffee and chocolate. It was also the reason for adding a dose of pure espresso coffee to give this dessert a bigger caffeine rush along with the hedonistic effect of dark chocolate.”
Must-try: The yummy Gooey Chocolate and Blueberry Cheescake are eternal favourites here.

 Blueberry Cheesecake

 Gooey Chocolate 
Café Basilico, Colaba-Bandra
This European style bistro and deli draws people in with its warm-coloured interiors juxtaposed with a dark wood exterior. Along with mouth-watering multi-cuisine fare, Basilico also has a wide selection of desserts to satisfy your sweet cravings. As I chatted with Abdul Tawab Ansari, Basilico’s pastry chef, about our shared passion of desserts, he admitted, “I think of desserts all the time! I experiment with various ingredients to prepare a new dessert every fortnight.”
Must-try: Blueberry Cheesecake prepared with homemade blueberry jam and mascarpone cheese with a cookie base, and Chocolate Ecstasy—a rich mousse with a coffee flavour and a brownie base. 

 Chocolate Ecstasy 

 Blueberry Cheesecake

HangOut, Andheri-Malad-Kandivili-Vile Parle
Its inviting mauve-coloured walls often remind one of Monica’s apartment in the popular sitcom Friends. While digging into one of their freshly-made desserts transported me to a delicious sweet haven, I tried to stay grounded whilst exploring the source of inspiration. “I’m simply spontaneous when it comes to creating new desserts. I experiment with various flavours, some common, some vague,” quips Saroj Samtani, chef and director of HangOut.
Must-try: Sinful, a brownie base layered with chocolate mousse with a light flavor of whiskey, and Strawberry Chocolate cake, a season special.

Truly sinful

Brownie Point, Bandra
The first thing that hits you as soon you enter their outlet is a delicate chocolate aroma that tickles your taste buds. Soon after, the variety on display puts you into a fix, leaving you completely confused when making a selection. Manish Khanna, the chef, charms me with his passion and enthusiasm for desserts. He travels frequently and finds new ways to innovate and create new desserts every week. All the desserts here are made from ingredients that have low fat and low cholesterol, he promises.
Must-try: Ferrero Rocher mousse cake and Death by chocolate

Monday, 21 June 2010

Best places to have coffee in Mumbai

As a self-confessed coffee lover, it was only natural for me to jump up in the midst of an edit meeting and say "Can I do an article on cafes in Mumbai??" I think I might've scared my boss a bit with the unexpected enthusiasm. Well, whatever it was, I got to do it. 
So, instead of doing simple reviews, I thought of making it a little interesting by pegging the story as 'Different cafes for different moods'. So here goes a list of some of my favourite cafes in Mumbai.

Feel free to share your favourites too.

CR2 Mall, Nariman Point
Why visit?
For a laid-back, read-a-book experience.
It’s a crisp Sunday afternoon and all you want is to sit back, read a book and sip on a frothy cup of coffee. Where would you go? The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf. The simple, yet elegant décor displays a number of plush sofas and comfortable wooden chairs adequately distributed. If you choose not to get lost in a book, there are a stack of magazines here, or you can peek at the street below through the closed glass windows. The choice of music played here is subtle and hence doesn’t pose an interruption.
Must try: Iced Café Mocha, Caramel flavoured ice-blended coffee and German Cheesecake.
I also did a more comprehensive review of CBTL for MumbaiMirror.com, you can read it HERE.

Hotel JW Marriott, Juhu
Why visit?
For a formal meeting.
At any given time of the day, you are sure to spot one celeb or another at the Bombay baking Co. (BBC). What started as a simple gourmet shop is now an ideal meeting point for celebs and commonfolk alike. Whether it’s a formal meeting or simply a discussion over a cup of coffee, BBC offers a high-street like feel with their outdoor tables teamed with lounge chairs, adjoining the gourmet shop. BBC also includes a bookstore, a gelateria (Amore) and a bakery. Regular faces include Anil Kapoor, Suzanne Roshan and Akshay Kumar with wife Twinkle.
Must try: Cappuccino and Iced Macha Green Tea Soya (for its uniqueness).

