I see I never posted this draft. It is quite old, more than 2 years, but I am posting it now. India remains my favourite country.
Shimla, a "Hill" station, the foothills of the Himalayas, but there is nothing hilly about them! They are proper mountains, and the trip here cost me 8 hours of my life, I was nauseous the whole way.
Many English historical figures came here to escape the heat of the plains, Lord Kitchener was one of them.
Of course, it is just before the monsoon, so everything is dry. It started raining on our last day, so soon it would be green.
The Cecil Oberoi, the first Oberoi hotel. The hotel is 123 years old, and was redone in the seventies.
It has the most wonderful atmosphere. I have never been served by such well trained and friendly staff. We had dinner twice in a Taj hotel, and their hotels are stunning, but their staff is not a patch on the Oberoi.
Rai Bahadur Mohan Singh Oberoi was born on 15th August, 1898. Arriving penniless, he found a job at a monthly salary of INR 50, as the front desk clerk at the Cecil Hotel. Today, The Oberoi Group owns the hotel The Oberoi Cecil where the young Mr. Oberoi found his métier.
The diligence, enthusiasm and intelligence displayed by Mr. Oberoi impressed Mr. Grove, the manager of the hotel. A quick learner, Mr. Oberoi did not restrict his efforts to fulfilling the job description of a desk clerk but sought and shouldered additional responsibilities. A few years later, when Mr. Clarke acquired a small hotel he asked Mr. Oberoi to assist him. It was here, at Clarkes Hotel, that Mr. Oberoi gained first hand experience in all aspects of operating a hotel.
The staff today does exactly the same, the one girl was off on the Sunday, but she came, fully dressed to work, because she said Sunday mornings were always busy, so she came to help.
We stayed for 5 days, so came to know the staff well. Such enthusiasm, smiles and hard work. They all say they are very grateful to have a job.
The Burmese teak and Mahogany wood in this hotel is awesome.
To get to the shopping "mall" (meaning street) you have to take high 2 lifts up, and you buy the tickets here. Is the "Sr citizens and ladies" for protection of the ladies, or for the ease of the gents, do you think?
When you reach the top, and there is a child amongst your lift group, these guys all comes running all together, you must please rent their stroller. So they spend the whole day.
Such colour, the colour in India is a big part of its charm, the friendly people as well.
Vehicles are not allowed up here in the "mall"' so humans carry EVERYTHING up. The sweat was streaming from this man, he was completely exhausted, and the next moment he fell backwards right on his back! I got such a fright, I did not take a picture. But that is how he off load his pack. Then straight down for more. These people earn very very little, and how long can they last?
Piet and I waited for a taxi (300 rupees with the taxi the hotel gets you, 10 rupees if you wait, then run and squash in alla South African style. Fortunately a young man helped us and kept some space for us.)
This family was sitting on the ground, eating their food carefully bundled up in newspaper. Some young boys came to ask if they could have a picture taken with us (their cell phones) we chatted to them, always about cricket. Then this family asked shyly if they could do it as well.
We then moved on to Kullu, nearest town Manali. A bustling, dusty town where climbers and campers can get their supplies before they head up into the Himalayas.
Kullu at an altitude of 1200 m oriented more towards the Northern region of India is situated in the central part of the state of Himachal Pradesh.Kullu is at the confluence of Beas and Sarvari rivers.
The British introduced apple trees and trout, which were not native to Manali flora and fauna. It is said that when apple trees were first planted the fruits were so plentiful that often branches, unable to bear the weight, would collapse. To this day, apple—along with plum and pear—remains the best source of income for the majority of its inhabitants.