Hill Road, Bandra
Why visit?
For a fun time with friends.
A walk back in retroville—enough to describe Mocha Mojo. Funky eggshell-shaped pods, walls splashed with colourful psychedelic patterns and short comic strips, an enclave entirely carpeted in red fur with shiny disco ball-shaped lamps, and a shelf of retro-inspired items such as beer mugs, tequila glasses, notebooks and T-shirts create a lively, fun-filled environment. The chirpy staff and the buzzing crowd, combined with music from the 60s to the 80s, is reason enough to visit. Coffeeholics will be further pleased to see an extensive range of coffees from across the world served alongside scrumptious desserts and savouries, with an entire menu serving the same in healthier avatars.
Must try: Monsoon Malabar, Lava Lava and Garden Lasagne from their new organic food menu.

Cuffe Parade
Why visit?
For a romantic date.
On a date what you want most is a cosy, private space, dim lighting and of course, delicious food and drinks to match. Moshe’s is perfect for that ideal romantic date. Dark wood chairs and tables with candle-lit lanterns lay in a lush green patio welcome you to the intimate outdoor dining area. Even the warm interiors with hints of Spanish mosaic lining and large windowsills of the indoors are also inviting. The eclectic world music played here sets the mood further.
Must try: Cinnamon-spiced Mocha, Blueberry Cheesecake

Friday, 11 June 2010

HIMACHAL PRADESH – In search of snow...

I’d been keen on going to Himachal Pradesh for almost 6 months when my friends and colleagues suggested we take a trip together. They found an interesting tribal circuit and we decided to go. Our main focus was on: Snow. Our sheer desperation to see snow and be around it was what encouraged us to do this trip and hell, it was so worth it!

Before I begin, I want to make certain things clear:
  1. This trip took us to 5 different places within 5 days. 
  2. Irene, Soumi and I went from Mumbai and joined Prachi (Soumi’s friend) in Delhi. But Prachi joined us only till Shimla. Sadly, she couldn’t get enough leave for the rest of the trip. She was dearly missed.
  3.  The post will be long, since it’s about 5 different places. But I promise it will be a fun read.
  4. I have demarcated each place by mentioning appropriate heading for each, so if you want to read just one part, you can 
  5. There is a section at the end called Fact File that is filled with useful information for anyone who wants to visit the same places. 
  6. Lastly (phew!), enjoy :)

Our trip essentials: A camera, a backpack and a guidebook!

We left on a Friday, and predictably so, went to work and got late leaving for the airport. En route, Irene suddenly asks me if I got my hair dryer. I remind her about the time she said she’d carry hers. So we realise we got nothing. She insists we pick it up from her place that comes on the way to the airport. After much sarcasm and laughter we pick it up. Now you’re thinking what’s so important about a goddamn hair dryer? Well, as you’ll read further, you’ll see that it played a crucial role on this trip.

Moving along, we board the flight on time and giggle with excitement all the way through. Oh and also stare dreamily at the cute steward onboard; so rare these days! As we approach Delhi airport (so we hoped) we begin discussing the unnerving thought of how close our flight and train (to Kalka) is scheduled. We were to land at 8 pm and get on a train that leaves at 9:45 pm. Well, our flight got delayed by half and hour, and so began our adventure...

Catching the train...literally
We rushed to the station as fast as we could manage, all the while hoping against all odds that it would get delayed. We got lucky...but a bit much. It got delayed for 4 hours, which meant it would now leave at 1 am! We then called every person we knew in Delhi, combined, so that we had company to stay out that late in Delhi, which is considered unsafe. After several calls to ‘busy’ friends, finally my sister and her husband came by. We went out to a dhaba, filled our stomachs with finger-licking food, digested it with pan and headed back to the station...only to find the train to be delayed another half and hour!

Somehow we found something to amuse ourselves with. We had a little contest. Here’s how it went:
1)     We each had to weigh our backpacks + additional bags on the weighing scale at the station
2)     Then, we’d check whose bag weighed the most.
Purpose? To determine the poor sucker carrying the most weight on their shoulders!
Prizes? Well, the winner would not only get loads of sympathy, but also lesser jokes would be made about her. The runners-up would however have to bear the brunt of the winner who will now not stop cursing the, ahem, witches that she’s carrying the biggest load. The winner also refused to share any of her belongings with the others thereafter.

The coveted train finally graced us and we fell into deep slumber. The next morning, we reached Kalka and hired a taxi to Shimla, sharing it with a doctor couple (who were super enthusiastic to be here). Fighting off typical haggling porters at Shimla’s bus depot, we set out to find a hotel. We found a Hotel Dalziel and were shown this tall ceiling-ed, spacious 2-double bed room that fit well within our budget. Okay, I’m lying. It was dirt cheap! (Especially since we were 4 girls sharing the room) It cost us Rs. 200 each (I can see some of you cursing me now, take it back!). An overtly sweet cup of tea later we had hot showers and headed out to the ever popular Mall Road (also one of the only interesting places to see in Shimla).

This was right outside our hotel in Shimla

On my previous visit, I fell in love with the Indian Coffee House here and hence, insisted we go there. Half an hour later, I’m at the end of a whole lot of unpleasant words that I cannot tell you all about. Why? Well, Irene said her noodles tasted as though they were laced with petrol and Soumi’s coconut chutney (to go with the Uttappa) tasted (and looked) like cement paste. In my defense, the coffee was awesome! 

The Indian Coffee House

The awesome coffee at he Indian Coffee House

Walking along, we visited the Christ Church. Its lemon yellow structure is famous for being the backdrop for many a Bollywood film. 

Christ Church - inside and outside

A little shopping for thermals followed and then the search for a good dining place. Embassy restaurant was our pick of the night. A quaint little restaurant with a talkative yet interesting owner—who had put up rows of sheets with handwritten quotes from various inspirational people—Embassy also offered really yummy food. Although, we found the menu to be priced on the more expensive side for a restaurant in Shimla. A meal for 3 people cost us Rs. 1000 . I can hear you screaming, “Are you kidding me? You call THIS expensive?” But yes, this was the most ‘expensive’ meal of our trip...you’ll see :)

The Embassy restaurant - the view from the wood-panelled window was beautiful. We just gazed outside and watched as the entire town lit up.

Irene and Soumi happily posing for me.
Our walk back to our hotel was incredibly long as we were dining on the opposite end. It was almost 11:15 pm, and we deemed it to be rather unsafe, so we thought of a plan; just in case something went wrong.

Things that could go wrong: We could be surrounded by a predator/s being just a group of girls.

The plan: We all would start screaming and laughing at the same time and mutter foreign language words; somewhat Monjolika-style (Vidya Balan’s evil character in Bhool Bhulaiya where she goes crazy and starts muttering Bengali words and acts totally insane. On second thought, it wouldn’t have worked for me as I was the only one who didn’t know Bengali in the group).

*The alternate plan: We would combine all our skills and kick the predators’ asses.

Our skill set:
1) The Distractors: Soumi can laugh on command, so she would start laughing like a mad woman giving us time to prepare for the next move. Irene on the other hand has a loud laugh so she could also incite fear into them, whilst shaking her hair madly (she has lovely long hair) and scare them further.
2) The Kick Boxer: That would be me. Since I have learned to kick someone’s ass professionally, it would be perfect to experiment on a live subject.
3) The fit one: Well, since Tanu seemed to be the fittest, we hoped she would be able to taken at least one of them down by kicking them in the shin.
Needless to say, we didn’t get the opportunity to show-off our skills. I think our aura itself proved to be enough to keep predators at bay.

Shimla - bathed in night-light

The circuit begins...
The next morning, we set out on a drive to Sarahan. En route we saw snow, giggled like schoolgirls and halted. This was the first time Irene had ever seen snow, which was reflective in her Julia Roberts smile.
The first sighting of snow!

Shri Hanuman being bathed.

A quaint little monastery en route.

A few photos later, we resumed our journey. After a pleasant five-hour car ride through curvaceous roads, filled with 90s Bollywood music and idyllic vistas, we reached the Bhimakali temple at Sarahan. Built with layers of stone and timber—to absorb the force of earthquakes—this grand temple complex is situated at the centre of the town. Since this was our stop for the night, we checked into the temple’s guest house. Our room was clean, spacious and basic. The cost? A mere Rs. 300! I know, we rock :)

The Bhimakali Temple Complex 

 The view of the temple from our room.

Our tiring night ended with a stroll along the town admiring the simple homes with touches of Tibetan architecture, and a dinner of spicy momos, kadi chawal and a steaming hot cup of tea at a local dhaba. Oh, and a little piece of jalebi too!

Soumi, the ghost who disappeared in thin air, leaving Irene shocked.

The following morning, we paid a visit to the revered temple. The complex houses four different temples, namely, Raghunath Ji, Narsingh, Lankravir and the Hanumanji temples. Before you enter the main Bhimakali temple, you have to leave your camera and any leather goods with the guard, or in the lockers they offer, and wear saffron-coloured caps (also provided) to enter. The complex is a bit of a maze and we kept losing our way to the top floor where the deity is housed. After offering our prayers and gulping our second cup of tea—which provided some heat to our now frozen palms—and taking a few pictures, we headed to the verdant Sangla valley.

 The view of the mighty Himalayas from our room.

We’d read about the empowering beauty of the Sangla valley in every book and webpage we came across during our research. However, the route that led to it made skeptics out of us. The roads were rough and dusty, with stones strewn all around due to the ongoing work of the hydroelectricity project in Karcham. But the contrasting landscape of the growing snow-covered peaks on our left and massive rock formations dauntingly staring over us—some even formed a tunnel—on the right made for a visual treat.

Haha, gotcha!

The 'rock'y path that led to Sangla

As we drove on, the ridiculously hilarious 90s' music kept us entertained. We even played a fun guessing game (which song is from which film); even bugging our driver into being a forced participant! The song list went something like this:

a)    Aane wala pal ek sapna hai – from Phir Teri Kahani Yaad Aayi
b)    Aankh mare – from Tere Mere Sapne
c)    Zara zara – from Main Khiladi Tu Anari
d)    Almost every possible song sung by Kumar Sanu and Alka Yagnik during the 90s

However, the most amusing thing was how all of us knew every song! Embarrassingly enough, we knew some of the lyrics too. We all laughed like crazy all through!

We reached Sangla around 2:30pm, and settled in at the PWD guest house, also for Rs. 300 (I know you’re all jealous, but you won’t be for long). The room here however was way more spacious and came with a dressing room area, as well as, great mountain views; which aren’t so hard to find in Sangla because everywhere you look, there’s a snow-covered mountain (trust me, you’re jealousy will vanish in no time). Greeted by smiling locals and cheery kids, we began our tour of the town. We were directed to the Bering Nag monastery that lay 2km downhill into a village. Surrounded by rows of prayer wheels and vividly coloured thangkas, the monastery had a wide courtyard filled with children’s laughter as they scuttled around playing games. As the sun set, temperatures dropped, so we retired for the night after a scrumptious meal of banana chocolate paincakes (that’s how they were spelt here. And, the paincakes looked burned on sight, but tasted fine) and aromatic ginger lemon tea at Sonu Cafe. 

The view from our room at the PWD guest house.

The Bering Nag monastery

 My favourite flowers! The locals call them palam.

Check out the spelling errors!

The one big hitch of staying at the PWD guest house was that they didn’t have any water...at all, in the rooms. So, we had to take out bucket and get it filled from the kitchen and carry it to our room. We managed, somehow. Oh, and you probably remember the hair dryer that we’d picked up from Irene’s place while racing to the airport? Well, it proved to be super helpful to us. Not only did it help to dry our wet hair, but also some wet clothes, and it kept us warm.

But what ticked us off was the jackass who began charging us absurd amounts of money the next morning while we were checking out. He tried charging us for an extra day because we were leaving at 1pm (due to the water problem). He even tried charging us for helping carry the bucket of water once to our room (we carried it thereafter, which was about 4-5 times as three of us had to take a shower) and also for three spoonfuls of butter. We fought like hell and didn’t pay any more than we really owed him (see, I told you, you won’t feel jealous for long).

The last stop on the trade route to Tibet, Chitkul is around 20 km away from Sangla. We finally found what we had set out for: SNOW! The entire route was covered with snow, leaving only the narrow road we meandered through in our car. However, what found us squealing with joy were the mighty mountains with snow dusted on them and little trees stuck on them like pins. Once we got there, we began walking around and fell upon a wide playground, completely bathed in snow. In a few seconds, we’d jumped in to have a snow fight! The cold, crumbling snow we’d so desperately wanted to see and feel was now all around us. Our every attempt to walk in it failed as we fell flat on our faces...smiling ones though. We even lay down on the snow on our backs. It felt soooooo good! I took off my thick jacket and spread out my arms as if embracing the mind-boggling beauty around. Loads of pictures later, we finally left...reluctantly so. Even though we spent the least amount of time in Chitkul, it remains the most memorable. 

 Snow all around the road leading to Chitkul.

Our first view of Chitkul...mindblowing!

 Cute kids we chatted with

The view...

 Snow fightttt!

 That was Irene and I :)

 That's us :)

When you reach a place that is located at an elevation of 2,960m, late at night, after circling around a steep zigzag road uphill, fear soon becomes a small word to describe your true feeling. To add to the madness, it was pitch dark with not a single human being in sight. We tried looking for hotels, but there were no lights to spot any. There was one that had lights on, which provided immense relief. But when Irene and Soumi found it completely empty—though there was lingering smell of food and drinks—we thought it better to just leave. No human in sight...it was getting freaky. 

Fortunately, that feeling vanished as we fell upon a luxury suite at Kinner Kailash, an HPTDC-run hotel. We entered to check for a vacant room, any vacant room (by this point we were ready to pay any amount of money just to get a room). The cost was Rs. 1300 for a 3-bedroom; we took it. It was, well, AWESOME. The best room we’d had so far. It was spacious, had 3 beds, running hot water, TV with cable, extra dining room with a table and chairs and a heater. Oh, and it was completely wood-panelled, like a log cabin :)

Kinner Kailash Hotel - our room was on the top floor 

The next morning, we were in for a big surprise. Since we reached Kalpa around 10pm at night, we had no idea of what the place looked like. As we drew the curtains at dawn, we found ourselves gaping at the incredible view that lay just ahead of our windows. The majestic snow-clad peaks of the Kinner Kailash range that now had a crimson glow on the tips gleamed gloriously under the sun.

The view from our room at Kinner Kailash
The morning sun dances around... 

Even though here we went about what was now our usual routine—visiting a monastery, eating hot momos, sipping masala chai and lying back gazing at the mountains—it was a lot more relaxing as this was our last stop on the circuit. At night, we ordered a lavish dinner, gulped some drinks and watched lots of TV. The best thing we found was a local channel displaying music videos of local singers. They were so incredibly hilarious that we continued laughing for over an hour! Almost all the singers’ surname was Negi, and the extras (dancers and others) were the same in more than 2 videos. How’d we know that? Because they were wearing the same clothes!!!

Some of the monasteries we saw at Kalpa

  A naughty kid peeking out of his window. His parents by came after a few minutes and dragged him in!
  Soumi and Irene stare at the broken road uphill to our hotel and wonder how our car will make it.
We left for Shimla the next morning with mixed emotions of happiness and sadness all at once. We stopped at Recong Peo for a little shopping, and then headed straight to Shimla. Our journey was coming to a halt, but the memories remain fresh even now. Not only did we 3 make good friendships to last a lifetime, we also collected interesting stories and visions to share with the world.

Until another rocking trip...

Getting there:
You can take a flight up to Delhi. Then either hop onto a bus or book a train ticket to Kalka. Shimla is about 96km (approx.) from Kalka. Our shared taxi from Kalka station cost us Rs. 1800 for an SUV.

We had hired a car from a tourist office located adjacent to Hotel Dalziel itself. We travelled during March, and so the prices were fairly low. It cost us Rs. 9,500 to rent an Alto for a 5 day trip. The circuit covered was Shimla-Sarahan-Sangla-Chitkul-Kalpa-Shimla.

Shimla – Hotel Dalziel. It is located at the end of Mall road, just next to the State Bank of India building. We paid Rs. 800 for a 4-bed room.

Sarahan - Bhimakali temple rest house. We stayed on the rooms on the first floor that cost us Rs. 300. There are dormitories that cost less than Rs. 100 also, so if you are travelling in a huge group, maybe that would suit you better. They have a canteen here which serves food and snacks. But you should try some of the local restaurants, located 5 minutes away, where you get delicious home-cooked meals.

Sangla – We stayed at the PWD guest house for Rs. 300 for a 2-bed room. However, since our experience was rather unpleasant at the end, we would recommend the Baspa guest house. It is (at least as of now) a loud purple and green coloured building; unmissable. We met a foreigner couple who were staying there and they felt it was value for money.

Chitkul – We didn’t stay overnight here as there wasn’t much to see here besides the view of the snow-clad mountains. However, there are 1-2 places you can stay back at. One of them was the PWD guest house (my honest opinion would request you not to judge this one by the Sangla experience, but just be clear with them on the money matters in the beginning as a precaution).

Kalpa – We stayed at the Kinner Kailash Hotel. I would say it was perfect, in every way. I would highly recommend everyone to stay here because the room is great, the view is even better and the food is very tasty. All in all, a place worth a visit.